Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I think what I'm trying to say is "Happy New Year"

Hmmm. December 31, you say? Time to bid a fond farewell to 2008?

Can't do it.

I almost always get choked up on New Year's Eve, especially since I've become a mother. It's usually bittersweet to file a year of love and "firsts" and my boys' childhoods in the "Past" drawer. Auld lang syne and all that.

But not this year. This year there is no bitter with the sweet. I'm happy to see it go. It hasn't been an overwhelmingly bad year. It's just been too much, relentlessly so. Too much worry (sick kid, house-selling), too much change (new baby, new town, new house), too much insomnia... just too much. I'm ready to move on.

I'm ready to make this house our own, ready to tie up the loose ends, ready to feel like we belong here. I'm tired of not having any dining room furniture and of the echo in that empty room. I'm tired of not having a backyard the kids can play in (stupid new grass that didn't grow the first time). I'm tired of not having our pictures on the walls and tired of our china still being in boxes and tired of not knowing which of the bazillions of eye doctors in the phone book to call because I'm squinting all the time.

Things are better. My stomach doesn't hurt with worry about making two mortgage payments or about the kids' adjustment or my husband's new job. I don't even worry about his 30-mile commute; for a while I was preoccupied with the idea of him driving too fast and ending up in the ditch, or worse.

And we do have some pictures on the walls. The two boxes of china are the only boxes that remain packed-up. We only have one mortgage payment again. And the kids are happy and have friends and I have a new dentist and my husband swears he drives safely. Everybody's seemingly healthy.

I sleep like a rock now, unconscious. Six months ago I was lucky to get four hours of sleep a night. I've never had stress insomnia before. It sucked. And, you know. Baby. He kind of caused some sleep problems too, starting about two days after I got pregnant. Now he sleeps. I sleep. We are much more able to cope.

So, yeah, things have taken a turn for the better in the past couple of months. But still. I wouldn't choose to relive this year. If I got stuck in some sort of endless 2008 loop, I'd eventually run out of steam. It would not be pretty.

I sat down intending to write a smart-ass post about kicking 2008 to the curb. I have no idea how this got so serious. Perhaps I still harbor some pent-up resentment about this almost-but-not-quite-harrowing year?...


Anyway. Tonight it's over. Tonight I can shed all that has cumulatively weighed me down this year, take a deep breath, and maybe let my innate optimism start to flow again.

So, um, 2008? Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

Auld lang syne and all that.

And Happy New Year, everyone.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sarcasm doesn't translate in e-mail or seven-year-olds

I've been more than a little neglectful of my little blog recently.

You know. Christmas.

Santa went high-tech this year. (I'll spare the gory details of how insanely sore I am from WiiFit. You'd be jealous, I know. "Can't blog! Must hula-hoop!") This led to a very thoughtful discussion with Jensen about gifts I got as a child. He's pretty sure I'm lucky I didn't die of boredom before my ninth birthday.

Jensen: "Did you ever get a Wii when you were a kid?"
Me: "Well, no, Wii hadn't been invented yet."

Jensen: "Oh. Well, what about a PS3?"
Me: "Um, no."
Jensen: "PS2?"
Me: blank stare
Jensen: "What about a flat-screen tv?"
Me: "No, but we did get a tv with a remote when I was 11."
Jensen: "Did you at least have computer games?!"
Me: "..."

I lacked the energy to explain the Apple IIe and Oregon Trail and Lemonade Stand all in amazing low-resolution graphics, which we didn't even get until I was 13.

This conversation got very old very quickly.

But they also got a Lite Brite, which almost kills me with nostalgia.

Jensen: "You did have a Lite Brite when you were a kid, right?"
Me: "Yes!!!" Success! My childhood didn't totally suck!
Jensen: "But did you have pegs for it?"
Me: "Well, they hadn't invented that part yet, so we had to whittle our own out of sticks from the backyard."

He believed me.

Now he looks at me with an air of admiration and absolute pity. I probably deserve both.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sorry, can't blog now...

...Wii are kind of preoccupied. Back soon, promise.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


This, I do not understand: how is it that only a few days ago the winter solstice brought us the shortest day of the year? And today, December 24 is unquestionably the longest day of the year?

Today I spend wrapping up some last minute tasks (although I am not a high-pressure Christmas kind of a person) and preparing Christmas Eve dinner and getting the house ready for tomorrow morning's chaos.

But mostly today I spend pacifying the children, who will not think they can possibly wait until tomorrow morning. Whose happy anticipation threatens to spill over at every minute. Who will spend the day carefully watching the gifts under the tree and making sure the fireplace is ready for Santa, and who will by tonight be checking the skies and listening for bells outside their bedroom window.
Christmas here will be a magical day. I hope it is for you too. I wish you much happiness.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Weekly Winners

The week before Christmas, and we ate some pomegranate.

And had a snow day.

Or two.

Somebody got sick.

We dreamed a little.

And explored a bit.

And watched, and waited.

See all of this week's Weekly Winners participants here, at

Friday, December 19, 2008

Three Kids Christmas Blowout: Great Big Happy Family

This was all my cousins' fault. My older cousins, I might add.

Because of them, I was sneaking down the stairs in the middle of the night, barefoot, on Christmas Eve. I crept past my parents' bedroom. Past the room where my aunt and uncle were sleeping. And slowly, slowly, I descended, hoping the stairs didn't creak. Hoping my parents wouldn't wake up. Hoping to find magic.

This was bad. I was a very good girl. But this? This was very, very naughty.

And it thrilled me. In a terrible and beautiful way.

I was six years old, and my cousins had come for Christmas. We all camped out on my bedroom floor in our sleeping bags, even the little kids. After our parents tucked us in, we were too excited to sleep. We talked. We planned. We were going to catch Santa Claus.

Steve must have been the ringleader. He was, after all, the oldest and wisest. So when he declared he saw the red glow of Rudolph's nose outside the window, I just knew he was right. When he and his sister, Laurie, announced that somebody was going to have to go downstairs to bust the jolly old guy, I was right there with them. And when they told me I was the one to go, well... I would have followed them to the ends of the earth. I didn't like it. But I did it.

Downstairs I crept. I made it as far as the living room. That was all I needed to see. The room was overflowing with presents, glowing blue in the moonlight. The floor was covered, and the evidence was overwhelming: he had arrived. He had come and gone in the blink of an eye, had disappeared before I had seen him, and had set the scene for a joyous Christmas morning.

I was relieved. My mission was complete, I hadn't been caught, and I had pleased my cousins. Best of all: I had found magic.

I don't remember what I got for Christmas that year. It doesn't matter. What I remember, 32 years later, is the unbridled delight of that night. My belief was enchanted, my anticipation electrifying. My cousins had helped create one of the happiest memories of my life.

Until recently, my kids didn't have any cousins. Then they had two. As of this week, they have three (welcome, Jaden!). And any minute now, there will be yet another (hurry, Baby, hurry!). This is a mere handful compared to the bushel of cousins I have, but no matter.

They will be family; they will be cousins. Our brothers and sister and their children will come to visit at Christmas or during the summer or on birthdays. And our children will run off together to play and and to pretend and to scheme and to forge years of memories of their own.

My kids don't know it yet. But these cousins are the best Christmas gifts they'll ever receive.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

First snow

(My first Wordless Wednesday offering....)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Three Kids Christmas Blowout: Stocking Stuffers

More Christmas Joy, Three Kids Style! Today Evan shares his thoughts on justice and stocking stuffers. Feel the love....

Oooo, Evan's really thinking hard about this whole Santa Claus bit. Today on the way home from the grocery store he asked, apparently apropos of nothing, "Mommy, what's that thing that Santa brings you if you're not nice?"

"You mean coal?" I offered, wondering (hoping! foolishly!) if he was finally deciding to rectify his pre-Christmas behavior.

"Mmm-hmmm," he agreed.

He gave this idea some serious preschool thought. I could almost hear the gears turning in his sweet little head.

And then with complete glee and certainty and all the attitude a four-year-old who is out of arm's reach of his older brother can muster, he turned to the back seat and announced: "Hey Jensen! Know what?! You are gettin' coal for Christmas this year 'cause you are soooo naughty to me!!!"

Well. Glad we got that clarified, then.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Three Kids Christmas Blowout: The Tree

Christmas: it's coming! Or perhaps you were already aware. Anyway, I'm going to do some posts to let you know how we're doing Christmas, Three Kids Style. Chaos! Fun! And Very Much Happiness....

This is the Year of the Homemade Ornament.

You know that gorgeous tree on the front of the Pottery Barn catalog? Gold and bronze and white and perfect?

Yeah, that's not our tree. Not even a distant cousin.

Our tree is garish and bright and mismatched. It looks like Buddy the Elf got drunk and decorated. It's a real tree that's a little droopy and has some great big holes. It is perfect.

So, the handmade ornaments. It has been Arts and Crafts Central around our house. Here are the older boys proudly showing off some of their handiwork:

First they painted about 7425 wooden beads and put them on strings for garland. (Thanks, Grandma Jeri, for the artistic supervision. Oh, and the 5527 beads you personally painted.) (And also, thanks to Mr Lady for the superb idea, which somehow inspired me to do all the rest of the homemade stuff.) It looks like this:

Then they made candy canes out of beads and pipe cleaners. I remember these from when I was little. I thought they were beautiful. Still do:

Then Jensen went over to Grandpa Bill's workshop and used a (gulp) jigsaw and made some wooden ornaments for us. As an added bonus, Jensen returned home with all of his fingers. And some of these:

Then we made these cinnamon and applesauce cutouts that made the house smell so strongly of cinnamon that our eyes watered and the baby sneezed uncontrollably. These are another Blast from the Past; I remember making them with Mom when I was little:

Then we put it all together, and it is perfect. I know, I know: the tree leans. Perfect. And we don't have anything at all on the lower branches, because the decorations are so beautiful that Caleb cannot resist eating them. Again, perfect. The kids? love it. I? love it. Jeff? um, doesn't really say much about it, but I'm just sure he loves it too. (He's just reserved....)
So, behold: The Most Beautiful Christmas Tree Ever. Oh, and Pottery Barn? Yeah, you wish your tree looked this good.

If you have any ideas for handmade decorations, please leave a comment. We're definitely making more next year.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Faith Restored

I was having a bit of a breakdown last night.

You knew this was coming. I nursed Caleb for the last time. {sigh} I thought I was going to be sane, planned to be objective and strong, but when it was all said and done I was a mess. Melancholy, morose me.

Then my husband made popcorn and gave me a beer and sat me down in front of the television.

And you know what was on?

"Talladega Nights."

It saved me.

Please do not ask me how I ended up with the sense of humor of a teenage boy. Let's just chalk it up to me being complex and intriguing.

All I know is that there must be a God, and last night God sent Will Farrell to pull me back from an abyss of self-pity.

The end.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Next stop: Nice List

The Christmas anticipation has been a little hard on Evan. I'm not sure he knows what exactly he's anticipating, but he knows he's supposed to be excited and is behaving accordingly. His emotional thermostat is set somewhere between Irrationally Exuberant and Total Friggin' Meltdown.

If we all live until the 25th it might be considered a Christmas Miracle.

This is probably why I was so receptive the other day when he was in a quiet, cuddly mood. And he said, in his best Eddie Haskell impersonation, "Mommy, how is your body getting so thin? Look at you-- you're so skinny! I love you!"

Mind you, I am at least emotionally intact enough (most days, anyway) that neither my body image nor my self-worth are vulnerable to a four-year-old's perception of me. Still, he made me smile.

He's not wrong. Those of you who know me in real life (you lucky dogs!) know that, at about five feet 10 inches and a size four, or even a two, I am relatively thin. And perhaps he's remembering last Christmas season, when I was terminally pregnant and approximately the size of our minivan. So, objectively, he's right.

And I do not want to make too big a deal out of his comment.

But still, this has not been sitting entirely well with me. Why did he choose to comment on this? Where did he learn that this is a compliment? Why does he think that my thinness makes me worthy of his love, or at least the statement of his love?

Again, those of you who know me IRL (oh, your good fortune never ends!) know about my physical difference, my anomaly. (Those of you who don't know me: I should probably get around to explaining this sometime soon.) I grew up looking different than most people, and far different than any social construct of beauty. I'm really not terribly sensitive about it anymore, but I've learned a lot. For instance: value statements about physical traits are absolutely insubstantial. Criticisms or compliments, such comments miss the point. Ultimately they are empty. And I want my kids, eventually, to understand this.

(I also learned that adolescence absolutely sucks. But that's another post. Or maybe a novel.)

Evan was just happy the other day, conversing and practicing a social skill. No big deal. But still. He's already learning. Despite what Jeff and I attempt to model, he's absorbing these socially-enforced ideals of beauty and goodness and desirability. And it bothers me. Just a little. Just enough to let me know, as a parent, what I'm up against as I try to define the values I want my children to inherit.

However. He also called my dishwater-blonde hair "golden" the other day. "Mommy, your hair is beautiful and golden," he said. And it made me happy. I'm not immune. I just hope he's not doing this to get on Santa's Nice List....

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A momentary lapse

I shouldn't want this.

But I do. I want it. I want to freeze this moment, this beautiful moment that defies adjectives. I want my baby to be a baby forever. I want him to nuzzle his face into the crook of my neck. I want his angel curls to smell of sweet baby shampoo. I want to share his whispered baby conversations. I want him to suck his fingers and stroke my hair when he is tired. I want his buttery skin to stay this soft, I want his legs to stay chubby and his pot-belly cute, and I want him to remain the happiest person I've ever known.

I want him to need me. To love me without question. I want his world to remain safe and bright and warm.

I want. Forever.

Most days I resist this. Most days I am more than happy to let time pass. I am content to let our future itself be testament to our past. Knowing that there is no sense in wishing for the impossible. Knowing that there are unforeseen and better moments to come. Knowing that even as I forget the details, this magical and challenging year that we have lived together will shape the people both of us will grow into. Most days I have faith.

But today I cannot resist. Today I remember that I've forgotten so much already. Today I remember that there will be no more babies to remind me. I struggle to impress this moment on my mind and soul indelibly. I do not want to forget a single heartbreaking detail. How can I remember? How can I make sure this moment never fades? I hold him closer, I close my eyes, I grasp. And I fail.

Today I want to hold him here forever.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Day I Turned One. By Caleb.

First my grandmas and grandpas came over because they love me.

Then I opened my presents.

Then I ate the bows.

Then I was cute.

Then we ate cake. (I was the only one who was naked.)

Then I was cute again. And fell asleep.

And then I was one.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Purge

Oh, the writer's block. I do not know why. I swear, just a week ago I had about 8362694 good ideas for posts. This week? Zilch. So I'm making a list. A brain-purging list.

1. My son's first birthday is in less than 48 hours. Mind you, we still don't have a gift for him. Furthermore, we have no idea what to get him. Further furthermore, Christmas is in three weeks, and we have no idea what to get the poor kid for that obligatory gift-giving day either. This, Caleb, is the burden of being the third boy-child. Get used to it....

2. This morning on my way to the gym I heard a song by Journey. (I am a child of the 70's and 80's. I adore Journey. Don't judge me.) Anyway, hearing this song brought about the jolting and disturbing realization that I had some kind of a lurid dream involving Steve Perry last night. I'm ashamed. And intrigued.

3. I have been in bed by 9pm every night this week. (While visions of Steve Perry dance in my head, evidently....) So perhaps I'm not having writer's block. Maybe I'm just hibernating.

4. Caleb is almost weaned-- it's gone off without a hitch. Which would be great except for the fact that it's making me insurmountably sad. This seems like it deserves its own post, perhaps. Because I know you're all dying to hear about my maternal instability.

5. John McCain strikes again: this one needs a little explanation. Maybe you remember that when Evan gets "dressed up" he thinks he looks like the Senator from Arizona. Today he decided to get dressed up. But he only made it half-way there before he got a little distracted. So when I left this morning he was dressed in a blue oxford shirt, a red sweater vest, and not a stitch of clothing from the waist down. And he was doing some kind of kung fu-inspired dance and singing, "I look like John McCain!" The potential analyses of this are disturbing. And hilarious.

This seems like a good place to stop. Hopefully next week I'll be inspired again....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Taking stock

I have no idea why I even bothered to get up yesterday. It pretty much seemed like I failed at every single thing I touched. Here's a list. Read it: you'll feel better about yourself.

  1. I was being all efficient and got to Lowe's bright and early-- did you know all their Christmas stuff is 50% off?! You know what else? It really sucks when you lock your keys in your car. I had to call my in-laws and totally admit what an idiot I am and they drove to my house and got my spare keys and came to bail me out, while I strolled around Lowe's with a whining four-year-old and a screaming baby. The guys in Lumber looked at me like I had an arm growing out of my head. This episode should have served as warning that the rest of my day would be best spent drinking Bailey's on the rocks, rather than trying to be productive.
  2. Turns out that at least half of what I bought was wrong and has to be returned.
  3. I left one of my bags in the store.
  4. I tried to get gas but couldn't make the pump work.
  5. I couldn't write a blog post to save my life.
  6. Hell, I couldn't even write a coherent grocery list.
  7. As a direct result of Failure #5, we had no usable food in the house. Unless you count whole wheat flour, two eggs, apple cider, an overripe banana, moldy sour cream, and Velveeta. Oh, and Bailey's. And plenty of beer. For some reason I was having trouble whipping that up into a meal.
  8. I ate ice cream. Twice.
  9. When I finally managed to scavenge some food it took 45 minutes longer to cook than I had anticipated, making my son and husband late for The Meeting of the Venerable Cub Scouts.
  10. Somewhere in the haze, Evan had a monster temper tantrum. Enormous.

Perhaps for the sake of comparison I should make a list of everything that went well yesterday:

  1. No one got arrested.
  2. No one got food poisoning.
  3. I got to watch "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" with Evan. (The Burger Meister Meister Burger rocks.)
  4. I went to bed at 8:30. Such mediocre ineptitude (or is it inept mediocrity? a question for the ages) is exhausting.

Told ya.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I can't wait to get old

Here was my Thanksgiving: I had to travel 220 miles by myself. And when I say "by myself" I mean with three children. And no husband. (Having an awesome schedule is not a benefit of working in the healthcare industry.)

We stopped at McDonald's for lunch in Nowheresville, Iowa. At the same exact time as a van full of folks from the local retirement home. Fortunately I made it into line in front of them. (I was not in the mood to listen to six elderly ladies try to decide whether they wanted a chicken sandwich or a hamburger to go with their decaf.)

But as I got my tray, I noticed an Old Guy (really. old.) looking pointedly at Evan, who was holding onto my pant leg. He looked for a minute and said to me, "His shoe's untied."

I had one armful of squiggly baby and my other hand was precariously balancing a tray loaded with Happy Meals and life-sustaining Diet Coke (for me, not the kids, because pumping them full of caffeine and sticking them back in the van for the remainder of the trip would be suicide). Oh, and I'm a nurse. I've worked in a lot (lot!) of nursing homes in my time. Just so you know.

I smiled and said, "Yes! It is!" Evan's shoes are untied approximately 107% of the time. I really don't care. But Old Guy was not okay with this situation.

"Well, aren't you gonna tie it?" he said accusingly.

This struck me as ridiculous.

We exchanged blank stares for a minute, Old Guy waiting for me to tie the shoe and me considering the possibility that he was experiencing some degree of synaptic failure.

"Right, then!" I chirped and turned away.

Turns out Old Guy was seated at the table next to us. He was the only gentleman present, surrounded by a bevy of glowing, bewigged female admirers. Over his coffee and fish sandwich, he was holding forth about all sorts of stuff. I was kind of caught up in making sure the baby wasn't trying to steal my fries and listening to the big kids argue about important plot devices in "Madagascar 2," so I certainly wasn't paying attention to Old Guy's diatribe.

But then. Then I overheard him say, "And that will definitely get you laid."

I swear that's what he said. His adoring audience smiled benignly. They didn't really react as I would have. But I swear to God he was telling them how to get laid in The Home.

I think Evan spilled his milk right about then so I had to tear my attention away from his geriatric wisdom. But this half-unglued-alpha-male-octagenarian totally made my day.