Monday, November 28, 2011

Oh, Christmas tree!

Almost every year I can remember I've wanted to do Christmas like they do on TV. Everything decorated. The whole family gathered around a big, beautiful dinner table. Impromptu caroling. Perfectly wrapped presents. Hot toddies by the fire. And, of course, a free range Christmas tree hunted and chopped down together as a family.

But every year I think these things, I also think, "You know what? Too many decorations make me claustrophobic. And those presents? They're just going to be unwrapped... "

Because as charming as I find the idea of a TV-style Christmas, I also really like the path of least resistance. And it's not because I'm lazy. It's not! It's because I've come to understand that it's the feeling of an experience that I'm after, not necessarily the experience itself.

If trudging out into the snow to sing Christmas carols for unsuspecting friends and neighbors feels good, go for it. But if it feels sort of forced and awkward and your feet are freezing and everyone who opens their door to hear you butcher Silent Night looks at you like, "What the hell is this?," it probably won't be the Lifetime Original Moment you were hoping for.

So stay home! Have some mulled wine and watch Elf (again). Do whatever makes your holly jolly. The easier, the better, right?

Right!

This has been my M.O. for at least a couple Christmases now (I'm a reformed holiday stressaholic) so you can imagine my husband's surprise when I sent him the link to a local farm and told him I really wanted to cut down our tree as a family this year.

"But I thought we decided that things like that were better left to the professionals."

"You mean the people on TV?"

"Right..."

But my mind was made up. These trees were local. And they had a great story. And for only $30 they could be cut to any size we wanted and loaded onto our car. I was sold!

But when we got the the farm, I couldn't help but laugh. These trees really were free range! No pesticides or grooming or, well, anything. They were so...natural.

And big.

Really, really big!

After 20 minutes of wandering around the forest, Bill was like, "Have you had enough experience yet? Can we go to Home Depot now and get a normal looking tree?" But I was not about to be swayed. These crazy ass trees had stolen my heart and I desperately wanted one in my living room. Besides, it's not like we could leave empty handed. Where's the holiday spirit in that?

Fortunately, for once, Liam was on my side. And the kid can be pretty persuasive when he wants to be...

How could we say no?

He was smitten. He found a tree he loved. Our tree. And he wasn't about to leave until it was strapped to the roof of our car.

So we pulled it out by the roots and drove it home! No, not really. The nice man who owned the tree farm cut it down and trimmed it slightly and tied it to our car. We tried to tip him for all his hard work but he was adamant. "No, no, no," he said. "Instead just come back to see us again next year." This guy knows a fun old fashioned family tradition when he sees one!

On the way home, I was so excited. We had stepped out of our comfort zone and supported local agriculture and treated our kids to an unforgettable holiday experience. We hadn't fought or spent too much money or taken the easy way out. We were knocking this Christmas out of the park and it wasn't even December yet!

But then we got to the house and tried getting the tree inside.

Just because you have 12' ceilings does not necessarily mean a 12' free range tree will fit in your house. Especially if your living room happens to be very cozy. But with a little finagling and a lot of dropped pine needles, we did it. We made it happen. And it's...well, it's a big ass tree in our living room!

But it's our big ass tree. And I can't help but laugh every single time I see it.

{Now you know the title isn't supposed to be sung like O Tennenbaum; it's supposed to be cussed like Oh, crap! I think Oh, Christmas tree! could easily be the next Son of a preacher man! Or Peter, Paul and Mary! At least for the holidays...}

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Walk star.

About two weeks ago, something HUGE happened in our house...

Finn started walking! I can't believe it's taken me so long to tell the Internet about such a big milestone. I think it's because walking is one of those gradual skills that can take a while to really set in. Does one step count as walking? What about two? He let go of the coffee table and just stood there for like 20 seconds...is that something?!

Of course, by now, he's an old pro. Shuffling around the house like a little old man, picking up speed, trying out stairs and carrying things much bigger than he is just because he can.

He gets better and better all the time. This morning at the library, he walked around (barefoot, in his pajamas...) the entire time it took Liam to choose a book without ever falling down once! And this is really saying something because Liam can be very choosy when it comes to everything books.

After dinner laps around the kitchen island...

The very first steps he ever took were in Reno at my sister's house. He woke up earlier than everyone else (or was he still awake from the night before...?) and was crawling and cruising around the house like a maniac, playing in the dog's water bowl and emptying the kitchen cabinets, when Liam woke up and came into the living room to curl up on the couch beside me. When Finn came cruising around the corner and saw his brother, he just about lost his mind. He started babble-yelling what I can only imagine was, "Liam! Oh my gosh! My brother! You're awake! I love you! Let's play!" He was caught up in such a whirlwind of excitement he actually let go of the couch and tried running to his brother. Running! He went about three steps before his body realized it hadn't learned to walk yet and crumpled to the floor in a heap of happy energy.

Amazing.

After that we tried and tried to get him to do it again. We bribed and coaxed and cheered but he had no desire to let go. I should have known, given how his first steps went down, that all it would take to get him really walking was a little encouragement from his brother.

After he'd mastered a step or two here and a step or two there, Liam finally thought he was ready. So he got down on the floor about five feet from Finn, put his arms out wide and said, "Pay for one hug!" Without a single ounce of hesitation, Finn gasped with excitement and walked across the room, straight into his brother's arms.

We were beside ourselves. I swear we even caught the moment on video even though, for the life of me, I can't figure out where it is (so many devices!). It's burned into our memories forever though and the boys have been kind enough to recreate it for us again and again and again...

video

It reminds me of when Liam learned to walk. Bill and I sat on the floor a few feet apart, passing one of his favorite books back and forth. I'd read a page while he toddled toward me to see the pictures, then I'd pass the book to Bill and Liam would walk to him. He was happy to do the work because he loved his books so much. Almost as much as Finny loves him! And if we needed to teach Liam to walk now? We'd put down the book and coax him with his brother.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

For a minute there, I thought I was the 1%.

Last weekend I had a terrifying thought:

Am I...late?

This is not something I'm used to worrying about. While my period hasn't always been the most regular monthly visitor, it's always shown up eventually. And then, a day or two later, it'd be gone. Which I never really appreciated because it was all I had ever known but now that I have the ParaGard IUD, I really miss those good ol' days.

Anyway, when I noticed I'd been blaming my case of the fuck its on PMS for a lot longer than made sense, I asked Bill if he thought I was late. He checked the Pink Pad app on his iPhone (shouldn't every husband know his wife's cycle better than she does?) and the look on his face told me everything.

"Don't worry," I said. "I'm sure it'll be fine."

"Fine? Fine?! How can you say that? This would not be fine. This would be...I don't even know what this would be."

"Settle down, dude. I just meant that I'm sure it'll start soon. It's not like it hasn't been late before."

But it's not easy to just settle down once that idea has been thrown out there. It takes a hold of your brain and makes you do crazy things like come up with baby names, mentally rearrange your home to accommodate another nursery and hop online to see if anyone else has ever gotten pregnant while rocking an IUD.

You know this is a bad idea. It's as stupid as typing your symptoms into Web MD. (Hang nail? Split ends? A stiff neck? YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!) But you are powerless to the lure of strangers oversharing online.

All day Monday, as I tried to go about business as usual, threads like these kept pulling me back to my laptop, forcing me to confirm the inevitable with waves of nausea and carbohydrate cravings.

I warned Bill. "Whatever you do, DO NOT go online."

"I wouldn't."

"No, seriously. Don't. It's like every other woman with an Internet connection has gotten pregnant with the ParaGard!"

"That's why I'm not reading that shit."

"It's crazy. Like sometimes, doctors can't even get it out once you get pregnant. And then it's just like in there with your baby. Or sometimes, they do get it out but then it forces you to miscarry. Oh my gosh, this one woman..."

"Okay! Enough. Step away from the Internet." (Say it like how Garreth Keenan's cookie jar says, "Step away from the cookie jar!" No? Not as big a fan of the Brittish Office as we are? Okay, never mind...)

By Tuesday morning everything was once again right in the world (Thanks, Easter Bunny! Bawk, bawk!) but I can't say the experience didn't shake us. Temporarily facing the possibility of another child was scary as all get out but also kind of...charming. It forced us to take a hard look at our amazing little family and think, more of this couldn't possibly be bad, could it? I mean, yes, adding another life to your home is expensive and challenging and a million shades of difficult, but it's also kind of fantastic. And what better way to live fully and stretch yourself to grow as a human being than to open your heart and home to someone new? How could we possibly deny ourselves and our children the opportunity to experience something so transformative? What were we so afraid of?

After absolutely no thought or deliberation whatsoever, we decided to go for it. Actually, we didn't even decide. It just sort of happened.

One minute, Bill was sending me suggestive texts from work; the next minute, all our lives had changed forever...


PS: It's a girl!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fulfilling our destiny, one lunch at a time.

Rummaging through the fridge just now for something to make for lunch, I discovered these little guys hiding out in the produce drawer.

"Yeller squash (unfulfilled) 11-5"

I did the math and was about to toss it straight into the trash (I'm a total wuss when it comes to food that might be past its prime) but just couldn't be the one to stand between half a yeller squash and its destiny.

See, my husband has been kind of sentimental about vegetables lately (that's his handiwork on the tinfoil up there). Maybe it's because we're on a mostly plant-based diet? Maybe he's just that kind of guy. Anyway, it's definitely been on his mind.

Sometimes, late at night, he starts waxing on about radishes that no one cared for (and by "waxing on about" I mean HE WROTE A FREAKING POEM) or pumpkins that rotted while sitting out on someone's porch. "Pumpkins don't grow to sit there and look cute. They grow to be eaten! Providing sustenance is their destiny. Their one and only purpose on this Earth..."

And you wondered why my sons are so sensitive.

Up until right this moment, I have mostly laughed at his new found passion. Not because I'm callous or ungrateful, but because writing poems about radishes is funny! But there was something about that word unfulfilled that kind to got me.

Suddenly I sort of felt for the squash. I mean, here it was, perfectly good and ready to provide sustenance and fulfill its destiny and it almost got tossed out for absolutely no good reason (it was perfectly fine). How sad! As I washed and sliced and cooked the squash (with as much reverence as I could muster), I couldn't help but wonder, what if I got tossed out before I fulfilled my destiny? And then it dawned on me...what is my destiny? Do I even know? Maybe I'm fulfilling it right this moment. But maybe I'm not! Could there be something I'm missing? Something major? What if I've (gasp!) already passed my prime? Where's my tinfoil and Sharpie?! Am I really a little envious of a squash because its path is so clear cut? Seriously?!

Our poor children. They really don't stand a chance...

The squash, on the other hand, is in very good hands.

Never before has there been a more fulfilled yeller squash. And as for the kale? Shoot. I don't think a leafy green could dream much bigger dreams than that.

He's blurry because he's nodding...FOR KALE.

As for me, I have to say, I feel strangely fulfilled myself. I made a quick, healthy lunch for me and my son while cleaning out the fridge and writing a post (quirky yes, but finished!). Plus, I supported my husband's passion for produce, had a philosophical moment with myself (that was weird...) and FULFILLED A SQUASH'S DESTINY. Not bad for 20 minute's work.

Past my prime, my ass.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

34.0

Liam snapped this picture of me at the park yesterday right before we almost got killed by a hungry flock of geese. It was both terrifying (for the boys) and highly amusing (for me). I mean, who thinks it's a good idea to steal bread from the duck sack and let it hang out of his mouth while hissing geese swarm all around him trying to eat it?

Finn, that's who.

Duck tease.

Liam stayed home from school because it was my birthday and I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate than hanging out with my favorite little guys. Plus we woke up kinda late and he was too tired for school and there weren't any clean pants and I couldn't be bothered to pack a lunch and try to get us all out the door on time, so I used my queen for the day (week, month...) status and decided we were playing hooky!

While the boys were helping me make special birthday muffins (after a slow wake up and lots of jammie time), my cousin called to wish me a happy birthday. When I told her Liam had stayed home, she laughed and asked what we had planned that was so special he got to miss school.

"Well," I said thinking it over. "We don't really have plans. We might go to the park at some point. I think Liam wants to play school?" She just laughed but I'm sure she was thinking, "You kept him home for that? If he's going to miss school, shouldn't it be REALLY special?"

Totally. But my definition of a really special day does not necessarily require planning. Sometimes the happiest birthdays (or any days) are the ones that just sort of happen.

Although the happiest birthday parties (at least for this gal) tend to take a bit more planning. And a THEME!

Yacht Rockers, Captain & Tennille with
"King of all the Kids" and Finn (stripes are yachty, right?)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Four.

You guys are not going to believe this. Today is my four year blogiversary. Four years! You can tell I've been at it a long time because I can easily take normal words (like anniversary) and turn them into blogging words (like blogiversary). See? Blog + anniversary = blogiversary! I'm seriously good at this. Like a blexpert or something...

Four years is a really long time. I mean, just think about it in relation to your kids. They turn one and it almost feels like they were just born. They're still babies even though in twelve short months they have experienced more growth and change than they probably ever will again in their entire lives. Then they turn two and you've been so busy enjoying them (that whole year is just adorable) that you almost can't believe it's time to celebrate another birthday. Then they turn three and your grace period is over. They are people, not babies, and just like people they have needs and desires (beyond food and sleep) and questions and opinions. (If they're a blog, they're probably very neglected by this point.) By the time they're four they're giving you financial advice and beating you at Scrabble.

After four years, you've parented your ass off. You've survived sleep deprivation, breast feeding, teething, many disgusting diapers, weaning, separation anxiety, sleep training and all the bumps and bruises that come with learning to roll, sit, crawl, cruise, walk, run and climb.


You've potty trained your child and helped him transition to a big boy bed.

You've said things like, "take a bite!" and "make a good choice" two thousand four hundred and seventy nine times.

You've read more books on parenting than you ever knew existed and drop names like Weissbluth and Faber into conversations like you're talking about people you actually know.

You know where all the best playgrounds are and can tell if a restaurant will have french fries and pancakes just by pulling into the parking lot.

You've had long conversations about death and God and war and birth and sex and the F word and what it takes to be President of the United States of America.

You've researched preschools and play schools and and special schools and elementary schools and public schools and private schools and held your breath and made a choice and sent your child off into the big wide world of education.

You've watched this tiny person grow and grow and grow and for every little thing you've taught, you've learned at least four times as much.


Blogging is a little bit like that too. It definitely has it's ups and downs. But unlike parenting, you can totally drop the ball with blogging and no one will starve or be late for school or grow up not knowing about Radiohead. And that is why I'm super proud of this blogiversary. Because doing something challenging and time consuming for no other reason than you love it and have committed to making it happen for four whole years is kind of a big deal. No one is forcing me to keep up with this blog or paying me to post or reprimanding me when I've gone too long without writing. But I do it anyway (well, most of the time). And that is worthy of a celebration.

So cheers! To me, and you, and No Mommy Brain. Thank you for joining me on this journey.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The red shoe diaries.

The problem with daylight savings time is this:

When it gets dark earlier you can start drinking earlier without feeling like a lush.

Or at least that's the conclusion I came to when my eyes popped open at six o'clock this morning for absolutely no good reason except to make me painfully aware of how dehydrated I was. This is how I always woke up after drinking as a kid. Which is a funny thing to say because, you know, kids aren't supposed to drink. But they do. Or, at least, I did. Not every day when the sun goes down like I do now (I'M KIDDING), but on occasion. Like when someone's parents went out of town or there was an Aerosmith concert and a friend of a friend got a fake ID. (Chicka chicka yeah, chicka fake ID! You know...McLovin? Super Bad? Oh, never mind.)

Anyway. When Bill woke up this morning he said I smelled like a booze hound. Which seemed a little unfair considering I only partied medium last night.

We watched the Titans game with friends and I had ONE beer and about a pound and a half of artichoke spinach dip. Which I don't even feel bad about because it was healthy and I was in major defensive eating mode. Because after the game, I was headed to yet another fabulous clothing swap and I didn't want to accidentally get wasted again.

It happens.

But then we left the kids with our husbands to go get our swap on and they were like, "Ooh, what are you going to come home in this time? A trench coat? Something sexy?" Because I have made somewhat of a reputation for myself over the years. But this year was going to be different. This year I was going to be classy. And respectable! Besides, ignore me after I drive home in nothing but a trench coat once, shame on you. Drive home in nothing but a trench coat ever again? Yeah right!

Although seeing my husband with all those kids almost changed my mind...

And then I got to the party and started drinking wine and talking about homeschooling (WILD!!!) and then all the really young and adorable girls left with their hot pants and belly shirts and my friends (who are equally as adorable just, you know, in their 30s) found this little number for me and, well, the rest is history.

By "little number" I seriously mean LITTLE. Like, way smaller than my body. How did I get that thing on and off without injury? No. Seriously. Did somebody help me with that? I can only imagine what that must have looked like...

I also got a whole sack of really cute clothes. And shoes! Not just the red hooker shoes either, some really, really cute ones.

I am so jealous of adorable fashion bloggers right now...

And I got plenty of attention when I got home. Which means, all in all, a successful night! Except maybe the booze hound part. But after a quick shower and a half a dozen coconut waters this morning, I was as good as new. By the time I walked Liam to school, I don't even think I smelled like a hobo anymore. See? Classy and respectable!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Single ladies: a tribute.

I have a question for all you single moms (and dads) out there. How the hell do you do it?! I mean, seriously. This raising kids business is at least a two man job. Maybe more. Who knows - those sister-wives may be onto something...

My husband just got home from a three day business trip and we practically threw him a parade we were so excited to have him back. And by "practically" I mean I made him take a cab home from the airport because Liam had karate and I forgot to leave a key in the mailbox like I said I would so he had to sit on the porch for 45 minutes waiting for us.

(I would blame the baby for having an ear infection and crying for 30 minutes as we tried to get out the door, but that's poor taste. Let's just call it what it is - mommy brain.)

Anyway, despite the failings of my welcome home committee, I can assure you I'm beyond thrilled to have him home.

Because when the baby spikes another fever and spends most of the night awake, it's really nice to be able to take turns stumbling around in the dark, holding and rocking and finding the Tylenol.

And when your alarm doesn't go off and it's raining and you're running really late and the last thing in the world you want to do is strap a feverish baby into a stroller and walk to school in the rain, it's a huge relief to have a husband who can pop a waffle in the toaster and drop the Kindergartner off at school.

And even though you might get a frantic call in the middle of your two minute shower and have to hop out and get dry and dressed and pack up the baby and move the car seat and drive to school and run through the rain without an umbrella to deliver the backpack that someone forgot, it's still really nice not to have to do it alone.

So to all you single parents out there, this one's for you! You guys are seriously AMAZING.


PS - OMG, Beyonce's body is INSANE! I think I knew that already but seeing it just now I was like, "Whoa." I was totally not ready for that jelly...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fall break: zombie style.

Liam had a week off school for Fall Break so I took the boys to Reno to see family.

We tried to divide our time equally between the grandparents and aunts and uncles so every couple days we packed up and moved to a different house. This is both the hardest and the easiest way to do things. Hardest because, as if packing for three people and flying across the country isn't torturous enough, doing it again and again will surely seal the deal. (Not to mention now EVERYONE has to wash their sheets and prepare for guests!) Easiest because, with little kids, where you sleep is where you are. There's only so much time between waking up and naps and bedtime and if that time is spent getting dressed and fed and out the door and driving across town, the opportunity for quality time slips away before you know it.

Besides, it's always the unplanned stuff that's the most fun.

If it can happen in pajamas, even better.


Just underwear? Now that's the best.


We still got out and about, of course.




And saw as many friends as we could.




But it was really nice to have so much unscheduled down time.

While the gypsy life worked pretty well for me and Liam, Finn never quite got used to it. The first night he slept great. So great, in fact, I kind of got a big head about it. I started feeling like some sort of travel or parenting expert. Like, "Look at me, I just flew across the country with TWO kids all by myself like it was no big deal and now we're here and sleeping through the night, no muss, no fuss." It helped that my sister and her husband just took Jack on his first big trip to see family and were suddenly very impressed with me. Because it's hard. Sometimes really hard. Even though, apparently, I've been making it look easy all these years.

Or at least I had been up until this trip.

Because after that first great night Finn decided that sleeping anywhere but home was not for him. So he just kind of stopped. Sleeping. At least for more than a couple hours at a time. So for the rest of the week it was as if I had a colicky infant again. Only this time I was totally out of practice.

A few sleepless nights in, I started to get a little loopy and my pleasing personality all but disappeared. Finn went crazy, too. He started calling me "Mom" like a put out 15 year old and acting all kinds of belligerent. It was exhausting but also hilarious. My sister and I almost died laughing one morning while sitting on the floor of Jack's nursery mainlining coffee and trying to keep Finn from body checking Jack. We were doing impressions of Finn yelling at me and it was almost the funniest moment of our entire trip.

(He was calling me "Fag" in a totally exasperated, pissed off voice which would only make sense if you knew the back story which involves my Dad calling Jack and Moose "Mack and Juice" and me saying, "No fair, why don't you call us Minny and Fag?" and then realizing how funny it would be for my son to get tired of yelling, "Mom!" and start yelling, "Fag!")

(The actual funniest moment of the trip? You'd have to ask my sister...)


So, anyway, we survived the trip and a week after it started we were back home in our very own beds. Relief! Only the sleeping like a colicky infant thing kept right on happening. We'd put Finn down for bed like normal but an hour or two later, he'd wake up crying. Screaming! It took us forever to get through whatever Mad Men episode we were watching because we'd have to pause it like a hundred times to go settle Finn back to sleep. (We usually let him work it out on his own but since he came home with a cold, crying it out seemed like cruel and unusual punishment.)

We've been home for about a week and a half now and his sleep schedule is FINALLY getting back to normal. Last night was the first night he didn't wake up at all between bedtime and morning and it actually kind of freaked me out. He's still not 100% (we're heading to the pediatrician today) and went to bed even earlier than usual (6:15!). When his room was still quiet when I got up at 7 this morning, my mind briefly went to that dark place. Why didn't I check on him? What if something's wrong? But then he started talking to himself in his scratchy morning voice and I breathed a huge sigh of relief and rushed in to his room to scoop him up and press his perfect little warm cheek to mine.

Thank goodness it was just that full night's sleep messing with my head!