Loose Ends & Endings

I gave some consideration to entitling this "Pumps at Work" because I thought it would be a funny, ambiguous title.  You know, because I'm a civil engineer.  We *do* pumps.  Then I realized, I'm the only person in the world who would think that was even remotely funny.  So I changed it.  It's generic and I hope that makes you all very happy.  The sacrifices I make for my readers...

April 30th is here.  This might not mean much to you.  If you hate trees, you don't care that it's Arbor Day.  (Actually, I like trees quite a lot, but I don't really get this holiday.)  We miracle-growed ours the night before last, so I'm counting that as our early observance.

That is not the point of this post.

When it hit me yesterday that the date was April 29th, I sang the little ditty and realized that 30 days hath September, April, June, and November.  Then I realized I had yet to make my monthly teacher treats (a la list #49 - Take treats to the teachers once per month).  I got sad because it went from being something I wanted to do, to being something I needed to do.  Time sure does march on while we're not paying attention, doesn't it?  As it turns out, I woke up this morning and still wanted to do it.  Phew.  Turtle brownies packaged up and delivered to more than deserving teachers.  (Though they probably think I'm weird since Teacher Appreciation Week is next week!)

Today marks the last day of my 30 day exercise challenge.  I'm happy to announce that I did it.  Even while Sam was out of town, I did some sort of dedicated exercise every single day this month.  It helps that I signed up for a 5K that takes place (all too fittingly) tomorrow.  I don't know that you can see a difference, and I might throw my bathroom scale in the trashcan, but I feel really, really good.  Great, even!  I finished up this month UP half a pound from April 1st.  Go figure.  Feel free to make me feel better by offering excuses such as "but it's fat turning into muscle". 

But those two things aren't the point of this post either.

Today marks a completely self-created ending in my nursing adventure with Sarah.  Today is the last day I will bring my Little Black Book Bag to work.

This thing...

...has accompanied me to work since my return on August 4th of last year.  For nearly nine months this thing has been my trusty sidekick. 

This thing is my (breast)pump. 

I would love to be able to say, "So long ol' pal!  It's been great!", but the truth is that I loathe this thing.  So my message is, instead, "Good riddance!  Hope to see you never!"  (You know...unless there's a #4 somewhere in the way, way off distant future.)

I have much, much more to say about this thing, but I won't (at least not now).  I'm just so excited I wanted to do a cyber-fist pump (no pun intended) and let you all know.

It is over between me and my Little Black Bag.

The internet is making me...uhh, what's that word again?

I was considering the sheer power of Google this morning.  Don't pretend you've never thought about it before.  At my fingertips, within seconds (or a fraction thereof), I can find out the name of the guy in the movie I'm watching and what other movies I know I've seen him in but can't think of at the moment, the best method for peeling hard-boiled eggs, and how long it would take me to drive to Argentina. 

I remember a time, long, long ago (or at least relatively so as compared to a millisecond) when we'd agonize over the information for days until the name suddenly came to us in the middle of our morning shower, we figured it out by trying different things, or we got out a map & a calculator and did some rudimentary ciphering.

Basically, the internet is making me dumb.

What is the incentive for using my brain when a super computer can provide me the same results (or better) in a millisecond?  I really can't think of one.  And, yet, I'm left feeling a little uneasy about submitting to the power that is Google.  (And no, Google, I'm rarely feeling lucky.)

So while I was in the shower this morning considering Google (since I no longer need to try to remember that random actor's name) I thought of a fun little experiment to represent the dangers of internet searches.

Here's how it works:
  1. Create a list of (nearly) indisputable untruths.  (Is anyone surprised that I started a list with "Create a list"?  This is getting excessive.)
  2. Google them.
  3. Post findings on blog.
Easy enough.

Now for the list of untruths:
  1. Coffee is good for you.
  2. Chocolate is good for you.
  3. Hot showers are not bad for you.
  4. Retail therapy is healthy.
  5. It's a good idea to carry multiple credit cards.
Would you believe I found a website confirming each of the five?  Of course you would.  Because the internet is full of...uhh, what's that word again?  

At http://www.coffeeisgoodforyou.com/, you will find a myriad of reasons why you should drink coffee and plenty of it.  Not only is it not bad for you (that whole dehydration thing is a myth), but it provides countless benefits including higher metabolism (read weight loss), a cure for baldness, protection against MS, a decreased suicide rate...  Need I go on?  Feel free to check it out for yourself.  And here I thought all this coffee I've been drinking was ruining my teeth, causing insomnia, and inducing Mr. Hyde-like personalities when forced to abstain from it.

Okay, next.  CBS News tells me Chocolate is not only good, it's good for you.  I've heard the theories of antioxidants in dark chocolate, but this goes above and beyond.  It encourages a bit of chocolate every single day.  And here I thought my 3pm chocolate indulgence was what's been causing me to keep this lovely muffintop.  Clearly I was wrong!  Thank you, internet!

Since I was in the shower, I couldn't help but think about the temperature of the water and the fact that I know hot showers are terrible for my skin, "but it feels good", so I thought I'd check to see if the internet would let me off the hook.  Then I found this:  Benefits of a Hot Shower on Both Your Body & Mind.  Score!  And it's from a natural remedies website.  Everything natural is good, right?  (Just smile and nod.)  It seems that these hot showers I allow myself decrease my stress level, enhance my sexual experiences, and, here's a big one, help remove excess dirt and oil from my skin (I had NO idea!).  Dry skin, be darned!

As for retail therapy, maybe my proof comes from a collection of blogs and online forums, but there are plenty of people out there touting the benefits (casting aside the dangers of uncontrolled spending with the defense that they "deserve" a new $10,000 purse).  Then there are the credit card websites.  This might be one of my weaker untruths, depending on whose financial advise you subscribe to.  Since Dave Ramsey is kind of "my guy" on all things financial, using multiple credit cards is a bad idea.  There are about nine bazillion internet hits that attest to the contrary.

The long and short of it is that if you're looking to justify something to yourself, Google is where you need to be.  Chances are in your favor that you will find someone who feels the way you want them to, with enough evidence to convince you that you're doing "the right thing".

And so we come to the part of my blog post where I offer up a helpful anecdote/moral.

This is it:  While we might not need to use our brains as much anymore (thanks Google!), that doesn't mean that we shouldn't.  

If you're feeling particularly brain-dull these days, perhaps it's time to consider doing some Neurobics (courtesy of Google...of course).

Happy Thinking!

"I wish my name was Brian because maybe sometimes people would misspell my name and call me Brain. That's like a free compliment and you don't even gotta be smart to notice it. "
-Mitch Hedberg

Mom Things: Infirmary Edition

There is no protocol for when your child throws up in public, but you are now aware that this is one of the worst moments in the life of a parent for so many reasons.  (Especially if there is a innocent bystander involved.)

Three things that are critical to have on hand in the first aid kit:  hydrogen peroxide, band-aids, and Neosporin.  Inevitably, you will be out of at least two out of three of those things when your child has his first big bike accident.

Incidentally, you decide that there is no box of band-aids too large for a family with three kids.

The pharmacist at CVS knows you by name.  That's either tremendous customer service or you have picked up entirely too many prescriptions for the beloved pink goo (more commonly known as amoxicillin).

You didn't go to medical school, but you consider yourself qualified enough to be able to distinguish between hives, impetigo, ringworm, regular diaper rash vs. yeast, and generic skin irritations.  As a result, you briefly consider undercutting the pediatrician's office and setting up a clinic at your house, but ultimately decide the malpractice insurance isn't worth it.  (And you wonder where your kids get their overactive imaginations...)

You're proud of your little ones for learning to share....but if they'd been selfish with the Pink Eye, you'd have been okay with that.

Defying all odds, you witnessed your usually spirited three year old sit as still as a statue for splinter removal.  Turns out, she knew that if she did, there would be some sort of reward (in the form of candy) at the end of it.

You hesitate to say it out loud, but you can't believe between three kids and six years and a half years as a parent, you've yet to experience a broken bone.  (And NOW, you're knocking on wood!)

You have at least one little druggie in your brood who feigns coughing and follows you around with a medicine dropper in hopes of scoring some of the "good stuff".

You've tried all kinds of thermometers; temporal, oral, under-arm.  The fact remains that the best test for a fever is a mommy's lips on a baby's forehead.

not exactly an expert

I don't want to speak for moms in general, or women for that matter.  I can only speak for myself, so I'm putting this out there.  If you feel the same way and feel compelled to validate me, my sanity would greatly appreciate it.

I am my own worst critic.

There are some days when I take a step back and think, "Man, I just can't do anything right."  And maybe even, "Is there anything I can do?"

I like to think we all have those days.  (It makes me feel better about myself.)

The days when we wake up, having completed our daily "To Do" list the night before, only to be foiled by a late-ringing alarm clock, a dryer that seems to be taking four hours to dry a single load, the realization that your son forgot to do his daily reading the night before and you have ten minutes to get him fed, dressed, and to school, and a nice spit-up stain or snot smear that you notice on your shoulder only after you arrive at work. 

That's when you realize you left your lunch in the fridge, the milk on the counter, and you're wearing your flip-flops instead of your work shoes.

You make it through the rest of the work day generally unscathed, only to get to the daycare, where you find that your infant is running a low-grade fever, your toddler had an accident during naptime, and your kindergartener got a yellow face for talking.

Maybe all of those things didn't happen in one day, and even if they did, it wouldn't be the end of the world, but some days just don't seem to go the way we think they will.  Lists or no lists.  (Though I contend that one of the most depressing things out there is a To Do list with nary an item crossed off.)

I'm generally able to give myself a chin-up, you-can-do-it pep talk that enables me to get through dinner and bedtime, and I usually do.  However messy and unpretty it might be.

The other day, my best working mommy support group posed the question, "What is your expertise?  Outside of work, if you were called to be an expert witness, what topic(s) would you be able to cover?"

Perhaps I took the question too seriously, but I thought long and hard about it.  And quite frankly, I walked away a little depressed.  I don't think of myself as being able to claim expert status on anything.  I can't cook.  I don't sing, dance, possess skill in any kind of fine art.  I don't speak any foreign languages.  I don't enjoy history in any capacity other than in the form of a good movie.  It's been a long time since I played or even watched organized sports.

What can I say?  (Again) I'm my own worst critic.

As an exercise towards attaining #23 on the list (Have more confidence in myself), I've decided to make a list of things at which I do excel.  Areas of expertise, maybe.  So here goes nothing.
  1. Folding towels (especially after waiting four hours for them dry)
  2. Refolding towels (after my rambunctious children knock them down rough-housing on the bed)
  3. Not crying about having to refold towels (after my rambunctious children knocked them down after I folded them after having waited four hours for them to dry)
  4. Entertaining three children with nothing but items found in the glove compartment when we end up waiting unconscionable amounts of times in the car for various reasons
  5. Making my own baby food (I can't cook things that have to be seasoned and taste well, but by golly I can boil a vegetable and freeze it in small cubes)
  6. Breastfeeding (just wait...there's going to be a BIG blog about this on or around May 13th)
  7. Couponing (a special thanks to www.southernsavers.com and www.couponmom.com for their assistance on that)
  8. Cheerleading (in the form of encouraging my kids)
  9. Sending encouraging mail (not to toot my own horn, and I'm not even sure if the mail ends up being encouraging, but it's meant to be and I send lots of it...so I get to count it)
  10. Jogging more than a mile without keeling over (second-ever 5K coming up on May 1st)
  11. Creating my own circumstantial lyrics to the tunes of the Alphabet Song, Frere Jacques, and If You're Happy and You Know It
  12. Feeling a deep emotional connection when I hear about ailing children
  13. Retaining unimportant, but usually interesting bits of trivia
  14. Sneezing in rapid succession
  15. Knowing the different drink each of my 5 family members prefers at dinnertime
  16. Wearing the same t-shirt for 10+ years (obviously I take them off to wash them, but you know what I mean)
This is by no means exhaustive, but I guess it's proof enough.  I am good at some things.

We all are.  

Some might say that women and moms fall into the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none category.  I would probably agree.  But I also believe that we sell ourselves short.  I believe that I sell myself short.  The reality is that we are probably a master-of-all.  The tricky part is convincing ourselves of that fact.

Maybe I didn't quite nail the message of empowerment, but here's a little food for thought this Monday afternoon.

The most common way people give up their power
is by thinking they don't have any.
~ Alice Walker ~

Today, I challenge you to make a list (of course!) of five things you do well.  However simple, however trivial they may seem.  Because, believe it or not, we're all good at some things.

Edited to say that I would absolutely LOVE to read your lists if you're willing to share.  Thanks so much and have a blessed day!

Flashback Friday - There's something about mulch

No offense to the people who choose to employ pine straw in their gardens.  That stuff is just not for me.  I'm not sure if it's the allergic reaction I have just from thinking about it, or because it reminds me that the yard crews at my alma mater would wake me up whilst loudly fluffing it outside my dorm room window before the crack of dawn, or maybe because I can clearly envision the rat-sized roaches that used to crawl from its depths throughout campus.  (You say Palmetto bug, I say roach.  Six of one, half dozen of the other.)  Needless to say, pine straw doesn't give me the warm fuzzies.

So when we moved into our house four years ago, the pine straw had to go.  Quickly.

The alternative for us is brown mulch (wood chips, as Abby prefers to say).  I like the look better, and think it does a superior job of keeping weeds from creeping through.  It also doesn't require as much maintenance as the pine straw.  Abby likes wood chips the way some kids like a sandbox.  She comes home from her school playground every day with wood chip dust all in her scalp.  I can only imagine this happens when she throws it up in the air and lets it rain down on her white-as-snow head.  Have you ever tried scrubbing wood chip dust out of a blond head of hair?  It's not easy.

The first time we mulched, Abby was a mere 6 months old.  Ben was 3.5 and completely and totally pumped about having a big pile of wood chips to play in.  How disappointed he was to find out that wasn't a permanent fixture in our yard.

Abby and Ben were mostly spectators, and while we parents worked our collective butts off, she and Ben played (under the supervision of a helpful Grammie).  We took this picture, with me a nervous wreck, as Abby wasn't sitting on her own yet (the future would tell that she would master walking before unassisted sitting).  It remains one of my favorites of her.  Pure mischief...even at six months old.

A year later, we repeated the process.  It was a far smaller job the second year, needing minor touch-ups here and there.  We even got Abby to help.

The next springtime, when we ordinarily would have mulched, I looked like this (DANG):

So, we took the spring off.

In fact, we took the whole summer off from yard work too.  We cut the grass, but that was kind of it.  There was little time or motivation to go outside and work the fanny off with a newborn baby around to play with instead.  (Any excuse to avoid going outside in Georgia summer is a good one.) 

So after a hiatus from yard beautification, I went outside this spring to peruse our flowerbeds and almost had to avert my eyes.  It made me sad.  I was depressed and overwhelmed.  I voiced this to my husband, who I think shared my sentiments.  However, he is a man of action and fewer words than me, so his solution was to "do something about it".  

You know what?  I did.  

A few weekends ago, Sam had called a few places about mulch, but they weren't able to deliver it in time for us to work on it.  Time passed, playground projects materialized and then monopolized, and the mulch took a backseat.  

Then Sam left for Oklahoma for a week on a business trip.  (When you're smart and good at your job and all that stuff, they apparently send you places.)  That's when I got wild and crazy.  I decided to do it myself.  I thought it would be a nice surprise for Sam to come home to a well manicured yard.  Sure I had anxiety because of my all-or-nothing mentality (which I assure you I will blog about soon).  If I couldn't get it finished before he got home, I might as well not start.  

Last weekend, we de-grassed the bricks that line our flowerbeds.  On Monday, after a trip to Lowes for a new wheelbarrow (which, by the way is no small task for one mom and three small children), I mowed the lawn and weeded the flowerbeds.  On Tuesday, we got the mulch, waited for the rain storm to pass, and got to work!  It's been tricky trying to coordinate the work around Sarah's sleep time.  We tried to get some things done with her in the yard, but she's gotten pretty fast and has an affinity for heading downhill (towards the road), so that wasn't too productive.  But we worked it out!

Our eight-year old neighbor (Ben's friend) has been an amazing little helper.  He volunteered to spread the mulch around, surpassing my expectations.  I didn't even have to sacrifice any plants to careless feet.  The best part was his wage; he worked for a popsicle.  I love child labor.  Wait.  Am I allowed to say that?

It isn't finished, but it's dang near close enough.  So, Sam, if you're reading, it's done (or will be before you arrive tomorrow).  One less thing for both of us to think about!  Love you!  (Now come home so I can take a nap!)

Happy Friday, y'all!

About these "unanswered prayers", Garth...

I fell in love with Garth Brooks when I was a senior in high school.  Well, his music anyway.  Maybe it was some sort of premonition I had because I was going to end up in the South.  (You know, because all southerners listen to country, right?)  My love for pop country has always been rooted in this man's songs.  (Excepting that whole Chris Gaines thing.  What was that about?)

Just like smell is supposed to be the sense the evokes the strongest memories, songs tend to do the same for me.  When I hear a song, I'm instantly transported back to the time with which it is associated.  For instance, when I hear Garth's "The River", I'm reminded of the weekend I went to Elijay, Georgia with some hallmates my freshman year of college because that's when I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I would end up marrying my dear husband.  (If memory serves me correctly, he was in Sylvania babysitting his cousins at the time, fielding lots of phone calls from a lovesick Jennie.) 

Garth's made many other songs, lots of them brilliant (not unlike "The River").  In fact, his greatest hits cd is on my list of all-time favorites, and is one that Sam and I used to listen to regularly in our dating days and on our early road trips to and from Maryland.

I have always liked listening to the song "Unanswered Prayers", but at the same time it has always made me a little uneasy.  (Hey, look, four paragraphs into it and I'm finally reaching the actual point of this post.)  I think that most of us can relate to the message in a what-might-have-been kind of way, but here's my beef, Garth - God always answers prayers.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the song, you can listen to it here.

The chorus goes like this:
Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talking to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers
Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's semantics.  Either way, I don't feel comfortable with the insinuation that God ever deliberately doesn't answer prayers.  (I also have a little problem with irreverence of calling our Heavenly Father "the man upstairs", but I won't get any more nit-picky than I am already being.)

Whether it goes the way we want it to or not, God answered.  Sometimes it's not the answer we wanted in the timetable we set, but that is the will of God.  However minor an example this is, I'm reminded of the time I prayed for patience, expected it overnight, and instead, was granted a job babysitting for the summer.  Learning patience is a long, slow process.  And you do have to learn it.  Hey, lookie there, God taught me that!  Prayer answered.  (Well, I believe he's still teaching me.  It's a very long, slow process.)  On Easter Sunday, our pastor said something in his sermon that stuck with me, "When it seems like God is late, he's right on time." 

None of us know what our futures hold, nor can we truly understand the master plan that is the will of God.  It might not be possible to understand why God answers our prayers the way he does, but the point remains -  

God hears and answers every prayer.

I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

~The Prayer of an Unknown Confederate Soldier

It is up to us to acknowledge God's work in our lives.  Sometime it's not obvious, but it is there.  And it is purposeful.  The best and only way to recognize it is to stay in close communication with Him.

Remember that even Jesus prayed to God, " nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."  Luke 22:42

So, sorry, Garth.  I would have to respectfully disagree.  Sometimes I thank God, but it's for his ever-appropriate, however mysterious answers to my prayers.

Yet another day in the life of Mom...

While you love that your son is independent, you consider that it may have been premature to let him make a PB&J all by his lonesome when, afterward, you cannot step anywhere on the kitchen floor without landing in a glob of jelly.

Not a day goes by where you don't have to clean the syrup/grease/mud/other unidentifiable muck off of at least one doorknob.

You're excited to finally have a reason to use the short forks in your silverware set.  (The refined would call them salad forks, but we hardly have a need to set a full place setting in our home.)

You've experienced a child whose waist was inexplicably small and whose legs were inexplicably long.  So much so, in fact, that not even spandex leggings stay up, giving everyone a glance of the undies.  The phenomenon can best be explained visually as seen here:

Sometimes it isn't until years later when you look at the pictures from any random event that you discover your kids shoes were on backwards, and you wonder - were they like that the whole day?

You know that the best way to stop your kids from doing whatever it was that they were doing (good or bad) is to pull out the camera.

You fear that your infant is destined to follow in his daddy's engineering ways when he completely ignores the mobile with the red-nosed bears hanging above his swing, and instead watches the hinge swing back and forth, as if already trying to figure out how the thing works.

Dress-up is not just a game, it's a way of life.

You keep a stash of popsicles in the outdoor chest freezer for refreshments on hot summer days, to gain popularity with the neighborhood kids, and to use as payment for yard work when your 8 year old neighbor wants to help you in the flower beds.   (Hey, it's cheaper than a high schooler!)

At the first sound of a burp or toot (as we call them in our house), your kids' eyes brighten up and a devilish grins creep up on their faces.  After all, bodily noises are timelessly funny.

“Better late than never, but never late is better”

I bet you thought I'd forgotten about that old list thing.  Not so!  I've just taken on various other projects (the playground, some yard work, my 30-days o' exercise).   I've also been trying to capitalize on the small window of springtime we get here in the south.  It's nice to be outside without sweating just from standing there, and the opportunity to do that is brief to say the least.

Despite all of that, since the list plays over and over in the back of my mind, I was able to accomplish one of the items as a result of getting up earlier in the mornings.  I had intended to start my quest to fulfill #1 ~ Get up when Sam gets up for one month, but I failed at that by Day 3.  As it turns out, I'm going to have to work up to that one.  You see, his alarm goes off at 4:30 in the morning, a time when many people our age are just winding down for the night.  I was successful at getting up in the 5 o'clock hour for a solid week, but 4:30, notsomuch.

Perhaps I should explain that the reason I want to get up is threefold:
  1. So that I can appreciate Sam's sleep sacrifice to get to work early so that he can leave early and pick our precious kids up from school in the afternoons at least three times a week,
  2. So that I can get my exercise out of the way first thing to energize me for the day,
  3. So that I can do some chores without taking time away from my family time at night.
I have to admit that it's been a successful venture so far.  And an unanticipated benefit is that by the time night rolls around, I'm so tired that I can actually fall asleep when I get into bed instead of lying there with nothing but my thoughts to keep me awake.

The best (albeit anticipated) byproduct of getting up more than an hour earlier is that I was able to be on time to work and all extracurricular activities for an entire week.  This, friends, is a list item that I had almost deemed impossible.  I had fallen into a terrible habit of getting to work between ten and fifteen minutes late, every single day.  I justified it by claiming that I couldn't possibly get here any sooner being that Ben's school doesn't open its doors until 7:45am.  That was just to make myself feel better.  It wasn't a legitimate excuse.  If I drop the girls off first and drop Ben off second, it means we have to leave a lot earlier than the 10-15 minutes I was late, but at least I get to work on time.  So that what we did.  And that's what worked.

Lateness really bothers me, and yet now that I have kids it seems to be my modus operandi.  My family has always been serious about punctuality.  My grandparents use to get to doctor's appointments before the staff had even arrived to unlock the office in the mornings.  My parents used to get us to Sunday School before 9am, with plenty of time to spare before it actually started at 9:45am (granted my dad was a teacher, but still!  That's early.).  And now, I'm habitually late.  Go figure.

The work part of the task was the hardest, but we also have Mission Friends on Wednesday night, T-ball on Thursday night (which technically we were 4 minutes late for, but a terrible accident and the fact that practice hadn't yet started by the time we arrived means we get to count it), and church on Sunday.  We didn't go to church this Sunday because Sam left for Oklahoma and we were delivering him to the shuttle service, but we got him to the shuttle in time.  So we weren't late for anything.  For seven whole days.

This means I get to say ~

10. Be on time for one whole week; to work, church, Mission Friends, and childrens choir.


(To be thorough though, we still need to get to church and Sunday School on time next week.  I'm optimistic!)

Flashback Friday - lower back pain

This week, in the midst of my quest to work out for 30 straight days, my back started hurting.  It might be a result of one of the exercises I have done.  It is more likely related to an unfortunate incident we had while building our new backyard playground, involving a not-so-smart attempt on my part to catch a giant piece of playground as it careened towards the ground.  I'm lucky I didn't seriously injure myself as my wrist got pinned between two 4x4's.  After a heroic rescue by a swift-moving, fast-thinking husband, I walked away with nothing more than a few pinch marks from a watch (which I believe saved my wrist) and a gigundo bruise above my right knee.

Oh yeah, and the back pain.  I try not to complain about things like this because, really, I know so many others have real, legitimate problems, and I don't like to be a whiny brat.  It's just that...it feels exactly like I am in my 8th month of pregnancy with the shooting sciatica pain going down my left leg when I move certain ways. 

I'm intimately familiar with this pain because one year ago I looked like this (warning - it's not pretty):

I like to think the belly has gotten a little smaller since then (but, unfortunately, I still have that same stupid expression on my face most of the time).

My back hurt (especially in this picture, as we'd just finished a 12-hour drive to Maryland in my 8th month of pregnancy).  And it hurt earlier and more intensely with each progressive pregnancy.

So here I am today, most assuredly not pregnant with a similar back pain and I couldn't help but think, "Well shoot.  If my back's going to hurt anyway, let's just have another baby."

Then I laughed really, REALLY hard.

And that, friends, is your Friday afternoon joke.  Hope you all have a great weekend!

a day in the life of Mom

While cleaning up one day, it makes you simultaneously smile and shudder when you discover that one of your three year old's dolls now has pink painted toenails.  Cute idea, but where-oh-where is the rest of the nail polish mess?

You know that when your little one looks at you and says, "I'm dirty", she's not propositioning you.  That's preschooler speak for, "I want to take a bath."

When the kids visit you at the office, they pass right by your desk and head for the chocolate stash in the back room filing cabinet.  Hey children, it's nice to see you too.

Playground slides seem a lot steeper these days.  Or at least they do now that it's your fragile offspring preparing to fly down one headfirst.

As sweet as it is that your kids want to bring you flowers, you're having a hard time driving home the point that it is wrong to pluck them out of gardens without permission.

If you ever need help finding a mud puddle, just put on your child's brand new pair of white shoes.  It's like a moth to light.

You told your three year old she was too young to wear makeup.  But you *didn't* tell her she was too young to use her markers...on her face.  (Hey, she gets a few points for creativity.)

Even though he was playing outfield, you were proud of your son when he ran all the way in for every single infield hit in his first t-ball game because that means he was at least paying attention, right?  (There he is on the right, still jogging in from center field.)

Under no circumstances should a six year old be given a roll of scotch tape and left unsupervised, unless, of course, your goal is to need to add scotch tape to your shopping list.

You've gotten pretty good at calling your kids' bluffs.  For instance:
You:  Did you put the tops back on your markers when you were finished with them?
Kid:  Yes.
You:  So if I walk back to your room and look at your markers, all of the tops will be on them?
Kid:  Yes.
You:  Okay.  (start walking towards the bedroom)
Kid:  Wait!!!  Let me go check.
You:  Ummm hmmmm.  That's what I thought.

The phenomenon of the unmatched socks

I can't believe I'm blogging about socks.  Again.  I blogged about the reunion with missing socks here and I mentioned the Mt. Everest of unmatched socks here.

It's the latter on which I'd like to expound.  You might think it's a bit of an exaggeration to claim to have a mountain of unmatched socks.  Fine.  I have a molehill of unmatched socks on my dryer.  But even a molehill of unpaired socks is too many!

On Monday night, I decided I was fed up with the socks atop the dryer.  Surely there were matches in that pile.  I trudged with the armful into the living room where I carefully laid out every single one of those tiny socks (and about six not-so-tiny ones).  I was able to match up half a dozen of them.  I was left with this -

You can count them.  There are 43 unmatched socks.  I know we're a household of five and all, but it almost seems unconscionable to own that many matching socks, let alone have that many singles floating around. 

So I did what anyone would have done in that situation, I looked in all of the possible single-sock locations - under the crib, under the beds, between the washer and dryer, behind the washer and dryer, under the nightstands, in the sheets.  I came up with five socks.  Only one of them matched another in the pile.  Two of them matched each other.  So I actually netted two more singles.  Nice.

Sam says to pitch them.  My head tells me that I should.  My heart is telling me not to give up on those poor, single socks.  Their mate could be out there waiting for them - somewhere.  For now, they're all still on the floor...providing entertainment for an eleven month old.

Tomorrow, I'll probably put them back on top of the dryer in hopes of finding their mates someday.  When that happens, I will have a joyous reunion with them that will no doubt go a little something like this -

In the meantime, I should probably consider stocking up on some of these thingies.

Flashback Friday - Kind of

As is the case with three children, I often find myself waiting in the tiny exam room of the pediatrician's office.  We go there for lots of reasons; well-visits (for those highly dreaded vaccinations), random fevers, hives, wheezing, but most popularly - ear infections.

Faulty construction is genetic, I say.  I get to point the finger at Sam for the ear issues.  The poor man is the only person I've ever known to get ear infections in adulthood.  He got a set of tubes in his twenties.  At any rate, it doesn't come as a surprise that our children are afflicted with poorly-draining Eustachian tubes.

Between the two older kids, they are minus two sets of adenoids and a pair of tonsils, and plus a set of tubes.  After all that, there was almost a hiatus from sickness.  Some of that was attributable to them getting older and stronger, some of it was attributable to the "germ sponges" having been surgically removed from their bodies, some of it was due to the immunity support of gummy vitamins (maybe).  Regardless of why, and with the exception of random colds and tummy bugs here and there, we were on a great streak.

It occurred to me around the middle of March, that we had been unbelievably healthy this winter.  And that's when I said it.  Out loud.  (And now I know better.)

Within the week, Ben had a fever, Abby had a fever and another fever, and Sarah had a fever.  We aren't sure what Ben's fever and Abby's first fever were from, some random virus, I suppose.  They got over them in about 24 hours.  Her second fever landed us in the pediatrician's office on Good Friday.  The diagnosis:  double ear infection.

The cool thing about having a three year old is that they can tell you what is wrong with them.   You don't have to guess anymore.  Unless, that is, their ears don't hurt whilst infected.  I quizzed Abby, and she swore her ears never hurt.  Needless to say, I was not expecting the doctor to say those words.  It had been years since her last ear infection.  She got her tubes in and adenoids taken out when she was 11 months old, had about two EI's that were treated with ear drops after that, and no more.  Until now.

(But while we're on the subject, here's a picture of the sweet little patient in that tiny hospital gown)

On Easter Monday, we went back to the doctor because Sarah had started running a fever.  The diagnosis:  double ear infection.  Well shoot.  Another prescription filled at CVS (who, thanks to our patronage, is in no danger of closing any time soon).

The moral of the story is:  Don't get cocky about your childrens' health.  It will bite you in the rear.  Or, more likely, infect their ears.

You thought the story ended there, but you are wrong!  There was an up side to that particular doctor's visit.  Since it was After Hours, we didn't see our "normal" pediatrician.  We saw one of the practice's other doctors.  And despite the fact that we are there a lot, he was one I've never met before.  I felt right as ease when he walked into the exam room, and before he even washed his hands he said, "Wow, it's hot in here.  Hang on a minute while I turn the thermostat down."  (That is my kind of guy!)  He settled in, checked her out, "Double ear infection", and then he rolled the seat back and started up a little conversation.  We chatted about the office, the location, how it's doing.  I commented that we come there a lot, love it, recommend it to everyone.  I mentioned that we were there three days prior for an identical diagnosis and prescription for my older daughter.

Then we chatted about how I had three kids.  Here's the interesting part - he asked me what it was like having three.  He and his wife just found out they were expecting their own #3 and wanted to know if it was going to get crazy or what.  I offered my opinion (that #2 rocked my world a lot more than #3, as Sarah just seemed to fall right in with our groove).  He told me that his second child was colicky and just a tough kid from the get-go, so that it was encouraging to hear that #3 might not be so bad.  I told him I'd been through the colic as well, and at the very least, he could now relate to his patients having experienced it first hand.  His words, "Some nights I wanted to throw him against the wall.  I teach the newborn class at the hospital for parents and I tell them point blank, 'Sometimes you will hate your kids.'"  You might think (especially if you aren't a parent) this is harsh, but I was actually impressed.  While I might not use the word "hate" (I just don't like that word), some nights it isn't all sweet baby kisses and cooing.  Sometimes it feels downright impossible and hopeless and never-ending. 

I left the doctors office that afternoon feeling refreshed and vindicated.  A health care professional asked little old me what it was like to raise three kids, because (and I guess I tend to forget this sometimes) I am raising three kids!  That qualifies me to give my opinion on the matter, and it was nice to be deemed as such.  I also know that before I was a mom, and even after becoming one, no one told me that I wouldn't be head over heels in love with my new blessing 24/7.  I wish someone would have told me.  So even though that pediatrician is taking a big risk saying that to new parents, I'm pleased that he is.  He is preparing them for real life.  I'm glad someone is telling them.

The second moral of the story is:  Your experiences as a parent are invaluable to others.  Share them!  

(And not all doctors think they know everything.)

I'll take tact for 500, Alex.

I hear this term "healthy debate" all the time.  Okay...  I know healthy debates exist and that many people are capable of having them.  I, on the other hand, struggle with this.  Debates are generally not healthy for me because they come with side effects like high blood pressure, sleeplessness, and that curse known as the inability to move on.

There is a time and place for debate, and it doesn't have to be adversarial.  Debate is, by definition, the discussion of two opposing view points.  It doesn't have to be emotional (but for me it automatically is) and it doesn't have to be about winning (but for me everything is).  I believe healthy debate is aimed at enlightening one another on topics about which we tend to have one opinion, the only right opinion...in our own humble opinion. 

While I love learning about everything and feel strongly about many things, I tend to be a listener rather than a debater.  I will listen to two people debate each other all day long, especially when it's without name-calling and condescension.  As soon as those two people turn to me for my opinion, I start to sweat.  And I mean profusely.  I start thinking about the implications of giving my opinion.  Automatically I assume that one of them will not like me if I don't side with them.  (I'm serious.  Apparently, I'm still in middle school.)  I'm afraid that I will hurt someone's feelings, that they will think less of me, that they will think I'm anything from uneducated to elitist, from too liberal to too conservative, from merciless to overly compassionate.  And depending on the subject matter, I'm probably a little bit of all of that (among other things).

The reason I assume that people will label me such things if I give my true opinion is because I do it.  I wholeheartedly albeit ashamedly admit that I am a snap-labeler.  (And the list of character flaws continues to grow....)  But hey, admitting it is the first step, right?  This so called snap-labeling is actually just a nice way of saying that I cast judgment.  It's not that I mean to judge the opinions of others, it just kind of...happens.  Judgment is dangerous.  It insinuates superiority.  It suggests that any of us actually have the authority to judge.  It also prevents us from learning.  Judgment is a barrier. 

It is important for me to note that judgment of someone's opinion on one issue is not the same thing as a judgment of that person.  My own fear of being judged is fed by my lack of confidence and perhaps, because I know that my opinions are not air-tight.  That's why debate is healthy.  It will either change your mind or solidify your original opinion.

Aside from the fear of being snap-labeled, I have a bigger problem with debating.  It's the potential for things to get ugly.  Fast.  I was born into a family of peacemakers (at least, I like to think of it that way.  What we actually do is deny that there's a problem at all, but I digress...).  We have a tendency to sugar-coat things ad nauseum, so as not to make people upset.  What we say is the truth, it's just with carefully chosen words so that we offend as few people as possible.

There's not necessarily anything wrong with that.  Though it's probably a little overkill sometimes.

It sets me up for a list though.  You're going to love it.  (Maybe.)

Jennie's Keys to Healthy Debate
1.  Know what you believe and why.  (Well, duh, right?  But so many people believe something only because they have been told it's what they should believe.)
2.  Say what you want to say in such a way that you "make your point without making an enemy".  (That, friends, is the definition of tact.)

Tact is something our culture lacks.  Kind of like chivalry (which is not completely dead...yet), tact is dying.  We have become so self-centered as a society, that we do not care who we offend, how we say what we believe, or what other people believe is right for them.  We disregard the opinions and feelings of others to pursue our own individual agendas.  I believe that debate (or discussion) can be healthy and is often necessary.  It's how we recognize alternatives.  Debate might not change someone's mind, but it can plant a seed.  The fate of the seed is often unknown.  The seed might ultimately sprout or it might die where it was planted.  But the first step is to plant it.

Seeds aren't generally successful at sprouting when you squash them between your fingertips, throw them on the ground, shove them into the hard dirt by mashing them with the toe of your boot, and walk away.  Seeds require care.  They require a gentle touch.  The soil where the seed will be planted has to be prepped, loosened.  When the seed is in the ground, it's not over.  It needs sunlight, water, and sometimes (for those hard-to-grow types) it requires the extra boost of a little fertilizer simply to grow. 

You can approach the same scenario in two very different ways and come away with two very different results.  The same applies to debate.  If the goal is to convince others that you are in the right, then it matters very much HOW you say what you say, not just what you're saying. No one I have ever known enjoys being ground into the dirt with the toe of a boot.

And that's it, folks.  A two item list.  Now it's time for me to take my own advice and get debating discussing.

And the Mom things continue...

You've heard of and dealt with projectile vomiting many a time, but you are also familiar with the phenomenon of projectile medicine.  This occurs when your children are given any type of medicine other than the beloved "pink stuff" and includes involuntary spraying out of the mouth, most often characterized by the fact that you end up wearing more of it on your shirt than they actually swallow.  The incidence of projectile medicine increases exponentially when you and/or the child are dressed and ready to go somewhere.

There is something about missing out on those last 5-10 minutes of sleep they would have gotten had you not had to wake them up for school/church/an appointment that turns them from the normal angelic child they are into the devil incarnate. 

One of your biggest successes in parenting life is to be able to say, "Hooray!  We weren't that late!"

You keep a "small" stash of snacks in your car in case of emergency.  You never know when you might end up stuck in traffic, stranded in the snowy mountains, or spending an extra three hours at a doctors appointment that should have taken five total minutes.

Of course the best things in life are free, but you also know that some of life's greatest treasures cost one dollar or less, like a bag of popcorn at Target, those little rubber figurines that grow when you put them in water, and $ store coloring books.

You now know not to brag about how healthy your children have been lately.  This will only bring about an onslaught of sickness, including four infected ears and a fridge full of antibiotics.

Because it was Easter, you attempted to get all of your kids to smile and look at the camera, and you got this in the process -

If that doesn't sum it all up in one picture, nothing does.

Outlandish statements made by your children become your primary source of entertainment.  For instance, you overheard this conversation the other day while your husband was bathing your three year old:

3yo:  Why did you take your glasses off, Daddy?
Daddy:  Because I put my contacts in.  Does that bother you?
3yo:  Yes.  It makes me very angry.

And on the way to school:

3yo:  Why is CVS closed?
Me:  They don't open until 8 o'clock.
3yo:  But I see a light on.
Me:  I guess they do that so people don't come in and steal things.
3yo:  But why don't they want people to steal things, Mama?

You've experienced the hallow leg syndrome.  That is, approximately 10 minutes after you get up from a full meal, one or all of your children approach you and say, "I'm still hungry."  Really?  Where are they putting that food?

You're a little frightened by your daughter's amazing acting abilities after she convinced you that she dropped her shoe out of the car window the other day (only to find out she had tucked it down next to her in the carseat).  What is mostly-innocent fun right now could easily transform into full-fledged, convincing lies down the road.  Perhaps you won't encourage her to pursue the dramatic arts after all.


P.S. - Not sure what the significance is, and half of the hits are probably me, but I realized in passing that we've reached over 10,000 page views.  Not too shabby!  Thanks for reading. 

ahh, Ahhh, AHHH-CHOO!!!!!!

Remember how much I said I love springtime?  I stand by that.  I think.  It's just that I always seem to question myself when The Pollen comes down.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with springtime in the south, you wouldn't understand that The Pollen is indeed a proper noun.

I witness the phenomenon that is The Pollen every year, but I have to admit it seems worse this spring.  Every year the cars are tinged in yellow.  Some years it seems as if there's a yellow haze on the horizon.  But this year, The Pollen seems almost alive.  A plague o' Pollen, if you will.

I should have known it was coming when I read this article on the local news website, entitled 2010 Allergy Season Short but Intense.  Thanks to the torrential downpours monsoons rain we got in the earlier part of the year, and an unseasonably cold winter for central Georgia, the plants and trees decided to wait to blossom all at one time.  An optimist would look at this as a more beautiful spring, but the realist sees this as a nightmare for allergy sufferers.  Pollen of this magnitude makes even the least allergic people feel the effects.  (It's true!  I've heard lots of complaints as I eavesdrop my way through daily life.)

In case words don't do it justice (because they don't and can't), here are some pictures for you.  You may have to click on them to enlarge for the full effect.

These are the tracks through the pollen on our driveway.  You might typically see tracks like this on a dirt road in a drought, or a paved road in the snow but notsomuch on a driveway - because of pollen.

I mean, ick.  If the roads looks like this, so do the insides of our lungs, and even grosser, the undersides of our eyelids!

Here is the doorknob to my office building that I try so hard not to have to touch every morning when I unlock it.

These are the steps that lead up to the dusty doorknob.  The front face of them is the appropriate brick color, the top appears to be a little mildewy or just dirty.  I assure you, it's just covered in The Pollen.

It comes, then, as no surprise at all that this is the pollen forecast,

...hampered only in the slightest by the threat of thunderstorms on Thursday.

I'm no pediatrician, but I am a mom, and I'm blaming my sweet little girls' recent double ear infections on this madness.  And in the spirit of optimism (which, I assure you does not come naturally to me), may this short-but-intense allergy season be over, well, shortly!

And because you'll no doubt need a few of these (or, if you're like me, about twenty of these in rapid succession):

"God Bless You!"

Six year olds are full of it.

And by "it", I mean all of those things you want to write down in the baby book, but can never seem to remember when you pull the thing out.

Ben had a whole weekend full of those things.  Darned if I can remember them now...

But first, I have to back way up.  Because I love for you to have as many details as possible, thereby making even the shortest stories long.  There's no such thing as "long story short" on this blog.  No sir or ma'am.

You see, we're building a playground in our backyard.  To call it a playset or swingset would be a misnomer.  It was inspired by this:


What this means is that my industrious husband spent lots of time ciphering with a calculator and spreadsheets, planning out each detail so that we could bring this to our backyard.

Then he rented a truck and hauled a couple of tons of lumber to our driveway.  

(I can't tell a lie, we could stop the project right now and I'd be okay with it.  Just because I got to see Sam drive that gigantic truck.)  Over the next few days, my dad and Ben carried that wood to the backyard.  (Thanks guys!  And hey, I helped...a little.  I carried six whole 10-foot 4x4's.  Then it got dark, so I quit.)

Then the construction started.  And it appears that we could just build an empty shell of a playground and it would be as much fun for the kids.

As Sam, my dad, and I worked as a team to fasten the pieces together with giant lag bolts, Ben watched with excited anticipation.  It was a process that involved three different drill bits, one of which was a socket bit to get the bolt into the wood.  The drill Sam used to do the latter was a corded drill.  It is so powerful that I am actually scared to use it.  When the bolt makes it all the way into the wood, the drill keeps going, even after the bit won't turn anymore.  It was jerking my dad's and Sam's arms all over the place.  I'm not confident enough in my wrist strength to be able to resist it's torquing power.  I voiced this out loud to Sam and my dad.  "My wrists just aren't very strong.  I'm scared to use that drill."

And that's when Ben chimed in.  With a chortle as he sat on his duff drinking some sweet tea in the shade, he said, "Heh.  That's because boys are stronger."

Really, Ben?  I had no idea chauvinism was instinctual.  Or do they teach small boys these things in school?  He's lucky I'm not one of those women, or he'd have gotten a swift kick in the you-know-where.  Instead, I couldn't do much but chuckle myself.  The irony of him saying something like that while sitting on his duff drinking sweet tea in the shade was too much.

On Easter Sunday, we took a break from playground construction to do more Easter-y things, like celebrate Jesus's victory over death at church.  We even got a pretty good shot of all three kids all dressed up in their Easter finest.  

Then, we did those other things, like decorate bunny cakes and hunt for eggs.  When the front yard egg hunt was over, Sam checked out some sidewalk chalk that the kids had done with Grandmom the day before.  Upon noticing this one, Ben made the comment that "Abby draws potato people."  

If there's a more appropriate name for that little dude, let me know.   Personally, I think Ben nailed it.  There you have it.  Potato people.

In an effort to make this "short story" no longer than it already is, I'll wrap this up.  I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and even better Easter.  May we all take time to remember that it is about more than bunnies, cute little girl hats, and egg hunts.  It's about the greatest gift that you and I have ever been given.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. John 3:16-17

For Accountability

What better way to stay motivated than to post to the entire interweb that I intend to do something INCREDIBLE in the month of April?  Call it an April Resolution, if you want to, since those January/New Year's things don't really work, but this is the goal:  to exercise every single day in the month of April.

After having a good bit of success with dropping some pounds back in November and December, I have allowed my eating habits to maintain a holiday pace, and have (of course) packed some of those pounds back on.  If you know me at all, you know that my sun rises and sets on food.  I realize that this is not a healthy mindset, but it is who I am.  It's been me for 26 years now.  So that's something that will be very hard to undo.  To be honest, I'm not really even sure that I want to.  I've always kind of felt that exercising was my excuse to eat those foods that I love so dearly.  The problem is that my daily life no longer includes this exercise of which I speak and on which I rely.  So, it's time to change that.  (Especially with summer and bathing suit weather being just around the corner.)

I should tell you that I try not to let the list consume me, but I do tend to keep it in the back of my mind at most times.  There are any number of list items that would help me drop some pounds:

1. Get up when Sam gets up for one month. (0/31) -  If I woke up that early, I would definitely have time for exercise.

25. Drink nothing but water for a week. - As I sit in my office drinking some super-sugary from-a-can cappuccino beverage...  I've progressed leaps and bounds from what I used to be, that is a coke addict (Coca-cola, of course), but I've clearly made up for those missing calories with other things...like cookies.

26. Cook a vegetarian meal. - This would be especially beneficial if incorporated into our menu, say, weekly.

28. Complete a 30 Day Challenge on EA Active. (0/30)  - Okay, to be honest, this is an okay workout, but I'm not sure how well it will help me "lose weight".  It couldn't hurt though.  My problem with this one is that I have trouble sticking with *anything* for 30 days.

30. Play tennis with Sam at least ten times, no matter how horribly he kicks my tail.(0/10)  - I'm ashamed to admit that we haven't done this once in the six months I've been trying to complete list tasks.  I'm also ashamed to admit that I am one of those people who used to scoff at tennis as a "fake" sport.  Then I tried it, and holy cow, it's hard. 

Of course, all of these would help to achieve the following:

27. Reach two new "tens-places" in my weight.  (For instance, if I start at 480lbs, I need to get to 460.)

45. Fit into or give away all of the clothes in my closet.  

And as a progression on 24. Run a 5K., I have decided to sign up for a 10K.  Running is like crack - in a slightly more healthy, but just as demented way.  (And since I can convince myself of anything, I have already talked myself out of the 10K that the local mall is hosting in August.  I mean, seriously, is it even safe to run 10K in August in Georgia?  That sounds like suicide.)

If I weren't so chicken (and embarrassed to admit it), I would post my starting weight here.  But I am, so I won't.  Let's just say, it's a bigger number than it should be.  Let me also say that I don't hate my body, especially after all that it's been through in the past seven years.  I just know it can be better than it is.  I know I can be healthier than I am.  So, here's hoping that a small lifestyle change can make a small difference (or more optimistically, a big difference!).

So this is it.  April 1st.  And as much as I would like to say "April Fools! HAHAHA.  I can't believe you fell for that!", I am actually embarking on a 30 day commitment to exercise.

Thanks for the support!  And as always, thanks for reading!
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