Thursday, January 31, 2013

Good Things, January 2013

We will not speak of how the wind was howling all day at such a level that at one point I stopped what I was doing and thought, what does that wind sound like? and decided it sounded like The Dramatic Wind Sound that's in the movie Rudolph during the treacherous blizzard scene. We will also not speak of how I almost passed out at a routine opthamological appointment today nor of how I was completely blinded by the brightness of the snow as I drove home afterwards, pupils dilated, sunglasses missing. We will not speak of how obvious it was during tonight's pre-bedtime family game of Memory that I am BY FAR the worst player in our family.

Instead! We shall speak of Good Things, because there were a few:

The awesome pile of books next to Annie's bed.

The kittens' love of the shower (and the fact that they come running when we turn it on).

Embracing the nasty weather by blowing up an air mattress in the living room, lighting a fire, making some popcorn, and watching old-school Hayley Mills "The Parent Trap," and hearing Jemma say to herself, after: "That wasn't really about trapping parents . . . "

A fun family ski trip with plenty of hot cocoa . . .

 . . . and a new skier in the family.

Getting out the scooters on a mysteriously warm weekend.

My family's annual post-holiday brunch at "the fancy hotel."

Our new piano, which Annie has christened Abraham Lincoln.

The fact that Jason is literally playing a Richard Marx song in this picture.

A fat cat on a fat stack of library books.

A ridiculous but ambitious stack for a dreary January.

Little readers.

Post-dinner dance party.

Watching Michigan basketball with custom-made signs.

The adorableness Jemma makes me at school.

A dinner out with an old Hope professor to talk about next summer's travels.

The fact that Anita wants to "ser maestra" (be a teacher) when she's grande.

Today's much-more-sensible eating (and subsequent feeling-better; turns out all that "eat good to feel good" stuff is totally TRUE and daily pizza is not super-helpful).

Annie's confidence and enthusiasm about math this year (here, she's playing a game against her teachers online).

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bad Things, January 2013

Every month or so, I try to use this space to record the myriad, little, everyday "good things" happening in my life right now: Instagram photos of favorite school projects, delicious food, happy snippets of conversation, moments I want to remember. One of the reasons I started blogging (back in 2006!) was because I found that the days all blended together, and I found myself not feeling grateful enough for the things that were right in front of me. I wanted to remember the stories of these days, and I wanted to remind myself of the good in the midst of life with young children.


It is January. (Still.) It has been gray and foggy and raining a cold, disgusting drizzle for two days non-stop. I've felt borderline sick all day. So how about I bring you "good things" tomorrow and vent my "bad things" today? First-world problems, all; nevertheless, I like to keep things real.


-I've eaten at least one piece of Jet's Pizza three out of the last four days. My stomach does not thank me.

-A super-strong wind blew the hot tub cover completely open last weekend, and in the process it literally bent the bar that helps open the cover. Now, when we open the hot tub up, the cover dangles dangerously close to the ground, and the bar threatens to snap right off due to the increased pressure. Jason is taking a wait-and-see approach about this.

-I am luckily wrapping up my annual self-imposed January detox (clearly I use the term loosely; see the first item in this list). I did a very good job of keeping the alcohol to a minimum (a glass of wine here and there when out for dinner with friends, but otherwise essentially no drinking at all), but I failed miserably at the "no treats" part of my plan.

-This text message exchange from today at 10:36 a.m., copied verbatim from my phone:

friend: What are you doing?
me: Get ready. Eating cold pizza in bed still in my pajamas and reading. Call in Zoloft prescription ASAP.
friend: OMG you are my idol!!!
me: No, really: I can't cope with this weather and fact that it's still January . . .  What are YOU doing?
friend: Haha . . . well, about to enter stupid Target. Then nothing. I'll probably get a coffee and sit in the Target eating area and stare out the window . . . Cymbalta . . .
me: Let's drive to airport and get a flight to Miami. Our families would figure things out.
friend: Totally. No really . . .  I am sitting at Target like a moron.
me: What are we even doing with our lives? . . . all is hopeless . . .
friend: Claaaaasic moms . . .
*2 hours later*
me: Spiraling . . . Eating chocolate chips out of pkg.
friend: Hahaha - you are killing me today . . .
me: I couldn't be more pathetic if I tried. Trying to rally, clean out cupboards so as to still be productive without having to leave house.
friend: You're holding on to nothing.

-30 Rock is ending this week. There's nothing else to say about that.

-At the girls' well-child checks yesterday, all was well except Jemma's right eye, which apparently has 20/40 vision. This is either 1. something developmental that she'll grow out of or 2. an indication that she needs glasses. Considering the percentage of the time that she drops fragile things (50) and/or loses things (50), I'm not enthusiastic about helping her care for and keep track of glasses. We shall see.

-Have I mentioned that it's STILL JANUARY???

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Things They Say: Books and Words Edition

Jemma, looking at a reusable Lululemon bag while eating breakfast one morning:

"'Friends are more important than money'? Pshaw!"
Me: " . . . . well, don't you think we care about people more than we care about things?"
Jemma: "No!"
Me: *questioning overall success as parent, person*
Jemma: "Mom, you buy FOOD with money, and you NEED food to LIVE."
Me: "True."


Annie, talking about a book her teacher is reading aloud to the class:

" . . . and then it was time for Spanish, so we had to stop! so I don't know what happens next. He always stops at a really tempting part."


Jemma, scanning the titles of the stack of books on my nightstand:

"Why do you have THIS one?" narrows eyes, points to How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, which lives permanently on my side of the bed.
Me: "Why do you think I have that one?"
Jemma: "Humph. So you can be BOSSY to us."

Friday, January 18, 2013


The morning hasn't been a great one, so far.

Jemma woke me up at 6:00 needing help with something potty-related; later, she refused to get dressed because she was "too tired to go to school" and "wanted Daddy to walk her to school" and "doesn't like gym, art and music," which she has today. Annie lost her mind because she ran out of time to finish dressing her doll before it was time to leave the house. (This is a child who, when I was explaining about my new DSLR camera and why I was taking a ton of pictures of the same object but just changing one setting on the camera to see what would happen, replied, "You mean like a variable?"; a child who is able to tell you Newton's law of gravity and theory of motion; yet is apparently also a child who believes that a doll is ALIVE and WILL BE COLD if someone doesn't put clothes on it ASAP.) Nobody could sit their butt down and eat breakfast. Somebody forgot her planner and lost her hat (AGAIN), and both children were in tears at some point.

Now I'm here, alone, with a yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach.


Last weekend, we went skiing. It was the first time we'd attempted it as a family of four. A day before we left, I posted this as my Facebook status update:

Our status as we gear up for our first full-family ski trip: Annie, lost hat Tuesday; Jemma, lost mitten yesterday; weather forecast, 40s and rain; me, last seen on skis in 2002. So.

On Saturday morning, while Jason was in a continuing education class, the girls each had a ski lesson. I watched from my perch as they navigated the magic carpet on the bunny hill with their instructors, and then I picked them up and heard that they were "good to go" on the chair lift and the real hills. 

We joined up with Jason, ate a quick lunch, and spent one million hours putting our ski gear back on. (SO. MUCH. GEAR.) (My gear, as you would expect, is also from 2002.) Then we hopped on the chairlift, all four of us in a row. It was sunny. We all had hats and mittens. We were ready to ski!

We got off at the top without incident, and Jason led us to the left. I was scanning the signs for a green run while trying to keep my eyes on the girls and while trying not to fall, so it's no surprise that I found myself just following Jason to a blue. We all did. And then we stared down what was a steeper hill than we had really meant to begin on.

"It'll be FINE," said my husband, ever the optimist. We started down. Jemma fell within the first ten yards and started to cry, while Annie zoomed ahead, going straight down the hill at top speed. I froze in the middle, not knowing what to do, then left Jason to help Jemma while I followed Annie. I tried to remember how to turn - turned right, turned left, zig-zagged my way down until somehow I was backwards for a split second before I fell spectacularly and lost my right ski. From my sitting position, I looked down the hill and spotted Annie, who had fallen and lost both her skis. I looked up at Jemma, who had fallen again and was refusing to get back up.

Thus began our first family ski trip.


For some reason, this occurs to me this morning, as I'm standing in the kitchen unloading the dishwasher with a yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach and replaying the scenes from our chaotic morning. It's not possible, I know, to rewind our day and begin again, just as it wasn't possible to un-fall on that blue run last Saturday. I can't stop the falls, I can't stop the difficult moments. What I can control is what happens after - whether or not to get up, ski down to Annie, help her get her skis back on, and ski the rest of the way down laughing at ourselves. Whether or not to get Jemma back on the chair lift (after Jason skis down with her on his back) and find a nice green run that she handles just fine. Whether or not to make sure that an inauspicious start doesn't keep us from spending the three hours after enjoying the sunshine and snow with no falls and lots of smiles. Whether or not to let a not-great morning ruin the rest of the day, or to put yoga clothes on, move forward with the day, and plan to start again with the children when they get home from school. It's about what happens after.

(Apres skiing, by the way, we snuck away for a lovely grown-up dinner at a fancy French restaurant with good friends and plenty of red wine, so I think there might sometimes be a reward for getting through the hard stuff.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Read Elsewhere: Parenting Perspectives

From Sundry:

I remember feeling this great crashing wave of never wanting to take a moment with my children for granted ever again, that if they were healthy and happy that’s all that mattered in the entire world. And then I remember being intensely irritated with Riley all of half an hour later, as he pickily hemmed and hawed over the little box of toys that the X-ray lady offered him as a prize for holding still during the scan. “Hurry up,” I hissed at him, mortified at his greediness.
I don’t really have a point here, other than I was thinking about perspective lately, and how slippery it is to hold onto. I bitched and moaned mightily about how long this winter break from school has been, then I blinked back tears as Riley climbed on the bus this morning. Last night I couldn’t wait for the kids to go to bed, then I sat on the couch and read someone’s blog post about their children approaching the teen years and how hard things are getting, and I ran back into my boys’ bedrooms to kiss their confused, sleepy faces. And on it goes — I have a thousand examples. Christ, a BILLION. I’m sure you do too.
It’s sort of ridiculous, isn’t it? How parenting so often makes you feel as though you’re not feeling the right thing at the right time.

From John Dickerson at

He is receding. He is still sweet, clever, and kind, but that impossibly large body I stand over while he sleeps is a different busier kid. This is natural of course, but in my reaction to it, I’m flirting with becoming that tiresome guy you meet at weddings. He’s the guy that goes on about how quickly children grow up. No couple with kids is safe from his instruction: Cherish every moment with your children.

This lament is natural, but not helpful because, unless you are a total brute, the sense of loss is inevitable, no matter what kind of parent you are. If you neglect your kids, you look up and they have grown and you've missed it. If you are fully present in their lives, then when they’ve grown you lament the hole they’ve left in your life. Either way, you've done your job and now they're off backpacking out of cellphone range or making girls with unruly hair laugh in coffee shops.
The answer has to be avoiding the lament and focusing on the product. Try to give your kids the benefit of your experience, love, and discipline—so that they can leave you strong. This also means giving them the example of what it looks like to enjoy your job so much that sometimes it takes you away from them. You hope they’ll have a job like that one day too. There’s got to be a way for the guy at the weddings to say something more like this to new parents. It would be more helpful. Still: I’m pretty much that guy.

From Swistle:

I've read a lot of stuff, mostly written in metallic script on greeting cards, about how much children TEACH us. Perhaps my own children are somewhat stupider than the standard-issue child, and that is why so far I don't feel they've taught me anything---and in fact, I have to spend a lot of time explaining things to them that seem really obvious, such as "This is why we don't throw a rubber band ball at the window" and "Are you serious, scraping a FORK into the TABLE??" But what I HAVE noticed is that I teach MYSELF things as a RESULT of having children---and perhaps that's what people mean to say but their children haven't yet finished teaching them how to articulate their thoughts clearly.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Six-Year-Olds Make No Sense

Ours doesn't, at least.

One day over Christmas vacation, she essentially had a six-hour crying fit about . . . writing a single thank-you note. And getting dressed and brushing her teeth to go skating at the skating rink. Which she CLEARLY didn't get to do after all, because of the crying. And the screaming. And the lying on the hallway floor, the ripping up of the paper on which I had nicely written the names and gifts she needed for her thank-you notes, the slamming of the bedroom door, the threatening to run away in the snow while still wearing purple footie pajamas, etc.

The next day, she giggled almost constantly, hugged us a million times, went to church and sat still and quiet as a mouse. She built a fairy house and threw snowballs at the fence from her perch in the hot tub. Just before bed, she laughed so hard over something her sister said that she peed her pants and all over her bedroom floor.

Just now, she came downstairs after being tucked in ten minutes ago, wearing an entirely new set of pajamas than she'd been wearing when we turned out the light. She said her nose was itchy. She also said she'd already had a scary dream about a bat.

She started yoga class yesterday and is smug about how many of the poses she already knows from her kid yoga video. She loves her cats. She reads constantly. She resolved (possibly to impress her teacher) to "eat helthy food" in the new year. (Also: to "lisin on the first triy," to "riyd my to well bike," and to "do chors evrey day.") (I would welcome them all.)

You know how sometimes, your kids turn ages, and it seems wrong, and you can't believe they're that age? Well, that's not the case here; I can believe she's six. She turned it in a blaze of glory, with a chocolate raspberry torte from Julienne Tomatoes, surrounded by her cousins up north, followed by sledding and a (very) little painting party with friends when we got back home.

She's mostly happy, except when she's not. She mostly skips through the house, sings to herself while she's drawing or writing, hugs me fiercely when she gets home after school. She still comes to find me first thing in the morning, says, "Snuggle", and gets under the covers with me. She still sits on my lap at night when we read books before bed, and I feel the weight of her as she turns to let me scratch the bare skin on her back. Her hair smells like Cheerios and shampoo, and sometimes a little bit like gum.

She drew this self-portrait yesterday. She is six.