Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How NOT to Start Your Family Vacation

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1. Forget your luggage.  Tony got home late on Thursday – we had planned to load up and get out of town around 4, but he couldn’t get out of the office until 5:45.  Hungry, tired, and all packed except for our suitcase, which was sitting on the floor of our bedroom waiting for Tony to get home, change, and check to make sure he had all he wanted in it before lugging it downstairs to the truck, I was focused on the kids and keeping them from killing each other or me.  Tony packed everything else into the bed of the truck and I assumed that included our suitcase, but it did not.  Woe.


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We didn’t figure it out until we got to my parents’ house around 11:30 pm.  Tony started trucking stuff in as I changed Jamie’s diaper and then he stopped, looked at me, and asked, “where’s our suitcase?”  My stomach did that droppy thing where you just know, without knowing for sure, that something has gone to shit.  And sure enough, no suitcase.  No clean clothes for me, no pajamas or glasses or toothbrush.  I’ll admit that I was upset.  Very upset. 


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My mom did our laundry and I borrowed some shorts and a shirt from her to sleep in.  I squinted around the next morning until I felt awake enough to put my contacts in.  I wore the same clothes two days in a row, but since I had gone many hundreds of miles to a new destination, I’m pretty sure no one noticed.  Sure, they weren’t beach clothes, but we got by.


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And, fortunately for us, I knew someone who was headed to the kite festival Friday night, so I hitched a ride for our luggage with them.  Tony met them and grabbed our suitcase, on a dark and foggy road near midnight, 24 hours after we figured out it was missing.


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2. Forget to pack pants for your child(ren).  I think the men in my family (ho! That’s everyone but me!) missed the “packing” gene.  Charles, if given the choice, would pack only books for every trip.  PJs?  Toothbrush?  Underwear?  Unnecessary.  This is why, at three years old, he needs help packing.  Unfortunately, between Tony and Charles packing his small Lightning McQueen suitcase for the weekend, no pants or shorts were added to the bag.  Charles wore pajamas until our luggage could be delivered.  I’m doing all the packing, including staging of suitcases by the car, from now on.


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3. Get a migraine.  Why did I get a migraine?  Well, I spent the whole ride down - six hours - in the back seat so that the dog could have the bench seat in the front of the truck to stretch out (the DOG.  Oh my God, I am ridiculous.  He rode in the back seat on the way home).  The truck has a really stiff suspension.  I don’t get enough sleep.  I ate all sorts of junk at the kite festival on Friday, including an entire maple-drenched elephant ear BY MYSELF.  Because Tony and Charles, the HEATHENS, didn’t understand that MAPLE IS THE ONLY FLAVOR and so they got strawberry jam or some junk and then I had no one to share with so I ATE IT ALL. 


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And also, how horrible is this, I was expecting my period and I routinely get a migraine the day before my period.  Usually, it isn’t so bad that I spend the day in bed, but this time I did.  I holed up in bed all day Saturday, barely able to move, unable to eat.  It’s a cruel twist of hormones that by mid-day Saturday I was begging for the discomfort and inconvenience of bleeding for five days just to deliver me from the agony of my brains trying to explode out my eyes. 


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4. Wean your baby. Waaaaaah!  Oh, it was time.  Jamie is 14 months old.  But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t bittersweet, that it isn’t sad that this last, exclusive bond between us in now broken.  And a vacation, a departure from our routine (look at us!  Everyone still up at 9:30 pm watching The Muppets!  This would never fly at home!) was the perfect time to do it.  Jamie clearly has no issue at this point… it is only my lingering sadness.


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The trip wasn’t a total waste, of course, it just started out pretty rocky.  We had a good Friday.  The boys enjoyed themselves Saturday without me.  Sunday it rained, but no matter.  It does that sometimes in Coastal Washington.  Monday I ran 5 miles and went for a bike ride with my dad and went to the beach with the dogs and Tuesday I got to see an old friend (she’s not old, but our friendship is) on the way home and it all just turned out fine. 


But I don’t recommend doing it that way.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stuff on My Mind

For all my complaining here, I realized something when I picked my boys up from preschool yesterday: I’m going to miss this.  I’m going to miss the way they sweat and smell because they still smell like little boys.  And I know that won’t last forever.


As I was putting Charles in the car, I bent down to kiss his sweaty forehead.  After naptime at preschool, the whole class goes outside to the school’s large playground and, from what I can tell by the aftermath, the boys just run.  Around in circles, jumping off the big toys, pushing cars and trucks – they run and run and run.  Charles ends up sweaty and dirty at the end of every day and when I kissed him I inhaled his little boy smell with relish.  It’s all that sweat and dirt and something more.  His skin, still baby tender.  The previous night’s lavender bath soap.  Remnants of whatever he ate for snack.


Jamie smells even more wonderful.  He doesn’t really get sweaty yet, and he no longer smells like spit-up milk, but he still has that sweet baby breath that Charles lost awhile back.  His fingers never quite get clean because, unlike Charles, he doesn’t know how to wash his hands, so he always smells like what he last shoved in his mouth and which the washcloth didn’t quite remove.  A hint of baby powder, bath soap, and little boy.  Oh, it’s so wonderful, I wish I could bottle it. 



The other day, after not getting much sleep (when do I ever get “much” sleep, I ask myself), I put my watch on upside-down.  It doesn’t have numbers on the face and I truly thought I was running a half-hour late all morning.  Until I got to preschool and was signing the boys in.  I looked up at the wall clock, thought, “hey, their clock is off,” looked at my watch, and realized my mistake.  The boys were at school early and I got to work early.  So I made office coffee.  And felt like a dumbass.  Not like so much of a dumbass that I hated myself for the day, but just enough so that I had a good laugh and brought it up several times to friends and family so we could laugh together at what a dumbass I am sometimes.



I’m falling into a home decorating/remodeling/landscaping wormhole right now that is almost crippling.  On the one hand, I dream.  I dream of the house I want to have someday, I dream of the changes we could make to our house now to get closer to my ideal home, and I dream up big projects that we could undertake if we had the time and money.  On the other hand, I actually strategize, pricing out fixtures and measuring spaces.  But I’m paralyzed at taking the next, first step.


So, please allow me to tell you all of the practical (not in-a-dream-world-where-discretionary-income-is-endless) projects to choose from right now: two bathroom remodels, two backyard landscaping projects, a front yard landscaping project, and a living room wall project.  I can’t do most of these right now because we need to wait for fall/winter for bushes to die back and I’m just not ready to rip up a bathroom. 


However, I want to do something about my walls right away.  I almost want to smack myself for this, but I’d like to take down some of the pictures and paintings that we have accumulated over the years.  The photos are all of family, beloved, beloved family, and it feels sacrilegious to remove them.  The paintings were almost all gifts or inheritances that have sentimental value.  But the whole house feels cluttered and dark, and I want to move them.  I want to put up a big mirror collage next to the dining room table to reflect some light and make the room seem larger.  I want to do the same by the door.


But what do I do with the art and photos?  Where do I put them?  We have a pretty small house without much wall space.  Should I overload the hallways, even though the photos there will never be seen?  Box them up?  I’m considering blaming Pinterest for my problems here.

Monday, August 20, 2012


A few weeks ago, a local “grocery” store (in quotes because sometimes these small town grocers are so, so much more) held a white trash food competition.  Lime Jell-O salads, hot dogs in Twinkies, that sort of thing.  If I had entered, I would have made a batch of Cans.


When I was young, I hated cans.  Hated it.  Eating now, right now, at my desk for lunch, I can’t imagine why.  It is everything good/wrong with American food habits.  As my brother wolfed down countless pans as a teenager, I’m here to tell you that this is probably the ideal “boy in the house thinks he’s the garbage disposal” type of dish.  I’m certain I’ll be making it when my boys are big, but the sodium content will keep me from indulging too much before then.  In short, make it for a potluck or to feed an army, but don’t expect to be happy with yourself for having it as leftovers three days in a row. 


This recipe, by the way, goes against all the food trends right now: it’s not organic, it’s not healthy, it’s not low fat, it’s not Paleo, it’s not full of vegetables, it’s not fresh, and it has high fructose corn syrup in there somewhere, I’m sure of it.  If that doesn’t fit your eating style, consider yourself warned.


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Layer, in whatever order you want, or mix together, a can of each of the following in a 9 x 13" inch pan (or larger, or deeper, which is better if you can swing it, because this bubbles, and sometimes you want to double the recipe or certain ingredients you like best):


Green beans (drained)


Chili (whatever kid you like, of course!)

Olives (drained)

Corn (drained)

Top with cheese and a bag of Fritos.  Bake at 375 degrees for thirty minutes or until melty and bubbly.  Enjoy as one can only enjoy a guilty pleasure, a food item that isn’t healthy but is so, so good.


Optional add-ins include anything in a can, of course.  Jazz it up with roasted green chilis and pinto beans, add some more veggies of some sort.  The options are endless, and I’m pretty sure it will come out delicious, no matter what.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Cycle of Nasty Continues

I got into the car this morning and gagged.  I nearly threw up the coffee and half a piece of peanut butter toast I had eaten for breakfast.  The seatbelt was sweaty again.


Maybe this is beating a dead horse after my last post, but holy moly, I live with boys.  And boys are gross.


Jamie barfed on me twice this morning and snotted all over my second shirt, so I’m on my third change of clothes.  I don’t wonder at all why I have so much laundry to do.  Nor why I have barf-stained clothes and not nice clothes.  I seriously noticed the other day that one of the tank tops I bought at Old Navy not too long ago had an inch and a half of difference in the lengths of the straps.  An INCH AND A HALF.  No wonder I had trouble keeping my bra from showing!  But I can’t bear to by expensive, quality-made clothing because my clothing is bound to get ruined. 


Then Jamie tried to squirm out of a particularly nasty diaper as I was changing him and honestly, why does he do that?  Why do all babies do that?  You’d think they’d like being changed from a disgusting, smelly mess of a diaper to a fresh one, but no, they wriggle away and fuss as though you were trying to bite off their legs.  All the while, I try to keep him from putting his foot in the poopy diaper that just came off or from running away with a butt that hasn’t been wiped and seriously, I’m just going to start bathing him after every diaper change.  The changing table is now the bathtub.


Tony plays basketball three mornings a week and takes the family car.  There’s the family car and his truck.  Someday, SOMEDAY, I will own a car that is mine, that is not used primarily to transport children, that is not covered in crumbs and dog hair, that doesn’t have a stroller in the back and snacks under the seat and emergency diapers and sunscreen stashed every-which-where.  I swear it.  And pigs might fly, too.


Anyhow, my husband plays one game at 5:30 am and one game at 6:30 am, at different local high school gyms, with different groups of old men trying to relive their glory days (Tony is routinely referred to as “the young guy” – primarily due to his lack of arthritic gait, I’m sure.  Also, no grey hair).  So then, after he gets home and jumps into his pristine truck to go to work, I cram the kids in the car, make sure they have their shoes on and are buckled safely, grab my lunch and get myself settled.  I’m usually in a panic by then because no matter how early I get up, we are always late.  I think this is because when I get up earlier, I feel like I can squeeze one more thing into our routine, so I’ll try to empty the dishwasher or start a load of laundry or pick up dog crap on the lawn (boy dog = gross dog: there’s a theme here) or, heaven forbid, put on more makeup than just mascara for the day (why should I have the chance to look good decent? I certainly don’t have self image problems or anything.  Spending more than ten seconds in front of a mirror in the morning couldn’t possibly make me feel better about myself). 


We were late this morning.  Really late.  Insensibly late.  I was considering not leaving at all, but I have a job, you know, and I sort of have to be there.  Jamie was up half the night screaming and fussing, due to teeth or the heat or some unholy combination thereof or maybe because he just felt like being an asshole, and I am tired.  I’m sure Tony’s tired, too, as he was kept awake almost as long as I was.  Jamie wants me when he’s upset, no matter how much Tony tries to calm him down and let me get some sleep, Dear God, I just want some sleep, please.  I’m running so low and I snap at the kids and Tony all the time and I just want some sleep.  By the time 1:30 rolled around, I took Jamie back from Tony and let him sleep, but I was up until 3 am with a squirmy kid who just couldn’t get comfortable unless he was sleeping on my face, sucking his thumb, and what the hell, kid?  My face is not a pillow and the sucking noises so close to my ear are unbearable!  And then, this morning, he wouldn’t let me put him down without shrieking as though I were ripping his toenails out one by one.  He and Charles both showered with me.  I’m not entirely sure I washed my hair this morning.


This is all going to come together here, I promise:


As I pulled the seatbelt over my shoulder, I realized that, for the second time this week, I was getting into a car with a sweat-soaked seatbelt.  It was wet, and it has started to smell.  I drove all the way to preschool and then all the way to work with a sweaty seatbelt over my shoulder.  Not my sweat, someone else’s.  And it doesn’t matter how many times I have been in contact with that someone else’s sweat on his person, on a seatbelt, it squicks me out.


I’m going to have to start putting a towel on the front seat of the car the night before basketball so Tony can throw it over his shoulder before he sits down.


But how do I clean the seatbelt?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Daily Dose of Gross

My boys, they are so different.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised by this, still, but I am.  I built my world around Charles and expected the next one to be like him.


July 005


They’re similar in the ways that matter.  They look like brothers, of course, but they are also both loving and social, generally very happy, communicative, playful…


Their personality differences, however, are astounding.  Jamie is not nearly as loud as Charles was/is.  Charles’ movements are big, whereas Jamie’s are mostly small.  Jamie concentrates, while Charles flits from one thing to the next (though this trait is mellowing somewhat – Charles has, for the past six months, taken refuge in playing by himself for at least a little while each day; a consequence, no doubt, of both growing up a bit and having a baby brother who likes to break your stuff).  Charles’ laughter is loud, infectious, and so beautifully adorable that people who hear it frequently comment that it should be recorded and used as a laugh track.  Jamie’s laughter is quiet, almost aspirated, and he doesn’t laugh nearly as frequently.  Charles is pretty transparent with his emotions, whereas Jamie flirts and seems to be more mischievous by the day.


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One thing I really didn’t expect to be different about them is how often Charles gets sick versus Jamie.  Charles has been sick off and on since he was born.  He constantly has a runny nose with a day-glo green crust of snot around his nostrils.  (Are you using this blog as birth control?  Is it working?  Because day-glo boogers are a pretty normal occurrence in my house and I just don’t even worry anymore.  Turns out the dog loves them and so instead of using a Kleenex to wipe them off, I just call Buster over to give the kids’ faces a lick.  Eeeeew!)


Now, Charles and Jamie have been given every immunization recommended, and probably a few extra to boot.  A booster for Pertussis because our area has had a long, fiery epidemic?  Check.  A second round of Hepatitis A because they added five strains since Charles got the vaccine as a baby?  Check.   Flu shot every year?  Check.  Argue all you want for not vaccinating kids, I will not change my mind or actions: these children get their immunizations.  Period.  End of story.


(But not really the end of the story because I have more to say, just not about whether or not to vaccinate my children.)


August 006


But Charles still gets every cold that comes his way (I should be thankful that he doesn’t get the big bad stuff that we vaccinate against, I suppose) and Jamie does not.  It’s almost as if Charles is taking on all the germs and letting Jamie build up immunity through him.  And do you know how this ends about 50% of the time for Charles?  With an eye infection.


You thought green nose crusties were gross?  How about green snot coming out of your child’s eye, sticking his lashes together?  It’s just as disgusting as it sounds.  And all because kids are inherently gross.  An adult would wipe his or her nose on a tissue and eventually get over the cold.  Charles wipes his nose with his hand, picks the boogers and eats them, and then rubs his eyes, thereby spreading the virus to his poor, little tear ducts. 


Jamie does not do this.  I think Jamie actually prefers the dog-lick method of cleaning to the Kleenex method and therefore his eyes stay pretty clean.


We’re on our way to the doctor in an hour or so because Charles’ eyes have been oozy for about five days now and that’s my limit.  I signed up for a lot when I decided to have kids, and when God gave me boys, I reconciled myself to a lot of gross and weird boy things, but the eye goobers have gone on long enough.


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Especially because one of the best treatments for eye goobers is a long shower.  And I’d like to shower alone again someday.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Body Back

I’ve been working out in a very public way since September of last year and I’m still struggling.  When Charles was 13 months old, he was still nursing, as Jamie is, and I was about the size I am now.  I wouldn’t lose most of the baby weight until after Charles weaned (he was fifteen months old) and so I don’t expect that to change this time around.  But back then, it was a pretty private struggle.  I ran, I worked out at the gym and the comfort of my own home, and I agonized over the incremental progress of getting back in shape after gaining fifty pounds just to birth a baby. 


There’s something intensely private about the gym and running for me.  I go to the gym at times when I expect it to be pretty clear of people.  I run alone (well, with Buster, but he’s pretty non-judgmental).  I do not make eye contact.  I read on the elliptical.  I wear sunglasses outside.  I don’t feel underdressed when I sport ratty old t-shirts and well-worn jogging pants or shorts.  I sweat a lot.  Frankly, I don’t want to afford nice, expensive running clothes because I don’t see the point and really, I’d rather no one saw me wearing them anyhow.  A tight running shirt just shows off my spare tire.


But I’ve been doing Baby Boot Camp for eleven(!) months now, and that means that I not only work out with other people, but also I have someone (a fabulous instructor) watching me, correcting my posture or technique, and encouraging me.  It’s been a big change for me. 


The good consequences are that I am stronger and more “fit” than I have possibly ever been in my entire life.  I can do more than fifty pushups in a row without stopping.  I can do a hell of a lot of lunges.  I do squat jumps and bicep curls and leg throws and planks on a daily basis now.  I feel powerful.  I often feel sore.


I also still feel fat, because I still am.  The baby pooch still curses my midsection, I have upper arm “wings” that appeared when I hit my thirties, and my butt?  It jiggles.  But the thing is that now, now, everyone sees my progress.  Photos of me working out, sweaty and exhausted, inching my way down from that postpartum size 12, are posted on Facebook for the world to comment.  It makes me feel vulnerable.  It makes me feel examined.  Judged.


Oh, you guys.  I don’t want to feel this way.  So sick of myself.  So sick of the extra weight.  I look at my closet and I can’t find anything to wear.  I’m tired of billowy shirts to hide my midsection.  I’m tired of these big pants that are nearly ragged because I wear them so often because none of my pre-pregnancy pants fit.  I’m tired of not shopping for nice clothes because I keep hoping, hoping that I’ll eventually be back to my pre-pregnancy size again and I don’t want to invest money into something I hopefully won’t wear again.  But I’m so scared.  I’m scared that I’ll never get there, and the fact that I’m not there yet makes me want to hide from the world.  I want to keep myself out of photos and away from scrutiny.  The effects of children can be seen in my face, in my haggard appearance and tired, wrinkly, blotchy, acne-ridden skin and that’s enough.  Enough to keep me indoors and away from social events altogether, but pair it with my body, these hips that won’t shrink and this waist that might never again be small enough for me to have curves instead of just a straight line between hips and chest, well, I feel like it is time to hibernate.  I don’t even really want to try anymore.  I want to stop working out, stop eating well, and just stop, stop, stop.


I was roundish in high school.  I was fat in college.  I had three years of being slim and feeling pretty good about my body between the ages of 24 and 27.  I never quite made it back to pre-pregnancy weight after Charles weaned – I was always between five and ten pounds away from where I used to be, where I wanted to be.  Is it so much to ask that I look good now, when I’m happy with my life, when I have beautiful children and a strong, loving marriage so that when or if I ever see all the guys who didn’t ask me out in college, they think “damn, I should have gone for her because she has gotten better with age”?  So that I can stop being paranoid that people feel sorry for my husband?  So that Charles won’t say things like, “mommy, you have a big butt”?  So that I can wear cute clothing?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It’s Hot! In the Hot Tub!

Oooh, God, I cannot take the heat.  It was in the NINETIES here this weekend and I felt like a useless pile of sweat.  And I know that some of you are going, “Shiiiiiiit, girl, a day in the nineties would be chilly where I’m from!” but I’m here to tell you that in Western Washington, where air conditioning is reserved for malls and car dealerships, it was hot.  Unbearably hot. 


Today it is a nice, breezy, 70 degrees, but I am still paying the price for the weekend of burny weather.  I can’t sleep when it’s really hot, so now I’m exhausted, having added to my long, deep sleep debt.  I used to sleep naked, which helped, but that was before kids, before my boobs got engorged with milk and then sagged to look like two unrolled tube socks, so now I pretty much have to wear a bra of some sort to bed so I’m not mistaken for a two-trunked elephant and can at least pretend that the long-term effects of pregnancy and motherhood are minimal.  And if I’m going to wear a bra, I will at least wear shorts.  I’m a bit pear-shaped, so I try to even out the look, you know?  Because my vanity never sleeps.


The kids coped okay, considering that they are no more equipped than I am for this kind of heat; Charles spent most of the weekend in the neighbors’ kiddy pools and Jamie just played crankypants in my arms.  I was equally fussy about being hot and sticky, so I didn’t mind. 


The pool thing was great, since all the neighborhood boys hung out and splashed each other all day over there and I had to do very little parenting.  I’m pretty sure the pools were mostly pee by the time I called Charles in for dinner each night, but that’s what baths are for (if you are a new parent and think that baths are for any other reason than cleaning pee and other dried nastiness off of kids at the end of the day, boy, are you in for a surprise).  He wanted to know why we didn’t have a pool of our own, and the truth is, we’ve tried pools and they don’t work.  Not because we’re idiots and can’t blow up a kiddy pool or fill the plastic ones with water, but because Buster first commandeers the pool when you get out to get yourself your 7th popsicle of the day, and then he either pops it (if it’s the blow-up kind) or sits on the edge of it (if it’s the plastic kind) to let the water run over his hindquarters and out onto the lawn.  The plastic ones then break under this kind of strain.  It would be funny if it weren’t so frustrating.  Even if the pools didn’t break from his use, dog hair in a pool?  Gross.  Thank goodness for neighbors, right?


I’ve never lived anywhere that gets really hot for extended periods of time (an argument could be made for Walla Walla, but that was during college, and I made a purposeful decision to be nowhere near its brain-melting heat during the summer months), and Mount Vernon seems to be no exception.  We’re back in the normal seventies for this week and I couldn’t be happier.  My feet and fingers aren’t swollen, I can stand to eat something other than frozen fruit, and I can go for a run without feeling like my heart will explode.  Ahh, the Pacific Northwest.  I can’t believe that people think our weather sucks.


If we get another heat wave, though, I’m definitely going to the mall.