Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Stone Fox

I picked up Stone Fox from the library for Charles a week ago.  He skipped over it in favor of Zapato Power and Bunjitsu Bunny, but we finally got to it on Sunday night.  I read about half of the book then (it moves pretty quickly and is not a long chapter book) and Tony read the rest Monday night.


I was in my bathroom taking out my contacts when Charles came in to tell me about the end of the book.  I knew what was coming and I started tearing up right away.


“Mommy, Searchlight and Willy were doing the race and Grandfather got better and then they stopped ten feet from the finish line and Searchlight’s heart burst!”


“Oh, honey, I know…”


I enveloped Charles in my arms as he told me the rest of the story and sobbed.  Then I sobbed.  Then we read the last three pages of the book again and sobbed some more.  Then we had a lovely, long talk about loyalty, sacrifice, sacrificial love, respect, and pride in others.


The best books are the ones that make us feel something.  I am so glad that Charles was so affected by Searchlight’s sacrifice and death in the story.  Novels teach our children empathy, provide opportunities for difficult conversations, and give me a chance to see the softer side of this tough-as-nails kid.



This was his fourth chin-up, engaged solely for documentation purposes.  Apparently, he does them on the playground at recess every day.


Books, man.  Books.

Up All Night

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I don’t actually mind getting up in the middle of the night to change and feed Freddie.  I don’t like it, per se, but I don’t mind it.  He’s a baby.  I go through the changings/feedings in enough of a fog that I can drop right back to sleep after I put him back in bed.  It’s not enough sleep for me without stimulants, but it’s enough if I add plenty of coffee and a little bit of chocolate and at least one death-defying, adrenaline rush-inducing stunt by my older children each day (jumping from the top of a long, cement staircase at the Seattle Center on Sunday, for instance).  The constant time crunch between kids, work, housework, school, and other daily tasks fills in the gaps of my day and keeps me from falling asleep at the stove or wherever.

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He sleeps here.


But what I can’t handle is a baby who wakes once in the middle of the night and then wails for two or more hours regardless of location, amount of ibuprofen ingested, or boobs available for constant eating.  I’ve taken to going downstairs and farting around on the internet until he can sooth himself back to sleep on my shoulder.  Is it teeth?  Is it itchy eczema?  Is it just general contrariness?  I don’t care.  I just want it to stop.  When I’m up that late at night for that long, I fully wake up and then I can’t get back to sleep easily.  I was out of bed the night before last (mostly, save 20 minutes during which Tony tried, and failed, to calm Freddie down – kid wants mom ALL THE DAMN TIME) from 1 am until 3 am, but then I was still awake, lying there like an ass, until at least 3:30.  I got up for the day at 6:30.  Last night, Freddie woke up at 3:30 and went back to sleep at 4:30 and THANK GOD Tony was getting up for the day at that point because Freddie chilled out cried on his shoulder while he ate breakfast and I got to doze until he dumped the baby back in bed with me.




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Cute at all hours.


My chocolate supply needs replenishing.

Monday, March 23, 2015


Me: Should have texted you right away, but dad got here at 8 and I fed him delicious split pea soup.

Mom: Oh good, not something I make very often.

Me: I’m going to add it to the “make often” list.  Both boys gobbled it up.  Might’ve helped that I told them it was dinosaur snot.


Me, to Tony: Hand to God, the boys are all coloring together right now.  And earlier, I made Rice Krispies Treats with Jamie and then we painted our nails.  It’s like the fucking Twilight Zone today. 

Me: And just now they each gave the others compliments on their coloring: “That’s a nice picture, Jamie.”


Me: Jamie has learned the fine art of farting and then immediately saying, “Who tooted?” so as to cast suspicion on others.

Tony: Clearly 100% boy.


Me: Charles just told me to “relax.”

Tony: Was Charlie’s “relax” a 12 year old relax or a frat boy relax?

Me: I told him to hurry up so we could get to school on time and he said, “Relax, mom!”  Like I just needed to chill out.  Total 12 year old.

Tony: That’s what I figured, but somehow the frat boy relax seemed like a possibility.


Me: Come for dinner: pizza pies.

Leland: Fuck off.

Leland: Sorry, tried to write “We’ll be there.” Autocorrect.


Leland: Are we all set for lasagna?

Me: Jamie calls it masagna.

Me: We’ll probably eat it all before you get here.

Leland: That only means it’s good.


Me: This is just to remind me and you that one thing we should check on the washer is the drain hose - the internet says it might be clogged and that's why we're not getting a full drain.  Also, the internet says that there is a trap somewhere that might be clogged.  On the bottom, perhaps?

Tony: Ok…I believe everything I read on the internet. I can buy a snake to check the trap. Do you think a Bull Snake would work or should I get a Python? Seriously, though, I’ll stop by Ace on the way home and buy a snake.

Me: I'm guessing that with three boys in the house, it will not be the last time we will ever snake a pipe.  Sigh...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Here, I’ll Make You A Salad

I’ve been eating LOTS of veggies lately.  Our Baby Boot Camp MOLO Fitness Challenge Team (good grief, sometimes I can’t even believe that I do stuff like this) read Eat to Live this year and so I’ve been shooting for the “one pound of raw veggies, one pound of cooked veggies EVERY DAMN DAY” thing for a couple of weeks now.  It feels good.  It feels real good.  It does seem like a lot of veggies, but I’ve also cut waaaaay back on how much meat and other animal products I eat, so the veggies take up the space.


“Is she out of her mind?” you might be wondering.  Amelia, the girl who once had a license plate holder that declared “Meat is Yummy”?  (I also had a fascination with mullets and gaudy footwear… perhaps it is better NOT to recall my adolescent quirks.)  Well, meat is yummy, but as my father-in-law is fond of saying, I plan to live forever or die trying.  Decreasing animal products in my diet will decrease the potential for cancer and other diseases, so let’s eat salad!


My go-to salad is the Sweet Kale Salad from Costco.  It’s in the refrigerated vegetable section, and it’s delicious.  Tony and I eat a bag each week, and they’re Costco-sized bags, too.  So, so good.  In fact, I have not found any other way that I like kale or Brussels sprouts.


But this salad is not that salad.  This salad that I am going to make for you today is a coleslaw.  Not just any coleslaw, but the best coleslaw you have ever had.  And here, I’ll say the magic words: no mayonnaise.  Mmm!


The way this recipe came to me is somewhat weird.  A friend’s grandmother sidled up to my mom at some community event when I was in high school with the recipe written on a note card and said, “Here, Jane.  You need this.”  Mysterious and strange?  Those are the best kind of friends.  I’m going to make it my goal to do the same for someone someday.  Or maybe I’ll go to a party and “make it rain” recipe cards for a bigger impact.


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Beautiful, n’est-ce pas?  Here’s how you make this delectable salad treat:


First, the dressing.  Get out a medium saucepan and place it on the stovetop on medium heat.  Whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup vinegar (white or apple cider work well), 1/2 cup white sugar, and 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard.  Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool.


Next, the salad.  Mix together two medium cabbages, one red, one green, all chopped up, a biggish drained jar of sliced Manzanilla olives (the green kind with pimiento), and some other sliced vegetables (I like sliced bell peppers and sliced carrots, but I think even cucumber and zucchini would work well.  If you’re real savvy, you might be able to slip some finely chopped kale or Brussels sprouts in there, but that’s for experienced salad people or people who like kale.  I’m sticking with cabbage) in a BIG bowl.  Drench the salad with the cooled dressing, toss, and let it sit for a bit (20 minutes or so) before serving.  Oh!  The flavor explosion! 


This salad will probably impress your friends.  Someday, you can slip them the recipe like you’re some kid of spy.  The CIA of cooking, that’s our organization.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Two Teeth, Coming Right Up!

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My doctor looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “You know, no study has been able to conclusively link teething with fevers, ear aches, diarrhea, or runny noses.”  He has a pretty dry, wicked sense of humor, and he waited for the look of disbelief to settle on my face as I held my snotty, squalling baby in my lap.  “But we parents know better,” he said with a grin. 


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That was back when Jamie was a baby, at one of his normal checkups where he screamed the whole time.  Freddie is the latest (and last – hooray!) to ride the teething train, and let me tell you: paired with a sick older brother and a super-active even-older brother during tax season, it’s been awful.  The pits.  Holy hell, we are tired.  That kid won’t let me do anything without him in my arms – either he screams on the floor, crawling toward me as if he has been abandoned and my makeup gets done or I apply mascara while trying to hold his grubby hands away from the wand.


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One of the more surprising things to me as a parent is that, even though they are my own children, I still don’t know what to do.  I often don’t know what is wrong with them when they are ailing and I don’t know what to do about it.  I don’t know the best way to discipline them or potty-train them or get them to try a new food at the dinner table or to brush their DAMN TEETH ALREADY, IT’S TIME TO GO!  When Freddie’s dirty diapers started resembling world’s stinky-est bean dip regurgitated by a diseased raccoon, I was a little worried.  When he wouldn’t sleep at night, I thought, “Maybe he’s getting sick like Jamie.  Oh, Lord, please spare us from this virus.”  When he screamed and screamed and screamed as I put him in the car the other day, I wearily rubbed my eyes and finally got a good look at his wee mouth.  Ah-ha!  Mystery solved.  Apply painkillers, liberally. 


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I actually got Freddie to laugh a bit this morning, which means that these two front teeth are almost through his gums.  Maybe we’ll get a reprieve before the next set!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Gentler Side of Jamie

We ended up at Urgent Care last night because Jamie just wasn’t getting better.  He wasn’t vomiting anymore, but I hadn’t been to work all week because his “tummy” hurt like crazy and all he wanted to do was sleep.  He made it through half a swim class on Tuesday.  He went to bed right after dinner.  He didn’t eat any dinner, or lunch, or breakfast.  He wasn’t dehydrated, but he hurt.


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The doctors, mine and the doc at Urgent Care, were/are baffled.  He was really sick and then he got better, but he didn’t get totally better.  He sometimes has a low-grade fever, sometimes he doesn’t.  He is listless and has no appetite, but he will still drink milk and water and stay alert for RescueBots and storytime.  He complains about his tummy hurting, but when he points to the spot that hurts the most, it is just under his sternum.


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He has told me about a million times since Saturday, “I love you so much, mommy.”  He sits quietly on the couch while his brother plays outside.  He lies in his bed, staring at the ceiling, unable to muster the energy to even look at books.  He takes two bites of the breakfast he begged me to get out of bed at 6 am to make and then he pathetically whines that he needs a nap.  He snuggles into my side, he waits for me to buckle him into his car seat, he sat quietly at Urgent Care and allowed the nurse and doctor to poke and prod him for an hour. 


We’ve ruled out appendicitis and are sticking with “3-Year-Old Mystery Illness” for now.  I gave him some ibuprofen this morning (he doesn’t like the taste of the acetaminophen) and he perked up and wanted to go to daycare.  I’ll give him some more painkillers this afternoon and we’ll see how things go.  I never thought I’d say this, but I really miss Jamie’s contrariness and tantrums.  I miss even more his singing at the top of his lungs, his playing “piano” on every surface, and his dancing in his seat at the dinner table to my and Tony’s chorus of “sit DOWN!”  Jamie was a mellower baby than Charles, but he has never been what I’d call “subdued.”  What a change this is from the 34 pounds of tornado he was last week.


Not for the last time, I’m sure, I’m so grateful that I have a flexible job that allows me to care for my kids when they need it.  Here’s hoping none of them will need it again anytime soon.

Monday, March 9, 2015

How Not to Visit Portland

It’s tax season, time for us to impose on friends to relieve my husband of familial duties for the weekend.  It’s a win-win: Tony gets time to work even more insane hours than usual, exercise when he wants, and eat what he wants (leftovers, usually, but I imagine sometimes that others are like me and will just binge on chocolate when given the opportunity), while we get to travel, re-confirm to ourselves that we can handle life on our own for short bursts of time, and see some of the people we love most in the world who happen to live far away.


When Charles was small, this meant trips to the beach to visit grandparents and one big trip to Phoenix to visit a good friend there.  When she moved back to the PNW, we started making yearly trips to Portland.  These visits always involve children’s museums or the zoo, events like a monster truck show, copious amounts of ice cream, and cartoons.  My kids LOVE it, and I have a great time staying up late and chatting with my friend.


We left town on Friday around 11 am and made decent time to Portland, considering that we had to stop every half an hour for someone to pee.  When we arrived, the air was balmy and we took a nice walk to a local park where the big boys ran wild and Freddie played in the swing.  We ate pizza for dinner and after the boys were in bed, my friend and I settled in with a couple bottles of wine and some Girl Scout cookies.  Heaven.


That is, until the next morning, when I was awakened by vomit.  If you have kids, then you know that sometimes kids vomit and it’s nothing.  They bounce back, everything is wonderful, and away we go.  Other times, they keep barfing.  And barfing.  And barfing.  We stuck it out until late afternoon, but Jamie just wasn’t getting any better.  After all the laundry had cycled through, I packed up the car and headed home.


Am I making this sound like it was no big deal?  IT WAS A BIG DEAL.  There was no trip to the zoo.  Poor Charles, who was feeling fine, played Wii (which he adorably calls “le Wii,” like it’s French or something) all day and then begged to stay in Portland another night so we could go to a park and run around and play (there are awesome parks in Portland).  The weather was gorgeous, at least ten degrees warmer than in Mount Vernon, and the poor kid knew he was being cheated out of fun outdoor time.  Jamie puked an insane amount of fluid all over himself, the floor, the couch, the bed… My poor friend, who doesn’t have kids, nearly got the sympathy barfs.  AND she had to wash her couch cushions, which is no easy feat.


When we left, we hit such bad traffic that it took us an hour and a half just to get to Washington (should have been 20 minutes).  Freddie was screaming and Jamie threw up AGAIN all over himself and his car seat (not for the first time, I was so thankful that we have a seat protector under the car seats).  We were out of clean clothes, so I wrapped him in a blanket and zipped his jacket around him and kept going.  Charles and I ate leftover pizza during the drive and Freddie only got to get out to eat and be changed when we stopped (which we did frequently, because Jamie kept puking and everyone had to pee all the time).  I reminded myself that everyone was alive and that the accident that shut down I-5 in Portland probably claimed lives; we were making it home with ours intact and I was so thankful for that.  Count your blessings, Amelia.  They’re huge.


I’ve mentioned before that I turn into sort of an unfeeling zombie in crisis situations.  I have to.  If I get emotional or freak out, all hope is lost.  I had no one to help me, no one to count on.  I had to take care of all my boys and get us home in one piece, so I just shut down my emotions and prayed that we would make it home without any problems.  It’s effective to turn off feelings in this way, but I find that the more I have to do it, the harder it is to turn them back on.  I have a hard time feeling sympathy for my sick or uncomfortable kids.  I have a hard time feeling sympathy for my husband, whose weekend was also ruined.  In a way, I feel like even more essential pieces of my psyche are being nibbled away by these kids.  What will it take to get them to adulthood.  Will there be anything left of me?


It’s part of why I write, I guess.  This is a place to put those emotions, to see what I’m feeling and then edit those feelings until I’m satisfied. 


Jamie is home from daycare today, which means that after an hour or so at work, we are home to nap for the rest of the day.  I won’t pretend to be too disappointed since I got maybe two hours of sleep last night.  I’m allergic to something growing in Portland and the allergy attack weakened my immune system enough for me to catch a cold.  Between Freddie screaming for two hours last night, my croupy cough keeping me up, and Jamie getting up at 5:30 am because he was hungry, I’m pretty exhausted.  Still, I’d give up the nap if I could somehow make it possible for Tony to have one. 


There, sympathy.  It’s coming back.  Maybe I’ll be all right.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Small Tyrants Dictate Again

Yesterday was THE WORST day (sort of).  OF COURSE there are worse days, like when the croup is so bad that your child is retracting and you have to rush to the ER, or the kid falls out of bed and breaks his leg or something, or your husband has an emergency appendectomy, or you get in a car wreck… okay, there are lots of worse days, but look, this isn’t a contest, all right?  We had a bad night.  We visited the hell of “child inconsolably screaming for two straight hours.”  Then I had a bad day.  My bratty-ass children forced me to recognize that I need to make a wholesale change in my life.


Result: everything is bad, nothing is good.  The sun is shining?  Yes, but the trees are also blooming and I’m allergic.  Spring is only 20 days away?  Yeah, but between now and then we have to live through daylight saving time (did you know that the bill to abolish it in WA died?  Clearly, the people who want to keep it aren’t parents).  Everyone wants to eat dinner again, and I already made dinner last night and the night before that and the night before that.  I just bit the inside of my cheek and it hurts.  I am GOOD at being miserable because there are so many things to be miserable about.  It’s being happy that takes work, and I just don’t have a lot of fight left in me.


Poor Tony is worse off because, in addition to being up for two hours of solid screaming, he left for work at “is this even a real time?” o’clock (I refuse to acknowledge that the hours of 1 am to 5 am are even real).  And then he came home to a sobbing wife who was so upset with her children that she was ready to magically whisk them into nonexistence and go back to her former life before kids.


As I’ve mentioned before, I have been doing Baby Boot Camp for three years or so, three times a week.  I love it.  I work hard and someone pushes me to do so.  I don’t have to take my kids to daycare; they can be with me and play and have fun.  I seem to thrive with a workout program where someone else is calling the shots and there is a group of people doing the exercise with me, not to mention the encouragement and positive feedback we all give each other.


But the classes have been getting larger and larger (a great thing for the owners and instructors) and my children have been getting more and more out of control.  I spend most of class either dreading an accident or putting them in time out for breaking the rules YET AGAIN.  And when the instructors decided to tighten up the rules and I had to be more strict about enforcing them… well, the tantrums began in earnest.


Bottom line?  It’s over.  The boys don’t like it and I am so tired, so very, very tired of having to yell and cajole and bribe and threaten just to get them to behave like underfed zombies instead of enraged gorillas (good imagery, no?  Underfed zombies are terrible, but also biddable and slow and stumbling.  An enraged gorilla, on the other hand… I wouldn’t want to meet one.  And you wouldn’t want to meet my kids).  I feel like the worst mother in the world because mine are the kids who are so rambunctious as to be unsafe, mine are the kids who are always in trouble.  I am the parent who can’t control them or even teach them to be moderately respectful.  As a result, I am so, so jealous of the other parents and kids.  The other kids sit quietly in their strollers or next to the strollers and respond positively to request from their mothers.  The other mothers can work out the entire class without having to discipline their children.


But giving up this class, this thrice-weekly ritual, means that I give up on a group of friends who are like my parenting support system in addition to giving up a tough workout that has always helped me to feel strong and worthwhile.  Like, I have flappy batwings and a spare tire, but at least I can do fifty push ups in a row. 


Right now, the alternatives are to abandon any regimented fitness program and catch a run or a workout DVD whenever I have the chance (once, twice a week?  Maybe?), to go to the Y in the evenings and work out on the weights and treadmill (that doesn’t give me nearly the burn or exhilaration that I crave), to join a different gym and spend loads of money to put the kids in daycare for another hour each three times a week, or to skip dinner with the family twice a week and do the Y boot camp as well as visiting the gym on my own and trying to sneak a run once in awhile.


Maybe you don’t work out much so you don’t understand, but I haven’t gone much more than a week (save three pregnancies and delivery recovery times) since I was in my mid-twenties without regular, hard exercise.  I need it.  I need my clothes to fit again, I need the exercise to feel good, I need to be able to enjoy wine without thinking about how quickly the calories will go from lips to hips.  I am a happier, nicer person when I exercise regularly, and specifically in this sort of motivated manner: a boot camp or fitness class that constantly challenges me to be stronger, faster, better.  Maybe you don’t understand how someone could be heartbroken, to the extent of lying awake at night even though the baby is asleep (PRECIOUS, RARE SLEEPING HOURS!), trying to figure out an alternative that doesn’t make me a worse mother and wife than I already am.  Leave the kids and Tony during dinner to exercise?  Put them in daycare to exercise?  Leave Tony in the evenings (the only time we see each other) after the kids are in bed to exercise?  Not exercise and destroy all the mirrors in the house so I won’t have to look at myself?  Nothing feels good here. 


I’m not crying anymore, which is a good step in the right direction, but I still don’t exactly know what to do.  I’m going to try out the “skipping dinner twice a week” thing starting tonight and see how it goes.  Let’s hope the door/window metaphor applies and a new opportunity will appear to make me feel like this was the best thing to happen.


Kids, man.  You give and you give and you give and you give and then they take some more.