Friday, March 29, 2013

Dress Fiasco 2

So, remember that whole dress thing?  I needed one for an event last night, everything in my closet is black or old (read: not the right size because it’s either too big from when I was trying to lose the baby weight or too small because it’s from my pre-children days) or business-y and so I was trying to decide what to order?  Well, I did order something, and it wasn’t even one of the original choices.


This one.


It came and was super cute, I totally would have kept it, except that it was so short it made me feel like a cocktail waitress in a fancy retro dance hall.  And my legs aren’t sexy enough for that.


So last Thursday, I ordered two more dresses, this one and this one.  I paid for FedEx ground, thinking 2-5 days shipping, not counting Sunday, and I would have dresses by this Thursday.  Two to choose from!  I would send one back!  Except I would secretly hope that Tony would indulgently say, “keep them both, they’re both so lovely!”  What could go wrong?


I won’t be getting those dresses until sometime today.  The event was last night.  Upon realizing what the tracking information was telling me, I frantically began pawing through my closet.  Surely, there was something there?  Ah!  I thought, I’ll wear the dress I bought during my last dress fiasco in France when my the zipper on the dress I’d brought to wear (incidentally, the same dress I wore to the Tulip Festival Gala last year) broke a scant few hours before the wedding.  Alas, I was nursing Jamie last year, and I filled out that dress in an entirely different way than I do now.  Love that dress as I do, I will not wear something that makes me look that flat-chested.


To the mall I went, and to Ross, and to Kohl’s.  And then back to the mall a couple of days later to try some other stores (I get shopping fatigue pretty quickly).  I was shocked, shocked!, when I found the most promising of dresses at J.C. Penney.  I pawed through the racks at Macy’s to no avail, but I actually tried on six (six!) dresses at Penney’s.


You know what’s the worst part about shopping alone?  Especially shopping at a store like Penney’s that is mostly deserted?  Where 90% of all the other (eight or nine) customers in the store are octogenarians?  Trying on anything.  Because when there’s no one around to help, or even within shouting distance, that’s the time you’re going to get the zipper of a dress stuck in a spot on your back that you can’t reach in the fitting room of the lingerie section because it was closest to the dress section and no one, I mean no one, shops for lingerie at J.C. Penney’s. 


So there I was, arching my back, reaching my arm first one way around my back, then another, contorting myself to reach that zipper, starting to break out into a sweat because I couldn’t reach it, thinking, “How the hell did I pull the zipper up where I can no longer reach it???” and worrying that I might have to wander out in the store and yell across the vast, empty expanse of the store for some help, when I finally grabbed the zipper and finally unstuck it.  I did not buy that dress.  I was kind of afraid that if I put it back on, I would never be able to take it off again. 


I did find a dress.  $24 on sale.


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Not too shabby.


Happy Easter, everyone!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Only Good Books are Train Books

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What’s up?  Me?  Nah, nuthin’, just reading.


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It’s a story about a Choo-Choo.  I LOVE CHOO-CHOOS.


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Like right here!  There’s a Choo-Choo on this page!


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HOLY BALLS, WOMAN!  There’s a Choo-Choo on EVERY PAGE!


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I’m gonna need some time with my Choo-Choo book.  You just go right back to cooking or whatever, lady.


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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Art Forger

After reading a disappointing book club selection last month, I’ve been a bit gun-shy about choosing books outside of the easy/pop genre.  I’ve stuck to stuff I knew I would like, including a Susanna Kearsley novel, the latest in the Hangman’s Daughter series, a Nora Roberts trilogy… you get the idea.  No heavy hitters there.  One of the fun things about putting things on hold at the library, though, is that you never know when it’s going to pop up.  I put books on hold months ago and then all of the sudden I have an email to download an available e-book or pick up a book at the library and whoosh!  Suddenly, I’m reading literary fiction again.


So I just finished The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro and I liked it.  It wasn’t a revelation of a novel or anything, but I enjoyed it, and by the final third, I was so engrossed that I stayed up late to finish it.  The story follows an artist who has a past indiscretion in the art world and is now persona non grata among curators, galleries, critics, and other artists.  She accepts a job to copy a famous Degas painting knowing full well that the painting had been stolen, and then gets herself caught up in the unraveling of the forgery, has to make some moral judgments, and gets to play detective a bit.  There are some glimpses into the origin of the painting and the subsequent mystery that don’t work as well as they should, namely a series of letters from Isabella Stewart Gardner to her niece (oh, yeah!  This is based on an actual heist, which is fun) that the characters in the novel never get to see, but that are necessary to the plot, and there are some characters that aren’t as well-developed as they should be.  Overall, though, I enjoyed the main character and how normal she seemed.  I also liked her troubles and stumbles, even if they were totally unnecessary to the plot, like her teaching gig at a juvenile detention center.


I also liked that everything doesn’t work out at the end with a giant happy ending, it’s-all-perfect-and-the-future-is-rosy sort of wrap-up.  Maybe this means I’ve been reading too much happy-ending pop fiction these days.


I just started Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, so I guess I’m back into reading heftier titles these days.  Toss any suggestions you have my way.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Pooh Bear

Do you have a dog?  Does he eat his own shit? 


I’ve pretty much gotten over all the gross things that come with being a dog owner: hairy clothes, house, and car; dirt tracked in from outside; cleaning up messes in the back yard.  I think, though, that I would prefer to clean up more messes if it meant that Buster would stop eating his own freaking poop.  And then breathing poop breath right in my face, so I know he’s done it. 


This time of year, I can keep the back yard pretty clean, thwarting Buster’s disgusting tendencies.  It’s lighter later and not so cold and wet when I go to poop-scoop.  Charles is a big helper, too, yelling, “Mooooom!  There’s dog poop over here!”  It used to be a fun game for him, finding all the poop in the yard while I followed after with the trash bag.  Ahh, the ways we use our children, right?


Buster, despite the aforementioned occasional fecal-eating issue and shedding an ungodly amount, is a huge source of comfort for me during tax season.  There’s not an axe murderer in the world who would bother trying to kill us – he’d have to go through Buster, and he is one menacing dog.  I love taking him on a run because I know I won’t get jumped with his intimidating presence by my side, even if he does annoyingly stop to check his pee-mail every quarter-mile.  If you can’t have a husband in the house, one who is basically required by his full-grown Y chromosome to defend his woman and children, the next best thing is an asshole dog.


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He’s not always an asshole.  Only to the bad guys.  To me, he’s a cuddle bear.  To the kids, he’s an awesome eating machine and a snot-licker. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Send Booze.

This morning was one of those mornings that made me want to resign my post as mom and flee the house in my pajamas.  In fact, I believe I texted Tony just that: “I resign as mom.  Find someone else for your children to scream at for an hour each morning.”


Jamie woke mere minutes after I hauled my tired-from-children-coughing-all-night-despite-liberal-doses-of-ibuprofen butt out of bed and towed the garbage out to the curb.  Garbage truck day is the highlight of Jamie’s week and I am used to nagging Tony about putting the can out on Wednesday nights, but last night I forgot.  This meant that only the kitchen garbage got out to the can in time and the garbage in the rest of the house is still overflowing its receptacles, just waiting for a curious toddler to come along and scoop out interesting items to feed to the dog.  Jamie was clingy and uninterested in eating his breakfast sitting anywhere other than my lap, so my coffee cup had to start out half-full to avoid spilling when he flipped up the newspaper as I was reading it (yeah, he’s a super seatmate).  He screamed every time I tried to put him down. 


Charles woke up groggy and quickly became cranky after changing his mind six times about what he wanted for breakfast (Eggs!  Mac n cheese!  Toast!).  But the real fun came when I asked him to share a bite of his toast with Jamie while I made him more.  Seems reasonable, right?  I mean, there was a whole loaf of bread, no one was going to go hungry there.  One tiny bite out of two entire pieces.  Charles’s temper shot through the roof and before I knew it, he was throwing buttered toast and plates around the house, kicking at me and screaming as I hauled him upstairs to take a time out.


Jamie refused to let go of me for another half hour.  I barely managed to get dressed today, despite getting up well before dawn.  It’s a miracle we all got out the door, and perhaps a bigger miracle that we all made it out alive.


These kids, they just wear me down, you know?  Out of 24 hours in a day, they spend 7 in preschool, 11ish sleeping (or at least in bed), and probably 3 trying to see how much steam they can get to pour out of my ears.  There is nothing that fixes this, nothing that makes this better.  There is no pattern, no habit I can change to improve my children’s behavior, no amount of level-headedness or excitement or temper on my part that will entice them to act like children instead of demons (I have tried everything, short of actually resigning and finding them a more capable mother).  There is only slogging forward, hoping the light at the end of the tunnel is around the next bend. 


I’m starting to think this tunnel of ours might, in fact, be an endless mineshaft.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Honorary Aunties

There are a variety of reasons for me to up and leave town this time of year, and I realize that someone who’s not married to a tax professional might not understand that.  It’s not as though I don’t have a husband during this time of year; contrary to so many women (and some men) who live without military spouses for long periods of time, Tony mostly comes home every night for dinner, I still have to do his laundry, and the kids still have contact with him for a couple of hours each night.  If Tony were simply gone, I might not feel the need to leave at all.  But when we’re here, and he has more and more work as we march on to April 15, I know that having us waiting for him every night, demanding his attention away from work, is stressful. 


I try to respect the fact that he loves his job, feels an intense amount of responsibility and duty to his clients, and is only working these crazy, long, stressful hours for a short period of time each year.  So we leave to give him a break from the demands of family.


We also leave because, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to appreciate my girlfriends in new and needy ways.  No one likes to be needy, but I am, and I’m happy to admit it.  I made some amazing friends in college and I can’t wait to see them every year.  They’re not married, don’t have children, and are surprisingly understanding of the fact that I can’t get away to see them with any frequency.  They can offer intimate, intellectual conversation at a time when I’m not getting any at home. 


And there’s just something special about seeing the women who are important to me interact and love my children for a weekend.


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There’s also something very rewarding when one of your best friends says to you, on the last night of your visit after the kids are finally asleep, “Amelia, you have a tough job.”  I can write about it here, the travails of raising a strong-willed boy and of giving enough attention to his undemanding younger brother, but I guarantee that it’s a whole different perspective to witness it in person.  Sometimes there are entire days without tantrums but it’s still exhausting for me, gently reigning in impulses, driving children in the right direction, teaching, disciplining… and other days are fraught with terrible meltdowns and defiance.


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Where he finally fell asleep, two hours after bedtime and after throwing a massive tantrum because he didn’t want to go to bed. 


It’s also fun to have your friends goggle at the amount of food your two small boys consume.  They never really stopped eating.


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Another great benefit to skipping town is that we get to experience new things and get ourselves outside of our normal routine.  Oh, the boys still went to bed at the usual time, ate at the usual time, and napped at the usual time, but they also visited the Portland Children’s Museum and the Portland Zoo, had lunch and brunch at restaurants, got to watch cartoons, and played at new and interesting parks.


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Climbing the wall at the museum.

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Climbing something at the zoo.

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Playing this much is hard work.

My life and my girlfriends’ lives are awfully different now, and have been for some time.  I can’t say that I’m not jealous of their ability to eat out whenever they choose, go on wine-tasting trips to Walla Walla or Sonoma, and wear clothing that is forever untainted by child snot.  What’s amazing, though, is that even though we’ve all changed and our daily lives are pretty divergent, we still have such a strong connection to one another.  They’re my forever friends, and I love that my boys will know them as constants in our lives.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

They Have *Such* Good Eyes for the Artistic Shot

I’ve been sorting through weekend photos on my phone (because I rarely travel with the big camera on my own) and have found that my children enjoy hitting any button they can find in any program they open.  I’m not at all surprised about that.  Those kids know how to work my smartphone better than I do, which has probably been the refrain of parents from time immemorial. (“Geez, Grock can start a fire with stone and flint in two seconds!  Takes me all week to get one going using such modern methods.”)


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That’s frozen yogurt on his pants.


I’d like to point out that I won’t do that stupid, proud parent, ascribe-talents-to-your-children thing that so many do: “look at my budding photographers!  They’re soooo talented!”  Nope.  These kids just enjoy stealing my phone and emulating my actions with it.  And rearranging all my apps.


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Gimme that phone back!


I once had a leadership professor in grad school who was terrible, and probably would have been better off teaching creative writing or art to left-brained undergrads than leadership to right-brained MBA students.  She had us read the WORST books, and we all found her class to be a waste of our time, which made us angry since we were all old enough that we were paying our own money to be there.  She once used her daughter as an example of leadership, saying that her four-year-old showed “leadership” by taking her mom by the hand and towing her around the zoo.  Needless to say, we all found it a laughable example, since she had spent an entire quarter trying to get us to understand how to “model the way” and “inspire the heart” – a four-year-old impulsively pulling a parent from animal exhibit to animal exhibit doesn’t seem to apply.


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Charles did pretty well on this one.


My kids are not photography masters, but they are amusing.  At least, I’m amused by what they chose to photograph.


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Jamie prefers to take photos of his legs.


Okay, let’s face it, they didn’t “choose” to photograph these things, they just enjoyed hitting the buttons.  Which, if I’m going to be perfectly honest with you, was exactly my intention.  Because by taking a million photos and playing games on my phone, they kept quiet and out of my hair for a bit.  Yes, I use screen time as a distraction for my kids so I can shower or go to the bathroom or pack the car when more traditional methods of food and toys and books fail.  Sometimes, they even watch cartoons.  I’m probably going to burn in hell, and while I know this and feel terribly about it, I continue to be the bad parent and plop them in front of a screen on occasion, even if it is a tiny one.  Sometimes I feed them sugar, too.  Please don’t call CPS.


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This kind of screen time has an annoying effect, however: I did not enjoy spending 20 minutes erasing all the 600 duplicate photos of sippy cups and someone’s adorable knees from my phone.


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Would you just look at that dirty car seat!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

All’s Well

Lest you think it’s all tantrums and crying jags over here, let me assure you that sometimes there are good days.  And, surprise, surprise, they often are the result of an attitude shift on my part.  Shocking!


The bottom line, of course, is that I am the only one with the mental capacity to be in charge of my emotions.  Yes, I get frustrated with Charles’s four-year-old outbursts and tests of will, and yes, I am tired.  Hard not to be, since Charles seems to be going through a phase of waking once or twice a night (nightmares, maybe?), and Jamie continues to do so (teeth, still), and Tony comes home at all hours of the night (except when he doesn’t come home at all, like Monday night, when he actually worked all night long, came home at 5 am to change for basketball, came back after basketball at 7:45 am to shower and change, and then headed back to work for the day).  But I am still the adult in these situations, and it’s up to me to maintain my cool.  Not easy, but I’m working on it.


I mentioned the book incident, right?  Charles tore up the pages of my library book this weekend when he was mad at me for not letting him have treats before lunch.  I got upset and expressed my anger in a much more forceful way than I maybe ever had before – it’s not often the kids see me yell in anger.  After I calmed down, which took me probably a whole day, I started preparing Charles to make amends.  I told him that he made a mistake and he would have to admit that mistake and apologize for it.  Not to me; to the librarian.  I repeated this for a few days and then yesterday we went to the library.


I’ll admit to being apprehensive.  What would he do?  Would he refuse to speak to the librarian?  Would he refuse to apologize?  Would he throw a fit and kick and scream and tell me, “No!”?


He performed admirably:


Me: This is Charles.  He has something to say.


Charles: …


Me: Charles?  This is the librarian.  What have you come to tell her?

Charles: …  I’m sorry I got angry and wrecked the book.


The librarian was gracious, I paid for the book, then we went to play Legos in the kids’ section.


I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of him.  He didn’t hide, he didn’t get upset or kick or scream or flop to the floor.  He simply said what he had to say and waited quietly while we finished our business (not so his brother, who ran off in all his toddler-waddle glory to find the toys).  And I told him I was proud of him.  And later, after dinner, I took him for a treat and a little fun time in the grocery store with me and his uncle (what?  The grocery store isn’t fun?  It is when you’re four, you go at night so it’s mostly deserted, and you run like crazy down the aisles after you charging your batteries with sugar hot chocolate).


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And you know what?  I’m proud of me, too.  I was positive all day yesterday, even when I had to reprimand Charles for not listening or following directions.  I know I won’t be able to maintain such an attitude indefinitely, but it’s often worth the effort to grind my teeth, put a smile on my face, and choose to say “race you to the car!” instead of “Charles!  I’ve asked you to get in the car twice now!  Let’s go or I’m going to take away that toy in your hands!”


See?  I’m learning.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

OF COURSE It Happened in the Mall.

I messed up yesterday.  In the throes of a fit, in the mall, in the middle of my exercise class (yes, we meet in the mall because it is large, not busy, and under cover during these rainy winter months), I told Charles that I was through and that, for all I cared, he could just stay in the middle of the mall and throw his tantrum, I was leaving.


I immediately regretted the words that came out of my mouth.  Of course I would never leave my child at the mall.  But he didn’t know that.  He didn’t realize that the farthest away I would move from him would be the next set of benches, which was closer than he had been any of the times in the previous half hour when I admonished him and lightly disciplined him and reminded him to “stay where I can see you, don’t run away.”  We had gone from a gentle reminder of the rules, to a “you must now walk with mommy and the stroller,” to my telling him in no uncertain terms that he must get in the stroller and ride because he couldn’t follow the rules.  That’s when he started kicking and screaming and hitting and trying to bite me as I tried to wrestle him into the stroller.  Which doesn’t work very well because he’s a strong, forty-five-pound four-year-old.


So then I scared him.  And I wish I hadn’t.  He thought I would really leave him.  He started to wail.  I managed to buckle him into the stroller and rejoin the class, hissing at him to “settle down and stop screaming, don’t hurt your brother, I’m not going to leave you!” but he was screaming at the top of his lungs, “I want to WALK!  I don’t want to RIDE!”  It took him a good fifteen minutes to calm down. 


And then I explained to him that his behavior made me angry.  And that time outs are for cooling down and calming down and we all need them.  And finally, that I was going to take a time out when we got home and leave him and Jamie with Tony.  And he started to wail again, this time with giant, scared alligator tears.


After many promises that I would come back, some hugs and kisses and a calm discussion about appropriate behavior, he settled and stuck by me voluntarily, without restraints, for the rest of class.


Tomorrow, he’ll probably act out again.


I’m trying to give myself grace.  I look around and I don’t see a whole lot of parents who deal with strong-willed children like Charles, but I have a few friends who understand.  And they remind me that a lot of love, a lot of discipline, and a lot of self-affirmations in front of the mirror (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”) will get me through Charles’s childhood.  If I don’t screw it up too badly, he’ll end up a strong-willed adult with respect for boundaries, something that is pretty universally admired.


I learn every day how to be a better mom to Charles.  And because I’m a person who likes to have a plan, I have a new one.  I am going to get up early from now on.  Now, I don’t get enough sleep, I don’t know anyone who does, but if I got up at 6 and had everything packed and ready for the day before the kids get up, perhaps we could read an extra story before school.  I think the serenity that would come with being mostly ready by the time those boys come crashing through the house at 6:45 am would be well worth the sacrifice of snoozing in the early morning.  Perhaps I can figure out how to get to bed earlier, too. 


If not, I’ll just make more coffee.  One step at a time, right?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Weekend Snapshots

I won’t pretend it was an easy weekend; Charles continues to be demon-possessed a fair bit of the time, and managed to take his anger out on one of my library books on Saturday (why?  Because I told him he had to wait until after lunch to have a cupcake).  Nevertheless, I managed to keep my cool and helped the kids to enjoy themselves outside and in.


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Table Wars.  Every day, but give them the choice, and they want to sit as close together as possible.


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Stuff like this pretty much happens every day.


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I was so excited when Jamie finally fit into these old jammies of Charles’s – they’re my favorite.


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Waiting for daddy to get home.


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He’s Super.


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Faster than safe.


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Trains are serious business; Jamie and I played together after Tony and Charles went to bed early on Saturday.


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Monday, March 11, 2013


He did it again.  I was dead asleep and he crept into my room, stood with his face inches from mine, and woke me by whispering, “Moooommmmmieeee.”  I shot straight up with sharp intake of breath and very nearly yelled “Holy Shit!” in the presence of my four-year-old.  It was 7:30 am.


Daylight Saving Time, right?  What a bitch.  I’m certain that my lament is the same as that of parents everywhere: I HATE Daylight Saving Time.  There is no possible gain in utility that is enough to counter the dragging, soul-sucking level of tired reached by most of the nation the Monday after the time shift or the crazed children whose schedules have been thrown off.  Shoot, Jamie didn’t wake up until 8 am, which means that he probably won’t want to nap today until 2 pm.  It’s like the world has started turning the opposite direction.


I think it says something terrible about us as a nation that we continue in a practice that few people understand or support that results in something called National Napping Day each year.  How much money is lost in reduced productivity the day after Daylight Saving Time begins?


Before I had children, I thought about sleep, oh, maybe once in a great while.  Like, perhaps I thought, “I’ll go to bed a bit earlier tonight so I can get up early for that international flight I have tomorrow morning.”  In other words, nearly never.  Since having children, though, I think about sleep a lot.  I’m not getting enough, Tony’s not getting enough, and the children, with the way they fight it, probably aren’t getting enough, either.  Ways to get more sleep, ways to feel less sleepy, “why won’t that kid just sleep already” are thoughts that are present on a daily basis, and that’s something I never expected before those boys came into my life. 


There are many tedious, disgusting, and difficult things inherent in parenting small children.  I think, despite the difficulty, that I’ll miss many of them when my boys are grown.  I’m happy to deal with the dirty diapers, the temper tantrums, and the general mess and chaos because I get to cuddle those monkeys and read to them and play with them and it is worth every second of cleaning and discipline.  But I will never miss this pervasive fatigue.


Thank God for coffee.  Amen.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fake It until You Make It

In about an hour and a half, I’ll be sitting on a panel of speakers from local businesses as a part of Economic Vitality Day for Leadership Skagit.  My talented husband, who graduated from the program in 2008, is the moderator of the panel and he asked me to be on it.  Apparently, no one else who is organizing the day’s activities objected, a fact which I find hard to believe.


Do you ever feel like you’re faking your life?  Here I have a moderately successful business, I’m in charge of a budget, paying bills, managing HR responsibilities, managing purchasing, and strategic management, among lots of other things.  I went to school to manage a business, I have excellent advisors in the form of my husband and my parents and still, still I wonder, “who put me in charge?” 


It’s sort of the same thing I feel when I really examine my life as a mother.  Do those boys know that I haven’t the first clue about parenting? 


My 10th college reunion is this fall, and the amount of mail, FaceBook messages, and email I’ve received about it has increased dramatically in the past few weeks.  I’ve been thinking about those years at college, thinking about who I was and how I treated others and myself, wishing very hard that I could go back and give myself some advice (if I’d listen).  Be nicer to yourself, I’d say.  Be more forgiving of everyone here, they’re all under stress.  Figure out a way to change your life that doesn’t involve upheaval and cutting out people who were your friends.  Calm down and be kind, I’d say.


I still feel like the 19-year-old girl who thought her whole future would be written in those four years, who couldn’t help but strive for some undefined prize given to those who took the most classes and got the best grades (there is no prize).  When I finally realized, in the year abroad after I graduated, that what mattered was not that I had graduated with honors but that I had friends to see me through the next few years of upheaval (and vice versa), I felt very lonely and very lost.  I went from thinking I had it all figured out to realizing that I had nothing figured out.  That feeling has persisted throughout the rest of my adult life.


There’s a small kernel of hope within me that no one else thinks they have it figured out, either.  I have learned how to run my business over the past four years with an immense amount of help from friends and family.  I know much, much more about running a business now than I did five years ago, when my MBA was fresh and my experience nearly nil.  Perhaps that is the lesson I can impart during this panel today: surround yourself with experts and people who want to help you succeed and then try as hard as you can to incorporate their expertise into your actions.


I may have learned it late, but I did learn that the best thing to do was to be excellent to whomever crossed my path (thank you, Bill & Ted).  In my life since college I have cultivated relationships, not sabotaged them.  And perhaps I am much too hard on myself.  Perhaps the few times I was unkind are much larger in my memory than they are in anyone else’s.  That’s as it should be, I suppose.  We remember our trespasses so we aren’t doomed to repeat them.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Too Big for My Lap*

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Four weeks old


From the time he was small, Charles would sit on my lap for a story any chance he got.  Before he could talk, we’d snuggle in the rocking chair, my arms holding him tight as I turned the pages and told the tales. 


Even when he didn’t smell so fresh, he always smelled like a little boy, my little boy, and I would sneak big whiffs of the top of his baby head.  I could study the whorls of his hair as he listened intently to the story and feel his breath move in and out.


He’d ask me, in the early days, “Yap?  Yap, mommy?”  Later, that evolved to a very polite, “Please, mommy, can I sit in your lap?”  The answer was always yes.


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About a year old


But something began to happen over the past few months: I could no longer see the pages I was reading and Charles could no longer get comfortable on my lap.  His long legs would hang over the side of mine, he’d wiggle his butt in an effort to get comfortable, and I’d end up with a pain in my neck from peering around his large noggin.


Still, when he didn’t ask me to sit in my lap the other night, I was sad.  I asked him, “Please, Charles, would you sit on my lap?”  He said, “No, mommy, I want to stand next to you so I can see better.”


His head reaches well above my waist.  He’s eloquent with a large vocabulary.  He’s making leaps in development and the boundless energy that has always sprung from some inexhaustible source inside of him is more targeted these days.  He begs to play soccer and baseball and basketball and wants to know when we can run races again.


He still loves books and reading and asks me ten times a day to read him a story.  We brought home 20 pounds of books from the library the other day.  But our lap days are over.


He’s willing to stand next to me right now, to let me be his partner while he grows, at least for a little while longer.  But as soon as they’re born, babies start pulling away, developing their own personalities, their own dreams and ambitions.  Charles is pulling away and learning to belong to himself more than to me.  It’s a good thing, a thing for which I am proud.


I miss the smell of his head, the feel of his body in my arms. But he’s not a baby anymore, and he prefers his stories standing up.


February 2012 010


*There are very few photos of me with Charles throughout his young life.  Jamie’s, too.  This will probably be one of my biggest regrets: that I was taking the photos rather than in any photos.  So, you get photos of Tony doing the reading because there are actually none of me.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Food Files

You know what?  If we had had Jamie first, I would have thought that I was world’s most amazing parent.


I maybe have said that before: he’s just so damn easy compared to Charles.  Especially with the F*#&ing Fours as comparison (oh, Jamie will probably get there).  Fortunately for us, Charles is old enough that I can “make” him eat his veggies before he gets up from the table, something you can in no way do with a 20-month-old.  A 20-month-old can totally control what he does or does not put in his mouth, and Charles at 20 months came down pretty hard on the “no vegetables” side of life.  I snuck them in wherever I could, but we relied pretty heavily on a multivitamin for a time (thankfully, he always ate fruit).


We have a really great family doctor, by the way.  He told me that his own daughter refused to eat much more than pasta, white bread, and rice when she was little and that it was no big deal.  “Just shove a multivitamin down him once in awhile” and he’ll be okay, the doc said.  And he was right.  While at 20 months Charles ate mostly macaroni and cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, by age two he was eating a much wider variety of foods, including vegetables.


Jamie, much to our surprise, loves green vegetables.  He’ll eat the tops right off of the entire bowl of steamed broccoli.  What, you thought you were going to get some?  No, friend, that’s all for Jamie.


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And the other night, we had asparagus with dinner.  I had to negotiate with Charles to try a bite (“no, you may not leave the table until we’re all finished and you have a bite of asparagus.”) but Jamie reached for a spear and kept reaching.  He must have had ten spears.  And later, his diaper smelled horrible.


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Charles, of course, chowed down on pasta, something which Jamie doesn’t much enjoy.


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Even at age four, Charles is constantly in motion; all our photos are blurry.


Later, we had frozen yogurt. Jamie gets his own bowl because I don’t like to share with him (he eats ALL of it!).


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Like I said, if we had had Jamie first, I would have thought I was an awesome parent.  The kid eats his vegetables, goes to bed without a fight, and can play by himself for more than 30 seconds at a time.  And with the benefit of experience, I know that none of this is my doing.  He is just a good kid and I am just really, really lucky.




Did you maybe want to know how that bread recipe in my new Dutch oven turned out?  It was INCREDIBLE.  I will be making this again, probably every weekend.


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What a beauty.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Beef Stroganoff Sounds a Little Like Beef Strokin’ Off.

This post is for my friend Julia, who is about the most gorgeous woman I have ever known.  She’s 7 months pregnant, and we should all be so lucky to look like she does while gestating.  I met Julia in college – we were in the same sorority – and she is in many of my stories from my senior year (her sophomore year) in college, but I’ll just give you a taste of how great she is with the tamest of these stories. 


Our sorority (and all the others, as well as several groups of “independent” ladies [not that we were dependent per se, just affiliated and had better parties]) had a powder-puff football team.  Powder-puff, of course, being code for “try to kill each other, ladies.”  Football injuries in the intramural leagues got so bad my senior year that, except in dire cases of hospitalization, they could no longer be used as an excuse for missing homework or class (and let me tell you, trying to finish homework when you are laid up with a terrible football injury in a no-pads, full-contact league was no joke).  The faculty hated powder-puff football.



Julia’s the one with her arm hooked around my neck.


So one game (probably my last), we were just playing ridiculously.  Pascale twisted her ankle, someone else got cut because I remember blood on the field, and then I injured my thumb.  Or maybe Pascale faked her twisted ankle because she could see I was in pain.  It was just my thumb, though!  No big deal, right?  I could totally still tackle, I mean, pull flags.  Except that it must’ve been a big deal, because the game was finally called due to injury and Julia bundled me into her little, yellow Beetle and took me to the Walla Walla ER.  Broken thumb.  Julia stayed with me the whole time, essentially spending her entire Saturday afternoon in the hospital, and then drove me home with a prescription for painkillers.  I had a tough time taking notes in class that week, I can tell you, and my right thumb joint is still larger than my left.


Well, Miss Julia, you are a peach, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy this beef stroganoff recipe (no photos because it’s all been consumed).  Think of my broken thumb, all the times you did my makeup, and the Everclear you freely passed around in your room while you do.


Beef Stroganoff (Amazing)


Lots of butter

Egg noodles (I made the whole package because I like leftovers)

1/2 yellow onion, chopped up nice n small

Beef strips – get yourself some lean steak or even pre-cut stir-fry meat and slice it up really thin.  It sometimes helps to partially freeze the beef so that you can cut it even thinner

A whole bunch of mushrooms, sliced up small (I used, like, half of a Costco package of those giant white mushrooms)

2ish Tablespoons of flour

1 can beef broth

1 16-oz carton of full-fat sour cream

Fresh ground pepper


Boil those noodles!  Now, chop up the onion and mushrooms and sauté them in a bunch of butter.  I probably used 2-3 tablespoons at this stage.


When the mushrooms are nice and soft and brown, spoon them out of your pan and into a holding dish of some sort.  Add some more butter to your pan and then add the beef.  Brown the beef strips nicely on all sides but don’t cook them so long that they get tough.  Remove the beef from the pan.


Okay, you might be thinking, more butter? but yes, more butter.  Probably 2-3 tablespoons again.  Melt it up nicely in your pan and then add the flour.  Stir the flour into the butter and let it cook for a few minutes, then add your can of beef broth.  Keep stirring until it thickens up nicely, then add back your mushrooms, onions, and beef and then add the sour cream and mix it all together. 


Now comes the pepper.  No stroganoff is complete without lots and lots of fresh, ground pepper.  Mmmmmm.


Serve over cooked egg noodles and enjoy.


You might notice that there is no salt in this recipe.  I LOVE salt, but I prefer to add it at the table.  Your butter will likely have salt, and you just never know how sour that cream will be.  Julia, I know you can’t have wine right now, but a dark, full-bodied Merlot pairs so nicely with this.


Feed that baby some stroganoff tonight!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dress Decisions

You can be pretty tech-savvy and still not know how to make a website work.  So!  Only links to pretty things today, not photos, but if you take the time to click the links and offer feedback, I’d be grateful.


I have an open love affair with dresses – Tony doesn’t mind.  I don’t buy new ones all that often, and I try to shop sales and at Ross.  Dresses are wonderfully flattering and I would wear one every day except, you know, winter and children.  Also, I find that you can wear out a dress a lot quicker than a sweater; people remember seeing it on you and you therefore don’t want to wear it too often.


Luckily for me and my closet (but not my pocketbook, perhaps), Tony and I will be attending the Tulip Festival Gala at the end of March and I will be purchasing a new dress for the occasion.  I know many people who go who don’t buy new dresses, but they’re missing out.  Any opportunity for a new dress is one I will always seize.


Here are the ones I am considering:


Poppy and You Know It dress from

Friendly Floral Arrangements dress from

Poppy Culture dress from

Enchanted Afternoon dress from

Sadie dress from

Evelyn dress from

Belted Lace Overlay dress


Now which one should I buy?  I’ll probably make time to visit Macy’s and Ross between now and then, too, because some of these online dresses, while amazing, are also expensive.  I busted out the ass on my favorite pair of jeans earlier this week, so I might try to make a trip to a larger mall with an Express sometime soon to replace them and I’ll shop dresses there.  Stupid big butt of mine.  This is why camouflaging dresses are better in every way.


Oh!  And now I CAN say it: Happy Friday!!!