Thursday, October 31, 2013

Boo!

It’s my favorite holiday… and yet, I don’t celebrate it nearly as much as I used to, or as much as I want to now.  Kids, man.  They change everything.

 

While they are adorable and enjoying Halloween in their own fantastic ways, Tony and I no longer attend several Halloween parties.  I don’t do as much decorating because we have STUFF ALL OVER anyway, and the cool decorations would just get trampled.  Costumes must be kid-friendly (Charles has begged me to be a princess for three years in a row… basically, since he could talk).  All Hallow’s Eve ends by 8 PM when small people must be in bed.

 

Someday, I will host a large, crazy Halloween party.  Someday when my kids are old enough to be embarrassed by their parents dressing up and having fun, so they hole up in their rooms with cookie dough, several friends, and a Ouija board to celebrate Halloween.  Until then, we will host, as we have for a couple of years now, a potluck dinner night of trick-or-treating.  I will break out my hot drink mixer (a very strange Christmas gift from Tony a few years back), give the kids the job of answering the door and handing out candy, and pour wine for other frazzled parents.  It might not be a wild and crazy party, but it is a nice tradition.

 

My complacency with Halloween has not gotten so far that I didn’t dress up (God forbid it ever does!), but I went for the least-scary costume I could imagine: a cat burglar.  Mostly I have dropped the “cat” part of the description because I have not yet successfully explained to Charles that it is called a cat burglar not because I am actually a cat, but rather because I move silently and am dressed in black and am sneaky. 

 

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Do not underestimate the sneakiness.

 

The boys, well, I’ll get some good photos today and show you tomorrow.  Charles and Tony make a pretty great team as Curious George and The Man with the Yellow Hat.

 

Happy Halloween, everyone!  Here’s hoping that nobody notices that ALL of the mini Butterfingers in our candy mix are missing.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pitfalls of a Farm Box

So this summer, I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm box delivery program.  I chose this one because of the variety of farms that contributed to it.  I also chose to spend $22 per week (paid monthly) for what they call the “Farmer’s Choice” box rather than $31 per week to choose what went into the box myself.

 

Overall, the experience has been good.  I have a ton of leeks cleaned and sliced in my freezer because I didn’t want to make soup in the height of summer, we have eaten loads of fresh salads and enjoyed fruit all summer long.  Easily worth the $22 each week.

 

But.  BUT.  It seems like there is always something that I wish we didn’t get.  For several weeks in a row, we got a bag of small, spicy peppers.  Now, I LOVE spicy things, but the rest of my family doesn’t.  AND, none of the peppers were identified, they just came in a bag all mixed up together.  I can pick out a jalape├▒o, but those little, red, knobby ones?  Or the long, thin, green ones?  I seeded an unknown pepper and the aerosolization of whatever miniscule amount of pepper juice escaped during the scraping of the seeds made my eyes water and my throat close up.  No WAY was I putting that in my mouth.  I have given away three bags of peppers this summer.  I tossed the fava beans in the compost without a second look (have you ever tried to deal with those high-maintenance legumes?  NOT WORTH IT.).  And today I am trying desperately to find good recipes for cabbage.  Because for the third week in a row, I am getting cabbage in my box.

 

I don’t dislike cabbage.  However, I rarely buy it.  Maybe once a year to make coleslaw or something.  I really dislike cabbage soup.  So what’s a girl to do?  Live on Pinterest until something made with cabbage looks good.  I can guarantee that my children won’t eat any of the “cabbage roll casseroles” I see out there, though.

 

So, in summary, I really like the farm box.  But next year, I will pay the extra money to choose my own items each week.  It will be so worth it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Food Battles

We have a policy in our house: the parents are more stubborn than the kids.  Stated differently, I get to win

 

Lately, the kids have been engaging us in food battles.  It’s a popular pastime for the short set: refuse a meal based on completely illogical grounds and see what the tall people do about it.  Charles usually starts it by declaring, “I don’t like this dinner” if what is sitting in front of him is anything other than plain chicken and steamed broccoli.  It doesn’t matter if he’s had it a million times and loved it in the past, he complains and sulks and harrumphs.  Our response is always the same: “You have to try one bite.”  Usually, he ends up contradicting his earlier declaration with a new one.  “Oh!  I remember!  I LOVE this dinner!”  If, even after a bite, he decides he doesn’t like something, well, there’s always something on the table he’ll eat (usually chicken and broccoli).

 

Behold, the remnants of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that Charles initially rejected because it was cut “wrong”:

 

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He threw a fit, complete with alligator tears, because the sandwich was cut into triangles and he wanted a “whole” sandwich.  We sent him to his room.  After 20 minutes of getting hungrier, he came downstairs, apologized to me, and ate 3/4 of his sandwich.  You see?  Tony and I are more stubborn than he is.

 

Jamie likes to play this game a bit differently from his brother.  Our rules are that everyone sits at the table together until dinner is over, no toys, no electronics.  Jamie prefers to take one bite of food, drink some milk, and then get down and run away.  We don’t have the high chair anymore, so I can’t strap him in.  Instead, he is summarily plunked back in his seat once, then after the second time of running away, he gets put in time out on the couch (no toys, no blankets, no pillows – otherwise, he would just play “nigh-nigh!” all evening) where he can see the rest of us having a nice dinner.  Last night, he eventually got up from the couch and walked over to Tony’s side, at which point Tony asked him if he would like to sit down and eat his dinner now.  Jamie said yes.  He sat on Tony’s lap and dutifully ate several bites of what was on his plate.

 

We always offer a bedtime snack – the snack is not contingent upon eating dinner.  It is not a reward and is not taken away as a punishment.

 

It’s not fun.  It’s not entertaining to me or Tony to restate the same rules, to enforce time-outs and the one-bite policy again and again, day after day.  Dinners are not calm and enjoyable.  We rarely eat out.  I know that there are lots of children in the world who don’t go through this, who happily eat everything without a fight, and who sit quietly through a meal in a restaurant.  I do not have those children.  So I hope, I fervently hope, that my vigilance and stubbornness, my will to win, will help these boys grow up to be polite young men who will try anything and not gag at the table when their future mother-in-law or the state senator or their boss puts mushrooms in the orzo.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pumpkin Patch

A couple of weeks ago, we visited a local pumpkin patch, one with a lot of charm and great prices.  I keep hearing tales of pumpkin patches in the cities (Seattle, Portland, L.A.) charging 50 cents a pound or more for carving pumpkins, but ‘round here, we get ‘em cheap.  And abundantly.  We spent $40 for 80 lbs of pumpkins, a quart of local honey, several baking squash (acorn, butternut, etc), and about 5 pounds of Jonagold apples.  I tell you, I love Washington more and more every year.

 

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Charles chose to have a cart ride.

 

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Jamie picked the biggest pumpkin he could find.

 

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Charles, on the other hand, picked out the strangest-shaped pumpkin he could find (this is his posed smile).

 

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As one might expect from a 2-year-old boy, he was more enamored with the tractors than the gourds.

 

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Some dear friends came with us, so we actually got some whole-family photos!

 

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We haven’t carved them all yet, but we will.  And I will be making butternut squash soup, something the boys are unlikely to eat.  Not that that stops me from making anything, really.  If I only tried to please their palettes, we would have nothing but chicken nuggets, corn dogs, meatballs, and cereal.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Do Not Aspire to be Me

I screwed up.  For all my talk on Tuesday about trying not to yell anymore, trying to keep my cool because it works better when dealing with my irrational monster-children, I totally lost it this morning. 

 

I wish I could remember, in vivid snatches, the love and comfort my mom gave me as a child.  Because I know she did.  Otherwise, I’d be totally messed up, right?  But I’m pretty sure I am able to love and comfort my children with all the patience and sincerity I do because that’s how she treated me.  But you know what I remember instead?  All the times she was really mad at me or disappointed in me (there weren’t many, thank God, but I can recollect them in minute detail).  Like the time I cut my own hair and tried, in my 4-year-old ineptitude, to lie about it.  Or the time she had a headache and took and nap and Leland and I were hungry and so we ate some cream cheese and crackers and it turned out that she was going to use those as part of an appetizer she was taking to a party that night, and by the time she woke up, it was too late to go to the store to get more.  Or the time I was playing ‘mud pies’ in the yard (right over the septic tank that was failing) and using actual kitchen utensils.

 

I don’t want my children to remember my 15-second lapse in judgment this morning.  We were all doing so well, we were early to be dressed and ready for the first time in, well, ever, until I asked the kids to get in the car.  Thus started a 20-minute process for no reason I can explain.  20 minutes!  To move 40 feet!  It culminated in Charles wanting to switch jackets from a light zip-up sweatshirt to his heavy winter coat.  Fine.  But I wanted to pack his sweatshirt so that he could play outside later, when it reaches 60 degrees, without getting too hot.  He wouldn’t hear of it.  He kicked.  He screamed.  “Nooooo!  Put it back!  Don’t take my sweatshirt to school!”  Irrational, right?  I tried to deceptively tuck the sweatshirt away so I could hand it to his teacher to put in his cubby, but he saw me, and screamed even louder.

 

I am worn out.  Charles was awake until 10:30 last night.  Jamie has a cold and woke up several times during the night.  Tony’s back, but I haven’t had a break yet.  I imagine I’m singing a tune that every mother knows, but damn, this shit is exhausting.  I don’t snap often, but when I do…

 

I screamed at my child.  I yelled, in my most shrill and horrible voice, looking right at him, “Get in your seat and get buckled RIGHT NOW!”  I immediately felt terrible, like I had ripped my own heart out with my hands.  My son started to shake and cry as he fumbled for his seatbelt.  I jumped out of the car and opened his door and he probably thought I was going to scream at him again or worse (not that I have ever done anything worse) because he started wailing louder.  And I just hugged him and cried and said, “I’m sorry,” over and over and over again.  “Please forgive me.  I love you.  I’m sorry I yelled.  I love you.”  “I forgive you,” he said, but he still cried.  I apologized to Jamie, too, got back in my seat, and started the car.  I calmed myself, told them that sometimes mommy gets really frustrated when they don’t listen but I shouldn’t have lost my temper.  “I threw a temper tantrum, Charles, like you sometimes do.  Grown-ups get upset and have temper tantrums, too.  It’s okay to get angry, but I’m sorry I yelled.”  Charles seemed fine by the time we got to school, but I could see the wet spots on his jacket where the tears had fallen.

 

Will he remember the times I spirited him away from school to go to the zoo or the movies?  Will he remember the times I read story after story until I was hoarse?  Will he remember the snuggles, playing in the park, the tickles, the dancing?  Or will he remember the time I yelled so hard that I broke my heart?

 

I love my children so much, but I am hurting so badly right now.  It’s the kind of pain that makes my throat close up.  It makes me worry that I am screwing up their lives, that on my deathbed they’ll remember the times I was evil instead of the times I showed them kindness, patience, and love.

 

I wish, so much, that I could go back to this morning and start over.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cupcake Dreams and Morning Routines

I had a vivid dream about cupcakes last night.  Maybe because I really, really, really want a chocolate cupcake with rich chocolate frosting, but maybe also because I have been mentally planning Charles’s birthday cake(s).  For Jamie I made two cakes, one a banana-split ice cream cake, the other an ├ęclair cake.  Both were delicious.  For Charles, I will make Rice Krispies treats to take to his classroom, probably frosted and in the shape of Lightning McQueen (in my head, it looks amazing).  I’ll make chocolate cupcakes and a big cake with sprinkles for his party.  But it’s SO FAR AWAY.  I want a cupcake now.

 

Isn’t it funny how your evaluation of your children’s behavior is completely relative?  Tony was gone first thing this morning and when I spoke with him around 9 am, he asked how the boys had been.  “Great!” I responded.  “Well, great for them.  I mean, someone else would probably think they were holy terrors, but for them they were very well-behaved.”  We only had one crying session, I wouldn’t even qualify it as a tantrum, they both ate their breakfast, put up only a moderate fuss about getting dressed and brushing their teeth, and didn’t cause major bodily harm to one another.  You may have obedient children who don’t stand on their chairs and sing The Elmo Song at the top of their lungs at 7:30 AM or run away, naked, when mom is trying to get them dressed, or drop their toothbrush in the toilet on purpose to avoid the terrible chore of cleaning their teeth, but I do.  Like I said, no major bodily harm, no big tantrums, and I got to work by 9 AM.  Win.

 

Parenting is all about _____________.  Lately (especially after a week without Tony), parenting has been all about staying cool.  I don’t let things phase me.  You want to sing loudly?  Sing.  You want to move every blanket and pillow to one spot in the house and snuggle with them?  Fine, I’ll just move them back later.  You want to empty that drawer or cupboard?  Fine – ten minutes of fun for you, two minutes of rearranging things for me.  I do the math and see that I’m still way ahead.  You want to bang your fork on the table?  I will calmly take your fork away.  You want to play with the slide whistle?  You have to go outside.  Getting mad and yelling doesn’t seem to work for me, so I’m trying not to do it anymore.  I hope my self-restraint will last.

 

Also this morning, Charles seemed to enjoy putting on his clothes in stages.  Like, “Charles, go put on underwear, that’s number one!”  A while later, “Charles, number two is pants!”  Whatever makes him happy, I guess.  I’ll change, I’ll adapt.  It used to be that I could race him to get dressed.  Now he wants something different.  I’ll keep my cool, play along, and think about the cupcakes of my dreams.

Monday, October 21, 2013

We Outdo Ourselves, or at Least Our Stamina

My hands are starting to crack.  My throat hurts, I drink tea all day, and the tip of my nose is cold.  Must be autumn!

 

Tony gets home from his grand adventure hiking in Utah today, and while I expect he’ll have many hundreds of beautiful photos to share with us and lots of exhilarating stories (he assures me that he almost died ONLY ONCE), I think he’ll probably hear some pretty captivating stories from his children.  Because, boy oh boy, our days were packed.  I’m pretty sure we wore Auntie Liz and Grandma Jane out completely.  And the boys?  Well, Charles wanted to stay home to rest today, and Jamie’s new favorite game is to gather every blanket in the house and snuggle up to play “nigh-nigh!”  They probably need some recovery time after their busy weekend.

 

Charles has wavered between being Spider-Man and Curious George for Halloween for a couple of weeks.  I thought he had most recently settled on Spider-Man, so I scrapped my idea to make his George costume.  On Friday morning, however, he assured me that he wanted to be George and nothing else would do.  I bought a red T-shirt at the dollar store, some brown felt and puff paint from JoAnne’s, and got craftin’.  Now, I am not crafty, but I think I did pretty well:

 

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You might think that being proud of some puff-paint script on a T-shirt is overdoing it, but me and puff paint?  We don’t get along so well.  This is amazing, considering my history with this particular medium.

 

Charles had a brown sweatshirt, to which I glued brown felt monkey ears, and brown pants.  The red shirt went over the sweatshirt.  I did not get a photo of him because he was ALWAYS MOVING.  We went to the Y’s Halloween carnival and had an excellent time, despite being a part of a larger crowd than I had ever seen in the YMCA.

 

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Jamie was happy to be Thomas the Tank Engine, but he was unhappy because I wouldn’t let him have a sucker at 7:45 PM.  AFTER he had eaten a cupcake.

We took walks and went to open gym.  We went to the park.  We went to the Children’s Museum.  We played in the indoor play area at the mall.  We went to tee ball and Baby Boot Camp and we carved pumpkins.

 

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We read a thousand stories together.  We had a surprise visit from Grandpa Joe and Grandma Loris.

 

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We exhausted ourselves.

 

photo 3 (3)   He wore the Curious George shirt all night and the entire day Saturday.

Jamie fell asleep in Charles’s bed.  Charles fell asleep in my bed (which was tougher to deal with, because I had to hoist his dead weight - 50+ lbs! – over my head and into his top bunk).  Jamie came to sleep with me and Grandma Jane in my bed. 

 

We’re tired, and ready for Tony to bring some calm and stability back to our sleeping arrangements.

Friday, October 18, 2013

October Sunshine

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He calls it his airplane hat – because it has “wings” I think?

 

The local paper ran an article about the weather on the front page this morning.  Slow news day, I guess, but at least the article was positive: we will be enjoying sunny skies for at least the next week.

 

I think I’ll paint the bathrooms.  The boys can just pee outside.  I’ll use the laundry room toilet.

 

We’ve been taking full advantage of the outdoors in the past few days, and God bless friends because we have been so busy and don’t appear to be calming down anytime soon.  I must make myself sound much less competent than I actually am at home.  I think friends are worried for my sanity – they have stepped up and invited me everywhere this week.  Also, Honorary Auntie Liz is coming tonight.  And my mom.  It’s like everyone is either trying to make sure I don’t go batshit crazy alone with the kids or they just really don’t like Tony and waited for him to leave before making plans with me (I’m guessing the former; Tony remains an awesome person).

 

Regardless, we’re loving it.  I enjoy being busy, and I enjoy not cooking, so dinners and activities with friends make me happy.  We spend our afternoons and evenings out of doors and this weekend, well, I don’t know what we’re going to do yet, but it will be fun.  There are so many parks to explore!  Soak up that vitamin D while you can, I say.

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I pretty much shadow Jamie around the park.  He can climb really high, but doesn’t like to fall.

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Charles, on the other hand, is a blur of activity at the park, making friends with other kids and getting so sweaty in 50-degree weather that he starts leaving articles of clothing around the park like a trail of breadcrumbs indicating the trajectory of his madcap adventures.

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Unfortunately for me, because we do so much and the kids are so active, they have built up a high level of endurance and strength.  Since Wednesday, they have awakened with me every morning at 6 am, done a Jillian Micheals video (30 Day Shred), even using little one- and five-pound weights, and have continued through their days like tornadoes until bedtime.  At which point, they refuse to sleep.  Maybe I need to force them to be sloth-like for a month so it will take less work to tire them out.  That, or I’ll decree “no naps!”

 

Tony gets back on Monday.  Not that I’m counting down the days or anything.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Crunchy No-Bake Chocolate Cookies, Heavy on the Parentheticals

I’m kind of an idiot in the kitchen.  Oh, it almost always ends up okay, but I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have started making a dish, only to find out that I am short an ingredient or two.

 

A good cook would assemble her ingredients before starting to break eggs.

 

A better cook might take inventory the night before so she could plan her shopping trip.

 

I don’t usually plan too far ahead for dinner, but often it’s far enough ahead to make that shopping list and take care of things.  Dessert is another matter.  I don’t make fancy desserts all that often; chocolate is chocolate is chocolate, and no amount of dressing it up will be better than just a standard brownie or cake or chocolate chip cookie (unless it’s for a birthday, then I might go crazy and create something truly amazing while using every pan in my kitchen).  So my pea-brain apparently thinks I have staples for desserts always on hand because the desserts are always staples.  Follow?

 

I’ve been thinking about no-bake chocolate cookies for a couple of weeks now.  I don’t know why; I don’t even really like them.  The texture has always bothered me.  But I didn’t want regular chocolate-chip cookies (I made those two weeks ago) and I didn’t want brownies (I made these beet brownies last week) (yes, I know.  Beet brownies.  They were good, but a little too self-righteous in their hidden healthy nature.)  (Though Charles loved them, and I can’t get him to eat beets any other way, so I shan’t complain).  I wanted no-bake chocolate cookies for my chocolate fix.  And I convinced myself that the health benefits of oatmeal and peanut butter in them totally cancelled out the negative effects of the sugar and butter (rationalizing desserts is a skill I have perfected).

 

I got all the chocolate/sugar/butter/milk goo simmering on the stove, got my cup of peanut butter ready, and reached for the oatmeal.  I only had a cup left.  The recipe called for three.  Hmmm.  Typical, Amelia.

 

I rooted around in the cupboard to see what I could use to substitute because it was too late now.  Rice Krispies?  No, that would be weird.  Cheerios?  Nah.  Bread crumbs.  *Shudder*  Bad idea.  Aha!  I know!  Grape Nuts (or rather, the generic alternative, Nutty Nuggets, because Post Grape Nuts contain soy and I am anti-unfermented soy)!  Two cups of Nutty Nuggets later and I had something resembling no-bake cookies.  A bit gooier than normal no-bake cookies because I used natural peanut butter (the cookbooks will tell you that regular ol’ Jif with all the partially-hydrogenated oils is best, but I save the bad stuff for the cookies with no redeeming nutritional value, like peanut butter cookies), but still fine.  I let them cool because I have moderate self restraint.  And then I dived in.

 

Oh, delicious.  I think I just inadvertently solved the biggest problem with no-bake chocolate cookies: texture.  The Nutty Nuggets make the cookies crunchy instead of flaccid.  They are so good.  So good that it is 12:15 (lunch break!) and I realized that the only thing I’ve had to eat today: four no-bake cookies and lot of coffee.  My hands are a bit jittery, so I should probably eat real food now.

 

Crunchy No-Bake Chocolate Cookies

 

2 cups sugar

3 Tablespoons cocoa powder

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup milk

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup rolled oats

2 cups Grape Nuts (or Nutty Nuggets, whatever)

 

Mix sugar, cocoa powder, and milk in large saucepan.  Add butter and heat over medium-high heat until mixture boils.  Turn off heat and mix in peanut butter.  Add oats and Grape Nuts.  Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper.  Let cool and enjoy!  These freeze really well!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Outnumbered

Approximately two years ago, I left Tony and Charles for a week to go on a cruise with three girlfriends in the Caribbean.  Last night, after a few missteps, Tony and three friends left for a week-long trip to Southern Utah to hike, camp, and presumably, fart in wilderness.

 

(I just assume that farting in the great outdoors is every man’s list of “things that comprise a perfect day.”)

 

Tony, of course, didn’t pack before last night.  He also had to install a cover on the bed of his truck (thank goodness he had a buddy to help) between the time he got home from work (6 pm) and leaving for the trip (7 pm) and he forgot to pack snacks, so I took care of that.  He made a couple of return trips to grab the extra-large-Costco bottle of Scotch for the trip, as well as things like the camera and his shoes.  Men.

 

And now he’s gone.  They were somewhere in the middle of Idaho this morning at seven.  He’s left me with these monkeys:

 

 

When I left Tony with Charles three years ago, it was one-on-one.  One parent, one kid.  I have taken an overnight (even two overnights!) and left Tony before, and he has done the same, but this will be the longest either of us has parented two kids solo.  I’m not scared.  Or even intimidated, really.  After all, I’m the mom and mom can be a bitch, but mom is also awesome.  (Mom thinks this is the perfect excuse to make cookies.)

 

Plus, mom doesn’t forget the diaper bag.  While I was on the cruise, Tony’s parents came for a visit (which provided Tony and Charles some much-needed distraction from each other, I’m sure) and they went out to dinner.  Tony forgot the diaper bag.  Guess what Charles did?  Yep.  Giant stinking poopy diaper.  I can’t remember if Tony said he wiped out the dirty diaper (we use cloth, remember) and put it back on the kid, or just shoved some toilet paper in Charles’s pants and hoped he was done for the short term, but either way, I laughed.  I laugh still. 

 

I have an emergency diaper in my car and in my desk at the office.  Moms are probably at an advantage with the spare diapers and remembering the diaper bag thing, though.  After all, I have had tampons stashed in every car I’ve owned for years and always remember to take my purse when I go out.

 

Parenting is an endurance sport.  With the first baby, you are just starting your “Couch to 5K” training.  You make mistakes, you forget your water bottle, you don’t have the right shoes.  By child number two, you are running marathons, and you don’t forget to hydrate fully.  It will be a stretch, but I’m ready for this crazy week without Tony.  It won’t be relaxing, we have a ton of stuff planned, but it will be fun.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Just Doing My Job

The boys had the day off from preschool yesterday, but the schools in our area did not (they took Friday off instead), so the places we went and the activities we did were blissfully free of other families.  It’s not that I mind other families – not at all.  It’s more that I note the abundance of everyone and their dog taking advantage of the lovely weather we’ve been having after school is out for the afternoon and I hesitate to try to parent at a crowded playground.  I’m sure that the parks were jam-packed on Friday and we got to avoid that, all because the holiday we observed was different than the one observed by the rest of the children in the Northwest.

 

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After making a brief stop at the office, where the boys knocked over papers, stapled everything they could get their hands on, and thoroughly distracted all of the employees who chose not to take the day off, we indulged in some hot chocolate and donut holes at the local Starbucks (well, one of them anyway) and then packed the dog in the car to head to Lake Padden.

 

We played at the playground for awhile and then met up with a friend and proceeded to walk the 2.6 miles around the lake.  Charles has been asking for awhile to go on a hike (though his new obsession with hiking came up after hiking season, so we haven’t gone yet) and I tried to convince him that this was a hike.  He then insisted that he needed hiking sticks.  Instead, he got to walk the dog all the way around.

 

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Yesterday was the perfect October day in the Pacific Northwest.

 

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It’s going to places like Lake Padden that remind me just how much has changed in a few short years.  I used to, on any bright and ambitious-feeling Saturday, drive my butt over to Lake Padden and run around it.  Twice.  Now, my Saturdays are an endless train of activities and events, all aimed at exhausting the kids (with a corollary effect of exhausting me).  But the occasional Monday holiday?  A bright and ambitious-feeling Monday holiday?  That is for enjoying in a much less frantic (though no less exhausting) way.

 

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Jamie didn’t nap yesterday.  There was too much to do, too much to see.

 

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When we got home, the kids played quietly for awhile.  Charles wanted to do his “homework” (one of those Pre-K workbooks) and Jamie read to himself in his room (“Bown bear, bown bear, uuht ooo see?”).  Then they played outside for all of ten minutes before Jamie started throwing things at Charles.  Consequences of no nap and also of a real penchant for mischief: that kid loves to torment his older brother.  And he gets such a rise out of Charles, too.  I moved them both to the front yard and they ran up and down the street with the neighbor kids until Tony got home with pizza at 6:30.

 

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They had a bath (during which there was only one meltdown) and went promptly to bed.  They both fell right asleep… probably the first time in weeks that we haven’t heard a peep from Charles or had to march Jamie back to bed several times post-lights-out.

 

I was just doing my job, really: wearing the kids out before bedtime.  Here’s hoping I meet with as much success each night for the next week; Tony’s going out of town on a real hiking trip and if I’m to keep my sanity, those kids will need to go to sleep early.  The ice cream in my freezer will not eat itself, after all.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Your Life

I’m getting a little squicked out at how many flavors are paired with pumpkin spice this time of year (whatever the hell pumpkin spice is anyway… pumpkins taste like squash, pumpkin pie is full of spices, and trendsetters couldn’t care less).  In the past few days I have seen pumpkin spice white chocolate mochas, pumpkin spice cheesecake, pumpkin spice cream cheese, chocolate pumpkin spice muffins, pumpkin spice pecan cake, pumpkin spice puppy chow (for humans, not dogs), pumpkin spice whiskey (okay, that might actually be good), and pumpkin spice and lavender air freshener.  Now, I like pumpkin pie as much as the next person, but I like mine unadulterated.  I’ve never had a pumpkin spice latte, I’m sure they’re delicious, but why do you have to add caramel to it (as I’ve seen advertised on the not-Starbucks coffee stand signs)?  Flavor overload.

 

It must be an American thing: more is better, so let’s add this good thing with these other good things and see if we get something six billion times better!  Often, it’s not better at all.  Most of the time, when it comes to cooking (and art, and clothing, and accessories, and highlights, and landscaping, etc), more is not better.  It is just more, and sometimes it is worse.  But then again, I have never been a huge fan of those cookies that have a million things in them (coconut! peanut butter! chocolate chips! oatmeal!).  I do love plain cheese or just good old-fashioned chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  Maybe I’m the weirdo.

 

Well, it’s Friday, so I thought I could maybe rant about pumpkin spice for a bit and call it a day.  But then I stumbled upon this (someone who has much stronger feelings about pumpkin spice than I do), and I think you should read it: http://enid.craigslist.org/cto/4119280944.html

 

Now I have a lunch meeting with my accountant (sounds more professional than saying I’m going to on a lunch date with my husband) and then to Costco for a massive shopping trip.

 

Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Brain Goes Kablooie

Charles’s birthday is coming up and I’m having feelings.  This is the first birthday of his for which we are doing what he wants and not what I want.

 

When Charles turned one and two, we had parties at home for him (he was teething and angry about the whole thing for his first birthday, and I was early pregnant and trying not to look sickly for his second birthday) and then we went big for his third birthday at a local indoor jungle-gym because I had an infant and couldn’t handle the idea of a party in my house.  Which was covered in burp cloths and smelled faintly of baby poop.  Then we had a movie party at home last year, to which we invited all of his friends and all of our friends.  We burned the pizza, but everyone pretended not to care, and the kids had a blast.  And now we’re having an expensive party at an ice skating rink because ever since last January, when he attended an ice skating birthday party for a friend of his, he has wanted to have his party there.  Okay.  Hard to say no to your oldest when he is stuck on something for literally months and he’s cute and not quite as much of an asshole all the time like he was a few months ago.

 

So, after dragging my feet hoping he would forget the idea of a skating party (he didn’t), I booked the party.  And now I’m kind of dreading it.  I want my kids to have these lovely, fun parties at home, ones where I bake the cake and I invite people over and I have a glass of wine and you have a glass of wine and everyone leaves happy and much too late.  Ones to which we can invite everyone.  All the friends.  All the relatives.  All the siblings of friends.  I was left out of birthday parties as a kid, mostly because I was a total nerd and not at all cool, and it sucked.  At the skating rink, we are limited, and I hate it.  It’s in a town about 30 minutes away, so not everyone can just pop over.  We can’t afford to pay for everyone’s skates, so we’re asking adults to rent their own if they want to skate, and that feels wrong, somehow.  Like being asked to be a bridesmaid but then buying your own dress that you will never wear again (“I love you so much that I want you to stand up for me on my wedding day, but you have to pay for the privilege”) (I bought my bridesmaids’ dresses).  We can’t invite every one of our friends and all of Charles’s friends and all of their older and younger siblings.  They won’t fit in the party room, the party comes with skate rentals for only twelve… this is really cramping my “the more, the merrier!” style.

 

And goodie bags!  Oh my God, you guys, when did we decide that every kid had to go home with presents?  But it’s what you do, so I already bought puzzles for everyone at the dollar store.  After all, every party we’ve been to has had a goodie bag, and the kids love them, so there.  Done.  I’ll tie a ribbon on the puzzles, I guess.

 

I have to let this go, and I know that.  My children’s parties are about them (even though I truly believe that I should be receiving presents for making it through another year of parenting them), not me.  After Charles’s skating party, we will go home and there will be no cleanup (how am I supposed to feel useful without cleaning up after my horde of boys?  Besides cooking and cleaning, I hardly serve a purpose).  There will be no one at our house to say goodnight to the kids except me and Tony (the kids’ grandparents don’t come to their birthday parties anymore, perhaps because I am neurotic).  Since his party is not on his actual birthday, maybe I can get away with baking two cakes.  After all, if his skating party is what he wants, then on his actual birthday, maybe we can celebrate the way I want.  With more food.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What I’m Wearing

I’m determined to forgo all clothing shopping for myself this fall/winter.  I have enough clothes.  Well, okay, I might have to grab a couple of things for my Halloween costume, but those will be sourced at Goodwill or Ross.  But not today, because I don’t shop on a Tuesday if I can help it.  Tuesdays are senior days, and I get it, if retailers offered me a day to get a 10% discount based solely on my age, I would take it.  But since there is no incentive for me to shop on a Tuesday, I’ll leave Fred Meyer, Ross, and all the other stores to the AARP crowd.

 

Bottom line: no more clothes.  Saving money is the main goal, but the side benefit is that it is fun to find new ways to pair up the pieces I already have in my closet.  Like this outfit, which I wore on Friday:

 

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Photo courtesy of Charles

 

A basic black pencil skirt and a cowl-neck sweater I bought last year joined by a skinny black belt and my old patent-leather pumps.  This outfit accentuates my curves while at the same time drawing the eye up to my neck and away from my hips (which you probably can’t tell because my son is four feet tall and was standing below me on the hill in our front yard).  All good things.

 

Here is what I’m wearing today:

 

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That’s right, a photo in the office bathroom.  Notice that there are no tiny fingerprints on the mirror.  It’s the little things.

 

I’ve had that skirt since junior high.  I’ve had the sweater and tank top underneath for a long time (though not that long), too.  I bought the tights last year and you can’t see them, but I’m wearing those trusty patent-leather pumps again.  I think I got them at Target a couple of years ago.  I’ll be sad when they fall apart.

 

Notice how I’m wearing jewelry!  The necklace was a Christmas gift from my dad last year and the bracelet was a Mother’s Day gift from Tony.  Progress!

 

My mom recently cleaned out her jewelry box and passed on a lot of great stuff to me.  It’s like getting my inheritance without my mom actually having to die, which is a pretty great deal.  One of the items was this necklace, which I adore:

 

necklace 

I need to figure out how to pair it with some different shirts – I don’t wear gold a lot and the necklace is a little short, but I’m sure I can come up with something.

 

My skinny jeans bit the dust last spring (I washed them with a vitamin in the pocket, a vitamin that apparently had fish oil in it because the smell NEVER WASHED OUT), so I might have to splurge and find a pair to go under boots again.  The only problem with skinny jeans is that they look great as long as I’m wearing boots to balance them out.  But as soon as the boots come off?  HORROR.  It’s a love/hate relationship.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Places to Be

I often think about how much I love where I live.  Western Washington State is one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and Skagit County is home to amazing natural beauty and abundant agriculture.  We don’t eat out a lot, and we don’t go to the movies, but we do go biking, running, and exploring all around us. 

 

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I yelled, “Charles!  You’re King of the Mountain!” and then some kid came over and tried to push him off.  Whoops.

 

This past weekend was the Festival of Family Farms, an annual event for which local farms open their gates and invite the public inside.  We couldn’t visit all of the farms if we tried, but we set off on Saturday under clear, sunny skies and visited two.  We plan to visit another next weekend to pick pumpkins.

 

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We visited a berry/pumpkin/other fruit and veggie farm as well as a dairy.  One had tires and swings, the other had cows and tractors.  And ice cream, so I think the dairy was the winner.

 

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And free milk!

 

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And face painting, so Jamie got a yellow spider and Charles got Spider-Man.

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I got to pet the calves, you guys!  One of them nuzzled me!  Oh!  I wanted to take it home!

 

It was a busy weekend outside of the farm visits.  On Saturday morning, Jamie and I went to Baby Boot Camp while Charles and Tony went to T-Ball.  Tony and I went to an auction Saturday night.

 

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I wore my Grandma Lorna’s fur stole… it’s at least twice as old as I am, if not more.

 

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We looked good.

 

Sunday we went to church, watched the football game, went to the Y for Bitty Open Gym, I went grocery shopping (ah, a mother: someone who sees a chore she does alone as a “break”), I went on a run while Charles rode his bike, we made dinner, and we had a dance party.  We are not slouches.  

 

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This guy learned how to pedal!

 

There is so much in this amazing world to see and do.  How fortunate we are that our backyards, so to speak, are so full of life and excitement.  Oh, how important it is to get off our duffs and go experience it.

 

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On a hay ride

 

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It was a busy weekend, and we all went to bed early last night.  For once, I am in more than just a few of the photos (evidence I exist, hooray!).  My favorite photo of the whole weekend, however, is this one:

 

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They hold hands in the car all the time.  It’s heart-melting.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Irrational Little Monsters

When I got back in the car after safely delivering my two children to preschool, I wanted to breathe a sigh of relief, but it just wouldn’t come.  The only thing positive to come out of our morning is the probability that Jamie will not try to climb up and touch the stove anymore.

 

It started with Charles screaming and crying when he woke up and found me already in the shower.  Without him.  I have to get up pretty early to shower alone, and apparently, 6:30 is not early enough.  Then, Tony tried to toast an English muffin for Charles, but Jamie grabbed at the muffin and broke it.  A broken muffin effectively ruined Charles’s life, and after a screaming fit, he ended up in timeout in his room.

 

Then Tony left for work, but not before informing me that the coffee pot stopped working after six years of loyal service.  I boiled water for tea and then, after pouring my tea, moved the tea kettle away from the hot burner (and closer to the edge of the stove, but not, like, hanging off or anything) because I couldn’t deal with the loud whistling.  A whistling kettle is convenient, it keeps me from forgetting that I have water heating, but I was in such a hurry that instead of refilling the kettle with cold water to stop the steamy whistle and then replacing it on the hot burner, I just moved it.  There are consequences to every action.

 

I ran back upstairs and explained to Charles that little brothers are the worst.  Their whole reason for existence from about age 1 to 22 is to frustrate and annoy their older siblings.  “Charles,” I said, “when you’re in college, your brother is going to call you at 8 am on a Saturday morning, maybe every Saturday morning, even though he knows you will have been out late partying the night before.  Hell, he will do it because he knows you will have been out late partying.  You can’t give him the satisfaction of going ballistic every time he pushes your buttons.  Instead, be happy that he loves you enough to call, even if it is on a Saturday morning after a rager of a frat party and all you want to do is curl up and go back to sleep for the next decade.”  My parents used the same logic on me and it didn’t really sink in until high school that the best way to deal with my brother antagonizing me was to ignore his efforts, but maybe Charles will catch on earlier in life.  I probably should have told him (for the millionth time) the story of how Leland would crawl over to me when I was playing with my dollies, grab one, rip the head off, and throw it across the room and giggle.  All, presumably, to make me cry and scream.  But Charles thinks that story is hilarious, so the lesson isn’t really clear to him.  Regardless, he calmed down and we went downstairs to make breakfast.

 

But then I put Charles’s new English muffin on an orange plate.  NOT THE CORRECT PLATE.  He flipped out again, at which point I removed myself from the situation.  You see, I have three ways to deal with things like this: yell and scream, which generally accomplishes nothing but making my kids cry harder; cry, which generally accomplishes nothing but ruining my makeup; or walk away until I am calm enough to find a reasonable way out of the emotional mess that is a bleating, angry, four-year-old (Fucking Fours, man).  I told Charles, “You have lost your library privilege for this afternoon.  You need to calm down and apologize or you won’t be allowed to go to T-Ball tomorrow, either.  I am angry and frustrated and I am going to take a timeout!”  And I shut my bedroom door.  Then I finished my makeup.

 

Jamie tap-tap-tapped on my bedroom door a few minutes later, so I wiped the jam off of his face and changed his diaper, got him dressed, and read him a story.  By the time I finished that, Charles had calmed, so I went downstairs (to the immense dismay of Jamie, who loudly and shrilly expressed his desire to have me read more stories) to assess the damage.  Because there is always damage with Charles.  I hadn’t heard dishes breaking, so I hoped it would be relatively minor.

 

He had torn apart my breakfast and made himself another new English muffin and was eating at the table.  We had a rather one-sided talk about how we don’t waste food, how some kids don’t get to eat breakfast at all, how mom and dad work hard to provide food for him and it is disrespectful to treat us and our food this way.  (Am I the only one who does this?  Who immediately makes the leap to “lots of kids in the world, hell, in our community, would be so happy to have a regular meal and my kids are shunning their dinner for no reason whatsoever.  Last month they loved this dish!”  I swear, you cannot escape your past.  I am totally a product of “there are starving children in Africa!” admonishment from the eighties.)

 

I made a smoothie because it was already 8:15 (nearly two hours into the morning; we are super efficient) and I figured I was not going to get to sit down and enjoy breakfast.  I was right.  I went upstairs for something, called down to the kids to get in the bathroom and brush their teeth and when I met two angry, screaming kids in the bathroom, it was all I could do not to let my brains explode out my ears while I brushed Charles’s teeth.  When he was done, I turned to Jamie, who kept saying, “Hot.  Hot, mommy.”  He was holding his poor baby finger, which had a red, irritated blister on the end.  I sent Charles to put his shoes on and take a time out in the car and I grabbed an ice pack.  Jamie admitted, in his way, to climbing up the stove and touching the still-hot metal tea kettle.  I managed to get some ibuprofen in him and brush his teeth.  Nothing like your baby getting an actual, real injury to make you feel like a worthless parent.  Which is what I was all morning.  Totally worthless as a parent.

 

I cradled Jamie to the car, holding the ice pack on his finger.  I grabbed my smoothie and rummaged in the fridge for something, anything, to take for lunch.  I grabbed the paper (which I hadn’t read) and the school bags.  I picked up what was left of my dignity and sanity and I got behind the wheel and tried to sound perky, telling the boys that the rest of the day was going to be great!  Great!

 

When I got to work, I realized that I hadn’t brushed my teeth this morning.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Our Triumphant Return to Whitman

Thanks for indulging my pity party yesterday.  You want to know why I was so tired after that weekend?  I am old, that’s why.

 

During the Whitman Reunion, I woke up early two days in a row to run several miles with old friends, drank pretty much continuously all day long (wine and beer, beer and wine), and stayed out until all hours of the night, laughing and carousing.  So basically, just like college, but without schoolwork and with much better booze.  Also, I can’t seem to pick up and get to work the next day like I used to; recovery takes a lot longer now than it did ten years ago.

 

I think that one of the biggest pre-reunion fears people have has to do with the “will they remember me?/will they remember the wrong things?” conundrum.  When we’re in college, young and idiotic, and especially those of us who went to high-academic-pressure institutions where it was considered normal to study all the time and then blow off steam on the weekends big-time (in a society of extremism that is unmatched after college), we make mistakes.  We do dumb stuff.  None of us wants to be remembered for the stupid shit.  Like the time a sorority sister of mine and I tossed back far too many shots after being stood up by our dates and then made total asses of ourselves at the function we were set to attend (the My Tie party of 2003 – if you were there, you remember it better than I do; I think most of the downward spiral happened in your room, Julia).  Or the time I… no, I’m going to stop there.  There are many things, suffice to say.  The point is, some people remember all that, some don’t.  Not a single person commented on anything crazy or boneheaded I might have done back then (at least not to my face).  The cringing was kept to a minimum last weekend, for which I am forever grateful.

 

But what if they don’t remember me at all?, I thought.  In a class of 450 students, there are some I never truly met.  But there were so many that I did.  And people remembered me and I, though I am terrible with names, remembered many as well.  As my friend Allison put it, I kind of “lived my life out loud” in college, and one of the happy results of my, erm, exhibitionism we’ll call it, is that I share many great stories with a great many of my former classmates.  And it is just so fun to reminisce about one of the most vibrant and ridiculous parts of my life.

 

I had such a wonderful time.  I wish more of my friends had been there.  I think the more insecure of them might find that memory is an amazing thing: it filters out a lot of the bad and keeps most of the good.

 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sometimes I Need to Whine, Too.

I’m so tired.  Still.

 

I was so tired on Sunday that I threw a mini tantrum of my own because Jamie wouldn’t nap and Tony was watching football and no one could take care of me.  Not even me.

 

Sometimes I feel like that, when it all gets too overwhelming.  When the days are long and I do everything everything everything for everyone else and even though I know that my brother was working and picking up slack so that I could take a couple of days off and that Tony was dragged to my reunion and not his and he watched the kids while I ran 5 miles with friends or wine-tasted, still, I feel like it’s not a balance.

 

I struggle with that.

 

And it’s stupid, really, because there is no balance.  There never will be.  Tony works all day and sometimes all night and I work part of the day and take care of the kids and the housework and everything else.  He will never do as many dishes as I do.  Never.  I will never work at my job as hard or as long as he works at his – and he’s paid well for that dedication (whereas the only payment for dishes is a clean sink for 20 minutes).  Leland works all day and shouldn’t have to do me favors just because I am forgetful.  I have learned not to ask for favors (though I still do sometimes) because nobody has time and nobody cares.  I don’t get it, because I really like doing favors for people.

 

And other people, my husband and kids included, will never think of me first or probably even second.  We are all self-centered, so even though other people’s lack of consideration for my needs feels like an insult to me, they didn’t mean it that way.  It was just neglect or ignorance.

 

Maybe moms are just wired to think of everyone else to the detriment of their own selves.  I certainly do.  I don’t sleep enough or eat enough or get regular exercise, but it’s my fault because I put others before me.  At least until I break down and I just can’t.  But I am self-centered in that I take it all on as my responsibility to make sure everyone else is okay.  I’m not really in charge of the well-being of anyone except my children, and even that burden is shared.

 

I am still paying for the indulgence of treating myself to friends and wine and laughter and reminiscing all weekend.  No wonder I don’t do things for myself very often. 

 

***

 

I’m really tired.  I promise to be wittier and pithier tomorrow.  I have photos to share and stories about the reunion.  I’m just so tired right now that I can’t sort it in my head.  And recovery-mode-Amelia is pretty depressing.  I’ll go take a nap and feel better.  Maybe some cookies?  Yeah, I’ll make cookies.