Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Girls fight.

Bill and I don't usually watch a lot of TV (not in a self-righteous, we're too good for it sort of way, more in a, let's see if there are any new documentaries or movies on Netflix sort of way), but recently a friend let us use his HBO Go password and oh-em-gee did it change everything.

First and foremost, if you haven't seen Sonic Highways, you are seriously missing out.

Secondly, GIRLS. I'm not going to lie and say it's the best show I've ever seen because it's not. It's weird and over the top and far fetched and Lena Dunham is literally naked in every single episode. BUT, the episodes are short and usually end abruptly so it's a perfect candidate for a little binge watching on a chilly night.

We haven't had a show in so long I had forgotten how much fun it could be to just KEEP WATCHING. We did this with Lost a million years ago and stayed up so late one night Bill had to stay home sick the next day.


Thankfully Girls is so short we can watch indulgently while still getting to bed at a decent hour. At least, that's the theory. But not last night. Last night we decided to get into a big fight based on a hypothetical Girls inspired situation and stay up way too late arguing about...um... I seriously still don't know.

We had just watched the episode where Hannah decides to go to grad school in Iowa and Adam is being all needy and sulking around and I said something like, "I wonder how you would act if I was going away to...oh wait, that would never happen." And then, we fought. Or argued or whatever. We traded in a good night's sleep for a heated conversation based on some random never-gonna-happen hypothetical.

"But I'm NOT GOING TO COLLEGE!" I kept saying.

"Ugh, let's just take this whole support thing on a CASE BY CASE basis, okay? I can't have you traipsing off to India or whatever..."


It was insane. And I think maybe the reason we don't watch a lot of TV...

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bell peppers and barbequeed eel.

This weekend we went to Climb Nashville for $5 kids' day. It was, as you might imagine, insanely busy (but still super fun). We met up with our neighbors whose little girls had never tried climbing before. They are 5 and 8, athletic, daring, very comfortable in their bodies and the kind of brave you get from doing back flips in gymnastics. In no time at all they were at the top of the wall.

I was super impressed. I sat down next to Liam to point out how awesome they were doing but before I could even say a word he said, "I got scared when I saw you look up at them. I was afraid you were going to just basically, you know, compare me."


The worst part is, he was totally right. The first thing I thought when I saw the girls scaling the wall was, "Liam took a class here for 12 weeks and never got that high!" In my head, it sounded like a compliment to the girls, not an insult to Liam. But to him? I think it's pretty clear.

It was one of those awesome moments I only would have caught if I had been in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time. I never could have forced this conversation to happen but here it was. A perfect opening that hit me like a punch in the gut.

"Wow," I said, squeezing him close to me. "That sucks."

"Yeah," he said honestly.

"You know what?" I said. He looked at me thoughtfully. "This might sound crazy. But I never knew until today how hard climbing is."


"No! I never actually tried it so I had no idea. It's so hard! And really freaking scary."

"I know, right?" He was starting to look like we were back on the same team.

"I think the reason I always pushed you to go higher is because you made it look so easy. I mean, look at these guys," I said, gesturing to everyone climbing all around us. "Don't they make it look easy?" He nodded. "That's how you look up there too!"

"I do?"

"Yes! So when I'm like, 'You can do it! Go higher!' It's not because I want you to be like some other kid, it's just because, well, you seriously look like you can do it."

"Huh," he said, milling it over.

"You know what?" I said, thankful for the open door. "I bet it's kinda the same with food."

"What do you mean?" he asked. He was definitely wary. Food has been a thing with Liam for like, ever. We've been working on his fear of trying new foods (or combinations of foods) lately and while it's going pretty well, there's still a lot of drama.

"Well," I said carefully. "For one, I don't want you to try new foods to be like anyone else. It's not a comparing thing at all. I just want you to be the best you you can be. And, like, not get Diabetes."


"But also? Of course I don't think it's a big deal for you to try something new - because it's not a big deal for me. Whatever I'm offering you is something I like!"

"Yeah...but for me..."

"Right! It would be like if someone made me eat sushi."

"Wait. But you like sushi."

"I like vegetarian sushi," I corrected him. "But this one time someone made me try barbecued eel sushi and I almost threw up at a restaurant."

"Seriously?" He was smiling so big.

"Oh yeah. I had major gag reflex. Like, worst. Bite. Ever!" He was totally cracking up. "It sucks to think you probably feel like that sometimes."

"Yeah," he said laughing. "It's the worst."

"Man," I said, squeezing him again. "So not worth it."


"I'm really sorry, bud. But I'm kind of in a pickle here."


"Well, remember this morning when I was chopping vegetables and you came into the kitchen and said, 'Yum! Bell pepper!' and you grabbed a piece and I almost fell over and died and it totally made my day?"


"Well... If I had never made you try that, you never would have known you liked it."

"Same with pizza!"

"Same with everything. Because the only way to know how you feel about something is to try it."

So we came up with a plan. If I want him to try something that I think he'll like (or tolerate), we'll call it a bell pepper moment. But if I'm trying to get him to try something he already knows he doesn't like (for real - he has to be honest here), he can call, "barbecued eel!" and I will kindly back the eff off.

(This has to do with food, of course, but there's no reason for it to stop there.)

Most importantly, I will do my very very best to remember that comparison really is the thief of joy. I mean, seriously. It's crazy how easy it is to forget something so obvious. Lucky for me I have an awesome kid who is more than happy to remind me what really matters.

Best. Teacher. Ever.

Friday, January 23, 2015

DIY craft table / work station.

A while back I noticed that even if the boys wanted to keep their rooms clean, they couldn't. At first I thought they just had too much stuff (because, wow, are we full to the max in the stuff department!) but after dumping out all the toy baskets and bookshelves and donating what they no longer played with on a regular basis, and making sure we had just enough stuff to fit in each room, they still couldn't keep their rooms clean.

Now, part of this is because they didn't want to. Fair enough. But after trying to help them tidy up one day, I realized there was an even bigger problem. I problem that I could actually do something about! It wasn't necessarily that we had too much stuff (although, less is more and all that...), it's just that we didn't have enough space. Lots of our stuff was homeless. No wonder it kept piling up in other parts of the house. There was no where else for it to go!

We also didn't have a great space for the boys to spread out and do work. So all the LEGO projects and drawing and painting and Playdoh...all that stuff ended up at the kitchen table. Which is great. Except for every evening when dinnertime rolled around we'd have to move all the stuff to the nearest horizontal space - my desk or the kitchen island - so we could pick it back up later. And by pick it back up later I mean ignore the fact that it had no where else to go.

So we needed some storage and we needed a place to do projects. To Pinterest!

I immediately honed in on this Pottery Barn style craft table. (I actually tore a picture of it out of the catalog years ago!)

Lots of space to store odds and ends, a large workspace so each boy could spread out, clean, modern...it even looked kinda easy to make. And because it's Pinterest, I found several "hacks" and DIY plans that made it look do-able. I was sold. And once I told the boys about it, I knew it was going to have to happen. Especially once we saw the cubes we wanted on sale at Target and Liam practically threw them in the cart. And helped me put them together. This crazy train was on a fast track to Deskville!

Although once the shelves were built I got kinda...stuck. Because the Pinterest project I liked best used butcher block for the desktop and it's really expensive and hard to find in the size I needed (3'x 5'). Which made me stop and rethink everything...

This is pretty common with me and projects. I spend a lot of time standing there looking at my work, trying to envision what it will be like when it's finished, convincing myself that it's not too tall or wide or white or wrong. Everyone is encouraging me to just get on with it already but that's not the way I work. I start a project then look at it for a looooong time before I know how to finish it. I do way too much research and wander around Home Depot and Lowe's a lot and just generally procrastinate.

The major stumbling block was the size of our shelves. They are 36" across so I couldn't use an Ikea desktop or a kitchen counter remnant or anything pre-fab because standard sizes are much smaller than that. There were a few hacks that built a desk or table top out of planks of wood but that felt very intimidating for a DIY novice like me. But so did buying something bigger (like plywood) and cutting it to size. I was also unsure how plywood would hold up. Would it be strong enough to not sag in the middle? What about the edges? Would it look cheap? Ugly?

Only one way to find out, right? So Bill and I went to Lowe's TOGETHER (with the kids) and found 3/4" thick oak plywood that looked good and could be cut to size and stained (for that butcher block look). We took a deep breath and bit the bullet. Then we had the guy who was helping us cut our leftover wood into 2" thick strips to go around the sizes to add stability and make our table top look more finished. (There's a thorough tutorial for something similar here if you're interested.)

We lucked into a neighbor with a nail gun (and another neighbor who gave us barstools!) so the project came together pretty quickly. We decided not to attach the top of the desk to the sides in case we ever needed to move it or use it in a different way. So essentially we built a box lid that fits perfectly over the shelves - one for each "leg".

We had just enough wood leftover to put a solid back on the shelves. (Well, full disclosure - we had enough for 2/3 of each back - covering the whole thing didn't feel important enough for another trip to the hardware store...) This made the table feel much more sturdy and, even though our kids aren't supposed to climb on it, it would be no biggie if they did (it didn't even wobble when we sanded it!).

Since we have finished sanding and staining and putting everything into the little cubbies, the boys have been stationed at that table pretty much non-stop. I keep thinking I'll get a picture of the room all empty and Pinteresty but that's probably not going to happen. Which is fine by me. It's awesome to see them so comfortable in their space, playing together and being creative. And when they're done, they can put all their stuff away with no problem. Even if they still don't want to.

Who am I kidding? That's pretty Pinteresty...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Are we having fun yet?

We get home from the park only to realize Finn forgot his backpack. Or I forgot it since I was the one sitting closest. Either way, the backpack is not in the car. So we drive back to the park, scoop it up and head home again.

We gather up our things (again) and start into the house. Only Finn is empty handed. "Where's all your stuff, dude?"

"I left it in the car."


He shrugs. "Cause I don't want to carry it."

This type of thing has been happening a lot lately and it's driving me nuts. He decides he isn't going to do something and then that's it. He just doesn't do it. I've mentioned before that he's head-strong, right? Yeah. This kid can hold his ground like nothing I've ever seen.

Every time he starts to dig his heels in, I panic. Literally panic. I scan my brain for anything I can do to get him to comply, quickly come up with a big fat goose egg, then silently freak out, knowing I'm mere moments away from a not-so-silent freak out.

His stubbornness typically comes with unrelenting noise that pushes all my buttons at the very same time. And he won't stop until he gets what he wants. How do I know this? Because I usually give in to him. After the not-so-silent freak out. It's like a terrible parenting double-whammy.

So, anyway, back to the coming in from the car saga.

We're in a stand off. Finn is standing on the sidewalk screaming at me while I'm just in the house banging my head against the wall and trying to decide if I should yell or cry. Then he starts coming up the steps like he's just going to walk into the house empty handed. So I do the only thing I can think to do. I lock him out.

He screams louder of course. And I no longer have to wonder if I'm going to cry. The whole thing is capital R Ridiculous. Liam stares at me like he honestly can't believe this is his family.

"All this over a backpack," he says, shaking his head. He's smirking at us and I get it. The whole scene is perfectly insane. Especially the part where the GROWN UP is banging her head against a locked door muttering about how she has NO IDEA what else to do.

After a minute he can't take it anymore. "I'm going out," he says confidently and walks out the door. I hide like a scared puppy and peek out the door to see what's going to happen.

"Finn," Liam yells with excitement. "Look out! The van's about to blow! I can hear the bomb counting down. Ten, nine, eight... you better get your stuff before it blows to smithereens!" Finn runs to the car laughing, grabs all his stuff in a matter of seconds, shuts the door and tromps up the front steps like a four star General.

They come into the house laughing, hang up their stuff and run off to play. I'm speechless. My mind is blown. And one thing is perfectly clear:

I have to learn to be more fun.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Drive-by parenting.

On the way to Liam's tutorial this morning, Finn taunted him: "We're going to do so many fun things without you today, Liam!"

"Oh yeah," said Liam, skeptically. "Like what?"

"Like just everything fun that you like to do that you can't because you're going to be at school. Me and Mama are going to do ALL the fun things without you!"

Liam was understandably unfazed - Finn didn't seem to have a very solid plan and I certainly wasn't chiming in - but as soon as we picked him up this afternoon he asked, "So, what fun things did you guys do today?"

I racked my brain and came up with - nothing. I mean, literally, not one single thing came to mind. I know we did stuff - we had to right? - but if I had to come up with an alibi (hello, Serial...), I'd be screwed. "We were at home doing...things? Fun things, apparently. I'm just not exactly sure what..."

Does this ever happen to you? I'm not going to lie, it happens to me all the time. If we don't leave the house or do something specific (as in, something I have written on the calendar), the whole day can feel like a bit of a blur.

"Well?" Liam persisted. "What did you guys do today that was fun?"

Finn filled him in on all the shows he watched and video games he played while we got in the car. This was not helping my case. If Finn gooned out in front of a screen all day, what the hell did I do?

"I know something we did," I said suddenly, a little too excited. "Finn learned how babies are made!"

"Yeah," said Finn. "A baby gets made from an egg that is in the mom's peegina and a seed that is in the dad's body. It comes out his penis! So the dad has to put in penis in the mom's peegina to get the seed in there. And that makes a baby!"

So I can't account for six hours of my life? Big whoop. Parenting like a BOSS...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Time keeps on slipping.

Liam started homeschool history club at Belle Meade Plantation today. It's his first time in the program so I'm hoping he likes it. It's just another one of the random things I heard about from a friend or read about on our homeschool group listserve or stumbled across on the Internet and signed up for without giving it much thought. Things like this tend to book up fairly quickly and I'm just unorganized enough that if I don't pounce on something the first time I hear about it, it slips out of my mind (or my inbox) and disappears into the ether to never be seen again.

I might need a better system. Like a post it or something.

Anyway. We drove over right after dropping Finn at mother's day out ("Let me guess," Liam said. "This plantation is not in East Nashville...") and arrived with enough time for me to walk Liam in and get him settled. When I checked him in, I noticed Liam and Finn were on the roster.

"Was I supposed to bring my son, Finn, too?" I asked the lady with the clipboard.

"He's signed up for the pre-K class. Do you want to keep him on the list and bring him next time?"

"Uh, sure," I said, not writing it down and knowing I would immediately forget. "Thanks..."

I looked around at the other kids in the pre-K class and realized Finn was just as big if not bigger than all of them. How is this possible? I mean, isn't he my baby? Babies can't learn history!

I helped Liam find his group and walked back to my car feeling really nostalgic all of a sudden. Since I was already all the way across town I decided to go to Target to pick up a few things for the boys new work station (more on that soon!). As I was strolling leisurely up and down the aisles (such a treat for some reason), I found myself gazing longingly at the baby jammies. They were so little and SO cute.

And would not even kind of fit either of my boys.

They're big kids now. And while I know they've been growing steadily all along, part of me feels as if this happened all of a sudden. Like yesterday I was a newish mom with little kids and today I am a veteran mom with bigger kids. Several close friends have had babies recently and it seems like the most foreign thing in the world. Like, I can't even remember what it was like to be pregnant or fold onesies or nurse a baby. It seems like another lifetime.

I left Target and noticed a Panera Bread right next door. Panera happens to be where I hung out a lot toward the end of my pregnancy with Finn. On the days I had appointments with my midwife, I'd drop Liam off at preschool and then head over for a cinnamon crunch calorie bomb before my weigh in. I'd enjoy the free Internet and all the nice attention you get from strangers when you're youthful and pregnant and glowing with life (that feels like a MILLION years ago). Where better to nurse a serious nostalgia attack and eat my feelings at the same time?

So now I'm sitting at Panera all by myself and I keep getting all teary eyed and emotional. This snuck up on me big time, you guys. I swear I don't want another baby and yet...I think knowing I've moved on to this next stage of my life is hitting me kind of hard at the moment. Like growing pains or something. It's just weird to feel yourself slip from one chapter of life to the next, you know?

I'm probably also subconsciously preparing to see my family tomorrow (my sister and I are both flying in to spend a few days with my mom and dad). There's nothing like spending time with a rapidly aging parent to make you seriously understand the passage of time...

not nearly as long ago as it seems...

Monday, January 5, 2015

Like riding a bike.

A few years ago Bill bought himself a bike. It was one of those fancy road bikes - much thinner and more dangerous looking than the old Costco mountain bikes we have in the basement (matching except for mine has a baby seat). His new bike looked a lot like the 10 speed I got for Christmas in 4th grade only thinner and more dangerous somehow. The handlebars were so low! Like, even lower than the seat if you can imagine. It looked super aerodynamic, sure, but also like an accident waiting to happen. I mean, how was anyone supposed to balance on two thin wheels with their ass up in the air like that? Maybe if he was decked out in tight pants and hunched over all serious like Lance Armstrong I could see it. Maybe. But in normal clothes on a casual ride around the neighborhood? No way, man.

But Bill was undeterred. And how could I argue? We've all heard the expression, right?

"I haven't ridden a mechanical bull in years! I hope I remember how..."

"Don't worry! IT'S JUST LIKE RIDING A BIKE. Once you learn, you never forget!"

I mean, I had to believe riding a bike was probably like "riding a bike". Right?

So one night when Bill strapped on a helmet, threw a six pack of beer into a messenger bag and took off on his bike to his friend's house, I hardly even feared for his life. And things apparently went really well. At first. But then that pesky bag slipped off his shoulder, slammed into his legs and took his ass out in the middle of the street. He jumped right up and pretended to be texting so he totally saved face, but still - that had to hurt.

And it totally goes to show, that even riding a bike is sometimes not like riding a bike. Which leads me to believe that other things - easy, routine, previously mastered things - are not always easy to jump right back into after a hiatus. So all the normal stuff we haven't done in a couple weeks - getting dressed before noon, leaving the house, doing the things, eating food other than cheese - might take a little getting used to. We're off to a pretty good start - words are being written and I'm wearing real clothes! - but I'm prepared to jump up and start texting as soon as I crash and burn.

Welcome back, friends. I hope your holidays were well worth the awkward reintroduction to normal life. xo