Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book Updates

I just finished The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley.  I was expecting another timeshift romantic (not necessarily romance but romantic, like the excitement and mystery of love but not a bodice-ripping tale of infatuation) novel, but this one was more mystery.  Most of the Kearsley novels I have read so far include an element of the main character reliving the past in her dreams or in a trance and then trying to solve the past mystery while finally hooking up with her reincarnated past-lover, or actually being transported to the past, solving a mystery, and choosing to remain in the past for love.  Sounds trite and maybe a bit weird, but they are entertaining novels, I promise you.  The Winter Sea was the first I read, and it won some awards, so I can at least say that I’m not the only one who enjoyed it.


The Splendour Falls seems to be an older novel that has finally been published – after all, there are still static-y international calls and francs and lire in Europe.  There is a hint of romance, but not much.  The mystery takes center stage, but it’s a bit forced and not well fleshed-out.  Still, it was the type of mystery I prefer these days: no blood and gore, no terrible monsters preying on children or innocents, no devil-worship, no sociopaths.  Okay, well, a little sociopathic behavior.  After all, people are killed and the killer thinks to justify these murders (totally sociopathic), but he’s not eating them after he kills them or anything like that. 


So I don’t know: read it, maybe, if you’ve read all the other Kearsleys and want more, but perhaps don’t read it if you are expecting a revelation of a novel.


In other disappointments, I’m about halfway through Lev Grossman’s novel The Magicians and I am bored.  The mystical world is clearly a giant ripoff of Narnia and I don’t go in for Young Adult novels in general (Hunger Games being one of the few exceptions).  I might finish it; I might not. 


What have you read lately?  Anything good?  I have Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand in my Kindle, ready for me to abandon The Magicians.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Halfway Point

Last weekend, I reached the halfway point in this pregnancy, and I’m here to tell you that the second half is going to be WAY better than the first.


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I started to feel lots better a couple of weeks ago, and I just keep feeling better every day.  I wish I could nap more often, but that’s not in the cards, and I don’t need it like I did just a few weeks ago.  My food aversions have mostly disappeared while my cravings for salad and fresh fruits and vegetables have asserted themselves yet again.  Who can eat half of a fresh pineapple in one setting?  This girl.  I have also rediscovered my lost love of cheese, and even chocolate and sugar are starting to sound good sometimes (but not much or often).  The baby moves quite a bit, and he or she is firmly stuck on the right side of my body, much like my boys were – is it more comfy on the right or something?  I don’t know, I only know that the baby is getting large enough that my belly can sometimes look lopsided.


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I continue to exercise at least three times a week, but boy do I get tired!  I barely break a sweat and I am winded.  Still, I persist, even as I wistfully watch my endurance and strength drain away.  My hope is that all this exercise will keep my butt from getting too big, but so far it has not much helped in that respect.  At the very least, maybe I’ll be back to running several miles a week before this baby is a year old.


We’re starting to think of things this baby will need.  If it’s a boy, we have all the clothes and toys a boy-child could ever need.  I started an Amazon registry to keep track of things I need and the list basically consists of more cloth diapers and an infant car seat.  Ah, but it’s nice to be a third-time mom.  There’s so much less panic.


Of course, we do have to buy a car that will accommodate more than two car seats abreast, but there is time.  And we’ll need to name this kid, but we’ll probably wait until after tax season to have any real name discussions.  Besides, by then we’ll know the sex (my ultrasound is at 23 weeks – after the corporate tax deadline), so we can narrow the discussion.


Will it be strange to know the sex this time around?  Yes, decidedly.  But I think it will also be nice.  I would love to wait, but on the chance I am carrying a girl, I would dearly love to shop for girl clothing.  And, as I’ve said before, if I’m carrying a boy, I will mourn the girl I will never have.


So there you have (halve) it: less than 20 weeks to go.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Boy Crazy

I don’t want to brag or anything, but my children totally try to beat the shit out of each other every night:



This is the really real version of what it’s like to live with boys: total chaos all the time with a deep, primal need to beat on each other and run into stuff like a blinded deer or that squirrel that once ran into my leg while I was out jogging in West Seattle.  I’m not sure who was more stunned, me or the squirrel.  Living with these two boys is like living in an episode of When Wildlife Attacks! but the wildlife isn’t scared at all.


At least they’re playing with pillows in this video, and not baseball bats.  Because that happens, too.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Out of Ideas

Someone is starting to get VERY BORED at his older brother’s swim lessons.


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This despite the fact that I bring many, many, many back-breaking books (heavy diaper bag and heavy swim bag and I am a pack mule mama) and snacks and toy tractors.  One more month, and then he will have to sit through Charles’s soccer games.  Of course, Charles will have to sit through Jamie’s Bitty Soccer practice, too, so at least there will be some turnabout.  And then we’re taking the summer off.  You know, to have a baby.


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In a rare moment of no rain, I MADE them run around outside of the Y for a few minutes.     


I ran out of steam this weekend, and we didn’t do much of anything.  Tony’s parents came to visit, and for the first time, Jamie and Charles chose to stay with them rather than run errands or go to boot camp with me.  We read stories and more stories, watched some Wild Kratts and Thomas the (asshole) Tank Engine, went to a birthday party, had takeout, and took naps.  I hadn’t had a nap in weeks and I had almost forgotten how great they feel. 

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Ways to Pass Time with a Toddler #357: Make him your dishes slave.  Shirts optional.


Tony and I had the pleasure of going to a Doc Severinsen and the San Miguel Five show at a local casino on Saturday night, a rare date night for us.  I’ve been thinking, lately, about how I would like to recapture, on a more ongoing basis, our relationship.  Not that we don’t have a relationship, but we are, like most couples, bogged down in daily life.  We don’t have the luxury of being able to schedule a recurring, weekly date night, but grabbing time where we can is important.  Tax season seems to throw our relationship further to the side of “cohabitation and co-parenting,” rather than “loving and in-love.”


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I’m not kidding when I say that we were the youngest in the room, by far.  The show was AMAZING, and all the other young people are really missing out.

All told, it was a pretty great weekend, just relaxing and not committing to anything.  I’ll take another weekend like that anytime.


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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Slow Down

It’s really easy for me to slow down and “live in the moment” when we leave home.  When we get out of our daily routines and visit someplace new or if our plan is to just be somewhere for the day, like the zoo or a park, I can let everything go and enjoy myself.  I can enjoy every miniscule act of wonder or insanity undertaken by my boys, storing up memory-snapshots at a healthy pace.  We don’t rush.  These are my best moments as a parent, the times when I feel like I’m totally connecting with my children and nurturing their spirits.


Do you ever see those parents at the zoo or a children’s museum who herd their children along to the next thing, without giving the kids time to really experience what catches their eye?  “C’mon, buddy, let’s go look at the train set.  And then after that, we’ll do the fishing game!  Let’s go!”  I don’t ever want to be that parent.  I want to always be the parent who lets my children spend their entire day at the museum playing in the grocery store section (as Jamie did last weekend, completely content to put toy food in toy carts, run it through the toy checkout, and then put it back on the toy shelves and start over for 20 minutes or more).  If my kids want to spend their day at the aquarium looking only at the sharks, so be it.  I enjoy their engrossment into an activity, and I know they get more out of the whole experience when they get to really dig into what they love.


But the daily routine turns me into a pressed-for-time harpy from the moment I get up in the morning until the moment I drop my children at school.  I never thought, back when both of the boys were waking at 6 AM or earlier, that there would come a time when I would wish they would get their cute little boy butts out of bed earlier than they do, but that’s what I wish lately.  Because now they’re content to sleep until 8 AM (except for the fact that every night/morning around 4:30 AM, Jamie crawls into bed with me and begs me to make him breakfast right then), which is far too late to get through the shower (which Charles insists upon doing), get dressed, eat breakfast, get teeth brushed, and get to school.  So I wake them at 7 and spend the next hour and a half cajoling and bribing and threatening and yelling at them to do this or that task.  My heart rate climbs and I get frustrated and I forget to notice the smears of jam on Jamie’s face as the adorable manifestations of his perfect two-and-a-half-year-old-ness.  In fact, and this makes my heart hurt, he often eats breakfast alone while I am in the shower.  I hate that my children would eat any meal alone.


It’s not always better in the afternoons, though I try to take the car ride between preschool and the bank or swim lessons or boot camp to really listen to them tell me about their days.  But then there are things to be done, tasks to complete, and before I know it, it’s bedtime and we start the “get back in bed RIGHT NOW!” merry-go-round.


So, baby steps.  Small goals.  Whatever you want to call it.  I’m going to try to do some deep breathing every time I find myself getting worked up over time.  I want the daily drudgery of this afternoon and tomorrow to feel as good as those carefree weekend trips away from the house.  Yes, I have to get to work and swim lessons and appointments on time.  But maybe I can do it with a bit less crazy in my eyes when I get my children dressed and fed.  And maybe I can orchestrate things so that Jamie, my slow eater, isn’t eating alone at breakfast.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Weekend Away: Portland

I grew up going to Portland, Oregon for shopping trips – at 2.5 hours away from home, it was a lot closer than Seattle (3.5 hours) (and lest you think an hour difference is nothing, try making that trip once a month, with children, all for business and/or medical purposes) (not fun).  I failed to notice, until this most recent visit, that “Keep Portland Weird” is not just a catchy city motto.  No, Portlanders love their affectations.  The more shocking, the better.  Some of these people must spend hours on their appearance!  It’s not just hipster, it’s beyond that, but I guess if riding a ten-foot tall bicycle dressed as a retro horror-flick circus clown turns your crank, then have at it.  So long as you’re not trying to lure me into the mirror maze.


It was good to get away.  Sometimes a change of scenery is all I need to come back to earth from my hormone-induced pit of despair.  The real world is killing me today and I’m back to tearing up at the drop of a hat, but at least I had a break.  And I had good friends who know me and don’t judge me, and sometimes it’s nice to just feel like I don’t have to keep part of me buttoned up, you know?


There’s something about parenting in a different location that makes the tantrums easier to handle, too.  Neither of the boys went to bed at a decent hour this weekend, but I just rolled with it instead of letting it bring me down.  Not having to get up the next morning for any reason at all helps, of course.


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Firefighting in Olympia


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Firefighter Jamie was my dentist, as well – I got a lot of shots in the belly, for some reason


We stopped at the Olympia Children’s Museum on the drive down, which was a nice lunch break and got the boys’ wiggles out for at least a while.  I try to break up car trips like this whenever I can.


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The Olympia Children’s Museum was by far the most expensive children’s museum I have ever visited.  It was nice, but not any better than other major metropolitan children’s museums.  We will likely not stop there again.  Surely there’s a park where we can do lunch next time.


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Monster Trucks.  I never have to go see them again. 


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The boys were entranced, of course, but I was bored and it was too loud (with ear plugs) (yes, I’m too old).  It reminded me a lot of the whole WWF or WWE or whatever it was fad in high school: very staged with fans professing loyalties to one truck or another and cheering loudly at the hyperbolic “competition.” 



Monster Trucks are serious business

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Jamie was running a mysterious (final molar-related?) fever


The boys were so over-stimulated that they both fell asleep in the car and continued to sleep even after I carried them up to my friend’s apartment (2nd floor.  Charles weighs over 50 lbs.  I should not do that again).


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An uncommon sight


I got to spend a lot of quality time with old friends while the kids towed us from one section to the next of the Portland Children’s Museum and OMSI.  The children’s museum might not be on the list for Charles next time, but I imagine that OMSI will be entertaining for years to come.  Jamie could have stayed and played at either all day long.

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Taking off in a Gemini pod


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And the boys got to visit with their “aunties” for a whole weekend, getting in tickle fights, reading new stories, decorating cookies, and just generally being loved.


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Sometimes I just sat there while my children were read to – bliss!


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It was a great trip.  And next time, we’ll have a new baby to take with us (more chaos)!  Since there will be more chaos next time, and my poor friends already need a vacation after our annual tornado of a visit, it’s probably good that we don’t go too often.


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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Work in Progress

We took away the toys and the kids don’t care.  I don’t think they’ve even noticed.


How do you enact consequences when all the reasonable consequences mean nothing to the offenders?  The only real positives to this have been throwing away several broken toys and gathering a bag for donation.


Sigh.  We’re taking a vacation instead of continuing to beat our heads against the wall in an ineffective discipline cycle.


I need the break, and I need it badly.  I have a thousand stressors at work and at home, and despite the well-meaning advice to just do less, I can’t.  I have responsibilities and I feel like I already do the bare minimum to fulfill those.  As the worries drag me down and my thighs get bigger, I find myself feeling less and less worthy of the love around me.  They say you can’t have it all, but I feel like I can’t even have the least without fighting hard for it.


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And Leon’s getting laaaaarger!


My friends ambushed me at work yesterday to bring me some love.  I don’t often break down enough to reach out and let people know how I am feeling, but I did, and I’m glad I did.  I think one of the reasons I write what I do is that I feel so very alone with my inadequacies.  Perhaps there’s someone out there who feels like they’re not measuring up and they can either read my stories and think, “well, at least I’m not as bad as her,” or (and I would prefer this one), “oh, she goes through the same thing and she’s not so terrible, so there’s hope for me yet.”  Giving myself grace is the hardest thing in the world for me, and I am thankful that my friends are here to show me grace when I feel its lack.


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Like Tuesday night, for instance.  I got so upset that I gave myself a timeout.  We had come home early from swimming (someone vomited in the pool – not my child this time) (did I tell you that story?  Remind me to one day) and they had to close everything down.  I hadn’t finished dinner prep, even though I’d done some that afternoon after work and before I picked up the kids (see, and this is where I start to berate myself because I don’t even work full time and I can’t get enough done), so I got out the Goldfish crackers for the kids and sat them at the table while I breaded chicken.  All I needed was five minutes and then we could have read or played or gone for a walk.  Instead, the boys started throwing Goldfish everywhere.


I did what one does when one is up to one’s elbows in raw chicken: I told the boys to stop throwing food and to pick up the crackers on floor so Buster wouldn’t eat them.  When Jamie yelled, “NO!” I washed up and put him in timeout.  Charles started to help me clean up the floor when Jamie ran out of timeout and started jumping on the crackers.  The floors had just been cleaned that morning.


I put him back in timeout, and he stayed for a couple of minutes while Charles and I cleaned up, then I told them that we don’t throw food and that they had one more chance.  As soon as I started handling chicken again, the crackers were being tossed around as if the boys were feeding birds at the park.  Hungry birds who apparently needed a thousand Goldfish thrown directly into their swooping, open beaks.  I sent them both to separate corners for timeout and started to clean up.  At this point, the dog was loudly complaining to come inside from the back yard because he could see the free food, just sitting there waiting for him.  Jamie, again, ran over and started to stomp on the crackers.  At which point I started crying.  And then he laughed and ran away. 


As soon as Tony got home from work, I ran away.  I grabbed my car keys and I drove off. 


It took me about two minutes in the car by myself to realize two things: one, I didn’t have anywhere to go and two, this wasn’t the solution to our problems.  My children don’t get to see their dad but one hour each night.  They had a babysitter both Saturday and Monday so that Tony and I could attend charitable events for my Rotary club and the local Habitat for Humanity, something we do only a few times a year, though these landed on the same weekend.  My children need more me.  They don’t need me to run away.


And then I felt worse, because I needed the break from their nastiness.  Those kids know how to push every button I have and this week was the breaking point for me.  Add all my stresses to children misbehaving and this mama is at her limit.


So we’re going away.  We’re taking a trip and leaving Tony and the dog home alone to work all weekend long.  Maybe all the togetherness will calm these boys down.  After all, we’ll all be sleeping in the same bed, so they’ll get extended mommy time, even if I don’t get any sleep for three days.  And maybe I can let go of at least a few of the stresses in my daily life and enjoy our long weekend.  I need to find the grace that others are so willing to give me and give it to myself.  I need to forgive myself for not having it all together – for every inadequacy I see in the mirror every day: the giant hips and flabby arms that seem to go hand-in-hand with me growing a baby; the business deals that will determine our future; the health problems of my parents and in-laws; the work I don’t get done at home; the time I spend with my feet up instead of working; the love and affection I have inside of me that I don’t show my children or my husband.  Instead, the good stuff: I’m growing a healthy baby, the completion of our family; we have fantastic opportunities to grow our profitable business; my parents are still alive and kicking; I do a LOT of work at home, even if it’s not enough and it’s never done; I have to relax on occasion or I will wear myself out; my children and husband know I love them to distraction.


I’m a work in progress, but even when I feel like I have to relearn the same lessons every year, at least I’m still trying.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Clash of Wills

It would appear that my children have a stubborn streak.


Is anyone else surprised?  No?  Just me, then.  You’d think they’d have the courtesy to see that mom has had a hard few days (I spent yesterday afternoon on the phone with insurance companies and third party administrators trying to get our company health insurance reinstated after it was mistakenly terminated due to no reason whatsoever) and cut me some slack.  Maybe sleep through the night, or follow simple instructions.  Nope.


Jamie has gotten in on the game now, just as Charles has started to become more, um, reasonable, we’ll say.  Charles understands consequences and generally hops-to if he knows he is going to lose a privilege should he not attend my direction.  I haven’t quite gotten him to figure out that if he just gets dressed without asking or brushes his teeth or whatever, he won’t even get the threat of consequence, but we’re clearly going to be working on that until his brain catches up with his brawn (this might take awhile) (like, until he’s 25).


But oh, Jamie.  Call it “terrible twos,” call it “strong-willed,” either way, I am pushing my limit of being more stubborn than my child.  It’s not easy.  He got out of bed repeatedly last night, all the way until 10 o’clock.  I wanted to be asleep before 10 o’clock.  And there is no consequence that resonates with him.  Take away his stuffed animals?  He doesn’t care.  Take away his mounds of blankets?  He doesn’t care.  Turn off the light?  Shut the door?  Smack his butt?  He doesn’t care.


This morning, he didn’t want to get dressed.  Have you ever tried to dress a thrashing, screaming two-year-old?  While pregnant?  Not for the faint of heart.  And then he refused, flat-out refused, to pick up the toys he’d scattered everywhere.  I would normally leave that argument for another day, or for bedtime, after he’d played with the toys all day long, but the housekeeper was coming this morning and I quite like it when she is able to clean my floors.  Jamie and I went round and round until I deposited him in the car, with no shoes or jacket (he refused those, too, and lest you think I should be able to force him into his shoes and jacket, well, you either have never tried to force a recalcitrant child to get shoes on or your children are not stubborn hell monsters).  I then told both of the children to be quiet (Jamie continued to wail because he had finally decided – too late – that he wanted shoes) and I called Tony.  I told my husband, loudly enough for my brain-damaged urchins to hear, that we would be summarily removing all toys from the house this evening.


I’m so tired of this bullshit, you know?  And in every other aspect of my home life, I de-clutter constantly.  I don’t have lots of clothing and I routinely cull the herd, so to speak, of clothing I no longer wear or fit.  Our walls are full of art and framed photos, we can’t get any more.  We don’t buy “stuff” because our storage space is severely limited.  When this baby is born, I’m giving away or selling all of my maternity clothing and reclaiming the space it has taken in the garage since 2008.  Ditto the post-pregnancy box of super-extra-extremely large clothes I will no doubt need immediately after giving birth and then, hopefully, never again.


I fully intend to follow through with this and remove every single toy from the house.  I’ll probably start by sorting through them and removing the toys that we will “save” for the new baby.  Then we’ll separate them into categories (small toys shouldn’t be in our giant toy box because they get lost at the bottom) and put them in the garage.  Until I’m feeling less like an ogre and more like a nice mommy again.


Turning these children into responsible adults just might kill me.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Stress Files

I keep searching for the proper words for my malaise.  There are lots of words, but they aren’t complete and I struggle with the same thing I always struggle with: wanting to convey to you my feelings (because it helps to write and maybe you can relate) while at the same time reassure you (and my mother) that I am not going to go jump off a cliff or something equally tragic.


I had a long, stressful week topped by a long, stressful weekend, frosted by the feeling of being of being a total outsider and just not enough.


There are lots of changes happening at work, and I am an owner of the business, so it all comes home and keeps me awake at night.  Is anything truly wrong?  No, but there are lots of decisions to make in the near-term, including a new employee to train and a beloved employee to bid goodbye, and all of them have a severe impact on my professional and personal future.  I am responsible for a lot of other people, and the crushing burden of that can be overwhelming sometimes.  If we do this, then we lock ourselves into that and what if, what if, what if?  It’s my responsibility to acknowledge and reason out the what-ifs, and yet they are onerous in and of themselves.


This Saturday was my Rotary club’s auction, and after months of preparation, I didn’t even take a single photo of the event or myself all dressed-up and with good pregnancy hair (when I’m pregnant, I finally have full enough hair to style).  Tony works Saturdays now, but he came home for an hour in the morning so that I could go to the gym, where I lifted and ran/walked two miles.  Later, Charles and Jamie wanted to go to the park, but for some reason, they insisted on walking (Charles rode his bike, which threw it’s chain SIX TIMES during the two-mile round trip) in the below-freezing weather. 




I didn’t get a nap, so by the time the auction rolled around, I was exhausted.  I worked at the auction, rather than sitting as a guest, so I didn’t eat much and I was active all night.  Stress and exhaustion, exhaustion and stress.


So Sunday was supposed to be a lazy day.  We drove a couple of hours out of town to a lodge where many friends of ours were staying (we couldn’t join in the weekend trip because of the auction).  We had intended to go for lunch and then sledding, but lunch was so late that sledding was in question.  I have this thing where I don’t ever feel entirely comfortaWhen we finally drove to enough snow to sled, Charles and I had little time in which to do so and Jamie was napping.  Sledding is hard work, I hadn’t eaten enough (we were told not to bring anything for lunch because there was enough food, but there wasn’t, so I fed the kids first and ate a small salad), and I was feeling like a total cow.  Not a recipe for a good day.  There was this bright point:




I have just switched to the next size of maternity jeans because my legs are getting fat.  I try so hard to be sage about pregnancy weight-gain… but.  I know I am going to gain weight, and likely lots of it, but it still doesn’t feel very good.  I still feel repugnant.  And the pregnant women by whom I am surrounded at my fitness classes are all so thin.  I have big legs to begin with, but now that they’ve turned the corner to gargantuan, I just want to cry.  And my ass?  I’m just going to try not to look at my rear in the mirror anytime soon, because the sight is hideous enough to make me tear up on the spot.


I went to bed early last night.  And here begins a whole new week.  I’m trying to look at what are sure to be high points: a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser tonight at which I will hopefully have good hair again and get to spend time with my husband, and a visit to Auntie Liz’s with the boys this coming weekend (if the weather doesn’t get any worse in Portland).  But my mind keeps coming back to the potential low points: the cocktail party this evening in which I will not participate, the dress I will wear that will probably look terrible on me because of the fatness, the mounds of laundry and housework to do, the piles of work on my desk, more big, giant, momentous decisions about our business’s future to be made. 


Let’s cap it with some mommy guilt: Charles is especially clingy right now and would like nothing more than for me to keep him home from preschool all day, every day.  Which I can’t do.  So he cries when I drop him off and pick him up, saying that he misses me all day long.  And tonight we’re leaving him with a babysitter, so he’ll be even more upset with me tomorrow morning, no matter how much he loves the babysitter.


So maybe you can understand when I say that I cry at the drop of a hat and I really would really like for someone to just fix it.  Just take my troubles away.  Not going to happen, I know.  Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow.  Or maybe my mom is right: I’m a bitch when I’m pregnant, and these hormones are going to rule my life for the next five months, driving everyone close to me away.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

First Look

Did I tell you that I had an ultrasound last week?  At almost 17 weeks, we couldn’t get a good look at the sex, but we did get a good look at the baby.


He or she looks a lot like his or her older brothers:


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And would you just look at this adorable foot:


3rd baby Cook Foot


I can feel the baby move all the time now, which has been more than a bit distracting when I’m in a meeting at the office.  I dearly love this part of pregnancy – I’m not sick any more, except for a few lingering food aversions and gag reflexes (and the burping – oh, Lord, the burping!), and I am not so exhausted that my every non-nauseated thought is about when I can grab my next nap.  This is the magical time of pregnancy.  And I want to suck every bit of enjoyment from it because it is the last time.


I even bought myself some new wardrobe pieces.  Beyond the simple black skirts I will probably wear with everything, I also got this tunic on sale:


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That’s the skinny mirror.  We all have one.


My mom recently gifted me her pearls, and that was my first opportunity to wear them.  I love pearls and have wanted a strand for a long time.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Oh Yeah, This: TMI Possible

One thing I didn’t mention in my post about saving money the other day is this: I will never buy tampons or pads again.  Okay, so, I’m pregnant and haven’t really thought about this for a few months anyway, but several cycles before I got pregnant, I switched to a menstrual cup.  I’m in a sharing mood, so I’m going to tell you about it.  In the nicest and least-gross way possible.


And that, gentlemen in the audience, is your cue to leave.


I was on Pinterest (the devil’s website, I like to call it), when I found myself in a rabbit hole.  You know, when you click on a recipe and then you go to the blog where the recipe was posted and then you look around the blog and you maybe click another link and then all of a sudden you’re reading a post about menstrual cups and how they’ll change your life.  I think it was this one.


Okay, so a menstrual cup will maybe not make the birds land on your shoulders and sing, but they will change your life, of that I am convinced.  No more buying tampons with bleached cotton.  No more possibility of toxic shock.  ONE apparatus to use for two years straight.  Less waste.  Less money.  Less storage.


In my personal experience, it takes some getting used to.  I bought a size 2 Diva Cup (because I am both over 30 and have had children) and the first couple of cycles, it took a few tries at the beginning of my cycle to get it inserted correctly.  By the time I got pregnant, I was a pro.  When inserted correctly, the cup creates a seal.  No mess, no leaking, and you shouldn’t be able to feel it (the times I did, it was inserted incorrectly).  FYI, I trimmed the stem because I felt it was too long.


You do have to get a bit familiar with your body, although you already should be.  Your fingers are the applicator, so you have to be okay with sticking them up there.  Probably someone else has stuck their fingers up there before, or, you know, other things, so it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.  When you reach your finger up to break the seal, you dump the fluid in the toilet, wipe the cup with toilet paper (or rinse, if you have a handy sink), and reinsert.  You probably will only have to empty the cup twice a day, so you can save those times for when you are in the comfort of your own home.


I’ll admit, the cup looks big.  But it fits, and it is unlikely to overflow – after all, it’s designed to hold 1.5 ounces, which is almost as much fluid as you will pass during your entire period.


So there you go.  Switch to a cup and save money.  Also save space in your purse and cupboards and stop putting bleached cotton into your body. 


And you know what else is cool?  Menstrual cups are now being shipped (via humanitarian organizations) to countries in Africa with little or no access to sanitation so that girls on their periods can still go to school.  That’s pretty great. 


Also, I imagine that a cup will be far more convenient in a zombie apocalypse than either pads or tampons.  For what that’s worth.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Simple Money-Savers

I think it’s pretty easy to get into habits that have a money-saving alternative.  You know, like, you do something, and it’s fine, but you could save a lot of money by instituting a really simple change.  Sometimes that change takes getting used to, because there is a difference.  I know that I have written about some of these things before, so I’ll recap, and then tell you about some of the new things I’m doing.


1.  Freezer and pantry.  A couple of years ago, we bought a full-size, upright freezer for the garage and created pantry space in the garage.  I don’t make so many freezer meals, but I do buy in bulk at Costco when I can, something that saves both time and money.  My crockpot recipes are frequently large enough to have another meal go directly to the freezer.  Great tip for freezing soups: put them in a big ziplock and then lay them flat in the freezer.  Then they can be stacked like books!


2. Bread.  We get it (mostly) at the Franz bakery outlet.  I bet you have one in your town.  The idea is that this is discount bread, likely close to it’s due date, and still delicious.  I rarely spend more than $15, and I usually walk out with two or three bags of bread products, including bagels and English muffins, most of which goes immediately into the freezer when I get home.  I probably only go to the bakery outlet once a month, so it’s a time-saver, too.  Now if I could just convince Tony to stop buying bagels when he occasionally goes to the grocery store and instead just tell me he wants some, we’ll be all good.


3. Cloth napkins.  I can’t honestly remember the last time I bought paper towels.  A year?  Longer?  We rarely use them.  Instead, I have about 30 cloth napkins that are used at the table and go directly to the laundry basket when meals are done.  I’m not sure my kids would know what to do with a paper towel.  This creates less garbage, too, and in some places (here, for instance), downgrading your curbside garbage can size can save you $12-$15 per month.


4.  We buy in bulk, nearly everything.  We buy chicken stock, pasta, frozen vegetables, frozen fruit, apples, cereal, frozen meatballs, pasta sauce, condiments, chicken, and anything we can reasonably store, in bulk.  I almost always have exactly what I need for recipes.  One of the local Rotary clubs sells berries in bulk every summer – I eat lots when they come and freeze the rest.  Cheaper (about $2.50 per pound of strawberries, and they’re cut and clean) and helping a good cause.


5.  More bulk.  Last year, we signed up for Zaycon Foods.  We now buy chicken, bacon, and summer fruit in bulk and delivered fresh.  Next, I’ll be buying beef.  I can’t say enough good stuff about Zaycon boneless, skinless chicken breasts – it’s fresh, never-been-frozen, no hormones or additives, and delicious.  We package it in individual ziplock bags and freeze it raw for use all year.  40 lbs lasts us about 6 months.


6.  I have just recently switched to bar soap.  Now, this might seem like such a little thing, but bar soap is so much less expensive, and lasts so much longer, than liquid body wash.  And the amazing scents you can buy are wide and varied – just visit the organic section of your grocery store and you will be astounded at what is available!  My favorite scent is almond.


7.  Memberships and outside play.  We are members of the YMCA and the local children’s museum.  We can visit the children’s museum any time, and frequently do, all for the low price of $85 a year.  That ends up being pennies for each time we visit.  As for the YMCA, we get a discount on swim lessons and Bitty Sports, and the have a Bitty Open Gym time for the kids to play every week.  We often go to family swim, and Tony and I have a convenient place to exercise.  These memberships are totally worth it.  But otherwise?  We steer clear of events that cost money.  Instead of Chuck E. Cheese, we go on family bike rides or to a park.  In the winter, we frequently visit the library.  There are often science or math nights designed for preschoolers in our town, and we try to attend.  My two rambunctious boys need to be kept occupied, and there are so many great free places.  If all else fails, the open play area at the mall will get their wiggles out on a rainy afternoon.


We have to buy a new car this year to accommodate our growing family, so saving money will help make up that new car payment we’ll be adding.  Do you have any other money-saving tips for me?  Was any of this helpful to you?  Let’s share!