Friday, October 24, 2014

Obligatory Pumpkin Patch visit

There is this autumn parental obligation that I'm not all that fond of: taking your children to the Pumpkin Patch.
I never went to a Pumpkin Patch growing up (our autumn activity was always the Puyallup Fair). Quite honestly, I don't get the appeal.
But then again, there are things you do in life for your kids.
That's the unselfishness that is parenting, I suppose.
Brandon was most interested in the bunnies and this tepee made of corn.
Oh, and the gift shop is always a hit. 
The two of them devoured an entire bag of kettle corn in record time.
My little piggy.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Deadened nerve endings

Thirteen-year-old girls live in two different worlds...Partly, a thirteen-year-old is still a child...Everything is drama to her. She feels things ten times more than a fifteen-year-old girl, or a ten-year-old...The knowledge thirteen-year-old girls carry comes from a whole different galaxy: from other sense besides the accustomed five, or maybe the heightened acuity of those five combined, but not yet numbed or deadened as they so often become later. (When the business of daily life catches up with her. When she learns to tamp down all the big feelings, deaden her nerve endings, just to get through the day.)  
~After Her by Joyce Maynard



Do you remember being an adolescent and certain things being a big deal? I mean, The Biggest Moment of Your Life? There are a few memories I can recount from my teenage years that to me, were humongous moments that dwarfed everything around them. I can still remember the intensity with which I felt my emotions back then. Like getting my driver's license. I remember driving to the DMV with my mom in the passenger seat, thinking to myself how everyone driving around me has passed this test and moved on into their adult lives, and that I could, too.

I remember sitting in the waiting room, about to get my first ultrasound because I was a senior in high school and still hadn't started my period. I had just drank 32 ounces of water and I really couldn't hold it until after the ultrasound. I thought this waiting was bigger torture than still being a girl, not yet a woman. I didn't really care about my period. And then, I remember getting it a few weeks later and not feeling relieved or like a woman, just slightly disgusted.

I remember clothes being of utmost importance. What someone wore described who they were. I remember the day a popular girl at camp said she liked my Old Navy T-shirt (I know, I know, but the company was new back then) and asked to borrow it. Then she returned it to me all stained on the back (hair dye, perhaps). I remember self-consciousness and blushing and crushes that were never acted upon. I remember thinking everything was a big deal. And as weird as it sounds, I kind of miss that intensity of emotions.

We tell people to calm down and worry about anyone who gets worked up. We're expected to live life flatly, most of the time. Anyone with ups and downs of any magnitude is deemed "bipolar," "out there," or "unstable." Adults aren't supposed to feel things and even discourage children from those thoughts and emotions, too. We are past the age of getting excited about anything. If someone gets angry, they have anger management issues. If someone is grieving, they're depressed. If someone is happy, they're high.

So fuck it. I dance around with my boys. When I am sad or touched, I cry. When I am angry, I acknowledge it. When I love someone, I tell them. I know that I've deadened my nerves to be an adult accepted by society. But I don't have to all the time anymore. I don't have a job or people to impress. I am free to be me. And sure, people will judge me. I know they already do, because I have never stifled myself as much as was expected. People always say they don't care what people think, but they really do. I do, of course, or I wouldn't have gone all these years stifling my true self. But I guess you just get to the point of caring less and less as you get pushed farther and farther from yourself. At some point, you're ready to go back to where you once were - when you were happy and you knew it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

zoo, popcorn, hammock

 
We went to the zoo on Monday, the four of us. Brandon has been singing, "mama's taking us to the zoo tomorrow," this week and it is adorable.
 
Holden didn't used to be this way, but nowadays, he is happy to look around while sitting contentedly in his car seat. He is the perfect traveler.
The two of us have nearly ate through a giant bag of Smartfood popcorn in the last three days. Mostly his fault, of course.
 
This is the view from my hammock, which I try to lay in while Brandon is playing around in the backyard. Until, of course, he notices my laziness and forces me into some activity. He would make a great drill sergeant. 
If you let him, this kid will get around. I have a feeling he will be the climbing-out-of-his-crib kind of kid.
 And sometimes, he's the kiss-your-mama kind of kid, just like Brandon is.
These pensive looks never cease to make me smile. I'd like to know what's going on inside that head of his. Whatever it is, I assure you it is much more than adults give toddlers credit for. 
We all love food around here. And we don't exactly wait for proper mealtimes to start noshing again.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dating men vs. boys

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the only type of man I consider worth the time of day, as far as marriage is concerned. Today, I finished Mindy Kaling's book, and she totally seems to get what I was saying. Here is how she puts it, much better than I did:

Until I was thirty, I only dated boys, as far as I can tell. I'll tell you why. Men scared the shit out of me.

Men know what they want. Men make concrete plans. Men own alarm clocks. Men sleep on a mattress that isn't on the floor. Men tip generously. Men buy new shampoo instead of adding water to a nearly empty bottle of shampoo. Men go to the dentist. Men make reservations. Men go in for a kiss without giving you some long preamble about how they're thinking of kissing you. Men wear clothes that have never been worn by anyone else before...Men know what they want and they don't let you in on their inner monologue, and that is scary.

Because I was used to boys.

Boys are adorable. Boys trail off their sentences in an appealing way. Boys bring a knapsack to work. Boys get haircuts from their roommate, who "totally knows how to cut hair." Boys can pack up their whole life in a duffel bag and move to Brooklyn for a gig if they need to. Boys have "gigs." Boys are broke. And when they do have money, they spend it on a trip to Colorado to see a music festival. Boys don't know how to adjust their conversation when they're talking to their friends or to your parents. They put parents on the same level as their peers and roll their eyes when your dad makes a terrible pun. Boys let your parents pay for dinner when you all go out. It's assumed.

Boys are wonderful in a lot of ways. They make amazing, memorable, homemade gifts. They're impulsive. Boys can talk for hours with you in a diner at three in the morning because they don't have regular work hours. But they suck to date when you turn thirty.

I'm thirty-two and I finally feel like an adult...That's one of the weirdest things I've noticed about being thirty-two. It's a lot of women and a lot of boys our age. That's why I started getting interested in men...I knew I wanted in the next guy I dated seriously: a guy who wasn't afraid of commitment. 

...I'm not talking about commitment to a romantic relationships. I'm talking about commitment to things: houses, jobs, neighborhoods. Having a job that requires a contract. Paying a mortgage. I think when men hear that women want a commitment, they think it means commitment to a romantic relationship, but that's not it. It's a commitment to not floating around anymore. I want a guy who is entrenched in his own life.  Entrenched is awesome. 

So I'm into men now, even though they can be frightening. I want a schedule-keeping, waking-up-early, wallet-carrying, non-Velcro-shoe-wearing man. I don't care if he has more traditionally "men problems" like having to take prescription drugs for cholesterol or hair loss. I can handle it. I'm a grown-up too.

To all the dating women I know, you know what she's saying. And she's right. Boys are not marriage material. Marry a man.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Outgrowing

On Monday night, Brandon slept in his big boy bed. Neither Steve nor I was ready for it. Truthfully, Brandon has asked to sleep in his big boy bed a few times (OK, more than a few). But I always disregard his request and stick him in the crib. He is two and a half, true, but he doesn't attempt to climb out and the cage is a nice comfort to myself and Steve. He can't electrocute himself in there, pull a bookshelf on top of himself, or roll out of it, for example. Steve has always been a worrier, and I have come to join him ever since the children arrived.

After I laid him in bed, I surrounded him on all sides with pillows, then piled up his stuffed animals too for good measure. I told Steve Brandon was in his big boy bed and he just replied, "no."
"Yes, he is," I answered.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because he asked to go in there and at some point I have to let him grow up."
Steve was immediately up there, rearranging pillows, piling up even more stuffed animals.

Not long after, Brandon fell asleep. So of course, I snuck in there, made sure he was breathing, covered in blankets, and free from harm. Not long after, I saw Brandon's door was open and Steve was in there. "What happened?" I asked, afraid that Brandon had woken up from some night terror involving big boy beds.
"Nothing," Steve replied, "just checking on him."
"He's fine," I admonished, not admitting I had just been doing the same thing.

Today, we went to the store and Brandon picked out big boy underwear. We really are waving goodbye to all the comforts of babyhood - the crib, the diapers, the pacifier. And then today I scrolled through a few 2012 blogs to see just when it was that we transferred Brandon out of his infant carrier and into his first car seat, because Holden is at about that age. When I sent Steve the old blog post, he said it made him emotional, how they grow up so fast. And although I was trying to be the stoic one, we all know that I'm really not that way at all. I kiss Brandon's cheek every chance I get because I know one day soon he will outgrow mama's kisses. It gets me too - not the growing up, per se, but the outgrowing. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Before and after

I was feeling like pretty hot stuff on Saturday because I ran to the lake and halfway around it, completing seven miles in under an hour. I told Steve afterward, "I would laugh if anyone tried to pass me." Because even though I'm not a true athlete like those marathoners are, I am still prideful and it is always a blow to the ol' ego when you become someone's "roadkill" as they call it in the Hood to Coast.

And then, on Sunday, I told myself, "today is not about speed, but about endurance, take your time, you're in for the long haul." But even so, when I felt someone coming up behind me to pass me, I felt ashamed that some schlub was faster than me. But then, once he passed me and I saw he was an actual Kenyan - a perfect specimen of toned muscles covered in smooth chocolaty skin, wearing just these tiny little nylon shorts, I laughed in spite of myself. If the only person who passes me over the course of ten miles is a Kenyan - a person who comes out of the womb running - then I think I'm doing OK.

During the week I do short and quick treadmill runs. I still keep that post-it note, "Do Better Than Yesterday" to motivate myself and have been venturing into the six- and seven-something mile ranges on my short sprints. It pays off on my weekend outdoor runs. I PR'd in every category on my Nike+ app this weekend. When I started running without stopping to walk, my fastest mile was 9'03" and now I can do ten miles maintaining that pace. It's hard to believe what I can do when I actually give a shit.

I felt it was fitting to post a before-and-after picture so you know what we're dealing with here. I am not ready to be one of those people who takes full-body selfies in a mirror, with their iPhone flash and a serious, not smiling face. I just can't do that. So I lifted some family dinner pictures from my mother-in-law: the only reason there is even a picture of me at nine-months pregnant in the first place.
 
Today I am down 56 pounds from March 24th. I could lose a few more pounds, sure, but I'm OK with how I am now. My goal was to be back in the 140s, which I am (barely, but surely). I fit into my old clothes.  So the worst is over, but that certainly doesn't mean I will let myself go back to that place of immense laziness and debilitating lack of self-control. I will still do yoga and run because I've come to enjoy both of them in some sick twisted way that I never thought possible. And I won't drink loads of soda again or eat a box of Pasta Roni for lunch each day or know the Dairy Queen employees by name.

I will be a normal person who goes out to eat here and there, drinks her Crane coffees and gets her Lamar's donuts once (or twice) a week, but mostly, eats what her body needs and gets in 30 minutes of exercise most days. I realize now that I didn't eat shitty food and sit around because it made me good; I did it because I felt shitty myself. This is the best I've felt in quite some time. Sweating releases bad energy so much better than chocolate does.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

field trips, movies, OCD

So many reasons I love fall! Here's one: no one is at the children's museum thanks to school. We went in the summer a few times and it was pandemonium. In the fall, it's just a handful of us stay-at-home moms (and the token dad, of course) with our toddlers and babies. No screaming, the staff is friendlier, and no one is taking each other's things. It's damn near blissful.
 Here's another: scarves, hats, gloves, coats, boots and sweaters! My favorite clothing season.
Brandon is so used to us getting him Netflix movies that when we checked the mail the other day and there wasn't that red envelope, he said, "no movie?" This is how he plopped down to watch The Lion King.
Holden barely fits in his infant carrier. He is a sausage in his casing, that's for sure. But I'm holding out on that bigger carseat until he sits up on his own all the time.
How soon is too early to know that your child has OCD? Brandon spent an hour arranging and rearranging his bath toys into lines. If only he could organize my digital pictures already...
I like to take the kids out to do something at least every other day. Sometimes it's nothing too exciting - just the grocery store or donuts and coffee; then some days it's a kids adventure extraordinaire. I want our home to be their safe haven, their landing spot, but never a prison. I know it's working, because once when we were out and about, Brandon said, "I wanna go home." I love that he loves our home as much as Steve and I do.
Yes, there is a dingy towel in the background. But instead, just focus on this sweet face. He is the age of smiles and coos and squeals. And of course, their counterparts. But the good certainly outweighs the crabby.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

the gardens

I have lived in Omaha for a decade, and only today did I finally visit Lauritzen Gardens.
When I first lived in Omaha, I was in college, living in the dorms. I would walk to the zoo down tenth street nearly every day. This was on 10th and Bancroft. This have a nostalgic affection for this particular part of South Omaha. 
Brandon loves flowers and butterflies. And I didn't know they were going to have a whole model train town set up amongst the trees. He loved it.
 Nothing says fall quite like this sweater of his. I wish I had one like it.
 I love when the trees wear so many different colors, instead of their usual monochromatic jumpsuit.
The day didn't end quite as well as it started - we ended up at the doctor checking out a laceration on his forehead. It's purple, raised, and bloody, but no stitches and should heal up soon.
These little boys are amazingly resilient and strong. Their mama: not so much. Seeing my baby hurt is worse than any pain I could incur myself.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

wasting health

Sometimes I think what a waste it is to have a perfectly healthy body and not to treat it like that. We use our muscles to climb our own stairs, to wash our dishes, and to transport ourselves from here to there - we stand up and walk just to get to somewhere else where we can stop and sit. We eat shitty food because it tastes good or it's convenient, disregarding what it does to our bodies. We have these amazing machines that we live in every day that can do unbelievable things, and we just use the most basic functions of them.

If I think of all the people who aren't blessed with these healthy bodies - all the people with diseases or disabilities or missing parts - I think of how we without any ailments are living without restrictions and have the health they wish for and what are we doing with it? Eating hamburgers and flipping through the channels. If I were one of them, I would hate all of us. I would be sitting there, confined to my chair, dreaming of hiking a mountain trail or maybe just walking through the neighborhood. And the people around me who are completely able to do what it is I was dreaming of are just sitting around like me anyway. What a waste.

Just like youth is wasted on the young, health is wasted on the healthy. We take health for granted because it's something we've just always had where there are people unlucky who have never had it. Sometimes I guess you have to lose something to realize how much it matters to you. And those of us who haven't lost it just forget it's even there.

I've seen pictures of those marathoners who run with prosthetic legs and think to myself, "they get it." Because they realize what it is like to live without something they once had, and they determine to make the best of what they have now and not to waste it.

We tell our kids to get outside and run around because their bodies need to move and burn off energy. They need fresh air and Vitamin D. But so do we. And while most of us would never let our kids spend all their free time in front of the TV, knowing that a healthy person needs a variety of activities, we can often find ourselves doing the same thing we forbid our children to do. We can spend entire days without doing anything creative or cardiovascular or social. I hate to be a waste. So now that I realized that's what I was, I have stopped being a waste. I'm taking advantage of what I have, because advantages should never be taken for granted.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Long Way Down quotes

I am about to finish A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. Usually when I'm reading, there is a quote that sticks out to me that I want to blog about. But this book is so chock full of them, I just don't know where to start. I found some of my underlines and compiled them here: 

There are other ways of dying, without killing yourself. You can let parts of yourself die. 

The outward manifestations of an inner combustion are never very directed. 

Everyone knows how to talk, and no one knows what to say. 

It was kind of liberating, saying what you really wanted, even if you couldn't have it...We all spend so much time not saying what we want, because we know we can't have it. And because it sounds ungracious, or ungrateful, or disloyal, or childish, or banal. Or because we're so desperate to pretend that things are OK, really, that confessing to ourselves they're not looks like a bad move...Surviving in whatever life you're living means lying, and lying corrodes the soul, so take a break from the lies just for one minute.

I had that terrible feeling you get when you realize that you're stuck with who you are, and there's nothing you can do about it. 

Telling me I can do anything I want is like pulling the plug out of the bath and then telling the water it can go anywhere it wants. 

I've run out of room. I can't see any way forward or back. 

You can take the piss out of anyone who's unhappy if you're cruel enough. 

The story follows four people who meet on the top of a building they're all contemplating jumping off of. They are all suicidal for different reasons. Yes, the premise sounds very dark, but the book unfurls them as it goes along so you understand what led them to this point. I have never read any book similar to this at all. There are some issues that people don't want to talk about or read or write about, and suicide seems to be one of them.

A long time ago, I wrote down something: "Suicide - thinking about yourself too much or too little." And this books keeps reminding me of that sentence. Those are my deep thoughts on the matter. Now I must go finish this book.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Top 10 picture books for my 2-year-old

Since before Brandon was born, I have been planning what we would read together. I love books of all types, even (maybe especially) children's books. I lined his shelves with my childhood favorites - Harry the Dirty Dog, Lyle Lyle the Crocodile, anything by Bill Peet. But there are all sorts of other kids books I never read that Brandon decided to fall in love with instead. And subsequently, I have too. Here are Brandon's top 10 books so far:

This was his first love. It is nearly wordless, so you can add in words if you'd like. The pictures are vibrant. Brandon can look for the moon, balloon, gorilla and mouse on every picture. And he is so excited to see his favorite stuffed animal, Ernie, in the armadillo's cage.
 We actually have everything by this author and illustrator. He also loves Dooby Dooby Moo and Thump Quack Moo. But it all started with this one. The illustrations are great, the stories are funny. These animals are up to no good!
 I found this at a garage sale. Apparently this author has another book with instruments which I absolutely must get for my little musician. There is no story line - instead, it is excellent animal pictures accompanied by their names and the sounds they make. Holden thinks it's hilarious when I try to sound out the bizarre sounds.
 Brandon loves Arthur books. But he always comes back to this one. D.W. is only five or so, but has such a strong personality that you can't help but love her and the snide remarks she makes. I also get a good chuckle out of Arthur's clothing choices - he dresses like a 50-year-old computer programmer. Always loafers, and always yellow - either this polo in the summer or a V-neck sweater over an Oxford shirt in the school year.
 I never read Little Critter books as a kid, but I totally get the appeal now. The mouse is on every page, which is always fun for kids to look for. And Little Critter is mischievous and loveable.
 There are tons of Baby's first 100 words books. We have a few of them, ourselves. But this one is the best. The illustrations are great and the body section isn't weird like some of them are.
 We picked this up at the library and Brandon loves it. He can read along with most of it, as it is pretty repetitive and he can count the fruit. You really can't go wrong with Eric Carle books. If you didn't already know, he makes his pictures out of tissue paper - he paints on the tissue paper, then cuts and arranges them and finally glues them onto an illustration board. I like to see what he can do with his unique illustration technique.
 Brandon likes a lot of Berenstain bears books. Warning: they take forever. I often just read the first sentence of each page because otherwise he wouldn't be in bed until 9p. He really likes this older one - the early ones all seem to rhyme and have Brother Bear correcting a stubborn and wrong Papa Bear.
 Again - Eric Carle. Before discovering The Hungry Caterpillar, it all started with Brown Bear. And then we got the Polar Bear one. There is also a Panda Bear and a Baby Bear one. This was the first book Brandon could "read" - it is also very repetitive and as long as you can distinguish colors and animals, you can know what each page says.
There are many Five Little Monkeys books. Brandon's favorites are this one and Reading in Bed. The stories began with the classic jumping on the bed rhyme, and then followed five silly monkeys being raised by an apparently single mother who wears earmuffs to bed. The monkeys are messy and sometimes disobedient, but always loving to each other and their mama.

I think we have more children's books than some small town libraries. But Brandon and I love them. And of course, I buy them on the cheap. Holden doesn't yet take to books much - he mostly bangs on them or tries to eat them (with the exception of Gobble Growl Grunt). But one day maybe the three of us will have a book club.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

half birthday, lumberjack hoodie, rock-a-bye baby

Today Brandon turned 2 1/2. I might be the only person who thinks about this, but every time it's halfway around the calendar from someone in my family's birthday, I notice. I guess that's from being a kid and wanting to call myself "8 in a half!" (yes, I know it's "and a half" but try telling a kid that). When Steve and I were dating, he even gave me a present when I turned 19 1/2. I should have married him right then and there. That's consideration - remembering something that is totally pointless because someone you love cares about it.
 It's jacket season again. Although I have bought Brandon plenty of cool jackets in size 2T, every time I try to put one on, he refuses to wriggle his arms in and asks for his lumberman hoodie. The thing is, he has been wearing this jacket for nearly two years now. It's size 12 months. The sleeves are 3/4 length now, and his actual shirt hangs out way below the bottom of the hoodie. But he won't part with it. Truth is, it would fit Holden better than him. So I looked online to see if someone was selling one in 2T. I don't know why they'd bother - it's that Target brand, Circo, so the price of shipping it somewhere would be more than the price of it. But alas, no luck. And nothing that looks identical. If you ever stumble across one at a garage or consignment sale, buy it, give it to me, and I will find a way to return the favor tenfold.
I had to put pictures of my boys with the baby we watched this week. They were both very excited to have him stay with us. Brandon woke up today and asked where he was.
Brandon was such a good helper with the baby and Holden this week. So on Wednesday, we rushed to the Melissa & Doug store before it closed. Brandon picked out the pots and pans set (his favorite thing to do is help me with dishes) but I told him to pick something more affordable. So he selected these cans. The labels even have "Nutrition Facts" with ingredients, serving suggestions, and then calories ("just enough"), calories from fun (unlimited), and play value (110%). One of my main pet peeves is when people say anything is over 100%. Everyone likes to "give 110%" or Randy Jackson on American Idol would always say, "1000% yes!" Let's not teach a whole new generation this illogical math, Melissa and Doug!
 
Brandon's new thing is to climb into Holden's jumper or rocking chair and pretend to be a baby. He sings to himself in the rocking chair, "Rock-a-bye baby." It's adorable, even though one day soon he will break them both and we won't be smiling anymore. 
I'm working on my selfies since my fail last week. I'm going to post pictures on here once a week or so (not trying to over or under promise). So if you follow me on Instagram, I apologize, you will see some repeats. But my blog will be more comprehensive because I restrict myself to posting on Instagram once a day (which is a practice in self-control when you have kids as cute as mine).
This hasn't been Holden's best week for pictures because he is covered in mosquito bites - we were going on family walks and stopping at the park most nights which was great for Brandon. Problem is that the park has a bug infestation and Holden and I are both the prime targets. I once heard that bees were attracted to the smell of sweat, so maybe that's true for mosquitoes, too. But I'm not about to start being self-conscious on his behalf (OK, yeah, I tried to blemish correct it out, but then the picture got all grainy).