Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hood to Coast

Here's where I was this weekend. My family and I completed the Hood to Coast relay. If you haven't heard of this, it is a 199 mile relay race with 12 people on a team. We run from Mt. Hood to the Pacific Ocean. One of us is always running until it is over, which in our case was 31 hours.
I was in a minivan with my aunt, three siblings, and sister-in-law. The running part wasn't bad. It was actually pretty awesome to run at four a.m. in the pitch black and to hear a screech owl and see the stars and feel the mountain mist. Then I ran the final leg which meant running down through a forest and out to the beach which was pretty awesome.
The hardest part of the whole thing is being crammed into a van for a day and a half with five other people and not being able to sleep. There were definitely a few meltdowns. A smart person takes every second they can to sleep, or at least close their eyes and fiend sleep.
My times weren't fast, but I ran over 16 miles without sleeping and just five months after having a C-section. And I never stopped and walked. Even when everyone else was. I beat some personal bests. I even passed more people than passed me. By quite a ways. I don't claim to be an athlete, but doing a relay like this makes anyone feel invincible.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

characters welcome

I have put it off as long as I could. But I am now allowing these damn character shirts. Some of the kids in Brandon's daycare were wearing these as much as a year ago. But I stood my ground, other than one Mickey shirt that slipped in as a present. It's a sad day when your child chooses to start dressing himself. I doubt he'll be reaching for his adorable sweaters and polos. I imagine it will be an endless parade of Jake, Buzz, and Woody from here on out. Maybe I'll just let him pick his outfit one day a week.

 
By the way, these character shirts are a racket. Old Navy is famous for cheap kids clothes - I buy Brandon baseball shirts there for $2 or $3 a piece. But if there is a character on it, the price goes up to $13 to $15. For a damn T-shirt. A toddler T-shirt. So when I found Toy Story ones on clearance, I bought one in each size for the next two years, since Brandon is rather obsessed with it. He completed his first 48-piece puzzle by himself on Saturday. It was, of course, of Woody and Buzz.

We have been working on Holden sitting up on his own. Things get much easier when they can do that. For one thing, baths are so much easier. You can put them in a shopping cart and move them into an upright car seat. I can use the double stroller. Basically, my whole life improves. So yesterday, when he sat in Brandon's reading chair for a few minutes, I was nearly glowing with pride.
 
In case you're wondering, the amber necklace is working like a charm. And since Holden is so chunky, you can barely even see it on him - it gets lost in his neck rolls.  Maybe his disposition isn't all that grouchy. This necklace has made him a much more enjoyable baby.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Journey

Suburban Omaha graffiti

Saturday, August 16, 2014

dentist visit

I went to the dentist yesterday. I do so enjoy my dentist visits (seriously). I took Brandon with me this time since next year he will be sitting in the dentist chair. I wanted to show him it wasn't scary. I guess I didn't account for what he would do while I was in the chair. So he kind of kneeled on my stomach and watched the instruments go in and out of my mouth. Then he asked if he could brush his teeth, too. By the end of it, he was chatty with the dental hygenist and they let him pick something out of the kids bin.

I remember my dentist had a kids box. It was a nice wood box with a clasp so it could be locked, but it never was. It was full of those little animals you see at the zoo gift shop. They kept it in the waiting room. Come to think of it, I think those were just waiting room toys. After all four of us had finished, mom would take us to the Gast House bakery down the street where I would get a giant maple bar. Even though you weren't supposed to eat anything right afterwards. My mom - what a rebel. It's amazing these little $0.89 detours that turn into happy memories for your children.

Any way, my dentist doesn't have little animals. This place is set way back in time. It smells like the 70s in there. I'm not complaining. I think the smell is why I go to this dentist. I take a hit of it every time I walk in and it instantly reminds me of my grandpa's house - that musty, slightly smokey smell that I am always hoping to run into again. They have these old magazine ads with things like talcum powder framed up as their artwork. There is one of those wood-paneled video game tables like our old A&W had. I haven't flipped through the magazines because they never make me wait, but I can't imagine they're current. So when Brandon pulled out his toy, I wasn't surprised that it was still those bracelets that I had when I was a kid. Do you remember these friendship bracelets from the 90s?

Pretty cool, huh?

It was 5 p.m. when we left the dentist, so I didn't take him to get a maple bar, but I did stop at the Melissa & Doug store across the street and picked up these lizards he has wanted since the week Holden was born. I had to ask the owner to order them, because I kept going back and he never had restocked them. The store owner was so impressed with Brandon's patience for the lizards. He must not remember that I also bought Brandon the snakes and the bugs to tie him over.

Oh, and if you're wondering, as Steve always does, no, I do not have any cavities. Only once in my life, and it was on my Sonicare hiatus. I eat more donuts than anyone you've ever met, but I still don't get cavities. Mmm...now I really want a maple bar.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

amber necklace

I am not a hippie mom. I didn't save my placenta. I don't puree my own baby food. I never even wore my children. In fact, most of Brandon's lunches are made in the toaster oven. He watches TV. I could never be confused for a hippie mom. But today, I did a hippie mom thing.

I loaded up the kids and took them to a baby boutique to buy an authentic amber necklace. If you haven't heard of these, they are the newest craze for teething children.

The tag says: amber is a fossilized tree resin, and when worn against the skin, the skins warmth releases these healing oils from the amber, providing anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects perfect to soothe a teething baby.

It even sounds like a crock of horseshit. But damn it if I'm not desperate.  Once-predictable Holden has turned into a shrieking, screaming, not sleeping hot mess. He gnaws on my shoulder, drools through multiple shirts a day, and doesn't drink his bottles like he used to. He is tired, hungry, and uncomfortable. Which means I am all those things, too. I am desperate to get normal amounts of sleep again and to have moments of quiet. 

While checking out, I was commenting on how big some of the necklaces looked. "Those are the adult sizes," the cashier informed me. I was a millisecond away from making fun of adults who wore these when I noticed the cashier was wearing one. For once, I did not stick my foot in my mouth. "Do they work?" I asked instead. She claimed it cured her headaches and back pain.

I am by nature a skeptic, but I want to be a believer so badly. I want something to work on my poor little baby. So I can't be sure if today was a better-than-average day or if I just want to believe that the amber works, but Holden fell asleep in the car instantly after it was on. Which was a minor miracle considering he had just taken a nap a little earlier. Then, he woke up from his little siesta and I didn't even notice he was awake in his car seat because he was quiet. He ate his whole bottle at lunch time, and now has been sleeping peacefully in his crib for the past hour and a half.

So who am I to be cynical of spending $20 on an infant necklace made of amber? Hell, if this keeps up, maybe I'll become one of those adults who wears them. I do get headaches, after all. Now if only it could regulate my thyroid, stop my excessive sweating and get rid of my stretch marks in the midst of all its healing powers.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

save for a day far away

You give your children enough money to do something but not enough to do nothing. 
~ From The Descendants

It is never too early or too late to start saving money. And although my kids are two and an infant, I am thinking about what is the best way to get them started in their adult lives. Brandon is sixteen years away from college, which is only about half the time most people take to pay off their mortgages, so saving could definitely start now.

Before I had kids, I said I would pay for their first cars so they could get jobs as early as sixteen if they'd like. Of course, before sixteen, if they wanted to do odd jobs for people or bike or walk somewhere, I'm fine with that. But always being able to walk or ride to work here isn't as realistic for my kids as it was for me living in Washington. Here we have days that are extremely hot or extremely cold, and some days they close school for the kids who stand at the bus stop because of the wind chill.

But now that I have worked and hired people and realized the bias people get because they do or don't have a Bachelor's degree (even if it isn't relevant to the job they're applying for), I realize maybe I want to help pay for my kids' education, too, if they feel so inclined to pursue further education. I want to set my kids up in early adulthood so that they're successful for the remainder of adulthood without me. 

But I don't want them to be spoiled brats, either. Which is why I used that quote. If you enable your children to live as they'd like, rather than as they should, they are bound to get into trouble. When I say I would like to buy their first car, know that it won't be a Range Rover or a Lexus. I'm not about making my children popular, rather about making them practical, responsible, independent adults. I must remember to buy them a car lame enough that they immediately want to work hard to buy a better one.

Friday, August 8, 2014

two boys, two opposite personalities

One thing that surprises me in parenting these two boys is how incredibly different they are. I don't know why that surprises me. I guess I didn't think about it too much before Holden arrived, but I probably just assumed raising him would be the same as raising Brandon. I assumed what worked for Brandon would work again with Holden. I didn't account for different babies. They share the same DNA and are raised amongst the same parents in the same house, so you'd think both nature and nurture would churn out two identical little young 'uns.

Well, it didn't. And I guess if you think of any pack of siblings anywhere, there will never be two the same. We all come out with these personalities already a part of us. Some of us are strong-willed, some are emotional, some are funny, some are peaceful, some are feisty. Some are all of those and more, some are none of those, but someone else entirely.

I don't know what kind of men these little boys will grow up to be yet, of course, but there are some observations I've already made on who they are organically. Brandon is social. When he cries, he likes to be comforted with kisses and snuggles. He likes to have people watching him or listening to him as he shows off what he knows. He wants dad and mom to dance with him when his song comes on. He says "hello" to everyone, even the characters in his books.

Holden, on the other hand, is a bit more of a loner. He can play on his piano gym or in his bouncer without a peep, but then when someone is smothering him, he starts to wail. It was driving me crazy that I haven't been able to get him to go back to sleep after his 7 a.m. bottle anymore. I rocked him, cooed at him, whispered to him that mommy really wanted to go back to sleep. Nothing worked. So I told myself that I now wake up at 7 a.m. too. I started going to bed earlier to cope. I went for a run on Tuesday before most commuters were even out of their driveways. And when I came home, he was asleep for Steve. So the next day, determined to repeat the previous day's success, I tried something different. I put him in his crib, turned on his mobile, and walked away. And what do you know? Within two minutes he was back asleep, peaceful as could be.

Brandon didn't have much trouble with teething. His teeth erupted, of course, but he didn't make too much of a fuss about it. He doesn't get too riled up. Even when he falls now, he just says, "I'm alright," to calm down his overly-worried mother. Holden, however, raises hell if he's unsatisfied. He is the loudest baby in the world. He doesn't have a gentle baby whimper or a sweet cry. He has a ear-piercing shriek. He is high-strung. He wants you to help his hurting gums but not to coddle him while doing so. He wants a frozen washcloth and then to be left the fuck alone in his misery. His misery doesn't love company. He is a recluse when he can be, and he screams when he realizes he needs someone for something.

Brandon's resting face is a smile, while Holden's is a frown. But they both love to laugh. Brandon laughs while watching movies or when reading books, or when he repeats a word he finds funny. He laughs to include people in his joy. Holden laughs if I sing to him or call him "gubby," but I get the distinct feeling that he's laughing at my ridiculousness, not along with it. This could be a paranoid assumption, but it certainly feels like Holden laughs to separate himself from others. He laughs out of superiority at the dummies making fools out of themselves.

Of course, Holden is only four months old, and Brandon is only two. There is so much that will change and shape them as their lives play out. But it is amazing for me to see how different two little guys with so much in common are, even from birth. It's amazing to see this mix of Steve's and my personalities already manifesting in our offspring. Oh, and it's a little scary to think of the evils they will be susceptible to based on how they are. It's something this overly-protective and worried mom would think about. When really, I should be focused on how I don't have infant parenting figured out because I've raised one infant before. It's really starting all over with the second one.

Our siblings. They resemble us just enough to make all their differences confusing...
- Susan Scarf Merrell

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ignorance is ignorant

If you wanted to know, you would have!
~Jon Taffer in Bar Rescue
(not sure if that's the exact quote, but that's the jist).

My biggest pet peeve in life is probably when someone says, "I could care less." Or when people don't know the difference between to, too, and two. Or when someone cuts me off while driving when they could have waited just two more seconds since there were no cars behind me. OK, there are a few peeves I have. I'll stop there.

But outside of those, something completely irritating I've noticed as an overwhelming epidemic is ignorance. And it drives me insane. Especially in jobs. People want to be told everything over and over again; they want you to show them how to do it time and time again, or sometimes to do it for them. Does anyone take notes anymore so they can refer back to them and do it themselves? Does anyone feel embarrassed asking the same questions time and again? Because I sure as hell do. I would never ask the same question twice. I am too prideful to admit I don't know something I should. So I educate myself. I always have. I am resourceful.

It's not that hard to figure out all the resources at your disposal and use those. I have worked in plenty of jobs with no training. In fact, only one job I've ever had gave me top notch training, and in it, 9 of the original 15 people were let go before training ended because they couldn't catch on. I have trained many people, and probably not to their standards, because I go over everything once and expect that to be enough. Because shouldn't it be? Are we so unresourceful now that we can't figure anything out without it being pounded into our heads? What happened to common sense and figuring shit out for yourself?

Maybe I'm a little more resourceful because I was homeschooled. Sure, we had a curriculum, but when I wasn't satisfied with what I was learning in the books I was required to complete, I went to the library, or read Encyclopedias or the dictionary. I used a thesaurus when I would write to teach myself vocabulary. I cross referenced verses during devotions because I didn't think the handouts they gave at church gave enough meat - just a bunch of fluffy stories and one half of a verse, usually. I have an insatiable curiosity, and maybe most people don't.

I don't think of ignorance as anything other than an excuse. Which is why I love Jon Taffer so much. Because he agrees with me on that. If you want to know something - figure it out! Don't expect knowledge to just show up in your brain in the middle of watching Bachelor in Paradise. You work for what you have. And if you feel like you're dumb, work not to be. If you aren't catching on to your job, work harder at it.

Before becoming a waitress, I had to know the menu inside and out. They actually required I pass a test before I could wear that apron.  I had never had a drink in my life, but I learned scotches, whiskeys, rums, beers and wines. I had flash cards to tell me steak cuts and salad ingredients and cocktail garnishes. I figured the shit out.

I can't stand it when other people don't use their resources and always depend on another person to help them with everything. It's co-dependence. I am teaching my kids independence already. I will have failed as a mother if they still need me in their 30s. I want them to want to hang out with me still, but I certainly don't want either of them living in the basement. This old bitch will be even older and crankier then, and that shit won't fly.

Monday, August 4, 2014

It must be Monday

Today I loaded up the kids as soon as Holden finished his bottle and stopped crying for a split second (this poor kid is teething and shrieks incessantly when he's awake). We drove across town to the Children's Museum because I had promised Brandon I'd take him tomorrow, but then I saw the calendar and realized the cable guy is coming tomorrow (sometime between 8a and 5p of course - they couldn't get any more specific for me - apparently no one can have plans on the same day as their cable appointment). I am a firm believer in not breaking promises (to anyone, but especially kids). So after stopping for gas and finally making it downtown, I noticed the children's museum parking lot was empty. Yes, it is closed on Mondays.
I stopped at a consignment store and got Brandon a few books as a consolation, and then a milkshake (but maybe that one was consolation for me). Damn. Why didn't I just use the internet to double check? All in all I drove 45 miles for some books and a milkshake. I took a scenic route home hoping to find a park, but instead realized the pavement stopped and the gravel began. Holden did not like that. He screamed and screamed some more. At least Brandon got to see some horses and cows in real life. For the first time, maybe. We're not exactly hicks, even though we do live in Nebraska.
 
Holden and I are flying back to Washington in a few weeks for a long weekend. I asked Brandon if he wanted to come with me, but he said he wanted to stay with daddy. Thankfully, because he's not free anymore and tickets aren't exactly cheap on short notice. Today, I saw a Washington license plate and had to comment on it. Brandon said, "No Washington, stay with daddy!" Now how do I get Holden to stop his ear-piercing screaming before our plane rides?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

To my daughter's parents

I can't imagine how it feels to place your child up for adoption and not know who her parents will be. I can't imagine worrying if she's being cared for properly or if she will be raised with strong morals. I can't imagine the paranoia and worry that must come from the scary unknown. Because the knowledge of who her parents are was the only reason I knew that I was making the right choice. If I hadn't met Matt and Nona and hadn't known from that first day that they would provide Gracie with everything I couldn't, I couldn't have chosen adoption. There would have been no sense in me having someone raise my daughter that couldn't do a better job than I could myself.

My pregnancy was a very tough and emotionally exhausting time. But then came the day that I met Matt and Nona. Here is the journal entry I wrote three days later:

Thursday, May 5, 2005:

On Monday, I met Matt and Nona, a couple who I loved right away from their profile. We met for an interview, and by the end of it, I told them they were exactly what I wanted in parents for my child. Matt started crying, and Nona kept it together. 

Monday was the first time I felt good in a long time. Monday I was happy that I had a part in Matt & Nona's joy. I know they will love and provide for this little girl in a way that I can't. Monday I was excited for this girl to be born because I want her to be able to start her amazing life. 

I feel like since people have known about my pregnancy, the focus has been on how I've sinned by having premarital sex, or how I'm making a selfish choice by choosing adoption. Monday, the focus was on this little girl, and the joy she will bring. 

And I can finally say I am so happy that I'm a part of it. Well, not like I would go get pregnant and do it all over again, but happy for the way the situation is turning out. 

I feel her kicking all the time. I just place my hand where the movement is and feel her. Although she is being adopted, in some way I will always be her mother. Maybe not the one she calls "mom," but while she doesn't yet know I exist, I will be thinking of her, and where she is, and how happy I know she'll be. Matt and Nona are the kind of couple I want to be part of when or if I decide to have kids. 

So I guess I'm proud. Proud that I have decided to give this girl two separate kinds of life: 
 1. Physical life - breathing in the world everyday, and 
2. A life with a home and a family who've been waiting for her and who are going to love her and give her what I couldn't. 

And here we are nine years later, and I still feel the same way.  I am so thankful to my daughter's parents for the love they have for her and for all they have done and continue to do for her. And I am thankful that they still think of me and send me a heartfelt email on a day they know is so emotional for me. They made the hardest decision of my life as easy as it could have been. And they continue to reaffirm that I made the right choice.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

outside

The weather has been absolutely perfect around here. Mid 70s. 
I remember last summer that I wouldn't even be outside at all from the time I entered work until nearly 6p when I left work. What a terrible way to live. 
  
I was talking to my neighbor yesterday while Brandon played in the backyard and she asked when I was returning to work. "I quit my job," I answered. She smiled. "New house color, no job - things are looking up!" 
 
They really are. This year has been so much better than last year. I could work and make more money and buy more things, but a pause is so much more valuable to our family. I'm content with what I have. I'm happy with how I'm able to spend my time now.
I go for a run nearly every night now, once the boys are asleep. Steve offered to watch them so I could go right after dinner, but I said I'd go at my normal time because playing in the backyard sounded so much better. 
And then, when I did run, I got to see this: 
It doesn't suck: this life I live.

Monday, July 28, 2014

married with opposite sex friends

I have male friends. Males tend to like football and not be (as) offended by my sarcastic jabs. Males don't want to go get pedicures or try on clothes for hours. In some ways, they just seem to get me more and I them. I have female friends, too of course. But those ones will never be an issue. It's so bizarre to me that your gender dictates the friends you're allowed to have once you're married.

I know that I will never cheat on my husband. I decided that back before we were married and I am a very stubborn person: the type that doesn't change her mind. Marriage is sacred to me. Steve will always be my best friend, my confidant, and my lover. So to me, going to lunch with a friend of the opposite sex shouldn't be threatening, because I know my intentions. My intentions have never been and will never be anything that would threaten my marriage. My intentions are to maintain friendships with people I have met whose company I enjoy. When I am friends with a male, I don't compare the relationship to that of a boyfriend or husband, but rather to that of a brother.

But it's not all about me. Anyone in a solid marriage can attest that one person doesn't make the rules. Compromises are made. Decisions are reached together. So if something makes my husband uncomfortable, I need to respect that and find a compromise that he is OK with. We can get so narrow-minded and only see our perspective. One person might have seen When Harry met Sally one too many times and be adamant that men and women can't be just friends. The other half the couple might have many friends of the opposite sex with no sexual undertones and not understand that way of thinking at all.

But the fact is, while I am in control of my own intentions and choices, I'm not in control of anyone else's. I was reading a message board about this very topic as research for this blog and someone wrote that if you are friends with someone of the opposite sex before becoming a couple, that person can remain a friend, but a friend of the couple's, rather than of the individual's. I thought that was a pretty good thought.

I am not friends with any past boyfriends, and Steve is not with any past girlfriends. We do not go through each other's phones or emails because we don't feel a need to. I know there are couples who set rules on interactions with the opposite sex. We have not done so (yet). At first, I thought if you had to make rules on interactions with certain people then you must not trust each other.

Now, I don't think making rules has to be a matter of not trusting each other. I think it can be a matter of protecting yourself from a situation that could turn very quickly into something else entirely. And it can also be there to put your spouse at ease. Making rules requires the couple to communicate how they feel about it and see the other person's perspective. So I guess my thought in a nutshell is to think of your couple self before thinking of your individual self. Decisions change when there is more than one person involved.

Selfishness is the root of all divorce
~ well-known quote in the LDS religion

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday mornings

Good morning, mama!
This boy and I are always the first ones up. 
He used to go back to sleep after his morning bottle, but not anymore. We are up together at 7a. It's not so bad, now that I'm used to it. I wrote an actual letter one morning, emptied the dishwasher once. It's stolen time. Stolen from sleep albeit, but stolen nonetheless.

Friday, July 25, 2014

fresh paint

Yes, like everyone else in the world, we had a brown house. 
Until yesterday. 
We are not beige people. Now our house reflects that.