Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fashion Idiocy

Every day, I walk Charles to school.  I strap Freddie into the Ergo, I strap Jamie into the stroller, and I make Charles walk because (according to him) I am mean.  I’ve learned that the thing to do is to get him talking about something that is interesting to him right when we start walking to stave off the whining and complaints about his legs hurting.


School is a whole half-mile away, so obviously walking there every morning and walking home every afternoon is sheer TORTURE.


Since the beginning of the school year, I have logged 200 miles of walking, give or take.  One mile in the morning, one in the afternoon.  Five days a week. 


Regardless of my outfit for the day, I always wear my sneakers.  My boots, heels, and ballet flats just don’t hold up to two miles pushing a stroller and wearing a baby, uphill both ways (no, really, we go both up and down a hill, so technically there is an uphill in both directions).  I get dressed in the morning for work in my dresses, skirts, skinny jeans, or slacks and then pull on warm socks and my sneakers and hit the road.  Obviously, I change before I leave for work.


There are a few ladies who walk every lunch hour near my office and they always wear sneakers with their power suits.  When you’re walking for fitness (or to get to school on time), you need appropriate footwear.  I never, in all the times I saw them walking, smirked or giggled or judged their footwear.  OBVIOUSLY, they didn’t choose sneakers as the perfect complement to their nice skirts.


photo 4 (27)


I have sacrificed footwear fashion to walk with my boys.  Even yesterday, I wore skinny jeans with socks pulled up and my sneakers on.  When I got home, I put on my tall boots.


photo (35)

See?  At work I look (sort of) normal. 


I didn’t ever think about looking like a fashion idiot until a friend pointed out that I was one on FaceBook.  What’s with the socks?  Nothing before.  I figured most people would understand that I probably don’t dress like that except to walk my kid to school.  But now?  What’s with the socks is my rapidly fraying sense of self-esteem.  A fashion idiot, passed by hundreds of people every day, all of whom are noting how ridiculous I look in my skinny jeans, long socks, and sneakers.  Or my skirt and socks and sneakers.  It’s all I can think about now as I trudge up and down that stupid hill. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Getting Away

The weather around here has been nuts.  Last month we had “Juneuary,” this month… Febru-summer?  Februly?  At any rate, it’s been nice.  Not actually “summer nice,” but “spring nice.”  A couple of weekends ago, I rounded up all the boys and told them to get in the car, we were going for a drive.


photo 4 (24) photo 3 (66)     

They would have been happy to stay home and tear up the  house and yard, but mama was going stir-crazy.


photo 2 (86)


We hot-footed it down to Deception Pass and Rosario Beach for some rock throwing and stick hauling.


photo 3 (65)photo 4 (23)


You would have thought that we never let Charles and Jamie out of their cages before.  They ran and jumped and threw and climbed and generally behaved like escaped prisoners seeing sunlight for the first time in ten years.


photo 1 (87)


Winter gets you down, I guess, even when it’s an especially mild one.  That, and we don’t ever go on little day trips like this.  We should totally do it much more often.


photo 2 (87)


A good reminder to me that getting out of the house, crawling out of our normal routine, is good and good for us.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Classical Music Kids

A few months ago, we got an upright piano.  The piano was free, the tuning was not.  Bottom line, “music” is now played in our house every day.


Both Charles and Jamie claim they want to play the drum set when they get older, so I told them that they have to learn to play the piano first.  Like, as a prerequisite.  Like, if you talk to them, the party line is that one CANNOT learn to play the drums without first learning to play the piano.


Music is a big deal in our family.  Tony and I both played instruments in our youth and Tony still plays around on guitar when he has time.  We listen to music all the time.  Jazz during dinner, oldies for dancing, alt-rock for cooking, 80s for more dancing, and classical in the car.  I donate regularly to KING FM and my hope is that my children don’t think opera is weird until someone tells them it is, much later in life.  We also listen to kids’ songs (mostly Sandra Boynton) when they are allowed to choose.  That, and “Yoda” by Weird Al.  Because Star Wars.


A few weeks ago, I took Jamie to the family concert given by the Skagit Symphony.  We had a wonderful time.  The only real problem was that Jamie did not understand why he wasn’t allowed to dance in the aisles.


photo 3 (61)


Is this one of those things?  You know, those things you force your children to do that they resent at the time but then later appreciate that they immediately recognize the difference between Mozart and Beethoven?  My hope is that they will love classical music at some point in their lives, even if we have to subsist on a steady diet of Peter and the Wolf and 1812 Overture for now (any song with cannon, you know).


photo 1 (82)photo 2 (82)


It helps to bribe the wee ones with frozen yogurt.


And it helps to hold onto memories like these, perfect days of music and cuddling and frozen treats, when my Jamie is being a total jerk.  Like today, when he punched me in the nose as I was trying to help him brush his teeth.  Quick: choose one word to describe your children!  I choose “exasperating.”

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Well.  When the world thinks this girl is chubby…



I am at a loss for words.


Well, no, that’s not true.  I always have words.


That woman is a size six and apparently, she is considered fat.


My middle child is being a little shit lately.  He refuses to follow the most normal of directions (sit at the table, eat dinner, get dressed, brush your teeth), whether they are delivered with joy (“time to brush your teeth, my little monkey!!!”) or anger and frustration (“Jamie!  For the last time, GET DRESSED!”).  Consequences mean nothing to that kid.  This morning he lost his brand-new floor puzzle and the treat that usually comes after swimming.  He was put in time-out.


I am ashamed of myself.  I yell SO MUCH at that kid.  I lose my temper with him every damn day.  I am so tired.  I am so frustrated.  I don’t want to make him feel badly, and I know he does when I yell, but I just can’t seem to help myself.  We have a deadline in the morning and he flatly refuses to get dressed.  He went to school today in the same pajamas he wore all night.  He won.  I am supposed to win.


What’s worse is that the mornings I take half-off (I go to my Rotary meeting at 7 and Tony gets the kids ready for school, then I come home to pack their bags and take them to school), I come home from my meeting to three kids who are fed, dressed, have their teeth brushed, have put on shoes, and are playing nicely.  It’s demoralizing that Tony can get them totally set every time and I struggle on a daily basis.


photo (34)

And then he looks like this when he sleeps and my heart melts. 


You would think I wouldn’t have time in between nursing and changing a baby, feeding and hustling the kids through our morning routine, and yelling about that routine to look in the mirror and hate my reflection, but I do.  Fat, fat, fat, fat, fat, fat, fat.  Pimply.  Bad hair.  Bad clothes.  Fat.


And no end in sight.  Tonight, I will take them to swim lessons, where I will overheat in the humid poolside air, my sweaty hair plastering to my skull, my blood pressure climbing as I futilely try to get Charles and Jamie to stop running in the locker room (someone’s going to crack his skull one of these days) and change while simultaneously managing a squirming baby.  I will come home and make dinner that the kids will complain about so masterfully that I will begin to wonder if it really does taste awful and I’m the one who’s crazy for enjoying it.  By the time I finally get my pajamas on after corralling the kids and doing all the dishes and prepping lunch and schoolbags for the next day and feeding laundry through the system, I will look at myself in the mirror and wonder how anyone could allow themselves to leave the house looking like I do.  I am angry at them for being so aggravating and I am angry at myself for being so repulsive.


I know.  Change my attitude.  Perk up.  Think about something else.  I’m trying.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


It happened quickly.  Charles entered kindergarten knowing all of his letters and some of the sounds they make, and now, barely 5 months in, he can read full books aloud to his brother.


photo 2 (83)


And thank God, because I’m getting a little tired of reading about Star Wars.


Charles’s and Jamie’s reading diet has been heavy on the superheroes, with a smattering of Berenstain Bears, Mercer Mayer, and random other books from our shelves or the library.  However, I’m constantly scouring Pinterest (the Devil’s website) and library websites for recommendation for chapter books to read aloud to my boys.  Jamie, believe it or not, will sit still and listen to chapter books, even when he doesn’t totally understand the plot.


Charles is a bit too young for The Boxcar Children, but here are some other great chapter books we have enjoyed:


Beverly Cleary books, nearly all of them.  We’ve worked our way through the Ramona Quimby books, the Henry Huggins books, and some of the Motorcycle Mouse books.  Charles loved them, especially Henry & Ribsy because Henry catches a Chinook Salmon, just like Charles did last summer.


My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett.  Seriously, this book is fantastic.  It’s short enough to be read all at once or over a couple of evenings, and it presents some good examples of cleverness.


Nate the Great series by Marjorie Sharmat.  These detective stories and easy to understand, and I love the idea of teaching Charles to be observant.  Charles really loves the pancakes.


Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater.  We’re reading this right now, and the kids BEGGED me to read another chapter before school this morning.


Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.  Prepare to cry when Charlotte dies.  My kids, my boy children, just don’t understand.


Roald Dahl books, all of them.  We’ve read James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  There are some tough parts where we’ve had conversations about poverty and what happens when one’s parents die, but overall, we loved the whimsy in these books.


It makes my heart so happy that my children are readers.  They love books so much.  Aside from all the obvious benefits of reading and loving books (cognitive function, vocabulary, learning about different places and times), I once read that novel readers are more empathetic because they learn to see things from others’ points of view.  So yeah, I’m teaching my kids empathy without even trying.  Parenting win, right?


What are some of your favorite early chapter books?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Growth and Re-Growth

photo 5 (9)

This morning


At Freddie’s six-month checkup (a month ago), he had grown an inch-and-a-half since his four-month checkup, but only gained half a pound.  In other words, he was leaning out, and not in a good way.  Babies need body fat to grow, and Freddie was growing so fast and nursing so often that he was waking every two hours, day and night, and drinking 16 ounces of pumped milk during five hours of daycare three days a week.  That level of nursing and pumping was impossible for me to keep up.


photo 1 (84)

A few weeks ago, when that onesie was large on him.


We tried to feed him solid foods, but the little stinker would slam his lips shut and turn away from the spoon, no matter what food we gave him (he seemed to enjoy avocado ONE DAY, but the next promptly rejected it).  Finally, finally, after a month of nursing like a newborn, he condescended to eat some solid foods.


photo 4 (22)

Lady, what is this shit?” (Notice excited me in the mirror, holding my ever-present cup of coffee because I AM EXHAUSTED.)


What a weird kid.  He doesn’t like sweet potatoes, bananas, applesauce, pears, peas, carrots, plums, or squash.  He adores refried beans and plain yogurt.  At least he’s starting to chunk up again.


photo 5 (8)


photo 1 (83)

He’s starting to fill the onesie out again.


He’s happy, and even though he still nurses every two hours, all day, all night, I’m happy, too.  His cheeks are coming back, and we all love to eat baby cheeks.


photo 3 (64)


photo 2 (85)


Concurrently, my hair is starting to grow back.  Just in case you thought the indignities of pregnancy and birth stopped after the kid comes out, I’m here to say that you also get to lose a significant amount of hair and then put up with weird hairstyles as it grows out.


photo 4 (21)

Shorties, all the way around my hairline.


Sigh.  The things we do for our children.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Styled By Charles

There’s an article making the rounds of the Facewebs called something like “I Let My Toddler Dress Me For A Week.”  Shit, I’ve been letting my kids dress me since they were old enough to express an opinion.  Those boys prefer me to wear dresses, shirts with flowers, and the colors pink and purple.  It’s tough to argue with that.


Recently, I took Charles shopping with me for an auction dress.  It was after dinner, just the two of us – almost a quick mommy/Charles date, a treat to stay up later than usual and have me all to himself.  We walked into Dress Barn (an underappreciated store, in my opinion) and Charles immediately chose a fit-and-flare, sort of retro dress with big, pink flowers.  He wouldn’t even let my try on another dress.


He helped me zip up the back.


He asked me to twirl in front of the mirrors.


He said it was the prettiest dress in the whole store and that I would be the prettiest mommy at the auction when I wore it.


He told me to buy it and I did.


I chose to let my heart melt instead of assuming it was all a ploy to get us in and out of a dress store as fast as possible.


Turns out, the kid has good taste.


photo (33)


He’s lucky I didn’t make him go shoe shopping with me.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Lunch Lady Land

Deep breaths.  Deep breaths.


Charles takes his lunch to school.  Not because he doesn’t like hot lunch – he does, and some days (okay… like, twice, ever) he buys hot lunch.  But most days he takes his lunch because his best friends take their lunches and he wants to sit with them.


This stresses me out for two reasons: 1) he wants lunch from home but he would prefer not to eat real food, and 2) by never eating hot lunch, he is participating in de facto segregation.  I assume.  Which is where this post turns into mostly my paranoia about raising a socially-conscious kid who voluntarily eats healthy food.


This motherhood gig is not easy, y’all.


So, thing the first: Charles doesn’t want sandwiches or wraps in his lunch.  He doesn’t want a selection of meats or cheeses.  He will not eat vegetables.  He would like cookies, please.  And squeezy applesauce, but not the kind that has vegetables mixed in.  He wants water, not milk or chocolate milk (which is fine, but kid needs to ingest some calories!).


I usually make a sandwich (PBJ, PBH {H for honey}) or a wrap (ham & cheese) or this morning I convinced him to have a mini bagel with cream cheese.  He might eat half of it.  The wraps were going really well for awhile and he would eat the whole thing almost every day, but then he got bored, I guess?  I don’t know.  He doesn’t want them anymore.


For, like, a day he really liked cashews in his lunch.  He begs me to buy strawberries and raspberries for his lunch, but they’re super out of season right now.  Raisins or craisins get a cringe.  Carrots get ignored.


Consequence?  I stuff him full of vegetables at dinner, since that’s the only meal at which I can influence his choices in real time.  And tonight I’m going to make muffins to see if he’ll take one of those in his lunchbox.  I’ll try new things until I find something he’ll like!


But thing the second really gets my sad-worry juices flowing.  Charles’s school is 79% free or reduced lunch (below the poverty level).  Those kids all eat hot lunch.  And the hot lunch kids sit separately from cold lunch kids.  The last thing I want to do is raise a kid who thinks he’s better than another kid just based on lunch.


For the record, I don’t think Charles thinks like that (yet?).  I don’t remember thinking like that when I was a kid.  I had lunch from home when I was in grade school, and I remember it mostly being because I had an unfounded terror of going through the lunch line.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve trained away the terror, or at least turned it into a generalized discomfort when I go to cafeterias or places with some amount of diy-ness: what if I do it wrong?  What if I get through the lunch line and I forgot to pick up silverware at the beginning?  The first time I went to Chipotle or Taco Del Mar, I had the same anxiety, the what do I do? unease of a new place where I have to follow some sort of established protocol and I don’t know what that protocol is.  Wine tasting.  Build-A-Bear.  Cooking class.  I feel like such a fraud.


It’s ridiculous, really, and I know that now and I am mostly over it.  There’s a first time for everything, right?  Anyhow, that’s why I didn’t eat hot lunch.  I don’t know why Charles doesn’t eat hot lunch, other than he’s picky, picky, picky all of the sudden.  I just don’t want it to turn into a thing.  I remember my whole third-grade class picking on a couple of girls who lived in the trailer park not far from my parents’ house.  We would say they were smelly.  We bullied them.  It was awful, and I am ashamed.  Yesterday, Charles told me that a friend of his (who is a boy) wore his older sister’s “girl shoes” to school that day.  What made them “girl shoes”?  Little hearts on them.  We talked it through and then I lectured him to never, ever make fun of someone because of what they wear.  I happen to know that this kid lives with his three siblings and a parent in a low-income apartment near us.  Maybe his shoes were just dirty, or maybe his family can’t afford new shoes for him and these were the only ones that fit.


Kids do this, and I know it.  Some amount of “bullying” at the younger grade levels is kids just figuring out how to treat people.  The anti-bullying movement has made us hyper-aware of the consequences of hateful speech, and we’re calling kids on it, which helps.  I’m doing my part by having open conversations with my kids about words and actions.  I asked Charles why the hot lunch kids and the home lunch kids don’t sit together and he told me it was because the hot lunch kids have to go through the line.  But still.


I wish I could have some assurance now that he will grow up to be a good person later, but I guess I just have to put in the hard work and hope for the best.