Monday, October 31, 2011

Home Tour, Volume 2

Because I need to post, but am crashing too hard on Halloween candy to try to write anything, I present our living room, in a (mostly) toy and kid free state:














This is how we use our play yard when it's not set up in the middle of the room. I seriously think it's one of the most invaluable items of kid gear you can buy. You can gate off anything with that sucker, PLUS you can take it outside, either to use as a playpen or to hose it off if the idea of wiping every nook and cranny is a little too daunting. On a seasonal note, it may just go around our Christmas tree this year. We'll just have to see how Jamie does. Y'know, now that he's WALKING and all. :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Parenting Fail

Perhaps you, like me, have always sought to parent with an emphasis on frankness regarding the human body and its natural and normal functions, without shame and with acceptance and appreciation for the wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Perhaps you have always, in private settings, permitted honest observations about the differences and similarities of our bodies, encouraging a dialogue about function over form and of the very subjective and changeable nature of the term "beauty." Perhaps, during your recent pregnancy, your children were encouraged to observe the growth of your belly and even the existence of your stretch marks, so as to foster a sense of normalcy and acceptance regarding the biological functions of the female body, and of the cosmetic changes sometimes rendered by those functions.

Congratulations on being so forward thinking and relaxed and hippie-like and whatnot! Now your child, too, might pipe up with any or all of the following questions and observations (if you're lucky, all within the span of a few days!):

-"Why are your front teeth so big, Mom?"

-(while tenderly patting your face) "Hey, Mom, you forehead skin feels bumpy! Why isn't it soft like the rest of your face?"

-(after bursting in on you as you are exiting the shower) "Huh, Mom, your butt doesn't look the same as mine- yours is sort of SAGGY, isn't it?"

Humph. I think maybe it's time to emphasize the importance of diplomacy and tact over honesty, now.

Friday, October 21, 2011

This Entry Would Be Good With A Nicely Aged Cheese

I'm sure most of you already read Amalah (and sorry there's no link, but Blogger has been screwing up my links for about a month now,) but if you don't, or didn't get to read today's entry yet, let me just urge you to right this minute. Or at least to read this excerpt, which gives you the gist of it:

The thing is, I'm not unhappy. Like, at all. I love this life, this crazy minivan-full-of-many-boy-children life that I never, ever expected to be living, but oh, I'm so glad I do. Honestly, I could kind of see myself having baby after baby, if I only had a place to put them besides Ikea dresser drawers. Or enough money to keep them all in karate/braces/camp/pizza/college.

Or enough patience to promise myself that I wouldn't yell at them for taking too long to put their shoes on, thus making me get out of the car and show the world that I didn't have time to get dressed that morning, even though that was my own damn fault for not getting out of bed 15 freaking minutes earlier, because...what? I thought today was going to be the magical day when everybody puts their shoes on the first time I ask instead of the seventh? Come on.



Indeed. I am overall so grateful and content and even EXCITED about my Important Life Choices thus far, but boy can I relate. Especially to that bit about feeling teeth-grindingly irritated at your constant state of running behind schedule, even though you know you could probably head off the crazy by just regularly ASSUMING that none of your kids will function properly and compensating accordingly. I mean, how many times have I yelled at everyone to hurry up when what I really wish I could do is go back in time an hour and yell that very thing to mySELF, still laying in bed with an arm thrown over my eyes trying to wish away the call of duty?

Today was even a good day, overall, but sometimes this suburban, stay-at-home parent to three young kids, living-on-a-budget-much-tighter-than-we-anticipated-back-before-2008 life feels... about like it sounds, I guess. Huh.

I should be very excited right now: my friend/client is due with her baby basically any day at this point, and while I am disappointed that she will very likely deliver before I've attended my workshops, thus disqualifying that experience from counting towards my certification, I am happy that her difficult pregnancy will be over soon, and happy that at least I probably won't have to worry about heading for Ann Arbor for three days, leaving her a hugely pregnant time bomb at a week from her due date.

I also got a new client last week, a referral from my own doula, who is herself having some very serious health problems due to a surgical complication, and who may be out of commission for quite some time. While this is hardly good news (and please pray/think good thoughts for her if you would, as she went through some really scary stuff) it does mean I may be able to fulfill my three practice births requirement sooner than I anticipated, which would be fantastic. It was a really cool feeling to go and meet with a client who has no personal knowledge of me and whose only relationship with me will be as a birth professional... definitely a different experience than serving as a doula for a friend, though that is obviously a thrill too. But serving in that capacity doesn't feel quite as NEW, I guess, since I've been present at births of friends and relatives before.

But anyways, you know, I should be feeling pretty jazzed and instead I feel a little PMS-ish and frustrated and overwhelmed by all the different categories of to-do lists running through my brain. I guess part of my mood could also be due to a week straight of rain/clouds, and another part still to the ongoing Eli struggles: he's doing much better in terms of daily behavior than even a few weeks ago, thank goodness, but still battles so much with controlling himself once one little thing (and my, how fun it is predicting what that one thing will be, HA HA HA) tips his mental scales into the negative zone.

It's depressing mostly because I feel like the majority of the behavior improvement has been the result of Jim and me figuring out better ways to head off the temper tantrums. Which is GOOD, don't get me wrong, but I'd prefer for ELI to be the one gaining improved coping skills, y'know? I sometimes feel so exhausted at the end of the day from constantly navigating the minefield of his fragile and unpredictable emotions. And I LOATHE that our family is falling into this classic, middle child as the difficult child stereotype. Sigh.

In a side note, it is also WILDLY UNHELPFUL to my general frame of mind that the very bad word cluster very bad worst cluster roof is leaking into YET ANOTHER VERY BAD WORD CLUSTER CLOSET! A CLOSET IN WHICH MY PERSONAL CLOTHING RESIDES! AFTER HAVING BEEN ALLEGEDLY REPAIRED BY PROFESSIONALS! VERY BAD WORST CLUSTER. This, on the heels of Jim having to put our mailbox back up after last week's babysitter (who was a gem in all other respects) backed into it. Home ownership is for the birds, man.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sweetest's Day


Addy's dream come true.


How amazing is this cake?! I mean, right? I think this has Cakewrecks potential.

Welp, I did it! I gave a toast without reading from notecards, without sobbing openly, and without saying anything too embarrassing for the new couple or myself. Hooray! Another life experience under my belt. The wedding- the whole weekend, actually- went by way too fast, but it was an awesome time, and was totally worth all the driving and childcare arrangements (and coming home to find poop on a bath towel, what the sweet mother of...) and shoes that made my toes go numb. I got to hang out with so many people that I love so much and don't get to see nearly often enough, and now I'm going to feel weird and sad the next few days wishing I could... I don't know, take them all on a week-long cruise with me. Five hours of reception is not enough.

Sadly, I have no reception pictures, except for the cake and candy buffet, which I took before dinner. After that, well. That's between us and the awesome complimentary photo booth Renee and Justin hired, complete with funny prop box full of fake mustaches and feather boas. Speaking from personal experience and as a witness to the wild rustling and shrieking coming from behind the black curtain, that poor photo booth attendant was privy to many a special moment as the night wore on. My sister has most of the prints, I believe, and when she gets them scanned and emailed, maybe I'll share, assuming I get everyone else in the pictures to sign the necessary release of privacy forms. For now, here's a few of the bridal party pre and post ceremony.


The beautiful bride.


Shawn the hairdresser attempting to tame my hair. Despite repeated warnings from both Renee and myself that yes, I really do have enough hair for three people, he still had to express the obligatory shock and awe (and dismay) when he first plunged his hands in. Before bed that night, I pulled twenty five hair pins from my scalp, and even that hadn't been enough to keep it from tumbling everywhere after just a few minutes with the Black Eyed Peas out on the dance floor.


Subway!


The bride's sister Kelly, maid of honor (and Reese Witherspoon lookalike, amiright?)


My sister Rachel and friend Linzi.



Party bus! In which there was three bottles of champagne, but nary a glass or drinking receptacle of any kind. So uh, here's hoping no one had the flu, because there were a lot of basic hygiene practices dispensed with in that limo, let me tell you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Excited/Stressed

I am feeling a little wound up/frazzled this week. Friday afternoon I leave for Kentucky, where I am the matron of honor (ugh, I'm a MATRON!) in my friend's wedding- my best friend from, I don't know, probably our sophomore or junior year of high school. I can't believe it's been ten years since she taught me how to skip class undetected. We've certainly gone our separate ways since high school, and haven't lived in the same town since 2003, but whenever we reconnect it's like no time has passed at all. It's pretty astonishing, actually, how quickly a married mother of three can revert to acting like a high schooler.

I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! The wedding weekend is going to be super fun, but mostly I'm just so happy because I think I have never before met a couple so perfect together. I can definitely give the sappy part of my toast ("I know you two will be happy forever!") with a clear conscience, because I will be telling the absolute truth: they were made for each other. And that's the most important part of the wedding, OBVIOUSLY. All the rest are just minor details in comparison. But still. I want everything to go perfectly, and mostly I want to not trip walking down the aisle in the heels which I am being ordered to wear but which I am so not used to walking in anymore.

I am also kind of nervous about the speech thing, as I have been told to keep the mushy stuff to a minimum and aim for funny instead. I think in general I AM a pretty funny conversationalist, but giving a speech is different. I've never had to PLAN for funny before. It's just... tricky. Lord knows we've all heard some painfully awkward wedding toasts in which the speaker was clearly aiming for funny but instead the speech went full-tilt too much information. There's a very fine line between a funny story about the bride/groom and a mortifying story about the bride/groom which none of the new in laws (or in fact the person's own blood relatives) ever needed to hear, y'know? So. TRICKY. Anyone know a good joke or ice breaker?

Other wedding related frets include the following:

-I am leaving on Friday to attend the rehearsal/dinner, as well as the wedding the next day, obviously, so I will be gone from Eli and Jamie for over forty eight hours. This is making me feel a little teary, and worried about how they will cope.

-The boys will be with two different sets of babysitters between Saturday afternoon (when Jim and Addy leave for the wedding) and Sunday afternoon when we all get home. I am fretting about the logistics of this and also Eli's behavior with other adults, one of whom he doesn't know very well, unfortunately.

-Relatedly, I am fretting about making sure the house is clean and organized and that all possible child-related supplies are stocked up on, since there will be all these people at my house, taking care of my kids, while I'm four hours away. I need to leave all these NOTES and LISTS about food and bedtime (Pull Up must be on! and then probably sheets will need stripped in the morning despite Pull Up!) and how to work the streaming Netflix and when/if to give baths and vitamins and time outs and and and....

-finding my way around Louisville, since I am so terrible at directions and can get myself turned around and confused in my own hometown where I have lived my entire life.


But at least we found babysitters, THANK GOD. It was getting down to the wire there.

Adding to the stress of the week:

-My doula client has been in the hospital since last Thursday with preterm labor issues. She even failed her fetal fibronectin test, so she's on strict bedrest until she has the baby, basically. This sucks for many reasons, obviously, but it especially sucks because a) she gets out of the hospital the day I leave for Kentucky, and I don't want her to go and have the baby the weekend I am gone! And b) she will almost definitely deliver before I attend my doula workshops in November (just ten days before her due date) which means that her birth can't count toward my certification. And c) if she does deliver before thirty six weeks, which seems likely, her birth is going to be a lot more medical than we were hoping, for obvious reasons which I agree with but which nonetheless stink.

-Our doctor heard a heart murmur when Eli had his check up last week, so today I am taking him to the hospital for an echo cardiogram (sp?) Addy had one at three months old, and was fine, and my nephew had one a few months ago, and was also fine. So maybe heart murmurs just run in the family? But this seems more concerning, since both of the other kids' were heard as infants (i.e. the murmur was present basically from birth) but Eli's always been fine up until now, so this is a new development. I'm honestly not super worried, but, you know... It's never a breeze taking your kid to the hospital for something HEART RELATED.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cold Feet

Adelay and I were sitting at the kitchen table just now, me reading my library book and drinking coffee and she, oh scorner of books, working on a dot-to-dot, biting her tongue in concentration. After awhile I heard her sigh heavily, and asked her what was wrong.

"My feet are really cold!" she said crossly. "It's making me freezing!"

"Well, go get some socks or your slippers," I responded easily, returning to my book.

"No, because I'm too cold to walk to my room!" she moaned, and crawled into my lap instead.

Instantly, because I am an introspective, metaphorically-thinking dork, I thought of all the times that I myself know exactly what it is I need to feel better- more sleep, more exercise, more time with the husband, better eating habits- but am so full of excuses for why I can't give myself the very thing I want or need.

Just today I was bemoaning my lack of muscle tone to my friend, noting that even though I weigh a little less than I did pre-pregnancy, I feel that I look much flabbier and less shapely. "I think I'd take a higher number on the scale if it meant my body looked a little firmer!" I told her. But the next thing out of my mouth was, of course, a litany of reasons why exercise is so inconvenient right now: don't want to spend money on a gym membership, can't run or jog in our neighborhood because of my bad knee, can't buy an elliptical for the house because there's nowhere to put it, ditto for a weight machine, I can barely find time for the stuff I already have to do, blah blah blah.

Not that those reasons are not true or not legitimate. It's just that I still know I could find ways to tone up and strengthen my knee again if I really wanted to. I did it once and I could do it again. I have come to believe that ultimately, we do what we want to do. Everything else is mostly excuses, you know? So I think this is one of those situations in which I either need to suck it up and find a way to do some weight training, or I need to stop complaining about my lumpy love handles and jiggly thighs. Stop whining about having cold feet, or walk down the hall and get myself a pair of slippers, so to speak.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, today was a little better. Eli had his four year well child check up (a month late, yes) and I talked pretty frankly with our doctor about my concerns regarding his behavior. Part of me was thinking, "Oh, why bother him, and anyways, he's a doctor of BODIES, not brains. What can he tell you that you couldn't google or read in a book or don't already know?" But the other part of me thought, "It couldn't hurt to bring it up, and anyways, might as well get your money's worth out of the visit!"

As it turned out, he did have an interesting observation. He asked if anything had changed in Eli's daily life lately, and besides Addy going to school full time, the only other thing I could come up with was the fact that I've been spending a lot of my free time doing doula training prep: reading, spending more time online and on the phone with either my doula mentor or with the friend who is my first "practice" client. I've also had to leave several times in the evenings and weekends for meetings with these people. Not a huge deal, and nothing I thought to discuss with Eli, but the doctor suggested that possibly he's feeling kind of abandoned by me since I have something new with which I am, admittedly, a little preoccupied. Huh.

Who knows if that's really it, or just the rotten fours (what was it Elisabeth said awhile ago? That she keeps looking for a book to help her with her own Eli, but that the title she's looking for, "Your Four Year Old: A Tremendous Asshole" seems to be out of print or something?) but after talking about it honestly with Jim, the doctor, my mom, my friend, you all... I decided that regardless of the root of the problem, the solution is probably found in that old saying, "Children need love the most when they deserve it the least."

So, after dinner tonight, even though he fussed and whined and refused to eat it, we made cookies together and had fun. That felt good.

video

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Grow Up

It is so beautiful outside today, so warm, so Indian-summer except that it's not quite late enough into fall for sudden balmy temperatures to qualify as that. So we'll just say it's a lovely autumn day. Adelay and I made sand art sculptures on the deck today, using a kit she got at her birthday party, and I was so grateful that it was nice enough outside to be dumping all that neon sand on the grass instead of our kitchen floor. It was so peaceful, watching the sand trickling down the tiny funnel and into the plastic hearts and butterflies. About as spa-zen as a frazzled mom of three gets during a normal afternoon, I suppose.

My dear middle child has been slowly taking it out of me the last few days, and I am just so tired. I feel kind of defeated today. On our way home from the afternoon's errands, all I wanted was to have somewhere to dump him off for a while, to walk away and say, "Not my problem right now." His behavior just seems to keep regressing: the running away, the throwing fits, the hateful language whenever he's angry with me. He will scowl at me from the floor where he has hurled himself and hiss, "Fine, then I don't like you anymore!" and I will think, while carefully schooling my features into a blank and impassive expression, "Right back at you, kid."

I had to physically carry him out of a store today while he screamed, and the baby in the stroller screamed too, rudely awakened by his older brother's fit about an NFL football player Christmas ornament he had seen dangling in a Hallmark display. But it could have been anything. Once he sees something he likes, any errand, any shopping trip is brought to a grinding halt, and it's like negotiating with a terrorist to get out of the store without blood, sweat and tears (there's usually at least sweat and tears.)

Yesterday, thinking that maybe his recent bad behavior has been due to boredom, I drove over to a friend's house and picked up their little boy to come play with Eli for a few hours. At first all was well: Eli and his friend played with action figures, Jameson napped, I folded laundry and peaked in occasionally to listen to their hilarious conversations. But as usual, it all unraveled as soon as Eli didn't get his way about something (this time, it was what snack to have) and he continued whining, throwing fits, hiding, yelling at me and at his friend, etc, until finally I just took the other boy home, after apologizing profusely for Eli's rude behavior. I have never felt so embarrassed and disappointed by my own kid. And like such a failure.

We have literally tried every sort of discipline in the book, short of, you know, beating him or something, and it doesn't seem to matter to him. You can literally watch the crazy come over him, and it's like he literally can't control himself, even if we've spent the previous half hour getting him psyched up to behave well and earn a prize, redeem a toy from time out, get an ice cream cone, whatever. We're trying so hard to give him the opportunity to make good choices, to not get him stuck in this cycle of being the "bad" kid, we're talking talking talking to him, praising him whenever he is good, giving tons of hugs and cuddles, and he's still just losing his shit on a daily basis. I don't know what to do. And I'm tired of feeling like a prisoner to my own child's hysterics.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Birthdays. Plural. So! Many! Birthdays!

The weekend of hosting multiple birthday parties went off very well, but oh my word, I am FEELING it today. I just keep staggering around as though someone is sneakily refilling my coffee cup with decaf. I even went to bed early last night, but apparently sevenish hours of sleep was not enough to counter the effects of: a big family birthday dinner Friday night for both Addy and Jamie, a kid birthday party Saturday afternoon for Addy's friends, a family dinner and late night with my sister Saturday evening, and church and a Fall Festival on Sunday.

These pictures are not in any kind of order, and I am too lazy and sleepy to bother flipping them around, so, randomly, here are some photos of the weekend.



This morning, opening presents before school.


With some friends, at her Rock Star! themed party. (At which the theme was kind of a bust... The plan was for the kids to each get an instrument, or position of singer or dancer, and put together a little show for the grown ups performing to Addy's favorite dance music. Instead, the motley crew quickly fell apart due to the inevitable band problems: internal power struggles and ego issues. At least it wasn't drugs or alcohol, I guess. But the concert was cancelled.)


Awesome cake, courtesy of my sister Laura. (That's right, my policy is that I host the parties, but Sarah no bake-y. Let's all stick with what we do best.)


Photo board from Adelay and Jameson's joint party.


Jamers was utterly riveted by his singing card.


Notice all of the helping hands assisting the birthday boy with his gifts. Just one of the many benefits of having lots of cousins and siblings! Learn to love it, Jamie.


Addy with her pile of gifts, with which she needed NO assistance, thankyouverymuch. Like mother, like daughter.


As per his usual stance on... people, places, and things, Jamie approached the whole cake ritual with some skepticism.


Birthday boy may have been slightly underwhelmed, but the rest of us were blown away by the treasure chest cake my mom made. Pretty sweet, no?


And this is where I found myself this afternoon, trying to read that doula book there on the footrest, but instead falling asleep in the sunshine. Oh well. I've earned a nap. Maybe tomorrow I'll be productive again.