Friday, June 29, 2012

So a moose and a shark walk into a bar...

Thank you, Katie, for reminding me to write about the week we had a shark at our house!

Moose & Shark - Lower Broadway, Nashville

"Moose", if you don't know, is what I call my sister, Molly. I have no idea why we call her Moose but we have for most of her life.

me & my Moose

"Shark" is the nickname my nephew Jack earned while he was visiting because of his habit of dive bombing people's faces teeth first.

"He's a very passionate little guy," my sister would say as she popped a stick in his mouth to dislodge his jaw from whoever was gnawing on at the time. Okay, not really. But he did have quite the appetite for flesh! Then she'd sing a little song she wrote that goes, "I gave birth to a human shark. What am I to do?"

Shark attack @ Robert's Western World!

It should be noted that my sister was EXACTLY the same way when she was little. We have a photo my mom took at a play group when Moose was about 5 months old. All the babies are propped up on a couch side-by-side - there must be 10 of them - and they're all looking docile and sweet. Except for Moose who is leaned all the way over giving the baby next to her a full on hickie.


It should probably also be noted that at the time of Jack's visit his little world had been completely flipped upside down. The only home he'd ever known had been packed into a moving truck. His dad and his dog were still in Reno. His flight to Nashville included an unexpected layover at an airport hotel in Chicago. He was experiencing firsts like humidity, honky tonks and fireflies. His Aunt Maggie kept making him get nekkid in the backyard with his cousins. And he was getting all four molars at the very same time...

Despite all that, we still loved having Moose and Jack at our house. And having them a hop, skip and a jump from Nashville for all of the foreseeable future? Ah-mazing.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Just another (only slightly) manic Monday.

We started the day with a quick trip to the pediatrician's office to see if Finn's cold had gotten to his ears (it had) which led us directly downstairs to the frozen yogurt shop where we always go after the doctor and then onto Publix where they fill prescriptions for antibiotics for free. And not just because we finally filled our 10th ear infection gets you free pink stuff! punch card. Nope, all amoxicillan is free. Well, sort of. See, the prescription is free but the $70 worth of stuff you toss in your cart while walking around waiting for it to be filled is not. Pretty smart, Publix. Pretty smart...

One of the reasons I spent so much on so little was because I had to pick up shampoo and conditioner as well as a new night time moisturizer. I don't have a favorite in any of these categories at the moment and since I had both boys with me and they were sitting in the big car cart trying to see who could make the loudest, most annoying noise possible while laughing uncontrollably and mimicking each other, I had to just kind of grab and go.

This is the same approach I took when buying lotion recently and I immediately regretted it. I had been using Aveeno Daily Moisturizer, well, daily for years and it was like the one and only cosmetic I never thought twice about it. But ever since my husband launched a hippie crusade to reduce our exposure to toxic crap, I have no idea what to do.

It started with soap. He replaced all of our hand soap with Dr. Bronners Magic Soap (the documentary about him on Netflix is worth a watch) and started bringing handmade bars of soap home from Whole Foods every other week. He even stocked up on lye for when he starts making it himself.

Then he gave me a Crystal deodorant stick to use instead of my anti-perspirant and it worked so well (I am still completely shocked by this) that I started to wonder if he was on to something with all his toxic crap mumbo jumbo.

When he came home from three days at Bonnaroo smelling good, I couldn't help but get on board.

So when he asked me to stop using my favorite lotion, I was actually okay with it. Only, he didn't have any suggestions of what to use instead. "Just, don't use that any more. Get something better. Something without all that crap in it." But instead of doing any sort of due diligence, I just found myself standing in the lotion aisle with a million choices (none of which say, "Without all that crap in it!") and a car cart full of screaming children and the Jeopardy theme song running in my head and 30 minutes to get dinner on the table so I just grabbed something different than Aveeno and got the heck out of there.

Later Bill was like, "It's so weird, you smell just like Jergens..."


But there's so much to navigate when it comes to this stuff. I can smell well enough to know that Jergens is not a better choice than Aveeno but I have no idea what is. I want something affordable that feels good and makes me look young and pretty (or at least tells me it will) and won't turn my brain into jelly.

Why can't they just put that on the label?

I did what I always do when I get overwhelmed which is to just ignore the problem and hope it will go away. I kept slathering on my Jergens and washing my hair with whatever I managed to throw in the cart and using my cheap eyeliner and ignoring well meaning people like my neighbor who saw me spraying on bug spray and was all, "Ooh, that Deet is some nasty stuff. It melted the handle of my pocket knife once!"

Because it's SO MUCH. The more you know the more you realize it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to get away from all the toxic crap because it's EVERYWHERE. In our air and our water and our food and our mascara and our baby shampoo and OMG WHY IS IT EVERYWHERE WHAT HAS THIS WORLD COME TO??!!?

If I was at all certain that rocks were free from toxic crap I would probably go hide under one.

But I've never seen an organic sticker on a rock so for all I know they're as bad as everything else. So I grabbed some shampoo that said "natural" and some conditioner that said "herbal" (code words for "a months worth of bad hair days!") and threw the first moisturizer into my cart that promised to make me look young and pretty without simultaneously giving me a third nipple and made my way up to the register.

As I'm swiping my debit card, guess what the cashier says? "This customer who comes in here all the time used to have terrible migraines. Every day her head would throb and throb and it was all she could do to make it through the day. This went on for YEARS. Then she found out she found out she had Celiac's Disease. The one where you can't have any gluten? Anyway, she cut it out and most of her problems went away. Except those migraines. It was months and months before she finally figured out it was her shampoo that was giving her headaches. There was gluten in her shampoo! And here I thought shampoo would only affect your hair..."


So I went home and pulled up the Environmental Working Group cosmetics database and typed in all of the products I use on a regular basis to see just how bad (or, fingers crossed, not that bad) all my products were (not to mention all my kids' products). Guess what's not that bad. Aveeno lotion! Guess what's not nearly as good as I assumed it would be. My brand new bad hair day shampoo! Guess what I still can't find. A LIST THAT JUST TELLS ME EXACTLY WHAT TO BUY! Seriously. I need a combination between the Allure Beauty Finder and the Cosmetics Database. A list of what will work for me without also filling me up with toxic crap. Is that too much to ask? Or maybe this already exists and I just don't know about it. Perhaps YOU know about it and are going to leave me a quick comment to fill me in! Please? I will be under a very clean rock waiting for your reply.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Go with the flow.

I've noticed a disturbing trend in my home.

On the mornings I have a plan for the day, the boys inevitably get wrapped up in some simple yet unendingly fun world of make-believe where brothers play and laugh and cooperate and come up with clever little scenarios that keep them busy as bees who only occasionally emerge from their bedrooms for "supplies" (like Baby Yoshi or some dry cereal or a calculator...) and who otherwise entertain themselves and each other for long (blissfully uninterrupted) stretches of time. There's no fighting. No  yelling, "Mama!". They share every single thing they own. They are completely immune to the lure of the television...

It's magical.

Or it would be if I was at all prepared to take advantage of it. But I never am. Nope. Usually when that happens I have my bag all packed and my coffee in a to-go cup and my sunglasses on my head (a new expression Liam came up with) and I'm standing by the front door like an idiot waiting for my children to get annoyed with each other so we can just hurry up and LEAVE already.

So the next time I have the opportunity to make a plan or NOT make a plan, I happily skip the plan. The plan will be the un-plan! The simple magic of a do-nothing summer vacation. The whole day will stretch before us without so much as a single to-do on our non-existent to-do list. We'll wake up slow, I'll pour myself a big cup of coffee and settle onto the couch to watch the magic unfold before me.

But of course it never does. Because those days are SO boring. And Finn keeps getting into Liam's stuff and Liam just wants to chill out and watch a show and it's WAY too hot to go outside and now one of them is crying and the other one is whining and what the heck happened to that magical world that existed just yesterday?!

So the next day I come up with a plan to save my sanity and guess what? Yep. It takes us FOREVER to get out of the house because suddenly HOME is the MOST FUN place in the whole world and WHY do we have to go somewhere NOW? Can't we just stay home and PLAY?!

Telling a kid they can't PLAY on summer vacation seems insane, right? But guess what? If I relent and say, "Oh, okay fine. We'll skip The Plan and just stay home so you guys can play and I can do some of the totally existent things on my neglected to-do list," guess what happens?


Every. Single. Time.

And by that point it's too late for The Plan! I know it's only been 10 minutes - that's how it works! To leave now would mean we'd have to pack a lunch and Finn's nap would be ruined and the whole thing would be a disaster. Nope, sorry, not happening. We have committed to enjoying each other and our home all day long and, by gum, we will make it happen!

Those are the days I'm glad to have a backyard. And a hose. And the flexibility to say, "Screw it!" when it's not working so we can try something else. Because frankly, it doesn't matter how good a plan looks in your head, if no one's having fun it's a BAD PLAN.

Liam was supposed to go to camp today. We signed him up months ago for three weeks this summer. I was afraid that was too much but he was really excited about it. "You mean I get to go there and PLAY for 7 whole hours?! Psshhyeah! Sign me up!" He had his first week already and seemed to really enjoy it. But last night when I reminded him he was going again this morning, he put his head down and frowned.

"What's wrong, buddy? I thought you really liked camp."

"I do. It's's not my fave."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, like, it's fun. I just don't feel very comfortable there."

Darn. It's probably because of those kids who made fun of his toe nail polish. Or because Finn cries hysterically every time we drop him off. Or because they have to change into their swim suits in the locker room, "Like, ALL TOGETHER." Or just because he doesn't like to miss out on what's going on at home.

I left it up to him. Yes we would lose our deposit if he chose not to go but we wouldn't have to pay the balance for something that he didn't like. I'm no mathematician but that sounded like a fine deal to me. I told him to sleep on it and let me know in the morning. But when he got up he still wasn't sure.

I told him to try listening to his body. "Practice what it would feel like if you decided to go and what it would feel like if you decided not to. Whatever decision makes you feel best is probably what you should do. Your mind can play lots of tricks on you but your body won't lie."

He tried it and immediately knew that camp was not for him. So we decided to go to the lake beach. Eventually

And when that stopped being fun (around the time the bus load of kids came screaming into the lake and our sunscreen wore off), we decided to dry off and eat our picnic lunch and head home for a rest.

But not before Finn emptied his VERY full bladder into his swim diaper while sitting on my lap. Which meant one more swim. And, shoot, while we were down there, we may as well build another sand castle...


I guess the moral of this story (since I didn't have a plan to write this it just kinda happened while the boys were lost in their magical fun world and I was waiting to go to the lake beach with my sunglasses on my head...) is that I'm so glad I've found a bit of time for yoga lately because I am going to need my flexibility if I want to survive the summer!

Friday, June 15, 2012

How to save a life.

Did you know that drowning is the #1 cause of accidental death in children? A new report by the CDC found that drowning kills more American children (ages one to four) than any other cause of death except birth defects.


And I'm not even the type who usually lets statistics freak me out. I just mind my business, putting my energy into keeping my own kids safe rather than worrying about all the millions of dangers stacked against us.

At least I was. Until I saw this video:

Did you hear the part where he said a child can drown in as little as 20-60 seconds? SECONDS?! Now I don't care how mindful you are as a parent, 20-60 seconds can slip past anyone. I've had blinks that lasted longer than 20-60 seconds. Add in a bunch of other people, a second child, a moderately interesting conversation, a Corona, some summer your heart racing yet?

Mine was. Fortunately we had already signed up for swimming lessons this summer. And not the warm and fuzzy kind, either. (We tried those with Liam before and it was clear that warm and fuzzy was not going to teach him to swim...or even make him get his face wet.) The lessons we signed up for were the hard core, throw your kid in the deep end, teach him to roll to his back and save his life, type of lessons.

Liam had his first week over spring break and I was beyond impressed. He went from a 6 year old who had maybe NEVER put his face in the water (even though he thought he was a fantastic swimmer) to a kid who could float on his back for 30 minutes and swim from one instructor to another, blowing bubbles under water.

(It didn't hurt that he loved it.)

I only signed Liam up for Spring lessons because Finny's just a baby - he's way to small to swim! But when I saw a six month old arrive for the class after ours, I realized he was plenty old to learn the basics. Especially since our neighbors just put a pool in their backyard and if anyone is going to jump off the side while no one's looking, it's Finn.

So we signed up for summer lessons and as soon as school got out, we were off! 

It's a big commitment - an hour a day, 45 minutes across town - but they payoff has been huge. Liam is actually SWIMMING now. Face in the water, blowing bubbles, crawl stroke, back stroke, rolling to his back, diving for rings, jumping off the side, you name it. He's having an absolute blast (and his confidence is through the roof).


The best thing for me (besides how much fun it has been watching him fall in love with something so challenging) is that I can now focus more attention on Finn without that panicky feeling creeping up on me every twenty to sixty seconds. Two kids in the pool is no longer a nightmare now that one of them can swim!

And even though I can now have my eyes and hands on Finn 100% of the time, it makes me feel so much better knowing that if, God forbid I have to blink, he will not immediately jump in and sink to the bottom of the pool. Oh, he'll still jump in. No question about that. But now I know that given a worst case scenario, he'll at least know what he needs to do to save his life.


Today was our last lesson of the season so after class we got frozen yogurt to celebrate. But the real treat came when we got home. We were playing with the sprinkler out back when our neighbors with the pool came out on their back deck and Liam's friend shouted, "Wanna come swim with us?!" Liam looked at me and said, "Yeah, sure, I'd love to!" Do you know what I got to say to him? "Go for it." It was EXACTLY why we signed him up for swim lessons in the first place and I told him so as he grabbed a towel and strapped his goggles to his head. "Great," he said nonchalantly, and then ran off down the street looking 10 feet tall. "See ya later!"

p.s. - a little side note about "how to save a life" since that song is totally stuck in my head now...rumor has it one of the guys from The Fray bought the abandoned house on my street and is going to fix it up and live there with his family! The exciting part is not that a musician will be living down the street - this is Music City, USA...we can hardly go to Kroger without tripping over a fantastic musician - the exciting part is that he has a son exactly Finn's age! The fact that we will no longer have an abandoned house on our street is pretty groovy too...

(Oh, just watch know you want to.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer break.

Hi there. {Sheepish grin.} Remember me?

I don't know what it is about warm weather that makes me want to run as far away from my computer as I can possible get (preferably with a cold drink in hand), but that's what's up.

I remember this happening last summer as well. A friend called it an "intake period" which makes sense, I guess, although I wouldn't exactly say it feels like the well has been filled up since I last updated this blog.

Must be all those cold drinks.

Or maybe it's because I spend most of my "down time" in the hammock these days and it's hard enough for me to get in and out of there without falling on my ass so the thought of bringing my laptop with me has never even kind of crossed my mind.

It could be because both boys are home now (school's out, adios kindergarten, woohoo!) so finding time for myself has become somewhat of a sick joke.

Last day of Kindergarten.
As in, I can't help but laugh every single time I go to the bathroom because the entire time I'm "having privacy" (right) Finny is banging knocking on the door, jiggling the doorknob and yelling, "Mama! Mama! Mom! Mommy! Mom! Mama! Maggieeeeeee!"

That's still how he wakes up in the morning, too. Nothing like being screamed awake every morning! Didn't the Geneva Conventions ban that sort of thing?

It's a good thing he's so cute...
I forgive him pretty quickly though because he's pretty much the sweetest child ever (I mean, since Liam, of course). Having the two of them together all day every day is (mostly) fantastic. And when it's not? We just add water or dirt or sunshine and see what happens...

I guess that's it. Not much to say here other than hi, hello, and I hope to be back here again sooner rather than later. Oh, and one more photo I found and thought I should share:

It's a student project that was on display at the middle school where Liam's class performed their Spring musical. What?! It's just, I mean, wow...there are no words.

Happy summertime!