Thursday, November 29, 2012

They Have No Idea

My parents are coming to stay with the kids for a few days while Tony and I get outta town.  I don’t think they really know what they’re in for, but I’m guessing that sleep deprivation isn’t too bad if it’s only for a couple of nights.  Prolonged lack of sleep is what makes a person stabby, and I should know.

 

They are, hopefully, preparing themselves for more than a bit of this:

 

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Emphatic morning cheer.  Also, insistence.  He wants his breakfast and he wants it now.  Now being 5:30 am.  And then, later, he wants some of your breakfast, especially if you’re having Frosted Mini Wheats because those are his favorite.

 

And I’m sure my parents prefer to sleep alone, without children between them, but guess what?  Both grandkids will end up in bed with them before morning, almost guaranteed.

 

The dog likes to go out around 2:30 am, I think because the house gets too warm, or maybe because he really enjoys hearing the thumping bass line of the songs that one guy blasts from his car stereo when he drives by every night.  Thanks for that, loud bass guy.  Sometimes Buster makes it until 5 am, but since Alli will also be there, he will feel comfortable leaving her in charge of the children while he prowls the backyard.

 

I’m sure my parents recall reading the same books to me fifteen bajillion times in a row, but fond remembrance and the reality of doing so for a half-hour at a time are two different things.

 

I hope they aren’t too attached to picking out their own clothing in the morning – the kids have pretty strong opinions when it comes to colors and patterns that are acceptable for each day.

 

My mom and dad are going to have to keep up with the Elf on the Shelf nonsense.  So far, I haven’t made Cheese the Elf get into any mischief by posing him someplace super interesting, so my keeping the bar low should enable my parents to comply with this little ritual.  Seriously, though, have you seen the elaborate schemes people are coming up with?

 

And, I’ve said it before, my job as a mom seems to be centered around wearing those two boys out.  I’ll be leaving my children’s museum cards, Jungle Playland frequent visitor card, and library card for their use over the weekend.  Also my Jamba Juice BOGO card, because smoothies are good and that will burn more than a little bit of time.

 

I think my parents, and my kids, will have fun.  I know I will have fun, relaxing in the hot tub, sleeping all night, eating adult food.  Oh, vacation.  I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I let a lot of things slide on account of the cuteness.

God, I love these kids.  My boys are so great, even when they steadfastly refuse to sleep in their own beds.  Jamie made it all the way till 10 pm last night before waking up and refusing to go back down.  Seriously, he will fall dead asleep in my arms or Tony’s arms, be silent and unmoving for 20 minutes, and will wake up the instant he even gets close to his crib.  I’m not afraid to admit that we have given up.  He slept with us all night last night.

 

Someone once accused me of letting Charles manipulate me with regard to sleeping.  Manipulate?  No, I firmly believe that he was not intentionally trying to get me to let him sleep with us.  At that age (18 months or so), he hurt (herniated umbilical cord, teething for-freaking-ever) and he felt more secure sleeping with us.  Truth be told, Charles would still rather sleep with us, but he’s old enough that we can mostly reason with him (or threaten him) and keep him in his own bed.  He’s also large enough that he can’t fit with us for a whole night anymore.  And, you know, it worked itself out.  He doesn’t cry and scream when we put him to bed.  Sure, he might take another hour or two after bedtime to finally settle into sleep, but he no longer screams like I’m pulling out his toenails with pliers when we put him into bed.

 

But Jamie does.  Last night we let him scream and wail and stomp his feet in his crib for almost 40 minutes.  By the time I finally relented and said “enough!” he was dehydrated and blotchy and had nearly barfed in anger and anxiety.

 

Oh, I know all the rules about cry-it-out.  I know all the methods for graduated cry-it-out and sleep easy method and blah, blah, blah.  But the bottom line, for us, is that we don’t want Jamie to cry it out if it will take hours each night.  We don’t want him to feel anxiety because he wants us and we’re not there.  He used to be a great sleeper who would cry for a minute or two, AT MOST, and then put his thumb in his mouth and go to sleep.  For whatever reason, he won’t do it anymore.

 

And I’m saying that’s okay.  He’s small, he’s cuddly, he still smells like baby, so he can sleep with us (Charles does not smell like a baby any longer.  And he farts).  Right in the middle of the bed, all tucked in next to mom and dad.  And I guarantee he won’t be doing it when he’s twelve, or even when he’s two.  But right now he needs us, he needs the comfort of sleeping with us, and I’m done fighting.  We always get a couple of hours after we put him down during which he sleeps in his crib and for the short term, that will be fine.  It allows me and Tony time to do laundry and dishes, snuggle on the couch, or whatever we need to do before bed.  And sleeping in our bed gives me and Tony the chance to cuddle with a little boy who is growing up all too soon.

 

Fortunately, despite our nighttime disturbances, these boys continue to be adorable.  Observe:

 

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Charles will sometimes read simple books to Jamie… he editorializes, frequently with the words, “poopy, you pooper!”  Four-year-old humor is awesome.

 

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Hat.  He put it on himself.

 

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“I’m in a box!”

 

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This is from an epic tantrum yesterday that lasted 45 minutes.  He thrashed about on the floor of the basement, which he was forbidden to leave, until he got his coat out of the car.  Time out is the worst punishment ever, but for three quarters of an hour, it was, apparently, a better choice than going to the car and getting that jacket.  I’ll never understand it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Frugality Tips

The internet is a pretty amazing place, you know?  And now, with Pinterest, there’s such a stupidly simple way to share recipes and ideas and tips and tricks.  However, so much of what’s pinned speaks to the rampant consumerism in America – the throw-away culture that we’ve developed over the past 100 years that will, if we let it, keep us from contributing money to our kids’ college funds or our retirement or whatever.  Sometimes I look at my neighbors and think, “how are they possibly saving any money?  They buy everything!”  And then Tony says, “they’re not saving a thing.”  And that’s probably true.  I think a strong case can be made for stewardship of our possessions as a good way to save money and keep from re-buying the things we use most.  In this way, I’m terribly frugal.

 

Tony would say I am too frugal, and I’ve listed reasons here before.  But I think that a large part of my frugality is the import of purchases in my life: I will wear a pair of jeans until they fall apart, and I expect to do so.  Therefore, I will agonize over a decision on purchasing jeans until I find the exact right pair.  And I will spend good money on that pair of jeans, though I have never, ever, been able to even consider paying more than $75 for one pair of jeans.  Bottom line, though, is that you spend money to get the right thing and then you take care of it so that it lasts a long, long time.  This is how I buy clothes, furniture, house wares, kitchen stuff, and toys.  I’m not very good at remembering to use coupons and I refuse to skimp on healthy food (though I certainly don’t shop the expensive stores and I do look for bargains and buy store brands when I can), but I do have more than a few ways to keep expenses down and our existing stuff in good use for a long time.

 

So!  Here are some tips that I’ve learned over time to keep my things looking their best and wearing for as long as possible.

 

1. Wash clothing the way it’s supposed to be washed.  Use a dark detergent for your dark clothes, like Woolite Dark, and they will not fade (my brother once accused me and my mom of keeping “laundry secrets” when he found out that we had been using dark detergent all these years).  Use the hand-wash function on your washer when things are supposed to be hand-washed and then lay them flat to dry like the tag says. 

 

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2.  Shine your shoes.  These boots are six years old, and the soles are finally wearing out to the point that I need to purchase new ones.  But six years!  Come on, that’s forever in shoe time!  AND, they probably only cost about $60 to begin with.  I had the heels replaced once and I shine them every time I wear them.  You can buy little shoe shine sponges like this to quickly brush out scuffs and keep your shoes looking like new.  Why don’t people do this anymore?  Shoe shining is not just for old men’s shoes!  Also, add an insole.  They keep things cushy and keep your feet from hurting, enabling you to wear your shoes for longer.

 

3.  Every time I make pancakes or waffles, I make a ton.  I add lots of good stuff to mine, too: pumpkin or squash, applesauce (unsweetened), wheat germ… whatever looks good.  The boys can never tell, especially if I also add cinnamon or some other spice.  Then, I freeze all of the leftovers in plastic baggies.  Even Jamie now knows that he can get a quick pancake from the freezer.  We have a bottom-of-the-fridge freezer drawer, and he toddles over, points, and says, “Da!” which must mean pancake, since every time I open the freezer, that’s what he reaches for.  They are good in the toaster or the microwave and so much less expensive and healthier than prepackaged frozen waffles. 

 

4.  In the same vein, I  frequently make extra dinner.  It’s pretty easy to make an entire 9 x 13” pan of casserole and then freeze the leftovers.  Tony or I can just reach into the freezer in the morning and by lunchtime, plus a couple of minutes in the microwave, we have a healthy meal.  If I do this often enough, the leftovers will be of such variety that it’s not at all like eating the same thing we had for dinner last night. 

 

5. I bought good plasticware (Tupperware, but I think I got the Rubbermaid brand) and, surprise, surprise, it lasts a LOT longer.  The other crap was splitting and leaking and this stuff, well, I expect it to last forever.  Or close.

 

6. Learn to cook.  Yeah, I know, duh, right?  But seriously, when you learn to cook and cook well, you learn how to stock your fridge with the building blocks of meals rather than just easy snacks and throw-together food.  It’s far more expensive to buy pre-made processed food than it is to stock milk, cheese, eggs, meat, vegetables, and spices and then combine them in new and interesting ways to make amazing meals.  I shop for chicken broth, green beans, diced tomatoes, black beans, produce, chicken, ground turkey, ground beef, meatballs, marinara sauce, pasta, bread, wine, cheese, flour, sugar, and rice at Costco.  Yes, that is to say that I buy all of those products (and more!) in BULK.  I have four ten-gallon food grade buckets in my garage and I keep the flour, sugar, and rice in three and dog food in the fourth.  YOU could do this, too, but you’d have to convince your husband to give up a bit of garage space.  But think!  You’d only have to buy these staples infrequently, and then you’re totally justified in investing in pretty canisters for flour and such for your kitchen counter.  And you always have a can or twelve of chicken broth for that crockpot soup you’re making.

 

Okay, now that I’m looking back over this list, it all seems pretty obvious.  Like, take care of your stuff and it will last a long time, right?  Don’t buy a bunch of crap.  Stock your freezer and your pantry.  Cook.

 

So you tell me: what are your life hacks?  Tips and tricks, I want to know yours; I want to know what keeps your life running smoothly and/or frugally.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Brings out the Best in Us, Right?

Let’s talk about frugality today, because I was a terrible parent yesterday and I don’t want to talk about that.

 

Aw, hell, let’s talk about that and then talk about frugality tomorrow.  I always feel better when I vent my feelings online.  Better than eating my feelings, right?

 

There’s no one in the whole world who knows how to frustrate me better than my own family.  I imagine this is true for most everyone; after all, you spend more time with your family than with anyone else, so they know which buttons to push to get you immediately riled up.  And some of us (me) are more raw than others.  My emotions are rubbed and rubbed and rubbed until I have no choice but to cry and bleed and yell in pain.

 

Our Christmas tree, which we bought four years ago, is dying.  No, it’s not a live tree!  It’s a pre-lit, and I know that some of you are going, “hold it right there, Amelia!  Pre-lit sucks.  Get a [live, u-cut, they-cut, whatever other falling-needles option is out there] and stop ruining the spirit of Christmas!”  Hey, I don’t judge your Christmas choices.  I grew up with a “fake” tree and I don’t want to water a tree or vacuum needles for the next four weeks, okay?

 

But.  Of course, there’s a “but.”  Half of the lights on the top of the tree went out last year, and we went the whole season with a partially-lit tree.  It looked awful, and made me feel sad every time I glanced at it.  I should have tried to fix it last year, but Jamie was teeny and needy, we went to my parents’ house for the holiday anyway, and I didn’t take the time.  So the yesterday I hauled the top off of that tree and proceeded to examine every light in hopes of finding the culprit and replacing the burnt-out bulb.  No such luck.  Well, I thought, this shouldn’t be too bad.  I’ll just take the strand that doesn’t work off and re-string the top of the tree with a new strand!  They’re only $3 at Fred Meyer, anyway!  No big deal.

 

No, it is a big deal.  Turns out that our throw-away culture extends to things that should be easily fixed, too.  Not that that is any great surprise.

 

The light strand is held onto each branch using clips which, after about five, started to make my fingers hurt.  Then, I noticed that the strands were ALSO held on with twine, making this task one that will take a lot more time than I have with children to entertain.  THEN I realized that the lights I bought to replace the dead strand were red and not white (ALL the boxes were red, so the red lights on the red background of the box looked clear.  I don’t know what the clear lights looked like on the red box because I obviously didn’t see them).

 

This was the point when Jamie woke up after having only a 45-minute nap.  If you have a young toddler, you probably know that 45 minutes is not long enough.  He was cranky and sad.

 

Also, Tony was gone watching the Seahawks with my brother, because Sunday is football day, which, when you have young children, might as well be “Dad’s personal day.”

 

Charles was in a touchy mood, too.  Lately, he has required telling 60 frajillion times in order to do something.  “It’s time to brush your teeth, Charles.”  “Charles, please brush your teeth because we’re leaving.”  “Charles!  I’m going to count down from five and if you’re not brushing your teeth, you will lose your toy!” “Five, four, three, two, one!”  (I take away the toy.)  (Crying and screaming ensues.)  “You lost the toy because you didn’t do what I asked.”  “But mommy, I didn’t hear you!”  Multiply this scene six hundred times each day.  The kid gets in the zone playing and honestly does not hear me.  I’ve started taking toys away before I even ask him to do something, so he has to do it before he gets the toy back.  This, of course, results in tears, but fewer tears than if I asked first.

 

Yesterday, Charles asked for a candy after lunch (we still have Halloween candy – but only the stuff I don’t like, obviously).  I told him to put away his Batman mask and then he could have a candy.  Charles threw a screaming, kicking fit.  “I want a candy!!!!”  He hit me.  I picked him up to carry him to his room for timeout.  He kicked me.  I shut the door.  Jamie crawled up the stairs.  Charles opened the door, tackled his brother, and thumped him on the back.  I had to revoke Charles playdate for the day. 

 

Why is it that the consequence often results in my suffering as much as Charles’?  I didn’t get to see my friend yesterday afternoon because I cancelled the play date. 

 

It was just, hmm, not easy.  None of it was easy.  It was a cold day with nothing fun happening, and I probably should have put on a movie and tried to snuggle with my boys.  I was tired and by the end of the day, I felt like both Charles and Jamie would have gladly traded me in on a new mother, one who wasn’t such a bitch. 

 

The tough part, the part no one tells you and so few admit out loud, is that being a good parent sucks.  It’s really hard to enforce rules and enact discipline because you love that little person so much and you just want them to be happy.  But they have to grow up.  They have to learn boundaries.  They have to brush their teeth in the morning and complete tasks before getting candy and keep out of the kitchen when mom is cooking and refrain from hitting their little brother or throwing toys and the wall in anger.  And you, the parent, have to teach them these boundaries and make sure that the kids grow to respect them.  And it’s really not fun and you’re going to be the bad guy quite frequently.  Here’s hoping that it will all turn out okay in the end and they won’t resent us forever, right?

 

Yesterday was hard for me because I had two fatigued children who just couldn’t get what they wanted.  And I was sad about that damnable tree.  I would love for Christmas to be beautiful in our house, but the reality is that I have very little room for decorations and those two monkeys (and the boisterous dog) destroy nice things, so the tree is pretty much it.  And without the lights on top, it looks like crap.  And yes, I know that Christmas is so much more than a tree, but come on, I deserve to feel good about my tree.  I deserve to feel like the house is moderately presentable and festive for the family that is coming to us for the holiday for the first time.

 

I told Tony that if we can’t have lights all the way up to the top of the tree, then we wouldn’t have a tree this year.  He said that’s ridiculous.  I said I don’t care.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pumpkin Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

“Mmm… This is my favorite,” Tony just said to me.  There’s pretty much nothing I wouldn’t do for my boys, and making pumpkin cake is an easy way to please them, especially this time of year.  Leland likes it too, and I guess I generally include him in the category of “my boys.”  Except I endure more teasing from him.  In an effort at retaliation: Single ladies of Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom Counties: this is my brother and he’s single.  He owns his own business, is a non-drinker, does not live with parents, but has a strange penchant for decorative skulls, so if you can see past that, he might be the guy for you.  Email me (aintanda at gmail dot com) for more info.

 

Leland will probably kill me when he reads this.  Or make an elaborate plan to get back at me.  Probably all my Christmas presents will be decorative skulls or dragon statuettes.

 

My house smelled divine this afternoon as I was baking, and I want to share that with you – that warm, cinnamon/pumpkin/sweet scent that just screams “autumn.”  As I’ve mentioned before, my cooking style runs more toward that of Amelia Bedelia and her “a little of this, a little of that” than any sort of exact science, but as I’ve experimented with this recipe over the years, I think I have perfected it.  I had intended to make it and take it to Thanksgiving, but I honestly do not believe it will last that long – and my aunt (hi, Lisa!) insists that we not bring anything but ourselves and our swimsuits to Thanksgiving.  What’s that?  You don’t swim at your Thanksgiving?  Well, neither do we.  Instead, we jump headlong into freezing Lake Tapps to shock our system before cramming it with pie.  I love my family.

 

Without further ado:

 

Pumpkin Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

 

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Then, mix all your dry ingredients:

1 Cup flour

1 Cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

 

When those are nice and combined, add your wet ingredients and mix with a spoon or whisk or whatever (I’m not picky):

1 teaspoon vegetable oil (I always use olive oil because it is close to hand) (that’s not much oil, you might have noted – this recipe truly doesn’t need much, though the original recipe I have adapted over several years called for half a cup!)

2 eggs

2 cups canned pumpkin (one small can is 15 ounces and that’s close enough)

 

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Spread in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and put it in the oven for 25 minutes.

 

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For the frosting, you wan to wait until the cake has cooled, which is probably the toughest part of this whole process.  The cake smells so good baking and I just want to eat it right out of the oven, hot, with a spoon.  I can usually restrain myself. 

 

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Must… have… willpower!

The frosting is worth the wait; it is fluffy and not-too-sweet, but it is a bit finicky.  If you don’t do these steps correctly, it will be lumpy, and we don’t like lumps.  You will need:

 

1 8-ounce package softened cream cheese (really soft, not just sort of soft)

3/4 Cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

pinch salt

1 1/2 Cups heavy whipping cream

 

Put the whipping cream into your mixer and start beating the cream into whipped cream, nice and thick.  Then, put your cream cheese in a separate bowl with the sugar, vanilla, and salt. 

 

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A whisk won’t work… I realized my error and switched.

Cream this all together with a wooden spoon until it’s really smooth.  Then, add the cream cheese mixture to the whipped cream and beat it all together until it is uniform in appearance.  Then spread it over the cake.

 

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Finally, cut yourself a slice and enjoy!

 

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Clearly, I’m not a food photographer.

Here’s the recipe in full:

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients:

1 Cup flour

1 Cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 Cups canned pumpkin

 

Mix dry ingredients together.  Add eggs, oil, and pumpkin and blend.  Pour into greased 9 x 13 inch pan and bake for 25 minutes.

 

Frosting:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

3/4 Cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

pinch salt

1 1/2 Cups whipping cream

 

Whip cream in a mixer until stiff peaks form.  In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt until well blended.  Transfer cream cheese mixture into whipped cream and beat until smooth.  Spread on cooled cake.

 

Variations:

It is my opinion that pumpkin and cinnamon cover a number of sins.  I think this cake would probably work well with alternative flours, say, if you are gluten free.  Or, double the pumpkin to make a moist, dense cake.  Add other veggies.  Cut the sugar.  Use an alternative sugar.  Go crazy!

 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Now I Understand Why Some People Have Shopping Habits.

In a revelation that will come as a complete surprise to NOBODY but myself, when I make an effort to look nice, I feel better about myself.

 

Yeah, I’m a bit slow on the uptake sometimes. 

 

I went on a large shopping trip on Saturday, the sort of outing I haven’t done in years.  It was for charity, which is how I am going to justify spending more money in one shot on myself that I have maybe ever done before, discounting wedding dress shopping (and that was more than seven years ago (and my mom bought my dress), so maybe I was due to indulge).  I managed to convince three of my girlfriends to shell out $50 for a shopping bus trip to benefit Seattle Children’s Hospital and spend an entire day with me (I can’t even begin to tell you how blessed I feel to have friends like those ladies).  We were handed drinks as soon as we stepped on the bus at 8:15, and I’m pretty sure I had five (including two Jell-O shots) by the time we got to Bellevue Square.

 

We spent the whole day shopping, and I bought makeup, jeans, tops, and even a few Christmas gifts.  We had our makeup done, we chatted all day long, and I came home exhausted and refreshed.  And for the last two days, I have felt better than ever in my new jeans and shirts (and makeup) – clothes really do make the woman.  The lesson here?  Go shopping once a year to get new clothes to make myself feel better about myself.  Myself.  Also, spend more time with girlfriends.

 

So now it is Tuesday, and I am finding it tough to motivate myself for ANYTHING beyond the bare minimum.  Oh, I’m still wearing jeans that make my ass look great and nice makeup to cover the circles under my eyes, but I don’t want to move around too much or tax my brain by thinking about things.  Could that have something to do with the fact that Tony and I are trading sleep-ins because the baby wants to wake up screaming in the middle of the night and then get up for good before 5 am?  Fatigue will sap your will to live.

 

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This very morning, after Jamie fell asleep around 7 am… you know, because he’d already been up for three hours.

 

Poor Tony and I have been burning that candle at both ends, too – in an attempt to stay fit, regardless of lack of sleep, I’ve continued with Baby Boot Camp and we took the whole family on a run this weekend.  Tony is in a basketball league and is going to the gym regularly.  I just… don’t know how much longer we can keep this up.  I started writing this thinking, “Why am I so tired?  Charles never slept when he was this age, so I should be used to it, and it’s not like I’m very busy.”  But I am, I am so busy.  Workouts, baby swim, library trips, work, housework, keeping up with friends, spending time with Tony, clubs and activities…Here’s hoping Jamie will learn to sleep again soon, because all of these things are important to me, but something will have to give if I can’t beat this exhaustion.

 

*****

 

Some of you have asked me about the other blogs I read.  Previously, I have listed only the blogs of people I know in real life.  Now, however, I have listed blogs of people I don’t know, have never met, but read avidly because they’re interesting.  You’ll recognize some and maybe you’ll find some treasures in ones you’ve never read before.  There is an amazing quantity of good writing out there.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Migraines and Hormonal Birth Control

When Tony and I were first married, we lived in Bellingham, a beautiful, hippie-dippie city in which the population swelled by 18,000 during the school year.  Bellingham is on a bay, in a valley, and nestled between mountains and hills.  The weather is terrible because it changes so frequently – it can be beautiful in the morning and gray and overcast by early afternoon.  The clouds roll down the mountains and through the valley, the barometric pressure changes uncommonly fast, and clothing choices in the morning almost never match what you’ll need for the afternoon.

 

I blamed this God-awful shifting weather for my migraines for three years.  I went to see specialists and neurologists, had my noggin scanned, my sinuses inspected, and still, I experienced thrice-weekly migraines the whole time we lived there.  It was horrible, and probably contributed to the depression I battled at that time.

 

Do you get migraines?  If so, then you know how debilitating they are.  I would power through them because I simply had no choice; I had to do homework, I had to go to grad school, I had to go to work.  But still, when I could afford to, I would let them put me right into bed for the whole day.

 

Then we moved out of that valley and into another, 30 miles south, and things got better.  The weather here in the Skagit Valley isn’t nearly so fickle, and I’m sure having a steady pace in life helped immensely with my overall mental health.

 

However, two other factors combined to eliminate my migraines, factors that are so obvious in hindsight that I can’t believe I didn’t think of them when we were living in Bellingham: I quit taking birth control and then I got pregnant.

 

Now, graduate school would not have been a good time for Tony and I to have a baby, but the hormonal birth control?  If I had chucked that, I probably would have eliminated most of the migraines.  But I didn’t, and I didn’t even realize that it was the big problem until after Jamie weaned.

 

A few months ago, I started birth control again, and the headaches came back.  Three times a week, at least.  Except that this time, instead of just lying down and sleeping until the headache abated, I had a prescription for Imitrex.  Oh, blessed science.  I wish I had had access to this drug years ago.  I take it as soon as I feel a migraine starting.  It makes me nauseated and woozy for about 30 minutes, and then, so long as I eat something substantial (full of protein and fat), I feel fine.  Like, 100% fine.  Headache gone, miracle experienced, back to life fine.

 

I was still kind of an idiot, though.  I honestly didn’t draw the link between the birth control pills and the headaches until I realized that I had taken 20 of the 30 Imitrex pills prescribed to me.  In a MONTH!  Something had changed, and the only thing that had changed was the birth control.  The doctor confirmed that it was the most likely culprit.

 

So, turns out my headaches are hormonal.  I stopped the hormonal birth control and will NEVER USE IT AGAIN.  Yeah, I still get migraines twice a month, when I’m bathed in hormones like any fertile woman, but that’s just so much better than three times a week.  Yesterday, I started to get a headache around 10:30 am.  I went home, took an Imitrex, laid down for thirty minutes, and then went to my sons’ preschool Thanksgiving lunch.  It was delicious, and by 1 pm, I was back at the office, raring to go.

 

I thought I’d share because, well, I would have liked this information when I was younger.  If someone had said to me, “hey, you might consider going off the Pill to see if it cures your migraines,” I might have had a happier life for those three years.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Photogenic Cook Boys

We have had family photos taken a couple of times this year by our good friend Jen with JB Expressions, and it occurred to me that those of you who are not on Facebook have not seen them (this includes my in-laws, and I suspect that they do not wish to be left out in this instance).

 

In the spring (like, way back in May… which might as well be forever ago), we went to the park.  It was a beautiful day, but it wasn’t supposed to be, and we cut the session short.  Turns out, overcast is better for photos than sun. 

 

403 Cook's Kiwanis Park

I call him “Tony B. Squinty.”

 

Still, the kids being cute made up for the weather not cooperating, and we got a couple of good shots in the shade.

 

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My hair was a lot darker before the summer, wasn’t it?

 

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Being the type of person I am, though, I insisted we give it another shot (ooh, pun!).  We had to wait until October for an overcast day (this is not complaining! September was glorious!) and I even bought skinny jeans (gasp!) to go with my boots.  Hey, I’m on Pinterest.  I know what’s hot right now.

 

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My husband’s butt is hot, for instance.  Though it is not on Pinterest.

 

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Mr. Serious.  Which usually means that he’s plotting ways to thwart me and my silly rules.  Especially those regarding what he can and cannot climb.

 

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Get me out of here!

 

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Tickling gets the best photos.

 

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So there you have it!  A family photo shoot we can be proud of.  Many thanks to Jen, and watch out, family of mine, because I’m going to make you do it again next year.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

And Leon’s Getting Laaaarger!

You guys.  Something weird is happening.  My torso is lengthening.

 

I don’t know how this happened, but I’m blaming the children.  Or rather, gestating the children for 9 months each.

 

Before I had children, I followed Dear Abby’s advice and filled out my wardrobe with basics that I could wear in perpetuity (or as long as they lasted without holes and stains).  I don’t have a whole lot of “trendy” clothing because I just can’t see the sense in investing in something that won’t be wearable beyond this season.  For the most part, I have classic shirts in solid colors, and when I buy new shirts, that is what I gravitate toward. 

 

My children, on the other hand, like my patterned shirts and skirts; Charles or Jamie picks out my clothing almost every day.  This morning, Jamie chose a chevron-patterned skirt for me to wear.  He can reach it on the bottom rod in my closet, and he wouldn’t let go, or stop making insistent “ehh!” noises, until I picked it up and put it on.  Charles has been known to cry when I don’t choose the shirt he tells me to wear, or, conversely, put on pants or a shirt he doesn’t like.

 

But I’ve noticed something strange lately.  As I’ve slowly started wearing my pre-pregnancy wardrobe again, many of my old shirts no longer fit well.  It’s not that they’re the wrong size.  And my boobs are, if anything, smaller than they used to be.  So why are some of my shirts riding so high that I can’t possibly wear them out in public?  I feel like I constantly have to tug them down to avoid showing the world my fleshy navel!

 

Tony and I both have long torsos to begin with.  Not so long that you would see us on the street and say to the person beside you, “Wow, look how long their torsos are!” but long, nonetheless.  Both of the boys have this feature as well – Charles shirts are short on him, even if they’re plenty wide in the shoulders (which will probably be an issue later, if he gets Tony’s shoulders: Tony is very broad-shouldered), and Jamie’s onesies are always too short, so I use onesie extenders

 

Enough about them, though, back to me: what the hell happened?  Thanks to modern bra technology, I can at least create the illusion that my breasts are in the same spot and are the same size they were years ago, but why aren’t the shirts fitting anymore?  Did my pregnancy body changes include an extra two inches of torso?

 

Oh, no.  Do you know what I just realized?  It’s the hip/pelvis spreading.  It’s the fact that those two inches used to hang down at my trim waist but now are taken up by the extra inches around my middle.  I used to have a waist that was smaller than my ribcage or hips, but it’s kind of just a straight line now.  And, I’m still carrying around an extra ten pounds that won’t seem to burn off.  Mystery solved.  Pregnancy and getting old (and excess cheese consumption) strike again.

 

Now, how to avoid any holiday weight gain?  Let’s be honest, I’m not going to abstain from either cooking or eating all the good stuff, so I guess I’ll have to go with ye olde moderation.  Sigh.  Moderation is almost never any fun.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sing It with Me: Melodramaaaaatic!

You know when you have a really shitty morning (because you’re tired) (and because sometimes you feel like all you do is cook and clean, cook and clean) (and because it feels like the rest of your family just reaps the benefit of you cooking and cleaning and they just play all the time) (which is the truth for 50% of them, because they are children) (and your husband does work, a lot, so it’s a bit unfair of you to be so indignant over the dishes, laundry, etc), and then you complain, and it doesn’t make you feel better?  And then you think, “wow, I just burdened someone I love with my complaints and my bitterness and my personal issues, issues that are not theirs to solve, and that sucks.  I love that person and I don’t want to do that to them anymore, but I keep doing it.  I really need an attitude adjustment.”  So you suck it up and go out with the children and have a great time because there’s not a whole lot you love more than being with those two little people even when you have to really parent and you soon feel better and then when you come home things are lots better, because you gained a bit of perspective or blew off steam or whatever.  And because your husband did the laundry and dishes and you made a delicious meatballs/red sauce/cheese-baked-bread sandwich thing and there was a bottle of good red wine.

 

And also this:

 

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Sometimes, people are just nice and do good things for no reason, out of the blue.  A lovely lady, friend of my brother whom I’ve never met, sent me an ice cream maker the other day.  I was so touched, I teared up.

 

And then I went home and made ice cream.

 

I don’t really love ice cream, but when I want it, nothing else will do.  And I have been a bit obsessed with making my own ice cream since we went to France and Soizic served us some delicious rhubarb ice cream that was half-sorbet recipe/half-ice cream.  I guess it’s the flexibility that really attracts me.  How else can you control how much sugar is in the ice cream?  Or any other ingredient, really. 

 

But I didn’t buy myself an ice cream maker.  Not the whole summer, when fresh ice cream would have been heavenly in the 95-degree weather.  Why?  Why not invest in something that will bring me and my family joy (well, bring me joy.  Bring my family ice cream)?  Because I have a real problem spending money on myself, on things that are superfluous.  I am frugal to a fault, no doubt about it.

 

But enough about that!  I have ice cream!  Homemade ice cream!  Here’s what I did for the first batch: I made something up. 

 

Does anyone else cook like this?  I read lots of recipes, have a bunch of recipe books, and more often than not, I take elements of several recipes, add things that I love, subtract things I don’t like, and make up something entirely different.  Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t, but it does make me happy to cook this way.

 

My dad really hates it, by the way.  He used to complain to my mom (who also cooks by the seat of her pants) that she should write down everything she does every time so that when she gets it perfect, she can replicate it.  If you are the person in the house who cooks, you recognize that this idea is utter nonsense.  Like we’re going to add one more step to the whole get-dinner-on-the-table thing. 

 

So I decided to make coconut/lime/strawberry ice cream, mostly because of the ingredients readily available to me.  I knew that you could make ice cream using coconut milk as a base, and I had some fresh (frozen this summer) strawberries that I had thawed out, so I mixed up two cans of coconut milk, about a cup of strawberries, about a half cup of agave nectar (I added until I thought it was sweet enough), about a half teaspoon of vanilla, and a bunch of lime juice (quarter cup?).  The result: delicious.  It reminds me of key lime pie, except for when I bit into a strawberry, and then I start thinking of ways to combine it with rum (what’s to combine?  I’ll just pour rum over it) because the strawberries in it make me think of daiquiris!

 

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It’s mesmerizing.

 

I think I’ll do something chocolate next.

 

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Am scary… in love with my ice cream!  Mwah-ha-ha-ha!

 

To sum up: people are awesome, most of the time.  Thank you, Jennifer, from the bottom of my heart, for making my week a good one, for thinking of me, for reading what I write, and for being amazing.  I’m so touched that you thought of me and did something so nice for me!  I sure hope we can hook up in Portland next time I’m in town.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Birthday Boy

Yesterday was… such a long day.  It was also a very good day.  Our little (giant!) four-year-old was very happy.

 

When he woke up at 6:20 am and crawled into bed with me, I said, “Happy birthday, Charles!” and he said, “Yeah?  It’s my birthday now?  I’m four now?”  After a shower, he woke Tony up and said, “Daddy!  It’s my birthday!  I’m four now!” as if Tony didn’t know.  Charles was so excited that he wanted to go to school a full hour before we usually leave the house.  Normally, it’s like pulling teeth to get that kid to get dressed, finish his breakfast, brush his teeth, and basically get his shit together to get out the door by the appointed time, but not yesterday.  No, yesterday, he had the promise of being the king of the classroom, crown and everything:

 

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PiƱata!

 

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Cupcakes!

 

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Horns!

 

We had a party at home, too.  I made S’mores Treats (like Rice Krispies treats but with Golden Grahams and a chocolate drizzle) and we had pizza and popcorn, plenty of wine for the adults.

 

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It was exhausting.  Ten children running around, chaos and noise and craziness.  I thought they would all settle down when I put the movie (The Incredibles, a birthday gift from me and Tony) on, but that only settled some of them.  One of my neighbors came over with all 5 of the neighbor kids and they all, along with Charles and Jamie, immediately started shrieking, tearing through the house, and getting every toy out of the toy box.  She looked at me with horror in her eyes and asked, “are they always like this when they come over?”  Yes.  Yes, they are.  I usually grab a book and hide out of the way, willing to step in and rescue Jamie if need be.  Or, I herd them outside where they can play cars and trucks with the dog (the dog loves cars and trucks… or maybe just kids playing outside).  But it’s always utter madness with kids over.  And I think that’s probably because we’re the cool parents.  There’s next to nothing in my house that kids can break, and I don’t believe that children should have to play quietly for no reason.  Nor should they not run.  In fact, go, exhaust yourselves.  All the better for me.

 

I didn’t take one photo of the party.  Not one.  By the time everyone left and Charles was fighting bedtime, even though it was super late, I knew I wouldn’t even get much reading done (I’m reading a bodice-ripper Regency Romance right now and I’m not afraid to admit it.  Good writing, engrossing, and I don’t have to think to much.  And also, Tony is reaping some benefits – wink, wink) because I was so exhausted.  I fell into bed not long after we got Charles settled down.  He is usually awake in bed reading for an hour or two after we put him in bed, but he also fell fast asleep within minutes.  A good party really wears a person out.

 

Charles was blessed with some wonderful gifts.  If you came to the party last night, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.  My little boy was so happy to play with his new toys this morning.  Lightning McQueen and Buzz Car got to be rescued by the Coast Guard Helicopter and then chase bad guys with Spiderman.  This morning, he didn’t want to leave for school because he knew he’d have to leave his toys behind.

 

Another year.  Another event to acknowledge the passing of time, the growing of my baby.  The funniest part was, while I was snuggling him into bed and off to dreamland, I glanced at the clock and realized that four years previously, he wasn’t even born yet.  Maybe next year he’ll manage to stay up until his exact birth minute of 9:46 pm, but I kind of hope not.  I hope he’s happily worn out by then, at least for a few more years.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

And Speaking of Time…

Oh, Charles.  He is four today.

 

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The years are short but the days are long, right?  Let’s recap:

 

He’s big and solid and energetic.  He’s sweet and cuddly.  He reads, or rather, he looks at books and asks to be read to all day long.  He hates going to bed.  He wears a costume more days than he doesn’t.  He can write his name, but insists that he doesn’t know how to spell it.  He loves his brother.  He is often whiny.  He knows how to push all my buttons.  He tries my patience.  He likes squash and carrots, but turns his nose up at other vegetables.  He’s so loud.  He asks so, so many questions.  He’s eloquent and has a large vocabulary – at least in comparison with his peers.  He’s mostly polite.  He says “uh-member” instead of “remember.”  He’s everybody’s friend.  He likes to play “house.”

 

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He’s my baby, but he’s turning into such a big boy.  And I love him more than I ever thought possible.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Time, She Is a Cruel Bitch

Oooh, Lord.  Every damn year. 

 

How much sleep did you get this weekend?  Were your children up at the crack of dawn (or before!), like devils wanting to dance around a cauldron calling forth the Daylight Saving Time demons to ruin your day?  Mine were.

 

There’s just no winning, you know?  We kept the kids up loooong past their bedtimes on Saturday, a day when neither of them have good naps – Jamie usually naps three hours at preschool, but only ever gets close to two at home, while Charles skips his nap entirely on the weekends – and hoped, against hope, that they would sleep through the time change in the morning.

 

Alas, it was not to be.  Jamie awoke at quarter to five, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to be up.  Tony and I were not quite so ready.

 

And, apparently, we have learned nothing as parents of early risers and non-sleepers.  You see, we always, always, try to get the kids to go back to sleep when they get up early, and it never ends well.  We bring them to bed with us to coax them back to slumber.  We leave them in their crib to cry themselves back to sleep (we are TERRIBLE, I know).  We take them downstairs to the couch or recliner to see if a change of scenery and a dark, quiet room will put them back to sleep.  But it NEVER WORKS.  Never, ever.  Jamie shrieked and cried his way to six am on Sunday, when I finally got up with him.  I should have just taken him to Denny’s or something at five.  Tony got up and went to basketball.  Shoot, I could have taken him for a run in the jogging stroller, but no, I tried for that extra sleep.  By six am, Charles was up, too.

 

This morning was no different in it’s idiocy.  Charles was up at six and crawled into bed with us, but did he go back to sleep?  No, he did not.  He squirmed and kicked and wriggled.  But still I tried to make him sleep.  Still, I tried to settle myself back into sleep for twenty minutes or so.  Those twenty minutes trying to get back to sleep while a child is awake are the worst sleep.  When will I learn to just get out of bed?  Make some coffee and breakfast?  Enjoy a leisurely perusal of the morning paper?  Probably when my bed stops being so damned comfortable and I get to sleep the whole night through.

 

Jamie, on the other hand, was up in the middle of the night for an hour or so last night, which was the awesomest awesome time of awesome, and by the time he finally went to sleep, I was fully awake.  At two am.  Then he slept until 7:30 am, even after Charles was up and making a boatload of noise at six. 

 

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Don’t let that shit-eating grin fool you; he’s plotting to kill me with sleep deprivation.

It seems to me that the country was working toward getting rid of Daylight Saving Time during the Bush years – didn’t we keep moving Fall Back later in the year and Spring Forward earlier (I was about to say something about pushing back and pushing up, but as Tony has routinely pointed out, I don’t use these terms correctly: I always thing that pushing back means making something later and that pushing up means making something earlier, but he assures me it’s the opposite.  And I get confused, so I try to avoid those terms)?  But we seem to have abandoned that trajectory.  I think most of the parents in the U.S. would be all for getting rid of Daylight Saving Time altogether.  I wonder what the cost to the nation is in lost productivity due to children’s sleep schedules being all messed up?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mom Sick

A few weeks ago, a friend wrote the following in an email to me:

I do not understand, even a little bit at all, how you survive being sick when you're a mom.  It has to have something to do with the hormones in your brain that keep you from eating your young or leaving them exposed on a mountain top somewhere, because I just cannot imagine being miserable and filled with snot and unable to stop coughing and being nice and loving and caring and maternal at the same time.

She had recently been sick, the kind of sick that you totally know is not going to kill you, not even worth calling a doctor over, but which still sucks balls for a few days, to the extent that you feel like you must apologize to those who came in direct contact with you during that time.

 

I know this because I was recently this sick.  Like, yesterday.  By the time Halloween was over, I felt weak and like my whole body had been beaten by someone with untiring fists of fury.  I slept like the dead all night, forcing poor Tony to get up with the baby when he cried (he still wakes up once or twice at night, or sometimes for an hour or two, it’s awful, I don’t want to talk about it anymore) and barely rolling out of bed when it was obvious that I had to get moving to get everyone to school and work on time.  I got to the office, did payroll, paid bills, and then found myself staring at my computer screen as it swam in front of me.  My whole head felt like a helium balloon – large and floaty and not at all capable of compiling the monthly financials for the business.  I went home at 10:30 am and slept the rest of the day.

 

At 3:30 pm I faced a conundrum: what do I do about the kids?  On any other day I would have called Tony and told him that I had spent the day in bed, that I was in no shape to enrich the young minds of my children through guided play, much less feed and water them in a minimal effort of mothering, but Tony was slated to speak that evening at WWU’s Accounting Club in Bellingham (*cough* *cough* Nerds!) and thus, would not be home before 9 pm.  Also, yesterday was a Baby Boot Camp day.

 

I have a problem, and I know it.  It is two-fold: the first part is that I have a horrible self-image and I am worried that if I skip one workout, I will be on a path to gain more weight, not lose the weight I have left to lose.  The second part is that I am acutely aware of what I spend money on and if I elect to miss a class, it’s like losing that money. 

 

Let’s talk about thing the first.  I am not fat.  I know this, I really do.  Except that I don’t, not at all.  What I know is that when I wake up in the morning and stand in front of the mirror in my underwear (for two seconds before a snot-nosed, half-dressed little boy or two careens into the room to tackle me), I honestly like what I see and I think I look pretty good.  Then I put on clothes and eat food and drink water and I sit down and my stomach spills over the waistband of my jeans and I see friends who are in fantastic shape without an ounce of fat on their bodies and who certainly aren’t comically pear-shaped and I get sad about myself.  I finally fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans, but not quite like I did before, and the whole picture would be helped if I just lost another five pounds.  But I would really like to not lose those five pounds in my boobs because there’s not much left there after feeding those two kids from my body for 14 months each.  I have good bras, but I do feel like I’m living a lie in the chest department. 

 

So I go to Baby Boot Camp three times a week and I try to run when I get a chance and the weather isn’t threatening to wash me away and I worry that if I skip either of these activities, the razor-thin wire I’m balancing on between “fitting into my clothes in a way that is a little too tight and not fantastic but certainly not so horrendous that I refuse to go outside” and “sizing up” will disappear and I’ll be thunked solidly into “overweight” again. 

 

Is this logical?  No, of course not.  Skipping one class to recoup from a cold will not cause me to gain 5 pounds.  Or will it?  I’m barely maintaining right now, who knows what one day could do?  And I’m already skipping a day next week for Charles’ birthday and I skipped a day last week for an evening event, so, oh God, I could be down to two days a week!  A recipe for a larger Amelia, for sure.

 

Thing the second: ever since I figured out what each class, per hour, cost me at Whitman ($80!) and realized that not going to my classes was like losing that money, I have been trapped in this “get my money’s worth” mindset.  If I pay for it, I go.  If I buy it, I wear it.  Or eat it.  I HATE waste, for the simple fact that it is like taking money from my bank account and throwing it away.  This same principle defines my interactions with my husband when I make a mistake.  Let’s say I purchase something in error.  I feel like I should “pay” for my mistake to the tune of the cost of the item in question.  Unfortunately, since all the money I make goes into the family pot to cover bills anyway, paying for my mistake usually means depriving myself of something I would have loved to buy with whatever extra we have per month.  A(nother) bottle of wine.  Some (more) yummy cheese.  New shoes or new lotion or some such, until I feel like I have adequately made up for my error.

 

This is a bad habit/mindset/perspective, but I can’t stop.  My remorse over my screw-ups manifests itself by me punishing myself.  Suggestions for how to let myself off the hook are appreciated, but comments like, “cut yourself some slack – you’re only human!” have no effect because I sure as hell don’t see anyone else screwing up like I do.  When you make mistakes at the rate I do, mistakes that cost the family money, well, someone has to be punished, and that person is me.  I should try to be less dumb, but that hasn’t worked so far.  You can’t will yourself into behaving less like an idiot.

 

So, back to the sickness.  I decided, probably against all advice I would have gotten had I sought any, to change into workout gear, pick up the kids, and go to Baby Boot Camp.  I downed some orange juice and a spoonful of peanut butter, loaded the jogging stroller in the car, and told myself to keep it together long enough to drive to daycare and then the mall (driving while sick with a headcold is also on the not-recommended list).  I chased the boys through the Children’s Museum for a half hour and then sweated out the virus for an hour.  We came home, made dinner, did bath, and thank the good Lord, the boys were angels and went to bed without fuss or fight.  Feeling much better, I curled up on the couch with my book and waited for Tony to get home.  I’m not totally better this morning, but my head isn’t swimming anymore.  More like I’m just a mucus factory now.

 

So that’s how you do it.  That’s how you refrain from leaving your children on a mountaintop when you’re achy and snotty and you just want to lie in bed and have someone bring you tea and Kleenex.  You power through and recognize that no is going to rescue you.  No one is going to bring you tea and Kleenex and you certainly aren’t going to be allowed to sleep.  So you distract yourself.

 

Also, I think the kids have a magical radar that tells them when it’s a bad time to push mom’s buttons.  And so they were angels yesterday.  Angels.