Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I Don’t Get It

I’ve determined that there’s a group of people in the world whom I do not understand AT ALL.  And I think I’m a pretty understanding person!  I give people the benefit of the doubt, I try to see things from their perspective, I preach love and acceptance to my children (someday I’ll rant to you about how “tolerance” is a troublesome word that should not have a place in talks about equality, but that’s a discussion for another day), and I try to extend grace to others because I know how much I need it myself.


But there appears to be a percentage of the population that is either obliviously or purposefully annoying, and I don’t understand.  Person who doesn’t use his/her turn signal, I’m talking about you.  Sure, some people might forget to use their turn signals once in a while, but not always.  And I guess I don’t even understand the “once in a while” thing, either (see how I just talked myself out of that bit of grace I was willing to extend to those offenders?  No more!).  You see, driving, in many ways, is a series of memorized actions.  When you reverse, you crank your head and scan all your mirrors.  When you shift, you depress the clutch, let off the gas, change gears, press the gas, and lift off the clutch.  You don’t have to think about it every time you do it.  Same goes for turning.  When you are going to turn, you use your signal.  It’s rote, I tell you!  So WHY do some people not use their turn signals?  It’s ANNOYING to the rest of us!  Not to mention that by not using a turn signal, you are compromising safety by not signaling your intentions to other drivers in advance.  I just don’t get it.  They are either terrible, oblivious drivers or they are annoying others deliberately.


Or what about people who walk along the sidewalk in a big group that spreads out and takes up the whole sidewalk so that no one else can get past?  This frustrates every other normal, sane sidewalk user out there!  How do you, group of six people walking along and talking to each other, not notice that the people around you would like some space to walk, too?  And not just the people behind you!  No!  There are usually people walking toward you, people whom you SEE, and for whom you do not move or bunch up to let by until the very last second when it becomes apparent that the oncoming person does not choose to step off of the sidewalk and into traffic to let you continue to monopolize the whole sidewalk!  It’s preposterous that people behave this way, and yet they DO.  I just don’t get it.  Are they rude in nature?  Totally unaware of their surroundings?  Or, as Tony believes, just so sure of their own importance and everyone else’s inferior agendas?


Oh!  Here’s another (that is annoying to most everyone I know but that doesn’t so much affect me or have direct consequences to my life): young men who wear their pants waist under their butt cheeks.  And then walk funny to keep those pants from sliding down their legs.  I do not understand this at all and I really don’t think (or I choose not to believe) that it’s a generational thing.  After all, boys did this when I was in high school, too.  It was called “sagging” back then, though I’m not sure there’s even a term for it now.  It would appear that it is just how the majority of teenage boys wear their pants.  Based on my time as a teenager, kids that age are more concerned with looking good than with anything else.  Has no one explained to these young men that they look truly ridiculous with their pants like that?  What’s more, it is the opposite of attractive.  Ladies, even teenage girls, would rather see a guy’s butt encased in a pair of well-fitting jeans than with a saggy pair of diaper-like pants falling off of him (Justin Bieber, I’m talking about YOU).  You don’t see male models or movie stars sagging their pants, do you?  You don’t see them walking like they’ve soiled themselves just to keep their pants from falling off, do you?  Sheesh, get a clue.


You might have specific pet peeves – maybe you are annoyed by loud chewing, or the fact that I allow my children to maintain top running speed at all times, everywhere we go – but I think we can agree that some annoyances are nearly universal.  So what in the world is wrong with the people who perpetrate them?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Weekend Reflections

Last night, as the kids drifted off to sleep for the second night in a row of exhausted, early bedtimes, I snuggled into Tony on the couch and a wave of contentment washed over me.  “This,” I thought, “this is what it’s like to love one’s life.”


photo drinks


It’s human nature, I suppose, to constantly want better.  I know I do.  I work hard to improve my life every day.  I do my best to be the best: the best mom, the best wife, the best me.  But in striving to be the best in the future, sometimes I miss the fact that everything is the best right now, too.




That might not make much sense, but it’s the truth: everything is perfect, even if nothing is.  This weekend was full of love, happiness, and accomplishment.  I might want to make more money, buy a bigger house, sleep more, and be able to do a pull-up, but without those things, there is still laughter, there are still household projects, there are still new bikes and bubbles and fresh strawberries.




I ran 6.4 miles on Saturday.  The dog ran 5.3.  Tony ran 4.2, and Charles biked 4.2.  Jamie rode 4.2.  It was the perfect way to start Saturday.  I made flourless chocolate cookies and Shaksouka for dinner (you MUST try it, it was delicious). 




We worked in the garden all weekend and on furniture refinishing and rearranging.  We danced and sang and jumped and tickled and read and drew.




It was just ordinary life, and yet it was wonderful.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Time to Giggle Uncontrollably

The internet is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?  Yesterday was my sister-in-law’s birthday and since she lives in Japan, I didn’t get to take her out for frozen yogurt or mimosas with brunch or a pedicures, but I did send her an email with lots and lots of links that make me laugh.  I have a real gift for her, too, but even though she’s already sent me my birthday gift a month early, she won’t get hers until a month late, when they move back to the US.


I think you need a laugh, too, internet friends.  Here are some of my favorite funny things on the internet:


The Anti-Joke (for terrible people, which my sister-in-law is not, so I didn’t send this to her)


Emergency Compliment (in case you need one)


Texts from Dog (My dog is not this intelligent – his texts would all be along the lines of “uuuuhhh, food? walk? squirrel?”)


Pinterest, You Are Drunk


Animals Talking in All Caps (exactly what it sounds like)


Texts From Last Night (these are horrible/awesome)


32 of the Greatest Things That Have Ever Happened on Tumblr


Jack Sparrow (easily the best music video of all time)


Do you know Best of Craigslist?  I find a new funny one each day!


Lazer Tits


Passive-Aggressive Notes



Happy Friday, y’all!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Acceptance (Celebration?) of Failure

So maybe you’ve noticed that I occasionally write about Baby Boot Camp and our MOLO (MOther LOve – what kind of acronym is that?) challenge.  Basically, I work out, and I work out hard, three times a week.  The MOLO challenge was designed to get us all to work out more, mostly at home, and to make good nutrition choices. 


I don’t work out at home, mostly because I don’t have time to work out at home.  I wear heels and skirts, or at least night pants, to work, so doing a one-minute plank every hour on the hour at the office is not going to happen for me.  As it is, I barely get dinner on the table, get the chores done, and have time to love my children every day – by the time they’re in bed, I slump onto the couch for an hour and every evening I hate myself for not getting up and going for a run or doing a workout video.  It’s a sad fact of motherhood that I am my last priority, and when I have time to be the top priority, I’m beaten down from a long day.  In a way, MOLO has made me feel worse about myself because here are these lists of things we should do, watch, or read every week, including workouts and movies and articles that I don’t have time to do, watch, or read.  I have spent three months with weekly emails and daily messages that seem to scream at me, “You will NEVER be strong or beautiful or a good wife or a good mother because YOU WON’T SACRIFICE ENOUGH DO THIS.”


When we do our fitness assessments next week to see how far we have progressed during the past three months, I have little doubt that I will have stayed static at every metric, save the one for weight.  I am pretty sure I have gained weight.  I’m trying to come to terms with that.  My abs are rock hard, I have strong shoulders and legs and arms, but there is a softness over all of it that is not going to go away unless I starve myself or cook myself separate meals from my family and give up some of the things I enjoy, like wine and cheese and chocolate.  And frankly, I’m not willing to do any of that.


Another part of the MOLO challenge was a goal that we each set three months ago.  Or many goals.  I honestly have no idea what goals other women in the group set, I only know that I had but one goal: to do a full, unassisted chin-up.  For various reasons, I felt it was a reasonable goal three months ago.  After all, I couldn’t set a goal for losing weight or working out more often (I’m at my limit for workout time, and we’ve already discussed the giving up food thing – still not willing), but I thought that, with work, I could do a chin-up.  Just one.  How hard could it be?


Well, I have failed to reach this goal.  I will keep trying, but I’m feeling rather defeated about all of it.  And when I feel defeated, I start to feel defeated about other areas of my life, too.  It’s a terrible spiral of self-hatred that starts in one spot and grows to include every single other aspect of my life ever. 


So how do I come to accept failure and move on?  Even better, how can I celebrate who I am and what I do and everything that I have accomplished?  The landscaping and furniture refinishing that I did make time for this winter?  The bubble-blowing with my kids in the back yard instead of the 15-minute standing ab workout video?  The books I’ve read instead of working out at 9 pm every night?


I guess it comes back to the giant struggle in my life: how can I love myself for who I am and what I do?  And if I don’t know the answer to that, how can I teach my children to love themselves?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ragnar Costume Ideas

I just ordered new running shoes, and I noticed that they’re named “Ariel.”  Which I thought was a bit funny, since I sometimes feel like my feet are so heavy that I’m running through water.  Not because of the shoes, but because I am slow and tired.  Ha ha!  See, that’s funny, because Ariel is a mermaid.


Oh, I just suck at jokes.




Aside: Speaking of names, I met a dog at the park named Aria and I asked her owner if she was an opera fan.  She looked at me like I was nuts.  “You know, because you named her ‘Aria’ like the vocal feature of an opera?”  Apparently, Aria is the name of a character on some teen-marketed TV show.  The girl I was talking with totally did not understand my opera reference.  What is the world coming to?


So, yeah, I’m running and I’m not getting any faster, though I am going farther.  And I run without music, mostly because I’m paranoid that if I run with earbuds, I’ll not hear a car or a train (which is really crazy, since I don’t run on the tracks) or a mad bicyclist and Ill get run over.  So I have lots of time to think, well, 30-45 minutes of time to think, when I run.  I enjoy running with friends, but I also enjoy the time with myself, especially if I’m angry or frustrated.  By mile two, I’m less angry and frustrated because the looping monologues in my head have sort of petered out from “Damn it, he should just know what I want without me having to say it,” to “I hope the kids are driving him batshit for a change.”  I think we can all agree that the latter is much healthier.


The bad part of my Little Mermaid connection with my shoes is that for the past few runs, I have spent the entire time singing Little Mermaid songs in my head and replacing the lyrics with really terrible running references (“Look at these shoes/aren’t they neat?/wouldn’t you say my outfit’s complete?”).


I’m going to make an effort on my next few runs to obsess over running costumes for the Ragnar Relay that Tony and some of our friends and I are doing in July.  Help me, please!  So far, I’ve thought of ninjas and crayons.  The outfits must be suitable for running in the heat of July, which means no gorilla costumes, no makeup, no outsized headgear.  What would you wear?  What do you think would be awesome for twelve people with pretty adventurous, “aww, fuck it, let’s run a 36-hour, 196-mile relay” personalities to wear?  I mean, we’re not the truly insane runners, but I can guarantee that we’ll have a good time and that all of us would get behind a costume.  Maybe old-school Star Trek?  It would be nice if we didn’t have to spend an exorbitant amount of money. 


photoshoes j


Jamie just wants in for the shoes (maybe I’ll start calling them by name, my Ariels.  Or I could call them my Little Mermaids).  I’m hoping that when I do my leg of the run by our house, it won’t be in the middle of the night so my kids can come cheer me on.  Then again, if I’m dressed as a ninja, they might not see me anyway!

Monday, April 22, 2013

On Being A Little Less Granola

I remember a college professor of mine saying “In the seventies, we fought for recycling and we never imagined it would be ubiquitous in thirty short years.”  Well, ubiquitous in Washington State, anyhow.  I’ve been to parts of the country that are not so well-versed in recycling etiquette.


I’m of the generation that doesn’t even think about it.  I mean, it could be a really inefficient process to recycle everything I throw in that bin and I wouldn’t know.  You just do.  You just recycle everything that can be recycled, and then the garbage is further split into what can be composted and what can’t.  I go to restaurants that compost or recycle EVERYTHING except plastic spoons (to be heat resistant, they can’t be made of plant materials and are therefore not compostable) and I will think nothing of holding onto a plastic soda bottle until I get home and can dispose of it properly if I’m out somewhere that doesn’t offer a recycle bin.


I suppose it’s great, in a way, that there’s a generation of kids who have turned what used to be radical into more of a casual environmentalism.  It’s probably going to be the same way with our children: they’ll eat organic, local foods when they can, they’ll use fewer toxic household chemicals, and they’ll yell at me for doing something so thoughtlessly harmful like, I dunno, painting my nails or eating nacho cheese product.  Except for Tony’s penchant for chemical weed-killers, we’re pretty granola around here, without being fanatical.  Cloth diapers, cloth napkins, no soy, natural laundry detergent… the list goes on.


But this weekend, we took a step back in the granola world and got rid of our compost bin.  And I couldn’t be happier.


A few weeks ago, Tony went to the hardware store to pick up some bark mulch and came back with bags of compost.  Big, smelly bags for $4 each.  Composted locally.  From the yard waste and pizza boxes we put in our Green Bin every week for the truck to pick up.  And we though, “Why in God’s name are we putting our vegetable peels and apple cores and grass clippings in our own stinky compost bin?”  The thing breeds flies all summer and smells terrible, and we could just be putting all that organic stuff in the Green Bin anyhow and then buy a bag of compost whenever we need it.


I guess it just goes to show that casually incorporating good habits, like recycling and composting, into your life doesn’t mean you should do them without thought.  We’ll still compost as much, but we won’t be doing so in our back yard.  And I have a feeling that the summer will smell so much better.  I’ll probably celebrate that with a few back-patio margaritas in the evening sun, glorying in the lack of flies.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Clearance Sale on Thoughts! Making Room for New Inventory!

Let’s just call these “random thoughts bumping around in my cavernous head with no real point to them and thus, no reason they each need their own post” so I can clear some brain-space today, hmm?



We went out to dinner last night, all the way down to Seattle, to eat at one of my favorite restaurants, Poquitos, and it was fabulous.  I have a new favorite drink that I want to have a pitcher of right now and it’s only 10 am, and I’m kind of having a “friend hangover” in which I am missing the great friends we saw last night (from high school, France, grad school, and cousins!) more acutely now that we’ve spent time together again.  Also, Tony’s cousin bought this car and it is delectable.  Whoa.  I just wrote that it was delectable, then searched out the Car & Driver article, and they call it delectable, too!  I just sat in it, but it was suuuuure nice.  Probably as close as I’ll get to a sports car for the foreseeable future.



I made THE BEST brownies this week.  I used this recipe and they are AMAZING.  Fudgy, chocolaty, everything a brownie should be.  Easy, too, since I did the melting butter and chocolate step in the microwave.  I will never make boxed brownies again ever.  Ever.



My parents are in town (they had dinner with us last night, too!  My dad and I sampled grasshoppers!  Yes!  The bug!  I ate one!) along with their dog.  I thought this morning as I was getting dressed that their dog must have rolled in something dead.  I thought, “hmmm, something smells terrible, like dead, oily fish at the beach.”  Of course I blamed the dog.  You would, too, especially if you had a dog (or a sister-dog, since it is my parents’ dog) and knew that it liked to roll in smelly things.


When I got to work and I could still smell it, I thought, “maybe I stepped in whatever it is that is rotten and fishy when I put the dogs in the kennel before work.”  Seems logical, right?  But no.  The foul odor (which, apparently, no one else can smell, thank GOD) is coming from me.  More specifically, my jeans, which I accidentally washed with a multivitamin capsule in the pocket a couple of months ago.  The multivitamin clearly had some fish oil in it.  Even though I soaked that pants pocket in OxyClean and detergent and washed them over and over again, obviously the vitamin hasn’t rinsed out yet.  And now I smell like rotten fish oil.  No wonder I feel so damn sexy.



I’m overwhelmed by love for my kids lately.  They are just so cute all the time and they have been behaving so well the past few days.  Yesterday afternoon, Tony took the boys to get haircuts with him (well, Jamie didn’t get a haircut; he still has baby-fine hair that looks adorable when it’s a bit shaggy) and I told him to get Charles a buzz cut with a #2 guard.  Charles said, “Yeah, mommy, I’ll get a Buzz cut and daddy can get a Woody cut!”  Kid cracks me up.


And then Tony came home with a Woody cut and also paint for our unfinished cedar chest and two scheduled and paid-for massages for ME.  That man.  Sometimes he just gets it right, you know?  Tax season is over and, like childbirth, I have already forgotten the agony.



There are some busy days ahead at work, but we bought tickets to Williamsburg so now we really! are! going! and I can hardly wait and it sort of distracts from all other stresses right now.



Julia had her baby!  I keep waiting for an update, and I’m sure it’s going to be a good story.  But the name, you guys!  They named him Dashiell.  Dash for short!  Oh, I love it so much!




Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dancing With The Stars

I love to dance.  When I’m in a good mood, nothing else but to dance like a hyper fourteen-year-old darting through the aisles of the grocery store striking poses and flinging her body into innocent bystanders and cereal displays will do (wait, you didn’t do that?  Oh, you were one of the “cool” kids who understood decorum).  The only differences are that now I have music that I can play it as loudly as I want and the cereal is in the cabinet.


Seattle 009


I’m not particularly graceful and I don’t have great balance, despite my enormous feet.  The dog gets stressed out when I dance and nips at my hands when they windmill toward the floor and my husband thinks I’m insane. 


Seattle 010


The kids, though.  The kids love it, for now.  And they don’t yell at me to stop dancing like they yell at me to stop singing.  In their defense, my voice is terrible.


Seattle 013


We need a little more uninhibited dancing in our lives.  We all do.  I can’t hide the tears in my eyes when I read about terrible events in the paper in the morning, and I won’t be able to shelter my kids from those events forever, but I can always show them unfettered joy by dancing like a fool. 


Seattle 017


Hopefully, I’ll be the crazy dancing lady at my grandkids’ weddings, with viral YouTube videos showcasing my awesome devil-may-care moves (or whatever format their space-age media takes) in my sunset years.


Seattle 019


Take the edge off.  Dance like an idiot today.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Ides of April

It’s Tax Day, and you’d think I’d be grateful to have made it to April 15th alive, with my children and husband and dog alive as well, but mostly I’m just tired.  And tonight we have a tax season party with all the accountants and their under-eye circles and unkempt hair and ten extra pounds and residual stress from the past three months. On the bright side, I’m wearing a cute dress, I recently found out that two family members (one a blood relation and one a family member by choice) are expecting, and it’s not raining.  If I can make it through a very busy but exciting week unscathed and with my liver intact, and maybe even limited resentment on the part of my children for leaving them with a babysitter for three nights out of five, I’ll be content.


We spent a busy day in and around Seattle yesterday, and although I haven’t yet processed all the photos from our excursions, I did want to show you this one, may favorite of the weekend:


photo jamie


Charles took this, of his brother, during one of the moments they wrestled the phone out of my cram-packed diaper bag.  The phone is covered in Top Pot Doughnut goo now, but I think it was worth it.  Light, shadow, blah, blah, the kid is cute.

Friday, April 12, 2013


The kids and I… well, we haven’t been getting along lately.  Every day, the same old mom, the same old trip to school, the same old routine of rushing around, trying to get everything done, the same bedtime fights, the same, the same, the same.  With brief glimpses of the Fun Man (daddy) to take the edge off.  We play and read and cuddle together, but I am still, and have been, the main parental authority, dishing out directives and discipline for the past several weeks.


We needed a change, something to reestablish me as a person they enjoy being around.  Little do they know, they’re stuck with me.


So yesterday we played hookey, skipping out on work and preschool, and went to the zoo.



Jamie, of course, fell asleep 20 minutes before we got there.



The first stop is always the penguins.  Woodland Park Zoo has a wonderful penguin exhibit, and the slippery little guys put on a great show for the kids. 



Speaking of slippery, Charles and Jamie got to toss little fish to the penguins and learn, from a zookeeper, just how fast they can swim (17 miles per hour!).



I made them both walk a lot.  It might have been our “fun” day, but this mom knows that everything is more fun when sleep is inevitable at the end (plus, then I get to listen to my own music in the car while they nap).



After lunch (PB&J, apples, and cheese – we always bring lunch), we escaped the drizzle indoors at the Zoomazium, where the children fell all over the play structures and made some very loud music.



My little aquaman was in love with the just-my-size water fountains all over the zoo.





There are quite a few hidden “parks” within the zoo.  I would say that we stopped at every one except that we were there for four and a half hours and probably only saw 50% of the whole zoo.  More to see next time!



I am back in favor.  We had a wonderful trip with no tantrums.



And they were both exhausted.


I would say “The End” but it isn’t.  Next week, when we can finally say we are post-tax season, Tony and I will be taking another day off to spend it at home with the kids.  I hope to do this at least once a month just to keep the balance.  It’s good for them, it’s good for us, and it helps me to really enjoy them.  They get on my nerves as much as I get on theirs, and it is really healthy for us to have a day free of the constraints and demands of mom’s and dad’s jobs.


What’s that you say?  What about Saturday and Sunday?  Neither of those days are without constraints.  I sometimes go to work on the weekends, so does Tony, I have Baby Boot Camp on Saturday morning, Tony plays basketball on Sunday before church… it is rare to have a whole day without some sort of plan.


I know not everyone has the ability to do things like this with their children, especially not without planning ahead.  We’re pretty lucky.  I have to remind myself that loving this family means more than working and preparing food and cooking.  Maybe they don’t feel loved when I do those things, even though those actions are the principle ways I can show them how much I love them.  Maybe they need more experiences away from the drudgery of daily life. 


I think I’ll enjoy cooking up more day trips for all of us.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Life As You Know It Is Over

There are many ways in which your life changes when you have kids.  Some of these you expect, like the lack of sleep and the baby weight (still sucks, though) and the lack of sleep.  I wrote that one twice because it needs emphasis.  But there are also changes you don’t expect, and I’ve been musing a lot about those lately.  Perhaps it’s because I have another birthday coming up, or my 10-year college reunion, but I have been reflecting on my life recently and the unforeseen turns my journey has taken.  A lot of those have to do with children.  This is my incomplete list of the unexpected havoc wreaked in my life by my kids:


1. Mealtimes


Do you and your husband enjoy meals together?  Unhurried meals, often including a bottle of wine and foods that had flavor?  Kiss those meals behind because, boy oh boy, kids don’t eat salad or a variety of gooey cheeses and sausage served with a nice Cabernet.  In fact, they are often so insulted by something different that they will cry.  Loudly.  Say hello to making chicken, pasta, and steamed broccoli for the bajillionth night in a row.


And don’t expect to sit down and enjoy that meal!  Oh no, you will be the living embodiment of Ralphy’s mom in A Christmas Story: “My mother hadn’t had a hot meal for herself in fifteen years.”  They need milk, the fork you got them isn’t right, oh wait, they need water now, this is hot please blow on it.  You will shovel food in your own mouth as fast as you can just to have your hands free to cut up more chicken or scrape the sauce off of the rice or butter more bread because the world will end and everyone will cry if the bread doesn’t get butter RIGHT NOW.


We all think we’re going to be those parents who teach their children to love various and flavorful foods like sushi and gumbo and goat cheese & onion tarts, but the thing is, they won’t.  No matter what you do.  Children’s palates are unformed and bland and I don’t care what kind of great parent you are, at some point, your two-year-old will refuse to eat anything that isn’t chicken nuggets or goldfish crackers.  Just shove a multivitamin in him and hope for the best.


2. Cars


Do you love your car?  Is it clean?  Not when you have kids, it isn’t.


I didn’t really think about it much before I had demons children, but my car was always pretty clean.  Now, however, there are cracker crumbs ground into the seat cushions and toys and clothing everywhere.  Try as you might, you will not be able to keep your car clean when you have kids.  They get hungry, you will feed them – even if it means scooping a mashed-up peanut butter & jelly sandwich out of the door panel two weeks later (when you finally notice it).  They are thirsty, you will pass them the water bottle (pro tip: don’t allow a sippy cup of milk in the car – when it goes bad, forgotten underneath the seats, the results are… unpleasant).  And the toys!  Your kids will have to take toys on long car trips and sometimes just to the grocery store.  You know, because Buzz and Woody can’t stand to be left behind.  Except they will be left behind, in your car, when you get home.  The toys will slowly pile up until you do your weekly clean-out and take them back to the toy box.


photo (92)

What, mom, don’t you like finding apple chunks in the door pockets?


What do you listen to in your car?  Forget about ever listening to it again.  Just like with food, you will think that you can influence your children’s musical tastes by only exposing them to Beck or Elvis or whatever, but the day will come when they will ask for Raffi and you will gladly play all of his music on repeat just to make them stop screaming already.  Or, as in my case, you will sing Old McDonald Had A Farm at the top of your lungs, using every animal known to man because it keeps the baby from screaming.  We once spent an entire four-hour car trip doing that.  Eventually, you’ll expand your collection to include other children’s performers until you wake up to find that the songs most often playing in your head are from the current favorite Sandra Boynton CD.


3. Clothing/Jewelry/Perfume


I love clothes and I love jewelry.  I love hair, and I mostly wear mine down.  For the entire first year of each of my children’s lives, I wore my hair up.  All. The. Time.


Kids pull things, they are attracted to shiny stuff (it’s like you birthed a magpie), and they don’t understand why they can’t wrap their sticky little fists in your hair when they are cuddling you.  Put away your pretty things, mama.  Here’s why:


Breast milk stains.  Oh, yes it does.  So does banana, and if you think that banana isn’t going to get all over their little hands and faces every time they eat one, you are wrong.  I can get most other stains out, but those two types of stains remain, and that’s why I don’t wear nice clothing around my children.


photo (94)

Let me rub my smoothie face on your shirt!


The chains of your jewelry will snap.  And then you will cry, just like I did when my son snapped a beautiful beaded necklace by pulling it from my neck, showering tiny beads everywhere.


You know what hurts?  Having your dangly earrings pulled.


That new baby smell is pretty wonderful, isn’t it?  Well, that new baby smell can quickly be overpowered by your perfume, especially if the baby likes to rub his head up under your chin.


Pretty soon after having children, you notice that your at-home wardrobe consists entirely of yoga pants and stained T-shirts.  And you could swear that you were once a classy dresser.


4. Entertainment


Beyond just limiting your music selection in the car to kid-friendly choices, children will seriously impede your enjoyment of other forms of entertainment.  Do you like to host dinner parties?  Too bad for that, the kids go to sleep by eight and quiet hours begin at seven.  Do you like movies?  You probably won’t be able to stay awake for one after you finally get your children settled down and asleep.  Do you enjoy karaoke or cocktail bars or dancing?  Add the cost of a babysitter to all your nights out and then the guilt-trip laid on your by your kids every time you leave: “But Moooommy!  I don’t want you to leave!”


Even your movie selection will probably change.  I simply cannot STAND to watch any show that features children being harmed, turned into zombies, kidnapped, or dying.  It didn’t used to bother me, but now it does. 


5. Traveling


You know that traveling with children will be more difficult, you do.  But you probably won’t realize how difficult until you are stopped for the third time on what was supposed to be a three-hour car trip so that someone can go to the bathroom or because someone else needs his diaper changed or needs to nurse or just simply has had enough of the car.  And the stuff!  You will feel like you’re packing to move just to go away for a weekend! 


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You have to pack the kids wherever you go, too.


I contend that any vacation spent with one’s children is not a vacation at all.  It’s just parenting in another locale, usually with more challenges.  You’ll be eating out, and they won’t like that food or can’t sit still in the restaurant.  The hotel bed won’t feel the same.  The noises are different.  You will find yourself confined to your hotel room at eight pm, unable to watch TV for fear of waking sleeping children.  Taking a long flight with a child is miserable, going through jet-lag and time changes with children is miserable, not being able to relax is miserable.  You can do it, and we have and will continue to go on trips with our children, but they are not “vacations.”  They are often more exhausting than staying home.


6. What’s Mine Is Yours


That food on your plate?  Your water glass?  Your seat?  Your bed?  They will share it with you, whether you like it or not.  Oh, sure, you’re happy to share with your kids, but just once you’d like to eat the whole cookie instead of just half.  And their food explorations inevitably come on the night you only made two servings of Chicken Cordon Bleu thinking that there was no way they’d try it.  But they want it, they love it, so they get to eat all of yours.  And you get to have an apple instead.


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No room for mom and dad.


7. Subjects of Conversation


I, quite honestly, think nothing of discussing childbirth and episiotomies and breastfeeding and pregnancy weight gain in public.  These are parts of my life that, before children, would have been intensely private and are now available for public comment. 


You will discuss your children’s diapers and the contents thereof.  You will discuss teething.  You will tell all your friends, in great detail, about the monstrous amount of snot you sucked out of your child’s nose with the bulb suction thingy.  You will ask their advice on potty training.


You will mourn the old you who had a wide range of conversational subjects of interest to address at a dinner party.  That brain space is no longer available because you are not getting enough sleep.




I guess it’s kind of inevitable, these changes.  I still have many single or childless friends and sometimes I am wildly envious; they have so much freedom, so much money (compared to those of us who spend half our income on the care of our children), and so much sleep.  But they don’t have what I have: two beautiful, smelly, sticky, sleepless, whiny, and much-loved children.


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Being unbearably cute makes up for a lot.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tax Season Disintegration

I am spoiling for a fight today.  Last night was rough, with me, at one point, walking out the door while Charles screamed (threatening to take a walk into the driveway turns his tantrums from angry fight-fests to a much easier to handle “no, Mommy, don’t leave!” style of crying) and at another point telling Charles, “Fine.  I don’t care where you sleep.  Sleep in the dog kennel.  It’s ten o’clock, leave me alone.”  I have a lot of lingering resentment over the past 24 hours of anger directed at me by my children.


The bottom line is that, with tax season nearing its end, the kids have moved from disliking me to actively hating me. 


Oh, I’ve always been the less-favored parent, something that really rubs me raw on occasion.  I mean, I carried these children for nine months each, fed them from my body for fourteen months each, and have cared for them, with all the attendant sacrifices and suffering, for their whole lives.  Tony, while he is a wonderful father, spends a fraction of the time and energy on them that I do, and still they love him best.  I suppose that’s the nature of the world: we want and love what we can’t have much of.


Like how I want a peaceful home life without someone (or two small someones) actively trying to make my day worse.


But in the past couple of weeks, it has grown to be something more than just throwing me over for daddy time each night.  In addition to scampering to the door as excited as if it were Christmas whenever Tony gets home, now they are trying to make me miserable.  They act out in ways I never thought they would, and it’s driving me insane.  Jamie refuses to allow me to buckle him into his car seat, no matter the time or location.  He screams and bucks and forces me to wrestle him down, hoping that I don’t break his arm in the process.  He happily lets Tony buckle him in.  The kids fight and scream and throw things, they do not respect my punishments, even when they include spanking and throwing away toys as consequences.  This morning, Charles threw his backpack out of the car while I was fighting Jamie into his seat.  He told me he did it when we got to school, so I had to drive back and was late for work.  They don’t like the food I cook and they don’t like the activities I plan.


I sometimes think that it would be better if Tony lived elsewhere for the three months of tax season.  I’m at that point where I realize that he loves his job so much that he is blind to the ways in which it is tearing me apart.  He’s here a mere two waking hours a day, but his dinner is always prepared, the house is always cleaned, his clothes are clean, folded, pressed, and put away, the grocery shopping is always done, the bed is always made… I could go on.  Maybe if the children didn’t expect to see him at all during tax season, they would respect me more and show me a little more love.


But now I’m blaming Tony, when it’s not his fault.  Well, not entirely.  I think I’m just a terrible mother.  I don’t know how to handle my kids.  When they fight over toast in the morning, and I explain that we have lots more bread and I will make more toast, they continue to fight over one piece.  When I put Charles in his room in time out during a major tantrum, he runs out of it, screaming, kicking, and throwing things.  I am powerless to stop him, no matter what discipline I attempt to enforce – discipline like removing his beloved night light from his room only results in a larger, more energetic and violent tantrum.  When Jamie throws himself on the ground, flailing and screeching, I’m often at a loss as to what to do.  I can’t figure that kid out and none of my solutions seem to help.  And he’s devious!  He’ll look me right in the eye and throw his bowl of cereal on the ground. 


I can’t make them understand that I have time to read one story or play one round of trains before I cook dinner or it won’t be ready at dinner time.  I can’t make them understand that clinging to my legs while I’m trying to get dinner on the table isn’t going to make it go any faster.  I can’t make them understand, when they are ravenous for dinner, that daddy isn’t home yet and we will be waiting until he gets there because it’s the respectful thing to do.  I love them dearly, but I don’t understand them and I can’t make them happy.  Maybe I’m the one who should move out.

Monday, April 8, 2013

They Actually Made It Rain Blood.

The scariest movie I have ever seen is 2001’s Jeepers Creepers.  I don’t know how I made it through the movie, but I do know that Leland sat right next to me and enjoyed every minute of it – both the movie and my screaming and starting at every horror-filled plot twist.  Last night, after plying me with an ungodly amount of delicious sushi, Leland chuckled at my shrieks through all 93 minutes of Evil Dead.


It was so fucking gory.


I wouldn’t say that it was on the same level of “scary” as Jeepers Creepers or, say, Saw – those movies are much more psychologically frightening – but it was, indeed, quite horrific and had plenty of startling moments.  I probably spent 30% of the movie hiding behind my hands.  Which only made Leland laugh more.


My jaw hurts today from all the clenching and I totally had nightmares last night.  Lucky for me, Charles came into bed sometime around 2 am, so whenever I would wake from horrific visions, I would find him snuggled into me.  I don’t really enjoy having my kids sleep with me (they kick a lot and are like little furnaces in the bed), but I almost wished Jamie were there, too.


The most redeeming quality of Evil Dead was that it did not have any children in it at all.  The characters were youngish, but no babies, no kids.  I simply CANNOT watch a horror movie with children in it. 


In the light of day, I have almost talked myself into thinking that it wasn’t such a terrifying movie.  Given that the purpose of a movie is entertainment, however, I doubt I’ll be seeking out a horror flick to watch anytime soon.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

On My Bookshelf

I know I just wrote about a book a few days ago, but you must understand, I read a lot.  An appalling amount, really.  I go through two or three books a week and my life is still packed with children, cooking, cleaning, working, exercising, and sometimes sleeping.  I read quickly, much quicker than I speak; I only found out that the whole world didn’t read as rapidly I do a few years ago when it became apparent that most of the men in my life (dad, brother, husband) only read as fast as they speak. 


This is not a generalization about men.  Merely that the men in my life seem to share this trait.


They probably retain a lot more than I do, and I think it’s telling that they are drawn to different genres than I am.  I like stories.  I will read nonfiction if it has a good story (well-written history qualifies), but I mainly stick to fiction.  I switch back and forth between “heavier” fiction and fluff.  My brother reads horror novels and both Tony and my dad prefer nonfiction (of the motivational sort, like Goals or the dry, interest-specific sort like The Great Tax Wars) or “dude” books, like Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler novels.


Which is not a generalization about women – I enjoy those books, too – just that I think both of those authors write with male readers in mind.


Back to the main point, I just finished a wonderful book, and I wanted to share.




I don’t entirely know why I’m drawn to stories featuring the theme of redemption so much, but I am.  One of my favorite books of last year was The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt, also largely featuring the theme of redemption.  The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is, well, not a story I thought I would adore, but I did.  The main character is a retired English gentleman living a sealed-up, frigid life who does something spontaneous and life-changing because he just can’t handle the unsaid words between him and his wife anymore.  His journey of redemption is a literal journey, an unprepared walk of 500 miles to right a wrong from 20 years ago.  The author tells the story of Harold’s past in snippets of remembrances and letters, so that this ordinary stranger becomes a beloved friend searching for grace and not believing he will find it.  The writing is simply beautiful.


I might tell you about a new book I loved tomorrow or next month; rest assured, I won’t tell you about the hundreds of mediocre ones I read constantly.  Better than a drug habit, right?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Some Days

There is no stability in life when there are two small boys in it.  Or maybe just when those two boys are my two boys.  You know how, before you have kids, you have a nice morning routine?  You get up, go to the gym or for a run, come home and make coffee, shower, get dressed and do your makeup while drinking that first blissful cup of coffee, eat breakfast, and get in your car to go to work.  God, mornings used to be so nice.


With kids in the mix, your morning is a crapshoot.  If they wake up happy, hooray!  Things will go smoothly for approximately three minutes, until you spread the butter on their toast incorrectly or you tell them that yes, it is a school day.  If things go terribly from the start, well, you can allow a small kernel of hope to form in your heart that they will burn themselves out before it is time to leave.


Some days, they want to brush their teeth for 20 minutes straight and you get a chance to get dressed and brush your own teeth.  Other days, they insist on taking a shower with you, which will easily add an extra half-hour to the getting ready “routine” because now it’s run-around-naked time.  Your four-year-old might ask to wear his dinosaur shoes and then throw a screaming fit when you remind him that they are two sizes too small and have been put away for months now.  Your 21-month-old might insist on climbing up on the bathroom vanity to turn the water on as hard as it will go every time you turn your back on him to finish putting on your socks.


Sometimes, everyone gets in the car without fight and maybe even happily and you will all get to school and work on time.  More often than not, however, the older child will begin to cry because he doesn’t want to go to school or he doesn’t like the pants he chose to wear that morning and the younger child will struggle and fight against being strapped into his car seat so that by the time you finally manhandle him down, he is screaming like you’re pulling out his toenails.


Then, you’ll have to drag your older child, kicking and screaming, into preschool and leave him in a flailing pile on the floor as you walk out.  And just drive away.  You’ll feel like the world’s worst mother because all he wants is to stay home with you, even though you don’t stay home.  So then you start to think of ways you could maybe not work so much, maybe take a day off each week, and you recognize that it won’t work.  Besides, all the reasons you had at the beginning for being a working mom still apply: money, being a good role model, self-actualization.


The evenings are no easier.  The kids will beg for candy as a snack and you will deny them, which will send them into a whining spiral of doom.  The younger child will play in the water table and get soaked from head to toe while you prep dinner and the older one will beg to play on your phone.  You will tell him no, so he’ll throw a tantrum on the stairs, falling and hurting himself, at which point you will drop what you’re doing to go kiss the owies, then have a talk with the child about controlling his emotions.  Or not!  Sometimes the kids will be angel babies who want nothing more than to play nicely together!  It does happen!


And sometimes they are exhausted and go right to sleep after you read them their bedtime stories.  Other times they cry for you to pick them up and snuggle them well after you yourself have decided to go to sleep and are beyond the point of coherent though.  Often, you will beg them, as if they understood, to please just sleep already, mommy is so tired, you’re going to be tired in the morning if you don’t get some sleep.  Sometimes the older child will insist on sleeping in your bed and you will resist at first, but then acquiesce because your husband is off engaging in an affair with tax software until all hours of the night.  But that child won’t sleep in your bed at first because you are reading a book and so he asks for a book to read, too, and then a drink of water, and then a teddy bear.  When he does fall asleep, he’ll turn sideways and kick you in the ribs.


But God bless the moment they finally fall asleep.  In that moment, the day’s struggles are erased and all you see is the sweet, squishy baby who curled up in your arms, milk-drunk and asleep, smelling like your whole perfect world for those first life-changing months of motherhood.  You kiss their unlined brows, whisper how much you love them, and pray for a better day tomorrow.


Will your life ever return to stability?  Probably not as long as those kids are around.  But that’s why vacations were invented – by the end of them, we crave the chaos of those crazy little imps.  And I know I’ll look back on this period of my life and miss it with my whole being.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Forcing Gradual Independence

When we exercise at the park for Baby Boot Camp, I let my children, even the 21-month-old, play by themselves.  I don’t give two seconds of thought to the idea that they might be kidnapped while I’m sweating my way through some crunches or planks, or that they might break legs going down the slide.  The other day, Jamie decided to go down a pretty steep slide, on his own, on his belly.  Without anyone to catch him.  He ended up with a bloody, fat lip, of course.  I told him he was very brave, I hugged and kissed his tears away, and then I let him go back to the slide.


When we go for a walk, Charles rides his bike ahead of me.  He knows to stop at every cross street, and he gets “in trouble” when he gets too far ahead (“in trouble” in these situations is a stern talking-to about the danger of getting too far ahead and an intense reminder that he will not be allowed to ride his bike on the sidewalk again if he can’t follow the rules), but still, he rides his bike on the sidewalk.  On the side of busy street.  Could he swerve into traffic?  Yes.  Not stop in time?  Yes.  Do we still go?  Yes.


I have friends, many of them, who shelter their children.  And I’m not saying that they’re wrong to do so.  Certainly there are many terrible things that can happen to a child in this world and certainly we can prevent some of them.  But whether it’s from laziness or some misguided “pushing them out of the nest” impulse, I let my kids have a pretty long leash. 


It makes me a bit self-conscious sometimes.  My friends aren’t putting their kids in swimming lessons yet, or taking the training wheels off of bikes and essentially forcing their kids to learn, or allowing their children to climb the tree in the yard.  The same friends don’t make chicken nuggets or corn dogs for lunch or let their kids eat as many Peeps as they want on Easter.


I’m not really looking for a judgment here; this is how I parent, you probably do it differently.  But isn’t it amazing how differently we all do it?  And isn’t it interesting what those differences say about our goals for our children?  I look at my friends who shelter their kids and I think, will it be tougher for them to let go later or will their children have to rebel to assert their own selves?  Because what I hope I’m setting myself and my children up for is a gradual increasing of independence.  I hope that, as Charles learns to be safe on a bicycle on the streets now, so he might grow to be safe on a skateboard and then safe in a car or on a motorcycle.  Because, whether it scares me or not, he’ll be driving in 12 years.  There has to be something between Point A and Point B, right?  And it will probably be easier for me to hand over the car keys and sit next to him and teach him to drive if I know he has responsibly handled himself on the road in one form or another for a decade.


There are other bits of letting go, too.  I will sometimes tell Charles to be careful in a tree or while he’s dancing on top of the picnic table.  “Be careful up there, be sure of your footing, because if you fall, it will hurt.”  And then I let it go.  And sometimes he falls.  And sometimes he gets bloody knees.  And someday he’ll probably break his leg or arm.  But right now he’s learning the limits of his body.


And yeah, sometimes my kids eat junk.  Not junk that is actually bad for them (like energy drinks or deep-fried candy bars), but sometimes we have lunch at McDonald’s.  And sometimes we get to have ice cream.  I know so many people who place such an emphasis on nutrition that is seems like they never have any fun with food.  Sure, we prohibit things in our household, like caffeinated soda for kids, but we indulge all the time.  I like to think that Charles and James will grow up to understand healthy food AND the value of treats.


Bottom line, though, is that I think it’s entirely worthwhile to ask ourselves, frequently, “what kind of person do I want my child to become?”  I want my children to be self-reliant contributing members of society, people who are happy with themselves, who take calculated risks, who understand their limits, who aren’t afraid to stand their ground, who can easily express themselves, and who are affectionate and enjoy spending time with the people they love.  So that is how I choose to build my family.  And it involves letting my children run in sandals for the one thousandth time and then falling on their faces for the one thousandth time because even though I’ve explicitly stated the connection between running in sandals and falling, they continue to make the ill-considered decision to wear sandals and then run.  And they have to live with those consequences. 


Love isn’t always preventing injury or hardship.  Sometimes love is kissing the scraped elbow and helping them understand why they fall when they turn too slowly on the bicycle.  Love isn’t always keeping things that are “bad for us” out of the house.  Sometimes love is letting them get a tummy ache from eating too many gummy worms.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Beautiful Weekend

I hear it’s snowing in parts of the country.  Not here.  It was a balmy 70 degrees yesterday. 


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The decorative cherry tree in our backyard is slowly losing its blooms, much to Tony’s delight.  Allergies are always the worst this time of year.


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I can see that there will be a lot of this in the future months: Charles riding his bike everywhere we go, me pushing Jamie along behind.  We’ve set firm rules, of course: don’t ride too far ahead, don’t go off the sidewalk, stop at every street.  He’s doing pretty well, and he rode FOUR MILES yesterday while Tony and I ran a local trail alongside.  He slept pretty well last night, too.  Coincidence?


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The other dresses finally arrived on Friday.  I’m keeping this one.  I already had the shoes, though they don’t fit when my feet swell in the heat.


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Vintage Tupperware cups from Tony’s childhood.  I think we have twelve in all different late-70s colors and they’re fantastic.


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Eggs!  Good thing the boys love hard-boiled eggs.  And Buster always gets the yolk.



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The Easter bunny came while we were at Church.  Charles will tell anyone with ears, “I think God made LOTS of Easter bunnies to hide eggs at everyone’s houses.”  I think God made lots of indulgent parents, but whatever.  The magic of childhood and all.


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Our bunny gives books, Peeps, and big bouncy balls.  What about yours?