Saturday, December 20, 2014

List to tell people

I think about making a list of all the things I need to tell people before it's too late. 
~ Jonathan Tropper, This is Where I Leave You

I read this and knew immediately that I must do it.  There are people very important to me that I appreciate and admire and never told them as much because it's so cheesy and awkward. Do you remember that scene from Sex and the City at the spa where they talk about a girl who isn't ashamed of being naked in front of people because she's "from a naked family"? Well, I'm from a family that doesn't speak our mushy feelings. But I can write it. So I have started it. Within minutes, tears were streaming down my face because of all that was inside of me that had been left unsaid. It was cathartic and needed - and that was just the beginning. I've only written three paragraphs so far. One day I will give these words I write to the people I'm writing them for.

The things left unsaid stay with us forever.
~ I wish I was Here movie

What I wasn't expecting when I began thinking what I would write was what I would learn from what I didn't write. We hold onto bitterness and resentment, but when you go to write down what it is you'd like to say to people, the mean and petty and vindictive just don't seem important at all. I've never regretted biting my tongue from saying something mean. But we all regret not saying how much we love and appreciate people. 

The important thing about life is love. Everything else is just a distraction. 
~ A blog comment I read (Original source unknown or was actually a blog comment)

Monday, December 15, 2014

"breast is best" only works if your breasts work great and your sanity is not in jeopardy

I'm a good mother. At least, not a bad one. OK, I'm a mother, and I am assigning myself adjectives that you may or may not agree with. The fact is, each day, my sons wake up to see the next one. They not only made it through the last day alive, but they spent a few minutes of it reading books, helping with chores, and not saying, "no mama!" in a fit of rage. So you agree now, right? "Good mother" suits me.

The thing with motherhood is that you're not the only one. You'll never be an expert in your field. When I had a job, I could talk above people's heads and say pointless corporate words in succession until their eyes glazed over and I could feel important. But with parenting, you don't lose people halfway through a story. They get it. Their kid eats and shits and complains too. Nothing you can say they haven't seen themselves. So as a mother, you never really feel like you've "made it" or are good enough.

By far the worst parenting judgment I've felt so far is with breast feeding. Full disclaimer here: I tried to breastfeed. I really did. And not just while I was in the hospital and the lactation consultant and nurses were forcing me to. I mean, once we got home, I even whipped my breasts out more than once and my babies sawed my nipples into whittled toothpicks with their razor gums. I had to have something to bite on the entire time, because the pain was worse than the C-section pain.

When I told someone who breastfeeds without problems how bad it hurt when my kids' turned me into some common dairy cow, she said, "you mean the pain was your uterus contracting, right?" like I didn't understand where the pain was coming from. The uterus pain was nothing compared to the nipple pain. I quit breastfeeding each of my boys after four days, so they each have an equal shot at being brilliant. I didn't want one to turn out to cure cancer and brag about how his mother breastfed him longer than his layman brother. No one gets advantages over the other! See, I told you I'm a good mother!

It got to the point with Brandon where he actually pulled a blood vessel through my nipple and a lump had formed in one breast. I know other women have this happen and they persevere through the pain, but to me, my sanity was important in my children's upbringing. With Holden, I was dreading each feeding, biting on a washcloth or an old work stress ball each time he clamped down, and screaming and writhing in pain. I switched to formula for each of them, but both switches were hard for me. I journaled about it, tears streaming down my face, feeling like a failure. Steve tried to console me and told me life would go on and we would all be fine. He was right. We are all fine. The kids are alright.

It was only last week when I finished reading Tina Fey's Bossypants that I finally saw breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding as a personal choice, rather than a parenting victory or failure. It's only today that I can finally blog about it without feeling ashamed and guilty. I will always do what is best for my children. And if having a snarling, angry mother writhing in pain was best for them, sure I could have breast fed longer.

Let's make a pact: you don't berate me for not breastfeeding my kids for more than four days and I won't berate you for letting them suck your tits when they have full sets of teeth in their mouths. Let's all do what is best for our families and stop telling everyone else our way is the best way.

We made the switch to an all-formula diet. If you've ever opened a can of infant formula mix, then you know it smells like someone soaked old vitamins in a bucket of wet leaves, then dried them in a hot car. Also, formula is like forty dollars a can. They keep it locked up behind the counter with the batteries and meth ingredients. That's how bad people want this stuff! 

However, the baby was thriving. I was no longer feeling trapped, spending thirty out of every ninety minutes attached to a Williams-Sonoma Tit Juicer. But I still had an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. I had failed at something that was supposed to be natural. 

I was defensive and grouchy whenever the topic came up. At a party with a friend who was successfully nursing her little boy, I watched her husband produce a bottle of pumped breast milk that was the size of a Big Gulp. It was more milk than I had produced in my whole seven weeks -- I blame Entourage. As my friend's husband fed the baby, he said offhandedly, "This stuff is liquid gold. You know it actually makes them smarter?"
"Let's set a date!" I screamed. "IQ test. Five years from today. My formula baby will crush your baby!" Thankfully, my mouth was so full of cake they could not understand me.
~ Tina Fey, Bossypants

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Smile for the camera

 I can't look at this picture and not laugh. He is such a silly baby.
 We have had a surprising warm snap around here. I mean, fifty some degrees! I ran outside last weekend and looks like I'll be able to do it again this weekend. No complaints here!
 I took a picture of Brandon the day we moved him into his car seat, so I also took one of Holden. You can tell they're brothers. They both have what my dad would call "smiling eyes."
 And here is his regular smile. Check out all those teeth!
 Brandon found my old digital camera in a drawer. He has been saying, "smile for the camera!" and "say cheese!" I took a look at his pictures. It's hard to tell if he has any skill yet, since he seems to prefer capturing his own fingers.
 Scooting around on his bike in the basement. Steve asked Brandon if he remembered who got it for him and Brandon replied, "Santa Claus!" (it was actually from Grandma and Grandpa)
Who is photobombing whom?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

SuperMom

Growing up, my mom could do anything. She could remove a sliver with tweezers and a straight pin, get my drawstring back through my hoodie using a safety pin. She could mend pants without making it obvious. Hell, she could even sew our clothes (and accessories). She could cook a Thanksgiving dinner, repair Christmas lights, assemble an IKEA bookshelf, style our hair using pink foam curlers. My mom is the oldest of eight kids, grew up on a farm, and was very active in 4H. I think that must be the triple threat of domesticity.

It seems like these days, I don't know anyone who is very domestic. Even people I know who claim they like to cook seem to just make a lot of quesadillas and pastas. Hell, even I can do that. These days, if a mom can use Google, owns a Crockpot, and can thread a needle, I would call that a triple threat. Probably because most moms work nowadays. There is barely enough time in the day to prepare for the next one. Perfecting the art of motherhood? When?!? I can seriously only think of two moms I know who stay home with their kids. Two! When I was a kid, I could only name two moms that worked. Being a mom is definitely a full-time job. But the fact is, in order to raise kids, often you have to have another full-time job to afford it. Less than 30% of moms stay home now.

True, today there isn't a need for that Pioneer Woman type they had back then, since most of us live in Suburbia and can drive to a tailor. Thankfully, none of us are going to be Little House on the Prairie-ing it any time soon. But I still like the notion of a mom being a bit like a SuperHero. You can throw anything at her and she will get it done. I don't want to be the mom that's always offering to bring the plates and napkins. I am determined to be a mom with some actual mom skills. I am one of the minority that stays home now, so if anyone has time to do it, it would be me. And no, I don't have that much time, either. Writing this blog is probably my only free time for the day. Maybe tomorrow I'll work towards the Mom/SuperHero thing. Today, I will just try to get try to get by. Chipotle for dinner, anyone?
Here is a sampling of the dresses and accessories my mom made us through the Christmases. And the magic horror of pink foam curlers.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

projectile vomit and potty training

Steve and I often marvel at how Holden has never been sick. We chalk up our good fortune to not sending him to daycare. Just another wise parenting choice we have made! We are awesome at this! And then on Monday night, he got sick. Monday night was the first time I've ever seen projectile vomit. It actually happens; it's not just in the movies. Vomit can come out of a mouth and go somewhere other than down. It went in my eye, in Steve's beard, and over every stainable fabric in the room. I would have laughed if I wasn't so freaked out. There is nothing funny about a child under the age of one being in any danger whatsoever. Sometimes I even worry the TV could give him seizures, that's how anxious I am about babies. It doesn't help that when you're pregnant you are pumped full of terrible scenarios that could happen to your baby! SIDS, suffocation by crib bumper, drowning in the bath tub - parenthood preparation is basically just worrying on crack.
He woke up in the middle of the night screaming. This kid is loud anyway, but his pain scream is unbearable. I thought it was a death scream. At 5 a.m., I called our pediatrician's on-call nurse. She spoke to me a little too calmly like I was worrying over a god damn spider crawling towards me, not like my baby could be dying. She explained that there was really no need to do anything besides give baby medicine for a "low grade fever." I didn't think 102 was low grade. In fact, my hasty internet search told me to go to the Emergency Room if his fever was over 100.4, so if anything, I thought I was under-reacting. At a more godly hour of the morning I texted my friend the nurse to be get some affirmation from another mother with nurse training that my son would live. She shared my concern, but also affirmed that he would live. Just what I needed to hear.
I think we're out of the woods now. I mean, he actually cracked a smile for me today. And per the usual, he tried ripping the Christmas lights cord out of the outlet and chewing on things he has no business chewing on. He is basically like a puppy but with opposable thumbs and better height. So, your worst nightmare. And that's when he's healthy. So glad he is back to himself.
 
Brandon was a near angel for me while Holden was screaming incessantly. He quietly entertained himself. And yes, I discovered later that he was playing with hairspray and screwdrivers, but nothing blew up. He found the infant pacifiers because I left the lock off the medicine cupboard, but I can live with that.
 Yesterday while I was addressing Christmas cards, he climbed up on the desk so he could help.
I was sitting at my desk again today (this time I wasn't being quite as constructive, just trying to find what I should buy with my Gap Cash), and this time he pulled out this typewriter. This was my mom's high school graduation present and as I have a bit of a fetish for typewriters and she has no use for it, she passed it along to me. Now apparently I passed my fetish along to Brandon because he was mesmerized. "I'm playing the computer, mama!" he reported with glee.
Let's be honest, I kind of let this kid run amok and do his thing this week. And don't mind all the pants-less pictures: today was my first attempt at potty training. I heard that if you just put them in underwear, after they pee themselves, they'll want to use the toilet because they won't like the sensation of it running down their legs. Well, my kid didn't seem to mind it at all. He peed through four pairs of underwear and never once notified me. I just kept discovering it when I would try to force him to use the potty and his underwear were already wet. Well, no one said parenting would be easy, right? Or maybe I just didn't take them seriously when they said it was hard. Nothing is hard for me! I'm awesome! Oh wait, parenting is. I'm not that awesome. I was awesome at not having to do anything hard, I suppose. But these new twists and turns that these kids keep throwing at me can't actually be a skill people inherently have. I think we all just learn what to do as it happens.

You shouldn't be putting all this pressure on yourself. They don't start this age. They don't start out as big as Max. They start out little and tiny and they don't talk or do anything but poo. You can handle that. And then eventually you work your way up into insanity.
~ 11.6.14 episode of Parenthood 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

helping, drama queen, Christmas

This kid encourages me to do yoga. "Let's go to the basement, mama," he prods. When I acquiesce, he gets to watch a movie of his choosing and tries to tip me over when I'm barely balancing on one foot. Yes, we have two TVs next to each other. It's for Steve, so he can watch RedZone and Dolphins at the same time. But it works out for me while doing yoga, too. Everyone should have side-by-side TVs!
Yesterday was just about as perfect as the end of November can get. We got a 60 degree day so I ran to the lake and Steve played golf and at the end of the day, we got this sunset.
My boys get to watch TV every day. Perhaps too much, as I'm noticing that lately everything Brandon says sounds like a cartoon character - "hooray!" or "we did it!" - basically a lot of exclamation marks. Well, that and yesterday he said, "I'm sad," and when I tried to cheer him up he said, "don't make me happy." He is dramatic on either side of the emotion spectrum.
This is the first week Holden has showed any interest at all in books. He is growing into a boy that wants to be like his older brother.
I'm thinking about reinforcing nap time for Brandon. Every time it's afternoon and we drive anywhere  he falls asleep in the car. Which makes me think he really is tired, he just fakes it to get out of naps. This kid is outwitting me at every turn.
The sweetest sight you ever saw. Holden's hair finally seems to be turning blond.
Our first attempt at a family selfie. Not the best thing ever. But it will do. #whyismybabysheadbiggerthanmine
I just reactivated my Twitter account, so I feel the need to insert hashtags everywhere.
I love the day when we put out the Christmas decorations. Brandon came downstairs and said, "it's Christmas, mama!" Then he pulled his step stool up to the tree and rearranged the ornaments.
Addressing the Christmas cards tonight while watching a JTT classic. Time to get that portion of my night started!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Good shit

I know, I know, I'm unoriginal and completely cliché and ordinary. But here is what I'm thankful for this year: 

Adoption - that my wonderful daughter is being raised by loving parents (and that there is this beautiful alternative to the other two choices in surprise pregnancies)
Books and baths. Couldn't choose. Plus they go together so well.
Coffee (Crane Coffee particularly!)
Donuts (shout out to you too, LaMar's!)
Etsy - for all the homemade things in my house that constantly remind me of what I can't make myself
Fantasy Football - I love it and I hate it. But I'm guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, so today I love it.
Groom (aka, Stephen. All the other letters that might have worked were already taken). For loving me as I am, as I was, and as I will be. It's awesome to be loved 360 degrees.
Home - I love my little nest where I am safe and warm and happy
Instagram - sometimes I just hashtag Pacific Northwest when I'm feeling homesick. It's amazing that anything you want to see is there, and not in the creepy Google Images kind of way
Jigsaw puzzles - and to you, Charles Wysocki for puzzles that aren't just cats, flags, or beer cans
Kids - they test me and completely love me at the same time. I love them for it.
Library - I think they're getting pretty sick of my mug around there by now. But they ain't getting rid of me (until I have too many fines on my card, of course)
Music - instant mood lifter. And the boys dancing around is an added bonus.
NikePlus app - for motivating me to run and to PR. Not that those little motivating voices do anything for me, but the record and PRs and trophies are what a geek like me needs to push herself beyond her treadmill runs.
Ob/gyn - I know this is a bit unorthodox, but mine kept me and my baby safe eight months ago on the scariest day of my life. 
Parents - and not just my parents for being my parents - for the way they parented me: I appreciate it so much now that I have kids of my own. My morals and work ethic I credit to them growing those alongside me. 
Quality Time - the time I spend with my family when we are fully engaged in each other - at the children's museum or the zoo, or playing together in the toy room. Sometimes I catch myself smiling that this is my life and these boys are mine.
Running - not just because I lost 60 pounds. But also for the mind clearing and mellowing it provided me. We all know I need as much of that as I can get.
Siblings - ah, the people who know me best. Seeing Joel last weekend was good for the ol' soul. We reminisced about how tight we were that dreadful summer in 2005. He got me through a hard patch and we're laughing about it now nearly ten years later.
Therapy - not the lying on a couch kind, but the kind I get for much cheaper: happy hour with friends where we vent and chat about things we didn't even know mattered to us until our cheeks get flushed
Uninterrupted free time - this might sound like the opposite of Q, but I believe everyone needs space to be themselves. The time I get to exercise or read or take baths or write is much appreciated. I am still mom, but I'm also Holly.
Vacation - I love the little breaks we get from our routine. And then returning to our blessed routine.
Writing - even if it's just mushy scribblings and incoherent ramblings, it pauses a moment of mine that I can forever relive.
Xmas - tomorrow we trim our tree and make hot cocoa and listen to Bing Crosby! And mom, I know, you taught us against writing Christmas this way and I don't, it's just for my list because I thought "Excel spreadsheets" was too much of a stretch.
Yoga - thanks for my new muscles. And I'm glad I can do this while Brandon is awake (half-hearted parenting at it's best, be sure)
Zorinsky - my favorite running trail. Again, I know, how cliché.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bullshit wedding gifts

I don't agree with the way we do wedding gifts. It's fucked up, really. Think about it - some young kids get scan happy with a scan gun and start agreeing that yes, indeed, they need a tent even though they fucking hate the outdoors. And yes, a quesadilla maker is a needed appliance and not just a waste of valuable apartment cupboard space. And while we're at it, maybe an air mattress for when they never go camping or to make their unwelcome in-laws feel like they really can stay there (but please don't).

I have been married for eight years, and only recently did it hit me what I really should have registered for back then. Like a salad spinner - have you heard of those? I don't have one, but I think I'd like to, seeing as I eat salad every day. Or a food processor. A hand mixer. A steam mop. Now that I'm becoming domesticated, I'd like some of the gear that goes with doing mother/wifely duties well. Because let's be honest, I'm just skating on thin ice as it is, getting by until spring thaw (and no one better get me any of that stuff as gifts as if the only hobbies I have in life are cleaning the house and cooking. Those are chores. I'm not wasting my gifts on chores. I have hobbies. Beyond being a chore-doer, I do exist).

Perhaps what we should do instead for wedding gifts, is give money on a sort-of trust fund allowance schedule. Newlyweds really just need cash. They don't need tents or salad spinners or quesadilla makers. They might need towels, but they probably won't appreciate the nice ones you get them or will scoff at the shitty ones you buy. So how about 1/3 of the guests' gifts are sent to one bank account, available for immediate use. A lot of newlyweds are young and/or poor, so they would rather have cash to pay rent than a Kitchenaid mixer. They are trying to pay off their honeymoon and credit cards, and sometimes even their rings.

The next 1/3 of the guests' gifts will go into another bank account, available when the first real nesting move comes: either a new home or a baby, whichever comes first. That is when they have room for those kitchen appliances that they might actually use now. Now that they aren't going out to eat or surviving off only boxed and frozen foods. And we all know babies require a million things. If we go with this model (my model, the best way), anyone who attended the wedding gets a "get out of jail free" card to use on the baby shower. Only new friends have to participate in that bullshit.

The last 1/3 of the guests' gifts will go into the final bank account which is available on the ten year wedding anniversary. It's a, "Wow! Ten years! What's your secret?" account. But seriously - ten years: there has to be a secret. That's a long time to not get tired of someone (I'll tell you our secret in just under two years). At this point, the couple has been through a whole lot of shit together and deserves a nice vacation. Not a budgeted honeymoon, but a fucking awesome vacation where the drinks are endless and include paper umbrellas. If the couple doesn't last ten years, all of the wedding guests get part of their money back. It won't even be enough to cover the dress or shoes you had to buy for their wedding, but hey, something is better than nothing.

Whose wedding is next? In the card I will enclose a voucher for "1/3 committed" - the idea I have that if someone is willing to run with and actually set up, I will donate into an account for these newlyweds. And only at today's going gift rate. I'm not paying inflation on that shit.

Monday, November 24, 2014

road trip

Nearly a decade ago, my friend hopped a flight to Seattle and I picked her up at the airport, my Saturn loaded down with everything I owned. We drove to Omaha, stopping to sleep in Montana. Now in our thirties instead of twenties, when she told me she was going to be moving halfway across the country, of course I was going to make the road trip with her. 

Ten years later really complicates matters. Adult responsibilities certainly shirk spontaneity. The planning involved was much more than one purchased plane ticket. There were multiple plane tickets bought, a house sold, a U-Haul booked, lodging procured, daycare secured. And of course, when a mother leaves, a week of preparation is required. I cleaned the entire house, did eight loads of laundry, wrote a detailed schedule. 
I spent Thursday morning giving the boys baths, packing the diaper bag, then my carry-on. I ate lunch with Brandon then I drove myself to the airport. I marveled at exactly how easy air travel is without kids (seriously - what was I bitching about before?) In Phoenix, Marie picked me up at the airport and we grabbed dinner and some much needed coffee, then made it to Las Vegas by 2 a.m. The hotel's happy hour went from midnight to six a.m. That boggled my mind. Don't these people sleep?

 As you can tell, I was unlucky in Vegas.
 I think it's hilarious that when you exit Vegas, there is a billboard telling you who to call to get sober.
 We drove up US 93 which doesn't have a whole lot going on. A gas station that was turned into a picnic gazebo on the outskirts of a trailer park.
 A church. Electrical lines, trash.
 I love wind turbines.
 
 We went from cacti and not seeing a tree for too many miles to snow and mountains.
 I like the beauty of ugly things.
 Usually a window reflection ruins a picture, but this captured our road trip - the map on the knees.
 I began getting giddy as soon as we entered Pacific Northwesterness. Every time I run outside, I've noticed I run either north or west. It's as if I'm always subconsciously running home.
 My up-for-anything younger brother came and met us for a delicious sushi dinner. We had joked we just wanted dinner on a plate after foraging a small town grocery store for dinner the night before (seriously - pickles, an apple, triscuits, beef sticks, V-8 juice).

I got home at 1:30 this morning and went to check on Holden and immediately started crying. This morning, he actually hugged me. And he is by no means a hugger. He usually just flails around, but this time, our hearts beat against each other and I could feel what he can't say - that he missed me. Although spontaneity evaporates with our youth, I remembered all the things I love about my anchored adult life. We can still do things we did back then, we just have to battle logistics. And us adults have learned how to do that in those years when youth was escaping.                                               

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

keeping warm, gnawing, and playing

 
It has happened. Last week was our first snowfall. Maybe it will melt soon. Maybe what little we have will be here until March. It's hard to tell. But it certainly got cold fast. One week I was running with the boys in the jogging stroller to the park, the next it was 0 degrees. 
 
We've got to keep warm around here!
If you asked me what my perfect date was, this would be it. So no, it's not a date. But it is perfect. I am a loner; a married loner.
My little pal.
 
He hasn't been sleeping as well and is always gnawing on something. It looks like that other front top tooth popped through today. Holden and I have been spending a lot of time together in the mornings, so he is forced to hang out while mommy reads or brushes her teeth. He doesn't seem to mind much, as long as he something to chew. 
Every time I take a picture of Holden with the flash, he makes the cheesiest face. 
 At dinner the other night, Brandon said, "Hold my hand, daddy."
 I love to watch my boys play.