Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sorry, Thank You

I’m one of those people who has pet peeves… lots of them.  Do you creep into the crosswalk without stopping first at the stop line to see if there are pedestrians?  IT REALLY ANNOYS ME WHEN YOU DO THAT.  Do you “share” pictures on FaceBook with bad grammar written over them (such as, “I seen that”)?  GAWD, STOP IT NOW.  Are you grumpy or blasé on the phone as a customer service representative?  IT’S YOUR JOB TO BE NICE.


Okay, okay.  The only person I can change is myself, right?  So I try to do just that.  I notice, nearly every morning, some driver stopping in the middle of the crosswalk because he or she can’t see to turn into traffic.  But there I am, baby strapped to my front, pushing a stroller, dog on the leash, kindergartner prattling on about Star Wars, and I’d like to cross to the next corner.  I’m not going to walk my troupe out into traffic, so I have to wait until the car in the intersection either backs up (unlikely, in my experience) or turns into traffic (it can take awhile).  So I’ve been paying close attention to my stopping habits in the car.  I try hard to stop at stop lines and then creep out into the crosswalk to check traffic, after I look for pedestrians.


I try to drive like I learned how to drive 19 years ago and follow the damn rules.


This is not, actually, a post about driving.


There are two things that have been bothering me lately that are much tougher habits to break: excuses and taking compliments.


Have you noticed that when most people are late, they say “Sorry I’m late, but…” and immediately give the reason (excuse) why?  For me, the reason is often that I tried to do too many things in the short time before I had to leave to be somewhere.  Like, I’ll just put this load of laundry in so it will be done when I get home, even though if I left right now, not five minutes from now, I’d be pushing it to be on time.  That, or the kids wouldn’t put on their shoes.  Seriously, what is with that?  They want to go where we’re going, but they never want to put on their shoes.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I ask the boys to put on their shoes each morning.  Leaving the house is the most yell-y part of my day.


Well, anyway, excuses.  They’re kind of rude, you know?  Like, you were expected to show up somewhere on time and you didn’t, so you say you’re sorry… and then you add that little “but” in there to somehow justify yourself.  It’s not just lateness, it’s “sorry I didn’t get this done, but…” or “sorry the house is such a mess, but…”  And I used to do it all the time but I try not to anymore because people don’t need the reason for my tardiness or absence or absent-mindedness or ineffective prioritizing skills. 


I think just saying “sorry” is much more respectful of whomever I’m saying it to.  I’m late to Boot Camp?  “I’m sorry I’m late.”  End of story.  I didn’t iron the shirts?  “I’m sorry.”  The house is a pigsty?  “I’m sorry for the mess.”  Simple, respectful, correct.  I’m not trying to convince myself or anyone else that it’s somehow acceptable for me to have done wrong by giving an excuse.


Sometimes there’s a good story, of course.  The house might be a mess because the kids found the Costco-sized package of shaving cream.  Or the dog brought a dead rat inside.  Maybe you’re late because the baby had a blowout of such epic proportions and you’re still reeling.  Save the story.  Telling it immediately following an apology tempers the apology and makes it less valuable.


Similarly, it bugs me when I give someone a compliment and they say “Thank you, but…”  Like, I have a terrible habit of saying “thank you, but I still have 20 pounds to go!” whenever someone compliments me on losing the baby weight.  I do still have 20 pounds to go before I’m at pre-pregnancy weight, but I don’t need to remind anyone!  Someone just told me I look great, and I can’t just say “thank you!” and enjoy the compliment?  What’s wrong with me?


Saying “thank you, but…” just undermines the compliment.  It’s not respectful to the compliment-giver and it’s not respectful to yourself.  “You did a wonderful job on this (project, assignment, job)!”  “Thank you, but it was nothing.”  Oh, really?  It was nothing?  So you don’t value your effort and neither should I?  “Your hair looks fabulous!”  “Thanks, but I totally need to get it cut, it is so grody.”  (Can we please bring “grody” back as an adjective?)  Oh, so you don’t like yourself and my taste in hair is skewed?  I don’t want to send those negative messages, so I’m trying my damndest to just say “thank you!” and leave it at that. 


Try it this week.  Try to stop at the stop line before creeping into the crosswalk.  Try to just say “I’m sorry,” instead of giving an excuse.  Say “thank you” when someone gives you a compliment and don’t amend it with anything.  It feels good, I promise.


So there you have it: Amelia’s Continuous Self-Improvement Plan: Don’t Commit Your Own Pet Peeves.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Winning the Heart of My Three-Year-Old

Recent Jamie quotes:


Upon waking first thing in the morning, after what must have been an awesome dream: “Mommy!  Cows outside!”


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Singing: “Who let the farts out?! Thbbbt! Thbbbt! Thbbt!”


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Jamie: “Mommy, when I go to bed, I don’t even close my eyes.”

Me: “You don’t?  How is that even possible?”

Jamie: “I have the instructions in my head.”


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We spend a lot of time walking to & from school.  It’s tired work.


Jamie, pleading: “Peeeease, Mommy, can we go to the store to get a chainsaw?”

Me, incredulous: “No.”

Jamie, whining: “But I NEED a chainsaw to cut wood with daddy!”

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I am extraordinarily lucky.  I have the opportunity to own a business with my brother and make my own working hours – I have to work, but if I work hard, I don’t have to work that much. 


When Charles and Jamie were small, I eased them into daycare.  Neither went full-time until they were at least a year old, and I wanted to do the same with Freddie, but with one major difference: I decided to pull Jamie back to part-time as well.  Jamie and Freddie now attend daycare three days per week, and even though it’s really difficult (I sometimes have more work to do than I can complete while they’re in daycare), it’s been a positive change for Jamie to have more time with me and Freddie.


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Charles is such a social kid – he truly wanted to be in daycare full-time when he was small.  Jamie, on the other hand, really likes quiet time with me, reading and playing.  He does fine in daycare, even loves some of it, but spending two (more – he’s with me on the weekends, too, of course) days at home or running errands seems to really keep him happy.  He acts out less and acts up more.  Though he still throws the usual three-year-old tantrums, they are fewer and further between.


There are so many sacrifices in parenting.  Jamie’s well-being is worth the sacrifice of my working hours.  I’m not saying that I’ll be able to do this forever, but for now, it’s really nice.


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Monday, January 12, 2015

Sleep Files # “I’m Losing My Mind”

I realized this morning that since Freddie was born in July, Tony has gone on three multi-night out-of-town trips.  Whether the stated purpose of these trips is fishing, work, or “hanging out with the guys,” the real reason for leaving is to get some sleep.  Because around here, sleep is in short supply.


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Middle of the night


Freddie started out a better sleeper than the his brothers and, for a month or so there, he slept 6 hours straight every night.  Even when he was waking often, I could usually get him right back to sleep after a change and a feeding. 


No longer.


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The best place to sleep is on me.


Freddie wakes every two or three hours, gets changed, eats, and then fusses himself awake when I set him in the crib or pops his eyes open, ready to play, as soon as he burps.  Watching a six-month-old happily roll around in his crib, playing with his toes at 2 am is the pits.  I can’t go to bed because he screams when I leave the room.


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We all need a nap.

It’s probably teeth.  Which is a short way of saying, “there’s shit-all I can do about it.”


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Let them eat avocado.


Thankfully, Freddie is the third child.  This, too, shall pass.  I hope.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Baby Love

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Look who’s six months old!

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Things he hates: eczema (I hate it, too).  Things he loves: his brothers, his exersaucer, baths.

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Things he’s not so sure about: dogs.

Freddie’s eczema continued to trouble us this past month – between bleach baths (yes, crazy, but it works!) and steroid cream, it’s mostly under control now.  When he’s not itchy or in pain, he’s a happy baby.  When he is, well, he spends a lot of time in the Ergo, nestled up next to me.

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He rolls and rolls and rolls around the room.

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He prefers to have someone paying attention to him all the time; luckily, his brothers are often happy to oblige.

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No one can make him laugh like Charles can.  I’m beginning to see a bit why “middle child syndrome” is a thing – Charles thinks Freddie is adorable, but Jamie is just his annoying kid brother, even if they do play together really well.  Jamie likes Freddie okay, but doesn’t see what the big deal is.  Don’t tell me the cure is to have a fourth child because IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

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I’m super happy with my family the way it is.  These boys of mine are perfect.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Keeping Busy When I’m Busy

I was so busy this past month that I really scaled back my life to the essentials only; I didn’t blog, I didn’t call friends, I used Amazon to purchase most of my Christmas gifts, Tony and I didn’t go out except to work functions, we didn’t do big Christmas events.  Instead, I spent every non-work moment with my family, either doing things for them (housework and cooking, etc.) or with them (teaching the boys Go Fish, building LEGOs, reading stories, etc.).


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It would have been extremely easy for me to turn on the television and cue up several episodes of Wild Kratts or RescueBots (I did that once, when I was in desperate need of a nap, but only once), but it was far more enjoyable to find activities for us all to do together. 


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I’m not sure what changed, but Jamie and Charles, when they’re not pummeling the snot out of each other, play really well together now.  I often hear them say to one another, “Pretend that I’m…” as they play.  My kitchen is super clean because they played LEGOs downstairs for long stretches of time each afternoon.


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When we’re constantly going somewhere, doing some activity, I think we forget about all the cool toys the boys have.  We devoted whole afternoons to trains, cars, costumes, and books because Freddie took naps and I went back-and-forth to the office.


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Simplify: a motto I’ve heard so often.  I thought my life was simple before, but when I excised the extras, I was left with the simplicity of family.  We’ll likely remember this Christmas as one of our busiest, but I’ll also remember it as one during which I really grew as a mom.  Sometimes I say, “I wasn’t meant to be a stay-at-home mom,” but the reality is that I just didn’t want to be one.  After two weeks of concentrated time with my kids (since I couldn’t just drop them at daycare), I find that I am capable of staying home.  I’m not going to, but I could.  At any rate, it makes it easier to stare down the impending doom of tax season and the long Saturdays we’ll spend together.  My kids don’t need complicated activities and schedules.  They simply need me.  I can give them that.



Monday, January 5, 2015


The big list of recent stressors:


1. Sleepless nights.  It’s not the dairy.  I’ve reinstated cheese, ice cream, and yogurt in my life and Freddie is not exhibiting any gastrointestinal distress.  But he still ISN’T SLEEPING.  He wakes, gets changed, eats, falls asleep on my shoulder, is gently laid in his crib, and opens his beautiful blue eyes right up, fussing and fighting.  It takes an hour or two to get him back to sleep every time he wakes in the night, which is often.  He naps like a dream, though.  Too bad I don’t have time for naps, because…


2. We moved our business.  For the past four months, we have been renovating (ha!  I say “we,” but I really mean that we have been paying contractors and relying on the attentions of our parents to manage those contractors – I’m a 33-year-old woman and without the help of my parents these past few months, I would not have a business to run.  Grown up, but I still need my mommy and daddy) an old building here in Mount Vernon and we moved the entire business over the past week.  You know, during…


3. Christmas.  The most wonderful time of the year, right?  Or the most stressful because all three of my children were out of school/daycare, I had extra family in town long-term (not stressful because I love them and they all have suitably low expectations, but still more bodies in a small space) and I was the default meal-preparer, and I completely put off Christmas shopping because of busy-ness and the business.  Conversations were dominated by the business move, children were shunted back and forth to workspaces that became increasingly uninhabitable as the office and the warehouse were boxed up and put on trucks and you know the thing with moving, right?  It all looks profoundly worse before it looks better.  It still looks worse.  I cannot find my stapler.


Okay, so it’s not a big list.  But put it all together and it made for a hell of an end to 2014.  As a family, we didn’t do anything extra this holiday season.  No Lights of Christmas, no driving around to look at local light displays, no cookie baking, no Christmas-themed movies… bare minimum up in here.  Fortunately, no one felt the lack.  We filled in the spaces with love, of course.  And presents.  And grandparents (thank God for grandparents).


It is tough not to carry the stress forward into what should be a less-stressful new year.  After all, the business is now only making one rent payment, we are all moved, we have a full complement of employees, and Freddie and Jamie are in daycare together three days a week (gasp!), allowing me just enough time to focus on my job.  Things are calming down; I need to do so, too.


So, here’s my short list of resolutions for 2015:


1.  Be more thorough.  I just thought of this today, but it’s a good one.  I tend to do a job just enough to get by because I have so many jobs.  Maybe if I break things down into easier-to-accomplish tasks and quit bitching about them, I’ll get more done.  I’ll reorganize one shelf of the “pantry” (a set of shelves in my garage) at a time and instead of just shoving things on shelves when I come home with a load of groceries, I’ll organize them right away.  I’ll put appliances away immediately after using them (bread machine, I’m looking at you).  I’ll wipe down the counter and table after each meal.  I’ll hang jackets up or yell at my kids to do it so they don’t pile up on the stair railing.


2.  Lose these last 20 pounds of baby weight.  Slowly but surely.


3.  Continue to lavish attention on my children.  You would think that this wouldn’t be tough, but I am easily distracted by the abundance of tasks that awaits me every day.


What are your resolutions?


Merry New Year!