Thursday, February 25, 2010

Matthew has recently forsaken the "Why?" stage of childhood, instead requiring infinite answering to variations of "What if?"

"What if someone threw our mailbox in the middle of the ocean?"  (We would have to ride in a boat to check our mail.)  "Or the mailman could swim out and bring it back for us."

"What if a snake came and ate me and I had to pee?" (I guess you'd have to go in the snake.) "Or I could karate chop it in half and step out of it."

"What if blue was really yellow?"  (Then the sky would look really different, wouldn't it?) "Hee, hee, the sky would be yellow."

"What if we didn't have any water at our house?"  (We would get thirsty and dirty.)  "Does Grandma have water at her house?"

I look forward to driving in the car, as I never know what question will come next.  He mixes in matter of fact statements with the questions.  "When I grow up I will be a monster, or else Darth Vader."  The philosophical stage of 3-5 year-old children is really one of my favorites.  I love seeing how their mind works and watching them begin to understand the world around them.

It is nice relief for the other questions I get each day.

"Mom, why does everyone else on the bus get a cell phone?"  (Because you don't need to spend your life texting.  Anyway, you'll appreciate it more when you've earned the money for it yourself.)

"Mom, want to know how I did on my health quiz about the human reproductive symptom?"  (Was it any different from what we talked about?  I hope you didn't mislabel anything!)

"Honey, have you started the taxes/dinner/laundry yet?" (No, I'm hoping if I ignore all three long enough they will all go away.)

As Matthew has grown through the phases of childhood, I have relished finishing that stage of parenting.  But I think this one I'm going to miss.  Joseph, as a seasoned, all-knowing kindergartner is already outgrowing it.  I'm trying to enjoy the short years I have left with a preschooler as much as possible.  He is really making it easy to do!


 This post is in part brought to you by an award I received from Amber at Making the Moments Count.  It is the Lemonade Stand Award for showing an attitude for gratitude.  Thanks Amber!  I have one more award I want to talk about and will be sharing some blogs with it, so keep tuned in.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Turns out I DO have a green thumb. Just check my fridge.

Apparently green life flourishes in my home.  More specifically, in my fridge.  Oh, and they're more fuzzy than leafy.  Not always green, either, purple and gray also make an appearance (I like to practice diversity).  There was a regular growth revolution going on when we came home from our week long vacation.

You may be scratching your head right now, wondering why I didn't clean out my fridge before the trip (or you may be gagging, in which case I am sorry.  Also I am laughing at the thought of you gagging, and am sorry for that, too).  Yes, I admit that some of the fuzzy fun was probably (definitely) already there, just waiting for a week of unmolested darkness to flourish. All I can say is that when I write about the dangers of unproductivity, I really mean it.  Okay, fine.  I didn't really write about the dangers of unproductivity.  But I did THINK about it.  Probably ... maybe. 

But really, there is an upside to not cleaning out the fridge often enough.  There is the whole How long can you hold your breath while looking in the fridge? thing.  Also, the only way to keep a healthy gag reflex is to exercise it often, and I am all about living healthily.  You can tell by the lettuce/fungi hybrids in my crisper.

Another upside?  Guessing games keep the mind strong.  Games like Name That Leftover! and When Did We Last Go To Chili's?, (a.k.a. How Long Has THAT Been In There?).  If nothing else, there is the rigorous mathematical calculations involved in figuring out how long past expiration any given container is.

So Monday's first order of business was to, well, check my email.  But the second one was definitely to, um, get on Twitter/Facebook.  But I can absolutely promise "clean the fridge" was somewhere in the order of business.  I didn't want, after all, a repeat of when we got home (at about 1 in the morning) when my husband nearly passed out from the noxious fumes while checking for BBQ sauce in the fridge door, or at least made a big stink about their nauseous nature (one big stink deserves another).

Anyway, I have now scrubbed, disinfected, and in every way cleaned out my fridge.  I spent the afternoon periodically peeking inside to bask in it's shiny cleanness.  I can't help but think, though, that the shelves are looking a little lonely in their emptiness.  They need some leftovers to fill it out a bit.  After all we are taught to develop our talents, and one of mine is a green thumb.

Next order of business?  Clean out the freezer and make sure no one has stashed any dead bodies inside.  I like to think of it as Name That Leftover! (Freezer Burn Edition).  And of course by "next order of business" I mean to get to it before July.  Probably ... maybe.

P.S.  You can thank me for not taking a before picture.  Or for not thinking of taking a before picture until it was too late.  I prefer thanks in the form of cookies. Unless you're using ingredients from a fridge like mine, in which case I'll take cold hard cash.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Transformation- Ready to Break Through

Have you ever felt on the brink? Your old self surrounding you, your new one a short break through away.  Have you ever looked around your life and become slightly claustrophobic, realizing you've insulated yourself from fully living life?  A chrysalis of protection surrounding you that now feels too restrictive.  Have you ever felt the painful process of lots of growth in a short time, and you know that you can no longer be the exact same person, but you're not exactly sure who that means you're going to be?  And then you feel it is time to break through, to become, to see life from your new perspective. Do you hope, once your wings have time to dry a bit, that you can finally fly?

In the last couple of years I've felt myself changing.  Parts of me dying as new aspects developed.  I mourned for a long time for my old self, hoping I could go back, to re-become.  But lately I've begun to see my transformation differently.  To not only look at what I've let go, but to see what I've gained in the process.  I also now see that I've disconnected during the process, insulating myself while I've grown.  I worried, at first, that this disconnection was permanent, a part of the new me, but I don't believe it is so.  It was just a necessary step in the transformation.  Growth needs time and sometimes distance.

I realize now that I can't go back.  I can't reconnect to the world, to my family, in the same way I once did.  Because I've changed.  The new me is more willing to take risks, less willing to let fear hold her back.  Stronger, too.  Also, less willing to hide what she believes, how she feels.  I can reconnect to the world, to my family, in a different way.  Not worse, not better.  Different.

It is time to finally break through.  To examine the new me and learn to navigate the world again.  To reconnect to life, living it fully.  Where I once enjoyed the branched for their safety, I now feel a restless desire to soar.

I am on the brink of this breakthrough.  I can feel it.  I am starting to stretch out, to break through the cocoon, no longer needing its isolating protection.  I am on the brink.

Hello world.

Have you ever realized you've transformed?  Is this a normal part of early 30's (I suspect it is)?  Did you find the process as hard as I have?  Any suggestions for reconnecting?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How to Enjoy Traveling With Young Kids. Yeah Right.

I'm sure all of you look forward to travelling with children as much as I do. You blissfully daydream about the prospect, counting down the time with as much excitement as a child waiting for summer vacation. Like all things, the build up beforehand can lead to disappointment in the execution. (I'm sure that must be the phenomenon that caused me to hate "The Box".) But, with careful planning, you can ensure an experience just as wonderful as you hoped.

Being lucky enough to experience this sort of travel many, many, many, many, many  ... so ... many ... times ... never ending travel ... many, many, many ...

Sorry, I was just lost in nostalgia.  Where was I?  Oh, yes, having experienced this sort of travel many (to the 1,000,000th degree) times, I've become a sort of expert and decided to show how I personally made it a good experience on our most recent trip:

1) Make sure you travel on an extremely busy travel week. For instance, if you live in New England, try travelling the week of winter break.  That way all the tickets are 3 times their normal cost and, in order to save $1500 dollars, you must drive to an airport 3 hours away. This ensures the children are well worn out before you even get to the airport.

2) Use all carry on luggage so that you don't have to pay the extra price for checked luggage. This way the stewardesses can take up pent up frustration on you before the flight. (I can't imagine why her eyes bugged out when we entered the plane with our luggage- see picture above for perspective)

3) Make sure your 5 year old is just tall enough so that, sitting regularly, his feet actually have no option but to touch the seat in front of him. That way, you can spend the entire flight contorting him (and yourself) into a myriad of positions to keep him from kicking that darn seat. Extra helpful- sit behind the Wicked Witch of the West who will interrupt your lecture on being respectful to the people in front of you to, well, lecture on the importance of being respectful to the person in front of you.

4) Do everything you can to delay your flight so you have to RUN, with all the kids, across the airport to the connecting flight. Only to find that they have moved the gate to the end of yet another console equally far away (so that you end up running 2 sides of an enormous triangle). Be the last people to get on the plane so that everyone can gawk at you as you get to your seats, where someone is sitting, so you get to stand in the aisle while they move. (Take up 2 and 2/3 rows so that you really can't move somewhere else because you need to sit close to all the kids.)

5) Have 2 layovers so that you get to run for a second connection. It helps if you have a talent for making your connecting flights as far away as possible.

6) Accidentally leave your portable DVD player ON when you pack it so that when you pull it out it has no charge left to watch a movie.

7) Be a big enough family that you can't fit in a rental car or minivan and must either rent a huge Suburban or get your parents to pick you up in their car AND get a smaller rental car.

8) Make sure your husband's job plans a must attend quarterly meeting in Ohio the week of winter vacation so he is gone for the middle 3 days of the family trip.

I guarantee you that, if you follow these steps, your experience of traveling with children will be extremely ... extremely ... I'm sorry I seem to have temporarily lost the ability to produce coherent thought. I can't imagine why.

Have any better "suggestions" that have made your traveling experiences as "fun" as mine?

Monday, February 15, 2010

My productivity took a vacation last week

Last week was one of those weeks where I had so much to do that I really didn't have time to stop and relax.  So of course I spent most of the week wasting time.  It didn't help that a huge snow storm hit midweek, transforming my biggest cleaning and planning day into a snow day  Nothing says let's NOT get work done like 6 kids trapped inside your house. I'm all for teaching my kids responsibility and having them clean, but it isn't the most fun I can imagine and I couldn't quite bare to add it to my cleaning plan.

So instead of sharing my big cleaning day with my kids, I opted to spend the day making cinnamon rolls, vaguely threatening kids to be good while letting them rot their brains watching TV, finishing a book I was reading, and helping the kids make valentines.  I finished editing the pictures I needed for valentines and sent them off to the one hour photo place, requesting my husband pick them up on the way home.  Which he did, only to find out that they had closed due to the storm.  I guess I am not the only work shirker on snow days.

The saddest part of the snow storm was that there didn't end up being enough snow to sled.  Not that I would have gone, after all I can't waste time doing something fun.  I was determined to waste time last week doing nothing at all.  Or whatever thing popped into my head at the moment.  Do the laundry for our trip the next week?  Nah, lets make notebook covers to match the kids' pen rolls.  Making designs in my daughter's hair is much more important than finishing the dishes.  Who needs a clean house? I have lunches with friends to attend to.

Anyway, I finished maybe 25% of the things I needed to get done last week (and that is a generous estimate).  We left on our trip with everything at home half done.  I've learned that some weeks are just like that.  Do you ever have weeks that necessitate lots of productivity, but end up with not a lot getting done?  Or the wrong things getting done?  Do you beat yourself up about it or have you realized it is just part of life?  With the productivity required all the time in my life, I figure sometimes the planning/efficient/get to work part of me just needs a break.  I know it will be back soon.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Going Against the Cowlick

Last week I went to get my haircut.  It hadn't been that long since my last cut, only 10 months or so.  After all nothing says adventurous like seeing how many "awkward phases" your hair can go through before you finally relent.  I have really thick hair so thick that I was forced to totally sit out the banana clip fad in elementary school, so as my hair grows, it also expands.  And eventually the awkwardness reaches a point where I can either put it in a ponytail or join a freak show

Every time I broke another hair elastic, I would grumble that next time I would go short enough to not deal with hair accessories for a while.  After I finally ran out of elastics, I found a style I liked and called the hairstylist.  In case you're wondering, short hair carries a known risk for me.  Let me show you.

... Run upstairs to search for that picture.  Realize the light is out and run down for new bulb.  Dig through the pile of pictures, realize it is in a scrapbook downstairs, run down, find it and scan.  Wait a minute, why would I want to publish this photo of me?  Who am I kidding, I tell stories about losing my skirt in public and publish photos of myself wearing aluminum hats and making faces.  I must enjoy public humiliation.  

Look closer at picture and realize it isn't as bad as I remember.  Was that really only 10 years ago?  Wow, I was young...

So yes, short was risky, but the hope of less work and forced hair appointments won out and I gave it a shot.  After asking if I realized the picture I gave her was a lot shorter than my normal cut, the stylist cut away.

Then she styled it for me,

and she switched my part.

You see I have a cowlick right at the frontiest part of my hairline.  Which has always meant my hair parts backwards from the majority of people.  Most people go right and my hair has always stubbornly gone left.  But the stylist blew it dry opposite from normal.  And it actually stayed!  I was really surprised it looked decent  (even if I looked transposed) and didn't jump back to the left side.

That night my hair migrated back into the normal direction, but a quick brush and spray in the morning brought it back.  So far I've lived with my opposite part for 4 days and am actually getting better at making it go that way.  And that got me thinking, how often do I accept something as inherent and unchangeable about myself when really all it takes is a little extra work to change?

Maybe I don't have to be so timid in social situations.  Maybe I don't have to procrastinate things I get nervous about.  Maybe all I need is a little tweak in my attitude (one most people wouldn't even notice) to change my outlook.  Maybe I've been relying on my personality cowlicks a little to often.

Of course I offer no promise on keeping my hair opposite the cowlick.  I am rather lazy when it comes to my hair.  But I have learned that feeling a little off kilter for a few days won't kill me.  And that I can get used to things pretty fast.  And that I should never assume a hair stylist will notice a huge cowlick right on the hairline.  Better to point those things out.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sometimes I am a Fairytale

Sometimes I am
the dragon.
Angry and irritated.
Looking to bite off your head
If you look at me wrong.
Fire breathing, untouchable,

Sometimes I am
the knight.
Loyal and brave.
Ready to take on the world
As nothing can stop my progress
Righting wrongs, building my kingdom,

Sometimes I am
the damsel
Distressed and frightened.
Trapped in an inescapable place
Looking for an escape.
Struggling, hoping,

Sometimes I am
the wizard.
Wise and magical.
Coming up with solutions
That take the kingdom by surprise.
Thinking, experimenting,

Sometimes I am
the fairy.
Chaotic and flighty.
Flitting from place to place
Leaving everything half done.
Quick, fun,

I am
my fairytale
In the kingdom of my home.
I play all the roles.
Making memories
To become legends later.
Finding joy in my tale.

 What fairytale roles do you find yourself playing from time to time?
I was thrilled to receive the Happy 101 Blogger Award from Linda of Bar Mitzvahzilla.   Her blog is an absolute joy to read, and I am glad we met each other in cyberworld.

As odd as it may seem, I enjoy in my hectic life where I get to play so many roles.  It is fun sometimes even to be the dragon.  After all, without the hard times, the wonderful ones wouldn't feel so grand.

As part of the award I get to pass it along to another blogger who I brings happiness to my blogging experience.  I  choose Amber of Making the Moments Count.  If you ever wondered what my life was like a decade ago, I swear reading her blog is like looking back in time.  (Except, I'm pretty sure I wasn't as articulate or entertaining. )   I love reading her insights into life.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How to Ruin Your Husbands Birthday in a Few Simple Steps

It is essential to develop my talents, right?  Turns out I have an exceptional talent for making my husband's birthday a wreck, and this year I came close to perfecting it.  In case there are any of you out there with a burning desire to develop this same talent, I have compiled a little tutorial:

How to Ruin Your Husband's Birthday

In a Few Simple Steps


First of all, you must really plan ahead.  The day before his birthday you should make sure you find a huge puddle in your basement and find that it is coming from under the water heater.  Make sure you don't discover it until it is too late to call a plumber so the mess will be dealt with on his birthday.

Now, this might be enough, but if you can get his work to schedule a meeting on his day off, this makes things even better.  For better measure, make sure it is a meeting with someone upset with his department and wanting to vent on him for a couple hours.

Are you feeling the ruination?  We're not done yet.

Make sure that you have an event planned for the day (forgetting he has the day off) and make sure you are leaving about a half hour before he gets home from his meeting (see above).  Make sure that you volunteer to make his favorite treat for the meeting and ensure that there's not enough for him to have any.  (It helps if you're making the treat when he leaves for the meeting, so he knows you've made it).

Now, we have the day going perfectly.

While you're at your thing for a few hours, schedule the plumber to come.  If you can, make it so that the entire water heater needs replaced so that they're there all afternoon.  Also, make sure there is so much water at this point that the towels you laid out are soaked and your husband can spend a few hours using the shop vac to suck out 15 or so gallons of water from the basement.  All while you are enjoying yourself: feeding the 40 or so missionaries in your area, chatting with friends also there to help, and eating Cafe Rio style buffet.

We've done some excellent work, but the details make all the difference.

  • If you could, orchestrate things so he must attend an activity at church due to his calling as Young Men's President that evening.  This would be excellent.

  • Also, make sure the only gifts he gets are those you bought together online and only half arrive in time.

  • Forget to buy the stuff for the football shaped birthday brownies he requested.  (Also, make sure the treat you made earlier were brownies.)

  • If you could have his birthday on a major holiday that implies 6 more weeks of winter so everyone curses the day, that is the piece de resistance.

Congratulations, you have successfully ruined your husband's birthday!

If you're now feeling guilty, you can run to the store while he is at the youth meeting.  Buy brownie ingredients, ice cream, candles, birthday hats, favorite chocolate (dark), and a book. Then run home and make the brownies, clean up the disastrous kitchen, and decorate cake with football design. Have the kids make cards for him.  Keep kids up to sing happy birthday and then, after they're in bed, stay up late watching movie with him instead of going online.

 Determine to squash this talent before Father's Day and plan extra special Valentine's Day present (any ideas?).

Monday, February 1, 2010

Attention, Divided

Attention, divided.  It is a survival strategy.  Without it I couldn't of lasted through 13 years of motherhood.  Keeping track of the needs, concerns, schedules of a large family requires a lot of attention dividing.  I need to note who needs more time with mom, who needs more independence from the same, who has been getting too many, "no's" and who is testing limits and needs a little reigning in.  On top of that there are book order deadlines, piano practices to track, dinners to make, et cetera to infinity

It is also how one keeps her head from exploding when reading the same picture books 600 millions times or watching the same episode of {whatever show your toddler was obsessed with} over and over until theme songs haunt her dreams.  She turns her attention to other things while watching/reading/listening.  Attention dividing is an important skill.

So when I was left with just one child at home this year, we went through a bit of a shock.  I was used to giving him a certain (not small) amount of attention, and he was used to constant attention, via his siblings.   He demanded attention undivided.  Turns out my attention is no longer able to coalesce  into a whole.  All right, fine!  It has NEVER been able to coalesce into a whole.  And we struggled.

The biggest problem is that Matthew didn't just want me to play with him.  His idea of play involved me doing the actual playing while he sat beside me, occasionally handing me pieces or making comments.  (It makes sense when you remember he is the youngest of 6 children.) That is how "we" played with blocks, cars, sand, or coloring.  And if my gaze shifted at all, he would redirect my attention back to the task at hand.

Since attention undivided was driving me toward insanity at twice the regular speed, I knew something needed to change.  I tried to remember what I'd done with the other kids.  Then I remembered that I've never had a 3 year old without providing a younger sibling for their play partner.  Being home alone with a 3 year old was a completely new experience, and one that needed figured out.  Quickly.

So I worked on forcing him to actually participate in our play.  Slowly we made progress; he learned to live without constant attention and, amazingly, I learned to pay him more focused attention.

Then we discovered puzzles.

I have always loved puzzles and have long been a little sad that none of my children have inherited my desire (think obsession) with taking many little pieces and fitting them into one complete whole.  I have to be careful when I start, because I usually won't stop till it is finished.  And in puzzles I found a companion.  Matthew spends hours each day doing puzzles.  And he doesn't particularly want or need my help.  I sit and help him from time to time, but  he is so focused on the puzzle that I am free to divide my attention and worry about my daughter's grades or my shopping list while we play.

There is no surprise, then, that our puzzles went from 2 cheap ones to about 12 more expensive and sturdy ones.  Funny how putting together pieces of wood left me able to divide my attention again.  And also gave my son and I something that is just ours.  A shared love, undivided.