Monday, December 31, 2012

Best Laid Plans

I last left you when I was about to embark on a cleaning frenzy while the kids were staying with my parents before Christmas.  Dan and I spent those 2 days cleaning like mad and putting together the boys' new train table Christmas present, as well as a good 4-hours-straight cleaning toys out of the playroom to make space for the new train table...  Have I mentioned that our kids have too many toys?  I felt good that we were able to get a lot done, and we actually sneaked in a "date night" the second night--we had a quick 30-minute dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants (who also supplied our wedding cake 8 years ago, by fun coincidence!).  It was only a 30-minute dinner because they were closing...but it was still nice to have a kid-free dinner out.  The house was perfect--clean, beautiful, uncluttered--when the kids returned the day before Christmas Eve.  Abby wasn't really feeling herself when she got home, but I thought she was just battling a little cold.  She had a fever when we woke up on Christmas Eve morning, though.

in their Christmas finery in front of our tree on Christmas Eve morning

We headed out to my parents' house on Christmas Eve for my family's big Christmas together.  My parents just moved into a new house, so this was our first Christmas at their new place--pretty exciting!  The kids just love it there, and we had a wonderful holiday celebration with my family--the kids got totally spoiled, but that's nothing new when grandparents are involved.  We got home around 10:30pm Christmas Eve night with three sleeping kiddos in the car--Abby most certainly wasn't feeling well as the day wore could just see it in her eyes.  Dan and I carried the kids to their beds and got busy, helping prepare the house for Santa's visit.  I had to clean all the tracks and trains that I had bought from my sister's neighbor, and Dan got the job of setting all the tracks up on the new train table by the tree.  Having never had a train table before, I had NO idea how long the whole set-up would take...and it took a long time.  Dan was less than thrilled about the late-night work...around 2:30am, his project was complete and he went to bed.  I still had some stocking stuffers to wrap, so I was up until 4am making sure everything was perfect and Santa wouldn't have too much to do when he dropped by.  I thought I should check on Abby before I went to bed, so I slipped into her room with the thermometer and some Tylenol in case she was still running the fever.  I kept her lights off, and had to step into the hallway to see the reading on the thermometer--and my heart about stopped when I saw that it read 105.3.  What???  Is that even possible?  I took it again and the thermometer read the 105 reading was probably accurate.  I woke her up to give her Tylenol, and she answered me and seemed to be okay...other than that crazy fever.  I went into our room and woke Dan up to tell him--he wanted to take her to the ER, but I googled high fevers in children and read that the fever isn't really what you should worry about if the child is acting okay, and she was acting fine when I gave her the medicine.  I was irrationally exhausted--I didn't want to mess up our Christmas morning by having Abby at the ER and neither of us getting any sleep.  Is that a reason not to take your sick kid to the ER?  Probably not, but at 4:30am on Christmas Day, it's what I went with as I fell into an uneasy sleep.


Christmas morning at our own house was actually wonderful and exactly what I had hoped for--Abby woke me up (still with a fever, but acting excited and happy), and she and Jake played so nicely and patiently while we all waited upstairs for Alex to wake up (a slight kink in the plan to all come downstairs to the perfect Christmas spread = Alex's room is downstairs).  When Alex woke up, I put a blanket over his head and ran him through the living room and up the stairs--he was not happy about that turn of events, cried hysterically, and wouldn't cooperate for any pictures at the top of the stairs.  Oops.  We finally ushered them all down the stairs to the awesome Christmas spread--Santa and Mommy and Daddy rocked it this year!

Merry Christmas!

The kids had a great time opening their presents (although truthfully, they weren't all that interested once they saw the train table...we kept having to redirect them back to more presents!), and they played so well together with their new things.  It was so relaxing and wonderful, and we got them all down for naps/quiet time before Dan's parents arrived for more festivities and dinner.  Despite being ridiculously tired, I managed not to stress about the food (it helped that we picked up 2 rotisserie chickens, so I really didn't have to do much at all), and we had a nice evening together.  We put Abby to bed early, because she still wasn't feeling well and we thought she could use the extra rest.  Dan's parents were getting ready to head home right as I was putting Alex to bed, and somehow, Alex managed to headbutt me not once, but TWICE in the exact same spot on my lip when I was trying to put him down...I emerged from his room with a massive bloody swollen lip, and waved goodbye to Dan's parents with an ice pack and blood everywhere.  What a weird end to a good Christmas Day.

I should have known things would go downhill from there...  I had a lot of ideas for how I wanted to spend our family time--Dan off work and Abby off school--after Christmas.  The new Children's Museum at National Harbor.  The snow at the Gaylord National Hotel.  The National Building Museum in DC.  Maybe some mornings out to breakfast at Einstein Bagels.  Just stuff that we don't usually get to do together with everyone's busy schedules.  But the day after Christmas, I figured we would relax and let the kids enjoy their presents.  My lip really hurt that next day and it looked like I had been in a brawl.  Abby was still running that fever and eventually started complaining that her ear was hurting, so Dan took her to the emergency room the evening of the 26th.  At 2am on the 27th, Jake was awake and screaming because he couldn't breathe...he had croup (an unfortunate Christmas gift from our neighbors, who unknowingly brought it to Dan's office Christmas party and passed it around like candy--Dan's boss' kids now also have croup...).  Medicine for his fever, a sit in a steamy bathroom, and humidifier set up in his room, and eventually we all went back to sleep.  Rounds of medicine for two kids all day on the 27th--antibiotics and Motrin/Tylenol for Abby, Motrin/Tylenol for Jake...and I'm starting to not feel so good.  At 4am on the 28th, Jake is awake and screaming that his ear is hurting off to the emergency room I go with him.  Now I'm really not feeling good with the lack of sleep combined with whatever gunk I'm getting from all the kids.  Rounds of medicine on the 28th, and my parents pick up Abby (who is finally perking up a bit) for my niece's birthday party--we were all supposed to go and have a fun day together, but that clearly wasn't happening.  It's now the 31st, and we haven't left the house since the 24th (other than those pesky ER runs)--we're stuck in a quarantined, never-ending sickness hell that has hit all of us and made us miserable.  I feel like my head is underwater, have a constant headache, and can hardly hear anything.  Dan's throat hurts.  Jake can't shake the fever despite meds all day along with the antibiotic for his ears, and he just coughs, coughs, coughs when he lays down.  Alex just has a runny nose, cough, and fever at this point--Dan and I are taking bets about when we'll be in the ER next with him for an ear infection.  My parents ended up taking Abby back to their house after that birthday party, which is probably just as well--she doesn't need to be around this house of sickness as she is finally feeling better.  Our family fun vacation is quickly coming to an end with everyone back to work and school on Wednesday, and we have done nothing fun.  We are a hot mess.  And to top it all off, my house that was so magnificently, sparkling, wonderfully clean just a few days ago now needs another deep clean to get rid of these germs...once I get my head above water, that is.

Oh, and one other thing:  Why is it that I can't get some sort of nasty stomach virus that will help me shed unwanted pounds instead of a monstrous head cold that doesn't infringe on my holiday cookie eating in the slightest??

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Reluctant Hostess

I've been told that at least one reader (ahem...Shauna!) likes my blog because my misfortune spreads joy by making everyone else feel better about their lives.  And who am I to stop the spread of joy during the holidays?  I'm going to make a concerted effort not to focus on sad stuff anymore...enough ridiculousness happens in my days that these blog posts should write themselves!

I had a mini-breakdown last week when I realized that I would be hosting my in-laws for Christmas dinner...quite by accident.  Every year since we've been married, we've traveled to Virginia for the holidays to split time between our two families.  It worked out great because my family tradition growing up was to open family gifts on Christmas Eve (giving Santa all the glory on Christmas Day), and Dan's family tradition was exchanging family presents on Christmas Day after Santa presents.  So we always spend a few days leading up to Christmas at my parents' house, and then Christmas Day and a few days afterward at Dan's parents' house.  This was great until we had kids...when traveling on Christmas Day became something I dreaded about the holiday every year.  Not only do we have to rush the poor kids through opening their Santa presents, but I don't even get to enjoy watching them play because I'm so busy packing everything up to head to another house for a few days.  It takes me hours to pack and load, and then we have to yank the kids away from their new presents and take them to my in-laws' when we are all pretty exhausted from the morning's fun (and work, if you're me).  It's always fine once we get down to Dan's parents' house, but the lead-up puts me in a bad mood every year.  Now that we live in the same state, thankfully we don't have to pack up to stay at other houses during the holidays, but we did tear the kids away from their presents again last year on Christmas morning to go down to Dan's parents' house.

Abby on her first Christmas, 2006--the last time we spent Christmas Day at home!

This year, for the first time since Abby's first Christmas, we decided to just spend Christmas Day at home with our little family, enjoying the fun together and not worrying about anything other than freeing the new toys from their crazy packaging and making sure we have batteries and screwdrivers on hand.  Dan's brother and his family invited Dan's side of the family (including us) down to their home in North Carolina for the holiday, but we declined that invitation since it would have meant missing Christmas with my family and more traveling...exactly what we didn't want to do.  So the plan until last week was for Dan's parents to head down to NC for Christmas, and we were just going to see them and exchange presents some other time.  Then my brother-in-law and his family rescinded their invitation for Christmas, because they literally just moved into their new house down there on December 18th and clearly, it's not ready to host family for the holidays...something I wondered about when the invitation was extended, but I figured they were just way more organized during a move than I ever am.  Apparently that's not the case, and Dan's parents now had no place to go on Christmas.  Being the Good Daughter-in-Law that I am, I invited them to come share the fun at our house, totally oblivious to the fact that that invitation would also involve me cooking a big meal and "entertaining"...not something I'm good at, obviously.

three kids playing nicely on Christmas Day 2011

Once it sunk in that I'm now hosting a big family Christmas shindig (and Dan nixed my idea to have cereal for Christmas dinner...seriously, I threw it out there), I freaked out because our house is a mess.  Christmas crap is everywhere, wrapping paper is all over the floor, we're overrun by Abby's school papers yet again, I don't even remember the last time I vacuumed (or dusted...), and the kitchen is a sticky disgusting disaster.  I didn't know when I was going to have time to get it all done, so I asked Dan if he would take yesterday (Thursday) and today off work so that I could dedicate myself to playing Cinderella and not have to worry about watching the boys.  He obliged and took the days off, but yesterday didn't go as planned...  I got about 4 hours of sleep night before last--Jake woke up screaming right when I was getting ready to go to bed at midnight with a nightmare (apparently a "nightmare train" was coming into his room), and after I calmed him down, he informed me that his room is now creepy and he doesn't want to sleep there anymore...  It took me a good hour to convince him that he and I were not going to sleep on the couch downstairs together and get him back into his own bed.  By that point, for who knows what reason, Alex was WIDE awake in his crib downstairs--he was still laying down, but he was emphatically yelling at the top of his lungs, "WHOA!  LOOK AT THAT!  IT'S SANTA CLAUS!  IT'S AWESOME!" or some variation for almost 2 hours.  I thought for sure he was going to wake Abby up, since his room is right below hers and they share a heating vent that allows all sound to travel like they are standing next to each other.  Somehow she managed to sleep through it, but his shenanigans over the monitor in our room woke Dan up, and he irritatedly told me to turn the monitor off.  I couldn't sleep through all the noise, either, but I didn't want to turn it down--even though I was exhausted, his cute enthusiastic ramblings were making me smile, and I don't like to turn the monitor off in case he really does need me.  I fell asleep sometime after 2am, and was awoken at 6am because Alex was crying in his crib--it's not like him to do that, so I hopped up and trekked downstairs to see what the problem was and if I could get him to quiet down.  I picked him up and put him on my shoulder, and the front of my shirt was immediately was Alex and his entire bed.  Great.  I had to strip him down, with him screaming and freezing because he was soaking wet, I had to wipe him down with cold baby wipes and get a dry diaper and fresh pjs on him.  He was screaming.  I then had to carry him upstairs with me to get a new crib sheet (he was not going to let me leave him room without him), and get his bed back together and also convince him to go to sleep without his favorite (now soaked) blankets from his bed...  That whole process took me about 45 minutes, and when I returned to my bed, I discovered that Jake was awake already--probably from all the screaming Alex was doing.  Ugh...

So despite the early start to my day yesterday, I was a zombie and didn't get much done--Dan, Jake, Alex, and I all took naps during naptime, which was kind of nice, but I totally didn't get any cleaning done.  I did make it to the grocery store to pick up some fruit and tried to clear the clutter in the kitchen so that I can start cleaning today.  Must start cleaning today...

I think this will be my last post before Christmas--clearly, I'm too good at procrastinating and will use the blog as an excuse not to do the things I'm supposed to be doing.  Today is cleaning and then dropping the kids at my parents' house for a sleepover this evening so that Dan and I can put together some gifts that Santa helpfully dropped off early, do more cleaning, remove toys from the playroom and the kids' rooms to make room for new Christmas stuff...lots to do before the kids come back on Sunday.  Then Christmas Eve at my parents' house, and Christmas Day here at our house, hosting Dan's parents.  Wish me luck, and I wish you and your families the happiest of holidays!  :)  I'll be back after Christmas with stories of how it all went wrong but we still managed to have fun...ha ha!

Christmas 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Acts of Kindness

It's Wednesday already, and my goal when I started this blog was to try to post at least Monday through Thursday...and now I've missed two days!  It has been really hard for me to think about writing something frivolous about my life when such sad things are happening in Connecticut.  I've really felt on edge emotion-wise since Friday, and at a loss for words.  I've been trying to spend a lot of time with the kids doing what they want to do, which does not include watching Mommy type on her computer.  I'm getting back on the horse and attempting some normalcy today--bear with me if this is a bit rocky, since that's pretty much how I feel.

I think it goes without saying that all of us are holding our kids a little tighter the last few days.  I always put a note in Abby's lunch box every day, just reminding her that I love her and including a little encouragement for her day--sometimes reminding her to work on a spelling word that has been giving her trouble, sometimes just asking her to smile.  On Monday, she came home from school and told me that she got the longest note that she's ever gotten in her lunch, and it was true--I was super emotional sending her out the door that morning, and my note reflected some of my anxiety.

I hugged and kissed Jake so much at bedtime the other night that he finally said, "Um, Mommy?  Are you going to be done soon, because I really need to go to sleep!"  I don't think I'll ever be done, kiddo.  I think the kids are finding me slightly annoying, but I do feel like a Good Mother--an overemotional mother, but a good one nonetheless.  I just wish it didn't take so much sadness to inspire more patience and love in our days--but at least that is one good thing that I can do in my life to honor those precious babies.

By the time Abby went back to school on Monday, I was such an irrationally anxious mess...I just decided that I needed to DO something.  Anything.  When people I know have babies, I make dinner for them--because new parents often don't think about or have time to deal with dinner.  When a friend lost a baby, I sent money for a gift because I wasn't close enough to make food to bring over to alleviate the day-to-day concerns amidst their grief.  In my 80-member moms' group in Ohio, I was the "Special Assistance Coordinator"--I coordinated a dinner-making schedule for new moms (dinners provided to new moms for 2 weeks or longer from all the generous moms in our group!), I coordinated babysitting if a mom needed to take a sick child to the doctor and had other kids at home, I coordinated goody bags or baskets if a child in our group was in the hospital...I was the go-to girl to help when someone in our group was in need.  I was thinking about those 20 families, and how if I lived in Newtown, I would bring meals to all of them because they probably aren't thinking too much about cooking or feeding their kids...  Then I remembered a story about a popular deli in town, and how one of the boys ate there with his father that morning--it was something they did often together.  I looked up the Misty Vale Deli online, and called them--a man answered the phone, and was very patient with me as I fumbled through introducing myself.  He sounded really sad.  I said I live in Virginia, and I wanted to give the deli money to provide meals for anyone who needs it--when someone comes in, the deli can use their discretion to provide their meal for them on me.  The man said he knew a woman who had lost her son, and that he would make sure my money went to pay for a few of that family's meals--he wanted my name so that he could tell her who provided the food, but I just said, "Please tell her that we're a family in Virginia who has a daughter in first grade."  I was crying.  He took my credit card and thanked me, and I hung up the phone and just sobbed.  When I was done crying, it felt like a weight had been lifted a little from my chest--yes, I'm still emotional and very sad, but doing something to help someone who needed it really helped me feel better.  They probably don't need my money, but I hope that when that woman comes in to pick up her food, she feels a sort of virtual hug from my family when they tell her that it's already been paid for.

I read online yesterday about a movement started by Ann Curry called #26Acts, where folks are doing 26 Acts of Kindness to honor those sweet children and educators.  I think that movement has it right--kindness in the face of such grief is like a lifeline.  When Abby came home from school on Monday, I told her that I had been feeling sad the last few days (she knows just briefly about what happened, because we didn't want her hearing about it at school and getting upset) and that by doing something nice for someone, I finally felt a little better--a good lesson at Christmastime and always.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

So this is Christmas...

I was rushing around trying to make dinner on Friday afternoon for one of Dan's work colleagues who just had a baby.  I saw in passing a post on Facebook about a school shooting, with maybe 1 fatality (I figured a teacher, most likely), but I had raw chicken on my hands, so I went back to my task and was generally oblivious for the next few hours while I prepped all the chicken, fruit, and veggies for Dan to pick up.  When I sat down at my computer around 3pm, my heart broke into a thousand pieces--I felt so, so sick, and then I felt frantic for my own kids.  Jake was safe playing up in his room.  Alex was still taking a nap in his crib.  Abby.  Abby was in her first grade classroom at her school, where she is supposed to be kept safe out of my protection for almost 8 hours every weekday.  She had about an hour left of school, and I just kept irrationally thinking that I needed to call Dan to go pick her up and bring her home to me.  I needed to see her, even though I knew she was okay, but I think it was just the mom in me--I just wanted to hug my baby girl when so many parents were experiencing the unthinkable and could no longer hug their sweet babies.  I eventually called Dan to simply implore that he get to the bus stop early so that just in case they were early, he was there to watch our girl get off the bus safely.  Predictably, Dan thought I was going a little overboard--I tend to immerse myself totally in these types of tragedies, and dwell on them for days...sometimes weeks...sometimes months...  He thinks this is an unhealthy OCD aspect of my personality, but I just call it compassion--I can't help it if my heart hurts when other people are hurting.  I stood at my front door in my pjs and a heavy coat, watching for Abby's bus to pull up at the top of our loop, and I could see her pink coat as she stepped off and into Dan's safekeeping.  I waited until she got out of Dan's car, and scooped her up into the biggest hug I think I've ever given her--my sweet 6-year-old, home safe in my arms.

I cried myself to sleep last night thinking about those poor families, and those precious children.  I've cried today and felt on the verge of tears many other times--I just can't shake it.  I had to go to the commissary this morning, and I felt raw--like here I was, running totally mundane errands, when the mothers of those children most likely can't get out of bed.  I was looking at the other shoppers for hints of their sadness, and I felt an overwhelming urge to be kind to everyone.  I wondered if I had the word "MOM" stamped on my forehead, if people would see me and know that because I'm a mom, my heart is broken today.  I saw the little kids that other shoppers had brought with them, heard a parent yelling at her two kids because they were messing with the cart and blocking the aisle, and wondered if those Newtown parents had similar (totally normal) moments of parental exasperation that now fill them with regret.  The commissary was playing Christmas carols over the sound system, and I felt festivity out of my reach today.  Then, over the noise in the store, I heard the chords of "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" and this lyric played loud and clear:
"A very merry Christmas, and a happy New Year.                                                                    Let's hope it's a good one, without any fear."
Without any fear.  I just don't know how I can not be fearful as a parent, and never has that felt so acute as it does right now.  So many things we take for granted with our sweet kiddos--that they'll grow up, that they'll live a full life, that they will fulfill their potential.  Abby's dance teacher sent me an email today saying that Abby is "such a good girl and a great little dancer," and that I will be amazed at how she grows as a dancer over the next few years if she sticks with it.  I told Dan about her thoughtful email, and Dan speculated that maybe Abby will grow up to be a famous ballerina (her current dream), or maybe she'll be an artist since she loves to draw.  I immediately felt guilty for contemplating a future for our girl, because other parents had that ability stolen from them--they had so many hopes and dreams for their little ones as well.  It just tears me apart inside.

I know this feeling won't last for me--I'll eventually revert to my normal flustered parenting style with plenty of yelling and time outs, but today, I just hugged Abby, Jake, and Alex as many times as they would let me, and told them over and over again how much I love them, and how special and wonderful they are.  I have the luxury of a life unshattered tonight, and of having this sadness fade over time--that community has no such luxuries.  I owe it to them to love my babies as fiercely as possible for as long as I'm given.

the loves of my life

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Weighty Issues: Post-Babies

I've been feeling really discouraged about my weight, and just generally down on myself, so I thought I would explore my weight issues in a few posts.  This post is Part 2, covering the last 6 years, since I started having babies.  Check out yesterday's post for a few entertaining old pictures of me and some insight into what shaped my current weight and self-esteem!

I began my pregnancy with Abby with really good intentions--I carried a snack bag of Kashi Good Friends cereal in my Hallmark apron so that I could have a healthy snack when I felt a little nauseated.  I didn't want to gain a ton of weight, but I also wanted to enjoy my pregnancy--aka, the first time in my life when I didn't have to worry about my weight.  Pregnancy is beautiful!  I ended up having some complications during my pregnancy with her that required what my doctor called "limited activity."  It wasn't bedrest, thankfully, but I did a lot of sitting and reading Jodi Picoult novels (which I didn't love, but weirdly couldn't stop reading...).  I ended up gaining 60 pounds before Abby was born--and she weighed a tiny 6 pounds, 9 ounces!

Overdue--the day after my due date with Abby

I tried not to stress about it, but I definitely wanted to lose the baby weight after Abby--that proved really hard for me.  I had heard that breastfeeding was a surefire way to lose weight...unfortunately, Abby didn't much feel like cooperating with the nursing, so that never got off the ground.  I started a "Walk and Talk" stroller walking group with my moms' group, and walked at least once a week with a few other moms.  I also took Abby for many walks in our awesome neighborhood.  My sister and I started something she coined "Walkie Talkies" after she had her baby (1 year after Abby was born)--we would call each other and walk on our treadmills at the same time, while sharing stories about our little girls and our lives as moms.  I wasn't exercising heavily, but I was walking (which worked for me in the past) and slowly losing some weight.  Like I've said before, I've never really been one to pay that much attention to what I eat.  I used to make Abby macaroni and cheese every day for lunch, and she and I would share a big bowl--I didn't know until probably 2 years ago that mac and cheese is really super fattening!  Oops...  I was just sort of oblivious to that kind of stuff, and that was my fault.  I did plug away at trying to lose the weight, and in February 2008 (more than 1.5 years after Abby was born), I finally bought a new pair of jeans--I had been wearing an old pair of men's jeans since Abby's birth because women's jeans were hugging in all the wrong places for my post-pregnancy body.  I was super excited to go buy a pair of women's size 8 jeans--I felt pretty good about where I was, even though I was about 20 pounds over my light pre-pregnancy weight.  I knew we wanted to have more kids, so part of me didn't want to lose all the weight...why put in all the effort just to gain it back again with another baby?

Valentine's Day 2008 with my sweet girl!

In May 2008, we learned that I was pregnant with Jake--and I was so excited!  We couldn't wait to add another baby to our family.  That pregnancy with pretty uneventful, meaning that Jake grew without much fanfare in my belly--outside my belly, a lot was happening!  We moved to Texas when I was 20 weeks pregnant, and then we moved again temporarily to Virginia when I was 29 weeks pregnant so that Dan could attend a school.  I lived at my parents' house with Abby while Dan was about 2 hours south of us--he came up on the weekends.  I gained about 40 pounds in my pregnancy with Jake, and if I hadn't gotten so sick about a month before he was born, my final weight would have been pretty close to where I was when I gave birth to Abby (instead, it was about 10 pounds less after my sickness weight loss!).

6 days before Jake was born, at Dan's brother's wedding!

After Jake was born (a whopping 6 pounds, 10 ounce baby!), I had two kids (duh).  My focus wasn't really on losing the weight, although I did want to get back into shape.  We moved our family of four back to Texas when Jake was 6 weeks old, and we moved our treadmill literally into the kitchen/dining room of our house there because the garage was too hot for me to work out.  I got back to walking, and was losing some weight again...but it's always a challenge with me (perhaps because I'm a little slow on the uptake about calories in versus calories out...).  I had success with nursing Jake, and hoped that would help some of the weight melt off...but it didn't.  He was a pipsqueak, and I didn't produce much milk, so it wasn't a big calorie burner for me.  I was back in my men's jeans, slowly trying to walk off some weight.

September 2009--Jake was 8 months old!

Less than a month after that picture was taken, we discovered (surprise!) that I was pregnant with Alex.  It hit me pretty hard--I wasn't even thinking about a 3rd baby for at least another year.  The week before learning I was pregnant, I jokingly told my mom that I would shoot myself in the head if I were pregnant that tells you how prepared I was for the news.  My mom's first request when I called to tell her about the positive pregnancy test was, "Please don't shoot yourself in the head!"  (For reference, we don't own that wasn't even a possibility, despite my fragile mental state.)  I did put my maternity jeans on the day I took the positive pregnancy test, though, so just about the only thing I embraced about that pregnancy was the ability to not worry about my weight again for 9 months.  Alex's pregnancy was particularly hard for me, because Dan left for Iraq when I was 6 months pregnant--he missed the later, bigger stages of my pregnancy, and Alex's birth.  And I was super depressed--we got pregnant in September, Dan left in March, and I moved us up to Virginia (with my mom's help) for the duration of the deployment.  I lived in my parents' house, which was awesome for the help, but my head was not in a good place--I didn't want to be pregnant, I didn't want to be pregnant while my husband was in a war zone, and I didn't want anything to happen to me, my kids, or my husband while we were all separated.  And I felt super guilty for not being excited about the new baby--my pregnancies with Abby and Jake had been such wonderfully anticipated events, and I just hated that I couldn't get myself to happily await a new baby.  If I could have kept Alex incubating for an extra 8 months, I would have.  It was a very emotionally stressful time for me, and when I'm stressed, I eat.  I also eat when my mom is cooking--yum!  I was worried that I would get over 200 pounds in that pregnancy because I started heavier than I had been in previous pregnancies and because I was stuffing my scared me, and I managed to weigh in slightly lower than 200 on the day Alex was born.

a few hours before Alex was born--our last picture with 2 kids!

After Alex was born in June 2010 (my biggest baby at 7 pounds, 6 ounces), I did the very best I have ever done on the losing-the-baby-weight front...and I had some good motivation for that.  Dan was coming home for his 2-week R&R leave from Iraq in mid-September, so I had about 2 months to really work the weight off.  I did all kinds of things, none of which were delightful--Slim Fast shakes, walking (and sometimes running!) miles in the heat of the Virginia summer days while pushing a double stroller with 2 heavy kids and wearing a front-pack carrier with the 3rd kid, drinking lots and lots of water, doing sit-ups and leg lifts, running a Couch-to-5K program on my parents' treadmill...whatever I could think of.  Dan hadn't seen me since I was 6 months pregnant and not all that huge...I didn't want to scare the daylights out of him if he came home and saw that I'd blown up like a balloon since he last saw me.  To clarify, he had seen me on Skype throughout those last 3 months of pregnancy, but his computer screen wasn't big enough to fit all of my rotundness at once (thankfully!).  I really dedicated myself to losing as much weight as I could before he came home--I had a plan that I wrote out for myself, and I did my very best to stick to it.  I treated myself to some new shirts and jeans for Dan's R&R, and I was able to buy size 10 jeans--they were a tiny bit tight on me, but I remember clearly thinking that at the rate I was losing, I would be down to 8's or even 6's in no time.  I felt great when Dan was home for those 2 weeks, because I had done so well losing a lot of weight in 2 months--even though I wasn't where I wanted to be, I was pretty proud of my effort.

not the best picture, but man, my jeans look baggy!  Halloween 2010

That was October 2010.  It's now December 2012, and I'm still wearing that same pair of size 10 jeans--only now, they don't fit me well at all...they are too small.  So much for being in 8's or 6's in no time...  I'm just not willing to go buy a new, bigger pair and depress myself over it, so I cram into too-small jeans and try to wear big shirts to cover the overhang.  I had a crisis over my growing size in October, which is why I started the food journal--I was feeling terrible about myself, and knew I needed to do something before I ended up as a candidate for The Biggest Loser.  As you know from my post about me and Halloween candy, the food journal didn't last long.  I've pretty much been binging for a month, as is my MO.  I stooped to a new low this year when I had to ask my mom to Photoshop our family picture for our Christmas cards--the sweater I was wearing was grabby and highlighted some unfortunate back fat...  Fortunately for me, the cards I chose cropped the picture, so I didn't end up needing the Photoshop because you can't see my back the way the cards printed...but I know it's there.  It's only going to get worse in the next 2 weeks, with big family meals, lots of Christmas cookies and treats, and the stress level that comes with all things Christmas.

our family, Christmas 2012

I've decided that come January, my health (and more specifically, my weight) is going to be a priority for me.  I try to feel good about myself no matter my size, but it's gotten to the point where my weight is not something I can feel good about.  I'm sick of being big, having the post-pregnancy pouch, not having clothes that fit me.  My youngest baby is 2.5 years old...I can't say I'm trying to lose the baby weight anymore.  I'm just plain old overweight.  I'm going to make eating healthy, exercising, and hopefully losing some weight in the process a Good Housewife Challenge in January, because honestly, being a Good Housewife needs to include me feeling good about myself--I'm not a happy person with Dan or the kids when I feel gross and have such a negative self-worth.  I'm going to think about what my specific goals are and what my plan to achieve those goals is over the next two weeks, and post the Challenge after the new year.  I'll have you guys follow along with my progress for some motivation--clearly, I'm not very good at this stuff by myself!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Weighty Issues: Pre-Babies

**I have a different blog below for today, but I wanted to give you a quick update on Jake and the diaper-free experiment:  He kept his underwear dry ALL NIGHT last night, and woke up with a dry bed!  I am so excited, and he is so proud of himself--it's really great to see him feel so good about something.  :)  Hopefully this trend continues!!  The kids got to watch one TV show this morning--Team Umizoomi, of course!  Now back to my regularly-scheduled blog...**

The holiday season is not a pleasant time to be talking about my weight, especially since I've been decimating my mom's delicious cookies...  Then again, maybe it's the perfect time--I need to be thinking about my weight so that things don't get out of hand with the cookies, and so that I can have a plan of attack when the holidays are over.  After reading all about how I stuff my face with junk food, I thought a little background might help you understand where I've been in reference to my self-assessment of my physical appearance, and where I am right now in my feelings about how I look and how much I weigh.  There have been very few times in my life when I've been happy with how I looked--and I think this is a feeling a lot of women have, which makes me sad.  I've never been a stick-thin girl--I am short, and throughout my childhood, I had more of the build of an athlete.  I was always extremely active, so I don't have a problem with my build--I reveled in being athletic.

My 5th Grade Class Photo--I'm dead center in the 2nd row

In 5th grade, two defining things happened that really altered my view of myself.  At 10 years old, I don't really think I had a concept of how other people looked at me, and whether or not their view of me was favorable or unfavorable--I was blissfully unaware of the cultural pressures put on girls and women.  I had a crush on a boy named Luke Cooper (if you read this, Luke, I'd love to know what you're up to now!), and we ate lunch at the same table every day.  I don't even remember the context, but one day at lunch, he referred to me as "thunder thighs," and everyone laughed.  I was pretty hurt, obviously, and totally confused--Luke liked me, and we even went to the movies after that (LA Story with my best friend Sarah and his twin brother--a double date, with my mom chaperoning!).  I didn't really know what "thunder thighs" were, but I gathered that it wasn't a compliment or attractive, and I had them.  The second thing was that I ran for 5th grade class president, and when I won, a girl who I had gone to school with and known since kindergarten told me that I only won because I had breasts and none of the other girls did, so all the boys voted for me (or my breasts, as it were).  I developed fairly early, so she was right about that aspect--but I didn't know to be self-conscious about that fact until she pointed it out.  Hello, body image issues.

Just turned 14 in this picture, with my lifelong friend Brynne

I took dance and gymnastics starting when I was 4 years old.  In high school, I was a cheerleader and ran track (100m and 200m, long jump, triple jump, and sprint relays--my thunder thighs got me all the way to the State meet in triple jump!).  I was a base in cheerleading, meaning I lifted the lighter girls--so by definition, I was not a lighter girl.  I was not happy with my weight, even though obviously I was healthy, strong, and active.  Looking back at pictures of myself in high school now, I wonder what the heck I didn't like about myself back then--I was probably thinner than I have ever been, and I looked great!  It's a testament to the fact that our minds and our feelings toward ourselves can really alter how we view ourselves at any given time--I wasn't happy with my appearance, and that is what the mirror reflected back to me.  I tried out for the cheerleading squad in college, in the first few weeks of my first year at UVa--I had been a 2-time All American cheerleader and I was a decent tumbler, so I thought I had a pretty good shot at making the squad...until they asked all of us to step on a scale they brought into the room after the very first practice.  I knew right then that I wouldn't make it--I walked up to the front of the line and was weighed first, and then I hung around to watch every other girl weigh in because I wanted to know where I stood in this ridiculous competition.  I was the 4th heaviest girl in the room--and out of hundreds of smaller girls with similar abilities, that means you're out.  I weighed 128 pounds.  Yep, that messed with my head.

So happy--I LOVED my dress (and still do!)  :)

Fast forward to my wedding day.  I thought about losing some weight before walking down the aisle in my wedding dress, but honestly, I was so happy that my weight didn't really matter to me and I didn't stress about it.  I felt great and beautiful on that day, and that's all I wanted.  The next morning, Dan and I took an early flight to our honeymoon destination, still giddy from the reality of being husband and wife.  We were being cute and having fun just talking about the wedding and the guests and our new life together when I happened to look down at my lap and notice that my favorite pair of Gap boot cut jeans that I wore practically every day were getting threadbare along the inner seam of my thighs.  I lamented that my favorite jeans were getting holey, to which my dear, sweet, well-meaning new husband replied, "Well, maybe you should work out more often."  What???  His comment caught me so off guard--I thought my jeans were just getting old and hadn't yet equated the fact that the jeans were wearing out where my thighs rubbed together...but apparently he had, and the next logical step to solving the problem would be to make my thighs smaller and reduce the rubbing by working out.  My thunder thighs were back...even though they never left, now I was worried about them because my husband thought they should be smaller.  Ouch.  For reference, my husband has an unfortunate habit of putting his foot in his mouth, when he really is a sweet, nice guy. made walking a fun way to get healthier for me!

About 6 months into our marriage, I went to the doctor for a physical and discovered that I had high cholesterol and high blood pressure.  I joked that I had become fat and happy after our wedding--Dan would surprise me with McDonald's fries after work, we discovered ColdStone, we ate out a lot as couples with no kids can do.  I put on some pounds--my sister got married 3 months after I did, and I almost didn't fit into my bridesmaid dress for her wedding (it was so close--Dan wanted to give up on the zipper, but that was not an option!).  The health stuff wasn't funny, though, and it really freaked me out--how could I be 24 years old and have high blood pressure and cholesterol?  I started working out (not something I enjoy at all, so it was a struggle)--I would go to our apartment complex gym in the mornings before work, and I got a pedometer and started walking...everywhere.  Walking was way more my style than sweating it up with strangers at the gym.  I worked from home for HP at the time, and I walked circles in my office while on conference calls.  I ended up losing 18 pounds from my effort--it took 6 months, but I felt really good about myself!  I still wanted to lose more weight, but my blood pressure and cholesterol were back to normal.  This was right about the time that we moved to Ohio--I was feeling healthy and ready to have our first baby...  I got pregnant 3 months after we moved into our new house.  :)

July 2005--three months before I got pregnant with Abby

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Starting the Day Off Right...kinda

The experiment is not going well.  Jake infuriated me during naptime yesterday--he did not take a nap, which was fine, but when I went up to get him dressed so that we could take Abby to her dance class, I discovered that the diaper he was wearing at naptime was soaking wet.  He was awake the whole time, mind you, so it's not like the diaper accidentally got wet while he was sleeping...  I had even talked to him multiple times over the monitor in his room, reminding him to keep the diaper dry while he was playing.  I was so angry--he just isn't getting it!  I took his favorite stuffed animal away from him until he can learn to keep his diaper dry.  So now there's no TV and no stuffed animal.  This experiment is spiraling.

Jingle, Jake's favorite stuffed animal

At bedtime last night, I upped the ante--I'm just so tired of the back and forth.  I told Jake that I was going to strip his bed down to his mattress only (no bed friends, of which he has about 50, no sheets, no covers) and put him to bed naked so that he could figure out how to control himself without me having to clean up a big mess every which he started howling.  He did not like that idea in the slightest.  Dan said I may have scarred him for life with the suggestion.  To pacify him and stop the screaming, I agreed that he could wear undies...but nothing else.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, the child loves his pjs.  He refuses to sleep or take a nap in anything other than conceding to undies only didn't do much to stop the crying.  We finally agreed to clear his bed of all his bed friends (the plush ones can't be washed without risk), leave the sheets and blankets on the bed, and put him in undies under his pjs.  I told him that I would take him to the bathroom before I went to bed, and he's to call for me as soon as he wakes up in the morning so that I can take him to the bathroom again.  I went into his room at 11pm last night, and was so happy to discover that he was dry!  I went in again at 4am, and again, he was dry.  I had high hopes for the morning, especially after that successful 4am pit stop.  It was smooth both times taking him into the bathroom and getting him to go right back to sleep, so I was glad for that--this was the one part about potty training Abby to stay dry through the night that I did not enjoy...the late-night possible waking-up-forever bathroom run.  I hate bothering sleeping kids--there's something so innately wrong about it!

Jake woke up at 7am this morning, and didn't say anything to me on the monitor--I told him to call me as soon as he woke up so that I could take him into the bathroom again.  I went into his room at 7:15am, and he immediately informed me that he was soaking was his bed.  Sigh...  The three hours from 4am to 7am shouldn't have made him feel a desperate need to go, so I think he just totally forgot that he was wearing undies.  That's exactly why I wanted him to sleep with no pjs on, and just undies--so that he would know something was different and would be able to see his undies--he's so used to having that diaper on for security...but no more!  I told him this morning that he won't be wearing a diaper again ever.  I may have to wash sheets every morning, but he has to get the hang of this sometime...right?

On the plus side of the morning, because we were up and going so early, Dan and I decided to work out together before work/bus stop.  We put the kids in Jake's room (all three were up for some odd reason--our kids are not early risers!), and headed down to our basement--I got on the treadmill (after throwing in a load of wet laundry, of course), and Dan got on our elliptical.  It was only 25 minutes, but at least it was something--and something is better than the nothing I've been doing!

this chick looks way happier than I was this morning, which says a lot

Monday, December 10, 2012

Too Much TV

It was a long weekend in the Christmas card factory, but all our cards have gone out in the the factory is officially closed until next year!  Hooray!  I meant to write a little more about our much-maligned Christmas card newsletter in my last post, but got sidetracked by the cards themselves.  I wanted to say that I love our newsletter, and refuse to stop writing it even though I know some folks think it's way too long (my own brother and sister-in-law included!) because it provides a way for me to chronicle each year in the life of our family.  I love re-reading our newsletters from previous years and remembering our experiences as a family--I don't journal or scrapbook, so our Christmas card serves that function for me...really, the recipients should be thankful that I somehow pare down 12 months into two pages.  :)  Also, I know there are other Christmas newsletter junkies out there, just like me, and I hope many of them are on our mailing list and actually do appreciate my effort!  Okay, enough about that.

We're in the middle of an unplanned experiment at our house.  I wrote previously about Jake's inability to get out of diapers, and my frustration with that problem...but I haven't yet written about my children's (and my) love of TV.  Moms everywhere will tell you that their kids don't watch TV, whether or not it's true...I am not that mom.  My kids watch way too much TV.  I admit it, and I'll give you a brief history on how this all happened.  When Abby was born, we had such high ideals for our parenting--I don't think we ever agreed out loud on no TV until she was 2, or only 30 minutes a day, but those recommendations were at the back of my mind as we embarked on parenthood.  Abby turned out to be a very clingy kid--Dan and I had very little peace, especially in the evenings (aka, the dinnertime witching hour).  When she was about 6 months old, we discovered Baby Einstein--more specifically, Baby Einstein's Baby Newton video (all about shapes!).  That darn shape clown gave Dan and me our first quiet dinner since she was born, with Abby happily engrossed in a totally different room than where we were eating (in actuality, she was less than 5 feet from me, but technically she was in the living room and we were in the dining room).  Dan and I didn't even speak to each other the whole meal for fear that we would break the spell--we just gestured excitedly at each other and were in awe of how that clown gave us back some of the space for which we were desperate.

I still know that song by heart, and the dancing clown still makes me so happy!  I'm tempted to show that clip to Abby now to see if she remembers it at all...that girl watched A LOT of Baby Newton.  After Baby Newton broke the ice, I allowed some Sesame Street in the house--it was okay for her to watch TV, as long as it was educational, not annoying (crucial for Mommy's sanity!), and on PBS.  I had some standards--no Barney for us!  Sesame Street was a daily staple at our house back then, but we were also super busy--Abby and I had a very active social calendar in our Ohio moms' group, so we weren't home to watch much TV.

Fast forward to Texas, and a 2nd baby.  We were home a lot more after Jake was born, in part because we had a newborn in the house, and in part because we knew fewer people and therefore had a less-active calendar.  We watched a lot of DVDs at this point (Strawberry Shortcake and princesses were a favorite for our 3-year-old...and still are now that she's 6!), and we branched out to a few more PBS shows--Sid the Science Kid became one of Abby's favorites at that time.  Again, educational junk.  We threw in a Clifford every once in a while, and maybe a Curious George.  Still not a huge variety of shows, but we did spend a good amount of time in front of the TV while I was feeding Jake and needed a way to keep Abby occupied.  What I loved about our house in Texas was that our playroom and our TV room were separate, so the kids could play without constantly asking to watch TV.

it was supposed to be a living/dining room, but it was the perfect playroom!

Fast forward to Virginia and a 3rd kid...there's a TV in our playroom now.  I knew it wasn't a good idea when we moved in, but we did it anyway because I wanted a dedicated kid space that didn't infringe on the adult space in this house (there's so little adult space here), and we bought new living room furniture...meaning I didn't really want the kids all over our nice new couch with food while they were watching their shows.  Around this time, my sister told us about a show called Team Umizoomi that we should check out--I was totally hesitant because it's not a PBS show, but I thought I would give it a try...branch out a little.  The kids fell in deep smit with that show.  Absolute adoration.  The first thing Alex says when he wakes up in the morning is, "Watch Bot?"  And I love it because it's educational (even though it's not PBS...)--Alex knows all his numbers because of that show (that's kind of embarrassing to admit. but it's true).  Our DVR is constantly 80% full of kids shows...Umizoomi, Clifford, WordWorld, SuperWhy, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Mike the Knight, Doc McStuffins...we went a little nuts when we discovered other TV channels.  I try to limit the hours of TV, but sometimes when the boys are fighting and cooped up in the house, it's so easy to turn on a show and be able get my stuff done.  They don't watch any of the fluffy shows with few redeeming qualities (Spongebob or whatever those other annoying shows are), but I won't sugarcoat it: they watch a lot of TV.

Millie, Bot, and Geo--they have mighty math powers!

Now, what does all of this have to do with our current household experiment?  Well, last weekend, I told Jake that it was time for him to keep his diaper dry at naptime and bedtime.  I'm fully confident that he can do this--it's just laziness or a security issue, and I need to help him get over it and transition to underwear 24/7.  Without even thinking before I opened my mouth, I told him that he could watch his TV shows if his diaper stays dry...but not if it is wet.  We are now in Day 7 of No TV.  Seriously, the kid is stubborn.  The first day, it felt like I was punishing everyone--Abby was very upset to not see her Clifford during breakfast, and I thought my day would be ruined without the TV helping keep the peace.  It's not really fair to deprive the other kids of their beloved TV because of Jake's behavior, but really, it's just TV--it's not like I'm withholding all their food until Jake gets his act together.  There are worse things that could happen.  I just didn't really envision that Jake would hold out this long--he actually says, "I don't want to watch TV" when I try to remind him that if he keeps his diaper dry, he can earn his TV back.  (Oooh, that kid!)  I'm not sure this experiment is working, but I'm in it to win it at this point--I will outlast my 3-year-old.  I've actually been pleasantly surprised at how the TV-less days have been going--Jake and Alex are doing really well playing together (with the occasional screaming/hitting/crying fights, of course), and I'm happy to not have the arguing over what show to watch, whose turn it is to pick, and the constant noise.  I kinda feel like a better mother without the TV.  Of course, when Jake finally figures out this whole keeping-the-diaper-dry thing, I'm going to have to let them earn back some TV, but I think this experiment is teaching me that I can limit the TV time, and I should limit it...the world won't fall apart and we might all learn to get along a little better with less TV.  What's your bet on how many days this experiment will drag on before Jake is diaper-free?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The List vs. the Time Suckers

I wrote my list of things to do today last night before I went to bed...and I think I may have been a little ambitious.  I had sort of a dual-list going--I wrote down the things that I really wanted to get done that have been bugging me or that needed to get done today at the top of the list, and then I wrote down my hopefully-will-get-done tasks at the bottom of the list.  Then I realized that I had a few more things to add that needed to get done, but I had already drawn my line and there was no room at the top of the I wrote those extra things at the bottom, and my list got all jumbled.  I almost rewrote the list entirely (yes, that's seriously how anal I am), but I opted to just go to bed and deal with an imperfect list.  The list was a good motivator this morning--I felt very on-task as I consulted the list and starting checking things off.  I wrote a few "gimmes" on there that HAVE to get done every day so that I would guarantee myself the satisfaction of crossing at least a few things that cheating?  I hope not, because it felt great to cross a few things off pretty early in the morning!  I still have a lot pending on the list and the day is quickly getting away from me.

my 4pm progress...not great!

Even with the list, I've been distracted--Jake's train needed new batteries (both the remote and the train itself...where did I put the 9V batteries??), I posted a bunch of stuff for sale on the sale site here and people are coming by to look at things and buy stuff (very time-consuming!), and during Jake's nap time, he opted not to sleep and instead opened up his piggy bank and showered his whole room with coins.  So much for my getting-stuff-done time.  Just as I was coming back downstairs from that clean up effort, the biggest time-suck of them all arrived in the mail: our Christmas cards.  I knew they were coming (hooray for me for being on top of things and ordering them already!), but now they are here...and I have to open the annual one-woman Christmas card factory.  The factory hours are awful and the pay is literally nothing, but it's a dirty job and someone has to do it.  It's such a process--I have to print our (much made fun of) Christmas newsletter, fold said newsletter in a way that it fits well in the slighty-too-small envelope, write a personal message/sign each newsletter, stuff the newsletter and photo card into the envelope, address each envelope, stamp each envelope, seal all the envelopes, and mail them.  It is going to take me hours, and honestly, I don't even want to open the box and start the process!  The box is currently taunting me on the counter.

such a menacing little box

Despite all my protests, I really love Christmas cards.  I love sending them to 80 of our closest friends and family all over the country (and world!)--some folks we've known since we were born, some folks we've met at previous duty stations, some folks getting our card for the first time this year.  I write a ridiculous Christmas newsletter chronicling our family adventures by month for the whole year--Dan endlessly derides my efforts and says no one wants to read about our lives in such detail, but I don't really care.  :)  I seriously love reading other people's newsletters--I get disappointed when we get a photo card with nothing written on it...  I think Christmas cards should be personal--a (somewhat quaint) way to connect with friends and family in an impersonal world.  I love reading cards and getting a little glimpse into their lives and years.  When I visit my parents' house around Christmastime, I scrounge their counters for the Christmas cards that they have received, and then I read them--I don't even care if I know the people.  Cards are one of my favorite holiday traditions, so I guess I'd better open that box and get busy.  Hopefully I won't disappear into the black hole that is preparing Christmas cards for mailing...if you don't hear from me tomorrow, please send a search party to save me from my misery!  ;)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mom Brain

I need a list.  My memory is phenomenal for things like song lyrics and the ridiculous things that Dan says that I can use against him at a later date, but other than that, I need a list to help me remember things.  I use a list every time I go grocery shopping--I would be lost without it.  I use a list every time we go somewhere, even if it's just for the day, to make sure I don't forget something crucial, like Alex's favorite lamby or the kids' coats.  For long trips, like our crazy vacation this past summer (to NY for a wedding, then to Disney World for 4 days, then to the beach for a week), I had 4 typed pages of stuff we needed for each leg.  I just am a list person.

A snippet of my Disney/beach packing list...

My need for a list has gotten worse over the last few years, but I've really noticed my memory failing me lately.  I call it Mom Brain, and it has gotten worse with each kid.  Michelle Duggar must be like a lobotomy patient by now.  Even with my trusty list, I sometimes forget things...which never ceases to baffle me.  If it's on my list, then it should be in the car with us...but somehow that's not always the case.  Sometimes I forget to check my list...which makes me wonder if I need a list to remind me to check my list.  This is not good.  My memory clearly isn't as good as it once was, and I'm starting to think that I need a daily list of some kind to keep me on track.  In order to be a Good Housewife and feel like I'm accomplishing something (anything!) every day, I need to be able to focus--a list might help me do that.  Here is what my mornings usually look like (based entirely on this morning's particular nonsense!):
  • Wake up, get the kids' breakfasts and make Abby's lunch (I just recently wrote myself a list for her lunchbox contents, because even though it's been the same every day for the last 2 years, I still struggle to remember when I'm half asleep)

Abby's lunch list...on the fridge!

  • Get the boys out of their diapers--I need more wipes, so I grab a new pack and throw the empty refill in the direction of my computer
  • Start emptying the dishwasher
  • Discover that I'm really hungry--sit down to have my breakfast
  • Check email and Facebook/news/blogs while I'm eating
  • Remember that I need to enter Pampers Gifts to Grow points--grab the empty wipe refill bags that are laying around everywhere, and start to enter the codes
  • Jake needs to go to the bathroom--help him, check on the boys to make sure the playroom isn't a disaster, play with them for a while
  • Remember that I haven't finished emptying the dishwasher--go back to that project
  • There's a stink bug flying around my kitchen--grab the dust buster and chase it down
  • While I have the dust buster out, I may as well get up some of the dinner mess from yesterday in the dining room
  • Wipe down the dining room table while I'm out there
  • Find coupons that I was cutting over the weekend still sprawled out on the table...sit down to finish that project and get the coupons put away
  • With the coupons are a bunch of old newspapers and junk mail--pick them up and put them in the recycling
  • Geez, the kitchen counters are covered in paperwork, too...gather up the junk and go through Abby's endless school papers to figure out what to keep and what to recycle
  • Jake and Alex are screaming--go into the playroom to put out the fire, play with the boys for a bit
  • Remember that I haven't started the laundry yet, which I needed to do first thing this morning and it's already 10:30am...go down to the basement and get a load in
  • What was I doing?  Oh yes, the dishwasher--I've only gotten the bottom rack put away thus far, so I start working on the top rack
  • Call my mom, and start having a conversation about weekend plans...go to check my calendar, discover it's not on the side of the fridge, remember that I started putting dates into it this weekend and never finished
  • Locate calendar in mess on kitchen counter, start entering all the kids' activities...I'm still working on February
  • Hear my computer dinging--I forgot to log out of Facebook, and my sister is talking to me...go see what she has going on and realize I never entered all those Pampers codes
  • Enter more Pampers codes...and while I'm at it, round up all our Kellogg's cereal boxes and enter those codes into the Kellogg's Family Rewards website
  • See the two SoftSoap dispensers on the table next to my computer--I never made it to the bathroom with them after I went shopping this weekend...pick them up and put them away in the bathroom
  • Where is the bath mat?  Oh no!  I washed it and left it out on the back deck to dry yesterday because it was such a nice day...but it rained last night and I forgot to bring it inside.  Ugh...
  • Retrieve the wet bath mat from the back deck...go down to the basement and put it in the dryer
  • I can't even walk in the basement because there is so much stuff on the floor--open a garbage bag and discover clothes that my sister-in-law let the boys borrow from my nephew...go through those to figure out what fits and what doesn't, throw the clothes in piles to be washed
  • Jake and Alex are whining because they are hungry--look at the clock and realize that it's noon already and I haven't started making lunch!  Where are their plates?  Oh yes, still in the dishwasher...

these three monkeys have stolen my brain
My days go on and on like this, and I wonder why I never get anything done!  Dan says I bring it on myself, because none of these things are pressing or crucial (little does he know how much life would go off the rails if I didn't do most of these things...) and because I need to just finish what I start instead of bouncing around from task to task.  I say that's way easier said than done with you have a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old constantly interrupting your thoughts and plans.  I don't really think he has room to talk, anyway, because he's one of the most absent-minded people I know.  I do recognize that my easy distraction detracts from my effectiveness around the house, so I think maybe a list will help me.  I'm going to try writing a list of tasks for tomorrow morning before I go to bed tonight, and I'll report back on my progress...perhaps being able to scratch things off my list will remind me that I am actually a productive person, even if it takes me a few detours.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holiday Fun

I'm a little lost with what to do with myself since the Challenge ended.  Trust me, I have plenty to do--but like I told you, I work better when I have a project!  I did invite Dan to guest column on my blog after he does a Good Husband Challenge for a week...not sure if he'll take me up on it, but wouldn't that be fun?  ;)  I know it would be fun for me!

Now that I'm less distracted by the Challenge, I'm focusing on all the other things that need to get done around the house and feeling the stress.  I totally love this time of year, but sometimes it all gets a little overwhelming!  Case in point: our Elf on a Shelf, Herbie, is visiting right now.  Every once in a while, that darn elf is so forgetful and doesn't remember to head back to the North Pole and then reappear somewhere else in the house after the kids go to bed.  It got so bad that I had to set a reminder timer for him on my phone...  Abby just informed me yesterday that she thinks Herbie goes to Elf School after she goes to bed, and his teacher is Santa!  Not one to miss an opportunity, I told her that we'd better make sure she gets to bed on time from now on, because we wouldn't want Herbie to get in trouble for being late to school.  Ha ha!  :)  Here's Herbie hanging out in Jake's room last week--his first foray into Jake's room (in two years) because Jake can't be trusted not to knock him down and ruin Herbie's magic...  I think Abby might faint if she came into Jake's room and saw him holding Herbie...not kidding.  She's super protective of that elf.  Herbie found a safe(ish) place to perch in Jake's room this year, and managed to survive untouched.  As an added bonus, Jake took a great nap that day because Herbie was right there, staring at his bed!  :)

above Jake's from curious hands!

I also have yet to do the kids' Santa video, which I do every year for them from the Portable North Pole--such an awesome thing to have to motivate their cracks me up every time.  You can personalize all aspects of the message Santa gives, and I have had lots of fun with it over the years.  Abby has always been on the "nice list," and Jake has yet to make that list...two different children entirely!  Abby has her naughty moments, but she's such the responsible first born.  Jake obviously has his nice moments, but he's our high-spirited little monkey!  This year will be Alex's first video from Santa...I'm not sure if he'll be naughty or nice at this point.  He learns everything he knows from Jake!  The videos are obviously a project that I have to complete when the kids aren't around, so either naptime or after they go to bed...and I haven't gotten to it yet.  Maybe today?  Here's Jake's from 2010--absolutely the best one ever, because Jake was almost 2 and totally ornery with a BIG temper, and it scared him into shape!  Hysterical.

So it's Christmas fun that I've brought on myself that adds a little stress to this time of year...but I wouldn't have it any other way!  I don't remember Christmases being as enjoyable until we had our own kids, other than when I was a kid myself--it's just wonderful to see the magic of the season from their eyes.  We drove around looking at Christmas lights on our military installation this past weekend, and the excitement from all three kids was so much adorable.  I couldn't help laughing every time Alex said, "It's awesome!" or, "Those are my favorites!"  :)  So cute!  I'm probably going to pull about 20 late nighters between now and Christmas to get everything done--we still have to wrap all our presents and put together a huge train table because Santa delivered it a little early and we're doing him a favor by putting it together (you can thank us later, Santa), but I'm going to try my best to not let the stressful aspects take away from the magical ones.

Abby writes notes for Herbie to take to the North Pole--this was last night's!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Challenge #1 Done!

Well, my very first Good Housewife Challenge has concluded!  This weekend was also included in the Challenge, and I have to say, it was rough.  I had a lot of things on my plate for the weekend, so Dan and I hardly saw each other.  He let me sleep in a little on Saturday morning, which was wonderful, and then I headed straight for our basement/garage to tackle a project that has been looming for the last 1.5 years: going through all the boxes and mess down there.  This is supposed to be a joint project for Dan and I to do together, but for 1.5 years, we've managed to put it off.  We did actually go down there with much determination this past July, only to lose power about 10 minutes after we started working due to a terrible storm...knocked out power to our house for 4 days, and also knocked out any motivation we had for the project we had been dreading.  Good excuse to put it off again!  Five months later, I decided I just needed to get down there and get started--some of the kids' Christmas presents are lost among the boxes, so it's kind of become crucial at this point!  I spent 7 hours down there on Saturday, going through random boxes that included my old college paperwork, my original American Girl doll accessories (I had Samantha, which I've now passed on to Abby, so she was super excited that I discovered Samantha's bed), and 16 million Winnie the Pooh items...I'm not kidding.  16 million might be an exaggeration, but I used to collect Winnie the Pooh, and I had a very fortunate upbringing that included a mom who really loved to shop...which makes me look like a weird Winnie the Pooh memorabilia hoarder 10 years later.  I also uncovered my Cabbage Patch doll collection--Dan was totally unaware that I had one...and quite frankly, I had forgotten I had so many as well.  Here's a picture of one of my more-horrifying finds:

yes, it's a clown Cabbage Patch doll

After the kids went to bed Saturday night, Dan came down to the garage (aka, my cold dungeon) for the first time all day to check out my progress/damage.  He wasn't impressed, but it really does take a long time to sift through your childhood memories, you know?  I still have a lot of work to do, but at least I got started.  I thought Dan was going to help me go through things when he came down, but he just stood there skeptically watching me...until after about 10 minutes, he grabbed a trash bag and started attempting to throw things away.  This is when The Good Housewife Challenge #1 came to a violent end, because I was very annoyed that he didn't bother to help and just wanted to come in and start chucking things that I had been laboring over.  Granted, I'm not sure why I was waffling over whether to keep a box of specimen slides, unless I'm contemplating a Dexter-like future where I store one drop of each of my victim's blood on carefully hidden slides...but that wasn't the point.  I not-very-politely told Dan to scram, lest he become my first victim.  He unwisely opted to stay, so I gave him a Rubik's Cube that I had found in one of the boxes, and that kept him out of my hair until I decided to retire for the evening.  It was almost midnight, after all.  This Housewife gets less accommodating when she is tired.

I love these books--I think that says something about me...

I attempted to redeem myself on the Challenge front on Sunday, but again, I was barely in the same room with Dan.  I did let him sleep in, though, so I should definitely earn points for that since I was up way later than he was!  I started reading a book this weekend...and by started, I mean started and finished, since I can never read a few pages and then let a book sit for weeks on end.  Even if it's a bad book that I'm not enjoying, I will still lose sleep to finish it and put myself out of my bad-book-induced misery.  The book I read this weekend was an amazing book, so I didn't want to put it down...and didn't until about 3am on Sunday morning when I got to the page that read "The End."  It really was a fantastic book, but I was so tired on Sunday.  After Dan woke up from his decadent extra few hours of sleep, I ran to the commissary and literally ran through it picking up the food on my list because I had so much stuff to do on Sunday.  After I got home, I spent 3 hours cleaning all three bathrooms in the house, and then got ready to go meet my family for dinner after my niece's dance recital--my parents had picked up Abby to watch the recital with them, so Dan and I brought the boys to meet them for dinner after the boys' naps.  We had a nice dinner (all seven cousins love each other and love hanging out, even for just a short while!), and then we got home and put the kids in bed...and Dan promptly followed because he had to be up early for work today.  So yeah, we hardly talked to each other on Sunday--but I did buy him food and clean the bathrooms and also remembered to wash his uniforms, so I think that makes me a Good Housewife (but possibly not a Good Wife, as I have learned from his list...).

I think Challenge #1 was very enlightening for me--I learned that being pleasant with my husband makes for generally easier, happier days for all 5 of us.  I'm pretty sure I already knew that, but the Challenge served as a good reminder, and I'm hoping to carry forward my agreeable countenance for as long as I can (maybe forever? ha ha!).  As mothers have been saying since the beginning of time, it really doesn't hurt to be nice.  I also learned that Dan doesn't expect the same things of me as I do of myself--I have a lot of high expectations for my own behavior, and feel a lot of pressure that comes with those expectations...but if I don't hit the mark every time, he won't mind as long as I'm still smiling and showing him that I love him.  I think the simple gestures, if you make sure to include a few in every day, are what grease the wheels of this whole marriage thing.  If I think of it in those terms--aiming for a few compliments or kisses or smiles every day--it seems more manageable to be a Good Wife (or at least a better wife than I was being)...after 8 years, I just needed a refresher course.  Of course, I'm still not a Great Wife (oh geez, am I going to have to start another blog with another quest when this one is over?  Imagined first post:  What Makes Something Great as Opposed to Good?), nor will I be a Good Wife all the time, but at least I know a little better now where to put my effort.  My husband needs a supportive partner who makes time for him, prioritizes our relationship, and doesn't always cook other than the chicken part, I think I got this.