Saturday, May 29, 2010

Trading Spaces Back

It's funny how things work... a few weeks ago my mom wrote about how she never felt a need to blog until she was left alone with four kids for the weekend. For the past few weeks I have had other things occupying me besides blogging. Dave and I went on a trip to Maui for our 10th anniversary and then I was caught up in the whirlwind of concert preparations. Aside from being too busy to write about it all, I honestly didn't really feel much of a need to blog about my life: I was happily occupied in lots of things and while writing about it would have been nice, it was an easy enough thing to get sent downward on the list of "to-dos". But real life will intrude itself and suddenly blogging is looking like a good sanity break again.

The Cantico concert went very, very well. I was so happy with it and enjoyed the process immensely. It was a lot of work, but it was very satisfying, fulfilling work. My sister, Alisa, came out from Utah to play the organ for our concert. My mom and dad and two good family friends came from California for the concert and my mother-in-law flew out from Utah to be there for it as well. It was a great week, filled with family fun, beautiful music and good times all around. As I drove my mother-in-law to the airport on Tuesday, I had a conversation with her about how happy and grateful I was to be doing what I am doing, to have the opportunities I have and so forth. I also commented that despite Dave's crazy work hours, we've been able to find a routine that seems to work for us and I just feel like I've really gotten into the rhythm of being a mom and I enjoy what I do and just enjoy life. [Warning, warning...obvious signs of post-concert and family visit high... warning, warning, high wear-off is imminent, look out below....] So I drove home from the airport, secure in my feelings that I finally had this mom/music/life balance thing figured out.

Starting on Tuesday night, the high started to wear off. By Tuesday morning it was a full-fledged, drop-off-of-a-cliff straight shot into the dumps. Jackson was being a stinker, tantrum-thrower and mess-maker; the house went from pristine to completely trashed in less than 24 hours; Jared and Camryn were fighting like cats and dogs; Dave stayed at work until 10:00 pm for the umpteenth night in a row; Addy wanted to be held constantly and Jackson discovered the water in the kitchen sink (Jackson + water = wet hardwood floor and mad mommy. This was after he dumped half a can of formula the night before, making a very sticky, expensive mess).

But the clincher was when I saw a picture of me from that weekend that someone had posted on Facebook. I had no idea I was that fat in real life! What was I thinking going out in public looking that chubby? I had finally decided that I was OK with my remaining post-baby weight and while I was not super-skinny, was at least at a reasonable, healthy, moderately-attractive weight and I would worry about the rest at some point in the future. I also thought I had reconciled with myself that while it is important to be healthy, your whole life can't and shouldn't be about looking perfect, trying to stay the weight you were when you were 18 and going to the gym. I was wrong on all counts. How could I be so stupid and blissfully unaware that that was how I looked to other people? Oh horror!

My life had quickly transformed from a peaceful haven of love and beauty to a black abysmal pit of misery and despair. So what had precipitated this sudden fall? Aside from the fact that my fun concert was over, my family had gone home, I was on my own watching all the kids again, my house was a mess, Dave's work is crazy and the 24 series finale was disappointing with no closure.... :) On Tuesday night I read a facebook blurb about an upcoming concert featuring violinist Jenny Oaks Baker (who is amazing, by the way) and ended up internet-hopping and reading about her. Not only did she graduate from the Curtis Institute and Juilliard and play first-chair violin for the National Symphony for a bunch of years, she has multiple best-selling albums, tours the country playing concerts... oh and she's skinny and beautiful and has four children in the midst of all this.

But the nail in the coffin was how she wrote about how she performs with her two older children and practices with them for 90 minutes and 45-60 minutes a day, respectively. So now, not only does my fantastic concert not seem quite so fantastic anymore, enter severe mommy-guilt that I have skipped piano lessons and enforcing piano practice with my kids for the past 2-3 weeks as a result of being wrapped up in concert preparations. And even on my best days I can't get myself to sit and practice for 2 1/2 hours daily with my children. (Usually enforcing no Wii or TV until practicing is done is the best I can muster....) See, not only am I an artistic and musical failure, I'm a mommy-ing failure as well, stunting the future musical growth of my children by my lack of discipline! And I can't even keep my house clean to boot!

In retrospect, I should have recalled the wise advice of my college roommate Becki, who, when I contemplated calling and break up with Dave at 2:30 am one night for a stupid reason offered the following sage council, "Eat some Oreos and go to bed. If you still feel that way in the morning, then you can call Dave and break up." Problem solved.  But as I didn't have Becki to offer sage advice, I wallowed in my misery and failure for about a day and a half, I had a low-fat ice cream banana split with Dave (whose day at work had been equally miserable-- maybe my subconscious remembered Becki's advice after all), called my mom and talked to a friend or two to complain about my sad, sorry state and how HARD life can be and then perked up and had a perfectly cheerful day once my cleaning fairy arrived on Thursday to work her magic on my disastrous house.

Joking aside, the bad couple of days were very real and difficult. I struggle with the tendency to compare myself negatively to other people. To focus on my weaknesses and ignore the good things I do. To get overwhelmed with the demands of life and trying to figure out what the most important things to spend my limited time and energy on are.... And I tend to get guilty and down on myself because I know that I don't have a HARD life... my life is so easy in some ways, compared to the pioneers, compared to the homeless people in Portland, compared to any number of people, and yet I still manage to have a hard time of it sometimes. But regardless of whether it is "challenging" in any abstract sense, it is challenging to me.

I try to remember that life is meant to be a challenge and we will all have ups and downs, regardless of who you are, how much money you have, where you live or whatever. But this up and down experience is exacerbated when you are the kind of person that gets caught up in an idea, project, an ideal or goal and it propels you along until suddenly at some point reality whacks you over the head with a thunk again.

It kind of reminds me of "Anne of Green Gables":
Marilla Cuthbert: You set your heart too much on frivolous things and then crash down into despair when you don't get them. [Or, for me, even when I do get them but the experience is over.]
Anne Shirley: I know. I can't help flying up on the wings of anticipation. It's as glorious as soaring through a sunset... almost pays for the thud.
Marilla Cuthbert: Well, maybe it does. But I'd rather walk calmly along and do without flying AND thud. 

I'm definitely a "flying and thud", not a "walk calmly along" type of person. And I pay for that. But I think the flying is worth the thud. Or the whack on the head.

How's that for a long ramble? Welcome back to my blog....

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wisdom From Panda Express

I just gave Jackson a leftover fortune cookie that was in my purse. The fortune said, "You are a bundle of energy, always on the go."

Maybe fortune cookies know more than I thought....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What's Been Keeping Me Away

I just realized it has been almost a month since I have posted on my blog. I guess I've been busy. I wonder what could be keeping me from my blog? Hmmm... besides my typical daily laundry avoidance rituals.... Oh yeah, I'm directing a concert that is one week from Saturday. Cantico, the choir that I direct, has its spring concert on the 22nd and I'm basically the lucky person in charge. :) 

It is a huge project, trying to keep track of all of the concert details, be prepared to conduct the music and still keep my head on straight, but I love it-- it is so much fun! The concert is going to be FANTASTIC by the way. We are singing everything from an a cappella Renaissance motet to The Beatles. And we have a couple of fun surprises up our sleeves.... :) If you are in the area, be sure to get tickets at . That way we can still be friends. =] J.K.

But seriously, it really makes such a difference to have friends come and see you perform. It will be a great concert and you will thoroughly enjoy it. Oh, and you can use the coupon code KPORTER to get a 20% discount on tickets. So come and be entertained-- or just come to give me a figurative pat-on-the-back/high-five/show your support. :) Either way works.

Trading Spaces-- Reflections from Laurel (my mom)

My mom recently came to watch my kids while Dave and I went out of town for the weekend. During that time she not only found time to keep my four kids happy but also found time to write about it. So here is a guest post from my mom, Laurel:
I am not a blogger.  Blogging is a time sink. I have never felt a compelling need to do an emotional core dump on paper—until yesterday. But yesterday my life was different. I woke up at my daughter, Karen’s house, instead of mine. I woke up to her life instead of mine—to four children instead of my normal, quiet, simple existence. …and I woke up to a new understanding of why Karen blogs. Blogging isn’t just a time sink. Blogging is therapeutic. It is an amazingly effective way of making order out of a world that feels completely out of order and chaotic.

I vaguely remember that having six children of my own, ages ten and under, was chaotic. But the memory is very vague indeed…sort of like the way we forget about the reality of childbirth until labor actually starts the next time. I remember that the house got messed up more easily, that more laundry needed doing, that the noise level was quite a bit higher, that there were more places to go and more food I had to cook.  But, other than those sort of things, having children wasn’t much different than the life to which I have become accustomed in recent years. Wrong.

Day 1 at Karen’s: We get home from the airport just before the two older kids get off the school bus and back home. Chaos doubles. Jared hurries to get ready for cub scouts while Camryn discovers that Jackson has opened the hamster’s cage and allowed Fredricka to escape. Not a big deal. One little hamster against four of us in pursuit. The hunt would be easier were it not for the fact that they have a three story house. 

Karen runs Jared to cubs—Camryn and I are the search party. A half hour later Karen comes back to get Camryn for her dance class. I make up the search party. A little while after that Karen drops Jared back off to join me in the search and goes back to pick up Camryn from dance. The hamster was no where to be found in the music room where he and his cage reside on the main floor…or the living room or family room or kitchen or dining area. We knew this after probing under the stove and through the closets with the end of a broom. Likewise, the hamster was nowhere to be found upstairs in any of the bedrooms. Camryn, however, was sure she was on to something later that evening when she announced, “We have a clue!”  I asked her what the clue was.  She opened the fridge and said, “Hamster pee in the fridge.” I looked, and although the substance at the bottom of the fridge was highly suspicious, I doubted that even a hamster as smart as Fredricka could manage to get in there. So I called Jared in for a second opinion. He opened the fridge and said matter-of-factly, “Yep….definitely hamster pee.” In reality, the fridge clue didn’t aid in finding the missing pet. It turned out that Fredricka had managed to find her way downstairs into a bathroom closet and had happily made a nest in a pile of shredded toilet paper. Jared returned the mini-beast to its cage and life was happy again in Porterville. On a happy note, Karen later determined that the clue in the fridge was actually some spilled canned milk. All is well—I can eat again without feeling queasy.

Jackson, on the other hand, definitely requires more than four people to keep track of. He wanted some juice with his lunch, so Karen poured him a small cup. He was happily occupied eating at the bar while Karen was sitting at the kitchen table busily engaged getting some work done on her computer for Cantico and I was not-quite-so-happily searching for some superior interest rate on homes. Both of us were within 10 feet of Jackson the entire time—so much for my theory that Jackson does what he does because he is running wild downstairs while Karen hibernates upstairs in her office. To make a long story short, Jackson invented a new taste sensation:  ½ half bottle of apple juice, to which you add all your left over mash potatoes and generous handfuls of Chex cereal. Top the concoction off with a steak knife dropped into the murky substance for good measure. My frustration when I glanced up to see the disgusting mess was mitigated by my admiration for the dexterity he was using to add additional Chex mix through the little bottle opening. All of a sudden Karen’s stories of finding the phone in the cereal box or dish cupboard made much more sense.

I have observed even in the few days that I have been here that Karen is not one to be easily defeated or even outsmarted. If keeping track of Jackson is critical to one’s success as a parent and Jackson excels at escaping—especially now that he is so dexterous at climbing out of his crib—there must be a solution.  I was dumbfounded when I went to put Jackson to bed and saw he had a “crib tent”….a very stylish version of what amounts to a “toddler cage.” It is made of heavy-duty white netting and curved supports—kind of like a dome tent—and attaches firmly to the crib. Once the intended creature is “in the cage” you zip it closed (from the outside of course) and said baby is confined until such time as you deem it appropriate to release them. Magical! Crib tents are the boon to bedtime that car seats were to car travel. The amazing thing is that she has Jackson convinced he likes it. I rocked him and read him four stories at bedtime—okay, I read “Are You My Mother” three times until I couldn’t handle it another time and finished off with a different story, said prayers with him and put him down in his crib. I covered him up and he pointed up and said, “Zip it, Zip it!” No problem, Jackson. Your wish is my command! Silence in the house until the next morning when Jackson is perfectly capable of making it clear that he is ready to be let out. I don’t know why the heck I didn’t have such a thing when my kids were little. Maybe I would have had a few more.

Speaking of baby accessories…I was never really into the baby-food thing as a mom. I sort of went from “nursing baby” to “sit-in-the-high-chair-and-stuff-finger-food-in-yourself” stage. However, that isn’t an option here since Addy is a nursing baby whose mom left for four days. Enter in an invention second only to the Crib-tent. Its called a Bumbo and I don’t know exactly how to describe how wonderful it is to someone who has never seen it. It is basically a cleverly molded plastic seat that is miraculously shaped in such a way to support a baby as soon as they are strong enough to hold their head up. No flopping from side to side or slumping over. It sits on the counter or table in front of you and holds the baby in the perfect position and angle to stick little spoonfuls of food in. In fact, if you picture a little baby bird with its beak open ready for dinner you can picture what Addy looks like in the Bumbo. It's quite adorable and almost makes it enjoyable to deal with the whole rice-cereal-mushed-fruit-and-veggie stuff. Combine the Bumbo with the Baby Bjorn, the ExerSaucer, the Jumperoo, the Floor Gym, the Motorized Swing, the Bouncy Seat, The Co-Sleeper, Latch-System Car Seat (which is a huge improvement on my generation of car seats), the single stroller, the double stroller, etc, etc, and I’ve got this kid covered! Ignore the fact that it took hours of training to know who to use them all.

Yesterday morning Camryn woke up to find that the Hamster had gone AWOL yet again. This time Jackson was safely locked in his crib tent so we realized that after eight months the hamster had figured out how to let himself out of his cage when we weren’t looking. A frantic search ensued before school, but to no avail. The children left for school totally distraught with grief. I on the other hand, had a much more pragmatic outlook. One escape constitutes a crisis. A second escape constitutes stupidity on the part of the rodent and elicits very little compassion for the creature from me. The search after school was equally unproductive. By bedtime Jared had come to grips with the fact that his pet hamster might be permanently gone. It seemed to me the situation had only a few very stinky alternatives:  1) The hamster would die somewhere in the house…a stinky alternative, or  2) The hamster would NOT die somewhere in the house, but would continue to run freely around doing what hamsters do best…making yet another very stinky mess all over the house. Neither alternative looked particularly attractive when we headed to bed last night with the hamster still missing in action.

This morning Jared woke up bright and early, went downstairs and looked for the hamster. Apparently the hamster liked the familiarity of the downstairs bathroom closet because during the night he had returned to his previous nesting haunt. This was much happier alternative, but definitely not a stink-free scenario. Now Jared has to come home and not only do a thorough cleaning of the hamster’s cage (way overdue, by the way) but he has a good collection of “hamster souvenirs” to clean up all over the downstairs. All this reminds me that however superior hamsters are to mice, rats, etc, a rodent is still a rodent!

Jared shouldn’t feel too bad. While he is cleaning up after the hamster, Camryn and I can clean up after Jackson. The boy has a fun pastime… he takes every toy he can find and hucks it over the top balcony three floors down to the back lawn. The mystery is that no one seems to see him do it, but the evidence down on the ground is undisputable…the only thing Jackson loves more than Curious George is hucking things!

Well, I will give up this blogging pastime for the time being and get back to the more pertinent realities of life like cooking lunch, changing diapers, putting in laundry, doing dishes, sweeping up the floors…  Gosh…maybe I should change places with Karen permenantly!