Mom Thingalings

You don't understand the aversion to sleep across the board among your kids.  Given the choice, you would happily take a nap while they cleaned up the kitchen, did the laundry, and accomplished all-that-other-stuff.  The problem is, they would absolutely take you up on it if you offered to switch roles.  And as tempting as a few extra zzz's sound, the prospect of a three year old handling your delicates and a six year old and 10 month old unloading the dishwasher is just a bit too scary.

You can't prove it, but you swear your 10 month old poops on purpose every time you put her in her bed, just to get out of sleeping.

In lieu of cleaning the floors, you have put socks/slippers on so you wouldn't notice when you stepped on all of those crumbs/sticky juice drips/other-unidentifiable-gritty chunks.  The floors will always wait on you. 

As if they're on some sort of lunar cycle like old women friends, your kids all seem to poop at the same time, inevitably during dinner preparations.  (Seriously, do they plan that?)

You've come to the conclusion that motherhood is a degenerative disease.  If you never suffered from memory-loss before having kids, you will afterward.

You will never again fold an entire load of laundry in one sitting, unload an entire dishwasher, clip a complete coupon leaflet, finish reading/writing an entire email, as life's little emergencies always happen in the middle of doing such things.  And you know what, you're kind of okay with that.  (If you're not yet, give it a couple of years.  It becomes your norm.)

After eating macaroni and cheese, almost exclusively, for years, your child will one day decide to never eat it again.  Conversely, after turning their nose up at bananas for years, your child will suddenly decide that these are her favorite food.  These are just a few of the mysteries of a child's palate.

In a very rare attempt to catch up on some television with your husband, you sequester your children in your bedroom with a movie of their choosing.  Halfway through the first episode of Band of Brothers (yes, we're ten years late watching it), you realize that your six year old boy has been watching from around the corner.  Horrified by what he might have seen, you send him back to your bedroom amid serious protests that he "really likes that movie".

There is nothing funnier than hearing a three year old begin a sentence with "Actually...."  (Except maybe when it starts with "I can't believe...")

As much as it pains you to see your children sick, you relish the cuddle time it affords more than words can express.

immortalizing my old friends - before it's too late

I try to think of myself as a woman of few vices.  Just a few.

If you took a look at these things, you would never guess that I happen to be a habitual shoe buyer.  If you took a look at these things, you would think that I own one pair of shoes and wear them every single day.  Half of that is true.

I don't know what the deal is with me and shoes.  I love to look at them.  And if I see a good deal, I almost always buy them, even though I have an unconscionable number of pairs in my closet that have yet to even be worn.  (I guess it could be worse.  I'm not really into "designer" shoes or anything.  I don't spend money well.  I'm cheap, remember?)

The truth is that I fall in love with certain pairs of shoes, and I wear them incessantly.  When I fall, I fall hard.  This is true in many areas of my life.  You get all of me or you get none of me.  None of this halfway business.  All of those shoes I buy and hoard are my reserves, just in case they're meant to be my next pair of wear-them-everyday shoes.  However crazy this sounds, I can't be the only person who operates this way. 

When I sat down in the dentist chair this afternoon, the hygienist said, "Look at those well-worn clogs.  I bet they're comfortable."  I replied, "They are!  I'll probably cry when they finally give out."  I bet she thought I was joking.  I was.  Kind of.  No, that's a lie.  I will totally cry.  Just like I cried when I threw those hideous plastic silver Nike sandals away.  I didn't care that they were ugly.  They were comfortable, and I wore them everywhere.  And then there's the fact that I still think about them...over seven years later.

I'm not sure what it says about your character when you get this emotionally invested in a single pair of shoes.  Probably not much.  I'm quite possibly more than a little shallow.

It's tough loving something so much.  You never think about having to live without them, until one day, it just happens.  So, yes, I got a little misty when the hygienist reminded me that these shoes had seen better days.  They're nearing the end of their well-worn life. 

You've been great, old friends.  Here's to as many more as possible.

Mom Thingamajigs

You've been woken up in the most terrifying manner possible:  two tiny eyes staring silently at you from about three inches from your face.

You've crawled out of bed after not nearly enough sleep and staggered to the bathroom only to find that your child has beat you to it, and smeared poop on every possible surface in there.

You subsequently wondered who thought it was a good idea to have children in the first place.

The guilty party walks in while you're clorox-ing the whole place down, throws her arms around you and says, "I'm sorry, Mommy.  I love you."  Then you realize that cleaning poop up at 7am on a weekend totally stinks (no pun intended), but an unprompted apology and spontaneous hug pretty much make it worth it (the having-children thing anyway).

The sight of your older child reading to your younger one makes your heart go pitter patter.

You know better than to try to load or unload the dishwasher with an infant or toddler nearby.  Unless you just like the extra "help"...

You're not really sure why you bother washing the windows, knowing full well that as soon as you do, six or so greasy hands will follow you to undo your work in a matter of seconds.  Clean windows attract greasy hands much like open dishwashers attract nosy infants.

On an outing you discover that you have only one juice box to split between your two kids.  Expecting World War III (or equivalent), you hand the juice box to Kid 1 and say, "You're going to have to share with Kid 2."  Before they even take a sip of their own, they hand it over in an unprecedented act of selflessness.  Moments like that almost take your breath away.

You realize that most kids go through a know-it-all phase, but what you fear is that as smart as your six-year-old is, he might end up actually knowing it all.  You consider that the secret is to not let him know if he ends up being smarter than you.  Bluffing is becoming your new forte.

Among your secret weapons in times of overwhelming emotional breakdowns: silly faces.  Works like a charm.  Usually.

The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.

I couldn't tell you who said this quote.  It wasn't me.  (Actually, I can tell you, but I'm not sure who Sydney J. Harris is.  If you care to pursue further, go right ahead.)

Some day I will start a post without digressing in the first paragraph.  Let me try again.

As you all well know if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, I have embarked on a journey of magnificent proportions.  Or if that sounds a little dramatic, I'm on a quest to complete 101 tasks of my own choosing in 1001 days.  As of this moment, I have 829 days left and I have completed 21 tasks.  I'm quite proud of that, actually.  I have a tendency to get all riled up about these things and fizzle almost immediately.  I shouldn't say that won't happen still, but it hasn't yet, so that in and of itself is an accomplishment.  Too bad I didn't put that on the list.

I'll spare you the "boring" list updates.  I had done better about those earlier on, but I'm not sure how many of you actually care that I'm now up to 7 out of 10 new restaurants or that I have failed at all of my attempts to wake up at the same time as Sam for a month or that I am so hopelessly addicted to my early morning (and mid-morning and afternoon) coffee that I can't possibly imagine a week of only water.  The one worth getting excited over (for me) is a very bittersweet one:  #53-Breastfeed Sarah on her first birthday.  This is something that has become more important to me than I ever realized it would.  And the day is rapidly approaching.  I'll blog about it when the time comes, but it's a foremost one on my mind.  Until then, I prefer not to think about my baby as "almost one year old"!

Then there's #62 - Leave the dishes in the sink, the laundry in the hamper, and just spend time with my family.

I am a very Type-A person.  All my life I've been categorized lots as of things from quirky to obsessive-compulsive to just "having issues" (attributable to my 10th grade Algebra teacher).  I don't know how to relax.  Sad but true.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that I can't relax until all of "those things" are finished.  The worst part about this fact is that those things are never finished.  So, of course, I don't do a whole lot of relaxing.  Sam, who is very much my opposite, can't even consider tackling those things until he does some relaxing.  It's an interesting dynamic that we have. 

It's not so much the hamper part of the laundry that gives me anxiety, but the folding, putting away, and (drum-roll please) ironing that causes me stress.  I don't mind ironing, but with three kids, a full time job, and extracurricular activities, I don't have a whole lot of time to man an iron.  (And a word of caution against ironing while caring for a toddler:  Don't do it!)  I just have this quirk/OCD tendency/issue/what have you that I cannot put an article of clothing in my closet without ironing it first.  I could amend this task to say, "Leave the dishes in the sink, the laundry in the hamper, and the clothes on the hangers, and just spend time with my family."  If that were the case, well then MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm about to show you something that I wouldn't ordinarily put out there for the entire internet to see.  In fact, the only people who see this, aside from the people who live in our house, are my parents and in-laws when they come to visit because they usually end up utilizing our washer and dryer.  The casual passer-by does not see the inside of my laundry room.  That door across from the master bedroom will undoubtedly be closed if you happen by our house.  And this is why:

And when I ran out of room to hang un-ironed clothes on my dedicated overhead clothes rack, I moved onto the closet door frame:

And then, when I ran out of room there, I moved on to the doorknob...on both sides of the closet door:

And if that weren't enough, the clothes then overflowed onto the bedroom door, because that poor laundry room was bursting at the seams.

Aside from the obvious issue that this is an unconscionable amount of clothing, ironed or not, I am actually quite happy to say that it got to this magnitude before I dealt with it.  I don't want to make a habit out of procrastinating.  Nor do I want to turn into a lazy launderer.  But I think this is a step in the right direction.  These clothes represent time spent with my husband and my kids.  And what's better than that?  

I'm not going to mark off #62...yet.  I want it to be a 1001 day commitment.  I think I'm getting there though.  This grand experiment might teach me how to relax yet.

(But when I get home, I'm totally ironing.)

Today, I don't want to flash back.

Today, I'm living in the present.

I've got a little spring in my step (pun intended).  It's the last day of winter, and it is gorgeous outside.  Sure, I'm inside my little office right now, but thanks to Spring Forward (wait, did I just admit to being thankful for losing an hour of sleep?), I can go home and enjoy some 70+ degree sunshine.

I get more than a little excited when Spring hits.  Though my allergies and sinuses never agree with my heart and my brain on the subject, springtime in the South is simply AMAZING.  I do it every year.  I profess my love for spring via some sort of media.  So, apparently I'm doing it again.

The jonquils are in bloom.  The Bradford pear trees are budding their white puffs.  The sky is a beautiful blue.  My drive home will include windows down and the radio turned up.  Sprinkled among the days of 70 degree sunshine, there will be rain showers that will wash a river of pollen off of our cars and down the curb of our road.  There will be the return of the gnats and the mosquitoes, but that just means that it's time to play outside (and break out the bug spray).  The constant struggle with high-water pants for the kids will be a distant memory as we convert exclusively over to shorts.  This weekend kicks off the Cherry Blossom Festival, self-dubbed Pinkest Party on Earth, which stands as the "official" sign of springtime here in central Georgia.  Though the entire household has gotten through the winter generally unscathed by sickness, I can breathe a sigh of relief with every day deeper into spring we go.  Good riddance, winter germs!  I'm probably weird (nay, definitely weird), but I look forward to mowing the lawn, playing in the gardens, planting our vegetables.

This love affair with Spring lasts about two weeks.  Until the 70 degree temperatures skip over the 80's altogether and turn into the 90's, and there they stay until the middle of October.  But you know what?  I can even deal with that.  (For now, until it gets here.)  Dare I say, I think I'm getting used to these dreadful Georgia summers.

Mostly I love Spring because of the smiles.  (Okay, fine, so this is a flashback to last March.)

May you all have a wonderful early spring as predicted by General Beauregard Lee (the no-less-important relative of Punxsutawney Phil).

Happy Spring, everyone! 

It's not pessimism, it's realism. -The Cynic

I've mentioned before that my Christmas present to myself was a hiatus from news-related talk radio for the month of December.  News-related talk radio?  Yes.  I know it probably sounds like a big snooze-fest to most of you, but I was a little bit of a junkie.  I found myself generally irate when I listened to it and with the excitement and stresses of the holidays coming, I thought it would be in my blood pressure's best interest to take a break.  I was right.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much I really haven't gone back.

I have found that financial-related talk radio has fulfilled my apparent need for someone to talk at me all day long.  It's no secret that I listen to Dave Ramsey, and I'll try not to make my entire blog some sort of ode to him (because that would be weird). 

Lacking any sort of appropriate transition to get this story going, yesterday was the kind of day where several random and unrelated events happened to line up in such a sequence that I had a sort of epiphany.  And after the world's longest intro, here goes the story:

The morning began bright and early with a complaint by someone with whom I spend a lot of time, but have very little in common.  It wasn't just a complaint.  It was more than that.  Her world was in shambles because her husband was informed that he wouldn't be getting any raises in the next couple of years because he was hired at a salary above that for which his job title qualifies him.  Until his time and experience catch up with his salary, he's got to sit at his current pay.  "How unfair!"  Sparing all of the excruciating details that make this more understandable, the woman informed me that her husband would be looking for a new job, despite just starting this one just six months ago because (and this is a quote), "We are basically whores, and we will go where the money is."

Then, on the way back from lunch, a caller on my favorite aforementioned radio program told his tale of financial straits.  He had committed financial infidelity, running up nearly $100K in debt without his wife's knowledge, and was essentially at rock bottom.  His health was suffering.  He'd been to the ER the night before with chest pains from the stress of it all.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't feel super sorry for him because he made his bed and he has to lie in it.  I'm mean like that.  It wasn't so much the tale of the man that resonated with me, but what Dave Ramsey said in response to him.  Having been bankrupt himself before, Dave commiserated with the man.  (Paraphrasing in a way that won't do it justice) Dave told him that basically when times got to be that bad, he had to level with himself.  He asked himself, "What is the worst that can happen?"  He considered that the bank could take his cars and his home.  He might have to sell all of his stuff to put food on the table.  But, and here's the kicker, he'd still have Jesus and he'd still have his wife.  And together, they could pick up the pieces and build a life back.

I find the phenomenon of "rock bottom" to be a curious one.  It's the time in our lives when we learn the most about ourselves, when our reactions to dire conditions tell the "story of us".  Sometimes it takes the worst of times to appreciate the best of times and what makes those times so amazing.  (And here's a little secret, it probably isn't "stuff" that you can put on a credit card.)  If a situation like the above caller's doesn't put you on your butt and make you curl up into a ball and cry, nothing will.  Here's the cool part though, even in a time like that, there is hope.  There is nothing but hope.  He might have his cars repossessed.  He might lose his house to foreclosure.  But he still has Jesus.  And he always will.

So to tie the morning and afternoon events together, I started thinking about our country and its present situation.  I admit that I am not abreast of the current state of affairs like I used to be.  There is truth to that ignorance-is-bliss thing.  I'm not dead to governmental happenings though.  I work in an office of the politically charged nature.  So even if I'm not getting it first hand, I hear about it.  Unfortunately, I can't change the channel on that.

I won't make this political.  You probably know where I stand on things.  I'll simply say that I see a lot of striking parallels between our government and that man with the out-of-control spending habits.  Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I foresee our country having to hit rock bottom before we realize how flippin' great we had it.  I predict that there will be a time when will be stripped of our "stuff" and we'll have to to pick up the pieces and build our country back.  For me, there is hope.  There will always be hope.  For my friend who follows the dollars around, well, I just hope she can see that there is nothing lasting about that.  And there never will be.

So there you have it.

The paradox of rock bottom:  It takes the worst of times to have a true understanding of hope.

The Mom Things - Happy St. Patty's Day!

You've sat in the backseat en route to church on Sunday morning so you could finish getting the kids ready.  You know - putting bows in hair, cleaning breakfast off faces, putting shoes on.  Those kinds of things.

As you drop your son off at the front of the elementary school an avalanche of toys falls out of the van onto the curb.

You are secretly relieved that your 10 month old will eat french fries.  Not that you plan on providing them to her at every meal, but it does make dining out an easier experience.  (Especially on the heels of a child who still won't even look at a french fry.)

You've had difficulty packing for a trip because you can't seem to keep your kids out of their new favorite toy:  the suitcase.

You dread "Spring Forward" even worse than you did back in the high school days.  Losing that hour means waking zombies up in the morning and convincing unwilling zombies to go to sleep while it's still light outside.  It goes without saying that this is no easy task.  (Although there was that one year where your daughter had started waking up at 5am anyway, weeks before losing that hour.  So when the old 5am became the new 6am, life actually got better for you.)

You've laughed hysterically at some of those accidental, oh-so-embarrassing mispronunciations.  Like when your son used to tell everyone you were going to the b*tch (beach) or when your daughter announced that her Grammie's favorite restaurant is "Hallow P*nis" (Jalapeno's) .

You've fractured some part of your foot on a lego, Polly Pocket accessory, or plastic army man.  (Okay, so maybe it wasn't an actual fracture, but it felt like it at the time.)

After pitching a 10-minute fit the morning before because she "didn't want apple juice", as you hand your daughter a cup of apple juice for breakfast you hear her reply, "Ohhh, I love apple juice today!"

You know you can't get your daughter enrolled in dance fast enough when immediately upon hearing the So You Think You Can Dance theme song she runs to grab her tutu.

Because you just mopped yesterday and you refuse to do it again (already), you've tracked a grape jelly/syrup/juice drip trail halfway across your house with a dishrag and bottle of spray cleaner.  Afterward, you consider that it might have been easier to re-mop.

#32 - Convince my kids to eat carrot sticks.

To the ordinary person, this task is probably not list-worthy.

I guess that's what makes my kids extraordinary.

Their disdain for raw veggies is not hereditary.  (As I sit here at my desk chomping on a bag of baby carrots.  And yes, I mean a bag.  It probably won't make it until the end of the day.  I have no willpower when it comes to food, even the healthy kind.)  They will eat cooked vegetables of most varieties (especially when they are boiled in butter for so long that their nutritional value becomes non-existent), but come at them with a cucumber or a carrot stick and you might as well have the booger-puller in hand.

A few weekends ago, we were making one of those lunches after church where we try to use up all of our random ingredients before they go bad.  Like our own little version of the Food Network's Chopped, if you will.  Sam was making his unbelievably good potato & broccoli soup that he dreamed up because, one day, he couldn't decide whether to make potato soup or broccoli soup.  I was chopping up potatoes, carrots, and onions to roast in the oven.  As I chopped the carrots, I remembered the list, and sliced a few sticks for the kidlings.

I don't know if I got lucky, or if they were just so hungry that they were willing to eat anything at that point, but they were surprisingly receptive to the carrot sticks.  Ben grabbed one, chomped it down like bugs bunny, and asked for another one (!!!).  Abby took one taste and was less than enthusiastic about it.  But given the option to dip it in ranch, she was sold.

I think it was a matter of optimal conditions (and a very, very late lunch).  If I tried that for the first time, for instance, tonight at 5pm, I bet it wouldn't have worked. 

So there you have it...a lesser task, but accomplished nonetheless.

#32 ~ Convince the kids to eat carrot sticks....Check!

P.S. - I can now say that Abby will eat asparagus also (obviously not raw).  She calls them "big green beans".

President's Day - A Month Late

We all know I like to procrastinate anymore.  So what if President's Day was February 15th?  I'm posting about it now.  A month late is pretty good for me these days.   That's about the soonest you'll get a birthday, anniversary, or even a Christmas greeting/gift from me.  (My apologies in advance.)

There's not much to post by way of words in celebration of President's Day.

It's just that you never know what you'll find in that Wednesday folder of papers.  Last week in addition to the poem about being fat, Ben had created a rendering of our current Commander in Chief.

If you ask me, he kind of nailed it.

(The only thing in question would be the uni-brow and the mustache - and perhaps the lack of a nose.  But I try not to be such a stickler, after all, he is in kindergarten.)

So there you have it.  Happy President's Day (a month ago)!

P.S.- "Beware the Ides of March" as that is actually appropriate on today's date.  Look at me go!  On time for something.

Flashback Friday: All the way back to Wednesday

I went on a top secret mission. 

You might already know that Sarah and I took a mostly spontaneous day trip to Baltimore on Wednesday to go to my dad's retirement party.  I had gone back and forth between not going - going - not going - to finally going (in secret).  After deciding not to go for the second time I was pretty bummed out, but I'd resigned myself to the fact that it wasn't happening, so I was moving on.  The very next morning I got to work, opened Outlook, and found an email from my loving husband with a plane ticket, rental car, and parking reservation.  I guess he figured out from my mopey demeanor how much I really wanted to be there for my dad.  (He gets a serious gold star for that one.)

On Wednesday morning, Sarah and I got up (before the roosters) and departed for the Atlanta airport (in the rain).  We must be doing something right with her.  Sometimes we joke and call her the "well adjusted third child".  She was amazing on the trip.  She's just such a cheerful, easy-going little girl.  Sparing you the boring trip-up details, I called my mom from the rental car facility in Baltimore and the conversation went like this:

Me:  What time are you leaving for the party?
Mom:  I'm going to Julie's house so we can drive up together in about 15 minutes.
Me:  I don't suppose you'd want to wait for me?
Mom:  Are you going to the party?  Are you here?
Me:  Yes.
Mom:  Where are you?
Me:  I just left the airport.  I'm on my way to your house.

Long story short, she did not see that coming.  I think she was secretly relieved to skip out on the jaunt up to Julie's house because it bought her a little extra time to get ready.  Sarah woke up from her first 20 minute nap of the day when we got to my mom's house.  She so excited to see Sarah she sat in the back to "keep her company".  Sarah wasn't so sure about waking up in a strange back seat with a strange curler-haired woman smiling at her from inches away from her face.  A few cheerios later, they were best friends. 

For the next 30 minutes or so, we drove northeast towards the party and my dad's work.  There's a long history involving the property that now serves as the Perry Point VA Medical Center, and my dad, being the history buff, has even been interviewed about it on public television.  Originally the land served as a Grist Mill, nestled right on the bank of the Susquehanna River.  The view is amazing from pretty much anywhere on the property.  My dad liked working there because it was a much easier drive than going the other direction (towards Baltimore), but the setting itself has its own appeal.  The owner of the Grist Mill built the Mansion House in 1750, which served as the location for my dad's retirement party.

We got there in plenty of time, and arrived around the same time as Julie and her younglings.  The people poured in.  I'm not sure what the tally was, but I would bet there were at least fifty people there to bid their farewells, and most of them told the tale of someone else who wanted to be there but couldn't for one reason or another.  When he pulled up to the front door, we were herded to our positions.  The family was supposed to greet him at the door so he would be surprised the minute he walked in.  So there we were.  Stage Right:  My mom, Julie, the nephews Justin & Jared, and Sarah & me.

(I suppose it's not worth mentioning, but Sarah had very little interest in surprising my dad and was all about ripping the "Coat Closet" sign off of the closet door under the stairs while we waited.)

I could write lots and lots and lots about this day, but I think it would be best summed up by this picture:

He was surprised, yes.  He was happy, yes.  More than anything though, he's just ready to get the heck out of there.  And I am so thrilled for him.  I think he will look like this next Thursday when he turns his keys in too.

The party proceeded with person after person telling my dad how great it was to work for him, how much he will be missed, how knowledgeable and humble he is, and you know what?  I believe every one of them. 

In true Jennie fashion I've allowed this to get to unreadable lengths already, so I will sum up the rest of the day with a few captioned photos.  

This is where we tried to get all of the family present together for a photo.  Six out of eight isn't bad.  Jonathan was off tending to Justin.  My favorite part is how Sarah and Jared are giving each other the once-over.

This is one of many times when Sarah tackled Jared who is four months her senior and at least five pounds bigger than her.  She's a little, um, aggressive.  (As Justin supervised and told her she wasn't nice.)

This is where everyone chanted "Speech!" and then regretted it because he brought tears to everyone's eyes (as evidenced by the two men in the background).  Julie hates to see our dad cry and not-so-quietly said, "Oh no" in anticipation of tears multiple times throughout the speech.  His reasons for being sad about leaving?  "Umm, the drive was pretty easy."  Hahahaha.

This is where Justin was completely unimpressed with his powdered donut.  (I laugh out loud every time I look at this one.)

This is my beautiful travel companion.  She was awesome all day long.  I am so proud of her.  (Can you be proud of babies?  I am.)

I know it's Friday afternoon so I'll wrap it up.  I hope you all have a great weekend.  And I hope this gives you hope...you know...because retirement is possible.

poor body image starts young?

Every Wednesday, Ben's teacher sends home a giant envelope full of his past week's work for us to look at with him.  He's the very definition of a school nerd/overachiever/good student.  I guess you could say he got a double dose of that from his parents (then his Mommy slacked off a little in college, but that's not exactly relevant).

Ben loves to write (and read), and I think that's so cool.  In writer's workshop, they're learning about poems right now, and he is pumped.  (Despite the fact that he calls it a one-syllable pome instead of a two-syllable po-em and nothing I can say convinces him that the latter is correct.)  Since I wasn't home yesterday, I noticed the pile on the counter that Sam and Ben had gone through, and randomly pulled out this piece of paper.

I was so sad when I read it.  Ben thinks he's fat?  Who gave him that idea?  Why is he writing poems about it? 

I carried it in to where he was eating breakfast and asked him, "Ben.  Why did you write 'I am fat'?"

He casually looked at me and said, "Oh.  I meant to write fast."

Phew.  So he doesn't think he's fat.

He's just a bad speller and rhymer.  That's better?  
(In fairness, I'm chalking this up as an off day.  The kids never ceases to amaze me.  I mean, check out that penmanship.  Impressive for a kindergarten boy, no?)

Mom Things - But it's not Wednesday

Not that anyone has this marked on their calendars as a recurring Wednesday event, but I will not be at a computer tomorrow.  I will be pulling off a surprise (details to come).  It's not a recurring event on my calendar either, but I'm afflicted with the OCD.  So here are the Mom Things, a day early.

You hear a blood-curdling scream from your infant in the other room, but don't worry one bit.  You know that scream well; your husband is just cleaning her nose.

You have sacrificed the tips of your fingers to remove an inedible object from your baby's mouth.  She might only have 4 teeth, but those things are razor sharp.

Despite what all of your "good parenting instincts" told you, you've given your child a pill bottle to play with on an unexpected long car ride.  You figure as long as you hear it rattling, you're safe.

You've laughed right at your three year old's trouble with verb conjugation.  For example:
(baby cries)
You:  Abby, what did you do to Sarah?
Abby:  Bite her.
You (surprised):  You bit her?!  
Abby:  No.  I bite her.

You've been asked, while riding in the car, to turn the radio up to drown out your singing, and you're not sure at what point your voice became so offensive to those kids of yours.

Given the choice of all of the restaurants in your metropolitan area, you know that your kids will choose Bojangles Famous Chicken 'n Biscuits.  At least they're cheap dates.

Springtime arrives and you roll the windows down for some fresh air on the drive home from school.  You forgot how much fun that was for the kids.  You also forgot how well it drowns out all of that noise from the backseat (wink, wink).

You've nervously flown through turbulence with a toddler or preschooler next to you squealing with delight as if they're on the world's best roller coaster.  Just another reminder of the innocence of the young.  (And perhaps, that ignorance really is bliss.)

You cringe when it comes time for the school fundraiser.  Not only do you not want to buy $20 per roll wrapping paper, but you also don't want to peddle it to other people.  Then there's the additional pressure from your brainwashed child who might win a ride around the school parking lot in a limo if you sell 200 items.  At the very least, they want the inflatable beach ball you get for selling 10 items.  The concession - you donate cash to the school and take a trip to the dollar store for a beach ball.  Fair enough.

You've totally decorated the kitchen table with a vase full of freshly picked dandelions.

the life and times of a coffee table - a coffee table blog (not terribly unlike a coffee table book)

This is what your coffee table looks like when you try to enjoy a breakfast of hashbrowns on the couch with your husband while the big kids are away, but your 9-month old is still around and on the prowl.

Who needs television when you can watch her endlessly circle the table and try in vain to reach any of the accoutrements (but especially the delicious glass of sweet tea) that you've so carefully placed in the exact center just beyond her short little arms' reach?  (Of course, this almost leaves you hoping that as she grows, her little arms take a little bit more time to lengthen than the rest of her.  You're not ready to completely give up the use of your coffee table.)

This is what your coffee table looks like, serving as both toy storage and an indoor playground, with your 9-month old happily playing underneath it.


This is what your coffee table looks like providing support to your 6-year old needs to blow off some of his Wii frustrations. 

This is what your coffee table looks like with your 3-year old underneath it playing peek-a-boo with her brand new baby sister.

And this is what the brand new baby sister thinks of peek-a-boo with her big sister.

This is what your coffee table looked like just a few short years ago, with that 3-year-old-big-sister-who-used-to-be-a-tiny-fearless-baby-herself diving through the bottom of it, a preview of baby sister yet to come.

This is what your coffee table looked like when you used to store magazines underneath it.  (And also, this is the reason your coffee table no longer stores magazines underneath it.)

This is your coffee table (actually, your marriage's second coffee table).  The center of your living room.  The holder of diapers, toys, and small children for nearly 4 years now. 

This is your coffee table that you never ever imagined would evoke a tear from your eye.  And this is why you never say never.

Flashback Friday: Surprise!

No.  I'm not pregnant.  (Historically speaking, I think that's what I've entitled all of my blog birth announcements.  Not the case this time, folks.)

I've been thinking a lot about the summer of 2008 when we threw a surprise party for my parents' 60th birthdays.  My dad and mom were born in March and November respectively, so we figured a party on Labor Day weekend would never be expected!  (That, and, 800 miles of distance between us and them made this pretty much the only time available/possible.)

It was a fabulous party, if I might say so myself.  We had pictures, good food, random trivia (one of my specialties), and in attendance we had many, many great friends and family members.  It was nearly perfect.  (I *barely* remember that the air conditioning was broken, and it was in the 80's up in the church gym.)

It took some convincing to get them to the party.  We got them there under the promise of crabs in the church gym following a completely fabricated (and unorthodox) Saturday dedication service for the children of a family friend.  As soon as we climbed the stairwell, my mom figured out something was up.  My dad may have, but he's a good sport.  They didn't walk in together.  It was staggered.  First, my dad.


With a look of pure confusion crosses his face as he notices Aunt Janet there...

Then it hit him and his reaction was to, like most times, simply smile.  (Note, still no Joyce.)


Then came my mom, however begrudgingly.  If you know her, you probably don't believe it, but she absolutely hates being the center of attention.  I'm quite certain when she realized that this was all for her, the exact words that came out of her mouth were, "I hate you, Jennie."  I *think* she's gotten over it by now. 



Then our sugar addict, Abby, waited like a begging puppy dog for my parents to cut the cake (because I have to say at least one thing about my kids in every blog post, right?).

The turnout for the party was amazing, with almost 90% of invitees showing up.  I think we had over 70 people there.  I never dreamed that on a holiday weekend that many people would be able to attend, but I am so glad that they did.  I like to think it's because my parents are just that special.  If you know them, I would bet you'd agree.  If you don't, you should.  My dad is everything I desire for my son to end up to be.  My mom is...well...there's no one on earth quite like her!  And with every day that passes, I see myself becoming more and more like her.  I console myself with the belief that I have enough of my dad in me to offset that.  (wink, wink)  Oh no, must control the urge to write the Ode to My Parents.  I'll save that for a rainy day...

I've been thinking about this party a lot lately because another significant event is coming up in the life of my parents that is worth celebrating in a big way.  

My dad is retiring on his 62nd birthday, mere days from now, on March 18th.  

I can almost taste it along with him.  For the past six months, before hanging up the phone, whenever we talk my dad has interjected an "Oh yeah, I only have ___ days of work left."  As the weeks passed that number dwindled, faster and faster to now, in the single digits.  He has worked like a dog, provided for his family, lived frugally and selflessly, and after 44 years of 9-5ing (with some swing shifts at the steel mill) if anyone ever deserved their retirement, he has earned his.  I can almost imagine what it will be like for him to wake up on March 19th, no longer carrying the weight of the Perry Point VA Medical Center on his shoulders.  I want to celebrate what is surely one of the most exciting days of his life with him.  When and how remains to be seen, but celebrate we will.

I probably don't tell him enough, I probably don't tell both of my parents enough, just how blessed I am to be their daughter.  And even though words are boring, I should.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll throw another surprise party in from time to time just to keep things interesting.

when your best parenting strategies go awry

Sometimes Ben has wardrobe malfunctions.

This is my child who came home from school wearing just his undershirt one day.  I asked him where his shirt was and he very matter-of-factly replied, "I lost it."  Like losing one's shirt is as ordinary as brushing your teeth in the morning.

Just this week, he came home sporting the most gaping knee hole I have ever seen in a pair of jeans.  I had noticed the tiny threadbare patch when I laid the clothes out the night before.  I'd found the jeans in a forgotten bag of hand-me-downs the night before, and I was elated.  I live for shorts season because no matter what size and how many pairs of pants I buy for my kids, they end up being high-waters, like, the next day.  I'm really, really trying not to have to buy anymore pants this winter.  I was hopeful that I could make it!  And with the discovery of two more pairs of slightly worn, but totally wearable jeans in the bag, I was positive we could.

Then he came home with the basketball sized hole and those hopes were dashed a bit.

I asked him (because I'm the queen of questions, just talk to my husband), "What's the deal with the jeans, Ben?  What happened?"  He replied very casually, as if talking about what color pencil he uses at school, "Oh.  I did that."  I asked another, "What does that mean - 'I did that'?"  He looked at me and said, "Well they already had a *little* hole in them."

That's when I got a little mad.

"So you have a little hole and just decide to destroy your pants?  Why would you do that?  We don't have an unlimited amount of pants available to us.  You have to take better care of your things!" -But they were kind of small.- "That doesn't mean you DESTROY them!  We could have shared them with someone smaller than you who has no pants at all." -blank stare-  All the while I was thinking about Generation Entitlement and that just made me angrier, as I imagined him thinking, "Big deal.  We'll just buy some more.  Cool it, lady."

Then I thought to myself, what is the appropriate "punishment" for tearing your jeans to pieces?  I could make him wear them to school like that, but he wouldn't care.  I couldn't make him go without pants altogether; not only is that not allowed, but he would probably love it.  I could take away his tv privileges, but that's not going to send him any kind of message about taking better care of his things.  I called Sam to ask what he thought and we discussed making him sew them back up.  It was decided.  That was PERFECT. 

When we pulled into the garage I told Ben to go inside, get the sewing basket, take his pants off, and meet me in the living room.  He was going to sew them back up.  "But I don't know hooowww to sew!"  Don't worry, kid, you're about to learn.

I didn't expect him to actually be able to fix the pants to the point of wearable.  (I'm pretty sure they were damaged beyond my mending abilities.)  I just wanted him to realize that in order to fix them, it would take a lot of work.  I wanted him to be a little bit miserable having to come home from school and sew.

I unloaded his sisters and met him in the living room where he was already trying to decide between thread colors for his sewing project.  That's when I realized he wasn't miserable.  He was looking forward to this.  I threaded the needle for him and showed him how to do a simple stitch.  He watched with enthusiasm and excitedly, but carefully, grabbed the needle from me.  It took him about 30 seconds to use up the entire length of thread I'd put on the needle, and we ended up with this:


He cut the needle free, packed up the sewing basket, and happily went pantsless the rest of the evening.  

So I will have to admit that "punishment" was less than PERFECT.  Guess I can't win them all.

the stuff that moms are made of

There are several household items for which you would gladly do a commercial, among them the Magic Eraser (Did you know they take the bicycle marks off your cars?), Spray and Wash Stain Stick (Kiss the grass, mud, and spaghetti stains goodbye!), and Heinz Ketchup in the giant bottle (It lasts for at least two meals!).

Some of your favorite photos of your babies are when they're bawling their eyes out.  For whatever reason, they never fail to bring a smile to your face.

You contemplate making your kids drink out of sippy cups into their twenties, because, let's face it, you just don't want to clean that mess up.

You finally get a kid-free hour/night/weekend at home, and all you can think about is how deathly quiet it is around the house.   And what do people do when the kids aren't around anyway?

You realize on the trip to the restroom that you've been banished to the unofficial "kid-section" of a restaurant.  There are families on this side, couples and individuals on that side.  And really, you don't blame the restaurant for doing it that way.

You watch your kids instinctively flock to the pantry after school and grab for the most unhealthy thing they can find.  Since it's just an hour from dinner, you allow them to share a fruit roll up.  Now, any time your three year old is given a fruit roll up, you watch and smile as she automatically tears it in half to share with her big brother.

You are certain more toothpaste has ended up on the bathroom rug and down the drain than have ever actually gotten onto the toothbrush.

While you know you should be happy that your children are independent, if you hear "I want to do it by myself" one more time, you are resigning your position as the mom.  Clearly they have it all figured out on their own.

Speaking of know-it-alls, your three year old has vehemently argued with you that your infant's name is *not* Sarah Katherine as you claim, but that it's actually Sarah Bear or maybe Sarah Bear-uh.  After all, that is what you call her.

He might be weird but your son loves his chore chart, and you are totally capitalizing on that.  Do you think six years old is too young to cut the grass?  Change the oil?  Re-shingle the roof?

Pajama Day isn't just about pajamas

Every once in a while, the kids are allowed to wear their pajamas to school for one reason or another.  In lieu of Halloween costumes, they wear pajamas.  To celebrate being drug-free (yes, drug-free in kindergarten, not sure how great an accomplishment this is, but I digress), they get to wear pajamas.

In general, Abby really couldn't care less about what she wears to bed.  She'll wear the nightgown, footies, two pieces, whatever.  Ben, on the other hand, feels passionately about his nighttime attire.  He has always loved footie pajamas, and is on track to continue the love affair well into his adulthood provided we can keep coming up with footies big enough for his continually growing body.  In the summertime, he asks with excited anticipation when it's going to be cold again so he can wear them.  In the winter, when he gets home from school he changes into his footies almost immediately (unless he goes outside to play).  Speaking of outdoor play, in the rare event that it snows, we default to fleece footies as "snow suits" because, well, that's the best we can do in central Georgia.

So, when Pajama Day rolls around at the elementary school, I always get a little nervous because I know what's coming.  Ben is going to want to wear his footies.

When Pajama Day happened in Pre-K, I thought about it, but I didn't worry about it.  Footies at age 4 and 5 are okay.  They're still the "babies" of the school.  Maybe I'm wrong, but footies carry a juvenile air about them, no?

When Pajama Day rolled around in kindergarten, I did worry about it.  I worried about it because he's not the baby of the school anymore.  I worried because I didn't want my precious, footie-loving son to be ridiculed for something about which he feels so passionately.  I worried because I just knew he was going to be the only kindergartner in footie pajamas.  I worried because, sometimes, kids are just mean.

I asked my friends what they would do - let their son wear the footies or not?  The results were split.  At least I knew I wasn't alone in my hesitation about it.

I tried not to let on to Ben about my apprehension as I laid out several non-footie varieties of pajama options in addition to the obvious.  Unwavering, he picked out his favorite red pair of footies from the line-up.  I dropped him off at school that day just like any other day and happily received the usual goodbye wave and over the shoulder "I love you" from him as he confidently walked into the school donning his most-favorite pajamas.

I thought about him several times that day.  I prayed that the other kids would be merciful towards him.  That they wouldn't pick on him for being a 6-year old (who looks more like an 8-year old) "baby" in footie pajamas.  That there might be at least one other child in footies so he wouldn't be alone.

When I got to Ben after school that day, I asked him how Pajama Day went.  "Good."  And since I didn't want to ask if he'd been teased, I asked if anyone liked his footies.  "I don't know."  I asked him if anyone else was wearing footies.  "Yes." PHEW.   I asked him if he had anything good or bad he wanted to share with me.  Then he excitedly told me about his art project.

That's when I realized something.  No.  I realized lots of somethings.  I realized that all of my fretting was good for absolutely nothing.  Not just about footie pajamas, but in life across the board. 

Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12:22-26

Touché, Jesus.

I realized that, sometimes, kids aren't mean.  That Ben is a confident, strong boy and at some point in his life, he will be ridiculed.  That's part of living this life.  Even though he's a boy of just six, he will have to figure out his own way on some things, like how to respond if someone pokes fun at his favorite nightwear.  And if his feelings get hurt, he will learn from it, grow from it, and he will get through it.

Pajama Day.  I assure you the powers that be had no idea how educational it would be for me.  And for that matter, neither did I.


#24 - Run a 5K

I have some clarifying to do because I know there are several different categories of readers on my blog.  There are those who grew up with me, went through high school with me, and haven't seen me since.  There are those who have only known me in my adulthood.  There are those of you who might not know me at all.

Here's a little history.  In high school, I was fit.  I ate a lot of Doritos, but I worked them off playing sports.  I ran constantly, both literally and in the form of having lots of commitments and being a busy-body.  I went away to college, where I didn't play organized sports, but for the first year I did pretty well keeping up with the exercise.  We had a nice gym and I had a running partner.  I ate mashed potatoes and gravy at every meal, and I wasn't nearly as active as I had been, so the pounds started to pack on.  Not *a lot* of pounds, but there is some truth to that Freshman 15 thing.  I gained that all in the form of a portly little belly.  My sophomore year in college, I got pregnant with Ben.  My eating habits didn't change.  My sleeping habits got worse.  I was young and just trying to get by.  I gained 40 pounds during the pregnancy, and things kind of went downhill from there.

Long story short, after three kids, I am hovering at 35 lbs higher than I was in high school and I have been out of the "serious exercise" habit for about seven years.  Nice.

Needless to say, when I signed up for the Cantrell Center 5K back in January, I was a little nervous.

I started training very slowly, beginning with a mile around the neighborhood and slowly adding distance to it.  I had worked up to 2.9 miles around the neighborhood by a week before the race, so I was pretty confident that I could do it.  (Thanks to www.mapmyrun.com for their awesome help figuring out my route distances!) 

For many of the items on my list I have unwritten rules that apply in order for a task to count as "completed" and the 5K was no exception.  When I said "run" a 5K, that is what I meant.  I couldn't cross it off if I walked at all.  So that was my goal. 

Wednesday before the race, I intended to practice the actual course.  It was raining that day so I went Thursday instead (to allow for at least one rest day in between).  I ran the course, walking for about 30 seconds around the twenty minute mark after I waited for a car to pass so I could cross the street.  It just so happened that intersection was at a nice up-hill spot, so I had a good excuse to walk a couple of mailboxes.  I finished with a time of 29:10 on my cell phone stopwatch.

I don't really know what 5K times should be, but I knew this meant I was around at a 9+ minute mile and that made me sad.  I reminisced to my fit days back in high school when I consistently ran miles under 7 minutes.  I tried to tell myself that it was okay, it wasn't about the time.  I tried to remind myself that I am not 17 anymore and that I haven't run in seven years.  I tried to focus on the fact that I had *only* walked for 30 seconds, so surely I could run the entire thing on Saturday.

Race morning arrived.  I ate a Special K bar, enjoyed a cup of coffee, put on my racing shoes, grabbed my ear buds, and left an ailing Sam home with the three kids so I could make it happen.

In the interest of brevity (too little too late, huh?), it was really cold and I ended up way in the back of the pack of 1100 racers that morning.  When the air horn blew to start the race, I tried to set my pace, and bobbed and weaved around the walkers to get to my one and only programmed speed.  I ran right beside someone for the first mile.  It got hilly and she changed her pace on the hills, so I ended up in front of her and went on solo for the rest of the run.

It's amazing how much easier it is to stay motivated to keep going when you have a whole slew of people running in front of you and behind of you.  As corny as it sounds too, it really helped seeing those strangers on the side of the road cheering us on.  They were really proud of us.  It was so encouraging.  I can only *imagine* how marathoners must feel. 

I got to the point that I started walking on my practice run and realized that I hadn't even thought about stopping yet.  I wasn't having to give myself the internal pep talk to keep going.  I was just doing it, and that gave me such a boost.  I was excited because I knew I had about a mile to go, which meant about 9 minutes left and I told myself, "I can do anything for 9 minutes."

On the final stretch, I tried to open up and run faster, but I was stuck at my one and only programmed speed.  When I reached the finish line it took me about one step to slow down to a walk.  I helped myself to a complimentary water, banana, and oatmeal cookie (they hid that good stuff in the back corner).  Then I hopped in the car with a big smile on my face and headed home to relieve Sam.

I feel like a big dork for being as excited as I was and still am about it.  I had planned to treat myself to a nice hot coffee at Dunkin' Donuts on the way home for completing it without walking at all, and completely forgot about it until I was home.  Apparently, running a 5K in its entirety was reward enough.

To sum up the results, I ran it in 28:55 with a pace of 9:19 per mile.  I ranked 297th out of 1189 runners.  I was 85th in my gender.  In my age group (25-29) I was 16th out of 99.  And for those of you who would like to see what it looks like to suck wind at the end of a 5K, you can see my picture here.

It's a far cry from high school, but I'm not in high school anymore.  I was very pleased with how it turned out.  More than that, I was tickled.  I am so glad I did it, and I foresee signing up for more 5K's in the future to keep my lazy rear-end motivated.

Run a 5K...check!
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