Monday, July 27, 2015

highs, lows, bests, and worsts

Sometimes you just have to stop and asses the quality of your domestic and parental endeavors both for the sake of additional laughter and learning in the realm of the wife and mother world. Enter highs and lows, bests and worsts.

+ This summer has been as sorts of busy with things that normal, fun parents do for their kids in the summer that I have never brought myself to do out of sheer laziness, one of which is the ever-so-necessary SWIM LESSONS!! This is a best and a high for me because I am DOING it. I am getting them there, they are learning to swim, I am fulfilling my motherly duty and they are much less likely to meet their maker during an otherwise fun and uneventful beach trip. It's good. But then today it was also a...

+ Low and worst. Because! I was in the locker room getting dressed in one of the stalls after instructing Bernadette and Lucy to sit tight while Naomi and I dressed. It was then that I heard Lucy ask in her typical loud and nasally voice as to the color of some one's skin. I held my breath and almost breathed a sigh of relief when I didn't hear anyone answer back right away and hoped beyond all hope that she was simply asking Bernadette about someone she had seen and NOT asking an innocent bystander if they "had very black skin???". But then my relieved sigh turned into a guttural gag when I heard the poor woman answer Lucy with a very gracious "yes, I have darker skin than you" and then proceeded to even more graciously laugh out loud about "how much Lucy was staring at her" (cue every mortified, horrified emoji there is in the whole world!!!). I promise we do not only have white friends, I just have very tactless kids and I am not the best teacher-parent.

She'll figure it out one day and so will I.

+ I have become very aware of how horrible I am at getting to commitments on time and last Tuesday found me running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying not to be late again to our second swim lesson and sprinting into the building only to discover that lessons were actually canceled that day due to an accident in the pool. I was not about to have all of my efforts at getting so many kids clad and in the car be in vain and decided to make a quick run to Old Navy to return a few things purchased on a gloriously kid-free shopping stop a few days prior. Need I even say more about why this was a major low/worst? 4 kids in Old Navy with lots of tweens and college aged people with zero kids and open-mouth stares and all those mannequin in the front of the store. It made for a really fun, tantrum filled trip complete with appendages falling off the mannequins and Lucy riding the fake Old Navy dog. She flat-out refused to leave the store because she had claimed the dog as her own and I walked out with a confused baby on one hip and one screaming toddler on the other. I made the firm resolution then and there to never do that again. Or at least not for a few weeks.

+ Ok, how about a high or best. It's 2:30 p.m., 2 kids are "napping" and I am drinking coffee out of a Guinness glass:

Elmo says "at least it's not Guinness". A high and a low if you ask me.

How about you? Share our goods and bads, I am all E-Ears.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Lucy Gems

I started this little blog when Naomi was almost 3, and for a long time it revolved around her: ridiculous and funny things that she said and did, what life was like with such a funny, rambunctious toddler underfoot and so on. But now she is 6 and there is a new resident ridiculous, funny, rambunctious almost 3-year-old, who has an extra side of serious sass to boot, and who deserves her own little web log of her absurd ways. So here it goes.

The thing about Lucy is her hair:

It frames everything that she says and does because you're like, "wait, is that a 2-year-old talking to me or a middle-aged woman who just walked out of a salon after getting her hair blown out?". Is it Lucy or a young Candice Bergen?, you may wonder.

It's hard to tell the difference.

I assure you that I literally never do anything to it, I don't even brush it save for after her bi-weekly hose down in the tub (she is terrified of the bath since the incident.)

I think this haiku sums up Lucy's  life pretty aptly:

Taking toys away
"I need more apple juice NOW"
Lives in pretend world  

I have been awful at recording stuff that Lucy and Bernadette say to continue Too Much Talking (I'll work on it), but here are a few gems that have poured fourth from Lucy in the last few months that I could not NOT remember.

Walking into her room to a smell that indicated recent defecation:
Ana: Lucy, did you poop?
Lucy: Yes. Then I jumped up, get down, stand up, turn around. Then I smacked my head. It was bad. Really, really bad.

In response to something very coherent that Naomi said:
"Me-no-me just doesn't make any sense"

"Mama!! My skin is falling off!!!!!!!!!!!!"

"When I was a little baby, I had a baby in my tummy!"

Walking up to me excitedly:
Lucy: Hey, mom! You're shitty!
Ana: What?
Lucy: You're shitty, mom!
Ana: What does that mean?
Lucy: It means that you're shitty!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

i couldn't have known and it wouldn't have mattered

I know I have given Joseph his fair share of blog-tention, and the girls may end up having blog-complexes about him being the blog-favorite, (but I am still holding out hope that they will never ever discover this e-space, so there is that). I was perusing the blog archives to see if I had potentially posted anything on this very day last year-- a favorite blog-pastime of mine-- and I this is what I found, I'll just give you the screen shot of the part I'm being all introspective about, because that's more fun:

I always love tapping into my overly emotional, nostalgic side with the blog, in fact it is one of my favorite parts of having it, and so here I go, comparing that post from this exact day last year with how things are now. Let's do a little point by point comparison:

+ Then- I was ready not to be pregnant. Now- of course now I'm already ready for another gestation (NOT pregnant that I know of)

+ Then- I was angry that I was still pregnant. Now- having very vivid memories of how hard those last weeks of pregnancy are to cool my baby feverish self

+ Then- Feeling clueless about the prospect of having a boy. Now- hoping to only ever have boys from here on out (only kind of kidding)

+ Then- Excitement over having a boy. Now- read above.

+ Then- Impatient urge for him to be here. Now- read above.

+ Then- Terror at the thought of taking care of 4. Now- I can't remember what it was like only having 3, or 2, or 1.

+ Then- Joy and gratitude at all the blessings. Now- SAME.

+ Then- Sadness that it's not just me and the girls. Now- I literally can't remember how it was before Joe. So weird.

All in all, this year has been a crazy whirlwind: his birth 3 weeks early, followed by his extended stay in the NICU, with a chaser of a scare for me in the ER, a more colicky baby then I was ready for and then being sidelined by some really rough postpartum issues-- and that was only in the first few months of his life. By the time he was 5 months old everything had done a total 180 degree turn-- he was the jolliest little guy ever, sleeping much better, and my postpartum craziness was cooling off a bit. But it's no wonder that I can't remember anything before him.

Never could I ever have anticipated all that was to come, regardless of my overly-emotional attempts and huge amounts of blog-venting. I certainly never thought it was going to be as hard for me as it was, but knowing would not have mattered because in the end I would be in the same place I am now. I would have needed to rely on our Lord and on Mike and other support systems just as much as I did. I would have come out on the other end just the same as I am now, and I would be just as in love with Joe as ever and wanting more babies even more, no matter how hard it all is.

And as for whether he would make it to his 1st birthday without being dressed up like a little lady, I will refer you to this screen shot from the Grams of him at 3.5 months old, all dressed in a purple Rapunzel dress with bows on his head.

He gets no cash from me.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Tips for a Successful Rest Time

Mandatory Rest Time is an absolute must in our house, and there are days where it works swimmingly and I actually have an entire hour to myself, then there are days where it's more like 20 minutes, and on rare occasions, Lucy refuses to nap and sabotages all of it, both of the ladder are the exceptions these days.

It is so necessary for my sanity, and now that Bernadette is consistently not napping, she and Naomi actually have a blast hanging out alone playing quietly (or loudly) coloring or "crafting" by themselves while I do whatever it is I need to do during the ever-so-cherished quiet time. It is so important for me to have this little respite in the day, whether it is for meal prep, a little cleaning without ankle biters at my heals undoing it all, time to blog, time to pray, time to lay down if it was a rough night, whatever-- TIME for me. I can't really live without it.

Here are my 5 helpful tips for successful mandatory rest time:

{1} Be consistent about it. Even if it doesn't go well all the time, just make the move to do it every day and before you know it will be a bona fide ingrained habit for them-- it doesn't take long for it to happen, I promise! I find that my kids really thrive on an organized, consistent scheduled day, which I stink at a lot of days, but then some days I hit the nail on the head and those end up being the best.

{2} Have accessible coloring and craft materials. My girls are really into cutting and gluing (uh, what kid isn't? I know). It doesn't need to be an organized craft, if I just tell them they can take out craft stuff, they get all giddy and it occupies them for many minutes. I just recently rearranged our schooling stuff so that they can reach the scissors and glue themselves, which means one less trip down the stairs for me and it makes everything a little simpler.

{3} Leave them with a snack or have one that they can easily and quietly access. I always get hungry around 2, and they do too, so I don't blame them for moseying upstairs looking for sustenance. If I leave them with a bowl of nuts or fruit, or make sure to have an open box of granola bars in the cupboard for them to grab, interruptions are minimized, and all parties are full and happy.

{4} Get some books on tape/cd. These will always be a golden go-to for me during rest time. There are some all-the-time favorites that the older girls have (The Chronicles of Narnia series and the Beatrix Potter stories) and then we have a whole collection of old Disney tapes that they love too. Naomi is perfectly capable of getting them set up, and as long as I leave them out and ready, I don't need to be bothered, which is priority number 1.

{5} Turn on the television. On the really rough days, where I've been up since before 5 and spent hours in the ER with a child, or on sick days or even just on regular old days, sometimes television is the very best way to get a solid chunk of legitimate quiet time. Whatever method you use, utilizing a little screen time can often contribute to the general happiness and well-being of the house hold and while we try not to overdo it here, there are days when it's the best thing for everyone.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

not your mom's mac and cheese

Summer time presents the biggest culinary challenge to me as a house wife whose residence is without central air conditioning. The amount of delicious, healthy, and creative meals that I can come up with without needing to use the oven and that aren't hot soups in the crock pot is very limited (hot soup + summer humidity = everyone's irritable at dinner). I'm well aware that this has way more to do with my deficiency in the areas of creativity and cooking than it does with the amount of recipes that are out there, but regardless, the arrival of my Blue Apron box (post sponsors!) on the doorstep the other day was all-too welcome.

Fresh, healthy ingredients plus delicious, creative recipes and instructions included with zero grocery store trips, and I get to take all the credit because I did the cooking.

This meal-- Summer Squash Cavatappi Pasta with Fresh Mozzarella and Chopped Salad-- was especially appreciated because, as I've mentioned, any variation in the arena of meatless meals in this home is absolutely nonexistent.

But not now!

I am a frequent mac-and-cheese-from-scratch-maker, but I have never incorporated beautiful balls of fresh mozzarella into any of my recipes, so this one put me entirely to shame.

The girls were begging for more and Mike had nothing but high praises. The chopped salad was so flavorful and a really great change from my usual go-to veggie side-- sauteed broccoli, always and forever.

I am also eager to try the Seared Salmon and Roasted Potatoes and the Fontina and Basil Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, for our meatless meal nights.

Blue Apron highlights:
+ They offer a 2-Person Plan and a Family Plan- the family plan feeds a family of four, with the cost per person at around $8.74

+There is no commitment and you can always cancel the service at any time.

+ All the recipes are between 500-700 calories per person

+ Locally sourced suppliers of all the wonderfully farm fresh ingredients

+ They deliver in an impressive refrigerated box that would keep your food cold for quite a while if you're not there when it arrives.

And, since Blue Apron is a seriously generous bunch, they are offering the first 25 readers 2 meals of their first Blue Apron order for FREE, just click HERE!

    Tuesday, July 7, 2015

    the "virtue" of showing up

    I don't know whether it's the fatigue brought on so many aspects of motherhood, or the fact that I am a woman whose attitude is all-too dictated by my various hormonal states, but some days-- not all the days, but some of them-- can feel so crushing.

    It's no one thing, and it doesn't even have to be anything that is legitimately, inherently difficult: pouring a bowl of cereal, reading a short story book, answering my phone, SMILING, doesn't matter-- some days each and everything thing that I am asked to do feels like a 1000 pound weight on my back and takes every ounce of energy for me to do.

    And on those days while I go through the motions of this vocation, straining so hard to just do the simplest things, the guilt begins to build up about the fact that I am not being cheerful, that I don't seem like I want to be doing this, that my gratitude is not palpable. I really wrestle with that guilt and then it starts to compound how hard everything already feels. And why? Why do I feel guilty? I am here, I am doing what I am asked to do, I am showing up.

    The problem is that "just showing up" has gotten a really bad rap. We're told as mothers that we should "thriving!" that we should be "all in, all the time!", and yes, I totally agree that we should strive for those things-- strive to thrive, strive to be all in. However, in the mean time, while we mothers of many little ones trudge through these trenches, there will be days that will feel totally crushing, and all that we will be able to do is show up and do what we're asked to do-- and there is nothing about this that should be guilt inducing, it is absolutely OK to just show up.

    To be clear-- I am not talking here about doing things with anger or with a bitter or resentful attitude, which would be actually sinful, but simply not being a ball of cheer and not being-- or even trying to fake being-- into it. This job is the hardest there is, and yet no matter how much I tell myself that, or how much other people tell me that, I still let guilt over not doing it perfectly dominate so many of my days.

    Pressure abounds in every direction to put a cheerful face on everything, I have resolved to do it myself: to make this motherhood thing not look as incredibly difficult as it is, and I think that this is the ideal, this is what I hope will be the rule and not the exception for me one day. But for right now these incredibly difficult days come more frequently than the easy ones, and on the really rough ones, just showing up is actually me fulfilling the duties of  my vocation as best I can.

    On the really hard days, everything in my being wants to check out, call in sick, to not show up at all. So not only should I not feel guilty for only showing up, I should feel triumphant about it. I am here! I am doing it! Yes I am pouring the bowl of cereal as if my arm is made of steel and the box is a 50 pound weight, and yes, my face may look like someone just ran over my kitten, but I am pouring it. I am changing the diapers, I am wiping the bottoms, I am even reading the story book, albeit with a voice akin to Ben Stein in the eye drop commercials, but I am reading it.

    During this season of my life, even the "easy" days are full of very trying moments, and no day is without it's fair share of opportunities to be heroic in virtue. But maybe showing up is its own "virtue" during this season, maybe it doesn't need to be a smile while changing a diaper, or doing all the funny voices in the story that express my gratitude for these many blessings, maybe some days just showing up and doing those things is enough.

    Friday, July 3, 2015

    Developing and Nurturing Friendships {as a wife and mom}

    I hate advice-giving posts, but friendship is something that has really been on my mind lately, for reasons that I'll get to below, so indulge me this post please? Thanks. Correct me if I'm wrong (for real, I might be wrong!), but it seems like one of the hardest things about transitioning from single life to life as a wife and mother is making good friends.

    I am a serious extrovert, and I need friends-- I mean I NEED friends. I need to see people on a regular basis, but I especially need a couple good friends, or even just one good lady friend who I feel comfortable just sitting with like I would sit with my sisters. I think that this is a really important thing for every woman, whether she realizes it or not, and I think that as hard as it can be, it is important to work toward.

    A couple of years ago my closest friend, Marisa, moved away because her husband got a job. Our girls were very close and we were very close and it was really hard.

    The curse of a community made up of grad students is that no one is here permanently, but everyone is here just long enough to get really close to them, and there are so many wonderful people to be friends with! After Marisa moved, I became really close with another wonderful lady named Sarah, and now I'm in the same boat I was in a couple years ago because- of course- she and her beautiful family are moving very far away and naturally just typing that sentence induced many tears.

    While I am intensely sad that she is leaving, I don't feel the same kind of anxiety over the friend situation that I used to both because of this ideal community and because after 7 years of making friends, nurturing those relationship, and saying goodbye to so many friends, I am finally starting to feel comfortable with the process.

    I am not a social expert by any means, but here are a few things that I have learned over the years:

    1) Adjusting your exceptions will only serve to help you. When we first moved here, I was only one year out of college and found myself immediately only seeking out the type of friends that I had in college. Those friends were wonderful, but it didn't take long to learn that my new vocation would connect me with women with very different personalities and temperaments than those college friends and they would also be wonderful. Sticking with an arbitrary *idea* of the type of person I wanted to be friends with was just not something that was helping me, and as soon as I let it go, it got much easier. I ended up befriending so many great ladies in our first year here that I probably never would have hung out with in college- and many of those friendships I will have for the rest of my life.

    2) Comfort zones can be traps. There are countless memories that I have of Mike telling me to "just send an email to her!". I would tell him about someone I met and got along with, and how I thought we could be friends, but then I wouldn't do anything about it, which usually resulted in very long lags between seeing any friends at all, but if I had just sent the email or made the call, I could have. I don't know if it's the case that children simply rob you of anything resembling a "comfort zone", but I don't even feel like I have one anymore and it's become much easier for me to initiate friendships and respond to others initiating them. I've had some really great friendships grow out of a quick swapping of info and setting up a play date-- sometimes it's really awkward, but most of the time it's entirely natural.

    3) Parenting styles can be a total non-issue, if you let them be. This one is hard, especially if the majority of your interactions take place when you have all of your kids with you. I feel like I am notoriously the ultra-strict parent about a lot of things, but then I'm the one who lets her kids eat the most crap- and I imagine that is weird for my friends who are more laid back about the stuff I'm disciplining about and who don't want me loading their kids up with copious graham crackers. But you'll notice that neither of those things have much to do with lots of bonding elements in a friendship-- things like faith, political or personal interests, books you like, movies you watch, all sorts of things that you can chat about without even touching on the minutia of parenting. It means letting things slide when you're doing a play date, and not imposing your parenting style on others, and it means not letting it bother you if you don't do things the way your friends do-- this can be hard, but it's possible. Which brings me to the next one.

    4) Hanging out when the kids are NOT around is the best thing ever. This is something I have started doing a whole lot more as more kids have come and as the older ones have gotten bigger. Play dates can feel so chaotic once each mom has more than 2 kids, and the big ones tend to dominate with their size and volume level, which makes any real conversation between mothers more challenging.
    Case in crazy point:

    Good and sweet, but also crazy and hard sometimes.
    The solution? Margarita nights! Dessert and tea nights! My friend Sarah and I generally squeeze one night in a week when just the two of us get together after the kids are down-- it is super laid back, there is no other intention other than talking and connecting without constant conversation interruptions, and I would say it has been the best thing for our friendship, I am really going to miss it.

    5) Staying away from gossip and/or husband bashing is only ever a good thing. Call me Captain Obvious, but I still think it is worth mentioning, because it is always a temptation and never good for a friendship.

    These are a few things I have learned and I am learning more all the time about this. I am not looking forward to the challenge of doing this in a whole new place, with lots of new people when it comes time for us to move on too, but share your wisdom with me! Then I can come back and learn even more!