I was such a bum today it's not even funny.

I left the TV on ALL DAY.

My 1-year-old removed his pants 3 hours ago and he's still not wearing any.

I made scrambled eggs for dinner.

At least I took the time to put together puzzles with my older son and chased all the kids around the house a few times. That makes me feel a wee bit better, but not much.

I need winter to be over already :(


rules for giving my children birthday presents: to my in-laws (with love)

1) I know how fun it is to go to the toy section and pick out a toy that you think is really awesome to give to my children. However, I would appreciate it if you at least asked me if there is something in particular that he would like to have. I would also appreciate it if you did not choose the loudest, most annoying toy possible just because you think it's funny.

2) Please keep in mind that one of my children is 2 years younger than the other. When you buy my 3 year old toys that are meant for 6 year olds, remember that a 1 year old will also most likely try to play with it (i.e. he will most likely BREAK it which will lead to tears and much pandemonium).

3) Think about all the other toys you have brought to my children in the last oh...month. Do we REALLY need ANOTHER one???

4) Thank you for giving my children a present. Thank you for bringing one for the younger child even though it's not his birthday. But when they get a little older, the younger one is going to start noticing that he got a crappy ball on his brother's birthday, and on his birthday his big brother got an entire playset. Some consistency would be appreciated. I have 2 equally amazing children and favoritism is not allowed.

5) It's awesome that you find deals on stuff at the thrift store. It's cool that you would look there first and reuse a toy that someone else no longer needed. But PLEASE bring it to us clean and in working you know how hard it is to tell a 3 year old that they can't play with their new toys until I wash them?! And what do I say when they ask where the missing pieces are?

6) I know you love my children. They know it, too. So please don't feel obligated to give them enormous amounts of junk food and candy in an attempt to win their heart. They loved you without the 2 gigantic bags of pixie sticks. And who gives pixie sticks for a birthday present, anyways?

I love my in-laws and I know they mean well but...if I could really give them these rules, birthdays would be a lot easier for me to handle :p


In Memoriam

It was not too long ago that you treated my sons like your own grandchildren. For the rest of my days I will remember how you scoured your house for something that resembled a toy to let them play with. I will remember you in this one instance, as it embodies the kindness and gentleness that existed always in your heart. You found a box of dominoes and eagerly sat down on the floor to show my son how to set them up and knock them down. I could tell you felt a little awkward, but you also looked excited and happy. Again and again you set up the dominoes and laughed with him as he knocked them down. Ever since, he has constantly begged to get out the box of dominoes and repeat that precious little game that you taught him. I couldn't wait until my sister's baby was born so you could teach her how to play with dominoes, too.

My heart aches for your family, and for your loss of life so young. I'm sorry you won't be here when my niece is born, and that she will have to grow up without either of her grandmothers to teach her simple games and laugh with her. May you rest in peace. You will be missed.



Money, Money

The cold, dreary weather the last few days mimicks my mood perfectly. It has been a rough few weeks, and there have been moments where if I had the ability to just roll up in a ball and die I might have considered it. Ok...not really, but I have felt at the end of my rope a lot lately.

When I made the decision to stay at home with my children, I knew it was the best choice I could make. After all, when I only had one child I was paying half of my paycheck to the babysitter. So if I'd kept working, I wouldn't have had a paycheck anyway.

But now, times are hard and getting harder all the time. And I am feeling REALLY guilty. I know it's not logical to feel this bad about it, since really me working or not we'd still be in the same boat. And I have been racking my brain trying to think of a way to solve our money troubles, but to no avail.

Taking in other kids to babysit has helped a little, but it never seems to be enough. Now I'm faced with the worst option, the one I really didn't want to consider: either my husband is going to have to find a second job, or I'm going to have to find a job in the evenings after he gets home from work. I really don't want to do this. I'm already exhausted from being home with the kids all day and never really getting a break. But I can't just stand by and watch everything we've worked for get taken away.

So, at least there's the fact that it's coming in to the holiday season and I have retail experience. It shouldn't be too terrible to find a job, but I'm certainly not looking forward to how stressful this is going to be :(

Maybe it won't be so bad--I'll have new things to stress over, but at least I won't have to hold my breath every time I get a bill in the mail.

I hate money.


What happened to naptime?

I don't know if it's the smaller amount of outdoor time the kids are getting or what, but they are starting an all-out war on naptime. And it's making me want to cry.

They will be so obviously tired and still they fight it. For instance, today my 15-month-old was falling asleep in his lunch, but as soon as I put him in his crib he was wide awake and screaming. I left him in his crib for quite a while, but he never gave up. He screamed and cried and carried on...and now he's quietly, sleepily sitting in my lap while I type this.

Then there's the 3-year-old...he starts telling me, "I'm AWAKE, Mommy!" as soon as he starts getting tired. Then he does everything he can to keep himself awake through the entirety of the "naptime movie," eventually getting bored of being on the couch and coming to ask if he can go outside. This wouldn't be so bad except he is a total JERK for the rest of the afternoon if he doesn't take a nap. Or he'll wait until four o'clock to fall I really want him to take a nap right before dinner/bedtime...

I miss my quiet 1-2 hour break while they surrender to their sleepiness!! What happened to naptime? Someone bring it back, PLEASE!!!!



I fail.

I feel like a very terrible person. I was reminded yesterday of my biggest character flaw, which is that I am very likely to not follow through on things I entirely intend on doing. It's like, when the time actually comes, my brain just pauses long enough for the moment to pass and then it's too late to fix it. Then I start feeling guilty and lock it away instead of trying to remedy the problem...yeah. It gets messy. Unfortunately, my husband and I both share this terrible trait (PLEASE don't let us pass it on to our children!!!!). We let down some friends pretty tremendously this week, and I am feeling tremendously awful about it.

About this time last year, my husband and I started attending Sabbath services with some friends of ours; we started coming at first because we felt like we wanted religion in our lives but we weren't really sure exactly what we believed. Our friends are extremely devoted to their religion and when they offered for us to join them, we thought it couldn't hurt to at least go once. We ended up going on a fairly regular basis, and although we wouldn't ascribe ourselves to their religion, we did start at least attempting to follow some of the basic rules, like eating kosher and observing the Sabbath.

Over the course of the year, we started to feel like we really belonged, like we were part of the fellowship of faith that our friends invited us in to.

Unfortunately, we are the "black sheep" of that fellowship. We forget holidays. We neglect to read the weekly portions. We basically are very nonchalant about this whole experience, whereas our friends are extremely devout and thorough about their devotion.

So, there's the background...I've kind of left a lot of it out because it goes in to the religious side of the issue more than I care to do. But what is important to know is that we've been growing in to this religious community for a whole year now and besides our friends who we attend services with, probably no one else in our lives is even aware that we've changed anything (because we've been failing so often at it).

This past week was Sukkot, a Jewish holiday that is celebrated in remembrance of the time that the children of Israel spent wandering the wilderness. The most notable part of Sukkot is that it is commanded that you spend the week dwelling in a sukkah (basically a tent, although there is a little more to it than that...the point is you are supposed to be sleeping outside all week).

We promised ourselves we were going to do this holiday like we were supposed to. We even made plans to set up our tent at our friends' house so we could celebrate at least part of the holiday with them. This was supposed to be the first holiday that we actually participated in, instead of just passively observing.

And then the kids got sick.

And then I got sick.

And suddenly, sleeping outside for an entire week in October didn't seem like such a great idea.

So, we made our excuses, told our friends we wouldn't be able to make it (which really was because we didn't want anyone else to get our illness), and we stayed home. Inside. With our pillowtop mattress and heat.

Yesterday, the last day of the holiday, the shit hit the fan, so to speak. I honestly didn't even know that yesterday was still part of the holiday, and moreover that it was a sabbath (meaning we shouldn't be cooking, cleaning, etc.) here I was, baking bread and mopping my floors, when our friends show up at our front door. >.<

Then, they ask "Oh, you already took your tent down?" >.<

Then, they give us a card. "This was for Sukkot, but you guys never came over..." >.<

Worst of all, after they leave and I open the has money in it. $200...because they felt that we qualified to be given part of their tithe for the year.

It's hard to adequately describe exactly how traumatic this whole situation is, but I suppose it is a little like being told you've just won a contest that you never entered. Now, of course, they weren't giving us the money because we "earned" it being so good all year or anything, but still, that they would choose to give US part of their tithe is kind of a big deal. And here we were doing everything the opposite of what they believe in (some with full awareness and some without).

They are the most gracious and understanding people I have ever met, and some of the best friends that my husband and I have. We love them like we love family (and we probably like them a little better than we like most of our family). It feels pretty awful to have so blatantly let them down.

We should have been doing this for ourselves, anyway, not for our friends. But the fact that we didn't do it at all is very depressing.

I was trying to think of the best solution for this problem, how I could help them to see how bad we feel and how much we want to change. I thought at first that I would write them a thank you card and try to explain it in there.

But then it came to me---words are the opposite of the solution here. Words are what I always use to alleviate problems. Because of this bad habit I've developed throughout my life, my "word" has become pretty useless. What I need is action.

The only real way for me to solve this problem, this "character flaw," in all its manifestations, is through action. In this, actions truly will speak volumes louder than words. It is time to start making myself accountable. I know I am capable of it-I do it every day in some areas of my life (for instance, I do NOT find myself letting my children down-I follow through with them more than I have ever done before in my life).

So now I need to work on doing it 100% of the time. Part of this requires figuring out what the heck is really important to me. Then I need to prove it.

Here goes nothing.


Sickness and Doctors

Well, shortly after my last post I realized that The Sickness had also attacked me...I've spent the last few days in a snotty, headache-induced coma for which there was little relief. I'd like to think this might be the worst cold I will get this season, but with all the little disease-carriers running around the house I highly doubt it.

Today, I had to force myself to get dressed and actually brush my hair so I could be presentable enough to take my younger son to the doctor for his checkup. God, I hate how smug doctors can be when you are late on bringing your child in for a checkup/booster...even though THEY are the ones that overbook themselves in to oblivion and you have to make an appointment six years before your child is even born to get them in on time...

Anyways. So I got a little hell because my son was 2 months late for his one year checkup. It could be that I'm feeling a little bad about it anyways and so I'm being oversensitive about the treatment I got... I don't know. I *did* manage to make an appointment for both of my kids for their next checkups...3 months in advance and I still couldn't get them scheduled on a day/time that was actually convenient for me. I would either have had to get them separate appointments or take a day and time that weren't really that great for me. Can't win for losin'!

I sort of hate doctors. Maybe that's why I have to be in severe amounts of pain before I will see one...


Cold Season Begins

The wee ones have come down with a cold. I hate seeing them sick. I would gladly take any sickness they got for myself to spare them if I could. Poor little Jake is not only coughing and sneezing and dripping snot from his nose, but he's also cutting a molar. I feel so terrible for him.

For some reason, in the midst of this sickness, nothing but Daddy will do. It's kind of a weird thing for me to deal with, since the older child always runs to me when he gets hurt or sick. Jake won't even barely let me touch him, and I get the distinct feeling that he thinks being sick is somehow my fault. He actually ran from me this morning and clutched at his Dad's legs like I was some evil monster coming to get him. I chalk this up to the fact that I'm the one who chases him down to wipe his snotty nose.

All I want to do is snuggle him and let him fall asleep in my lap :(


I used to love rainy days...

Ahh, I can still fondly remember it: sitting snuggled up on the couch with a hot cup of coffee and a good book...I used to wish for rainy days. It used to be one of my favorite things about fall. Ohhh, how the times have changed.

Now, when I see a dreary overcast sky my palms start to sweat and my heart races a little faster. I pray that it will pass with no rain. Oh, God, just please let the ground stay dry... But, no. It rains. It pours. There is now no hope left in my heart that it might just be overcast. This will be a Rainy Day. Also known as Hide-yourself-in-the-office-and-barricade-the-door Day.

I can think of all sorts of fun things to entertain children indoors. Coloring, puzzles, storytime, and when all else fails, a movie. These things usually work for a period of time, but more often than not they don't last nearly long enough for my kids. This morning, it worked for about an hour. Since then, we've had fights at 15 minute intervals, my 3-year-old has overturned every piece of furniture he can lift at least once, and the little girl I babysit has become my very own (very unnecessary) personal announcement system ("JEN! You're cooking lunch!" "JEN! Jacob is crying." "JEN! It's raining" etc.).

This rainy day is definitely not the comforting, relaxing experience that rainy days once were. In fact, if you wanted a definition for "pandemonium" you might just glance through my front window for a prime example.

Naptime can not come soon enough today. I think I might need a valium.


Things That Are Funny That Probably Shouldn't Be

  • When my kids get hurt doing something I told them not to do (as long as they're not seriously hurt, of course)
  • That my 3-year-old is the perfect height to punch his dad in the if he could only do it on cue!
  • The way my 1-year-old can so efficiently aggravate his big brother
  • How impossible my husband finds caring for 2 children at the same time (**only funny if I won't be able to witness most of it**)
  • When my kids run away from their grandma until she bribes them with make your bed, you gotta lie in it!
  • When my kids repeat "colorful" phrases they've heard from their father and embarass him (not so funny when it's me getting embarassed)
  • The way my kids always pick the person-who-doesn't-really-like-kids to harass
  • Irritating my children to the point of tears by doing to them what they do to me


It's All Too Much...

My thoughts are all jumbly today. I am feeling a little anxious because it's payday on Friday and I have bills that should really have been paid LAST payday...but I'm trying to not worry about it too much. Not very much I can do about it, and we're all still alive and healthy, right?

I had a lot I wanted to write about, and of course I didn't sit down earlier and even jot any of it down, so now it's pretty much gone from my brain. I swear I've got some sort of memory disorder. I often forget what I'm saying before I'm even finished with a sentence. Or maybe it's just "mommy brain" - the extended version. Hard to say.

I trudged up the hill to the park today, and although I've been letting the older kids walk lately, I decided I didn't feel like dealing with their dawdling today so I pulled 'em in the wagon. About halfway there I remembered why I started letting the older ones walk: THEY'RE HEAVY! I was sort of glad it was cool out today because I was sweating and breathing heavy way before we got to the park. I got a nice little surprise when we got there, too--they put in some park benches. I used to have to sit on the (inevitably wet) grass if I wanted to sit at the park. And man, did I feel like sitting when we got there today!

I love the park. I'm going to be so sad when it's too cold/snowy to go there. I love autumn, but I'm really, really sad to see the summer go this year. It's been good times only being indoors after the sun goes down. Not looking forward to tromping through the snow with stacks of wood for the fire. Sigh...such is life I guess.

My husband called me this morning and asked me to spam craigslist and make flyers for his photography in a last-ditch effort to get some senior photo business. I don't mind doing it, but sometimes it drives me nuts that he just calls up and expects me to do whatever it is he decided needs done today. I've got my own schedule going on here! Just because there isn't a timeclock doesn't mean I don't have tasks I'd like to accomplish. Such is the plight of stay-at-home moms...everybody just thinks you're sitting around watching soap operas and eating bonbons all day... (for the record, I'm reading a book and drinking coffee all day. BIG difference)

Anyway. Off to the flyer-making business. I think I've proven my statement that my mind is jumbly today, because I don't even know what the heck this post was about. Next time I'll just get the little one to come in here and mash on the keyboard for a few minutes, it might be more interesting.


Time to Think

I gave up sitting at the computer to try and write this. Unfortunately, pen and paper is turning out to be no less difficult. I can sit aimlessly on the porch watching the kids play in the yard, but as soon as I start doing something they're all over me like pink at a princess party. Arguments over toys and personal space abound. They're thirsty, hungry, bored, and have to pee. My hair is a handy and conveniently located rope to an attempted siege of my lap. My pen-wielding arm is a perfectly positioned ladder rung. What is up with all this sudden attention-seeking behavior? It's like they can sense as soon as my mind wanders away from trains and tiaras on to something How do they do that? And when's a girl supposed to find time to think?!
Apparently, "finding time to think" is a common problem--common enough that there are businesses out there dedicated to helping you find it. Go ahead, Google it. Almost all the links I encountered were for businesses/consulting firms promising to help you find time to work (HUH?! if you can't find time to think about work when you're at work, try doing it in the presence of four children under the age of 5!). Now, try searching for "stay at home moms time alone" and pretty much every result stresses the importance of finding time for yourself when you're home with kids all day. Ahh, that's better. I wholeheartedly agree. Anyway. No matter who you are or what it is you need to think about, it's apparently a fairly common human phenomenon.
In the realm of parenthood, this issue can be exceptionally challenging. I find it difficult to even make it all the way through a bathroom break without an interruption. A little creativity is often in order to make it through the week at least partially sane (I'll shoot for totally sane when the kids are a little older).
Today, I have invoked an extremely powerful (and highly looked-down-upon) trick for finding a few minutes of relative peace: TV. It's a method I try to avoid, but like all guilty pleasures, it often entices me when I'm feeling weak and desperate. I know for some letting TV "babysit" is a cardinal sin, but I find that, in moderation, it can be a sanity lifesaver. Wisely choosing what your kids watch takes away a little of the guilt, although this form of distraction is hardly the best option to find some much-needed "quiet time." Use it sparingly, but don't feel terrible if you give in to it now and again. For the record, I'd like to remind you that "The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 2 years old not watch any TV and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming"(source). Take the kids out and run 'em around the block to shake off the TV coma afterwards.
20 minutes of TV was ample time to let myself relax and focus on writing. Here are some other helpful "thinking time" aids:

-Get them involved in something.
A game, drawing/coloring, Play-Doh...something cooperative and creative that you can step aside and let them do without having to totally focus on supervision. I find stuff like this to be especially effective when I'm doing something like writing, since the kids think that I'm "drawing" and they are only too happy to do the same thing that I am. Of course, if your child is under 2, this might be more of a headache than a help. Use your best judgment.

-Get 'em OUT.
Now that I have kids of my own, I can completely understand why my mom was always ushering us out the door to play. Getting the kids out to run around is an excellent way to focus their attention on something other than having your attention. I definitely notice how much needier my kids are on days when we can't go outside. Even better than heading out the front door: bring whatever you're working on to the park. This is especially effective if there are other kids around.

Naptime doesn't always pan out in my house--someone decides to take nap at a different time, wakes up early, or doesn't fall asleep at all. But on most days this is at least one hour of pure solitude!! Make the most of it. I used to try and fit as many chores as I could in to this time of day, but I've learned that it's much more wisely spent as a resting period for me, too.

-Let someone else take over.
Unless you leave the house entirely, this one is not necessarily effective. I can tell my husband he's in charge for a while, but that doesn't mean my kids will agree to leave me alone :p Working this out with Dad so that he gets them involved in an activity while you sit and have a cup of coffee can really make you feel refreshed, though. And FYI, on average moms spend more time alone with their kids than dads do're doing Dad and kids a favor by encouraging them to spend some time without you (source). Don't forget about grandparents and aunts/uncles if they're nearby-- I know mine always want to take my children whether I'm interested or not. Let them take your kids for a few hours and treat yourself to uninterrupted silence!

-Take a nice long bath/shower.
Just remember to lock the door. And see above suggestion, since you obviously can't lock your kids out when you're home alone with them :D

-Use household chores to your advantage.
Sometimes if my kids see me bent at a task like dishes, they'll find something else to do and leave me to it. Tasks like this have the advantage of taking minimal brainpower to accomplish, so I can let my mind wander while I wash.

I can't say that any of these suggestions are foolproof, and a lot of their effectiveness will depend on the age and temperament of your children. But they do offer at least a chance for you to focus and spend time doing something that matters to you. It might be slightly interrupted "thinking time," but it's good to find it when and where you can.

Kids are amazing, fun, and challenging. I love spending my days with them. But I also love an occasional moment or two of peace and quiet. It's not too much to ask for. I believe it refreshes me enough to be even better at my fight-resolving, snack-making, lap-offering parenting tasks. If you have other suggestions of good ways to find a little "me time," please feel free to offer them up. I'm always interested to see how other moms make life with little ones a little less hectic.


A return, a restart

I had such grand notions for this blog when I first created it. I planned out the kinds of things I was going to write about, I made layouts, and I was really excited. Then, when it came to actually starting it, as is my typical style, I quickly fizzled out. Over a year has passed, and after finally managing to remember my password, here I am again, staring at my potential. I'm ready to try this again.
I *was* going to delete my first two posts and pretend they never happened, but after re-reading them I decided I enjoyed them and they should stay. It's important in this whole re-defining myself struggle to recognize my shortcomings, right? So a big one is that I daydream about things, and sometimes even start them, but then never follow through. Here's to trying again.
My life has changed even more since the last time I wrote in this blog. Money is tighter, my jeans are (slightly) looser, and I've got one or two extra little ones running around on the weekdays. I've got a lot to uncover about myself still, and exactly how one balances being a full-time stay and home mom and a full-time, interesting, intelligent person at the same time. Can it be done? I think I've made a little headway in the last year, but there's still more to find out.
So, here's me pressing the "restart" button. Please close any programs that may be running...