Friday, December 19, 2014

One of Those Times

Sometimes, I so rock life.  I mean seriously...I kill it.  I workout 3-4 times a week, homework gets done, the house is relatively clean, Clif and I get a night out, we eat our veggies, laundry is put away, everyone is happy and healthy and we are totally winning.


Well then there are the other 51 weeks in the year.

Kidding...but seriously, then there are those times...well, I completely and utterly fail at all aspects of this little life we have.  I'm in one of those times right now.

I ate fast food this week.  I haven't eaten fast food in a very long time.  I did go to the gym on Wednesday, but that was definitely negated by the fast food.

One of the dogs pooped all over the hall last night.  That was fun to clean up, while also yelling at Ainsley to do her homework at 8:30 at night.  Did I mention that she hasn't done it all week and bedtime is 8:00?  And I'm not a crazy homework nazi, but she did miss a week of school while we were in Disney.  Then she got sick, and missed 4 out of 5 days of the following week.  So I feel like she's a bit behind.

My house...oh boy.  It is baaaaaad.  Like, really bad.  Like, I can't even bear to be awake and in it, bad.  Good thing I've been so busy that I haven't spent any time there.  Probably also the reason one of the dogs defecated in the house.  They were left there from 7:30ish yesterday morning until 7:30ish last night.  That's not normal, but it has been kind of par for this past week.

Other than the actual Wendy's fast food this week, we've also eaten out every night...or ordered in.  There's so much to do that I just can't even seem to get home before 6:30 or 7 and then it's just too late to do anything but order a pizza or send Clif on a dinner mission.

Last night, he called to ask if he should pick up food and I said yes.  He asked what I wanted and I said "I don't care, can you please just make this decision?"  He said okay, but what did I specifically want from a certain place.  My response..."Just make sure it doesn't have mushrooms.  I'll eat anything else."

And when I'm in one of these times, I just want to curl up in my bed and cry and sleep.  I don't want to finish Christmas shopping, or clean my house, or wrap presents, or make dinner, or even be present in the evening. Every night, at bedtime.  I go upstairs and tell Freddie to put his PJs on 734 times.  Then I change into my own PJs, lay on my bed and say "Can the kids put themselves to bed and I just stay here?  And while people and things are doing their own stuff...can Ainsley's lunch pack itself, and the kitchen floor mop itself, and the stupid elf move itself?  All while I sleep?"  Then I go to Freddie's room and find him half naked and give him the same lecture I give him every night about doing what I ask when I ask it.

I know it will pass...but it sure sucks while it's happening and there just seems no end in sight.  No end until the big ole Christmas Day deadline when shopping and wrapping and cooking and baking and cleaning and everything else in the world must be done.  Is it any wonder that this is not my favorite holiday?  I will take a nice cold beer on a warm 4th of July day over December 1st-23rd EVERY SINGLE TIME!!!

Now December 24th and 25th are pretty freaking's just the lead up that gets me.

So until then, I will be over here all zombie and bah-humbug-ish.

Monday, December 15, 2014

To the Woman in the Booth Over There


You'll have to forgive me, I didn't catch your name.  Honestly, if I passed you on the street, I probably wouldn't recognize you.  I'm not sure what color hair you have or how tall  you are.  I don't know your age or where you're from.

All I know is that you sat near us at Outback on Friday night, so I could make certain assumptions about your life, but I'm not going to do that.  I'm going to do my best to give you the benefit of the doubt.

So for a moment, let me tell you about us.  We don't eat out very often.  When we do it's normally at one of those counter service places.  You know the ones that are just a step above fast food.  We go to places like Chipotle, or Chick-Fil-A, or Firehouse Subs.  Oh and pizza...we do pizza quite often.

We work.  My husband and I both work full time.  And we have young I'm sure you noticed.  So on nights that involve errands or dropping off cars for oil changes, well, it's very hard to get home and get dinner on the table before bedtime.  So on those nights, we do eat out.

Rarely do we go to a sit-down restaurant.  It's not very affordable for a family of 5 and really the kids are much more happy with chicken nuggets or pizza.  But on occasion, when we're feeling financially optimistic, we will go to a place like Outback.  Before Friday night, I'm pretty sure I hadn't been to an Outback in over a year.  The food is okay, and it is very pricey.

I won't take my kids to a nice restaurant.  If I'm not sure what kind of place it is, I always call and ask about the noise level and if they have a kids menu.  I am always very conscience of my children in public and how they're acting.  I never want them to be perceived in a bad way.  I know they aren't bad children, I know they're just children.  But some tend to jump to conclusions based on a momentary meeting or impression.

So Friday night we decided on Outback, and so did you.  I didn't even notice you.  I was very busy cutting up grapes for the baby, finding ketchup for the preschooler, and walking my 2nd grader to the bathroom.  There were definitely some tears from the baby at the beginning, and maybe towards the middle when the grapes ran out and he had to wait for more.  You see, we're in this crazy kid phase.  He doesn't want to be in the highchair but he's really too young for a booster seat.  He loves the booster, but he doesn't like to stay put, you know?  Maybe you don't.  Again, I don't know you at all, so I don't even know if you have children.  But trust me, 18 month-olds are terrible listeners.  Asking them to sit and quiet down simply does not work.

It was as we were finishing our dinner that you made  your presence known.  You walked over and very politely said "Excuse me, I have a request for you."  I looked up and don't think I didn't notice that you were directing this at me.  You didn't even glance at my husband.

You continued..."The next time your son is screaming at the top of his lungs, please take him outside as to not disturb the other guests in the restaurant."

Or something like that.  To be honest, no one has ever said anything like that to me before.  And at this point my husband was talking back.  Like usual, I can never defend myself the moment I need to.  I'm much better at taking the time to write it down.  Plus, while all this is going on and you and my husband are exchanging words (and again, don't think I didn't notice how you kept looking at me, even though he was doing all the talking, like "A mother should control her children.")  I'm very aware of the fact that we have 3 sets of little eyes watching us.  Three sets of little ears hanging on every word.  Three little minds and personalities being shaped and impressed by everything we do.

There was an exchange, a heated one.  I think the only thing I did was thank you for informing us of how to be good parents.  Some smart ass comment, that probably didn't even come out the way I intended it to because I really suck at that kind of thing.  Then you left.  I can't remember what you said after your initial "request" and I can't really remember any of my husband's words...just the look on his face.

So here's the thing...I get it.  At least I'm trying to get it.  I'm trying to not be all judgy and rude, like some people.  So I'm saying to myself...maybe this was her and her husband's only night out all month.  Maybe she's never had children, or maybe she does have children, and she just doesn't know or remember.  Maybe this is the highest quality restaurant they go to.  Maybe my baby did ruin their meal.

If any of that is true...I'm sorry.  Really, I'm sorry if my child caused you grief and annoyance.  I'm not being condescending or sarcastic.  I'm really sorry.

But I think, maybe, you owe me an apology too.  Because what were you hoping to accomplish?  How does informing me after the fact that my child has ruined your night, do anything but make me feel terrible?  How does approaching people about the way they handle their children fix anything?

That night I went from being embarrassed to upset to angry to confused.  But here's the thing, if you were sitting in front of me right now, and I had the time to think about what to say to you so that I didn't cry or scream.  I would say this.  You have every right to a have a nice dinner.  But I have every right to take my family to dinner at a family restaurant.  You have every right to be annoyed with my kids.  But they have every right to act like kids.  Newsflash...we all live on this planet TOGETHER and we all have to figure out how to work it out and get along.  

So next time you're sitting near us in a restaurant that's meant for families, please feel free to ask for another table.  If I notice, I may be a bit self conscious but I will understand.  Please feel free to roll your eyes and cover your ears.  Again, it may bother me a bit, but I get it.  But please, do not stroll over in all of your high and mightiness and tell me how to sooth my baby or raise my children.  I've got that covered.

The Woman with the Screaming Kid at Outback

Monday, November 17, 2014

Officially Retired

I thought that maybe I'd nurse Cohen for 2 years.  Ainsley went 14 months, Freddie went 19.  So I thought I could take Cohen a bit further.  However, I've known for awhile that I may not be able to get the night weaning to really work if I didn't just stop all together.

Then last week I went to Oregon for work.  I was gone 4 full days.  I pumped and got next to nothing.  So I knew I was done.

Even before I left, I thought that this trip might do it.  Might get him over the hump.  Might be enough time apart for him to realize he doesn't need it.  So on Monday night, before I left, I nursed him and I knew that it might be the end.  I'm glad I thought about that and took the time to sit and rub his cheek and hair.  I'm glad I focused on just that for 10 minutes so I can remember his little face like that.  I can distinctly remember the last time I nursed each of my kids.  I've been lucky that I've always known when the end was near.  I've always been able to plan it out.

This time it's a bit different.  I am done nursing...forever.  And the weight of that makes me sad, because it means that I have passed another stage, checked off another box, moved forward a bit more.  My baby days are over.

But overall, I'm okay with it.  I didn't collapse into tears in my hotel room when I realized I wasn't making any more milk.  And I didn't cry and give in when he asked for it a few times this weekend.  I will miss his little fist on my shirt, big blue eyes staring up at me, repeating "NiNi?  NiNi?"  I will miss nights rocking him to sleep in the quiet of his room.  I will miss the power to soothe him instantly.  But I forgot the wonderfulness that comes when nursing ends.

Up to this point, a nursing mother provides nourishment for the child and the child comes to rely on that as a way to soothe and comfort.  But this weekend, without the nursing, Cohen actually cuddled up on my lap and just sat there with his head resting on my shoulder or nuzzled in my belly.  He's never done that with me.  With Clif, yes.  He hugs his siblings willingly.  But not really with me, because I'm the boobs.  He is comforted by nursing.  So now he can snuggle me without that getting in the way.

So now the girls are officially retired.  Maybe I can finally buy a bra and wear it for longer than 6 months.  Maybe I'll finally know my actual size.  I'll  never again have sore nipples or engorged breasts.  I have completely enjoyed the 4+ years I've nursed my babies and I will always look back at those times as some of my most precious.  I will forever remember the sound a nursing baby makes, the feeling of let down, and the smell of milk breath.  But everything has to end, and I'm glad I was able to do it on my terms.  I am thankful for that and ready to take the next step.

Friday, October 3, 2014

One More Time

There are things I'll miss about having a baby.  I will miss the clink of onsie snaps in the dryer and sleepy heads on my chest.  I'll miss that aroma of warm milk and baby soap.  I'll miss bald heads and little toes.  I'll miss wearing a tiny person in my Lovey Duds wrap and little fingers grasping mine as I nurse in the rocker.  I'll miss the sight of a baby swaddled like a burrito and pictures of blank stares and cooing mouths.  I'll miss the firsts.  The first step, the first word, the first smile. 

And as I restrain a screaming, 24 lb, toddler that seems to have superhuman strength at 1:30am for over an hour I realize, I will even miss weaning.

I won't miss the lost sleep.  I won't miss the helplessness.  I won't miss the ear-splitting, headache-inducing, screaming.  But I will miss this.  I will miss this time that he chooses me, that he needs me, that with one simple act I can bring comfort and relaxation and sleep.

We have come to the time.  I never know exactly when it will be.  But I know it's time that I begin the process.  Right now, I'm just trying to get him back to sleep without nursing.  I'm not ready to give it up completely.  Ainsley went 13 months, Freddie 19 months...Cohen will most likely go longer.  But what I can't do anymore is have him nurse consistently through the night.  It's become a problem for him and me.  Neither of us get the sleep we need.  So it's time to at least start this journey.

We had a terrible night 3 weeks ago, but then it got better, and I thought we were on the right track.  Then we went out of town.  And we all slept in the same space, and I couldn't have him screaming in the middle of the night when he was all out of sorts and waking up the whole place.  So I gave in.  And I knew it would be a set back...I just didn't realize how much. 

This week has been horrific.  I'm exhausted.  I know it will pass...but this time while I'm standing hip deep in the muck its hard to think about what's next.

BUT...while the screaming crashes through my skull and the kicking and punches make my tired limbs ache and I can't help but just cry with him...I try to remember that when we come out on the other side of this, I'll be one step farther from my baby days.  That soon after that, I won't sense his little body cuddled up to mine in the night.  I won't feel his little fingers pinch my skin.  I won't smell his soft wisps of hair that tickle my face.  I won't see those deep blue eyes fight to stay open and eventually, slowly, close.  And when I remember all of that, I know I can do this one more time.  I can breath in every moment, the good and the bad, and get over this hill one more time.  Just make sure there's plenty of coffee for me in the morning.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I See You

You throw fits at the bus stop.  You desperately want to ride the bus.  You hate that your sister is doing something you can't.  Your 50 pounds of muscle and energy pull me off balance.  Other parents say things like "Poor guy," or "Isn't that cute."  But I see them back away and look at me sideways.  They can't see you.

You scream at soccer practice.  You expected a game.  You refuse to play and walk off the field in a huff.  The coaches smile uncomfortably at me.  They say things like "When he's ready," or "He can join us when he wants."  But the awkwardness persists.  They can't see you.

You cry and pout after being punished.  You can't understand what you did to deserve this.  You feel wronged.  You feel like every one's picking on you.  Like no one likes you.  Everyone laughs at the silliness of it all.  They remind you what happened, and they're annoyed when you don't agree.  They can't see you.

No one can see the real you.  No one says it, but a lot of grown ups think I'm too easy on you.  Think you are a bit too wild.  But I see you, Freddie.

You are difficult.  You have strong opinions.  You are stubborn.  You march to the beat of your own drum.

But behind those thick blond bangs, I see who you really are.  I see who you will be with a heart big enough to love the whole world.  A heart that I know will get crushed so many times but will always come back for more.  And I'm going to make sure of it, because of all the people who will break your heart, I will never be one of them.  I'll always protect it.

In those deep blue eyes I see a will strong enough to support the universe.  A will that people will try and beat down.  A will that people won't always understand.  But I will support it, I'll never question it.

I hear that gruff little boy voice and I hear ideas that could change people.  Thoughts bouncing around in that little brain.  Stories spilling out of your soul.  They won't always believe in you, they won't always listen to you...but I promise, I will.

I'll always hear your side, even if it's a lie.  I'll always hug you back, even when you're maddening.  I'll always take your side, even when you're wrong.

Because I see you and I love who I see.

Monday, August 25, 2014


I'm back at work today after an awesome, super-fabulous, week off with my minis.  So I'm feeling all sad and weepy and searching for any way to cover my salary so I never have to leave them again.  Probably should be going through the hundreds of emails I have, but get rich quick schemes are way more productive and fun.

Next week Ainsley will be back in school, I'll be back in full swing at work, and the hectic crazy schedule of fall will settle on us and I won't necessarily feel this way.  But last night, I was almost crying as I went to bed.  Knowing that I would close my eyes, and when I opened them it would all be over.  I stayed up way past my bedtime, just prolonging the inevitable.

Last week was great.  We packed a summer full of fun into one week.  So it was busy, but worth it.  Last summer, we had the luxury of being lazy.  With a newborn around sometimes we needed to be lazy and spend the whole day in our PJs.

But not this time.  This time I wanted the week to be filled with smiles and giggles and fun.  Cohen barely napped...we were always on the go.  We hit the zoo, the water park, a concert, a farm, the fountains, Chick-fil-A, the pool, bike riding...and we even found a rainy day to snuggle on the couch and watch a movie with popcorn and candy.

Normally, I am fine with work.  I don't hate it, I don't love it...but I do love getting paid.  I'm okay with my kids being away from me.  Some days I miss them like crazy, others I welcome the break.  I know they are off learning and doing things that I have no business teaching them.  I know they are loved where they are. My kids are well adjusted and independent and bright and a lot of that has to do with daycare and preschool and extra activities.

But I won't lie, coming back to work is always hard and I know that for a few days I'll have this knot in my stomach.  I know that today I'll blow off work and look at their pictures for most of the day.  I'll recall Freddie asking me every day "Mommy, what we gonna do fun today?" And after I told him, he'd say "What else we gonna do fun today?" If you could just hear the way he says "else" you would fall madly in love.  I will remember Cohen dancing at a Rocknocerous concert.  The grin spreading across his face, his bottom bouncing up and down and his hands waving back and forth.  I will think about how big Ainsley is getting.  How kind she is to her brothers.  How she watches out for them.  How she can't wait to be big and grown and all I want to do is stop her.

Most of all, I will look forward to the next time I pretend to be a stay at home mom and spend all my time with the most awesome people I know.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Time stops and speeds up all in the same moment.

The instant I feel the lift, I know it's coming.  The roar of traffic ends.  The music pumping through my headphones stops.  There is no sound.  The breeze freezes and all is still.  I am the only thing moving in this frozen universe.  I can feel all my weight sail towards the ground.  So many questions pass through my mind as the sidewalk slams into my body.  How is this happening?  How do I fix this?  I'm moving in slow motion, but it happens so fast I am powerless to stop it.

Then the collision and everything returns.  Cars whiz by.  Rihanna wails into my ears.  The wind whips at my shredded knees as I roll over and stare at the moving clouds.

I can't believe I just fell.  I take inventory of my limbs and know that I have skinned knees and burned hands.  And an elbow.  I touch it gingerly.  Ouch.  Yeah, the elbow is bad.

Then I'm shaking, and tears are pushing out of my eyes.  A moment ago I was running.  Halfway done, and now I'm lying here, kicked around by cement, crying and shaking.

I wipe my eyes and stand up, suddenly aware that people probably saw this happen and how stupid I must look.  But no one's around.  Just cars zooming by on their way to wherever.  Everyone too busy and focused on their own road to insert themselves into mine.  Someone was probably talking on the phone and stopped mid-sentence to say "Holy shit, some girl just ate it on the sidewalk."  But he's long gone, traveling 50 mph on his way to begin his day.

I stand there, figuring out what I'm supposed to do next.  My world just crashed and I'm only halfway done. I'm as far from home and a shower and bandages and a hug or kind word as possible.  So I run.  It burns, but I run.  Tears start and stop, but I run.  I'm staring at the ground, careful of every step, but I run.  Because sitting on the sidewalk and crying isn't an option and walking will just take too long.  I run.

That wasn't the first time I fell while running and it's happened since.  I'm sure it will happen again.  Always the same feelings and shock.  Different spots but always the same situation.  It never happens as I'm starting or finishing, always right there in the middle when I have no choice but to push through.  No choice but to keep running.

And after it happens, it always takes me time to trust myself again.  Those next few times out I'm less confident.  Sure that every bump in the sidewalk or break in the asphalt will reach up and pull me down.  My eyes stay glued to the spot in front of me.  I ignore the deer grazing in a yard, or the kids riding their bikes, or the fox eyeballing me from across the street.  I focus only on what I'm doing, one foot in front of the other.  And that sucks.  I might as well be running on a treadmill, going nowhere, staring at the stupid red numbers, waiting for the time to end.

It takes time for me to remember that we all fall down.  It's not always easy to get back up and keep going.  It would be much easier to sit on the corner, blowing on my skinned knees, crying into my red palms.  But we don't, we can't.  There's a lot more ground to cover.  So many more miles to run.  And if we spend those miles focused on not falling, we'll miss all the beauty and life that makes the run worthwhile.

We all fall down.  What matters is if we get back up.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Popped Balloons

As a parent, I believe it's a natural instinct to want to fix problems.  At least it is for me.  Even after three kids, I jump up when one of them falls down.  I hate to hear them cry.  It actually feels like someone is squeezing my heart.  Like it will just shrivel and dissolve in my chest.  It doesn't even matter if they're crying because they're bratty.  And believe me, I can recognize bratty.  The problem is that they are genuinely hurting, no matter the reason - even a bratty one, and that hurts me.

I have to make a conscious effort to not fix things for my kids.  To not do everything for my kids.  Ideally, my kids stay where they are forever and ever, never grow up, and never leave home.  Ideally.

Realistically, they grow up and need to be functioning, independent, reliant, adults.  They leave us and start their own lives.  That's the way of the world, right?  As much as we'd like to shelter and protect and fix...eventually, we won't be here.  It is natural that a child leaves his/her parent to start his/her own family.  It is natural that I will leave this world before my children.  So as much as I want to take care of them now, I need to know that at that time, they will be okay.

I am not a stranger to disappointment.  This is not an "oh poor me" statement.  It is a fact.  I was shown how to be independent and self reliant.  My parents didn't do everything, they didn't fix everything.  I actually think these things go hand in hand.  If you're never disappointed, you never learn to fix/adjust, you are forever dependent on someone.  I think it's just the way my generation was raised.  And the generation before that and before that and before that...

Until now.

The other day, Ainsley went to a birthday party.  She was particularly tired.  It's been a crazy summer.  Different activities every week.  Late nights.  Full weekends.  She got a balloon as she left.  It popped the moment we walked outside and she dropped it to the ground.  She burst into tears.  I literally took two steps towards the door to get another.  I stopped.  I knelt down and said "Ainsley, balloons pop.  It's a fact of life.  I'm sorry you're sad, but it's the way it is.  Let's go."

She nodded and cried a bit more, but was over it by the time we were driving away.  So is it natural that my immediate response was to fix the problem?  A very silly problem.  A problem that wasn't actually a problem at all.  The less balloons in my house, the better.  Was it natural because I'm a mother and I don't like to see my child upset?  Or was it natural because every where we look these days a parent, a school, a teacher, a government, a leveling the playing field.  Telling everyone that you're all the same, and everything's fair, and everyone deserves anything they want.

You're not good at math?  Well of course you are, here let's make it easier.
Your closet's too small?  Okay, let me bust down this wall and make it bigger.
The other team won?  Oh no, that's not more scoring.
You're offended by the word bossy?  Well, that word no longer exists.
Someone teased you?  BULLY!!!!!!! SUSPEND HIM! LOCK HIM UP!

As much as it hurts me to see them hurt, I want my kids to lose.  I want someone to pick on them.  I want someone to break their hearts.  I want them to flunk tests.  I want them to get rejected from a school/job/team/audition.  Because if none of that ever happens, and they go through life with everything being easy and handed to them, then aren't those good things lessened?  Why is winning awesome?  Because you know what it feels like to lose.  Why can friends be lifesavers?  Because you know what it feels like to be lonely.  Why is falling in love and getting married and having babies the best thing that can happen to a person?  Because a broken heart sucks.

You can't have joy without sorrow.  Happiness can not exist without sadness.  That feeling you get when you laugh so hard you can't breath, the one where the rumble of laughter consumes your whole chest and belly.  You can't have that if you haven't also been overtaken with breathless tears.

I want my kids to love what they earn.  To be proud of themselves for an accomplishment.  And I want it to be their accomplishment.  Not mine.  If it's me handing them the toys and cars and clothes, if it's me working the math problems and writing the papers, if it's me picking up their dirty clothes and putting away toys - without any effort on their part - they'll never understand that feeling.  You know the one.  That feeling that makes you beam.  That feeling that you, just you, actually did something that was hard and challenging.  Sure it might suck in the now.  It might be the hardest thing to get through.  But that feeling when you get the reward, nothing beats that.  And to deprive my children of that?  That would make me a really bad parent.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sweet Girl

Dear Ainsley,

Long before I ever had children, or even considered being a mom, I figured I'd have girls.  Three or four sweet little girls.  Sisters...all close in age so they could grow up the best of friends.

Well, the universe has a way of throwing your grand plans in your face and saying "NO WAY!"  Somehow, the universe always seems to know what is best.

So instead of three little girls in matching bows and dresses, I got you and two little boys.

If you would have told me this 10 years ago, before I had a chance to experience any of you, I probably would have cried.

I couldn't have known that the first baby the universe sent me would be the perfect little girl for me and there would just never be a way to top her.  Now when I think about having another little girl, it seems so strange.  You really are so perfect, how could any other girl compare?

All the things I like about myself are in you tenfold.  I try to be sweet and kind and caring.  I try to be brave and creative.  I try to be strong and confident.

You are all of those things on steroids.

This year you went to first grade.  You lost your first tooth.  You learned to read, to write.  You've learned some Spanish.  You can add and subtract.  You know about tree parts and bird species.  You've made best friends.  You joined Daisy scouts and became a Brownie.  You cut your hair off because you wanted it that way, and now you've decided to grow it out.  You learned to tie your shoes.  You learned to whistle.  You played soccer and loved it.  You gave up dance.  You know every word to every Frozen song, but really...this year it wasn't Frozen that you fell in love with, but Star Wars and Princess Leia and Queen Amidala.  You started calling us Mom and Dad...but most of the time it's still Mommy and Daddy. 

My favorite thing about you is the excitement in your eyes over everything.  You just love life and all that comes with it.  I hope you never loose that.

Six was an awesome year, but I think seven will be even better.

Happy Birthday Ainsley Bug, we love you!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ignorance is Blissful

Sometimes I like to think back to simpler days.  Back before I had kids, before I thought about getting pregnant, before I bought a house, before I got engaged.  I was so uninformed back then.  It was so freaking AWESOME!!

Because now?  Well, now I am so very much informed about everything that at times I'm sure I am sentencing my family, my dogs, society to certain and cruel death.

I am informed about everything.  I know bunches of stuff about GMO's and the non-GMO project.  I know about organics, about the dirty dozen and the clean sixteen.  I know that maybe, just maybe, sunscreen and vitamin D deficiency cause skin cancer and not the sun.  I know that Deet is bad.  I know that toothpaste and deodorant are poisonous.  I know that plastic is quite possibly the most evil invention ever.

My brain is overloaded with the information on how to stay healthy.  I know how we should eat, I know what we should use to groom and clean ourselves, I know where we should shop.  I know all this stuff.  There is just one teensy, little problem with all this information.  I absolutely, positively, do not have the time to execute it all.

I get it.  The world has become one of convenience.  It has to be for me.  My world begins at 5 am and doesn't stop until 11 pm.  The two grown ups in my world, work and commute 9ish hours a day.  The three little people are shuttled around to different locations depending on the week.  Back before anyone knew what GMOs were, when my grandmother grew her own garden and canned her own veggies, when barely anything was plastic, when West Nile Virus was something that obviously only happened on the west bank of the was a little slower.  Not saying it was easier, just slower and simpler.

I am aware that when it comes to food and household products, the more you can do on your own, the better it is for you.  The fact is...there aren't enough hours.  I can barely find the time to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich...let alone bake the bread, jar the jam, and mash the peanuts.  It's pretty tough to cram the farmer's market into a Saturday morning when you also have soccer games and birthday parties and all other errands to run.

Last year I made a small more granola bars.  I would not buy another granola bar.  All that sugar, all those additives parading around as a healthy snack.  I would just make my own.  I have tons of recipes with zero sugar.  And really, it's not a huge undertaking.  However, when it's Sunday evening and I haven't started because we've been running around fitting all of our errands and house cleaning and fun family time into 2 days because fat chance any of that is happening during the week, it is a huge pain in my ass.  Those nights I'm staying up past 11 to get it done.  I've stuck to my commitment, but I've definitely lost a few hours of sleep over it.

My newest obsession is sun block and vitamin D deficiency.  I have a recipe for making my own sun block.  I've had it for over a month, still haven't made it.  So instead I lay out the big bucks for the organic, chemical free stuff.  And I've started letting my kids get a bit of un-sunscreened outside time.  But seriously?  My kids are blond, blue eyed, fair skinned babies.  I can't, in good conscience, let them get sun burned...and they will burn.  They will.  I don't care what you tell me about tanning diets or essential oils or anything.  They will burn and it will hurt and I can not believe that a burn is good for them.

I yearn for the carefree stupid days.  The days when I didn't google how to naturally remove ants from my smoke detector, when I just bought a can of Raid and sprayed those little effers until they curled up and died.  I long for the days when I just bought milk, the cheapest milk I could find, and didn't worry about added hormones and if my 6 year old's nose pimple was because of the rBGH in some string cheese I bought because I can not afford organic dairy.  I miss the time when I thought the most awesome invention ever was the aerosol sunscreen.  Spray that on and no lotion hands and it worked.  No burning.  Who cares about what you're breathing or if it contains hormone disrupting chemicals like Oxybenzone?

But you can't unlearn it.  You can't become re-blind to it.  So I will just try and manage my panic attacks over genetically modified corn and BPA in plastics.  I will just do my best and try to remember that there's always something.  Even when Grandma was making jam on the back porch, I'm sure there was something out there that had her worried for her children, worried for the world.  Probably the bugs eating her cabbage leaves, but I'm sure she had some nice pesticides to take care of that ;)

Friday, June 20, 2014

First Birthdays

I feel like I should document Cohen's first birthday party.  I know I've gotten away from writing about my kids birthday parties, even some milestones.  I'm more trying to capture the everyday of their childhoods.  However, I've written about a lot of birthday parties...I don't want Cohen to be left out.

So if you'll remember back 7 and 4 years...I'm cursed in the first birthday department.  Seven years ago, my refrigerator broke just days before the big birthday bash.  I couldn't prep any food and what I had bought already, needed to be chilled with coolers and dry ice.  Plus it was my first attempt at an awesome first birthday cake...if I do say so myself.

Then four years ago, we were living with my in-laws for Freddie's big day.  I can't remember exactly what happened, but some pipe broke or detached or something and the water had to be shut off and an emergency plumber called.  I was making mulit-colored monster cupcakes and what I do remember is a sink overflowing with blue, orange, and purple icing and everything that goes with cake decorating just moments before guests arrived.

For this, our final first birthday, I decided to make it a bit easier.  I pulled way back on food.  We rented a pavilion at a park.  I didn't decorate.  And though the cake looked complicated, it really wasn't.  I didn't have to color a bunch of icing and it was really just a slight modification to the ladybug cake.

Voila...the puppy cake...

Pretty cute, I think.

On Friday afternoon, it seemed the curse had been broken.  All my kids were away at school or daycare.  The house was clean - even the sink was empty.  The cakes were baked and all the food was prepped and cold in a working refrigerator.  When my mom and sister and everyone arrived home from the sights in Washington, DC, I was chopping the final vegetables and ready to drink a beer.

Carolyn walked in first...

"What's wrong with your eye," I asked.
"I got something in it."

Ainsley came in next, followed by my mom.
"She's been itching her head all day," my mom said.

I checked  her head for the millionth time that week, knowing we had gotten yet another lice notice from the school.

That night, my sister's husband also had a red eye and I said "Are you sure you guys don't have pink eye?"

The walk-in clinic confirmed the pink eye Saturday morning.

I found lice on Ainsley Monday night.

I had to add this picture, because this could have been the site of the lice transfer to me.  Our experts that came and cleaned our heads for us say that you need head to head contact in order for the lice to transfer.  So here I am with my lice-ridden daughter the day before I found them...head to head.

The party went off without a hitch, except I forgot all condiments, but that's a small obstacle in the face of conjunctivitis and nits.

So I'm not sure if the curse is broken or not.  But the party was fun, as they always are, and we deal with the issues (and in this case, the laundry) after.  And now my baby is walking and babbling and laughing and loving all the foods he gets to eat.  Not so much a baby, but still so very cute and so very sweet and cuddly.  So I'd say curse or no curse, it was all a success.  Just probably a good idea that we don't have any more first birthday parties, less someone looses a limb or something.

Friday, June 13, 2014

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

Today the song from The Sound of Music is running through my head.  Today I say goodbye to a very old friend.  Well, kind of a friend.  Maybe more like a frenemy.  I'm a little, teensy, weensy bit  Actually, no, I'm not.  I'm not sad.  I can't wait to have this gal out of my life.  She's a royal pain and constantly by my side.

Today is the last day I pump at!!  I'm giddy.  Dude...pumping SUCKS so hard!  And I've been doing it off and on for 7 years.  I really don't know any breastfeeding mothers that enjoy pumping.  It's just a necessary evil to breastfeeding and working.

Now, I do have to give credit where credit is due...without my dear Medela, I would not have been able to grow 3 tiny babies into plump toddlers only using breast milk.  So thank you Medela.  Thank you for saving me enormous amounts of money on formula, and thank you for allowing me to breastfeed each of my kids well past the first year mark.  Though I hate to use you, I would have been lost without you.

This does not mean I'm going to stop breastfeeding Cohen.  I plan to continue until he's ready to stop.  It does mean that Cohen is down to one 3 ounce bottle a day, I'll drop it to 2 ounces next week and then eliminate it completely.

When the breastfeeding stops?  Then I will be sad.  Very, very sad.  But today is about the happy dance and no more lugging this girl back and forth to work.  No more cleaning bottles every night.  No more stuffing toothpicks and q-tips into little tiny compartments that milk sometimes splashes into.  Yay...I get like 15 extra minutes every night to myself.  This is one "last time" that I am going to be very happy to see go.

And have done your job excellently, without fail.  You go retire and do whatever it is that retired breastpumps do...but I may need you on an occasional weekend so don't go too far.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

For Better or Worse

Today is Clif and my 8 year anniversary.  Eight years ago today we stood in front of our family and friends and promised for better or for worse to love and cherish one another.

Even when marriage is easy it's hard.  I would say that Clif and I have an easy relationship.  We don't argue a whole lot.  We're both fairly easy going.  And when it's just me and Clif, our marriage is a piece of cake.

Seven years ago, we went out to dinner and I was super pregnant with Ainsley.  My due date just one month away.  Even though I was swollen and cranky and tired and huge...that was so very easy.  And all those dinners and nights out and conversations and parties and concerts and trips were so easy before kids came into the picture.

Last year, we spent our anniversary in the hospital with our 1 day old.  We watched movies, held Cohen, and napped most of the day.  That also was pretty easy.

But I would say that most days are not so easy.  I love my husband and he loves me, but day to day life is hard.  Conversations are practically non-existent.  Date nights are few and far between.  We don't have the time or money for them.  We have not taken a trip, just the two of us, since our honeymoon.  Again, that pesky time/money/babysitter issue.

I am not saying that this is the "worse" in for better or worse, but I also wouldn't call it the better.  We always put off date night for kids events and activities.  Spend our date money on new shoes or school pictures or soccer registration when it's needed.

And I'm not complaining.  We love our kids.  Life is hectic and crazy, but we love it.  The problem is that it's not easy to remember to love and cherish when you're busy bathing and soothing and cooking and cleaning and commuting and working.  I can see where it would be very easy to forget those vows and instead, resort to nagging and resenting.  We know that we're supposed to make time for one another and keep the foundation of our family - our marriage - strong, but time is something we don't have a lot of.  Maybe we'll be able to go out to dinner at some point to celebrate our anniversary, but maybe not.  And if we do, it may not be until mid July or August.

This morning, I woke up after a very difficult night.  Clif was getting ready for work.  Cohen was sleeping in the bed between us.  The two older kids were still in their beds.  I was home because, well, I'm out of work once again today.  I woke up pissed off, in fact, I'm still pissed off.  See this year for our anniversary, we spent the night before cleaning and scrubbing and de-licing our kids.  Then I "slept" with visions of little bugs crawling all over me for about 3 hours.

Oh yeah, you read that right.  DE-LICING until well past midnight.

Neither of us even remembered our anniversary.  It wasn't until Clif mentioned something about Cohen's birthday yesterday that it dawned on me...June 10th...that seems significant...

I said, "Oh's our anniversary."
Clif paused, looked at me, and said "Oh wow.  It sure is."

And that was it really.  Both of us too exhausted and annoyed to even say anything else.  Not necessarily annoyed with each other, but it is always easiest to take our frustrations out on our spouse, right?

So today?  Maybe today is the worse.  Because right now as I sit here and comb through hair finding tiny little bugs, as I scratch my head over and over again, as I scrub sheets and pillows and stuffed animals, I don't feel very romantic or in love.  I feel like I want to run to an island far, far, away and only have myself to worry about.  But marriage isn't always about love or romance.

There's no surprise ending to this story.  Clif didn't pick me up in a limo and wine and dine me all day.  He didn't send me to a spa.  He didn't send flowers.  And I didn't take him out for a nice dinner or buy him a new watch.  Hell, I didn't even buy a card.  Today will end and we will have been married 8 years.  And this year, it's gift enough that we're both planning on being here in another 8, 16, or maybe 50 years.  But then?  Well then I'm finding my freaking island.

Clif, I love you and if I have to pick bugs out of my kids hair at midnight on a Monday, well then I'm glad you're the one sitting next to me researching the process - even if I do burst into tears randomly and argue with everything you suggest.

Happy Anniversary!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Baby

Dear Cohen,

This has, quite possibly, been the fastest year of my life.  I can't believe that a year ago I was staring up at operating room lights waiting to hear you cry.  I can't believe it's been a year since the doctor held you over the drape and I saw your sweet face.  I can't believe a year has passed since I held all 9 pounds of you in my arms for the first time. 

I can't believe that twelve months have come and gone and you've been in our lives.  What did we ever do without you?

You are so much more of a baby at this age than Ainsley or Freddie were.  I'm not sure what it is but I'm amazed when you do things because you're a baby. 

At 1, Ainsley and Freddie were running.  They were toddlers.  You have started walking, and you've come a long way in 3 weeks.  But you are still unsteady and still prefer to crawl half the time.  At 1, Ainsley and Freddie were both working on their first words.  You babble and point and yell and grunt, but I don't really hear any real words in there.  You say "bopba" for almost everything.  Could be bye-bye, could be baby, could be puppy.  Not sure.

You are clingy.  You love to be held.  You love snuggles and hugs and kisses.  But at the same time, you are my most independent child.  You can sit and play with toys for an hour on your own.  You follow your siblings around and play with the same toys they do.

You love attention.  You clap for yourself and look around waiting for everyone else to join in.

You love to eat. love to feed yourself.  I can barely get you to spoon feed any more.  You want the bowl/plate/utensil yourself.  No more mashed sweet potatoes or applesauce, you want little bits of food that you can pick up and chew yourself.

You know what you want...always.  And when you don't get it, you get mad.  You have a temper and that little head just shakes so vigorously when you are presented with something you don't want.

Since day one, you've been a momma's boy.  I really am your favorite.  But lately, you want all of daddy's attention too.  You get upset when either of us leave the room.  The minute daddy gets home you do your little body shimmy where you tighten up in excitement and then you throw your arms in the air for him to pick you up.

You LOVE Ainsley and Freddie.  Freddie cracks you up with everything he does.  Doesn't matter what it is, it's funny to you.  You have started giving Ainsley big hugs when she picks you up.

You love games and you love to be surprised.  Sometimes you pull the hand town off the stove handle and crawl around with it on your head, only to sit up, pull it down and say "Ahhhhhh!" to whomever is watching.  Then you smile and do it again.

You have such a personality and you want to be in the middle of everything.  You don't really like sitting in your highchair for meals.  You want to be at the table.  If Ainsley and Freddie are talking in the backseat, you try and talk too.  When the older kids go to the basement to play, you rush towards the door...only to be stopped by mommy or daddy.  You don't want to miss out, you want to be involved.  I believe, you think you're as big as them.

After I had Ainsley and Freddie, so many people assumed we were done having kids.  People are like that, we had one boy and one girl...perfect, no reason to add another.  Ainsley and Freddie are my cake and ice cream, but you Cohen, are my cherry on top.  That little extra sweetness that makes the dessert complete. You are everything that reminds me how blessed I am.  It's amazing how such a little guy can be the last piece that completes our family so well.

I love you CoCo, no matter how big you get, you'll always be my baby.

Happy Birthday.


Monday, June 2, 2014

52 Week Challenge

Last year, right around this time, I was preparing to have my third baby.  Though we were excited and overjoyed...we were a bit worried.  About, what else, money.  I put together budget after budget and no matter what, we were not going to be able to afford that additional daycare.

There was talk of me not going back to work.  Maybe finding something part time or watching kids or something.  No matter what though, we were going to struggle.

It's one reason I kept all three kids home with me last summer, that and I wanted to experience full on what it was like to be a stay at home mom.  But the money thing was definitely the reason we didn't do camps or send Freddie once a week.  I figured if I could save all that money, at least that would give us a cushion to pay daycare with or live on if I quit my job.

Luckily, the universe was watching out for us.  I was offered a promotion while on maternity leave and it came with a nice raise...exactly enough to cover Cohen's daycare.

But, last year on June 3rd, I was starting my last week of work and I came across something on the Internet about a 52 week challenge.  A painless way to save a little money.  Not a ton of money, but at the end of it, you'd have over $1300 to deposit into your savings account.  So I figured I'd try it.

Basically it works like this, on week 1, you save $1 in a jar.  Week 2, it's $2.  Week 30, $30.  Anyway, you get the picture.  Every week, you set aside money.

Well, last week was week 52...

BOOM!  I now have $1378 to deposit into our savings account.  And believe me, my savings account needs it.  It's been on a diet lately.

However, this money is earmarked for our Disney trip that we are hoping to take in November.  So today, I start again, with $1 in a jar.  I was going to do 2, but think maybe I'll start one at Christmas time as well, and next year...we'll have our Santa money.

Saving money is hard.  I'm not going to lie...I definitely borrowed from the jar on occasion.  But I ALWAYS paid it back.  And there were weeks that I didn't have an extra $30 or $40 in the budget.  So sometimes I was playing catch up...but it all worked out in the end and now we have half the money we need for Disney.

So go, find your jar and grab you dollar and start.  You will feel so awesome on June 1, 2015!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Lemonade Stand

Ainsley's been begging me to have a lemonade stand.  I don't really ever remember doing this as a kid.  Just setting up shop in the front yard, but maybe I did. 

 She had big ideas about the sign and what we would sell and for how much.  I convinced her that we would only sell lemonade and it would only be $.50.  She was trying to push some pretty high profit margins.  I had to explain that most likely no one would be buying lemonade for $5.00.

 In my true annoying mom fashion, I tried to make it a learning experience.  I was trying to get her to tell me how much change she owed people and how much multiple cups were.  Eventually, I had to give up or we'd probably still be dealing with out first customer.

She also tried to give a few people 2 quarters instead of collecting the fifty cents.  I told her she wouldn't make much money that way.

Having a lemonade stand makes you realize that people are pretty awesome.  It's easy to make a little kid feel really good about themselves, and our neighbors did just that.  Most slipped the kids a little something extra and came back for seconds.

After an hour or so the lemonade was mostly gone and the kids were $12.75 richer.  They considered this a big success.

So they got to drink the rest and split the profits.

Ainsley had a hard time understanding that she started with $12 from her piggy bank so she shouldn't give Freddie half of the total amount.  Just half of the $12.75.  Freddie didn't seem to mind.

It was fun, and not so hard.  The hardest part was finding a nice afternoon that we were free to do it.  Ainsley has informed me that this was her FIRST lemonade stand.  So I guess we'll be doing it again soon.  Heck, maybe she'll become the lemonade queen one day and turn her $12 into millions.

We can dream, right?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Little Box

I heard the squeals and laughter and looked up to see Ainsley running towards me.

"Mommy, it fell out! It fell out!" she exclaimed.

She bounced in front of me with a big grin on her face.  A grin that now included one less tooth.  Clif helped her rinse her mouth of the blood and she placed the tiny, little chip in my hand.  Then she headed back on the field to finish soccer practice.

I watched as she smiled and pushed her tongue through the empty space, over and over again.  This day has been a long one coming.  She is the last of her friends, classmates, neighbors, teammates to lose a tooth.  She'll be 7 in a little over a month, and she's been searching for any sign of a loose tooth since the first week of Kindergarten.  Most kids her age already have big adult chompers pushing through their little mouths.

I held the tooth in my hand.  It was so small.  It didn't look that small in her mouth.  I searched my inside purse pocket for any holes, so sure I would lose this lost tooth.

We placed it under her pillow that night and the next morning she awoke $5 richer.  I told her that the first tooth is special, so the tooth fairy brings the first tooth back to the mommies and daddies so they can hold on to it forever.

Kind of weird, right?  To keep a tooth.  Just like keeping those first little curls that were cut off her head.    Sometimes I open the little box her blond curls are in and I feel them between my fingers.  Remembering her as a bald, toothless baby.  That silky hair doesn't feel the same any more.  It feels more like my hair.  Like grown up hair.  Now she uses conditioner and brushes it herself.  Her first tooth sits in a plastic baggie on my nightstand because it hasn't made it's way to the box yet.  I stare at it every morning while I put on lotion.  And I always think it's strange that I keep these things.  These are essentially dead  human cells, parts of a body, that I plan on stowing away forever.

But then I remember.  I remember sitting in the back seat of Clif's car with her.  We are leaving Nanny and Poppa's after a weekend visit.  I rub my finger along her gums and feel that roughness.  For the first time her gums are not pudgy and smooth and pink.  This one little spot is hard and rough and white.  That first little tooth has pushed itself through.  And now that tooth sits for me to stare at every day. 

And I remember...waiting for hair.  Waiting so long for hair.  I remember the first time I saw a curl at the back of her head as I rocked her one night.  I remember getting ready for a Memorial Day party at my friend Tara's house and deciding that maybe we could pull off pigtails.  Little, itty, bitty pig tails that really did curl like a pig's tail.  And now those first little hairs that sprouted from that big shiny head, sit in a box surrounded by velvet, so I can run my fingers over them.

So yes, it's weird.  So extremely weird...but necessary.  Because one day, her mouth will have expelled all those little teeth, and she will have a beautiful smile filled with big grown up teeth.  And one day, her hair may not be so blond.  Maybe it will grown long and straight, maybe she'll keep it short and stylish.  Little toes with jagged nails will become pedicured.  Little knees with scrapes and bruises will be shaved and lotioned.  Little hands with pudge and marker streaks will become long and lean.  All these little things of her babyhood and childhood will be gone, erased from her face and her mouth and her head.  But they'll stay in my heart and in my little box.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ainsley 2.0

So, Cohen...he doesn't sleep.  At least not well.  He is Ainsley all over again.  Actually, if I must be completely honest...he is WAY worse than Ainsley.  Ainsley, at least, would sleep in my bed.  Cohen will sleep if he is nursing and only if he is nursing.

We've had a bad few weeks.  Actually, it's been pretty bad since the day I went back to work.  Before that day, he was sleeping through the night.  Then I went back to work and he stopped.  He stopped so HARD.

But guess what?  I'm not going to complain.  I could probably publish a book with all the blog posts I wrote about Ainsley not sleeping.

I'm not going to complain because he's my baby and even though last night while I was in his room for 2 hours, only to have him fall asleep for 45 minutes and then be in bed with me again, I googled sleep techniques on my phone and was so tempted by CIO.  So. Very. Tempted.

I can't.  I can't do it.  You can tell me it won't affect them, you can tell me he'll be fine, you can tell me he won't remember - and I believe you.  But all I can think is that in that exact moment when he's screaming and crying and thrashing he's thinking "Where did my mom go?" and "Is she ever coming back?"  I know, over dramatic, but I can't help it.

Once again, I'm super conflicted about this issue.  See apparently when it comes down to the nitty gritty of parenting - potty training, sleep training - I suck.  I suck so bad.  So what's the right thing?  I have no idea.  But what I do know is that I read a blog this morning.  This line...

And it made me smile. I didn't even finish reading.  That was the message I needed to take away.

I know I will still have nights that I want to scream and I will want to walk out the door and let him scream.  I will still wonder what in the hell I'm doing to make my children not sleep.  I will be in awe of anyone who can get a baby to sleep through the night.  But I'm going to remember this.  Because this perfectly sums up how he must feel.  To be someone's mom is to be someone's everything, if only for a short, tiny, sparse amount of time.  Right now, I am his everything, and I can live with that.

He knew that if he kept himself very, very close to my body all night and every night until forever, he would stay safe, and nourished, he would sleep deeply and he would grow. - See more at:
He knew that if he kept himself very, very close to my body all night and every night until forever, he would stay safe, and nourished, he would sleep deeply and he would grow. - See more at:
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