Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Just Can't Get Enough

Looking back at my previous update, I realized that it was still mostly about last week. I suppose it's a little bit hard to write an interesting entry about a ho-hum sort of week filled with nursing and laundry. But in case you just can't get enough, I'm giving you a double-header today. (Here's your cue to feign excitement and cheering...)

I am proud to announce that I have finally abandoned wearing all maternity clothes for more than two weeks now. Since I gained 10 pounds less with this pregnancy than I did with either of my previous two, I expected that the trek back to pre-maternity clothes would have concluded somewhat more quickly, but alas, that was not the case. Yes, comfort does come before self-respect at this stage in my life, but even the inducements of comfort have been overcome and I have at last returned to the class of the somewhat self-respecting.

After much procrastination, I finally got all of my clothes out of storage and diligently tried all of them on to find which ones still fit and look nice. I discovered that even if you make great efforts to control its effects, pregnancy does mean, terrible things to your body. And if those ravages weren't enough, nursing finishes off any remaining vestiges of trimness you may have had. What have I done to go from being basically at my goal weight to being large on top and bulgy on bottom? Oh yeah, I had a 10 lb. baby. So basically, most of my clothes "kinda fit" at best or pretty much look like they belong to someone else. I'm sorry to rant, but being post-pregnancy and nursing just takes all the fun out of trying on, wearing or buying clothes... there just aren't many things that are flattering and slimming to my current figure: all previous good points have been obliterated and bad points have been accentuated. I guess having children isn't for the faint of heart.

This is very frustrating and discouraging when I have been making great efforts to eat healthy. This isn't always easy when I'm nursing and have a bottomless pit for an appetite. My latest kick is steel-cut oats with bananas and walnuts for breakfast and brown rice with cheese and a huge bowl of veggies for lunch. It seems healthy enough... After all, it could be Lucky Charms or Doritos and cookies. So why, if I am I eating healthy and passing on the opportunity to devour half a box of Girl Scout cookies, is my weight and figure stubbornly stuck in exactly the same place? I'm trying hard to find a balance-- I do still need to eat when I'm nursing-- but I'm getting irritated. (OK, fine, you don't need to point out that exercising regularly for the first time in almost a year would be a good place to start.... one step at a time.)

In good news, Jackson is becoming a great eater. He is gaining weight nicely-- he seems to be getting bigger every day. His baby acne and cradle cap are gone. He has recently discovered that his hands belong to him and that with great effort and concentration he can make them flail and hit things. He practices this by randomly flailing his arms into you when you hold him. He loves to lay under his "play gym" and bat at the toys. He is getting pretty good at holding his head up... we have very few remaining episodes of "the crazy head:" when he balances for a second and then swerves every which way before bashing into your shoulder. Whenever he is happy he gets really smiley-- he has the best smile and an infectious giggle if you can make him laugh. He has decided that he does not like to be held inward. He loves to be held, but it has to be facing out where he can see everything that's going on. I'm so sad that he's losing some of his beautiful baby hair. Now he has a few long spots left with mostly shorter hair.

So our week has been pretty tame, filled with the usual nursing, laundry and occasional load of dishes (let's just say paper plates are my friend). This week Monday dawned and we were out of veggies, milk, bread and eggs... time for the highlight of the week: the exciting trip to Costco!!! After nursing Jackson and picking Camryn up from preschool, we headed out to attempt the challenge. Jackson still does not like his car seat, but we have found a way around it: I have Camryn feed him a bottle in the car while we drive. Problem solved!! I was feeling quite clever by the time we arrived at Costco with a happy baby and a 4-year-old who only needed a hot dog and lemonade to be good for an hour. Yes, I think I am learning something and getting better as I go.

I had a list and I stuck to it, nearly zooming through the aisles with efficiency and ease, deftly adding items that were coupon discounts as I fed Jackson the rest of his bottle. See, this isn't so bad. You just have to know how to go about it. But somewhere in between the canned goods and the clothes, it started to fall apart. I made the mistake of trying to look at some shirts (to get something that will actually fit me) and Camryn started saying, "Mom, I really need to go to the bathroom." "No, you don't." "Yes, I do! I really need to go! I'm going to pee my pants!" Abandoning everything except purse and baby, I whisked her off to the restroom. After this short detour we returned to our shopping only to hear from Camryn a few minutes later, "Mommy, I need to go poop now." Jackson, who had been starting to fuss, almost on cue started to cry. By the time we got near the checkout lines, his cry had evolved into an all-out wail. "Camryn, you're just going to have to wait until we get home," I said as I tried to find a line less than 3 people long.

I pulled Jackson out of his car seat and attempted to calm him. Jackson, thinking he would get fed, was temporarily calmed until he realized that I was just holding him off, at which point he started screaming. I had been trying to stick to my list, but somehow a Cinderalla sweatsuit got thrown in our cart for Camryn with only the briefest qualms about it being a marginal-looking outfit plastered with cartoon characters. I tried giving Jackson the empty bottle, which worked for about 30 seconds until he figured out that this too was a ruse to keep him quiet. By the time I reached the checkout and tried to load our groceries on the conveyer belt, Jackson was wailing and screaming at the top of his lungs. Some kind woman behind me came up and helped me load the groceries as I held him and tried to calm him down. Finally, with no self-respect left anyway, I threw my jacket over my shoulder and nursed him standing up in line at the checkout. It didn't matter that I bought multiple things that weren't on my list or that I couldn't find my wallet in less than 3 minutes (it turned out to be sitting in the baby car seat): he wasn't crying anymore and my brain was starting to operate again. Who would have thought that you could check out of Costco, hand over coupons and sign a credit card, all while nursing a baby?

As I was standing there in line, I thought, "This would be the perfect idea for a game show.... Have men go to Costco with a child and an infant: Can you make intelligent purchasing decisions while juggling a screaming baby and whining 4-year-old saying she needs to go potty? How fast can you load items on the conveyor belt and find your wallet while simultaneously feeding the baby? Can you get through with the smallest number of treats or bribes? Don't drop your sling, diaper bag, wallet, purse or receipt. Don't forget which items you had coupons for." I'm telling you, it's the next big hit.

Well, luckily for us, we don't have to go to Costco all the time. And while we may not have Phoenix-quality weather, it has been warm for the past few days. On Tuesday afternoon we went to "the Spiderman park" (dubbed so by Jared because of the web-like climbing structure) followed by a trip to Target. The trip to Target would have been remarkably fast except that Jared found a quarter in his booster seat and so spent the entire time we were at Target looking for something- anything- that was 25 cents or less. Unfortunately the cheapest item at Target is 50 cents, but he did find a Snoopy car with candy for $1.33 and tried to talk me into buying it for him and letting him pay me back. I was slightly put off by the fact that he seemed to be looking for anything to spend money on, so I told him that if he still wanted it the next time we went to Target, then we could get it. Jared did not appreciate my sound logic and good parenting and let me know by whining about it and trying to convince me for 15 minutes straight and then the entire time we looked at pants for Camryn. (Wait-- doesn't he remember that I'm the cool mom who bought him the Transformers bedspread? How quickly we forget!) So today I had the good sense to avoid stores entirely and we spent the afternoon enjoying the nice weather at the park around the corner. If only the good weather would last forever... but it's Portland, so you know you can only count on it being sunny after July 5th. =]


Quotes of the Week:

Jared: "Mom, you know the magic set they have at Target? It's not a piece of junk like you said. A friend in my class has it and it's really magic! You can wish for whatever you want and you really get it. So please mom, can I get it?"

Camryn: "I didn't wake Jackson up. I just touched him and he was already awake."

The Enlightened Parent

Well, I went back and read my last update and I didn't mean for it to sound like such a downer. Maybe it calls for an amendment... It really wasn't all that bad (or maybe my happily selective memory is kicking in =] ).

On Valentine's Day (while awaiting my slightly postponed date with Dave) I got together with two other moms and we got a heart shaped pizza from Papa Murphy's. I also got adventurous and (in between several breaks to nurse and dish up pizza) made a flourless chocolate cake. No, this wasn't trying to be low-carb and healthy... it was basically two melted dark chocolate Lindt bars with sugar and some eggs to give it enough body to bake.... yum!! On the upside, things have been going pretty well this week. Dave is almost back to his normal 8-8 work schedule (at least most of the time) and Jackson is almost starting to get into a routine... sometimes.

The ward choir Easter program is approaching with alacrity and despite my repeated recruitment attempts, our typical turnout is marginal at best and abysmal at worst. The all-time low was during Dave's week of craziness... he had to go into work that day so I was on my own to begin with. Then we had only a handful of people and several of them were, shall we say, those who contribute to choir with their spirit... and not their voices. By the end of rehearsal I was very discouraged and despairing of ever pulling off any performance, let alone an Easter program. But, not being one to go down without a fight, I decided to make one last stand- one desperate attempt- before accepting that choir would forever go into the annals of mediocrity and oblivion. So, I went to the post-Valentine's day clearance at Target and bought massive amounts of candy and treat bags. I assembled 50+ treat bags and tried my hand at poetry to produce the following verse for the flyer:

Ode to Choir

Ward Choir is off to a sluggish start
With barely two people to a part.
Try as I might to get more to come,
Eight people is our total sum.
You may think you don't have a splendid voice,
But if you came I would think it cause to rejoice!
You don't have to be great; please don't be shy,
Just come on out and give it a try!

On the lovely Saturday afternoon mentioned in my previous update, I set out to deliver these to our ward (which is luckily fairly small geographically) with Jared as my runner. An hour and a half later, they were all delivered and Jared said, "That was really fun, mom! It was like Curious George delivering newspapers to people. I want to do that again!" I am disappointed to report that we did not have 50+ people at choir the next day... but we did have a good turnout and a good rehearsal. While I was hoping to get some new people to try choir (and there were a few new people) most of the people who came were people who used to come to choir or spouses of current attendees... oh well, I hope all the other people enjoyed the candy. But this week we still had a good turnout as well as a low-key performance (simple hymn arrangement) and so choir is looking up.

This past week I decided to finally do something with the kids' room. Their bunkbeds had hand-me-down matching denim bedspreads, but they were so heavy that the kids didn't usually actually sleep with them and it was really hard for the kids to make their own beds. Solution: I went to Target and got three different bedspreads to decide which would be the cutest for the soon-to-be cute room with new matching bedspreads. While we were on that fateful trip to Target, Jared's life was changed: he fell in love. He saw, on that aisle at Target, something that he never knew existed: a Transformers Bedspread.

Now in my wise and enlightened parenting, I know that cartoon characters are evil marketing directed at children to get them to become a consumer group that can bend their parents' purchasing decisions at will with the use of whining and nagging. And any enlightened parent knows that it is so much better to decorate a child's room with something timeless and classic instead of a cheap marketing ploy with lesser-quality design and materials. But Jared is not an enlightened parent... and he was in love. And he didn't really whine for the transformers bedspread... he just tried to make it clear HOW MUCH BETTER he liked it than anything else he had ever seen. I narrowed my selection down to cute blue and white pottery-barn style quilts or solid red quilts. Jared said, "Mom, I REALLY like the transformers bedspread. I REALLY like it the BEST!!" I thought maybe I would compromise and go with the red quilts and then let Jared get Transformers bedsheets to go under them (where I wouldn't have to see them). I compared the three classy quilts that I brought home and Jared, hanging on to the thread I gave him, begged, "Please, mom!!! Can I open the Transformers sheets??"

Finally, after much debate, Dave suggested, "Would it really be so bad to just get him the Transformers bedspread?" The enlightened parent in me balked, resisted and refused. But the parent in me who was once a kid (who was in love with Rainbow Brite, Care Bears and all kinds of other hideous and tacky things) relented and said, "You're right, it's probably not such a big deal." And so the Transformers bedspread found its way to Jared's bed-- he proudly shows it first thing to any friend who comes over. Camryn, although she agreed it was cool, was not in love with the Transformers bedspread. So instead she picked out a "Happy Flower" bedspread, a bright and cheerful assortment of marshmallow-cereal-colored patterns with quilted flowers and butterflies. So, after spending money to "do their room," it looks less put together than before, their two bedspreads do not match at all... and the kids both love it. (Now if only they would make their beds....)


Quotes of the week:

Camryn: "Goodbye daddy! Have a good day with your teacher at work!"

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I Will Survive?

Hello everyone,

I realized that I feel like I can't send an update unless I'm going to sit down and spend a huge chunk of time writing a complete summary of all the events of our life complete with detailed analysis. (Hence, the growing amounts of time that have passed in between each update.) I was planning to write an update detailing the absurd craziness of our past week, but I have realized that some things are best summarized.

So after Dave's horrible 90 hour work week, he was rewarded with... a 100 hour work week (oh wait, Dave tells me he DID get a hearty thanks from his boss). But unlike the last week, I met the challenge with extraordinary equanimity and calm. It helped that Dave told me up front that I basically was not going to see him until the product shipped on (last) Monday. So I just accepted my fate instead of bemoaning the fact that I could be having fun with my mom in California instead of abandoned on an island of solo nursing, subsistence-meal-making, messy-house-enduring, cranky-kids-whining, early-morning-bus-getting-ready, and preschool-dropping-offing-with-baby-screaming-and-wailing. Thankfully, most of the details of the past week are lost in a foggy haze of fatigue.

Rather than delving into the unnecessary details, I will use two illustrations to summarize our lives for the past two weeks:

1) One night, unexcited at the prospect of being home alone at 10:00 pm yet again, I called my mom to chat. A few minutes into our conversation Dave walked in the door. "Mom! Dave's home! I gotta go," I said as I hung up the phone. Wow, this was great! The chance to actually talk to my husband for a few minutes! And I wasn't even asleep yet! I asked Dave how his day had been and we started to catch up, when his cell phone rang. A tool at work needed to be inspected so he had to go back in to work. Now. So I bid Dave farewell and called my mom back.... "Hi mom, I guess I can talk after all...."

2) My friend Ranell was having a cookware party at her house at 7:00 on Friday. I had planned to bring the kids and let them watch a movie in the basement with her kids. But 5 minutes before I was going to walk out the door, Dave called and said he was coming home. He said it would probably take him 15 minutes to get here, but he would watch the kids while I went to the party. This was great! The kids would actually get to see Dave! They would even be awake! I wouldn't have to take Jackson to the party and nurse him the whole time! By the time Dave ACTUALLY got home and I ACTUALLY got out the door, I got to the party at 7:50. But that's OK. I made it and I was there without the kids. But... as fate would have it, Dave got a call and had to go back in to work, so thirty minutes after I got to Ranell's, he dropped the kids off there. Easy come, easy go, I guess.

Suffice it to say that the kids and I have been in ultra-super-survival mode. I have discovered that I am capable of being extraordinarily flexible-- maybe even a contortionist-- when it comes to trying to plan anything involving Dave. Luckily I have learned when other people want to plan something involving him to say, "I don't know if he's available, call HIM."

After surviving two crazy weeks, when the product Dave was working on finally shipped (a day late) on Tuesday, I expected.... well, something. Come to think of it, I'm not quite sure WHAT I expected. Maybe a couple days off? Or a half day? Or a very long lunch break? But after crashing in exhaustion at 9 pm on Tuesday, Dave went back to his 8-8 work day the next morning as if nothing had happened. I was hoping for some kind of adult reinforcement in some department (cleaning, child care, take your pick) and was somewhat disgruntled to find that none was coming. Despite my attempts at unflagging cheerfulness and fortitude (OK, fine, my attempts at not COMPLETELY losing my mind), by the end of the week my fortitude and good cheer was indeed beginning to flag. In fact, I was about to bitterly resign myself to life as a single mother with a perpetually messy house and endless fatigue. But then the weekend came.

On Friday we traded babysitting with some friends and went out to dinner at a nice restaurant for a late Valentine's Day (we even left Jackson!). Any meal ending in creme brulee is a good start to improving my morale. On Saturday I left for 6 hours and went to the Portland Regional Church Music Workshop. When I came back, Dave was jumping on the trampoline with Jared and Camryn, while Jackson was sitting bundled up in his baby seat on the deck. The house was spotless (we're talking the stove cleaned, floor vacuumed, mopped, I kid you not). Wow. Let me say that again: Wow! Suddenly things are looking up.


Quotes of the Week:

(our minivan makes a loud beep when you press "unlock" on the remote) Connie (Jared's friend):"What's that noise?" Jared: "It's the car barking."

Jared: "Any meal with garlic bread and salmon is a feast!"

Camryn (trying to describe something REALLY big): "It's like a million and 66."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Give Me A Break

Hello again,

We've had a packed couple of weeks. I have been busily accomplishing all kinds of things like nursing Jackson, holding Jackson, changing Jackson and occasionally doing a load of dishes or making a sandwich for my other two children. All in all though, Jackson is slowly and gradually sleeping a little bit more and nursing a little bit less. Let's just say that the baby swing is my new best friend: I even bought a second one on Craigslist so we now have an upstairs and a downstairs swing. And, yes, it was worth it.

So hmmm.... where did I leave off. Oh yes, I believe we were at Monday, January 21st. In celebration of Martin Luther King Day, Jared and Camryn both had no school, which after a weekend of little to no sleep was quite fortuitous timing. And although it was sunny enough to tempt me to take the kids to the park, one step outside of our door into the frigid air eliminated any further temptation. So we spent an exciting day with Jackson nursing while Jared and Camryn alternately fought and watched too much TV. To give them credit, they usually get along a little bit better, but I think too many days of being cooped inside had finally gotten to them. Finally we had all reached the end of our ropes. So I packed the kids in the car to go to McDonalds to get ice cream cones and play on the play place. Jackson screamed whole way there and the whole way back, but he happily nursed the entire time we were there so 2 1/2 minutes of discomfort each way in transit wasn't going to kill him.

After our little outing I actually made dinner: penne with hamburger and mozzarella cheese and fresh steamed broccoli. Simple though it was, it did not come from a box or the freezer and so I was excessively proud of myself. To make things even better, Jared raved about how yummy it was. "Wow mom, " he said, "this tastes like heaven!" (Now remind me again, why do I try to make creative gourmet meals?) At the end of the day, the lack of sleep from the weekend began to set in. I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. Thank goodness for Dave, who upon arriving home from work at 9:00 pm fed Jackson a bottle and did laundry while I went to bed.

On Tuesday morning I felt better. I wore a new shirt (thank you Costco), opened the blinds and was quite cheerful. When Jared came home from school, he started nagging me to make cheese balls. Jared had seen "Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse" at a children's theater the previous Thursday on a school field trip. Ever since, he has been constantly bugging to make a recipe on the playbill for "Lilly's Luscious Cheese Bites." (Lilly is a mouse, in case you were wondering.) We had the ingredients: cream cheese, cheddar cheese and dry mustard, so I figured "Why not?," and we made them. After we were done, I offered a sample to everyone. Jared was hesitant (he thought it was supposed to be baked first) but finally took a small taste. His face instantly crinkled up and he started violently spitting out the offensive mixture. I laughed and laughed.. so much for BEGGING me to make it for him. Luckily the weather was a little bit warmer, so the kids played outside on the play structure, after which we made cookies.

And thus began my really good week. It wasn't so different from usual, but I really enjoyed it. Maybe my mantra of "lower your expectations" was actually working: I forgot that my house was a mess, that I had no make-up on, that I felt like a slob and that my non-maternity pants were still tight -- I just enjoyed being with my kids. I became downright relaxed. And it was great. Dave announced that he had an upcoming trip to Singapore followed by a week of training in San Jose. But hey, no biggie. I found a good deal on airline tickets and the kids and I were going to make a trip to Grandma's out of it. The following Monday school was canceled because of snow. But it was great... the kids played in the snow and then we had hot chocolate. We got out Jared's volcano set that he got for Christmas, painted it and set it off on our deck (I even laughed when it tipped over and I got sprayed with vinegar and baking soda). We played a card game together. We even started reading "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe."

One of those evenings as we were getting ready to go to sleep I told Dave, "I don't know what is different, but I feel like I've finally figured something out. What I'm doing hasn't changed, but I'm finally just enjoying it. I love being a mom and I just feel content and happy to be who I am and do what I do. I don't feel like I have to prove something about myself anymore: I just feel like what I'm doing is the most important thing and everything else doesn't matter as much." And then Tuesday hit.

Tuesday everything fell apart. Dave had week from heck: he worked over 90 hours. He stayed at work until at least 10 pm every night, had two all-nighters and worked Saturday. He was switched to work on a different project that was (act surprised here) an emergency and in urgent need of rescuing. (Why is it that everyone else's problem becomes Dave's problem?) His manager told him to postpone the trip to Singapore and that if the project wasn't up and running he didn't want him going to the training in California either (ummm... we already bought plane tickets. Maybe you could mention that to him?) Not to be deterred from my unflappable calm and flexibility, I just changed our tickets to leave a week later, assuming that Dave could just go to Singapore after the training in California.

Eventually I tried to pin Dave down as to whether he was going to California for the training or not, but he just didn't know. Never mind that we had plane tickets already. Never mind that I had made arrangements to just start ward choir after we got back but if we were going to be here I needed to have it now. Never mind that we now have choir rehearsal BEFORE church so the announcement needs to go in the bulletin the previous week. Dave just wasn't going to know until middle of week whether his trip was canceled or not. So the announcement went into the bulletin as follows: "Ward Choir is from 11-12 on Sunday. There may or may not be choir this week. Call Karen in the middle of the week and she'll let you know." I kid you not. But what else was I supposed to do?

Dave's trip(s) did end up being canceled and I decided not to go to California without Dave. Somehow or other we all survived the week: Dave survived the lack of sleep and I survived the lack of husband. But a week in super-survival mode is really not ideal-- even with my newly-lowered expectations and ultra-relaxed standards. There is only so much therapy you can get out of playing Scrabulous or Scramble on facebook. By the end of it all I was just plain worn out. Sunday night, strangely enough, our pre-sleep conversation was a little bit different than the previous week. Me: "I'm just really frustrated right now. I'm frustrated with the kids, with choir, with my weight, with the house, with life..." Then Jackson slept 5 hours straight and everything was OK again.



Camryn (after hearing multiple requests from Jared to play games at or "Mommy, I want to play games at"
Jared: "Let's watch the video of "The Sneeze." It's about how germs are spread. I watched it today at school. You can find it on the computer at yotobee." [Upon cross-examination, I discovered that "yotobee" is actually "youtube"]
Camryn "reading" her scriptures outloud to herself: "I, Nephi was born of deadly parents, therefore the teachings of my father...."
I found a note that Jared wrote a few months ago. He wrote up a referral for Camryn (apparently a "Referral" is the write-up you get for the very worst offenses at school):

Wut I did rong.
Stod on tipeetos.
not safe.
Date. 11-9-07