Wednesday, September 17, 2014

opinionated, stubborn, and bossy

I just read Anne Frank's diary again. I could write 20 blog posts on it. I am astounded by the precociousness, honesty, and self-awareness that came from this 14-year-old girl. "The young are not afraid of telling the truth," Eleanor Roosevelt writes in the introduction. It is sad that we grow into adults where we feel compelled to dishonesty and secrets because of social conventions. That it is rewarded with the prizes of promotions and friends.

It is disheartening the secrets we keep from each other because of what we want people to believe about us. It has always bewildered me the shame of being yourself. The book that I am writing in my head is about that. About how we are two different people - our organic selves and the facades we show to other people. About how always keeping up the facade weakens the real you into a shadow and the facade becomes someone even you begin to believe is you.

I don't think it is a crime to be your organic self. Of course, it is unpopular. People prefer certain characteristics over others: agreeable over argumentative, pretty over ugly, funny over dull. So we work hard to be more likable. To be someone other than who we are. When I am around people too long, I get emotionally exhausted. Because organically, I am quick to respond and opinionated and hot-tempered. And people don't want me to be any of those things.

People want to be listened to and agreed with and not reacted upon unfavorably. After spending too much time with people, I just want to go home and take a bath and be alone, where I don't feel constantly judged and discussed for things I did and said. I don't want to think about people saying how unsocial and bitchy I am for wanting to be alone. If I could separate myself from my inherent need to be liked, or at least accepted, I could be myself.

Now that I am a parent, I see this from another paradigm. I think about my sons, and how I want them to feel free to be themselves, not stifled. I don't want them to think that men don't cry, because if they want to cry, they should be able to sob it out. If one turns out to be serious, I don't want him to try to be funny to be more popular. If one is a musician, I don't want to force him instead to be an athlete. If they have unpopular characteristics, I want to celebrate the good in those.

I am opinionated, yes, but I am also decisive. I am stubborn, yes, but I am also determined and motivated. I am bossy, but I am also a born leader. I am hot-tempered, but I am also aware of my emotions and allow them an outlet. We tend to focus on what is negative, rather than what good can come of it. I can already see manifestations of some of my characteristics in Brandon. And I don't plan to tell him not to be those things. I plan accentuate them by introducing him to positive ways to use them. Who we tell our children they are is who they believe themselves to be, good or bad. And damn it, my kids are the best. They don't need any fixing.

He defined me first, as parents do. Those early characterizations can become the shimmering self-image we embrace or the limited, stifling perception we rail against for a lifetime. In my case, he sees me as I would like to be seen. In fact, I'm not even sure what's true about me, since I have always chosen to believe his version.
~ Kelly Corrigan writing about her dad in The Middle Place

Friday, September 12, 2014

Dollars and sense

I panicked the other day, thinking Holden is almost six months old. Because Steve and I have discussed me returning to work once Holden turns one. And thinking of being halfway done spending each day with my boys was so sad to me. I don't want to think of an end in sight. I want to blissfully enjoy each day from now until they go to school. And then I will cry my eyes out over how big they've gotten and that now I have no excuse but to go back to work.

I thought to myself, well, I couldn't start them in daycare in April. That's right before summer and I want to spend the nice weather outside with them. 

And then I thought, well, I couldn't start them in fall, because that's when colds start going around and I don't want them to get sick as soon as they're not home with me. 

And of course, I want to spend the holidays with them, so winter is out. 

And I couldn't start them at the beginning of a calendar year, because how could my resolution be to spend less time with my kids? 

And then it's almost their birthdays again and that would be a terrible present: "Surprise! Bye bye!"

So when Steve returned home from work I told him I couldn't bear the thought that I could already be halfway done staying home with my boys. And he made me so happy when he said, "we don't have to rush anything. We'll see where we're at next year."

Then yesterday while driving, I heard Dolly Parton's "Nine to Five" and I smiled at those terrible work memories and that I'm not making any more of them now. Just the good ones, until I am forced back to work by necessity.  I am so grateful my husband sees the value in me raising our children and doesn't only focus on dollars and cents. Some experiences, after all, really are priceless.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

hammers and bubbles

I am the mother of a toddler boy:

  • He plays with balls, trucks and animals. 
  • He likes shirts with space rangers, trains, and pirates. 
  • When he falls, he gets right back up. 
  • He loves to jump on the bed and says, "Geronimo!"
  • He has Toy Story and Oliver and Company memorized. 
  • Orphaned sticks and rocks always find their way inside with us. 
  • He drives the car from the garage. 
  • He has already distinguished our three remotes. 
  • When he hears football on, he runs to the TV and yells, "Dolphins!"
  • Any object can be used as a hammer. 
  • We openly discuss poop and farts. 
  • His first instinct after a burp is to laugh, rather than say, "excuse me." 
  • Today he evacuated all his toys from his Cozy Coupe and got out shrieking for me to kill the spider on the steering wheel. 
  • When he blows bubbles, he likes to follow them to see where they land ("go see them" as he calls it). 
  • He says, "All safe for Holdy, nothing can hurt him," while patting down the curtains for him - the same thing he used to have me do for him during a thunderstorm. 
  • You'd think his toys were nanopets the way he makes sure they get to eat, drink, sleep, and play.
  • When one of us is sad, he comes to make it all better with a kiss. 
  • When someone hugs in a book or on TV, he turns to me with his arms outstretched and says, "big hug!"
  • When he saw polar animals in the snow in his book, he said, "polar bear is cold! He needs a blanky."
Boys are mysteriously tough yet tender creatures. So blessed to have two of them!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Family pictures

We have the pleasure of knowing an excellent photographer. Her boys are friends of ours. She doesn't live here, so when she comes to visit, I solicit her for some pictures, even though it is her holiday with her family and she obliges. She is a kind-hearted person.
I didn't have a single picture of my family four. And only one of our family of three, and that was taken the only other time we've seen a photographer. Someone always has to be holding the camera, so one adult is always out of the shot.
But Donna fixed that for us. She took some beautiful pictures of our beautiful kids. And let me tell you, it isn't easy to get four people coordinated enough to do anything at the same time, especially when one is a five-month old baby. Thanks Donna!
I'll leave you with the notorious Carter scowl. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

bubbles, football, fall

A few months ago,  someone recommended I take a picture every day. That's a good idea, I thought to myself, but I never really did it. I'm not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but I like to take pictures and I have beautiful boys to be the subjects of said pictures. Then a few friends suggested I join Instagram so I finally did (I have not yet found it to have the annoyances that Facebook carries). And what do you know, it was just the kick I needed to start taking a picture every day.

This kid could chase bubbles all day. 
He's only quiet when he's asleep lately. 
Football is back. My dad asked me if I'm ready to be a football wife again. I completely understand that September to December is a man's time to watch his games, and when the games aren't on, to speculate on them, analyze them, and discuss them over beers. Dolphins won the first game of the season yesterday against our biggest rivals, those &@*& (couldn't pick which obscenity I wanted so fill in the blank) New England Patriots. I taught Brandon to say "Fins Up!" and he can't say it without jumping.
After four days of feeling awful from this damn sickness, I am back to myself again. Which means coffee and donuts. Brandon stole my coffee away from me, and when he saw his little brother sitting up in the Bumbo, he positioned himself in his own chair and sat down to enjoy a nice drink. I had to crop out the bottom because he is at that age where pants are a nuisance, not a necessity.

I have a to do list a mile long. No one can take four days off of their regular life without getting behind on something. I have so many chores to do and I need to work out. I feel like a slug. The air here is cooling down, football is back, and my diseased ash tree is already shedding leaves. I love fall! Putting the wreath of leaves on the door today!

Friday, September 5, 2014

misery loves company

I rarely get sick. Seriously - I"ll get a sore throat here and there, maybe some sniffles or a migraine, but I'm rarely out of commission. In fact, the only sick day I ever took off of work was for Tucker when he was puking all over the place.

But starting Wednesday night, I felt a sore throat coming on. No big deal, I thought, just a sore throat. But then yesterday around noon I started feeling woozy and I got a low-grade fever and then the chills. I could barely swallow, which made eating enough food to make me productive rather difficult.

So I went to bed at 10 last night and slept until 7:30. It was fitful sleep because I think too much to sleep, so I kept willing myself to get more sleep in so I was better today. But this morning, I could barely talk and my glands felt all swollen. I don't go to the doctor usually, but today, I did.

I have no idea how stay-at-home-moms are supposed to be able to go to the doctor and take care of themselves while also taking care of two young kids. It's difficult - one of them always needs you, sometimes both. When Brandon asks me to dance and I feel like puking and haven't eaten, I feel so bad telling him "no." Holden's teeth are out now - those jagged little guys cut my finger. So we're miserable together.

I just keep telling myself, "this too shall pass." And the worst is over. I sure hope it is, at least.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

no naps and new teeth

Something I've learned in these past two and a half years about parenting: it's not for the faint of heart. Your children will try your patience and willpower and sanity unlike any other person can. I just keep telling myself I won't give in. 
But it does make me wonder how many people who are now institutionalized are parents. 80%? 100%? But of course, obligatory gratitude message: (since no one can actually say how hard it is to be a parent without also saying this) it is so incredibly rewarding in a way nothing else is, as well.
We went to Target last Wednesday and we got soaked running from the car into the store. Once in the store, I asked Brandon what we needed. He immediately answered, "an umbrella." This kid is smart and witty beyond his years. I can't believe just two years ago he was drinking bottles and taking naps. 
Speaking of, I'm afraid naps are gone for good. Which is a huge bummer, since that's when I did my yoga and pilates. But on the plus side, Brandon did fall asleep at 7:30 tonight while Steve and I were running with the jogging strollers. I guess I will find some time alone here or there, if I try hard enough. Sometimes I just want a day to myself. Maybe in 17 more years. Or 10, if I can convince Steve that summer camp is a staple in all childhoods. 
I have to do a before and after of Holden eating baby food. I mean, c'mon. How could I resist? 
Holden has two little teeth popping through his bottom gums, so I understand why he was crabby all day. At 5:15, I finally got a smile out of him. Remember what I said at the beginning about kids trying your patience, willpower, and sanity? Yeah, I was just talking about him today.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

50 pounds in 5 months

Five months ago, I gave birth to Holden. That day, I weighed 203 lbs. I hear people say that losing baby weight is easy afterwards and the weight just flies off of you. Well that may be the case for some people. But I had already given birth to two children and each time retained an extra 20 pounds. I have an underactive thyroid and don't breastfeed, which I hear helps lose weight. After I have a baby, I just look like I just had a baby.

I refused to retain 20 more pounds with this child on top of the 40 I was already up. I was just too big. I was hoping I would return home from the hospital 20 pounds lighter, but when I weighed myself, I was only down 14 pounds, which I thought wasn't enough. Hell, my baby was nearly 9 pounds and I hear the placenta is another five. What about all the water I was retaining and everything? Why was that weight all still a part of me? I couldn't get started exercising right away due to the C-section - I wasn't supposed to do much for the next six weeks. I'd like to say I started eating healthy, but I'm an honest person so I'll admit that I really wasn't trying too hard there, either.

Then in May, I started walking, doing pilates twice a week, and yoga once a week. Yoga was brutal. In fact, I could only do four minutes the first go-round. But each Wednesday, I tried again until I could finish the DVD and even worked up some balance. My walking was pretty slow to begin with - about 18 minutes per mile. I was no athlete. I was in the worst shape of my life, hands down. I mean, I'm never a physical specimen, but me after Holden was quite a fright sight.

Once June rolled around, I decided to start running a little bit during my walks. I began running just the downhill parts. I got my miles down 12'30" averages. I started eating better. No more pop, fried foods. I began eating salads for lunch instead of my usual giant plate of pasta. I stopped eating ice cream each night. I made sure to work out most days. I had a goal each day to do better than the day before. I wrote it on a post-it which I stuck to the treadmill. That meant going farther or faster. By the end of the month, I cut my walking portion down to just 25% of my workout. The rest of the time, I was running.

In July, I was able to run for my entire workout without stopping to walk (but still usually did stop to walk up the giant hill on my outdoor runs because I wanted to save some energy to get home). I knew that my siblings were doing Hood to Coast in August and I hadn't signed up originally because I had no idea what kind of shape I'd be in right after having Holden. Now that I had been running, I kind of wished I was a part of the relay team. I told my mom I'd be an alternate in case anyone had to drop out. Low and behold, my uncle dropped out and I immediately arranged childcare and bought a plane ticket.

In August, as last minute preparation for Hood to Coast, I ran six miles a day, five days a week. I didn't expect to be winning any medals or anything, but I didn't want to slow down my whole team and be a laughing stock to the other runners. Somehow, I averaged 9'08" miles and passed more runners than passed me. And today, August ends and I put in 127 miles this month. I have also continued to do pilates and yoga and am now in the best shape I've ever been in. Seriously, at age 31, I have muscles I have never seen before. I could still lose 10-15 pounds because this belly is still hanging around - goals for the next few months to keep me motivated, I suppose.

I feel accomplished and so proud of what I've done. But now I'm going to take a bit of a break. I'm going to do more puzzles and take some baths. I will do more yoga and less cardio now. I'm starting to enjoy yoga, after our very rough start. And I can do it rain or shine, day or night. I will continue to keep my Excel spreadsheet of running PRs and try every month to beat the previous month's, because I'm competitive with myself like that. But I like to think the worst is over. I shed Holden's and Brandon's baby weight. I have some of Gracie's left on me, but I also blame that on age. I can't expect to weigh now what I did at 21. I'm ten years older, for God's sake.

I'm not a size 4, but I'm not a size 10, and I can live with any size in the single digits. I'm not trying to be the hottest thing around, just trying to be a healthy version of myself; and most days now, I am. I can keep up with Brandon now while he dances around to Toy Story's "Strange Things." Now my kids will see that I don't just sit around and watch TV and eat ice cream. They know now that we don't eat out every time mom feels like it. I didn't need a personal trainer or pills or a wrap or a meal service or hormone injections. I believe in the good old-fashioned method of hard work. I have now learned that there is liberation in discipline.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Just rosy

I will paraphrase yesterday's blog post with this:

Can you believe Steve still sends me flowers after Valentine's Day?

We just celebrated eight years of wedded bliss (most of the time). Take that, seven-year itch!

Friday, August 29, 2014

slow down

Last Saturday, after crossing the finish line and posing for endless obligatory pictures, I just wanted to go back to Puyallup. I hadn't seen my baby in two days, hadn't slept much in three days, and had tunnel vision - hoping to get to tomorrow today. This is actually a problem for me all the time. I am driven to a fault - always trying to get somewhere quicker. Always living for tomorrow but forgetting about today in my rush.

The after-relay plan was to go to a beach house my aunt's friends have. There we could eat a big dinner, soak our aching muscles in the hot tub and get a good night's rest. That sounded terrible to me. I didn't know these people, I didn't want to sleep on the floor, and I am a finicky eater. I wanted to go out to dinner on the way back up I-5, then see my baby and hit the sack at my brother's house. I was in the middle of getting people on board when my aunt told me we were sticking with the plan and heading to the beach house.

It turns out, the night at the beach house was just what I needed. I had never met these people before, but they were the most hospitable people you could ever meet. They grilled us fresh salmon, started a bonfire, and warmed up the hot tub. They had somewhere for each of us to sleep - a bed or a couch for all: no one was left on the floor. I took a very long hot shower and poured the sand out of my shoes. We talked about what we did and didn't like from the Hood to Coast experience. We wallowed in the day - we had just finished a 199-mile relay together and instead of rushing home to go on with our lives, we took the night to relive it.

On the wall in the beach house was this:

I found myself looking at it again and again. In a beach house, where the whole purpose is to slow down and relax and take some time - it was so fitting for both the house and for me.

I am a go-go-go kind of person. I am driven and motivated, almost to an extreme. When I have a goal, nothing deters me from it. I have one-track mind focus and intensity. If I had known this about myself in college, I might have picked a career that suited this personality - like an actuary. But alas, I didn't realize it until I grew into myself. This personality has plenty of perks: my house is organized, I have worked my way up in jobs, I always know what I want and don't dawdle around aimlessly.
But it has it's downside, too. Like I don't dawdle aimlessly. Everything has a purpose, a plan, an agenda. For the last four months I have been focused on losing this baby weight so I have worked out ten times a week. Any free time I have is spent working out or sleeping.

But last night, inspired by the beach house and last Saturday just wallowing in the day, I spent a few hours piecing together a new puzzle while singing along loudly to my favorite songs. I didn't work out. This morning, I loaded up the boys and got coffee and a donut and then stopped at a garage sale where we got a few hundred dollars worth of kids books for $20. I didn't follow my usual agenda. We did what sounded good to me.

Goals are great and getting to some other place is always exciting, but this place I'm in now is pretty fantastic, too. Sometimes I just have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy it, one day at a time. Not all days have to be productive. Some days we can just chill and enjoy wasting time together.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

flying solo (with a baby)

Nothing makes you stop believing in the good in people quite like flying with an infant. I have never experienced such blatant disregard in my life. It starts before I even board - while waiting, the other people around sneak looks at us, then look away as to not make eye contact. They are thinking to themselves, "oh God, don't let me be seated next to them." They watch nervously for which group number I board with, then sigh with relief if it is not the same as theirs.

As I am shuffling down the tiny little aisle in the plane, people quickly look at me, then away. I am carrying a 20-pound infant, his diaper bag, and my purse. I feel like a pack mule. My back is killing me from a half day of this. I find my seat. The people in my row look horrified when I stop. They pull out their earphones hoping I'm only asking how many more rows until 21, but I'm actually telling them I'm the window seat.

I heard audible groans. These people aren't even trying to hide their disgust. Holden and I are like lepers. No one wants to be anywhere near us. They should ostracize us to a bubble in the back. Holden starts crying as the stewardess is demonstrating how to buckle a seat belt. I try to silence him - I jiggle him, let him look out the window, coo to him, try feeding him some old formula, force a pacifier into his mouth. Nothing works. He is tired and just wants to sleep, but these aren't ideal conditions for sleeping.

The man on the aisle says to the man in the center seat, "is it going to be three hours of this?"
"God, I hope not!" center seat shoots back.
I am sitting two inches away. I can hear their conversation. They talk about me and my baby as if we are too stupid to understand them. They must think I am just some frazzled mom, not a person with ears and feelings. They must think I'm not trying to soothe this baby and that I am here merely for their discomfort. Assholes.

I get Holden to sleep before the airplane even takes off. I think of this as a major feat. I expect pats on the back and congratulations from the people around me that didn't even have to hear him scream in discomfort when his ears popped.  Nothing. All I get is another sigh from aisle seat when I ask him to hit the call button. He won't even look at me when I ask him. He doesn't want leprosy. I want to tell him he was once a baby too, and that someone took care of him then so he could grow up to be this giant douchebag. Kudos to his mother, wherever she is.

People are always saying they hate kids. How can you hate a little person that hasn't grown up enough to be mean and jaded? How can you hate someone for being young and needing help? How can you hate the very type of person you were once? People who hate kids are the worst. People who expect to be on an airplane without babies are unrealistic. Mothers with babies on airplanes by themselves are saints. If you see one, don't be angry at her for reproducing. Just give her a fucking break. God knows she needs one.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Holden meets the family

Holden has now met all of his closest relatives. 
There are certainly a lot of girls in our families. 
I don't think it will ever even out at this point. 
Saryn, who is almost seven, said she would teach Holden to crawl while I was at the race. 
When I got back, she said he hadn't caught on. 
But he did roll over, 360 degrees, which is a first. 

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.