Friday, March 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes [3.30.12]

1. Last week, when our family was down two members, I knocked out three posts. This week, when we're back to full strength, I logged a big fat goose egg. Time is ever my enemy.

When I did have all that time on my hands I took the opportunity to update my About Me and My Fam pages. I'd love for you to check them out! It was so much fun trying to depict each of my family members to get the description just perfect. Let me know what you think!

2.  I tried out a new writing style in two of those three posts.  Maybe you noticed?  It's based off something I read over here at this little gem of a blog.  The idea is basically to write whatever is happening or going through your head at this exact moment.  No need to tidy everything up at the end with a nice little "the moral of the story is."  No need for a theme.  No need for transitions into the next line of thought.

Even though these types of posts garner less readers and comments because they aren't controversial and they don't open up a conversation, I still really loved writing this way.  It was very therapeutic.  And best of all they are super quick and easy to write.  I think I'll try to do more of these in the future.  I find it helps get my creative juices flowing.

3.  On the flip side, I wrote a post about How To Be A Good Husband and I'm getting a lot of feedback here and also from Twitter and Facebook.  It feels so satisfying to finally figure something out.  And to find out it was all so simple. Please share with your friends and husbands and let me know if you agree!  I'm interested in hearing if we're all the same or if it's a personal preference thing.

The lightbulb went off in my head after Brian told me all the ways he was going to fix The Stain and I  kept getting more and more irritated by this.  After him asking me something along the lines of what more do you want? I realized I just wanted him to be as pissed about the stain as I was.  Deep down I didn't really care if the stain was fixed or not.  And thus, the post was born.

4.  Daddy's home! And this is how we welcome back Daddy.
5.  Grandma visited yesterday and as such it's a good opportunity for me to post this picture that I really love.  A glimpse.  Frozen in time.  Forever.
6.  We had a Mad Men party on Sunday night.  And as I was looking at this picture of Brian in his skinny tie next to our stacked bar I was thinking we really look like a cool urban couple.  That is, of course, if you can look past the magnetic alphabet letters and silly leprechaun taped to the wall in the background.  Except for all that.
7.  The baby is sick and I hate it.  Of course no one loves for their baby to be sick.  I especially hate the part where I'm at odds with myself.  Should I bring her in?  Should I let it pass on its own?  I'm the kind of mother who waits until the last possible second to bring my kids into the doctor when they're sick.  Mostly because I don't like what they have to say.  I always get this undertone that they know more than me and that I'm some kind of lunatic, over-the-top, hypochondriac parent.  Which I so am not.  Of course I'm generalizing here because I really have never had a problem with any of our doctors.  It's just this feeling I get about our medical system as a whole.

But then I again, we're going on Day 3.5 with a fever and the most heart-wrenching achy moan like she doesn't even have the strength to give out a full cry.  So I don't want to be the mom that ignores her baby's pain just because I get uncomfortable about going into a clinic.  If something really is wrong, she deserves some relief. I already had Brian hang up the phone once while he was on hold for the clinic.  And then I had him call back a couple hours later.  Back and forth we go.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How To Be a Good Husband

The title of this post is misleading.  It sounds like I'm going to bash Brian or tell you all the things he does wrong.  That couldn't be further from the truth.

Brian is 100% my copilot in navigating this family.  He does a lot.  Probably more than average when I really sit down to think about it.  Especially if I think about it when I'm not fresh off an emotional high of something going terribly wrong.

Instead this post is about some things I've realized about myself in the past couple of weeks after an incident know as The Stain and at the end of a very long week of Brian being overseas for work.  It's about what I need from him to carry on with this vocation of mine as the stay-at-home parent.  It's what I need to wake up every morning with a go-get-'em attitude.  Feeling confident that I can tackle the day without melting into a puddle of tears or with fists in the air ready to punch the next person who gets in my way.

And it's very simple, guys (all three of you that read this blog), we either need acknowledgement or someone to commiserate with.

When ladies talk with their girlfriends rarely will you hear them say, "OK, this is what you need to do to fix it."  No.  Instead you'll hear them say, "Oh!  That totally sucks!  That's awful!"

Women are emotional beings.  And we need empathy to get through the day.  Flowers and chocolates and time away from the house are nice but if a husband comes home at the end of the day and says Wow, how did you get all that done today?!, well, that's just the best payment we could ever receive.

Or, after she tells you the toddler pooped her pants you might say,

Oh, that totally sucks for you!  And it was right before you were supposed to leave?!  How did you manage to get everyone out of the house on time?

Or, when she's still in the same outfit she went to bed in the night before you say,

Good, I'm glad you took it easy today.  You need days like that.


You brought all three kids to Target by yourself?!


Man, that totally sucks about the stain on the floor.  I'm just kicking myself for not bringing the mop downstairs!


This dinner really hits the spot.  How did you have time to make it?!


Aren't you exhausted?  The baby was up a lot last night.

What I've realized about myself is that when I'm upset or stressed to the max, rarely do I want Brian to fix anything.  When I want him to change a lightbulb or hang up a frame or install some window blinds, I'll let him know.  But when I'm just complaining or telling him about my day, all I need is for him to agree with me.

And don't say I know like you know.  Because, unless you stay at home all day every day, you don't know.  Instead, with utmost sincerity, acknowledge that something totally did suck.  And then just listen.

(Of course, this is true even if your wife isn't a stay-at-home mom.  We're all the same!)

I remember  a time when Brian stayed home on a weekday shortly after Lucy was born and I had him help me clean the whole house.  In the midst of him getting on his hands and knees and scrubbing the kitchen floor he said to me, "Wow, this is a lot of work.  You're making me work harder on my day off than I do at the office."

That little line from him bought me months of satisfaction.  Every time thereafter that I got on my hands and knees to scrub the kitchen floor while Brian was at work sitting in his office I thought to myself, Brian thinks I work hard.  And that, in turn, made me not only want to work harder but it also made me want to try to do it with a smile on my face.

Guys, don't assume that your wives think you appreciate them for their hard work.  Say it.  And be specific!  Even if it's as simple as being thankful that she made a trip to Target with all the kids in tow and purchased a new pack of razors because she noticed you were running low.  A little goes a long way.

And really, all this is a good reminder for me to pay it forward as my husband will shortly be stepping off a plane after many days of back-to-back-to-back meetings and a whole heap of jet lag so that he can provide for our family.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On My Mind

Last night I had a couple of guys come over to give me some quotes on trimming our trees.  While we were out there our next door neighbors came outside to get in their car.  I mentioned what I was thinking about doing with the trees.  And he made a snarky comment back that was supposed to be funny but came off as kind of offensive.

He told us that we should cut it down and use the stump to put a table on top.

It's a big, beautiful River Birch.  And I know some of it hangs over our fence into his backyard but c'mon.  He has no other trees in his yard.  And maybe that's his problem.  Maybe he's anti-tree.  Who's anti-tree?

We actually really like these neighbors.  So maybe I'm just being too sensitive.

This morning I let a friend vent about a situation in which she and her family have been a victim of big government getting in the way of ordinary folks.  It makes me want to punch someone in the face.  Or slash some tires.  That's really mean.  And not something I would ever do.  But it makes me angry to see nice people be wronged.  SO wronged.

After that William and I get ready for the day.  When he's finished he sits in Lucy's bed on the bottom bunk and reads books.  He is captivated by whatever is on those pages.  He doesn't even notice me as I come and go.  My heart flutters.  He loves books.  Yes, he loves TV and computer games.  But he loves books too.  And this makes me very, very happy.

On the way to school he rides his bike.  And I run.  I run!  I haven't run since before I got pregnant with Katherine.  At the end of the block my asthma kicks in and I'm reminded of elementary school.  Running the mile for gym class on the old track behind the school.  Where, at about the 150 yard mark, I could see our green house with the circle driveway over the fence.  And I'd think of my mom at home and how I wish I were there with her.  Eating apple slices on top of a paper towel.  Instead of on that track.  Running a mile.  With my asthma.

When I get home I nurse the baby.  After awhile I realize I'm tense.  Trying to rush her.  But for what?  I've got all the time in the world.  Or, at least until preschool pick-up.  So I take a couple of yogi breaths and relax.  She smiles.  Milk dribbles down the side of her cheek.

When she's finished she lets me cradle her like the baby she is instead of trying to sit up like the big girl she wishes she were.  So we sit there for a few minutes just enjoying each other's company.

I go into the kitchen to make coffee.  Making coffee is not my forté.  I leave that to our household expert, Brian.  But he's still gone so the responsibility falls onto me.  We are all out of the good coffee.  So I'm forced to use a flavored Christmas blend from Harry & David that my mom re-gifted to me.  I'm skeptical. But it's all we have.

When did I become such a coffee snob?  I wonder.  In college I literally used to use those instant coffee packets.  Then I moved on to Folger's.  Then only coffee shop branded coffee.  And now I wouldn't dream of drinking a cup of coffee that didn't first start out as a whole bean just five minutes earlier.

Yesterday I spent the whole day thinking it was Thursday when it was really only Tuesday.  Probably because Brian comes home on Thursday and I was trying to trick myself.  But alas I woke up today to Wednesday.  Still another whole night to get through.  The missing has turned into aching.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Minus Two

He rides his red bike with his blue helmet.

I push the baby in the stroller.

We rush.  We are late.  It makes no sense.

They Ohh and Ahh at the baby.  I give kisses goodbye.  Tell him I'll see him in a couple hours.

I walk the stroller all by my lonesome.  Nobody talks to me.

It feels like a Florida morning.  Except it's Minnesota.  In March.  I'm already sweating.

I think about Brian.  Thousands of miles away and already well into his afternoon as I'm just beginning my morning.

I think about Lucy.  I feel guilty.  It's so much easier when she's at Camp Nana.  But I think about her silky hair and her too-big cheeks, her sassy voice and her pink lips.  And of course, I miss her.

I think maybe it's me and not her.  Maybe I'm the one that's not so great with a two-and-a-half-going-on-three-year-old.  Five-year-olds and babies are easy peasy for me.  It's those toddlers that draw these premature lines in my forehead.

The baby and I walk to the tailor to hem my new jeans.  I wish I could walk to the coffee shop.  But I brought the wrong shoes.  I'm already starting to get a blister behind my heel.

The warm wind blows.  The baby coos.  I remember days when William was my one and only.  It was lovely.  And carefree.  And easy. So easy.

I don't regret my three-ring circus of a life now.  No.  But I look back on my one-child life with envy.

We walk back home.  My blister is really getting raw now.

I make some phone calls.  We need to trim some trees.  I need to call our clinic.  Again.  I put the baby down for a nap.  I register the kids for summer swimming lessons.  I think about registering William for a day camp.  Then I decide not to.  I want to keep him here.  Hold on to summer for as long as I can. Before he leaves my nest for Kindergarten in the Fall.

My bed is unmade.  The shades are still drawn.  Clothes lie in pile on the floor.  I think about making coffee.

The house is quiet.  So quiet.  Tick tock.

Friday, March 16, 2012

7 Quick Takes [3.16.12] All About a Heatwave

1. Right now at one o'clock in the afternoon on this, the sixteenth of March, it is 72 degrees outside. At this rate it will probably be 80 by 5:00. And it's not a one-day event. It's been like this all week and is poised to stay warm into next week too. This is no heat wave. It's a freak of nature.

2. Minnesotans aren't sure what to do when it's this warm in March. Half of the population breaks out their shorts, tanks and flip flops immediately. And the other half, like me, completely overdresses for outdoor activities because I just can't believe it's that warm just yet. For months I've been covering the baby in 75 blankets and now you're telling me it's OK to bring her out in just a onesie and leggings with no blanket?

3. The problem with this kind of warmth this early is twofold. First, the outdoors isn't ready for the kind of play 80-degree weather demands. Everything is dry and dusty and still trying to recover from muddy, melty snow. Some of the soil is even still frozen! So when I send the kids out in their shorts and Crocs, they come back to me looking like they've just bathed in a soot pile. All I can see is the whites of their eyes.

And the second problem with this record heat is that we all know it's a trick. There is absolutely no way these temperatures can remain steady for the next two months until 70 sounds normal. We know it's going to dip back down below freezing at some point and when it does it's going to feel some kind of awful after all this. It's all relative. It's why 40 degrees in February sounds like a blizzard to someone living in Atlanta and why it sounds like the beach to someone living in Minnesota.

4. My skin rivals that of an albino.

5. Tonight we'll have our second bonfire of the year.

6.  This kids ate lunch outside.
7.  And then there's this.
Nothing to do with the weather.  I just couldn't leave a Quick Takes without a picture of her.

Happy Friday!  Go read more Quick Takes here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

About A Stain

Today was the first day I felt like our house was going to return to normal.  The sickies are better.  I got a quick bug and fought it off without throwing up.  I was insanely excited about this, even through my aching body.  Isn't it the truth that everyone would go through hell and high water so as to avoid throwing up?

William went to school.  The girls and I went to Trader Joe's to restock our shelves.  We came home and I unpacked the groceries.  Before I walked back out the door to grab William from school I remembered to bring that wet mop back downstairs that I used all day yesterday to wipe out any remaining germs.  And there is was, rearing its ugly head back at me.  A huge water stain on our hardwood floors in the dining room.  And not in an inconspicuous place either.

I could have screamed.  Actually, I think I did scream.

That's the thing about where I'm at right now.  Just when I think I've got a handle on things, I get kicked down again.  Now I've got this massive ugly imperfection staring at me every time I walk past it into the kitchen to remind me that I screwed up.  I fell short of doing all I had to do.

It's so unlike me not to tidy up loose ends, especially after a cleaning day.  But there has just been so much lately.  I should have put it away before we went outside to play yesterday afternoon.  But Lucy had to go potty.  I should have put it away while I was doing the dinner dishes.  But the baby got hungry.  I should have put it away while I was watching some evening television.  But I was folding an endless mountain of laundry instead.

The real fact of the matter is this:  I cannot do it all.  Even if it is as simple as bringing a mop back downstairs to its rightful location instead of letting its dampness marinate your beautiful hardwood floors all night long.

And so begins the pity party.  I Google "How to Remove a Water Stain from Hardwood Floors."  And after each DIY step I kick myself.  Why didn't I just bring the damn mop back downstairs?!
And I know, I know, it's not really about the mop.  Or the stain.  It never is.

It's about control.  And an image.  About wanting to appear like I can do it all when I never can. Because no one ever can.

It's about wanting to catch a break after a week of illness.  And thinking the universe owes me one.

It's about realizing what really matters.  In the grand scheme of things.

Because I know no one is going to remember me for a water stain.

But right now, that's the hangnail I'm choosing to tug on.  Even if it is small potatoes.  Relatively speaking.

Because it's not about the stain.  It never is.

Friday, March 9, 2012

7 Quick Takes [3.9.12] AKA It's My Birthday And I'll Cry If I Want To

1. It was my 31st birthday on Wednesday. As far as birthdays go, this one was pretty much the worst ever. William was first. Only a couple hours after the midnight hour and into my birthday, he woke us up to let us know he had thrown up all over his pillow. That continued every hour or so for the rest of the night and into the morning. Lucy was next, shortly after breakfast. When the clock read 10 AM, it felt like it was already 8 PM. And that was pretty much how the day went. When one was throwing up, the other was on the toilet doing the other thing. When one was sleeping, one was whining. And on and on and on.

2. Brian stayed home for work. We didn't shower. We didn't get dressed. Brian left the house only once to pick up necessary survival supplies at Walgreen's. We watched a lot of TV. Our washer and drier ran nonstop. We rinsed our hands with bleach. We considered running away. Or at least not having any more kids. We rolled our eyes. We cried. We had a pity party. My birthday dinner was a bowl of Cheerios.

3. This is our second go-round with the throw-ups this year. Hence the pity party. But there are a few things for which I'm thankful. So far Brian, Katherine and myself are completely healthy. And the best birthday present anyone could give me would be to offer up a thousand and one prayers that it stays that way.

Also, I have to say it was a bit easier having the older two kids be sick at the same time rather than have it this week only to have another kid have it next week. We didn't have to worry about the germ swap. At one point we even cozied the two of them up in their sleeping bags in Lucy's full size bed and set up a movie for them to watch on the laptop. That way they were quarantined and we could generally go about our business of sanitizing the main floor.

And finally, I'm so thankful that Brian has the kind of job where he can stay at home or work from home at a moment's notice. He has an overseas business trip coming up and OH MY LORD I am so thankful this didn't occur when he was gone.

4. On Thursday morning, the day after the Worst Birthday Ever, I snapped this photo.
This is how you know when my two little show-offs are really sick.  When neither has the energy to lift their head off their pillow to look above their puke buckets at the camera and give me a smile or a funny face.  Just nothin'.

5. And then there's this little love muffin.
She's as healthy and happy as can be and we've kept her as far away as is possible from her sickie siblings.  Would you just look at her?!  Ah!  All I want to do is nibble on those cheeks and stick my nose in her little neck and kiss her for infinity.  And her hair.  Gotta love the hair that still has yet to start falling out.

She got a little ticked at me earlier in the week because I couldn't make enough milk to satisfy her and I'm just not ready to start solids yet.  This always happens to me around the 4-month mark.  For two days I nursed her every hour and a half or so to help stimulate milk supply and that has seemed to help.  The other night I had a lot to offer her and after a good feeding she slept six straight hours.  That's huge for her.  And it's proven my theory that the only reason she hasn't slept through the night yet is because she's truly a hungry little thing.  Anyone have any other tips on how to make more milk?  And please don't suggest the mother's milk tea.  I tried that once and just could not stand the smell or taste.

6.  My birthday wasn't a total bust.  Brian did surprise me with a brand new pair of post-baby designer jeans.  I wear jeans almost every day so for me, spending money on a quality pair of jeans that fit like a glove and make me feel put together is totally worth it.  But I've never spent this much on jeans.  And I never would.  So a huge thank you to him for spending it for me and letting me know he thinks it's worth it.  And that I'm worth it.  Some time I'll tell you about how Brian used to be the worst present-giver ever and how he's gotten light years better.

7.  And finally, the weather.  This glorious spring weather.  It makes all things feel like they are going to be OK.  It's supposed to be 60 degrees this weekend so I've already declared we will be going for a long walk tomorrow.  Even if that means strapping my too-big five-year-old in the stroller because he still won't have enough energy from being sick to ride his bike.  And if anything, it means we can open up a few windows to rid ourselves of the memories of the Worst Birthday Ever.

Friday, March 2, 2012

7 Quick Takes [3.2.12]

1. I have determined that the best description of what I do all day every day as a housewife with three small children is play a little game called, "Race Against the Clock."  What can I do before William is finished with preschool?  What can I get done before the baby wakes up?  What do I need to do before I start dinner?  Before Brian gets home?  Before the next feeding?  While Little Einsteins is on?

Just now I finished lunch with the kids and put them in their rest zones; reading, napping and just staying in their rooms "until the clock says three, zero, zero!"  And lucky for me the baby is also sleeping at this exact moment. Before I got here to the computer my mind was racing at all I could get done.  Put away the lunch food, load the dishwasher, wipe off the table, vacuum those pesky crumbs under the table, and maybe shake out the rugs while I'm at it, change the laundry, redo the sofa pillows to their original location, fold the blankets the kids used this morning while watching television, put away the contents of that shopping bag from two days ago.  Oh crap! The baby's crying!  Put her nukie back in. Yes, she fell back asleep.  What should I eat for lunch?  I need to go to the bathroom.  It can wait.  Baby's crying again!  Put her in the swing.  It'll buy me another ten minutes.  Reply to an email.  Send a text.  I need to change the chalkboard from February to March.  I'm thirsty.  I need to drink more water or my milk supply is going to drop.  Look up a scone recipe to make sure I have all the ingredients I need for tomorrow morning.  Eat!  I need to eat.  Peel an orange.  Heat up some soup.  Sit down at the computer.

And that's why my entire body might go to hell but I'll always have buns and thighs of steel after climbing the stairs, two at time, approximately 5,784 times a day.  The StairMaster's got nothing on me.

2.  I'm tired after that.  Let's just sit here and have a moment, shall we?

3. Our dishwasher broke this week.  Not really.  The door wouldn't latch and thus it wouldn't run.  This small-ish problem was actually bigger than it seems because a couple years ago the spring that keeps the door from flopping open also broke but we never got around to fixing it.  Broken latch + broken spring = hazard to small children walking by.  I had to keep a chair in front of it for a couple days before Brian got the part we needed.  All this to say I never realized how thankless I am to my modern appliances until they are out of order.

4.  Brian fixed the dishwasher all on his own.  But he only did this after a lot of badgering from me insisting that we didn't need a repairman.  And I was right. I don't know why he lacks confidence in DIY jobs but so far he's never disappointed.  I always tell him a repairman is just a phone call away but most of the time it doesn't hurt to give it a whirl yourself and learn something in the process.

5. Look at this girl.  Oh!  I am in love.
Does it sound like bragging when I say she's the best baby in the whole world?  I don't care.  After three babies, she really is.  Who do you think she looks like?  Brian and I think she looks just like William but almost everyone else says Lucy.

I can't believe that it was a year ago that I was struggling with the idea of a third baby while experiencing the pains of my first trimester of pregnancy.  If I knew then what I know now... She makes it easy for me to envision more children in our family.  Unless, of course, they told me it would be a clone of Lucy.  Then I would really, really, have to think about it.

6. Many people think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill when I explain how exhausting Lucy can be.  She does that to people.  She woos them in with her charm and good looks.  She'll sing you a song, do a little dance and you'll think, what's not to love?  That's how she gets ya.  But spend a day with her and you'll quickly see what I mean.

And therein lies the problem of me sounding like I don't like Lucy. Which is completely false. I have a fierce love for that girl. And crazy amounts of admiration of her.  She's everything good that I am not.  Outgoing and confident.  Determined and motivated.  BUT, she is a difficult child to raise in a house where she is one of five. She doesn't demand that the house revolve around her but she fully expects it to move out of her way so she can do it her own way, on her own clock and without disruption.

A few days ago I finally said aloud what I think I've known all along: This girl is going to be something.  Really something.  And it's going to be big.  You just wait.
7. It's the second Friday of Lent and we're headed to a fish fry tonight at our church with my brother and some friends.  I always feel a little guilty about this.  Lent is supposed to be simple and reverent.  But these fish frys are so much fun!  And they raise a lot of money for our school so I guess I don't feel all that bad.

Head over here for more Quick Takes Friday!
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