Friday, August 31, 2012

7 Quick Takes [8.31.12]

1. It's the beginning of a long holiday weekend.  Brian was home after lunch today.  The weather is supposed to be perfect.  I'm excited.  We have no specific plans.  We'll do donuts.  And coffee.  Maybe ice cream.  A park.  A pool?  It's going to be great.

2.  One thing I'm supremely excited for this weekend is the start of the 2012 College Football season.  Who is as excited as me?!  Notre Dame plays Navy in Dublin, Ireland tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. Keg and eggs anyone? On the menu are homemade egg mcmuffins, coffee and beer.  Well, no beer for me.  Maybe just a sip.  Or two.  There also promises to be lots of yelling and screaming by the man of household.  It's going to be awesome.

3.  Look at this little chica.
I mean, seriously.  We'll title this one Blueberry Pancakes.

4.  In addition to downing food like it's her job she also suddenly decided it was time she start getting around this place on her own power.  Just like that she started crawling.  No progression whatsoever.  One minute she was sitting on the floor, the next she was across the room.  And really it's not the crawling she's interested in.  The crawling is just a means to get thee to the nearest coffee table, sofa or chair so that she can pull herself up to standing and then walk around the furniture from here to there and there to here.  My other two kids didn't walk until 14 or 15 months.  I can't help but wonder if she's on faster plan.  Time will tell.

5.  Next week at this time we will be at the end of our back-to-school week and I, for one, cannot wait.  Not because I'm desperate to get rid of my kids but because I'm desperate for a routine.  My kids have been at each other's throats for the past two weeks.  Activities have ended and without any defined reason to leave the house each day, we're all a little sick of staring at each other's face.  It's OK.  It happens to everyone.  A little time a part doing our own thing will do wonders for the kindness and appreciation factors.  Or at least I have my hopes.

6.  Who else has watched Downton Abbey?! Brian and I started it last weekend as the rain came down and we finished all seven episodes of the first season in two days.  Fascinating!  And I love that the drama doesn't contain any of the violence, crude language or sexually explicit scenes like so many of the current popular dramas.  You can watch the first season instantly on your computer if you're a Netflix member otherwise it's also available through Redbox or your local library.  Who knew PBS could produce something so edge-of-your-seat good?

7.  After much research Brian and I have decided to go back on our decision not to get a new car.  There were many factors influencing our decision and I'm now convinced it's actually a better financial decision to do it now instead of waiting another year.  We're not in a super big hurry but we hope to get everything completed before the snow flies.  First things first, we're trying to sell our car on Craigslist after we heard some positive stories from others.  Here's hoping it all works out for the best.  And if you know of anyone who is looking for a super reliable Toyota Highlander with low miles AND a third row seat, send them our way!  It has all the fun stuff too: leather, moon roof, heated seats, etc.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Six Months Pregnant and Keepin' It Real

I'm getting to the point in this pregnancy where things are getting...difficult.

I have easy pregnancies and even easier deliveries so please don't read this as complaining.  When I go in for my prenatal appointments I must be the most boring patient ever.  How are you feeling? Good.  Any concerns? Nope.  Any questions?  Not that I can think of.

I'm so thankful for this body of mine that performs perfectly again and again.  But that said, being pregnant is still not the same as not being pregnant.

I used to love being pregnant.  I didn't really mind the bump because I always seemed to find some cute maternity clothes that accentuated my pregnancy and made me feel good.  Don't you think that's the trick to good maternity clothes?  Not trying to hide it under baggy clothes but instead finding something that displays your growing baby in a flattering fit.  It works for me anyway.

But now the bump, well, it just gets in the way.

When I was pregnant with William I sat at a desk all day working and came home to a quiet house with just Brian and me.  I had all the time in the world to allow my body the rest it needed.

When I was pregnant with Lucy it became a little more difficult but still very manageable.  I had a two-year-old that needed me.  But he napped a solid three hours every afternoon.  And if things ever got really bad there was always the TV to turn on.

It was my pregnancy with Katherine where things started to get challenging and I didn't love being pregnant like I remembered with the other two.  My body was begging me to slow down but my life wouldn't concede.  It was a hot summer and a really hot fall.  I even remember having the a/c on into October which is unheard of in Minnesota.  I had a preschooler and a toddler who wanted to go, go, go.

After Katherine was born I hit the ground running.  A lot of my friends and family were aghast at the things I was doing just days after giving birth.  But I didn't think anything of it.  I was so happy to have (most of!) my body back.  To be able to run here and there and pick things up without huffing and puffing and getting a head rush felt amazing.  Any postpartum recovery I had going on paled in comparison to the ick I felt being a huge waddling duck.

When I first found out I was pregnant with Number Four I told Brian that I wished someone could deliver the baby to my front doorstep.  I was OK with having four kids.  But the thought of being pregnant with three small children underfoot, one of whom was still an infant, was completely daunting.

The other day I went to the grocery store with all three kids and when I got home I thought I was going die.  I mean, not really, but that's the thing about being pregnant and carrying on with life as usual.  The smallest tasks make me feel like I've just attempted to complete a p90x workout.

I miss my agility and endurance and strength.  And I wish I could complete a p90x workout.  All of them!

But instead my body insists on growing this human.  And growing a human is hard work.  I have to sit down a lot.  And eat regularly.  And visit the potty endlessly.  I complain about the heat even though I am a summer-lover during any other time of my life.  The stairs are my nemesis.  And so is anything that drops on the floor.  And this 10-month-old who has the nerve not to be able to walk yet.  (Just kidding, Katherine!  I seriously love you and hate the thought of you growing up anyway.)

I'm hoping the start of a new school year will allow me more downtime.  I'll have only two kids to deal with from 8-3 daily and only Katherine for two mornings a week.  So maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to crawl toward the finish line with a little more ease.

But deep down I know.  Dinner still needs to be made.  The floors still need to washed.  The laundry still needs to be changed.  And this little Katherine still needs to be carried up and down the stairs.

Pregnancy is not for wimps.  But knowing that countless strong women have gone before me and still lived to tell about it let's me know that this too shall pass.  And it's only a very small paragraph in the great novel of my life.

Monday, August 27, 2012

School Lunch (And a Giveaway!)

Wow.  We have been in back-to-school frenzy mode for the past week and a half.  This year I have a kindergartner and a preschooler.  It's amazing how much more planning and preparing I have to do now that I have a grade-schooler.
And the money!  It's just flying out the window.  Is it just me or have the supply lists gotten extraordinarily longer since we were in school.  Why do they need three boxes of markers?

Last week I made my first stop to the uniform supply store and dropped $40 on two polos.  I'm a savvy clothes shopper for my kids so I just kept thinking about how many shirts I could have really gotten with $40.  I did go the cheap route with his pants and bought those at the Old Navy Uniform Store.  The material might be less durable but I'm almost certain he will outgrow the pants before he has a chance to rip holes in them anyway.

Of course most of these costs are are due to the fact that William is attending private school.  I did have to pick myself up off the floor after I wrote out his tuition check and realized that amount of money would not be paying for a trip to Fiji.  And while the amount is staggering, I refuse to go so far as to complain about it because sending him to private school, after all, was a choice.

But money is still money so I'll take my cost-cutting efforts where I can get them.  Which is why I'll be packing a lunch for him each and every day, forgoing the school's hot lunch program.  At $2.75 a day, that's $55 a month.  And from what I've heard, packing a lunch is the healthier option anyway.

So every morning I'll be packing the Batman lunch box he picked out with things like sandwiches, fresh fruit, yogurt, string cheese, etc.

The following are some tips from Earth's Best on packing your child's school lunch.  If you're a newbie at this like me, I hope you find one or two of the points useful.
  • Bite-sized pieces are more visually-appealing to children.  Keep that in mind when packing fruits or veggies.
  • When in doubt, add a dip! Kids love dips so if you think they might shy away from something like a carrot stick, throw in a little bit of ranch dressing.
  • Keep your cupboards stocked.  Nothing is more aggravating than going through the rush of the morning routine and realizing you don't have much to give your child for lunch.  Keep the habit of going to the store at least once a week to  make sure you have plenty of fresh items on hand.
  • Choose healthier packaged items.  Every kid loves the snack size packaged chips and cookies.  These pack little health benefits but you don't have to say no altogether.  Instead, choose things like pretzels or whole wheat crackers.  Still fun for kids, but leaps and bounds healthier.
  • Let your kids have a say by offering a choice.  Peanut butter or turkey and cheese sandwich?  Grapes, apple slices or an orange?
And finally, last year Darcie at Such the Spot had an excellent post on packing school lunches.  It was loaded with tons of great ideas.  Check it out if you're in need of inspiration.

A Giveaway!
Earth's Best is offering one of my readers a free box of their Sunny Days Snack Bars.  One of these bars would be a great addition to any lunch box!  I've also been throwing them in my purse in case we're in need of some sustenance while we're on-the-go.

To enter simply leave a comment on this post.  I'd love to know if you had packed lunches as a child and if you pack lunches for your own children.  Also, please share if you have any great lunch-packing ideas!  Deadline to enter is Tuesday, September 4 at noon (Central Time).

* Earth's Best has provided me with one box of snack bars for review purposes and one to give away.  As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

This contest is now closed.  The winner is #2, Kati!**

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Baby In A Sink

Her brother and sister were already in bed for the night.

She took a late nap.  And then had a bowl of spaghetti for dinner.  So this was the obvious choice.
Ten months old (today!) and her first ever bath in the sink.  With a sink like this, I'm not sure what took me so long.

I keep looking at the picture.  I'm dying inside.  Suffocated by all the love I have for this sight.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Someday We'll Miss This

Lucy didn't nap. So after bath and reading Oh The Places You'll Go she was in bed by 7:00.  I didn't hear a peep from her after that.

The baby started rubbing her eyes at 6:30.  After a bath, snugly jammies and little Sandra Boynton, she was also in bed at 7:00.  She fought sleep a little harder.  I gave her some water and albeit a little fussing, she figured it out all on her own.

William had taken a nap that afternoon.  A rare event for this almost-six-year-old.  So after his bath and some very good behavior that day, I obliged to his week-long begging to play a certain game on the computer.

Brian cleaned the kitchen.  I ironed some of Lucy's nicer dresses.  Then we both collapsed on the couch to watch Meet The Press, recorded from earlier in the day.  Because we're old.  Or because we like to be informed.  Take your pick.  Then we watched the second half of a movie we couldn't finish on Saturday night because I was too sleepy.  Because I'm old.  Or because I'm pregnant.  Take your pick.

Shortly before 9:00 William asked when it was time for him to go to bed.  Which meant, it was time for him to go to bed.  Hugs and kisses and a little boy in Green Lantern undies and a white Hanes tee was headed up the stairs with his dad where he would find sleep in no time on his top bunk with his Lightning McQueen pillow.

Three kids.  Three bed time routines.  Done.

Brian came back down the stairs.  He said, "Someday we'll miss this, you know."

"I know." I said.

"In five years the new baby will be five.  And William will be almost 11.  Maybe he won't want us to put him bed anymore.  Maybe we'll say 'it's time for bed' and just like that he'll go upstairs to read books or whatever."

At first he had a relieved tone in voice.  Like, someday we will arrived at the intersection of Life and Easy.  But at the end, I could hear the sentimental tone as the thought escaped his lips.

"When are they cute?" He asked me.

"What do you mean?  They're cute now."

He said, "The new baby will be five.  In five years.  We'll be out of the cute stage."

"Probably to other people," I said, "But for us the baby will always be the baby and even at five we'll still think he/she is pretty cute."

"Yeah," he said, "But what about now?  I mean I know Lucy screams a lot, but she's pretty dang cute with her dancing and singing and antics.  Pretty soon that's going to go away and she's just going to be...a kid."

"Yes," I said.  "What about Katherine?  Remember how she was laughing at you at the restaurant today?"

"Yes," he said.  Both of us remembering Brian doing his famous Brian laugh in the middle of the diner.  The one where his face gets all red and the vein on his forehead pops out.  It's a loud, contagious laugh.  And Katherine knew it.  And continued to egg him on.

A few days ago we were arriving home from somewhere and we cut it too close to Katherine's bed time.  She fell asleep in her car seat.  So I picked up her little body, held her close and wrapped a blanket around her as I walked her from the garage to the house.  She tucked her knees up and curled into a little ball, her tired head on my chest.  As I watched the other two kids run ahead of me with their long limbs and able bodies, all the sudden the tiny-ness of Katherine against my body struck me even more.  We waited by the backdoor as Brian unlocked the house and I swayed back and forth with that babe against me.

"See?"  I said, "This is why it's going to be hard for me to ever say 'no more babies.'"

There's no doubt that life is busy right now.  There are always three kids who need me at the exact same time.

It's frustrating.  And maddening.  And annoying.  And completely self-sacrificing.

But also sweet.  And funny.  And rewarding.  And completely fulfilling.

There are parts I want to get rid of.  And parts I want to bottle up and keep forever.

But babies don't keep.  And neither do toddlers.  Or preschoolers.  Or kindergartners.

Someday, at the intersection of Life and Fill-in-the-Blank, I know we'll miss these days.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

To Snack or Not To Snack

I have a quick poll I'd like you to participate in within the comments, if you wouldn't mind.

The topic is kids and snacking.  What's your stance on?  Do you incorporate scheduled snacks within your routine or are they an occurrence here and there?  Do you snack more than once a day?  What do you offer for a snack?

My take on snacks changes with the season and the day.  I've realized I offer a lot more snacks during the summer and I think it's because I can shoo the kids out the door with their plastic bowls and crackers and not have to deal with the crumbs on the dining room floor a mere hour or two after cleaning up the breakfast mess.

I also realize I offer snacks as a parting gift.  As in, please leave me be for ten minutes and as a thank you I'll let you munch on these.

Or sometimes as a reward. Also known as a bribe,  As in, we can't have a snack until all these toys are picked up.

Or as a distraction.  As in, here's a bag of popcorn from the Target food court so that you sit still in the cart while I complete my shopping list.

But what I almost never do is offer a snack for the purposes of nutritional value.  I'm not saying this is the right way, I'm just saying this is the way I've been doing things up until now.

In my experience I have found that too much snacking leads to poor meal eaters.  Not only have I found that snacks fill up their little bellies, leaving little room for a real meal, but it also makes them more picky about what is offered during a meal.

Of course, if all snacks consisted of apple wedges and carrot sticks, there wouldn't be a problem.  But we all know that most snack items contain too much sugar, too much sodium and are almost always packaged.

I do think, however, there is a right way for kids to snack and I found a lot of useful information on Earth's Best website about healthy snacking.  Lately my kids have been enjoying Earth's Best whole grain bars and Sesame Street Crunchin' Crackers and after reading the ingredients on the box, I feel much less guilty about this.  But I admit, I'm still not sold on the idea of scheduled snacking.

Tell me, what's your take?

* This post was inspired by products I received in partnership with Earth's Best.  All opinions are 100% my own.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I made the decision yesterday to stop nursing Katherine.  And really, if I think about it too much, I'll start to bawl my eyes out.  So I try not to think about it.  I just love her so much and I'm so sad that we can't continue down the path I thought we were going to follow. It's not at all what I had in mind for us when she was flung on top of my chest in the first few hours of a Sunday morning.

Lately, she's only been nursing in the morning and it got to the point where I dreaded to hear her awake cries coming from her bedroom. Things were really starting to hurt and I can't even be sure she was getting any milk anyway. It's just one unfortunate causality of having pregnancies too close together. But I'm leaning on the pride that I made it four months after I got a positive pregnancy test to get me through my grief.

And then I walked down the stairs this morning to see this scene.
She really doesn't look all that upset about not nursing, does she?  All is still right in the world.

And it struck me that as I am counting down the hours to the start of school and the return of routine, these types of snugly mornings will be limited to weekends and no school days. 
I'll be busy making lunches and packing backpacks and straightening uniforms.  I am NOT dreading it. Don't get me wrong.  But in this moment, I realized the laziness of summer isn't all bad and there really are some things I'm going to miss. On a morning like this.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chaos is King

So far my day has gone like this:

Sleep in until 7:30ish, playing the pregnancy card for as long as possible.
Cut up banana for the baby.
Pour cereal and milk for the big kids.
Pour cereal and milk for myself.
Watch 5 minutes of news headlines on Today Show.
Make the baby some Malt-O-Meal.
Give Lucy a second bowl of cereal.
Wash all three hands, faces and mouths.
Do dishes.
Drink coffee.
Think about what to make for dinner.
Put a flank steak and veggies in the crock pot for fajitas.
Drink coffee.
Check email.
Answer phone.
Can William play with the neighbor?
Put the baby down for her morning nap.
Throw on yoga pants and a tank.
Put in a load of laundry.
Walk William over to neighbors.
Put on a TV show for Lucy.
Take a shower.
Get dressed.
Make bed and clean up room.
Put on makeup.
Get Lucy dressed.
Do her hair.
Change laundry.
Respond to emails.
Think about blogging.
Give Lucy a snack.
Go pick up William at neighbors.
Make lunch for big kids.
Make a second sandwich for very hungry kids.
Make my own lunch.
Eat a sandwich standing up.
Take Lucy to the potty.
Tuck Lucy in for a nap.
Put William in my bed with books for "rest time."
Baby's awake.
Change baby's diaper.  Put some clothes on her.
Cut up cheese and strawberries for baby's lunch.
Finish eating my lunch.
Do dishes.
Wash off baby.
Let her roll around on the floor.
Change laundry.
Figure out plane itinerary for Boston trip.
Baby's rubbing her eyes.  Time for nap #2.
William's up.
Cut arm holes out of cardboard box for a robot.
Call Orbitz.
Confirm itinerary with my mom and Brian.

Today was pretty normal.  We had no where to be and no errands to run.  I also had no deep cleaning to do.  Just the norm of meeting every one's needs and managing the household.

But there were a lot of mundane things (even more mundane than what was listed!) that I left out.  Like settling fights.  Shushing screams.  Finding time for myself to go to the bathroom.  Cleaning up spilled water. Etcetera, etcetera.

This is what I have to say about having three kids with a fourth on the way: There is no time to waste time.  I have found that with each addition of a new child I am much more efficient than I was with fewer children.  I was the queen of Time Wasting (especially on the computer!) when I only had William to care for.

Does this phenomenon ring true for you?  When I was in college, I was the type of student who, if I had two papers to write and a two finals to study for, I would get it all done days before the deadline.  But if I had only one paper or only one test to study for?  That would get done minutes before it was due.  I have also found that I perform much better under pressure than I do when time is at a leisurely pace.

Of course a life that is filled with to-dos every waking minute is no life for anyone.  But I've learned how to best use that time as well.  And to really enjoy it when it's there.  I don't feel guilty or wasteful about sitting in the sun in the backyard with my kids doing nothing for 15 minutes.  Or sipping a glass of wine with Brian for a half hour after the kids have gone to bed.

So the thought of having four small kids in this house doesn't really scare me too much.  Maybe I'm a person that thrives best on chaos.  I see a mess and my brain likes to figure out the puzzle to efficiently get it all organized.

There are some areas that I am better at organizing than others.  But I do know this: There are always enough minutes given to me each day to get it all done.  I just need to prioritize.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Eight is Great

Today marks eight years since Brian and I walked down the aisle at the chapel on the college campus where we first met.

Eight years is a long time.  Or a very short time.  It depends on how you look at it.  With grandparents who celebrated anniversaries well past the 40 and 50-year mark, it's hard not to look at this as a small blip in time.  And then again, my life is so vastly different than it was eight years ago, it's hard to say that this stretch of time was anything but insignificant.

I'm not going to get into a long post about what makes our marriage work.  I've done that before and I think I've said everything that needs to be said.

But I will say this.  This man, the one who efficiently shoved limes down my Corona bottle at house parties.  The one who really sucked at gift-giving.  The one who drove my car and got countless parking tickets. The one who wrote me song after song.  The one with the navy blue backpack and the black North Face fleece with holes in the sleeves.  The one who carried the tattered guitar case everywhere he went.  The one who was always slow.  And always late.

Well, he's still the one that is the very best part of my day, every day.  When I hear his crappy car rattling a block away.  When I see him pull in the driveway and hear the garage door rumbling open.  When I hear the lock turn on the backdoor and the screen door slam behind him.  My hearts skips a beat.  He's home.  The best part of my day has begun.
On the night of our anniversary dinner, we found this piano in a park calling our name.  How perfect.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

About Being "Done" [For Now]

We're lying in bed.  Brian places a hand on my swollen belly.

"Last one, Love," he says to me.

"Is it?" I ask, "How do you know?"

And thus starts a very good discussion of us hashing out the future of our family and what it means to each of us.

One of the first things you might overhear me saying as I'm announcing that we're expecting our fourth child is that this is "it" for me.  I'm "done" after four.

But every time I say it, it comes with a tinge of regret.

I needed this conversation with Brian to organize my thoughts.  My feelings.  And what our family is really being called to be.

I remember taking premarital classes with Brian and the teaching couple talking about how all married couples are called to be open to new life.  I secretly laughed at this in my head knowing that I would have no problem accepting new babies.  Babies were my absolute favorite and all I ever wanted in life was to be a mother.  This teaching would not be difficult for me.

And now here I am, eight years and four babies later.  At age 31.  Years of fertility still ahead of me.

With each pregnancy I have found myself saying phrases like "next time" or "with our next baby" or "when we have another."  I've saved every baby gadget.  Every piece of blue and pink clothing.

But this time, for the first time ever, there's a tiny whispering in my head to savor it, soak it up.  Cherish every bump and kick within my womb.  Rub my belly.  Close my eyes and really listen to the whoosh whoosh on the Doppler.  Be truly in awe of the image on the ultrasound machine.

There may not be a next time.

I've been having a hard time figuring out if my "done" feelings are because it's what everyone else wants to hear and going for five would make me clinically insane or if the number four is really the final number our family is being called to be.

I explained the guilt of these fighting secular versus sacred ideas in my head to Brian.  And he, ever my voice of reason, rephrased what I was really trying to say, "Jenny, you've have a baby every other year for eight years.  No one is going to accuse you of not being open to life.  We are done.  For now.  And we don't owe anyone an explanation if we have a change of heart later on down the road."

For now.

Those were the words that resonated the most with me.

Up until now, whenever we've had a baby, we knew we'd be right back in the same place a couple years (months?!) later.  It's happened every single time.  Except this time.

After much prayerful consideration, I now have peace in my heart that we are done.  For now.

What does that mean?

I'm not really sure.  Of course one can only be so certain they are done when they are participating in the types of activities that make babies.  Ahem.

But I think, for us, being done means that while we are overwhelmed with four kids age six and under and doing the best we can to take care of our own mental and emotional health and, most importantly, our marriage, a new baby is not something we will be actively considering.

But is it off the table?  No.

The door is closed.  For now.  But it's not locked.
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