Monday, March 31, 2014

Making Lemons

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Meeting my new employee’s pet dragon


We battled the mysterious illnesses of mysteriosity this weekend.  On Friday (a no-preschool day for some reason), Charles didn’t feel well.  Usually, when he says he doesn’t feel well, what he means is “I want to watch Wild Kratts.”  But this time, despite me allowing him to watch an hour of Wild Kratts while I took a nap with Jamie, he still wasn’t feeling all that great.  He threw a tantrum about wanting to watch more TV and then, suddenly, dropped off to sleep:


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This is the kid who doesn’t nap, so I knew he was not faking illness.  Jamie and I spent the time we had without Charles in the backyard, playing in the rain and puddles. 


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He consistently makes a “Beep… Beep… Beep” sound whenever his toys back up.  I die laughing. 


On Saturday, everyone was fine, so we did what we usually do: went to Baby Boot Camp, played around the house, and tried not to incur major injury.  Well, I tried not to let major injuries happen.  The kids, on the other hand, tried to kill each other.


Okay, perhaps not literally, but their play became more and more rough as the day went on.  I had a revelation late in the afternoon, after drying tears and banishing children to timeouts yet again, that these two spend almost every waking moment (and their sleeping moments, for that matter) together.  They are in the same class at preschool.  They go everywhere together with me.  They play together at home and in the yard.  They can’t get away from each other!  What they need is a break from each other before they do actually get hurt.


Which might, or might not, have happened.  On Saturday evening, Charles pushed Jamie (out of my line of sight) and Jamie came running to me to be comforted.  Then he vomited in my arms.  Then he vomited again on the floor.  Later, he vomited in Tony’s arms, two or maybe three times. 


Cause?  Well, I asked Charles how he had pushed Jamie and he said, “in the stomach.”  So maybe there’s that.  Jamie had a hot dog with his mac n cheese lunch on Saturday (don’t judge me – after cooking many, many, many meals, I am running out of ideas and getting lazy when it comes to lunches), which none of the rest of us did.  I threw away the remaining hot dogs to be on the safe side.


Or maybe it was a short-lived bug.  I don’t know.  I only know that he took two good naps without fuss this weekend and now seems to be all better.


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Tony needed a nap, too.  His brain was taxed (!)


Again, always, we seem to be in survival mode.  I made some stellar banana-oatmeal muffins and chocolate lava cakes to keep morale up.  As one does.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Minor Catastrophes

It’s turning into one of those days: a shitstorm of minor catastrophes that slowly suck the life out of you.


My company website and our email are down.  I have done what work I can, but now I, and all of my employees, are sitting around “making” work.  I’m about to go clean the bathroom, which tells you how bad the situation has become. 


The news that the website was down came as I was loading the kids into the car, on time for preschool for once.  I already knew I would be late to the office, though, because my dog is broken.  That’s the other minor catastrophe: sometime between yesterday afternoon and last night, Buster stopped being able to get up from the floor.  Or at least get up easily.  He’s at the vet’s and I am awaiting diagnosis.  I found a big tumor under the fur on his butt, but it could just be that he has a herniated disc and the tumor is nothing.  *Just* a herniated disc.


And then there’s this tragedy in Oso.  I really just have to stop reading the news, but it turns out that they just found the body of the missing 4-month-old girl, and I immediately started crying.  It’s just so terrible that I’m overwhelmed sometimes.


So, you know, I could use some cheering up today.  Anyone know any funny jokes?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Doughnuts Are My Coping Strategy

One sentiment I’ve heard expressed in a variety of manners since we started telling people that we are expecting our third boy is “You’re going to be so busy!”


I don’t think that boys have the monopoly on busy (one of my close friends has two teenaged girls and she has spent every evening for the past eight years attending volleyball and basketball games and track meets, not to mention working with her children’s 4-H groups in the summer), nor do I think the mixture of sexes has anything to do with it; three kids equals busy, no matter if they’re girls or boys.  That said, yes.  Yes, we are going to be busy.


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Having some “alone” time, which both of my children have started requesting


It’s something that happens gradually, this busyness, and for that I guess we can be thankful.  My children are still young enough that there are quiet Saturdays and relaxing evenings at home (okay, that’s an exaggeration – very little that these boys do is quiet and their jumping around in the evening is only relaxing because they occupy each other with their monster fighting in another part of the house while I spend a few relaxing moments loading the dishwasher) and few demands on our time.  But the demands are coming.  Yesterday, we went directly from swim lessons to soccer practice and will do the same on Thursday.  When swim lessons end, soccer practice for young Jamie begins.  School starts next year for Charles, and the start time is about an hour later than I usually try to get out the door with him and Jamie.  I’ll be walking Charles to school, so that will further crunch our time, and I haven’t quite worked out how to get Jamie to preschool in the same timeframe yet.  Field trips and after-school activities and PTA meetings are all coming for us, and coming fast.


In an effort to exhaust them before bedtime and spend some time away from the house with Tony, we took advantage of some recent nice weather to cart the kids to Anacortes to play at a new-to-them park and then shock their systems with some high-sugar doughnuts.


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As fast and as high as possible


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Chocolate-covered, jelly-filled

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Blueberry fritter


Given the fact that Charles fell asleep on the ride home, I’d say we succeeded.

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I figure we have a few more years of parks and doughnuts before we get really busy with these boys.  I intend to enjoy them as much as possible.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Overprotected Life

A friend of mine posted this article on FaceBook the other day.  It’s long, but so worth reading.  Among many great points, it further highlights what I know to be true: we modern parents shelter our modern children too much.


When I think back to my childhood, I remember playing in trees, falling out of trees, playing on rocks at the beach (we weren’t allowed to, but we did it anyway, and got in plenty of trouble), jumping over ditches filled with nasty water, and hacking our ways through local woods (which seemed much larger back then than they actually were).  I want my children to have these experiences, to feel unsupervised, even if I’m totally keeping an eye on them.

Children are born with the instinct to take risks in play, because historically, learning to negotiate risk has been crucial to survival; in another era, they would have had to learn to run from some danger, defend themselves from others, be independent. Even today, growing up is a process of managing fears and learning to arrive at sound decisions. By engaging in risky play, children are effectively subjecting themselves to a form of exposure therapy, in which they force themselves to do the thing they’re afraid of in order to overcome their fear. But if they never go through that process, the fear can turn into a phobia. Paradoxically, Sandseter writes, “our fear of children being harmed,” mostly in minor ways, “may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology.” She cites a study showing that children who injured themselves falling from heights when they were between 5 and 9 years old are less likely to be afraid of heights at age 18. “Risky play with great heights will provide a desensitizing or habituating experience,” she writes.


I recognize that allowing my kids to have some more independence and to do “dangerous” things is crucial to their development.  But the reality of letting them experience independence and danger is so much more difficult to enable.


In the past few days, I have scrutinized my parenting and tried to find ways to let go.  Until I read this article, I considered myself to be a fairly hands-off parent: I don’t help very much at the playground; I allow my children to be far away from me, even though I can still see them; and I let them fall and hurt themselves, repeatedly and often.  I’m usually the most hands-off parent at the playground.  But.  But.  It’s not nearly enough for Charles, who is five-and-a-half years old and obviously yearns to stretch his wings and jump out of that tree.


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The balloons are because it is his “party tree” 


I made a big step toward becoming less-protective this weekend: I stopped yelling at Charles about climbing into the high, small branches of our tree.  He’ll either fall or he won’t; at this point, he understands the risk.  And feeling like he’s taking a risk is, perhaps, exactly what he needs:


Children…have a sensory need to taste danger and excitement; this doesn’t mean that what they do has to actually be dangerous, only that they feel they are taking a great risk. That scares them, but then they overcome the fear. In the paper, Sandseter identifies six kinds of risky play: (1) Exploring heights, or getting the “bird’s perspective,” as she calls it—“high enough to evoke the sensation of fear.” (2) Handling dangerous tools—using sharp scissors or knives, or heavy hammers that at first seem unmanageable but that kids learn to master. (3) Being near dangerous elements—playing near vast bodies of water, or near a fire, so kids are aware that there is danger nearby. (4) Rough-and-tumble play—wrestling, play-fighting—so kids learn to negotiate aggression and cooperation. (5) Speed—cycling or skiing at a pace that feels too fast. (6) Exploring on one’s own.


I have long accepted that my children are going to get hurt no matter how I protect them.  Jamie fell in our driveway on Saturday and got the biggest fat lip I’d ever seen.  Charles gets scrapes and bumps playing in his room.  Injuries are inevitable.  Besides letting them experience risk, when injuries do occur, they teach about consequences, and I’d sure like the lesson of cause and effect to take root in my kids’ brains BEFORE they learn how to drive. 


But just so you see how far I have to go to curb my protective instincts, meet the orangest member of our family:


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Leland was once almost this orange due to over-consumption of carrot juice 


Our street is a loop off of an arterial, and it’s a busy road.  People drive too fast.  I worry about the kids getting hit by a car because, you see, I let them play in the front yard unsupervised.  I let Charles go down the street with the neighborhood kids where I can’t see him.  I’m keeping the orange sign because it helps me let go a little bit so Charles can venture farther afield.


I have stopped following Jamie around the park unless he asks me.  I am trying to come up with new places to take the boys to play, places where they can get dirty and build and destroy and interact with something other than standard, boring, homogenized playground equipment.  Charles is going to get a knife (for cutting sticks, probably – isn’t that what kids do with knives?) when he is six years old, and I recently told Tony that I think we need to get a fire pit this summer.  It’s a big step, because I’ve long been against fire pits due to their dangerous nature and my inability to watch the kids all the time (regardless of how much I love s’mores).


But you know what?  My kids aren’t stupid, and neither am I.  Charles is unlikely to fall into a fire pit and Jamie and the youngest child will be watched closely for a few more years while we teach them how to manage around fire safely.  The important part is that we will teach them how to be safe with fire, so that when they are away from us, they will already know.


Maybe my next step is to accept building a house on a piece of property that is near water.  Better to have the kids learn about water safety and respect water, even if it’s just a small pond, than to have them grow up afraid of the dangers water poses.


With so much information at our fingertips, it’s a constant struggle to know how to proceed.  We do the best we can.  Continuing to learn about what our kids need and deciding how to give it to them is essential to that, as is reevaluating our methods as we learn new information.


I do know this: protecting our children to such an extreme that they never get hurt doing something truly fun is tragic.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Name Game

Charles thinks that he and Jamie should change their names when we have the new baby so that the three of them can be Huey, Dewey, and Louie.  Who gets what name changes all the time, but the cutest part is that Jamie can’t really say any of the names.


“Daddy!  I gon be Hooey, Charles gon be Loooie, and de baby gon be Doobie!”


So, Doobie’s on the list.  Along with Superman (we’d all have to change our names to other superheroes to keep with the theme), Buddy, Bucky, Ducky, Booger, Gooey, Lucky, Nick (because Sally and Nick are the kids who play with the Cat in the Hat), Martin (“Maawtin” says Jamie) and Chris (from Wild Kratts), Stinky, Farty, and Poopy.


I told Charles that he will likely want to call the baby Stinky, Farty, and Poopy on many an occasion anyway, so we should give the child a normal name for the rest of the time.


Thank God Tony and I get to name this child, and not his brothers.  I think we have settled on a name, or at least a first name, but we’re going to have to roll it around in our heads for a while longer to be sure.  The biggest problem with having a last name like Cook and favoring traditional names is that there is bound to be someone famous with the names we are considering for our child.  In an era of “unique” first names, and of everyone trying desperately to distinguish their children by virtue of a unique name, we have come to accept that our boys will all three have stunningly normal, common names. 


I am just waiting for the day that Jamie learns of Captain James Cook’s massacre in Hawaii.  Tony says, “Yeah, but he was in Hawaii.  I mean, if you’re going to be massacred somewhere, it might as well be paradise.”  There’s all kinds of messed-up logic going on in this family.


If this baby had been a girl, she would have been named Josephine Jane.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Boy Town

I worried that I would mourn the lack of a girl in my life – and I’m sure I will at some point – but this baby is a boy, and I love him.  Just as I would never wish for Charles or Jamie to be girls, this baby could never be anything but a boy.


In all disgustingly boring practicality, it’s great that we’re having a boy.  I have almost everything I need for a third boy!  I don’t have to buy clothing or toys for a boy!  I don’t know that parenting a boy is that much different than parenting a girl, but I’ll never have to find out; I’ll never have the added stress of dealing with girl stuff.  I will have three rambunctious boys who like boy stuff and doing boy things. 



All the time is tree-climbing time


The only things I have to buy for this baby are an infant car seat and some new cloth diapers.  That’s it.  This will be the least expensive baby of the bunch!


Oh, except for the fact that we need a new car.  That’s going to be expensive.  And so this baby will be the most expensive of the bunch, I suppose.


On the other hand, I will never shop for dresses for a daughter.  I will never take a daughter to get a pedicure.  I will never get to do “girl stuff” with a girl of my own.  And that is a little bit heartbreaking.



Several more years of mini cars, LEGOs, and that Ptchew! Ptchew! Ptchew! sound


I’ve received a lot of “congratulations!” from people since our announcement, as well as a lot of pitying looks and condolences.  This is the last baby.  I am a mom of three boys.  I love them with all my heart, and I can hardly wait to hold the third one in my arms.


We didn’t have a third baby because we were “trying for a girl.”  We had a third because we wanted a third.  I’m not “pro-boy” or “anti-girl.”  I think parents of girls work just as hard as parents of boys, even if everyone says “boys are easier.”  I would have loved to have a daughter.  I would have loved for Tony to have a “Daddy’s girl.”  But I get three men instead, and they’ll love me as only sons can love their mothers, and I am happy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It’s A…

We now have confirmation that the Cook Family Ratio has changed:




It would appear that the XY team has another player.



We’re thrilled that we get to welcome a new baby boy in July!

Friday, March 14, 2014

I Love My Body

I had a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, and like usual, my blood pressure was too high at the beginning of the appointment, but totally settled down at the end.  Thankfully, my doctor is smart enough to measure twice.  Now I have strict orders to tell the medical assistant not to take my blood pressure until the end of the appointment.

Why is my blood pressure high at the beginning of the appointment?  The weigh-in is first, of course, and even though I KNOW that I will gain weight, a lot of weight, I am always hopeful.  I’m hopeful that eating healthily (I seriously eat less pregnant than I did non-pregnant and it’s almost all good stuff… right now I’m munching on a snack of cucumber and bell pepper slices) and working out hard three times a week and walking the dog for 45 minutes five nights a week will keep me from somehow using every calorie I ingest to add to my girth.  Alas, it is not to be.  I am healthy, I am fit, and I weigh 180 pounds… 35 pounds more than I did pre-pregnancy.  My hips and pelvis are loose and wide, my butt, thighs, and arms are big, and I’m beginning to get softer in the face.

It’s difficult.  It’s tough to look in the mirror and be happy.  It’s hard to try on something as innocuous as boots and realize that my legs are too large for them.  It’s painful to know that there are people who will look at me and wonder why I “let myself go” during pregnancy, when in reality, I am fighting as hard a possible to stay fit and firm.  I’m just losing.

But the worst thing I can do, the absolute worst, is to let myself get into a funk about it.  I am fat.  I will remain fat for at least a year after giving birth.  And someday, when I’m not so close to my pregnancies, I’ll look back at the photos and I won’t cringe.  And when I finally get rid of all the size 14 post-pregnancy clothing, I’ll celebrate.  In the meantime, I’m doing my best to feel good about myself.  Some days I succeed.  Some days I don’t.

In an effort to be positive, I decided to write down everything I love about my body.  Imagine if we made every pre-teen and teenager and adult do this once a year?  Self confidence starts with self acceptance and self love.


I love my body.

I love my body because it has held me upright for almost 33 years on this planet.  It has carried me to foreign places and new experiences.  It has skied, sledded, mountain climbed, traversed cities, biked, swam, and danced.

I love my body because at 22 weeks pregnant with my third child, I can still run a half-mile without stopping.

I love my body because it has carried three successful, healthy pregnancies.

I love my body because the sum of its parts is amazing.  But the individual parts are pretty amazing, too:

I love my eyes because, even if they need a little help, they see the world around me, including my children’s lovely forms, my husband’s brilliant smile, my dog’s happy face, and all the people who mean so much to me in my life.

I love my hands because they are large and strong and can hold fast to crying babies and my children’s hands.  They wipe tears and knead bread and pet the dog.  They type quickly and surely.  They enable my life.

I love my arms because they are strong.  They help me do push-ups.  They carry my children.  They wrap around my husband as we share the couch before bed.  They open car doors and carry heavy bags and dig for buried treasure in the sand.

I love my legs because they are powerful.  They can run and jump and carry me and my swollen belly all over the place.  They support me when I am tired and they stand strong while I am cooking or cleaning or working.

I love my feet.  They are big and stable.  They help me keep my balance so that I can catch children running into the street or dance with those same children in my living room.

I love my nose.  It can smell my delicious cooking and my son’s disgusting socks that he left on the floor.  It can smell my babies’ heads and their sweet skin.  It can tell me which way the wind is blowing (cows from the east, ocean from the west), if the flowers are blooming, and who needs his diaper changed.

I love my mouth.  It can taste good food.  It kisses my husband and my children.  It smiles at people and pets I love and even at strangers.

I love my body.

I love my body because it is mine.  And even though I sometimes look at myself and sigh, or feel like crying, my body doesn’t give up.  It doesn’t wither under my tears.  My body keeps going, stays strong, and helps me bounce back.

I love my body.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Surviving Tax Season

This is my seventh tax season as the wife of a CPA, my fifth as a mother, my third as a mother of two children, and my third while pregnant.  It hasn’t always been easy.  In fact, it’s never been easy.  It’s tough to work and parent and maintain some semblance of a life when your partner works 85 to 100 hours each week for three straight months.  But we continue to make it through relatively unscathed, and I’ve learned a ton about how to have the best possible life during tax season over the past few years and how NOT to resent my husband during this time.  Here are my tips.


Surviving Tax Season


1. Hire a housekeeper.


Yes, it can be expensive, but it’s worth it if you can swing it.  We didn’t do this until three years ago when I was pregnant with Jamie and could no longer scrub our laminate floors.  I wish we had done it sooner, even if we only retained our housekeeper during tax season (we now have her come every two weeks, year-round). 


When your spouse is a tax accountant, ALL of the household chores during tax season fall to you, as well as the grocery shopping and the ferrying children to school and play dates and sports practices.  It’s no surprise that with all that work you can come to harbor extreme resentment for your partner, the one who comes home, bathes the kids, wrestles with them, and then goes to bed never having touched the dishwasher or the laundry or even picked up the dirty pair of underwear he left on the floor of the bathroom that morning (because, I don’t know, it was too hard to throw the underwear in the hamper that was four feet away?).  Forget about your spouse thinking to vacuum or clean a toilet during tax season.  It’s not going to happen.  They’re too tired, and you don’t want to fight about this.


Are you pregnant?  Well, your spouse won’t pick up dog crap in the yard, either, even though the smell makes you gag and bending over hurts your back.


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Just wookit dat face.  He’d pick up after himself if he had hands.


Search local listings for housekeeping companies.  You should pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $20-$30 per hour and the person or company you hire should be bonded and insured.  Get recommendations from your friends.  Don’t go with a national company unless they truly have competitive rates.  Outsource your toilet cleaning and your mirror scrubbing and spend the time after the kids and your spouse go to bed reading and folding the laundry.  You’ll still have to pick up dog poop, but at least you won’t have to scrub the floors.


2.  Set a schedule with your CPA


During my first few years of tax season, Tony didn’t have a schedule; he worked all the time.  I never knew when or even if he would be home for dinner.  When we didn’t have kids, this wasn’t such a big deal.  I had friends, I was in grad school and then I had a job, I went out on my own and kept myself busy. 


But then we had children and I wanted to stab my husband every night at six pm as I futilely watched for his truck out the window.  There were nights when he didn’t come home until after midnight and I spent most of those evenings plotting his demise.  Surely I could get away with murder?


I think every spouse who is home with the kids feels this way about the spouse who works late.  I have organized my life such that I pick the boys up from school around four pm and then we play or exercise or go to sports practices together.  When the boys were babies, I picked them up much earlier.  Regardless of how much I love my children, by the time 5:30 rolls around, I want my husband to be home, tax season or not.  Every minute after his “usual” time is torture and lasts for at least ten hours.  And if dinner’s late because he’s late?  Watch out, the kids turn into fire-spewing dragons or worse, puddles of tears who are convinced they’ve never had a meal in their lives.


For the past three years, Tony has come home by six pm unless he has told me ahead of time that he has a late meeting AND he takes Sundays off (well, he goes into the office before anyone else is awake for a few hours, but it totally counts because he’s home by breakfast).  He gets up ridiculously early during the week, often leaving the house at four am so he can get a “full day’s work” (14+ hours) in at the office, but he’s home by six.  He’s in bed by nine, but he’s home by six.  I’ll reemphasize that because it’s important: he’s home by six.  He gets to see the kids while they’re awake, have dinner with us, wrestle with the boys, have an honest-to-goodness conversation with me, read bedtime stories, and be a presence in our lives.  Knowing that he will be there every night, without fail, for dinner and the after-dinner routine, makes all the difference in my attitude toward him. 


Mornings are easier for me to deal with alone; we’re all refreshed and happy to be starting our day, not bogged down and tired from all the activities of the past ten hours. 


Set a schedule with your spouse that works for you and your children, and you will come to know a certain peace in following the schedule.  The kids know that daddy’s at work in the morning, but he’s always home for dinner.  I know that even if he’s not sharing an after-dinner drink or bowl of ice cream on the couch with me while we watch Netflix, he’s at least in the same house.


Oh, and set a schedule for sex, too.  Are Sundays the only day you get a nap?  The only day your spouse isn’t unconscious by nine pm?  Then put the kids to bed early every Sunday and get busy.  There’s no need for a three-month dry spell.  If you do that, then the taxes win. 


3. Get away, far away.


The kids and I try to pack ourselves up and leave town at least three times during tax season for a long weekend.  Luckily, there is a three day weekend in February, during which we impose upon friends in Portland, Oregon.  We just finished a four day weekend at my parents’ house in Ilwaco, and I’m hoping to go east of the mountains for a visit to my in-laws in a few weeks.


There are multiple reasons for these trips we take: primarily, we leave because Tony has lots of work to do and I know that he appreciates a few days in which he doesn’t have to come home by six pm.  Or at all.  And he can work Sunday.  This is especially helpful, I know, right before the major deadlines: March 15 and April 15.


These trips are also a lot of fun.  Tax season is in the dreariest part of the year, when it rains all the time in Washington and it’s dark by 5:30 pm.  We’re busy (more on that coping mechanism later), so we don’t have a lot of time to just hang out together.  A change of scenery, a visit with people we love but whom we don’t often see, are just the things to kick us out of the mid-winter funk.


And if you happen to be pregnant and parenting small children as a tax widow, getting away for the weekend can be a Godsend.  Other people are around to entertain your children, to help you brush their teeth and get them dressed and fed in the morning.  Friends and family have extra arms to carry diaper bags and extra eyes to monitor children in a crowded children’s museum or zoo.  After going so long without this because your husband is working all the time, it’s sheer heaven to just hand off your burdens for a bit.  They might even let you have a nap or two, and I cannot even begin to describe the bliss of a nap when pregnant during tax season.  It’s like eating forbidden chocolate.


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Grandma stories 


If you’re not pregnant, friends and family will share wine with you, so at least you’re not drinking alone, late at night, while your spouse and the children sleep upstairs.


4. Let him go away.


Tony plays basketball three mornings a week for two hours.  Oh, it would be soooo easy to resent him this time away from us and from work.  But we’ve lived through tax season with no outlet, physical or otherwise, for Tony, and I have no wish to repeat the experience.


When Charles was small, Tony didn’t play basketball in the mornings.  He also didn’t have a schedule and ate like crap (because he wasn’t coming home for dinner to eat what I made).  And Charles never slept, so whenever Tony was home to sleep, he was constantly awakened by a colicky three-month-old.  It was the PITS.  And, no surprise, Tony ended tax season 15 pounds overweight and with worrisome bouts of tachycardia.  Yikes!


You know the saying, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”?  You know how getting some alone time, with no demands from work or family, can restore your peace and sense of well-being?  Let your CPA spouse go.  Let him or her have time away from the office, doing something for themselves, regularly.  Especially if that something is physical activity that will keep them healthy through the end of tax season.  Because one of the few things that can make tax season worse on a whole family is adding serious health problems to the mix.  And if the CPA ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. 


5.  Get busy & exercise!


It’s no secret that I’m overscheduled.  I do too much.  I’m always going somewhere.  But, it keeps me from being lonely and feeling bored at home with the kids.  I work in the morning and then in the afternoon, the kids and I have something going on: swim lessons, soccer practice, Baby Boot Camp, play dates.  The months of tax season pass quickly like this.


My children are two-and-a-half years apart, so while Charles can take swim lessons at the Y, Jamie is not yet old enough.  This is okay, though, and I would encourage any tax widow or widower with kids to embrace different activities for different kids.  Swim lessons twice a week have become reading time for me and Jamie – he doesn’t feel neglected and he gets to cuddle with me on the pool bleachers while I read him his favorite stories.  This assuages some of my guilt for having read to Charles much more when he was littler than I read to Jamie (no time!).  Pretty soon, Charles will do big kid soccer on Thursdays while Jamie will do Bitty Soccer on Tuesdays.  I’ll use the time alone with each kid while the other plays to catch up with them and spend time with them.  Sort of like a mommy date. except no ice cream.


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Exercise, while important for your tax accountant, is also important for you.  Because Tony works all the time, I can’t get to the gym on my own.  If you have small kids, find something like Baby Boot Camp – the kids will exercise with you, you’ll make friends, and you won’t have to worry about childcare.  Staying fit helps me to stay sane, which helps me to not resent my husband and this time of year so much.




I used to count down the days until the end of tax season; I don’t anymore.  We are busy and have lots to look forward to between now and April 15th.  And after April 15th?  I’ve got a loooong “honey-do” list to tackle before the baby gets here.  Sometimes, when the days are tough, it’s satisfying to just add things to the list, knowing that my husband will take care of them later. 


It’s all about survival this time of year.  Hopefully, these tips will help you to cope.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


As weekends without my husband go, this was one of the best.  It helped that we took Friday and Monday off, but miracle of miracles, we also had fantastic traffic on both the trip down to the beach and the trip home.  That NEVER happens.  Other than frequent potty stops until the napping started, we ate our PBJs and breezed right through, clocking both drives at about 4.5 hours. 


The next time we make that drive, we’ll likely be potty training, so we’ll stop every hour.  Considering that I need to pee that frequently anyway, it won’t be such a bad deal.  AND Tony will be with us then, so he can stay in the car with a sleeping child or an iPod-watching child while I run into the bathroom at a rest stop, or I can stay in the car while he helps Charles or Jamie pee on the side of the highway.


The next time after that that we make the drive to the beach, we’ll have a newborn.  I just… I can’t even.


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Falling asleep at the dinner table


You might think that, after working with my brother all week long and living down the street from him, I wouldn’t need to spend time with him on a weekend away.  You would be wrong, however.  On vacation, when we leave the office and the daily drudgery of life behind, we enjoy each other’s company quite a bit.  I’m really glad we scheduled to visit our parents on the same weekend.


We didn’t do much on Friday (well, I took a ridiculously LOOOONG nap, if that counts as “something”), but Grandpa Roger and Uncle Leland took the boys on a hike up to the Northhead Light House.  No photos, but two exhausted kids.


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Who were then further exhausted by wrestling with Grandpa Joe.


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Jamie decided to pedal – he had been taught ages ago, but even if he understands the mechanics of something, he has to decide to do it.  By the end of the weekend, he was careening through the house, scaring the dogs.

It rained, nay, poured, all day Saturday.  The boys bounced off the walls inside, helped Grandpa and Uncle Leland and Stephanie (who came for a visit, too!) in the shop, and spent ninety minutes dancing to Disney songs before dinner with me (that was my exercise for the day).  Result: falling asleep on the couch before bedtime.


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Lucky for us and our burgeoning cabin fever, the weather was perfect for a wintry day at the beach on Sunday: misty and breezy, but not too cold.  We drove to Beard’s Hollow and Charles became a mountain climber.

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Jamie sort of stood around the whole time.  I accidentally zipped his lip in his coat.  Am awesome.


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Overexposed… to fun!


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Paradise, n’est-ce pas?  We were loathe to leave.

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Our next beach adventure will include the boys’ initiation into razor clam digging in April – I can hardly wait!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

On the Road Again

Oh, hiiiii.  I’ve never wanted something caffeinated more in my life and not been able to have it.


Jamie was up at 6:15, ready for breakfast.  In the ensuing two hours and forty-five minutes, both of my children stalled so much that we were really late to preschool and work.  If anyone knows of a way to get my children to do something the first time I ask, instead of waiting until I have asked, asked a second time, taken away toys, taken away books, threatened them with their lives, and then walked to put stuff in the car and maaaybe made them think I was leaving without them, I’m all ears.


So we’re leaving again.  This time, we’re going to the beach to visit my parents, where I have dreams of being able to take a nap or at least sleep past seven in the morning.  Leland will be there, too, and he’s requested that mom make Stuffed Monkey Brains (stuffed bell peppers) for dinner, so I’ll get to see the war between fascination at ostensibly eating monkey brains (what?  I’m not going to tell them what it really is!) and automatic rejection of a new food.  I wonder which will win?  We’d better make some nachos just in case rejection wins out. 


I hope you have a great weekend.  I know we will, so long as I can survive the multi-hour trip in the car with two loud children and a dog, with only my cunning to protect me.  Tony is, of course, staying home (at the office) to work all weekend long.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sleeping Beauties

There’s something about children sleeping… their faces soften, the creases smooth out, and they resemble their infant selves more than anything.  When I look at my boys sleep, I am conscious of not only the overwhelming love a parent feels for his or her children, but also a deep sense of desire and longing for my last baby, the baby inside.


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Jamie sleeps with us most nights.  Not all night; he shuffles into our room around midnight in a sleepy haze and quietly looks at me.  I help him scramble into bed between me and Tony and I get up to go to the bathroom.  When I wake up to go to the bathroom the next time (not usually more than a couple hours later), I gently wake Tony and ask him to return the boy to his own bed, the boy whose body has somehow grown in the last two hours to take up all available space in our bed and then some.


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He rejoins us at about 5 am.  Sometimes this is just after Tony leaves for work, sometimes just before.  By early morning, I start to feel chill and I welcome his warmth, his sweet breath blowing in my ear, even the faint tang of wet diaper.


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Charles doesn’t come into bed with us anymore.  He sleeps like a rock through the night.  He’s the first to fall asleep and the last to wake up.  He doesn’t smell so sweet anymore, either.  But oh, he looks it.


I’m hyper aware of time passing these days.  Maybe it’s tax season and the busyness of my own work coupled with the myriad tasks I do alone at home.  Maybe it’s knowing, with certainty, that this will be the last baby.  These next 18+ weeks will be the last weeks I will feel a baby kick inside of me.  The next few years will be the last years of the newborn smell, of relaxing with a sleeping infant in my arms, and yes, getting up in the middle of the night, stumbling through lack of sleep, all to nourish and comfort and love the last of my children.


I know now what I did not know, did not feel, before: that soon this last child, the one who is even now beginning to wake me with kicks and back flips in my womb, will eventually sleep like a rock instead of sneaking into my room in the middle of the night, ever-so-sweetly asking to get into bed with me and Tony.  The soft cheeks and kissable thighs will disappear to reveal strong muscles and gangly limbs, the baby words will gradually turn into multi-lingual complex sentences.  Jamie, Charles, and 3rd Baby will all be kids, energetic and unwilling to be snuggled for long periods of time.


I would, if I could, take back all those wishes I made for my kids to just sleep, dammit, in their own beds, all night long.


Relish.  Savor.  Slow down.  Breathe.  Be thankful for these daily gifts my growing children give.  These are my mantras.  I cannot stop time, but I can attempt to imprint the memories and preserve the feeling of my babies in my arms.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Conquering a Bad Habit

Do you know that Berenstain Bears book, The Bad Habit?  We have a copy, my copy from when I was small, and along with the rest of the Berenstain Bears collection, it is read often.  That particular story deals with Sister Bear’s bad habit of biting her nails.


Several months ago, after reading this story a few times (we always read stories somewhere in between a few and a million times), Charles started biting his nails.  To the quick.  To the point that his fingers were bleeding and getting infected.  And then he started biting his toenails.  Sister Bear’s ten penny motivation didn’t work for Charles, nor did anything else.  I thought, for sure, that after we treated his infected fingers he would stop, but no.


In November, shortly after his birthday, he decided that the toy he really wanted (now that he had his Batman Utility Belt) was a Spiderman Web Shooter.  I made him a deal that if he stopped biting his nails, I would buy him whatever toy he wanted.  That was four months ago, and this past weekend, I was finally able to clip his nails like a normal kid. 


We went out and bought a Nerf-style bow and arrow set (much cooler than the web shooter) that has been in his hands ever since.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he slept with it last night.


It would be unfair, however, to overshadow the larger issue by focusing merely on the bribery; bribery has always worked for Charles.  But isn’t it impressive that a five-year-old was able to break a nervous habit like nail-biting?  He’s too young to have peer pressure and I thought he was too young to wield his strong will in such a positive direction.  I know adults who bite their nails or who have other nervous tics.  Charles, at age five, conquered his bad habit, all on his own.  We didn’t punish him or paint his nails with nasty-tasting stuff or ridicule him or even talk to him about it every day.  We merely promised a reward when he accomplished the goal.


I’m so proud of him.


Jamie, on the other hand, appears to be totally unmotivated by bribery.  I hope I figure him out soon so that I have some hope of winning the thumb-sucking battle.