Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sleep, Please

I guess my day today officially began at midnight, when I heard Jemma crying, "Mommy, mommy" in a pretty persistent way and I went in, thinking something might actually be wrong.  

"Hi!" she said brightly when I stumbled in.  "I up!"

Oh, no, I assured her, it was still the middle of the night, look, all dark outside, time for sleeping.

And all hell broke loose.  "Daaaaaaaaady!  Seee Daaaaaady!!!!!" and fifteen minutes of top-volume hysterical tantrums ensued, both in my arms as I tried to calm her and after I decided to cut my losses and put her back in the crib.  In our room, Jason and I stared at the ceiling and generally hoped for it to stop while also hoping that Annie didn't wake up, too.  After my heart-rate was up so high that I couldn't relax at all, I finally fell asleep somewhere around 2:00.  Yawwwn.

I muddled through the day, brought the girls to the gym, played "camping" with them, did some laundry, made dinner while Jason took the computer to its very first training session.  When he got home at 7:30, I was asleep with my book next to me in the bed.

Now I'm lying here, half-awake, with the book (Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo, which I just started tonight and can tell is going to be fantastic already) and some of my favorite chocolate pudding, my brain full of good intentions but my fingers too lazy to type more.  Jemma's still chatting away in her crib - conversations we can hear fully in our bedroom or in the living room, no monitor necessary, because that's how loud she is - about Daddy being gone (well, he was at bedtime), her "Annie-Pippi" being home, seeing Mommy at breakfast (at least that tidbit sank in), scolding her stuffed animals and talking to her doops.  She's something else, these last few days, and I think I've earned a night of non-productive reading and pudding-eating.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Food, Drink, Link


Food
I spent a good chunk of today doing food-related things:  grocery shopping with Jemma, cooking a big batch of chicken stew with biscuits, and making chocolate chip cookies with the girls.  And since I spend a good chunk of almost every day doing food-related things, I'm pleased to be launching a new weekly column about healthy eating for families on the fitness website Bodies in Motivation.  (See that link in the upper right-hand corner?  Click on it.  Read.  Leave a comment.)  The site was started by a well-known blogger, All & Sundry, whom I admire greatly for her sharp wit and searing honesty (and her sarcasm, humor, swearing . . . the list goes on).  She began the site after so many of the blog posts she wrote while she tried to lose the baby weight resonated with so many readers; as such, it's a realistic, positive site without any of the gimmicky "Lose 8 Pounds in Two Weeks on the Buttered Popcorn Diet!" crap you see in women's magazines.  

I'm proud to be a part of it, even in such a small way.  So if you are interested in food or wonder what in the world to make for dinner, check it out.  And if you have any go-to recipes for feeding your own brood, please, please send them my way.  I'm always up for trying something new, and I'll probably make you some cookies as a thank-you.

Drink
Over a week into my H2O Project, I've learned a few things about myself.  

1.  I really depend on that one cup of morning coffee to start my day.  God forbid I ever become an old lady who drinks 85 cups a day right up until bedtime, but suffice to say that I was thrilled by the results of my poll, which made me feel justified in allowing myself this one exception to the water-only rule.  

2.  I have realized how frequently I get myself something to drink as a reward for a difficult moment or a stressful day.  I struggled through a bunch of errands and didn't lose my patience with the girls?  I deserve a Starbucks.  It was a long day and certain people drove me crazy?  I'd like a glass of wine immediately after tucking them into bed, please.  Now that those coping mechanisms have been taken away, I've had to find other ways to reward/de-stress myself.  Sometimes cold water with lemon, plus a calm, quiet space, does the trick.  Other times . . .

3.  I eat more when I can't drink the things I am craving.  No wine at night?  How about ice cream instead.  No Starbucks when it's been a long morning?  How about a spoonful of Nutella straight from the jar.  It seems that I'm determined to use calories as a crutch no matter what, so as long as I'm not drinking them, I'm eating them.

4.  Doing this has made me realize, again and again, how much I take for granted being able to flip the faucet up and expect a glass of clean, cold water.  I'm realizing, too, that I wasn't hydrating nearly enough before (especially with the running I do), and I'm imagining how hard certain people (mostly women and children) have to work to get their own clean water.  So, yeah, I'm pretty darn excited to drink a nice, cold beer on Sunday night, but also so glad I made myself do this.


Link
The fancy new photo of me up in the right corner was taken by a neighbor (someone Jason knows from high school and now lives just a block away) who is a talented photographer with his own growing business.  His site, David Chandler Photography, is worth a look.  (I brought some cookies to his family as a thank-you, but some new business would be even better.)

More tomorrow on Annie's clothing preferences and the many things of which my children are currently afraid.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Late-Night Writing (and Loving It)

Use Your Whisper Voice

In spite of our best efforts, Jemma doesn't really have an "inside voice."  She still speaks haltingly and loudly, so much so that I have declared a few times to Jason that we should have her hearing tested.  (He thinks that, like himself, she tunes out what she isn't interested in hearing.)  

This morning in church, I had her on my lap, where she was happily and quietly eating her Cheerios.  She looked back over my shoulder, then, at a man sitting behind me.  Loudly, she asked, "What Is That Man?"  

"I don't know," I whispered.  "Just a man at church."

She looked at him again, then made a face.  "Maybe Ivan?" she shouted, and I had to laugh, because Ivan is the big, loud, swarthy doorman in the Curious George movie, and this guy did look a little like him.

Later, during the offering, another man sang a solo, and I pointed him out to Jemma:  "See that man singing a song?"

She looked where I pointed, gave me a dark look, and announced loudly, "Don't Like That Man!"  When I shushed her and shook my head, she persisted:  "I Hate That Man!"  What???

Now we're home, cooking a big hunk of beef and some yummy gratin potatoes for dinner, watching it sleet outside.  We'll eat a cozy meal and when Jemma finishes her potatoes and fruit (no meat for her, of course), she'll hold her plate in the air triumphantly and yell, "Ta-Daaaa!"  Then Annie and I will put on our fancy clothes and go see the ballet with my mom, three generations marveling at the music and the dancers while Jemma stays at home and talks loudly in her crib while she's supposed to be napping.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Zoom

I'm up early, even after a late night out seeing some dear friends.  I have my precious, single cup of coffee next to the bed, and I'm thinking how surreal it is that this morning I'll go to Annie's very last parent-teacher conference while she's in pre-school.  I'm, as always, dying to see what they'll say about the person she is at school (who, incidentally, I'm pretty sure is a lot calmer, more cooperative, and kinder than the person she is at home).  I'm curious about where they think she should be next year - young 5's or Kindergarten - and what my gut reaction will be about that.  On the one hand, I just can't believe that she's going to walk down the sidewalk with all the other "big kids" from our street to the elementary school next year.  On the other hand, she has been asking me all manner of amazingly curious questions these last few days and weeks:  "Why doesn't the water when I wash my hands soak into my skin, but lotion does?;" "When I'm 6, Jemma will be 4.  When I'm 10, Jemma will be 8.  When I'm 13, Jemma will be 11.  Why won't she ever be older than me?"  

Jemma, too, is suddenly some kind of a big kid.  She is loud and passionate, throwing spectacular tantrums left and right.  She wakes us up in the morning by yelling from her crib, "Hey Maaaaaaam!  Hey!  Maaaaaaaaam!" until she go in to get her, and then she covers herself up with her blanket and giggles.  She pushes and pushes at the limits we give her until she earns a time-out or a stern warning, at which point she lies face-down on the ground and covers her face with her hands for the shame and horribleness of it all.  "You TALK at me," she says, when what she means is that we told her not to do something, probably for the 24th time.  She tipped her high chair over on herself yesterday by trying to climb it - something she has been warned about approximately every single day of her walking life - and, once I made sure she was just scared and not hurt, I hoped that she might start taking some of our other warnings more seriously.  But probably she won't.  

For the last week or so, people are out everywhere at all times of day, walking dogs, running, seeing neighbors again.  We went to the park yesterday afternoon and ran into three friends whose families had the same idea.  On our way home, cars were driving with their windows down.  Our daffodils are coming up, and we check on their pointy green leaves every day.  It's such a hopeful time of year, and even though it's all zooming by so quickly, I am hopeful about this spring and summer, thinking that it's going to be a blast.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Weak

"And on the third day of the water-only beverage diet, she caved and had half a cup of coffee in the morning . . . "

I spent yesterday, day two of the experiment, in a fog.  A haze.  A caffeine-free state where I wanted, at every given moment, to put my head down and take a nap.  Since this water-only experiment began, I have virtuously turned down coffee, a margarita, fresh-squeezed orange juice at Marie Catrib's, hot chocolate, and Izze - all while watching other people in my family drink them.  I even went to Schuler's for an hour yesterday to do some research and I ordered nothing from the cafe!

But then.  Yesterday.  I was a total wreck.  My brain didn't work at all and it was all I could do not to crawl beneath the covers with Annie for her quiet time at 1:00.   So this morning, after I had run and showered and the girls were playing restaurant in the playroom, I thought of all the things I wanted to do today (laundry, write, cook dinner, organize spring clothes) and I sneakily, guiltily poured myself some coffee leftover from Jason's morning pot.  

People, it was good.  So good.  I'm not fuzzy today, now, and I've made lunch, done three loads of laundry, played outside with the girls, sent off some productive e-mails, and thought some real thoughts.  

This leads me to wonder:  would it be so, so very bad if, for the remainder of the two weeks of my H2O project, I allowed myself one single cup of morning coffee (here at my house, of course - no fancy coffee shop varieties) without feeling too guilty?  I'm thinking of all the many, many beverages I'd still be foregoing - Coke with pizza, all alcohol, juice, and really anything that needs to be purchased from a store.  The coffee, we have here already, and Jason's already making it every morning, so . . . .

I'm posting a poll up at the top of the page.  Be honest, now, and tell me if I can amend my earlier rule, or if I need to suck it up and sacrifice some energy to really get the full impact of this experiment.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy Happy Joy Joy

I am typing this on our brand-new MacBook, a computer that we are thrilled to have as a replacement for our old, slow 2001 Dell but which we are approximately as competent with as two five-year-olds.  I mean, we actually had to consult the instruction manual to see how to turn it off after we were done smiling at it on Friday night.  It's our first experience with a Mac or with a laptop, and I'm really looking forward to having it in the kitchen (recipes! e-mail!) throughout the day instead of having to run upstairs.  When we aren't using it, we're admiring the sleek silver cover and stroking it lovingly.  I have a feeling it's going to join the dishwasher as some of the best money we've spent this year.

Highlights of the weekend included Annie's dance recital (appropriately, she tapped to a song called "I Like to Fuss"), some time with my parents and a date night out afterwards, my successful 11-mile training run and some coffee afterwards, time at the park and the pool, two birthday parties, and - finally - some low-key family time this afternoon.  

Today was also the first day of my two weeks drinking only water.  Last night was a late one fueled by more vodka than is really healthy, and I admit that I wanted coffee pretty desperately this morning.  Surprisingly, though, I haven't had a headache from caffeine withdrawal (maybe that is still coming . . .).  Day one, and I wasn't too tempted to vary from the water-only routine.  I bought a few lemons at the store today, thinking I might treat myself to water with lemon if the going gets rough in the next few days.  Fancy.

Now, we're settled on the couch, watching Planet Earth in HD, which is pretty much the only thing that has made me happy about having this obnoxious TV that's been ruling our living room for the last two years.  Hello, camels.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Theme of Blog: Writer Complains, Chides Self for Complaining

These last four days or so have been difficult. In spite of the mostly gorgeous (warm! sunny! park! scooter!) weather, our semi-frantic schedule is catching up with us. I'd say it's been a solid two or three weeks since we had a day, any day, with nothing on the calendar. Jason's trying to balance a lot of new stuff at work, I'm trying to keep up with my training for the Riverbank run and some new writing possibilities, and the girls are basically not cooperating. Since Jason left for work on Monday morning, I can think of about three times when a request I made of either child was agreed to and cooperated with. The other 49574 times, my requests about basic things like getting shoes on or not standing on the coffee table or please stop spitting in the car or don't kick your sister have been ignored, run away from, or openly defied. I am so, so, so, so tired of calmly repeating the same phrases over and over again; so tired of it, in fact, that yesterday afternoon found me in tears when Jemma spent "naptime" yelling requests and stories from her crib, and then Annie began yelling at Jemma to be quiet from her own quiet-time location in her bedroom.

After I cry, or I yell, or I deal poorly with a few tough days, I inevitably feel guilty. What's my problem? I have these two healthy, beautiful children and I have the luxury of staying home to raise them with all sorts of diversions and activities. I feel even worse when I think about how other people successfully do it with three, or with four. I start to compare myself to other moms, suspecting that they never yell at their kids, never cry in the car on the way home from the gym, never wish they were somewhere else during the day.

But yesterday, I started imagining what it would be like for the average office worker to be met with the kinds of reactions I've been met with this past week. What if, when Office Worker smilingly reminded her co-workers that there was a meeting in the conference room in five minutes, the co-workers began crying hysterically while running to hide behind their chairs? What if, while Office Worker attempted to have a six-minute phone conversation with the husband of a friend, the co-workers took their shirts off and tried to smother one another while yelling at top volume, followed Office Worker into her office and pounded on the door, and took all the toilet paper off the roll to show how ignored and neglected they felt? What if Office Worker had to eat every single meal for four days straight with people who kicked each other under the table and made spitting noises with their food until Office Worker had to excuse them from the table? Hmmmm. Would Office Worker love her job? Would Office Worker be so, so glad she had left her other, fulfilling, challenging job to take this job?

This morning, I was at the end of my rope, barely hanging on by a thread, and so grateful to have Jason around for a couple of hours. Annie staged some sort of dramatics before school (because she's having trouble with transitions lately, because she's closer to five than four but still hasn't gotten the memo that getting dressed follows breakfast but precedes getting in the car to go to school, because our routines could not possibly be any more consistent if we lived in a mental institution, because she couldn't wear her wedding dress to school) and Jason finally bundled her off to learn about sea creatures or whatever it is this week. I watched the car back down the driveway, turned around, and saw Jemma standing there, still wearing her heavy-potty-diaper from last night with a Snow White dress-up shirt on top.

"Squeeze you?" she asked. I picked her up and she wrapped her arms around my neck and hugged me as tightly as she could. Then she led me to her room and read me Dinosaurs by Sandra Boynton while I changed her. "Di-saurs Plump! Di-saurs Leeeeeean."

Of course Office Worker will keep her job. Of course she is glad to have it. She will just talk to the boss about getting a little more time off, here and there, when the ridiculous schedule lets up and she sees him again.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Girl Talk, Part Two

Waiting in line to drop Annie at preschool yesterday, we heard the church bells chime nine times, which is always our signal to drive forward and start letting the four-year-olds out on the playground. Annie was lost in her own little world until she heard the bells, which must have reminded her of the bells that clang during Cinderella's wedding scene.

"I wish today was Miss Jenny's wedding," she said dreamily.

I cocked my head and looked at her. Was I missing something? Is Miss Jenny engaged? "Is Miss Jenny having a wedding?" I asked.

Annie snapped her head around and looked at me sharply. "Mom," she said. "EVERYBODY has a wedding. Miss Susan already had her wedding; now, she's a teacher and a mommy. If Miss Jenny wants to be a mommy, then she has to have a wedding."

We pulled forward, and Miss Jenny opened the car door.

"Annie was wishing that today was your wedding day," I told her as Annie hopped out of the car.

"Oh, yes," she said. "Annie wears the white dress-up dress and the white shoes and plays wedding almost every single day. Ben is the groom."

Of course he is.

Girl Talk

I was making lunch in the kitchen yesterday while the girls waited at their little table. I asked Annie what she did on the playground at school that morning, and she replied that the boys were chasing her. Jemma got a concerned look on her face.

"Boys. Get. You?" she said worriedly.

Annie smiled indulgently. "Yeah, the boys were chasing us on the playground."

Jemma, still worried. "You. Sad. About. That?"

Annie snuck a glance at me. "No," she said reassuringly. "We were just being silly."

Jemma grinned, relieved. She laughed, loudly. "Silly. Boys!"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Something There is That Doesn't Love a . . .

newborn. (Sorry, Robert Frost.) And that something, or someone, is me. I mean, I've always found their tiny noses and toes unspeakably adorable, and of course I loved my own children as newborns, but I am not really a "baby person." As infuriating as two- and three-year-olds can be, I am more of a "toddler person;" I love it when they say ridiculous things and come up with ideas that make no sense. (Like, right now, after dinner at my parents' tonight, Jemma is downstairs in her crib, saying to herself, "Gamma heeeeeere!" instead of going to sleep. Infuriating, ridiculous, and funny.) I love noticing when Annie asks great questions, like "How did I know my name when I was a baby?" and "How did I learn how to talk?"

If we were to have successfully spaced a third child in the same way that we spaced the first two, that child would have been appearing roughly now. Instead, Connie welcomed little Luke on Wednesday (so sweet, such perfect hair); neighbors on both sides of our house are expecting within the next weeks and months; babies are appearing all around us at church, preschool, and everywhere we turn.

So far, this has not tempted me to join their ranks. We have a whirlwind of a sunny day like today (teaching Sunday School, hitting the park, roasting chicken for lunch, getting ice cream for the first time this spring, walking to the library, having dinner at my parents', tucking sleepyheads in just before 8:00, and folding the last of the weekend laundry), and I don't feel like anything is missing. Maybe, this spring and summer, I'll get to love other people's newborns instead of my own.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Next Thing You Know, I'm Going to Stations of the Cross

I've never really seen the point of giving something up just to deprive yourself. I mean, it's pious and all, but it has always made me unnecessarily grouchy. I took a course in college once (Holy Spirit and Christian Spirituality with Bouma-Prediger) that required each student to choose a spiritual discipline, do it, and journal about it for part of the semester. I chose fasting, sort of as a challenge, and it did not go well. So not well, in fact, that I probably won't ever do it again. I do not cope well when hungry.

What I DO see the point of, though, are things that ask me to sacrifice something (time, money, extravagances) for a purpose. I like the concept of almsgiving - finding a way to be charitable. I like giving something up that makes things better for someone else. I like being forced to change my daily routine just enough that I am newly-aware of all the things I take for granted.

And I know that Lent started a week or two ago, but here's the thing I'm doing this year, and it only takes two weeks, so: Plenty of Time Left. It's called the H2O Project, and it asks you to make water your only beverage for two weeks, keep track of what you would have spent on other beverages, and donate that amount to a clean-water charity at the end.

Selfishly, I've timed it to start next Sunday, right after a night out where I KNOW I'll be drinking something other than water. It will be my last hurrah. I am also going to allow myself Gatorade two times for my long (12- and 13-mile, respectively) training runs during those two weeks. Other than that, just water. Someone, please do this with me so I can call you every six minutes and weep about my need for coffee.

I'm inspired by some numbers I've seen recently that left me appalled at the number of children worldwide who die from contaminated water. And I'm motivated by a sense that this, the crappiest economic climate in my lifetime, is a time for those of us with so much to be doing more, not less.

Write me, please, if you'll join me in being coffee/wine/Izze/juice/beer/tea/Coke/Shamrock shake free starting Sunday, March 22. I need some solidarity, please. (And you need something to give up for Lent, right?)

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Fresh Start

Introduction:

Readers, this is the new blog. New blog, these are the readers.

It has been three weeks or so since I stopped posting on the old blog (I am a little wistful about it and miss it, somehow - ???) and in the meantime, I have been spending all the time I would have been blogging doing something MUCH more useful: obsessing over what to name this blog. Literally, this has kept me awake at night. (But what doesn’t?) For your perusal, a partial list of other things I considered:

blessed and lucky
beloved details
lucky charmed
from scratch
a piece of quiet
eat play love
story of a life
telling the truth
spinning plates
spilled milk
insomnia mommy
plucky
three things

Many of these urls were already taken on blogspot. I originally set something up on wordpress, but it was not user-friendly enough for a non-techie like me and I couldn't figure out how to disassociate it with my last name. So here I am, and yet it will probably be a couple of weeks before I am happy and comfortable with the new set-up, so I’ll need that list handy. You know, so I can come back to it and read it over and over at three in the morning and wonder, would THAT have been better? Or maybe THAT?

I’ve missed writing, and I’ve missed being in touch with my (few faithful) readers, so I had to choose. In the end, I chose (in)significant detail because I like how it works two ways, promising to document these days in significant detail for posterity, but also reminding myself not to take it too seriously. In spite of the new address, my purposes for blogging remain the same, no matter what the format: to keep in touch with friends and family; to save myself some money on therapy and writing classes; and, mostly, to save the memories of these irreplaceable days for future years. I am not an optimist by nature (not a pessimist, either - just a realist who tries to be cheerful but lets the sarcasm sneak in sometimes), but I want a daily reminder that grace is in the details.

Thanks for following me here!