Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Me: “I could do with an unlimited supply of Lindt truffles, if you’re ever handing out wishes.”

Tony: “If you waste a wish on that, I swear to God…”


Charles: “Daddy, I don’t like this soup.”

Tony: “Charles, you had two bites five minutes ago and pronounced it ‘delicious.’”

Charles: “Oh, yeah.  I forgot.” Proceeds to eat soup.


Me: “Seriously, though, what should we get your parents for Christmas?”

Tony: …


Charles: “I love you, Jamie.”

Jamie: “I love you, Charles.”

Charles: “I love you, Bamie.”

Jamie: “I love you, Larles.”

Charles: “Ha ha! You love me!”


Charles (angrily): “Mom, I don’t want the house cleaner to come!  When I get old, I’m going to have a dirty house and no house cleaner!”


Jamie (singing):  “Feliz Navi-poop! Feliz Navi-poop!”

Friday, December 12, 2014


It’s 3:30 AM and little man is sitting on my lap.  He’s not screaming.  I consider that an accomplishment.


Here’s the short version: Freddie is not yet ready for me to add dairy back into my diet.


The long version:

Charles used to scream like this, all night long.  Nothing was okay.  I could not make it right.  Eventually, he’d wear himself out and go to sleep for a couple of hours, then wake up screaming again.  We thought it was colic.  We thought some of it was normal.  I sometimes thought that God was punishing me for some unknown infraction.


The truth was that his baby tummy didn’t produce the enzymes to digest the dairy protein in my milk.  When I finally figured it out, after a Google rabbit hole of “What is wrong with my baby?” and cut out dairy from my diet, he got better.  He didn’t sleep much more, but he did stop screaming.  When he was about 6 months old, I started eating dairy again and he handled it fine.


I cut out dairy immediately upon birth of both Jamie and Freddie.


Freddie has only screamed like Charles did a couple of times in his short life, when he was in pain.  Tonight.  Oh, tonight.  My ears hurt.  But right now he’s content to just sit here while I type, so I’ll keep going.  Anything is better than the screaming.


Tony and I attended his office Christmas party this evening and, since Freddie is 5 months old, I thought I’d work some dairy back into my diet.  Seriously, it’s been AGES since I’ve had cheese and I miss it so much.  Forget about the ice cream, not having cheese means no lasagna, no enchiladas, no macaroni and cheese, no quesadillas… the list is long and delicious.  Just take a look at every meal on Pinterest, the devil’s website.  They all have cheese, and I can’t eat any of them.  It’s a tough way to live, especially when you’re trying to come up with new dinner ideas every night. 


TANGENT ALERT: What is up with no one else EVER having an idea for what to make for dinner?  Do your menfolk do this?  I ask for dinner suggestions for the week before I go grocery shopping, and it’s like they’ve never had dinner before in their lives.  Charles can only ever think of “chicken with skin” (rotisserie chicken, not something I’m willing to eat every week) and I get blank looks from Tony and Jamie.  I get into these cooking ruts, especially since most of what I crave right now has cheese or milk (cheeseburgers, nachos, omelets… OH MY GOD, stop it, Amelia!), and I’d like some help coming up with meals we can all enjoy, but I’m coming to realize that my boys don’t actually care.  They just want food.  They might even be content to eat the same thing in a row for a whole week (so long as it’s not quinoa).  Food as only fuel and not a daily enjoyment?  I can’t imagine living that way.


So here’s how tonight’s disaster went down:


Me: “Oh my God, I love cheese so much!”

Tony: Smiles indulgently at his addled wife who actually said that rather loudly at his office Christmas party.

Freddie, much later: “Waaaaaaa!” Repeat, ad infinitum.


Sacrifice, man.  I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately – namely, that I do a lot of it.  And it is the nature of sacrifice that you get nothing (or very little) in return.  I will sacrifice, for at least another month, cheese and the varied diet provided by dairy.  In return, I will get sleep.  It would seem a small price to pay for something so comforting, so vital, no?  And yet, I grow bitter, because NO ONE ELSE has to sacrifice a damned thing.  We mothers, we sacrifice our bodies, our careers, and our lifestyles for these small people.  Sometimes I look at them and I think, will it all be worth it?  And then I look at my life and wonder, would my mother say it was worth it, given what I’ve become?  I sure hope so.


3:30 AM is kind of a depressing time, y’all.  Commence praying for sleep.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Cards

I LOVE receiving Christmas cards – they feel a little like a “thank you for being a part of our lives” card to me.  Since I’m desperately trying to teach my children the importance of thank-you cards, and I see written correspondence as a dying art form, AND because I was so sick (pregnant) that I didn’t do them last year, AND because I like them and I like sending them and I like telling people “thank you for being a part of our lives,” I’m gearing up to send them this year. 


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Understand, please, that this is MY project.  There is no way that Tony or any of my children would deign to put pen to paper or Holiday Photo Card for what they view as “no reason.”  Christmas cards exist in mom’s world.  But I can make them all pose for photos.


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They go (mostly) merrily along with me because I bribe them with cookies and I let Charles and Jamie wear whatever they want, as long as it’s clean.  Freddie and Tony wear whatever I want, because they’re biddable.  And Tony probably is thinking the whole time, If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, so just go along with this until it’s over.


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Christmas card season, therefore, aligns with family photo season for the Cooks.  And it’s always an adventure.


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Barf Photo! 


This year I briefly considered having our photos taken at the pool.  Charles and Jamie like to go to family swim at the Y and since our lives are fairly packed, I thought we could combine projects.  They could splash around, I could squeeze into a bathing suit and give Freddie his first taste of chlorine.  But Tony and I are not in the best of shape and I’m just not ready to bare my pasty-white bat-wings to the world (curses on the arm flaps of middle age!).  So I opted for photos at a local garden and nursery featuring over 30 Christmas trees all done up for the holidays. 

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Friends, I’m not getting much sleep these days.  My judgment is weak and clouded.  The logical progression of consequences elude me, but maybe you can figure this out: What do you get when you combine two boy-children, ages 6 and 3, with a large room filled to bursting with Christmas trees, porcelain and glass ornaments, gifts, home and garden decor, and the spirit of Christmas?  The correct answer is chaos, anxiety, and a disturbingly high potential for disaster.


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At one point, I was happily posing for photos with Tony and Freddie, reveling in my gorgeous baby squirming in my arms, when I realized that I could no longer see nor hear Charles and Jamie.  Panic!  I called their names, snaked through displays, fearing the worst, only to find them standing at a running garden fountain, tongues out, licking the water off of the burbling urn.


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We got out lucky.  No one crashed into any trees or decorations.  No one spilled any hot apple cider.  No one tackled his brother.  I’ve yet to see any ill effects from the garden fountain incident.  In fact, the most destructive child was Freddie, who spit up on the floor (I wiped it up, of course, and there was no permanent damage).


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We get our family photos done by a good friend who is a fantastic photographer and owner of JB Expressions.  Thank you, Jen!  If you would like to receive a Christmas card from us this year, please send me your address at aintanda at gmail dot com.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 1, 2014

This Is Just A Tribute

I take perverse pleasure in Tony being older than I am.  After all, he’ll be an old man long before I’m an old woman (I often point out that he’s been showing “old man” tendencies since his late 20s, so there’s not really that far to go).  Whatever makes me feel better about my crow’s feet and bat-wings, right?


Today, Tony is 37 years old.  I’d like to point out that 37 is almost 40, which is MIDDLE AGED.  He’s nearly Middle-Aged Man!




I’ve chosen to go through life with this man and I couldn’t be happier with that choice, nearly ten years (and a lot of laugh lines) later.  Tonight, we’re celebrating at a bar WITHOUT CHILDREN (!) and we’d love to see you, if you’re local.  Stop by the Train Wreck, we’ll be there around 6:30.  But we’ll probably go home around 9 because Tony’s getting old.  Also, just because we’re going out without our children doesn’t mean we don’t have any.  Somehow, I can’t see this birthday ending with someone passed out under the pool table.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Daily Gratitude

This year, more than any year ever before, I’m grateful.  It’s not that I have so much more to be thankful for this year than any other (though I do), it’s that in the past year, I have taught myself to say thanks, every single day.


Like anything else in life, attitude is a habit.  I knew this, of course, we all know this.  How many books are written just on that subject alone?  Countless.  Think better, feel better, do better.  Give thanks and watch your blessings multiply.


But it’s unbelievably difficult to change your attitude and your outlook on life.  The hardest part was making a change; for me, it took feeling lower than I’ve felt in years.  Hormones make me depressed, and I was pregnant for much of this year, so… yeah.  Thankfully (and I AM thankful!), a good friend said the right words at the right time to get me to reevaluate.  She also put this book in my hands.  I started keeping a gratitude journal.  Than I abandoned it and started giving gratitude as a sort of constant daily prayer.


Some days it was just a list I would make as I was walking the dog under the stars, my big baby belly leading the way around the block.  I am thankful for warm summer nights.  I am thankful for safe streets and well-lit sidewalks.  I am thankful for starry skies.  I am thankful for my big, protective dog.  Other days, I would directly give thanks for my life’s bounty, finding something to be thankful for even when I was feeling sick, tired, and wrung out.  Even when, sometimes, the things I said “thank you” for were the very things that were driving me nuts or making me feel inadequate.  Like a realtor, I would change the adjectives I used to describe my blessings to myself.  My children wouldn’t listen, were being stubborn, were making giant messes.  Thank you, God, for healthy, energetic children.  Tony was not home often because of tax season and consequently couldn’t help much with housework.  Thank you for a loving husband who works hard to provide for our family.  Work became six million times more complex and scary as we purchased land and a building and began the (still not finished) task of renovating it for use.  Thank you for a flexible job that provides for my family and allows me to take care of my kids.  I felt hemmed in by a small house and small yard as I increasingly focused on finding land to build our dream home, the one we cannot afford.  Thank you for our cozy house that is within walking distance to Charles’s school.


Once I started giving thanks, I couldn’t stop.  I began to notice things – clouds, trees, rain, the scent of dinner in the oven or the sweet smell of my baby’s head, the comfort of a soft blanket, the sweetness of chocolate – in a way I hadn’t before.  If I died tomorrow, wouldn’t I have wanted to notice the blue sky today?  Wouldn’t I have wanted to inhale my sweaty six-year-old’s sleepy odor as I kissed him goodnight before I went to bed?  Yes.  Oh, very much yes.




I am grateful for good walking shoes.  I am thankful for crisp, fall days that sting my cheeks as I push the stroller up the hill.  I am thankful for a body that tires, but does not fail.  Thank you, God, for friends who care about me.  Thank you for those people in the world who have hearts for service and help keep our hungry fed, our poor clothed, our stray dogs and cats warm.  Thank you, God, for loving, caring family who supports one another.

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I have found that the biggest thing that makes me feel badly about myself is a “the grass is greener” mindset.  We would be so much happier if we just had a bigger house and some land.  I would be so much happier if I could lose all the baby weight quickly.  Other people manage to have these beautiful, big houses and yearly vacations and plenty of stuff on only one salary – what’s wrong with us?  Kicking myself out of the habit of thinking like that was a long and arduous process.  I have not fully succeeded in banishing my demons – some days I still look in the mirror and wish for more.  Some days I still wonder why it is that I seem to be falling further and further behind while others are getting ahead.  But most days I can pinch myself and redirect my thoughts.  I am so grateful that we have the means to save for college for our boys, even if it’s just a little bit of money each month right now.  I am thankful that my babies have all been born healthy and have latched on and nursed without problem.  Thank you, God, for coffee and chocolate.

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It wasn’t easy.  Saying “thank you” can be so difficult for some of us, especially when we think we don’t deserve our blessings, but it was worth it.  It has changed my life.  Everyday is Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When I get to three cups a day, you can start to worry.

Since September, I’ve been drinking coffee in the morning and in the afternoon.  I don’t buy a latte in the afternoon or anything; those of you who are coffee snobs elitists enthusiasts will recoil in horror when you read this, but I just reheat the coffee leftover from the morning pot.  I’m not after flavor, I’m after caffeine and heat.  Scalding heat, preferably, to kill any germs that might be trying to lay claim to my throat.  I’m becoming dependent on that afternoon jolt to get me through the rest of the day.  What I really need is a nap, but that’s not happening.


When school started in September, my life got busier.  Like, a lot.  Busier to the max.  You wouldn’t think that the addition of kindergarten to our schedules would do so much damage, especially since Charles and Jamie were in full-time daycare/preschool before, but it did.  Kindergarten has compressed our schedule such that I am eking out every spare moment before I go to bed to finish tasks for the day while still trying to appear as if I’m in control enough to be a good mom, wife, business owner, and friend.


The friend thing has probably taken the biggest hit since September – I barely have time for my family.  I’m sorry, friends.  I love you and I miss you.


School starts at 9:25 am.  We leave the house for our walk at 8:50.  Used to be that I would have the kids to preschool by 8:45 and then head to work (earlier, if I was really on top of things).  Now, I get to work by 10 am (usually) with the baby, and try to go home by 1:30 or 2 PM so that I can spend some quality time singing to Freddie in the kitchen while I cook dinner/do laundry.  Then, we leave to pick up Jamie at 2:45, get home and get bundled up to walk and pick up Charles by 3:40, then home to change for boot camp or make dinner or to the store for groceries.  Stories, playtime, bedtime, more laundry, lunch prep for the next day, putting the baby to bed, snuggling on the couch with Tony (because the baby is still awake, otherwise: no snuggling), and then to sleep, if I can get it.  There is NO WIGGLE ROOM in my schedule.  None.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.

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Cute, sick, non-sleeping baby


And then there are the days, like the past few, when Freddie’s sick and won’t sleep for more than two hours at a time, so I’m up all night, and my brother’s sick, so I have to do his job and mine at work.  Tony’s gone tonight and tomorrow night and we have an event to attend on Friday, so the kids have a babysitter.  I just want to slow it all down and have some sustained, quiet time at home when we’re not doing anything, you know?


I’m not complaining, not really.  Everything is awesome, as the song says.  And it is cool to be part of a team, this team of adorable boys, one wonderful man, and a stupid dog.  I don’t want to change anything, not really, but I’m tired.  So, so tired.  And I keep hoping that something will shake loose soon to help me feel a little more in control and a little more relaxed.  The reality is that things are not going to slow down much until summertime.


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I seem to spend a lot of “spare” time looking for lost socks.


So how do you keep a crazy schedule from getting you down?  How will I manage to keep the feelings of guilt over not doing very well in any one category of my life (mother/wife/business owner/friend) at bay?  It helps to be so busy that I don’t have time to think about it much, but when I do, I wonder if it’s any better for anyone else.  Does anyone really have free time anymore?  Did anyone ever?  Is free time the purview of the fabulously wealthy?  What are the costs of letting some things go, and do I still have anything left to sacrifice in my pursuit of a few moments of genuine recreation?


Whoops.  Gotta run.  Things to do.  Sigh.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Frederick Roger at Four Months

Wee Freddie is four months (and one week) old and quite obviously our third child.  Not only is he the doted-upon baby (the favorite brother of his older two, who are at each other’s throats constantly but happy to shower kisses on Freddie, who has yet to steal their toys or ruin their LEGO creations), but also he is bathed infrequently, carted all over the place without regard for his schedule, and happy to be held by anyone who has arms and a desire (probably because I am constantly putting him down to deal with something else) to strengthen their biceps. 


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It would be really easy for me to wallow in guilt about my mothering of Freddie.  I don’t play with him very often because I am busier now than I have ever been, even when I discount the fact that I have a baby.  I don’t read bright, colorful baby books to him; instead, he sits with me as I read big-kid books to his big-kid brothers.  At four months, we started Charles and Jamie on rice cereal, quickly transitioning to pizza crusts, avocados, and bananas.  I’m inclined to keep Freddie exclusively breast-fed for another month or even two because it is far more convenient for me.


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But I don’t wallow in guilt.  Who has time?  If I wanted to feel guilty about something, I would stick to the massive quantities of chocolate I consume or the way I get frustrated with my older children every single morning when they stall and disobey and fight and lose their shoes and refuse to brush their teeth.  I would feel guilty about not spending enough time at work or not keeping my house clean.  I don’t have time for that guilt, either.


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Freddie is happy.  He is healthy, except for a rather nasty bout with eczema (he’s my sensitive-skin guy – maybe he’ll be pale like me instead of tan like his dad and brothers).  He weighs a whopping 16 pounds, 10 ounces, which is a little big larger than Jamie was (15 pounds, 8 ounces) at this age, and MUCH smaller than Charles was (NINETEEN POUNDS).  A goodly-sized kid who gives my back pain every day. 


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What’s more is that I am happy.  Or rather, I’m content, which isn’t exactly the same thing, but it’s close.  I don’t get enough sleep, but I’m not a total zombie.  I have too many things going on in my life to worry about what I don’t have.  I’m fully aware that Freddie is my last baby, so even though I have to put him down a lot to take care of other children and other tasks, I often hold him just a little bit longer than necessary.


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And he rewards me with winning smiles and sweet, milky breath.