Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Here's a math problem for you. And math is not my strong point.

So I’ve been trying to figure out where all of my time goes every day. Let’s see.

Well, 24 hours in a day, right?

So, 8 hours at work, plus an hour lunch = 9 hours. That leaves 15 hours.

Getting up, showered, dressed and ready in the morning, plus getting the girls up, dressed and fed = 1 hour (give or take). That leaves 14 hours.

Commuting time to and from work, including daycare drop-off and pick up and time spent giving out last hugs and kisses, waving good-bye, gathering up shoes, art projects, backpacks, and other assorted items at daycare, fighting a toddler to put her shoes on, getting a quick update on their day from our daycare provider, putting Becca’s shoes back on her (at least twice), last hugs and kisses to our daycare provider (from the kids, of course!), corralling everyone into the van, buckling a wiggly toddler into her carseat, chasing kids who are not mine out of my van, etc. = 1 hour (although it feels like 20 some days). That leaves 13 hours.

Household chores like getting and sorting the mail, finagling something for dinner, clean up after dinner, scrub down Becca, her chair and the floor underneath for 5 feet in every direction, gather dirty dishes which have migrated to every corner of my house, pick up dirty laundry off the floor (or spend same amount of time attempting to get kids to pick their own up), moving the 18 toys out of my path as I walk through the kitchen, hallway and living room = 1 hour. That leaves 12 hours.

Ah, halfway through.

Play time with my kids after dinner until bedtime = ½ hour. Yes – a half hour. Depressing, isn’t it. That leaves 11 ½ hours.

The kids bedtime, from first asking them to put jammies on, until all 3 are in bed – including books, snuggle time, brushing teeth, crossing today off our calendar, hugs and kisses, drinks of water, more hugs and kisses, reminding Abby 12 times to take her glasses off, hunting down Abby’s blankie and teddy bears, turning on their lullabies, etc. = 1 hour. That leaves 10 ½ hours.

Let’s not forget the extra hour that gets added to my day by either playing with the kids longer (I mean, a half hour??? Let’s be real here. I can hardly say hi and how was your day to them in a half hour, much less get any real quality time), adding in bath time if needed, or by them dragging bedtime out for as long as possible. Or all of the above. That leaves 9 ½ hours.

Now if I went to bed at this point, I could enjoy 9 ½ hours of sleep. Right? Well that doesn’t address the laundry that needs to be washed, switched to the dryer and/or folded. Plus making my lunch for tomorrow, laying out clothes for tomorrow, trying to deal with at least a little of the clutter that is my kitchen, bathroom and oh let’s face it, the rest of my house too. Plus watering my flowers outside (when I remember – hey, dead flowers means no more watering which means an extra 15 minutes I gain back – wow!). So that’s probably another hour or so for all of that. Which leaves 8 ½ hours.

Even 8 ½ hours of sleep would be nice. Not to mention recommended by doctors and all sorts of other professionals. But I can’t go right to sleep at this point. I need at least some time to wind down. And keep up on my favorite tv shows. And there’s extra projects like copying our camcorder tapes to dvd or scanning all of the pictures in my photo albums. And keeping up on my message boards, blog reading (and writing!), trying to keep up with reading the few magazines that I do get and/or any good books that I’m into. All of which generally take anywhere up to 2 to 3 hours, depending on the night. Which leaves me somewhere around 5 or 6 hours to sleep.

I don’t function well on 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night. I know that I really should go to bed earlier so I can get at least close to that 8 ½ hours of shut-eye. I know this but somehow I can’t put it into practice at 11pm when I’m just glad to have at least a little bit of ‘me’ time. And not to mention any kind of time to get in at least a few minutes of conversation with my husband. And if I do go to bed earlier, somehow other things just don't get done and that just adds onto the next day, and the next...

Yawn.

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Open wide!

This morning I took Abby and Hannah for their regular cleanings at the dentist. I think it was the first time in a very, very long time that we were actually early for something – we even beat the office staff there! Our appointment was at 8am, so I simply had packed everyone up like usual, drove to daycare and dropped Becca off and then took the big girls to the dentist’s office, which is about 3 minutes from daycare (versus my usual 15-minute drive to work). So we got lots of drinks from the water fountain and peeked in all of the closed and locked doors of all of the offices in the building until someone came and opened up our dentist’s office.

I like our dentist and how they handle kids. There are cute, colorful posters on the ceiling to stare at while you’re lying in the chair with your mouth wide open. They had a fun pair of star-shaped sunglasses for the girls to wear since the light is so bright in their faces. They each got to pick out a fun new toothbrush and got a sample sized tube of kids toothpaste. And they each got to pick out a prize from the prize basket. Ah yes, the glory of itsy bitsy, cheaply made toys that will either get lost by the time you get home, become a cat toy, or will have to be thrown away as a choking hazard. Abby picked out a temporary tattoo though, so I had to promise to put it on her hand later tonight when we get home. Hannah picked out a little plastic squiggly ball thing that will a) get lost by the time we get home, b) become a cat toy, or c) have to get thrown away because it’s a choking hazard.

Hannah went first – her teeth look great except for the overbite caused by her thumb sucking. We’re supposed to break this habit, according to the dentist. He was actually surprised that we weren’t already working on it. Well, she is 4 years old, so I know we probably should. But I’m hesitant to try for a couple of reasons. First, I want to deal with her potty training issues and get that completely worked out before we tackle anything else. And… Well, I sucked my thumb when I was little too. And not-so-little, although I won’t embarrass myself by saying how old I was before I quit. Let’s just leave that there, shall we... But I have a hard time taking away something that’s a security item for her, like how Abby has her blankie. Hannah only really sucks her thumb at night or if she’s really tired (or upset). And I have the feeling that peer pressure will probably keep it that way, especially now that she’s getting to school age. I know she’s going to need braces eventually anyway – that’s pretty much a given.

Abby has never sucked her thumb (or anything else for that matter). She did very well this morning too and even let them take a couple of x-rays. Her two front teeth are getting very wiggly now so it probably won’t be long before the tooth fairy will have to start learning our address. She does have a couple of cavities though. Which I’m not that surprised about considering that her idea of brushing her teeth is a couple of quick swipes mostly around the front of her mouth. We’ve been trying to get her to brush longer and better but apparently we need to try harder. I’m thinking we might have to break down and get her one of those toothbrushes that plays music or lights up or something to show her how long to brush for.

So that was our adventure for the morning, not counting the 15 minutes spent afterward while I worked out insurance issues and made additional appointments, all while attempting to corral two very energetic (and loud) little girls. I think the dentist office staff were probably glad to see us go!

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Monday, July 30, 2007

MamaBlogga's July Group Writing Project - Thanks, Mom! stories

Here is the final list of people who submitted stories to MamaBlogga's July Group Writing Project. This month's theme was "Thanks, Mom!" and there are some truly great, funny and inspirational stories. Check them out!

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Splash

I know I've talked a lot about swimming lessons, but honestly that's pretty much where my life was focused over the past few weeks. I am VERY glad that they're done - having more than 15 minutes to prepare/feed my family dinner at night is much more relaxing (if dinner can at all be considered relaxing anyway).

At the end of this session of swimming lessons, my girls had progressed significantly, or so I thought until they got their little achievement sheets on the last night. Last summer, Abby had actually graduated from Sunfish I to Sunfish II and even (briefly) to Turtle I - she didn't want to do the things they wanted her to do in Turtles (like actually swim), so went back down to Sunfish II. Fine. She has a hard time straying out of her comfort zone - we know this. This year, she was actually doing more things than last year, but she was upset and crying about a lot of them (pretty much not wanting to put her face in the water). So I wasn't too horribly surprised to find her ending up in - Sunfish II yet again. Not a huge deal.

Hannah made a huge leap this year. Last summer she didn't make it through a single lesson without tears. This year she was excited for every lesson, no tears whatsoever, did every thing they wanted her to do. I thought she'd move up from Sunfish I to Sunfish II for sure and maybe even up into Turtles. Nope - on the last night, she is a 'High' Sunfish I. What the heck is a 'High' Sunfish I? Her teacher said she didn't move her up because she wasn't swimming on her own enough yet. So when I look at the achievement sheet to see what Sunfish I is supposed to consist of, it says things like 'swim to side of pool with help'. Nowhere does it say they have to swim alone in Sunfish I. She's progressed so much since last summer that it's just incomprehensible to me that the teachers (same ones as last year) haven't recognized that. But ok, fine.

Ron and the girls stayed for open swim after the last night of lessons. Guess what Hannah did? Yep, swam completely across the short end of the pool by herself. And Abby swam with no tears. So why can't they do these things when it matters?! When we've shelled out the $$ for swimming lessons, that is. I guess I just want someone to recognize what they've achieved and have it 'official' that they have done so well now.

So, we'll keep going to open swim - Ron took the girls again on Tuesday and Thursday last week and we'll all go tomorrow night probably. After all - the most important thing is that they get comfortable in the water and can keep themselves afloat. And that they have fun!

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bruised Becca

Today went much better. Nobody was sick, which is strange but I'm certainly not complaining. I have no idea what was going on yesterday. Hannah and Becca both ate normally today and had no problems. And nobody else has come down with it (yet?) either. Just plain weird.

I've known that Becca is our little daredevil but she appears to be collecting bruises this weekend. I already posted about her little escapade with the baby slide yesterday. Her eye looked better today - at least until dinnertime tonight. We had friends over - my friend Kristi's husband Steve and their two boys (Kristi was working). I headed out to pick up pizzas for dinner, Ron was watching tv in the living room and keeping an eye on the big kids. Steve headed downstairs to keep an eye on Becca. A few minutes after I left, Becca apparently decided to climb back upstairs but didn't make it too far before she fell back down them - at least that's what we think happened since Steve had stepped into the bathroom right beforehand. She's got a nice round bruise on her cheek, right under the red mark on the eye from yesterday.

Then, later on right before Steve and the boys took off, the kids were all playing in Abby and Hannah's room and Becca smooshed her fingers in one of the girls' dresser drawers. Nothing broken, thank goodness, but one of them was swelling up a little bit.

I don't remember going through this with either of the other girls! I think Becca's going to give me a heart attack before she turns 2 at this rate, LOL.

Here's hoping for an illness and injury-free day tomorrow!

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You know it's going to be a rough morning when...

Well you definitely know it's going to be a rough one when your day starts at 3:30am when you're awakened by the little girl standing at your bedside saying, "Mommy, I threw up in my bed!".

Uh-oh. That's never a good thing to hear, especially not at 3:30am.

Said child (Hannah) then climbed in bed with me - uh, nope - go see Daddy so I can go check out your bed.

Yes, she had thrown up. A lot. So I gathered up the sheets and blankies and trudged downstairs to put everything in the wash. Came back upstairs, crawled back in bed and back to sleep.

I did hear Ron get up and leave for work at 7am. At 8:30, I was awakened by another little girl climbing into my bed saying, "Mommy, can I go into Becca's room? She's awake." Well yes, I could hear her so sure, go ahead. About a minute later, Abby came back, "Mommy, Becca did something in her bed!".

Uh-oh. Um, did she throw up?

Yep. Not only that, but a rather messy, leaky diaper explosion as well. Oh what a lovely start to my day. I did mention that Ron was at work, right?

Ok, so I got up, grabbed Becca out of bed and stipped her down. Cleaned her up somewhat and put a new diaper on. Put her down on the floor so I could go help Abby get breakfast in the kitchen. Hannah disappeared into the bathroom and 2 seconds later starts screaming for me to help her.

Uh-oh. Yes, now the diarrhea has hit her too. Thankfully she was still in her pull-up but it's still a mess. So, I threw Hannah in the tub and got her cleaned up and added her jammies to the pile of messy things in Becca's crib that I hadn't been able to deal with yet. Suggested (strongly) that Hannah might want to wear a pull-up today, just in case.

Corralled Becca and got her into the tub. She had a bath last night, so this is the 2nd one in the past 12 hours or so. Got her dressed.

Ok, so stomach stuff means the BRAT diet. Threw out the rest of the bananas yesterday. No rice either. Only have strawberry applesauce that Hannah doesn't like and giving it to Becca would mean a 3rd bath since she won't let us feed her anymore and is not very good with a spoon herself yet. That left toast. Guess what we all had for breakfast? LOL

Hannah went downstairs to the basement after breakfast and Becca followed her down the stairs. A few minutes later, as I was about to head down too, I heard Becca start screaming.

Uh-oh. This doesn't sound good.

I got downstairs, picked Becca up and asked Hannah what happened. "Becca jumped off the slide." This means the little plastic slide that we pulled back out now that Becca's old enough to play on it. She can climb the 3 steps on the ladder and slide down all by herself. Jumping down probably wouldn't have occurred to her. Maybe she fell off? I calmed Becca down and then watched as Hannah proceeded to climb the slide, stand at the top and jump off. Oh, so that's where Becca got the idea from. After firmly explaining to Hannah that she is not ever to do that again, I noticed that Becca's got a swollen lump under her right eye and a large red mark. So much for the 18-month pictures I was thinking about having taken today.

By noon, I had finally gotten the laundry in the wash and all 3 kids dressed. This is one of those mornings when I actually wish I was at work! I decided I'd try to get my shower in while the kids were eating lunch. Abby toasted herself some waffles, Hannah had toast and jelly, and Becca had more dry toast and some Pedialyte. Abby and Hannah started arguing whose turn it was to pick out the movie for quiet time. I told them to stay upstairs and I was going to take a quick shower. Got everything ready, about to hop in the shower and the bathroom door opens.

Uh-oh.

Hannah's crying and saying that Abby pushed her and she hit her head. So I turned off the shower, came out, grabbed Abby and stuck her in a timeout. She is now crying, along with Hannah. Hmm, where did Becca go? I look in the bathroom and there she is, fully clothed, sitting in the tub, soaking wet since I'd just been running the shower. I grabbed her and carried her into her room, shut the shade (since I'm still 'shower-ready', LOL), got her into dry clothes and diaper, went back into the kitchen where Abby's sobbing that it was an accident - fine. Apologize to your sister then both of you calm down - I'm taking a shower!

Um, Calgon? Take me away!!!

So the rest of the day wasn't actually that bad. Ron got home during nap/quiet time. Nobody has thrown up since (so far) and no more messy diapers or pull-ups. We'll see how tonight and tomorrow go - Ron's stomach was iffy after dinner but so far Abby and I are fine. Please let it stay that way! At least Ron doesn't have to work tomorrow, so I'm leaving any puke or poop duty up to him. I think I deserve the break. :)

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Psst, want to win?

Here's a fun contest! But it's a quick one, so you'll have to enter before 10pm tonight. It's being held over at A Journey of 1000 Stitches for one of the handmade items in her etsy store. Boy does looking at her site make me wish I knew how to sew better. And she manages to make all of these cool things (like personalized aprons, t-shirts, tooth fairy pillows) while taking care of 3 kids! Amazing.

Anyway, check out the contest - you get an entry for leaving a comment, plus a bonus entry for linking back to her site and another bonus for linking to her store! Do I get a double bonus for linking twice? Just kidding... :)

And here's another contest as well. Don't pass this one up! It's hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom and - get this - they're giving away a 37″ Flat-Panel LCD HDTV!!! Again, all you have to do is comment, and they also ask you to please link back to their site and also to Best Buy, who is donating the tv. You have until August 17th to enter this one - just one comment entry per person though.

Good luck!

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Lunch date and finances

I had lunch today - with my husband - and with no kids. We did this last week too, but the entire lunchtime discussion revolved solely around Harry Potter, as my attempts at otherwise engaging Ron in conversation miserably failed. Today was very nice though - we ate at a 'real' restaurant (i.e., one with no waiting in line to give your order and carrying your food to the table yourself) and actually had an enjoyable time that did not involve crayons, whining, food on the floor or anyone ducking under the table. What a concept!

We talked about several things - one of which was ways that we can improve our budgeting skills and keep from overspending. We came up with a couple of very simple things that we're going to try.

Back when I originally used to keep the checkbook, I tracked everything in the checkbook register, like you're 'supposed' to do. For a while I also used Quicken, but everything was written down in the register as well. A few years ago when Ron took over the checkbook, he set up an Excel spreadsheet to track everything in and only entered transactions into that. This frustrated me to no end since I couldn't just pick up the checkbook and see where things were at. Having to turn on the computer, wait for it to boot up, open up Excel, find the checkbook file - you get the idea. I thought about buying a PDA and entering in debits as I made them right after leaving the store. As much as the technical equipment-loving, geeky side of me liked that idea, I couldn't justify the cost. Then last year, it got so neither of us wanted to keep up the checkbook - it was just way too depressing.

When I came back to work last fall, I took the checkbook back over. I still use Ron's Excel file since it's handy to categorize things and be able to quickly sum up lists of expenses. Every few days, I download our transactions from our handy credit union website and update the Excel file. But, it's still been annoying that we can't see our status at a glance. We also tend to use the debit card way too just because it's - well, it's just there and much too easy to pull out and use.

So, here are our ideas from today to help get things under control:

  1. First of all, that I will print out the last day or two of our checkbook transactions every Friday after I update the Excel file with Ron's paycheck information and bring the sheet home for us to refer to over the weekend (which is the biggest danger zone for overspending for us).
  2. Daycare is due every Monday for that week. I've been paying it on Tuesday or even Wednesday a few times because we've 'dipped' into that money the previous weekend and I have to hope that the check doesn't clear until Friday when Ron gets paid again. Hmmm, see the problem here? Especially when I forget to record the darn daycare check and then pay other bills with that money... So, since Ron is paid every Friday, I'm going to start paying daycare on Fridays for the next week instead of waiting until Monday or Tuesday. That way the money for that comes out immediately (or at least is recorded immediately) so we know exactly how much we have left for the weekend and next week.
  3. Ron eats out almost every day for lunch. Yes, this is a bad idea when you're struggling financially. Yes, it's not healthy since he eats fast food almost every day. However, I've pretty much given up the fight on this one because a) there is literally nothing he will eat that he can take with him since he is out on the road every day with nowhere to re-heat food and even with a cooler, he's found it impossible to keep cold food cold in his truck. And b) even with eating fast food every day for lunch, the guy has lost over 30 pounds since he started this job because he's so active every day. But, it's still hitting us financially. Not to mention that I'll often take the girls out for lunch or dinner on the weekends just for a change or for somewhere to go since Ron's often working. Which is more money being wasted. So... Every Friday when I leave work, I will stop on my way to get the girls from daycare and pick up $57 in cash. Of that, $25 will go to Ron for lunches and $25 for me for miscellaneous stuff (taking the girls out to lunch or to go do something fun, or snacks/lunches for myself during the week). When our weekly money is gone, nothing more gets spent that week. The other $7 will go to the girls for an allowance - something we've been meaning to do anyway. I'm thinking $4/week for Abby and $3/week for Hannah (and then having them each give $1 at church every week out of 'their' money). Hopefully this will curb the impulse spending that we do.
There's more to work on, like coming up with a regular schedule for grocery shopping - something we've really been struggling with since Ron started this job and his hours are so unpredictable. And setting a budget for expenses in general. But hey - baby steps... And I think that these ideas will help out a lot.

What budgeting/financial tips do you have that work well for your family? I'd love to know!

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fancy Hannah

No, this post is not about my Hannah. Someone on one of my message boards posted about a family that just lost their 5-year-old daughter in a tragic drowning accident, one week ago. The mom is a blogger and has been writing not only about this terrible loss, but about celebrating her daughter's life. Her daughter, Hannah, loved sparkles, glitter and fairy wings. Everything glitzy and fancy. Her family called her dress-up clothes, her "Fancy Hannah" clothes. For the funeral, they asked everyone attending to wear their best "Fancy Hannah" clothes. And people did.

On her blog, Life with Hannah and Lily, she wrote on a post the day after her daughter died, "OH GOD I HURT!!!!!!"

I can't imagine how such a tragedy would affect me, but I am so acutely aware that there can be no words to adequately explain the pain of losing a child. And no words to assuage the pain either. But as a blogger, words are what I can offer - and prayers. I pray for God to watch over Hannah's family. And for anything that might help to ease their pain, even just a little bit.

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Becca's checkup and some updates

I just got back from taking Becca for her 18-month checkup. Wow, has this little girl grown! She's gone from a tall, skinny little thing with chicken legs to a robust toddler who actually has some plump to her now. Until her first birthday, she always hovered around the 10th to 25th percentile for weight. She is now in the 75th percentile at 26 pounds 4 ounces! And at 33 1/2 inches tall, she's in the 95th percentile for height. Way to grow, little Becca!

I'm feeling much better now, except for a lingering cough, but I think Becca may be catching my cold. She ran an unexplained fever last night of 101.5 before bedtime (although she's been fever-free so far today) and she just hasn't seemed herself or had an appetite. My little daredevil hardly let me put her down at the doctor's office and let's just say that's not like her. About the time she finally started calming down and playing with me, it was time for the shot - only 1 this time though, thank goodness. But in general, she's doing well and is healthy and all of that fun stuff.

Remember my cancorder tape-to-dvd project? Well, I am almost completely done! I have one tape left to copy - it's of our honeymoon in Florida. So far I have copied/watched over 30 hours of family video. After the first 7 hours of just Abby, it seemed to settle down into a nice variety of new babies, birthday parties, Christmas and preschool events/activities. Although we either did not record much in 2002 after Abby's first birthday or I'm missing a tape somewhere because between April (Abby's b'day) and November (Hannah's birth), I've got a total of about 15 minutes. But I'm excited to almost be done and already looking ahead to the next project that I've assigned myself - scanning all of the photos in my photo albums.

This is a bigger job that you might think. My mom started photo albums for my brother and I when we were born. At the time, all of their photos were developed into slides, so my mom made prints of the best photos for our albums. My brother never kept his up after he got older and I actually raided his for photos before I moved away from home (shhh, don't tell!). But I not only kept them up, they multiplied. And multiplied. I have almost 20 photo albums covering from my birth up to Abby's birth, when we got our first digital camera. I also got into scrapbooking at that point and have started 3 different scrapbooks - none of which have more than a few pages in them yet. Have I mentioned I have this habit of starting projects and not finishing them? Which is one main reason I'm so excited to almost be done with the camcorder tapes. And I WILL get all of the photo albums scanned! Eventually.

So in other news, here's some updates on past posts. First of all, Hannah is doing much, much better with the potty since we started using the timer. Even to the point where we've stopped using it most of the time. She's only had a couple of accidents and has even taken herself to the potty several times. She is back in pull-ups at night after ruining her mattress (that one was Ron's fault for not noticing he was putting her to bed on a bare mattress without sheet or mattress pad!). I haven't been giving her the MiraLax on a regular basis, but plan to start again because she's been complaining about stomach aches again. So we'll see if this streak goes more than the couple of weeks that it's ever lasted before. Having her 100% potty trained before school would be awesome.

I still haven't gotten a new wedding ring. It just hasn't seemed as high of a priority lately, what with everything else going on.

I finished Harry Potter on Monday! No spoilers here, but it was really an amazing book and a great way to end the series. I think I'm going to go back now and re-read them all from the beginning to see how everything fits together. J. K. Rowling is amazingly talented - I'll be looking forward to seeing what she does next.

I think that brings everything pretty much up to date! Just because I feel like it, here are a few photos from swimming lessons over the past couple of weeks. Sorry for the picture quality - the lighting isn't the greatest plus the motion makes things a bit blurry...

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Ah... to escape...

One of my absolute most favorite podcasts, the Manic Mommies is hosting a true mom vacation. It's called the Manic Mommies Escape and they're spending a weekend in Newport, RI in November. Oh what bliss to be able to just take off for a weekend without husband or kids and just spend the time pampering yourself and meeting lots of great new mommy friends.

Sigh.

It would be wonderful, if I could go. Due to my horrible, idiotic book-keeping skills, and the fact that we decided for some reason to take down a tree when we have no money, not to mention just general financial issues we've had over the past year we are again behind on bills. So no Escape for me.

But for anyone who is interested, the Escape sounds like it will be a blast and I will be excited (and jealous) to hear all about it goes. One of the awesome hosts of the Manic Mommies, Kristin, will celebrate her birthday over that weekend and since my birthday is just a few days beforehand as well, I feel like I have at least a tiny bit in common with her. Not to mention the crazy, busy, working-mom life as well!


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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Breathing easy

There is another thing that I am grateful to my mom for that I wanted to talk about. A couple of years ago, she quit smoking. Now this is a huge achievement for anyone and I applaud every person who makes the effort to quit, for their sake and for their families' as well.

My mom smoked for over 50 years! And what's funny is that she never wanted to start smoking to begin with. Back when she was a teenager, smoking was a popular, trendy thing to do - similar to now basically - except that the health impacts weren't known yet. Everyone who was anyone, smoked. Except for my mom. There are two 'habits' that my mom was pushed into by her mom. Drinking coffee - and smoking. My mom was pretty much told that she wasn't a member of the family unless she smoked. So, at the age of seventeen, desperately wanting her mom's approval, she made the decision to go ahead and smoke. And as a habit, it was one almost impossible for her to break afterward.

When I was little, both of my parents smoked. I don't remember exactly how old I was when my dad quit, but I know I was still pretty young. My mom tried to quit then too, but couldn't. Some of my strongest childhood memories are my dad making cigarette runs to the store for her, me whining and begging for my parents to open the car windows a crack to let the smoke out of the car while driving (I can remember sitting on my mom's lap in the front seat of the car - and that is so completely illegal nowadays, it's a wonder I ever survived!), and how my best friend used to be able to tell my doll clothes apart from hers because mine smelled like smoke. At the time, I usually barely noticed the smoke smell in our house and on my stuff. I don't even want to think about the amount of secondhand smoke I was exposed to while growing up. But nobody knew quite how much of a health issue it was back then really either.

Once I moved away from home, I became so sensitive to cigarette smoke that I can't stand even a whiff of it now. Spending any amount of time in a bowling alley or restaurant where smoking is occurring makes my eyes sting. I don't really know anyone else who smokes now but my mom would always spend her time out on our front porch or back patio, even in the cold and snow, with her coffee and cigarette several times a day while visiting us. She never complained about smoking outside or even asked us to sit at a smoking section in a restaurant - by then she knew what a horrible habit it is and didn't want to expose us to it any more than she had to. Especially once the girls were born.

A few years ago, financial considerations finally forced my mom to cut down. She went down to 4 cigarettes a day and held to that for quite a while. Two things finally changed and gave her the motivation to finally quit once and for all. First, she had surgery to clear a blockage in her carotid artery. This is something that runs in her family and she was told at the time to stop smoking. She couldn't. Then, two summers ago, she was diagnosed with emphysema. Finally, she realized that if she wanted to live long enough to be around while my kids grow up, she had to stop. And she did. She now munches on Mentos mints or "Grandma's candies" as my girls call them almost continually, but as far as I know, she hasn't touched a cigarette since. And she looks and acts so much healthier than she had for a long, long time before.

I hope my girls never pick up a cigarette when they get older. I hope they take after me - I've never even tried one. Partly because my mom used to joke that she would kill us if we ever started the filthy habit (yes, she was joking, but I did take her just a teensy bit seriously!). Thank you for that, mom!

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Wordless Wednesday - Becca's newest 'talent'





Check out Wordless Wednesday here!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

To my mom

The theme for this month’s MamaBlogga Group Writing Project is “Thanks, Mom”. I thought for a while about what to write for this one – my relationship with my mom has been somewhat complex. But here goes.

The thing that I’m most thankful to my mom for, is – being my mom. When my mom was my age – 36 – she got married. She had always wanted a husband and a family of her own, but never met the ‘right’ guy. Not that my dad turned out to be the ‘right guy’ either, but that’s another story. My mom lived at home, taking care of her dad and her younger brother. She was an elementary school teacher with a Master’s degree and had her own, independent life and money. She spent every summer traveling – Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, my mom’s been all over the world.

Two things happened right before my mom turned 36. First, her younger brother got married and began his own life and family, leaving my mom as the only unmarried one out of her 3 siblings. Also, her dad had a series of strokes and eventually passed away. I think this was probably the hardest time of her life – finding herself on her own. My dad was at the ‘right place at the right time’ and she married him.

My mom gave up a lot when she married my dad and then had me just over a year later. She gave up her independence, her job, her house, her money, her comfort zone. She also put up with a lot – becoming a stepmom to my dad’s grown children, one of whom lived with them for the first couple of years after she married my dad. She moved across town to an area where she knew nothing and nobody. She gave up her job to stay home with my brother and I. She put her retirement money and the money she inherited from her dad into the down payment on our house. She put up with my dad, who never really grew up or knew how to support a family. Most of these things she never gained back. When my brother and I were older and she tried to get teaching jobs, they were no longer there. But all of this was more than outweighed by the joy she found in being a mom.

My mom has always loved being a mom. She threw herself in to everything mom-related when we were growing up. She volunteered at our schools, was a girl scout and cub scout leader, helped us with homework and school projects, sewed/made years worth of Halloween costumes, and shuttled us to the many various activities she encouraged us to get involved in. And I never heard her complain, even once. She has ‘lent’ us money that she knew would never be repaid, let my brother drive her car to school every day in high school (leaving her stuck at home while he was gone), taken care of our pets when we no longer lived at home or could care for them, scrimped and saved to give us everything (within reason, of course!) that we wanted and that she felt we deserved.

My mom will turn 74 years old next month. She lives alone, in a tiny house that needs a lot of work, back on her side of town near my aunt and cousin. She lives on a fixed-income, with only her Social Security check to support her. Every month or two she takes the bus across the state and stays with us for a weekend to spend time with her only grandchildren. She takes all 5 of us out to dinner every time she visits. She still ‘lends’ us money when we get into tight spots and takes the time to buy my kids things for their birthdays and Christmas that she knows they will play with and treasure. She still gives my brother and I more money than she can afford to spend on ourselves for our birthdays and Christmas.

She has friends in her neighborhood, cats to snuggle on her lap, her sister and niece nearby and now my brother since he moved back to Michigan from San Francisco last year. And she has my daughters, who love their ‘white-haired Grandma’ because she spends every waking moment she is here visiting playing with them, pushing them on swings, reading to them, and spending the kind of time with them that I wish I could every day.

Thanks, mom. For everything.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Sam

Abby had a sort of milestone this past weekend. Last week at Vacation Bible school, she made a new friend. That’s not the new part though, since she makes friends whenever we go somewhere with a play area. The new part is that she and this friend (her name is Sam) exchanged phone numbers on the last day of VBS. And she came home that night asking us over and over if she could call her new friend.

Have I mentioned that we had not met this girl or her parents? My friend Kristi drove the girls to and from VBS last week since it was at her church and it was in the mornings while I’m working. I was stumped – there really wasn’t any reason that Abby couldn’t call her friend, but it just seemed… odd. Ron actually made the call and talked to Sam’s mom. Turns out she knew the girls had exchanged numbers and had met Abby at VBS. So Abby and Sam talked for a while on the phone. How my little girl got old enough to be chatting away on the phone with a girl we didn’t know is beyond me! I realized at that moment that this is probably just the beginning of things to come since she’ll be meeting lots of kids we don’t know at school this year. Preschool was different since we saw the other kids and their parents every day at drop-off and pick-up and got to know them. And the only new friend she made in kindergarten last year also happens to go to our church, so meeting him and his parents was easy. She did meet some new kids on the bus, but nobody that she was so interested in as to exchange numbers.

Two things came out of this. First was Abby’s first playdate with a kid that we’d never met. Sam originally invited Abby to her house, but after I got on the phone with Sam’s mom, we ended up deciding to have Sam come over to our house since we live on opposite ends of town and our house happens to be right near a mall. The other thing that came out of it is something that never occurred to me until Saturday night at McDonalds when Abby gave our phone number to a little girl that she’d met 10 minutes earlier in the play area.

Uh-oh.

Abby now understands that she has to ask Ron or I for permission to give out our phone number, to anyone. At least, I hope she understands that. Something I’d never thought about when we taught her our phone number was explaining when it’s appropriate to give it to other people. Whoops.

Sam came over yesterday afternoon for about an hour. She is a very polite, sweet little girl and her mom seems very nice also. She has a 3-year-old sister who wanted very badly to stay and play too. After a lot of coaching all weekend, Abby did do well with letting her friend choose what to play – Abby decided they would play a game but let Sam choose which game, etc. Sam didn’t seem to mind and I didn’t want to butt in. They played a game, played outside (for all of 10 minutes), colored, and watched a Dora video on Abby’s VideoNow Jr.

I don’t know if we’ll get together with Sam again since she lives just too far for it to be convenient, but it would be nice to get to know her and her family better. Now that I’ve survived this first phone call and playdate, I’m thinking that I’m doing quite well and just might be ready for another – someday.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Is it too late for a New Year's Resolution?

So after watching hours and hours of videotapes that we've taken over the past several years, I've come to realize one thing. I am not on very many of the tapes, since I'm usually the one behind the camera. And that's actually a very good thing.

I have a distorted self-image. When I look at myself in the mirror, I 'see' myself as I think I look, which is to say how I looked several years ago - before kids. I don't 'see' how I look now, which is 50 pounds heavier. I know on an intellectual level that I am way too heavy. I just don't think of myself as a 'heavy' or 'fat' person. But I am.

Watching the few clips of myself on these tapes, I am forced to see myself as I really am. And I'm not happy at all with what I see. I hate the way my clothes fit, the way my face looks - even my fingers look puffy. So I know that I need to do something about this. For health reasons. For self-esteem reasons. For my kids.

But what to do? Diet fads aside, I know that the best way to lose weight is healthy eating and exercise. Let's explore those options, shall we...

Exercise. Well, I already get up at 6:30am just to make it out the door on time as it is. Getting up any earlier would guarantee that nobody would want to be around me and I would probably end up conking out at my desk. Believe me, not an option. So on to other possibilities. I work all day, so no luck there. I hear and read all of the suggestions - take walks, bike rides, do workout videos with your kids. First of all, I've tried to walk with my kids. And I've realized that my kids must be the sloooowwweeesssttt walkers in the known universe. Turtles go faster than my kids. So not much value for exercise there. And not to mention that our neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks so any walking has to happen in the street, which is a major source of stress for me. So no walks.

Bike riding is a somewhat attractive option since we do all have bikes and a bike trailer for Becca. However, there is one major problem with this idea too. Namely, Abby. Abby, whose idea of bike riding is to pedal very, very, very slowly. Did I mention that my kids are slow walkers? Well Abby probably walks faster than she rides her bike. Honest. This kid is never going to get rid of her training wheels. And Hannah rides at a normal/fast pace, so therefore I end up somewhere in between with Hannah getting frustrated at how slow we're going and Abby complaining about how fast Hannah is going. And there's also the fact that we'll get halfway around the block and Abby decides she's done riding and then walks her bike the rest of the way. So, bike riding is out. And honestly, I really, really hate workout videos. I hate that the people in them are facing me and by the time I figure out way which way I need to move which limb to copy what they're doing, they're 16 moves ahead of me. I also have a living room with very little space.

So am I just making excuses? Probably. Here's another one though. Now that I'm no longer running to daycare every day at lunch to nurse Becca, that does leave one hour every weekday where exercise is at least a possibility. Joining a gym is not. Cost-wise, just not going to happen. I did start walking at lunchtime during the spring when it was just warm out. But walking in 80+ degree weather is not an attractive option - especially not to my co-workers who would have to be subjected to a sweaty, stinky me afterward. I'm still thinking of ways to make this one work - being sick most of last week didn't help either but I'm hoping to get out and walk at least a few days next week. I do have a co-worker who walks too, so that might just be an idea.

Ok, healthy eating. Yes, we really need to eat healthier. I know that. There are 2 things working against this in my household though. First of all, neither Ron or I enjoy cooking. I especially hate the idea of cooking after a full day of work when I arrive home with hungry, grumpy kids. We tend to end up eating things that are convenient, quick and easy. Things that most healthier alternatives aren't. Also, I apparently married the world's pickiest eater. Yes, this is a distinction that I could rather do without and apparently being married to a horribly picky eater doesn't get you any kind of prizes or kudos. All it gets me is a husband who will not eat most of the things that I want to eat, and therefore kids who are only exposed to a few food options and therefore have become picky eaters themselves. Yes, I should've done more to prevent this, and am trying wholeheartedly with Becca, but it's a lost cause with Hannah, who seems to have inherited her dad's pickiness. And mine - I'm somewhat picky myself, but nowhere near as bad as Ron.

So food is a major struggle for me. Especially dinner and snacks. And especially sweets. I have a horrible sweet tooth that I've struggled with my entire life. Which is probably one of the main reasons for the 20 pounds that I have been unable to lose after each pregnancy (10 from Becca but then again, I only gained a total of 8 pounds when I was pregnant with her anyway so I now weigh more than I did at 9 months pregnant. Nice, huh!). Stress causes sweet tooth which causes stress... The usual vicious circle. And one I've so far been unable to break.

But I have to. Because I hate how I look and I hate how I feel. And I want to teach my kids healthier habits than I have. So in honor of this goal, I am going to post a picture here of myself as I currently look. Hopefully sometime in the future, I can refer to this picture as how I 'used to look'. I'm going to try my best anyway.

Should I mention that even with eating fast food for lunch almost every day, Ron has lost over 30 pounds this year?? If I could carry an 8o-pound ladder, I'd consider becoming a cable tv installer just to lose some darn weight!

Here is a photo of me, my mom and Abby taken in late 2001 when Abby was a baby. Even here I was overweight, but not too bad, especially compared to now:

Here is a family photo that we had done last year (5 years after the above photo) after Becca was born. We haven't done one since because I hate how fat my face and neck are in this one... Ron has lost weight since this picture was taken - I'm realizing how much better he looks now as I see this picture again. That cable tv installer thing just looks better and better, LOL.

Do you have any exercise/diet tips? If so, I'd love to hear them!

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Out of the mouth of a 6-year-old

So this was the conversation tonight at dinner (McDonalds - we really need to go grocery shopping!) between Abby and I...

Abby: "Mommy, I really want my own room again. I don't want to share with Hannah anymore."

Me: "Hmmm, but we don't really have an extra bedroom, sweetie."

Abby: "I'll stay in Hannah's and my room and Hannah can sleep somewhere else. And I want my room to be Hello Kitty."

Hannah: "And I want my room to be Tinkerbell!"

Me: "So where do you think Hannah should sleep then?"

First she suggested that Hannah could sleep in the living room. I pointed out that we do kind of need our living room for other things and she countered with the fact that we have another 'living room' in the basement. Ok, she had me there - we do have a rec room in the basement.

Me: "Abby, Hannah is not going to sleep in the living room. Period."

Abby: "Well she can sleep in the bathroom then."

After I firmly explained that the bathroom is not an option either, she was stumped for a couple of minutes. Actually, I was surprised that she didn't suggest kicking Becca out of her room (which was originally Hannah's anyway) and giving that one back to Hannah.

Abby then decided to give me a choice (funny how those things come back at you, isn't it!). Hannah could either sleep downstairs in the basement or we could buy a wall to put in their room.

Me: "And where exactly would we get a wall?"

Abby: "Well.... Not the food store, I guess."

Me: "Abby, Hannah is not going to sleep downstairs and we can't buy a wall for your room. You guys are going to have to keep sharing your room, ok?"

She hasn't quite given up on the idea yet, but she hasn't come up with any other options either. Believe me, there really aren't any for our 3-bedroom house, which is why Abby and Hannah are sharing to begin with. I would like to eventually build a master bedroom downstairs and then give them our current room to share since it's small for a master bedroom (believe me!) but would be a nice size for the 2 girls to share. Since buying a bigger house is out of the question for now.

The funniest part of this whole thing though was later on when I was relating the story to Ron and our neighbors across the street over in their kitchen. When I got to the part about Abby wanting to "buy a wall" for their room, and me asking here where we could 'buy' a wall, our neighbor Brian's response to that was absolutely priceless and I about died laughing.

Wal-Mart.

Oh I wish I'd thought of that!

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Friday, July 20, 2007

I think someone has some hair envy going on!

I have had 3 bald baby girls. And when I say bald, I mean bald - none of them has had a haircut before the age of 2. You wouldn't think it to look at Abby and Hannah now, and it's odd to go back and look at their bald little heads in their baby pictures from years ago. They look so much different with hair! I tried an experiment a while ago when I was completely bored had some free time at work. We don't have Photoshop here, but with Microsoft's generic paint program and a little creativity, I came up with the following:

This is Abby's hair on Becca's face:
And this is Hannah's hair on Becca's face:

If you squint your eyes and look at them, they almost look like 'real' photos, lol. It's so hard to tell which I like better because Becca seems to have a face shape and general features closer to Hannah's, but she has Abby's eyes (and mine). Judging by what hair has come in so far, she's apparently going to be even blonder than Hannah is but with straighter hair more like Abby's. Here are all 3 of my girls at 18-20 months of age:
So while Mary was up visiting over the July 4th holiday weekend, Becca managed to get a hold of the plastic container that Mary keeps all of her daughter, Emma's, hair stuff in...

Hmmm, what is all of this fun-looking stuff?
Can I play with them? Really??
Wow, what are these things? (Notice the clip that we managed to get to stay in her hair for all of about 3 seconds, lol)
Hmm, maybe I should put them back... (and notice the TINY little pigtail that Mary managed to get in the back of her hair, which actually lasted a few hours!)
Why I have no idea who dumped all of these out! Me? Nah...
Oops, I think I missed one...
Ha! Got 'em all!
Now if I just put the lid back on, maybe nobody will notice all of the stuff scattered around on the floor...

We let her play with them for a good half hour before Emma came upstairs and didn't want icky baby germs all over her hair stuff. Becca loves hair stuff though - she'll grab a brush and try to brush Abby or Hannah's hair when I'm doing their in the mornings, or try to brush her own (ouch!).

The other night at swimming she must've discovered that she is started to actually get some of her own - she reached up and grabbed her head with both hands and walked around for 5 minutes yanking on her own hair. Silly girl - don't pull it all out now that you're finally starting to get some!

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

I got hugged!


Thanks, Dawn for the hugz - it made up for a lot of the stress from the other day...

Want to hug someone? Check it out here!

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Harry Potter mania

I… am… tired… Probably a combination of being incredibly busy this week and staying up way too late, I guess. I was up late-ish again last night but not for the same reason as before. No, last night I was sucked into the last few chapters of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, which I am (well, was – since I finished it last night) re-reading in anticipation of the last book coming out tomorrow night at midnight.

Yes, I’m a Harry Potter fan. And I’m not ashamed to admit it, although in general I tend to avoid things that are way too popular. I refuse to buy crocs for either myself or my kids because even though everyone in the world has them (so it seems), they remain among the ugliest shoes I have ever seen. I was one of the last people I knew to see Titanic when it came out just because I was annoyed by all the hype.

But I love the Harry Potter books. Yes, the movies are good too, but it’s hard to cram pages and pages of detailed writing into a 2+ hour movie and have it both cover all necessary plot lines and be enjoyable enough to hold people’s attention. And I get annoyed when things get left out that I think are important. My regard for Harry Potter probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve been reading constantly since age 5 (Yes, I was always the kid in school with ‘her nose in a book’) and one of my favorite genres is young adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy anyway. Authors like Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L’Engle, and yes – J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.

I am not an obsessed fan like my husband who counts down the days until a new book or movie comes out starting months ahead, visits HP-related websites regularly, and who is taking a full day off of work on Monday – just to read book 7. An unpaid day, mind you. No, I just enjoy reading the books. I will not be dressing as my favorite HP character or in line at 11:30pm to snatch up the next book as soon as it’s out (although Ron will). Part of me doesn’t even want to read the last book, because then the magic will end. As much as I want to know the ‘end’ of the story, I also know that it probably won’t end the way that I think it should (many book and movie series endings, like tv show finales, are so unsatisfying), and I will miss some of the speculation and guesswork. But not Ron regaling anyone who will listen with his theories about how Harry is a Horcrux or that Dumbledore created one when he drank from the cup (just wait for the darn book and you’ll find out anyway!). I do have theories, but I’d rather keep them to myself and wait to see how right I am.

Apparently, copies of book 7 have been inadvertently released early and have shown up on the internet. For those interested, here is a site that lists all of the current news and rumors (no spoilers though, thank goodness!). I do have to admit to taking a quick peak at the scanned pages of the Epilogue that were leaked, but that was before I knew that they were probably real. Now I wish I had just let my curiosity go, although I do have a bad habit of sneaking looks at the last few pages of books when I just can’t stand the suspense of knowing what happens. In just under 40 hours or so though, we’ll all know. But who’s counting?

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

So to vent or to sleep...

It's almost midnight and I should definitely be asleep. Especially considering that I have to be up in under 7 hours. And that I've got as busy of a day tomorrow as I did today. But I'm tired, frustrated and really need to vent. So here I am.

I had a fairly rotten evening. I won't bore you with all the details and there wasn't one major thing that went wrong - just a whole bunch of little things. You know how that happens sometimes and by the end of it you're just... done. So in a nutshell, my frustrations of the day (in no particular order, although somewhat chronological, I guess).

  1. Ron brought Abby and Becca home from swimming last night and while the kids made it into the house, the towel that Abby had used (mine since she left hers at VBS) did not, nor did the diaper bag.
  2. I accidentally turned my alarm clock off this morning instead of hitting snooze so got up 10 minutes late and to work 20 minutes late. Funny how that multiplies, isn't it.
  3. As I was 10 minutes away from being done copying 75 GB of data from our network onto an external hard drive, we had a brownout at work. Instead of sorting through multiple folders and files to figure out what hadn't copied yet, I just started over again, so what should've taken half the day ended up taking the entire day.
  4. I had only one option (hot dogs with no buns) to feed the girls for dinner and was in such a rush that I completely forgot to feed myself anything. By the end of swimming, I was starved and grouchy. We were late to swimming because I had to throw together a makeshift diaper bag as well as the usual bag of necessities.
  5. Hannah slipped on the wet floor in the locker room and bruised her thigh pretty badly on the way in to swimming. Becca got her fingers pinched in a door after swimming, while we were waiting for Ron.
  6. Becca did not sit still AT ALL during swimming lessons, so I spent the entire 45 minutes chasing her around the bleachers instead of watching Abby and Hannah. It seemed hotter than usual in there so I was not only starving, but dripping with sweat by the time lessons were over. (wow, this list is longer than I thought it would be)
  7. Ron had 'hoped to make it' in time for open swim after lessons were done. I called him afterward but he wasn't answering either of his phones. So we waited in the hallway for 15 minutes before giving up and heading home. Abby went from asking me every 10 seconds, 'did you talk to Daddy yet?' to screaming and wailing that she wanted to stay for open swim and see her teacher.
  8. Hannah lost her towel somewhere at the pool.
  9. Somewhere about here my head started to throb.
Came home, ate a bowl of cereal. Then another. Finally got a hold of Ron - he should be home in an hour. Got Abby and Hannah in the bathtub to rinse off from the pool (usually they rinse in the showers there but I was in no mood to stick around any longer than we already had). Distracted a little toddler who thinks she needs a bath anytime someone else is in the tub or shower. Collected wet suits to wash, realized that we now have lost both of the girls' towels in the past 2 days. Completely forgot that we are out of bread and there isn't much else left in the house food-wise either. Called Ron multiple times since it's been an hour plus but he's not answering again. Put Abby and Hannah to bed. Abby has misplaced one of the two teddy bears that she absolutely cannot sleep without. Tell her to wait, while I put Becca to bed. Search for teddy bear with no luck.

Ron finally shows up at 9pm - Abby is still awake frantically searching for her teddy bear and I can't deal with her anymore, so he somehow convinces her she can sleep this one night without it. He brings in the diaper bag and towel and starts laundry, then disappears downstairs to the computer room. Probably a smart idea given my frame of mind at this time. And I'm not even PMSing!

Finally remember at 11pm that we are out of bread and that there is nothing else we can send to VBS for the girls' lunches, not to mention my lunch. Argue with Ron about who is going to run out somewhere for bread. I ALWAYS go whereas his point is that it's 11pm and he's tired. And I'm not??? Grumpy husband stomps off to the store, flings the loaf of bread on the counter when he gets home and goes to bed. At least he did get the laundry in the dryer earlier. I make the girls' lunches and my own, finish the dishes and sit down here since I'm now too keyed up to sleep.

I think part of what makes me angry is that Ron knows that he can get away with not doing things around the house because he knows I'll step in and do them. But I can't just 'not do' something because there's no guarantee that he'll even know it needs to be done, much less do it. And if I ask him to do it, I get a guilt trip or accused of nagging. There are things that just simply need to get done in any household and he knows that I'll pick up the slack if he drops the ball. But if I drop it, it shatters and things go horribly wrong. So I keep juggling all the balls up in the air and I don't even know how to juggle.

Wow, I'm more tired than I thought. Somehow I'm even getting loopy. At least that's better than frustrated and angry. I think I'd better go to bed. Good night!

Oh yes... Abby swam the entire way from the diving board to the opposite end of the pool. Somehow something clicked today that hadn't before now and she's actually 'swimming' on her own. I am so proud of her!!!

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ahem...

Well, so the cold is finally gone and I actually feel human and can breathe again. Apparently the only remnant left is a slight cough and the fact that my voice has almost completely disappeared. Which is quite annoying and has created the challenge to communicate as much as possible by e-mail in order to save what’s left for things that can’t be e-mailed, like yelling at talking to my kids. At work, this is actually possible as I don’t have a lot of need to talk to very many people and can e-mail anyone I care to, even if they’re sitting next to me. I think I’ve actually managed to go several hours now without uttering a single word out loud. We’ll have to see if I can make it until the end of the day, which might mean that I’ll have enough voice left to deal with picking the kids up from daycare, rushing home to get a quick dinner and changed into swimsuits and sitting through swimming lessons/chasing Becca tonight. As long as my phone doesn’t ring, I’m probably set!

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Swimming lessons


When we moved into our house, we decided that it would be very important to make sure that our kids know how to swim. For 2 main reasons. First, we live near a lake. And although we can’t access it from our yard, our neighbors can – they actually access one of 3 short ‘channels’ that were cleverly incorporated into the man-made lake when it was created, in order to maximize the number of ‘waterfront’ lots (someone probably made a lot of money off of that one). Our lot is just off the corner of one of these ‘channels’ so that the neighbors next to us and behind us (we live on a corner) both access the channel but we do not. But we do have very nice neighbors behind us who let us go through their yard whenever we want to get to the channel (Ron takes the older girls fishing fairly often off of their dock platform) and their gate is not kept locked. Second, the neighbors next to us (not the behind-us-ones) have an in-ground pool and their gate does not have a lock on it either. We have combination locks on our gates but there are times when we leave them unlocked (Ron has a tendency to leave them open quite often, for example). So we decided that swimming is definitely a necessary skill. Not to mention that I grew up swimming in a lake and want my kids to enjoy the water as much as I do.

We put Abby in swimming lessons when she was 3 years old and potty trained. Even though she cried through the entire first lesson, she still did everything that the teachers wanted her to do and she was fine after that. She loves being in the water and paddling around, but being our hesitant, non-risk-taking child she loves everything about swimming lessons – as long as they don’t try to get her to actually swim. Last year we did 2 sessions (4 weeks) of lessons and although the teachers had graduated her into the next-higher group, she didn’t like doing the things (such as ‘swimming’) that were required, so she got moved back down into her comfort zone.

Hannah has never liked the water, even as a baby. Anything bigger than the bathtub terrified her. The first time we ever got her to do more than sit on the steps of a pool was during swimming lessons last year. Our choice – whether right or not – was to put her in lessons and get her comfortable in the water even though she fought it like crazy. It took all 4 weeks but by the end she finally could get through a 45-minute lesson without crying and on the last day even jumped off the diving board herself instead of being dropped in the water off the end of it. And best of all, she was now perfectly happy in a pool, paddling around with a floating ring on and having fun. Mission somewhat accomplished.

We started this summer’s lessons last week and they run through this week. Hannah is doing awesome! Not a tear shed and she’s having a blast. And starting to actually swim on her own! Abby cried throughout the entire first lesson but has been tear-free since and has even been doing some of the swimming that is required in the next higher level. I am so darn proud of both of them. I love watching them learn – and seeing how they interact with their teachers and the other kids. I don’t like the fact that I leave work at 5pm and have to pick the kids up at daycare, get them home, get everyone including myself fed and the big girls changed into their bathing suits and drive to lessons by 6pm. Yeah, right. We’ve eaten every ‘quick and easy’ dinner option I can think of – mainly sandwiches, hot dogs, and frozen waffles. So much for a healthy, balanced, sit-down dinner… Oh well – there’s always next week.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

My grossest road trip

Karen over at Pediascribe is doing a contest where you have to enter by submitting your 'dirtiest' story - or at least a good story explaining a time when you really, really needed a shower from something your kids did. Ok, well here's my best attempt!

My friend Mary and I visit back and forth several times a year. We have a whole schedule worked out, based on kids' birthdays, holidays - it's actually quite complicated but generally we see each other every month or two, either here or at her house, which is about 2 hours away.

Now there are a few stories I could tell about various times when our kids have gotten sick at each other's (or their own) houses during one of these visits. Like the time that her daughter Emma threw up all over me while I was holding her on my lap. Or the flu/reflux that Becca had on and off last Christmas and afterward which caused her to throw up without warning several times while we were at Mary's house. I kind of figure that those two cancel each other out. ;)

The 'best' story though, is one that took place during the drive to Mary's house last March. We had bought a new (not NEW - it is 9 years old, but new to us) minivan just a couple of days earlier and my girls had only ridden in it a couple of times for short trips to daycare and such. My girls have always done well on car trips and I can't remember any of them ever getting carsick. Well, there's a first time for everything. Hannah fell asleep on this trip and she woke up abruptly about halfway to Mary's. She sits right behind me so I couldn't see her through the rear view mirror. I just heard her wake up and then say, 'Mommy - I threw up!'.

So expecting just a little, simple mess, I stopped at the next exit and found a gas station. Well, Hannah was right - she had thrown up. A lot. All over herself, her booster seat and her winter coat. So I get her out of the van and find the wet wipes that I carry in the diaper bag. Ok. I clean off her coat as best as I can but wet wipes aren't doing the job too well. Off comes the coat. This is the first day of March and it's freezing out. Hannah is standing outside with no coat while I'm desperately trying to use wet wipes to clean off her booster seat and seatbelt - at least somewhat. She's crying and hanging on me and therefore getting the mess all over my coat and clothes. I finally have to just buckle her back into the van, give her the grocery bag I was using as a garbage bag in case she threw up again and just head back onto the freeway. Hannah is still crying because she was so rudely awakened by throwing up, plus she's cold, wet and stinky. Becca is now awake and screaming because she's still strapped in her carseat, and Abby is asking every 2 seconds, "are we there yet?", "what happened?", "is Hannah ok?", "did Hannah throw up?", "why did Hannah throw up?", etc.

I was now covered in vomit myself and between that, the smell and the crying/noise, the rest of the trip was one of the longest hours of my life. I was ecstatic to get to Mary's and her washing machine and shower! Thankfully some scrubbing and Febreze got the van looking and smelling fresh again too and we added an empty ice cream bucket for our trip home, which - thankfully - was not needed, nor has been since.

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Timber...

So here’s the other ‘tree’ story I promised…

When we bought our house, it was in need of a great deal of help, aesthetically. Previous owners had let the yard get completely overgrown and at some point in the past, someone had decided to take a ‘rustic’ approach to landscaping. Thus, the yard was filled with trees – many dead or dying, and large overgrown shrubbery. Not to mention the huge ‘rock garden’ that took up most of the front yard. The first summer that we were in the house, Ron worked from home and spent pretty much the entire summer working on the yard. This accomplished a few things, some of which were entirely unintentional. First, the yard looks a thousand times better than it did when we bought the house, increasing our equity and re-sellable value. The kids actually have a nice, safe yard area to run around and play in. Also, Ron got to know many people in the neighborhood as they all stopped by to compliment him on the improvements.

I won’t go too far into exactly what the house and yard looked like because I don’t want to bore you all to death. Let’s just mention a few things. Like mustard yellow siding. Dark brown trim in some places and white trim in others. Dead rosebushes. Half-buried bricks outlining areas which it can be assumed were intended to be ‘landscaped areas’. Day lilies overtaking many areas. Weeds. Oh yes, and the killer trees.

Ron dubbed them the ‘killer’ trees, specifically because they had long (several inches in most cases) thorns sticking out from the trunks and branches, all the way down to the ground. We’ve had a couple of opinions, and I think they were a ‘thorny’ variety of locust tree, especially considering that we also had a couple of the ‘thornless’ variety of the same tree in the yard as well. The two ‘killer’ trees were the main reason that Ron started improving the yard – we could just imagine what would happen if Abby or Hannah (who was only a toddler at the time) were to brush up against, or even worse fall against, one of these trees. So down they came. And as long as he was at it, Ron took down most of the other trees in the yard as well. As well as the scrubby bushes. And the rocks. And the half-sunken bricks. At the end of the year, we had a very nicely improved yard – to a point, since we’d run out of money and Ron was again working full-time. We did leave 3 trees in the front yard. Two were nice maples which we hoped would thrive now that they were visible and free to grow up and out. The third, up against the house by the girls’ bedroom windows, was a very nice-looking, tall tree which appeared to be of the ‘thornless locust’ variety (I don’t claim to be a tree expert so could be completely off the wall here). I saw no reason to cut down a tree with no real reason – it was in good health and wasn’t an immediate danger to our kids. Plus it shaded the roof of our house pretty nicely. So it stayed.

Ron and I have argued about this tree ever since. It did drop large seed pods all over the roof and yard every year and completely clog the gutters on that side of the house. It was planted extremely close to the house and Ron felt that the roots were beginning to damage our foundation – we have been getting minor flooding on that side of the basement. And we never completed the landscape area over there because we couldn’t agree on whether it would include this tree or not, so it became quite a nice garden – of weeds. No matter how much I tried to keep up with pulling them, we grew a wonderful crop of not-so-lovely weeds every summer. So this year, I finally gave in. The tree could come out.

Ron found a ‘tree guy’ pretty easily – the truck pulled up next to him at a red light so he called the number on the truck right then. The guy came over that night, quoted us a decent price (and gave us 30 days to pay him – a key factor given our financial issues at the moment), and the next day the tree was gone.

Here are a few pictures of the original yard - this is after Ron had already started some of his work on it. We never did take a good 'before' picture of the house unfortunately.

Here is Ron rototilling the former 'rock garden' area after taking out the trees, bushes, bricks, timbers and rocks (the rocks are still residing under our back deck until we can find either the money to get rid of them or someone who wants a whole lot of unsifted landscape rocks).

Here is a 'before' picture that I took last week before the tree came down. Ignore our weedy and half-dead lawn - that's a whole other issue.

Taking down this tree became a larger event than we anticipated, involving 3 guys (one of whom spent the morning climbing said tree to cut the smaller branches off), one wood chipper, a chainsaw, rope, and about every neighborhood kid within about a half-mile radius. The neighbors across the street set up chairs in the driveway so they could relax and enjoy the entertainment. I was home that day since we had not been able to find alternate daycare while our main daycare provider was on vacation (this was the week of July 4th), so was able to watch, listen and take a ton of pictures. Thankfully they took a nice long lunch break so Becca was able to get a decent nap. By the end of the day, just a short stump was left. And now, even that is gone – leaving a giant hole in our yard which Ron has not had time to deal with since the only day off he’s had since then was when he was sick last week.

So good-bye tree – I do miss you, but I guess it’s for the best.

Here are some pictures of the tree coming down...






And a few 'after' pictures. The first one is the girls' idea of a 'replacement' tree. :)



And here's what our yard currently looks like. And probably will look like for the foreseeable future given Ron's work schedule lately.



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