Monday, January 30, 2012

Time Machine

We all have regrets, I think.  No matter who we are or what we've become.  Our experiences of the past make us who we are today, so they are all learning experiences, but there are always regrets.  We are lucky if they are relatively minor.

I regret that I wasn't more fearless as a kid.  Watching my kids grow up, I see them experiencing new things, making friends, figuring out their way and who they are.  Sometimes I see them second-guessing themselves.  Or nervous about what the other kids will think of them.  I've tried so hard to instill a certain confidence in them, and watching them feel insecure (even occasionally) is difficult.  It must be normal, something everyone goes through.  Sad.

When I was a kid I read all the Little House on the Prairie books.  I remember fantasizing about how I wish I could invent a time machine and go back to when Laura Ingalls was a little girl.  I would whisk her back to the 80's with me and show her the cars, the arcades, the television, and how easy it was to get candy now!

I have the same fantasy sometimes now, only it's of my time machine taking me back to the 80's and having a sit-down with myself.  Telling myself that it's all right that my crazy curly hair won't feather.  That it's okay that my mom won't let me wear eye shadow yet, because blue eye shadow is never a good idea.  That the boy I have a hopeless crush on isn't worth my heartache because he doesn't amount to anything amazing, and I end up with a WAY cooler guy anyway.

I would show myself pictures of my cutie hubby and my amazing little boys, and tell myself that I turn out to be a darn good mom.  And show evidence that some of the bitchy popular girls who act like I'm a nothing end up stuck in a dead-end world, unhappy and trapped.  And the girls that I thought were untouchable, too beautiful, too cool, are now just other women.  Women who have families and homes and worries, and who are friendly and normal and will enjoy my company.

I would try to encourage young me to not feel afraid.  To wear what I wanted to wear.  To embrace my own style.  To try out for solos in choir.  To enter a spelling bee.  To flirt.  To tell off people who were horrible to me.  To defend the other girls like me.  To make more friends.

It would have been nice.  Like that Brad Paisley song, "Letter to Me".

But as I sit here, I realize that if I had that time machine, I would like to visit myself 20 years from now, when I'm 61.  When I can see myself as a Grandma, letting my hair go gray, and wearing obnoxiously bright colors, and embracing the Christmas sweater.  Hopefully I would learn something from 61-year-old me, like how I'm comfortable with myself.  And I'm sure I won't be sitting there wishing I would have spent more time worrying about my weight in my 40's.  Or worrying about whether or not my house is clean enough.  I would like to sit with 61-year-old me and learn about what's really important.  Things like playing with the kids.  Long talks with the hubby.  Celebrations with extended family.  Giving time to friendships.

Now I'm regretting that I haven't invented a Time Machine.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Happiness Can Be a Trip to the Home Improvement Store

Last night was a great night.  There wasn't anything special about it, but for some reason it was special to me.  Hubby was home all day because he had a doctor appointment, so I hung out with him during the first part of the day.  The kiddos don't have school today, so it felt like a Friday yesterday, which always nice.  So last night we took them out to grab a bite to eat and then to Menard's to get a bunch of stuff for the new basement room (I'm so excited!  Eeeeek!)  The kids aren't a huge fan of Menard's (giant home improvement store, in case anyone doesn't know that), and we spend a lot of time there, since Hubby is Mr. Fixit.  So this night seems like one of about 10,000 nights that we spend as a family.  Nothing special.

But last night was.  And yet nothing major happened.  We took the kids to a place called Wild Bill's for dinner first.  We were all starving, and for some reason food just tastes so great when you're that hungry.  They have peanuts in the shell that you can munch on while you wait for your food, and you can just throw the peanut shells on the floor.  The kids enjoyed that, even though their goofy mom insisted on grabbing an extra galvanized pail (I love those) to collect the shells.  Something about throwing them on the floor didn't set well with me.  But we sat there, chatting and shelling away, and it was just nice.  The kids are getting so funny and entertaining, and I found myself smiling and laughing so much that my cheeks hurt.  And that is a great feeling.  The food was good, both kids loved what they ordered, and we left full and happy.

Some of the goofy things are sticking with me from dinner.  The topics of conversation jumped around, but for some reason I found myself telling A that he may be tough, but he'll never be tougher than his dad.  We were kidding around, of course.  Then A said, "oh yeah?  What about when he's like 100 and he's wobbling around saying, 'I just love playing Bingo', and I'm a champion wrestler?"  Seriously.  And he's up from his chair now, hobbling around in his best "old man" impersonation, and using his goofy crotchety old man voice for the Bingo comment.  Where do kids get this stuff?  But I was laughing like crazy.

Anyway, then we go over to Menard's.  The kids wanted to stay in the truck and dork around with my iPad while we were inside.  I told them we were going to be in there awhile, but the hubby and I looked at each other and shrugged.  It really wasn't a big deal.  We told them if they needed anything they'd have to come in to find us, and they'd have to stick together, and remember to lock the truck and not run in the parking lot.  I felt a bit nervous about it, but hello--they're 9 and 10.  I remember being in fourth grade pretty well, and I was sure they could handle these simple instructions.  I used to walk or ride my bike 10 blocks to the Mini Mart to spend all my money on candy, by myself, at that age.  I'm sure they're ready for these small chunks of independence.  So in we went.

We took our time at the store.  It was lovely.  Got everything we needed, which was quite a bit, and just shopped around.  Sure enough, the kiddos came in and found us, they had to go to the bathroom.  They went to the bathroom, walked around with us for a while, and wanted to go back out to the truck.  They were in and out three times all together, enjoying their independence, and in the end, showing me that they really are ready for this stuff.  It was very cool, and I felt proud, relieved, and a bit sad at the same time.  This may sound like such a non-event, but it was significant to me.

When we were finally done shopping, we came home, and I went to bed first.  I didn't even feel the need to make sure all the men were taken care of first, since it wasn't a school night.  I knew they'd go to bed on their own.  They know where their rooms are.  They know how to brush their teeth.  And they know when they're tired.  They even know how to take Freddy out by themselves.

People, I don't know how it's happening, but these two boys are growing up.  Hubby and I must be doing something right, too, because they're turning into pretty cool little men.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Random Stuff

My brother was on the news last night!  About his badass rundown of the purse snatcher!  His story was picked up off the police reports by several tv stations, and he had a reporter come out to his house and interview him!  I think later today I'll go over there and see if he'll give me an autograph.  The list of celebrities that I know is rather short, so I'll take what I can get.  It was very exciting, though.  I dvr'd it (the spellcheck picks that one up--I wonder when the dictionary will add "dvr" as a verb) so the kids could see it this morning, and I just showed it to them.  You can see it here.  Very fun.

Busy couple days around here lately.  I got new glasses (or "googly eyes", as SIL2 and I call them), and I luuurrrve them.  They are super comfy on my face, they don't slide down my nose at all, and they're a bit larger lenses so I don't necessarily see so much of the frame.  This is what they look like:

I know, cute, right?  I have to give a shout out to the Spectacle Shoppe.  I could have stayed in there all day trying on glasses.  They have the most amazing selection of vintage frames, and tons of unique designer ones, as well as their own line.  I loved so many of them, and I had this ADORABLE lady helping me.  She looked sort of like Betty Page with a pierced nose and lip.  She was super cute and extremely helpful.  We finally chose this frame, and I couldn't be happier.  I also know that if I wouldn't have had her with me, I never would have picked these on my own.  And I'm sure I wouldn't be as satisfied.  Yay!  And they give you chocolates with your specs!  Another yay!

Hubby and I are making major progress on Project Basement.  The carpet is picked out, and in under two weeks I'm sure the room will be completely done.  I'll post more pics soon, since I know you're all DYING to see them.  Ha!  We still need to figure out the furniture, but hopefully we'll do that rather quickly.  The entrance into the room is rather small, though, so we'll have to be careful about what couch we pick out.  Wouldn't it be awful to find a perfect couch, bring it home, and be unable to get it in the room?  I can totally see that happening to us.  But it's coming together one way or another.  Paint colors are picked out, and it's going to be awesome down there.  I can't wait to invite a couple of the boys' friends over for a sleepover!

Mom's birthday is this weekend, and we're having her over for dinner and a movie.  It will be so nice to just hang out.  I'm going to cook for her, so I gave her a list of the four meals (sad) that are no-fail for me, and she picked one of my favorites.  I'm also going to bake her a cake, but she doesn't know that yet.  So I hope she's not reading this.  If you are, Mom, act surprised on Saturday!  But I'm looking forward to it.  I do have to clean up a bit, though.  As usual.  And I'll have the kids pick out a movie for us all to watch, and have A make popcorn.  Fun!

Well, time to go.  I have to take the kids and the Freddy out to the bus stop, and then change into my grubbies to keep working on the basement.  Changing into my grubbies means putting on yoga pants and a bra.  Instead of jammies.  I am a picture of glamour.  My hubby is a very lucky man.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Project Basement

Happy Saturday!  Saturday mornings are one of my favorite things about the week.  I am always the first one up, and I don't have to get the boys up.  So I have usually an hour or two completely to myself.  Well, Freddy and I.  So peaceful.

I'm looking around the house wondering what the plan is going to be for the day.  It absolutely should be cleaning.  It's crazy around here.  I know I say this all the time, and unfortunately, it's usually very true.  But often it's explainable--not just that we're lazy.  Hubby is constantly involved in major projects, and during the winter they're all in the house.  And right now it's the basement.  It's a very large basement, and now everything that was in the big main room is now out.  Either forced into other areas of the basement, taken out to one of the buildings, or in the main living area.  It's a bit chaotic.  So today should be spent, for the most part, trying to make sense of all the madness.

I also need to squeeze in a quick grocery trip.  And we promised the kiddos that once we had some snow we'd take them to the ski hill to go tubing or something, and there's some snow on the ground now.  So A is convinced we're going today, and I think we should do that.  So I have major doubts we'll get much cleaning done.  I'll probably spend my time at home holding wood up on the ceiling in the basement for the hubby.  Which is fine.  It's going to look so cool when it's done!  And the change is going to be ginormous!  Here's some before pictures--this is before we got all the crap out of the big room, so keep an open mind:

This is one side of the room.  The walls are concrete block, painted white.  But they're really gross.  That big gray square by the ceiling is where they had to cut out and re-cement in when we put in our fireplace upstairs.  It's super rough.  The room used to be way more packed with stuff than this--we had already done a lot of work when I started taking photos.

Here's the view from the other end of the room.  It's a really big room.  The floor is smooth concrete, and the ceiling is just those beams.  We're going to carpet it--they're coming to measure for it very soon--and put in a ceiling.  The ceiling is going to be knotty pine carsiding, which will look super cozy.  The walls will remain concrete block, but hubby is getting them all treated and prepared, and they will be painted a warm cream color.

Unfortunately, the rest of our basement is currently a catch all for everything else.  Eventually we might finish more of it, but for now we're just going to try to get it cleaned up and more organized.  This craziness isn't even usually quite this bad.  We just had to put all the stuff from the big room out into this part.  Augh!

The area with the fridge will be changed and cleaned up and made into a nicer space.  Kind of an extension of the upstairs kitchen.  The door into the big room is between that white laundry basket and the silver shelves.  The fridge is our beer/pop fridge, so that will still be handy to have down there.  Then those shelves can be used for more kitchen-y stuff too.  Trust me--it's going to be sweet.

I might have to post more picture of the process.  Because it already looks way better than these photos, and these are sort of embarrassing.  The big room is completely empty and cleaned out now.  A lot of the crap in the pictures has been at least organized a bit, if not removed.  It's coming along.  Maybe I'll post some pictures once we get some of the ceiling put on.

Once the big room is finished, we're using it for a family room.  We'll put a nice TV down there and all the video game stuff, the DVDs, some cushy seating.  One side will have a table and chairs for games or whatever, and WHEN my hubby gets the treadmill fixed, that will be in there too.  Ahhh.  I can't wait!!!!

So I guess if the house is trashed for a while, it's all going to be worth it.  I'll be excited to post the "after" pictures.  To redeem myself, of course.  I can't believe I let you guys see this stuff.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Awkward Family Photos

Yesterday I was reminded again why I write this blog.  Thank you so much to everyone who messaged me, e-mailed me, commented on my post, or texted me about my sweet boy.  It's such a comfort to me to have the support of all my friends!  I am not alone in this!

Yesterday I was dorking around on my iPad, and I found myself looking at that website Awkward Family Photos.  If you need a good chuckle, check it out here.  It's so awesome.  It got me thinking about how I'm sure we all have a stash of them around, so I figured I'd go through some of my photos on my computer and see if I have any.  I found a couple.  I have many more that are just prints, and if I ever get my scanner figured out, I'll post them for your viewing delight.

Here's a few:
This is A.  There was a period of time when hubby thought it was funny to hold him like that.  Doesn't it look comfortable and loving?

Here's J.  He grew out of this phase.  He's pretty cute now!  Thank God. We used to think he looked like Uncle Junior from the Sopranos.

Here's A in the sink getting a bath.  I was probably pregnant and exhausted, thus the Hoarder's look to the kitchen.  Let's hope I didn't bathe him with the WINSHIELD DE-ICER bottle that's on the counter next to him . . .

This is my lovely SIL3 with my adorable Nephew5.  Perhaps we should have given her time to pull up his pants?

This is one day when we forgot to put A's dentures in.

I think this one is so creepy!!!  It looks like A's head is giant and his whole body fits into a tiny box!!!

This is before we discovered that you're supposed to bathe your children.

Anyway, there's a few.  I have to get ready to go get my eyes checked now.  Hope you all had a chuckle at our expense!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Friendship 101

How do you teach a kid to make friends?  I wasn't great at it myself when I was a kid.  We had another incident this past weekend where J was invited to a friend's birthday party that A was not invited to (which is fine--he's J's classmate), and so we had to bring him to a fun batting cage/laser tag/arcade place for the party, and A couldn't go.  We took A to the mall while J was at the party, for something to do.  It seems like we've had to do this so many times, and usually it's not that big of a deal--it has seemed to make me and the hubby more sad than A.  He has talked about it, but we just explain it away by saying, maybe the kids in your grade don't have as many birthday parties.  And all the time, trying to encourage him to make friends.

But this time it was bad.  While J was at the party, we had a very sad A.  He broke down in the back of the car, crying, and telling us he's just not a popular kid.  It seriously broke me.  What the heck do you say to that?  I tried to cheer him up, feeling so powerless from the front seat of the car.  I used the old line about kids not having parties.  This time he said he knows they do--he sees kids passing out invitations all the time, and he just never gets one.  AUGH!!!!  I certainly don't blame the parents, but here's a tip out there for you parents:  If you're sending birthday invitations with your kid to the school to be passed out, put them in a large envelope addressed to the teacher, and ask the teacher to discreetly put them in the kids' take-home stuff.  That may avoid some hurt feelings.  Or maybe even a broken heart.

So I didn't know what to say.  I just kept saying, "oh, honey, I'm so sorry."  I talked to him a little bit about how he is a little shy.  And how he feels insecure about approaching kids, and it's for no good reason.  I know he's not picked on or anything.  And from the amount of time I spend at the school, I can tell the kids generally like him.  They just don't know him that well.  He's absolutely a sweet kid.  He's nice, he's funny, he's cute.  He just doesn't put himself out there.  And that's not something you can force.

Do I talk to the school?  I don't want a situation where people try too hard to form friendships and make his situation even more obvious.  It's already apparent to them that he's a unique kid.  I don't need to make that even more of an issue.  And living out here in the country, it's not as easy for him to just go out to play with kids other than his brother.  It's more of a process to get him together with friends.  Sometimes I wish I could just keep him at home in a bubble.  Ha!

There's not a way to make him feel better about it, other than to take his mind off of it.  As an adult, we know that eventually we find our way and make our little circle of people.  But I remember being that age, and being unable to imagine being any other age, and I'm not going to try to soothe him by saying, "it'll get better."  Because he can't believe that yet.  I asked about his friend, the sweet kid we've had over a couple times.  I'll call him R.  He still plays with R every day.  They are good friends.  So it's not like he doesn't have ANYONE.  R's birthday is in the summer, and until this year, and I don't know if they have a party or not.  But that's how I explained it to A.  It's tougher to get in touch with your buddies when you don't see them at school every day.

So all I can do is keep encouraging him.  Trying to mend his broken heart.  We took him to the arcade with his brother and a couple cousins the day after J's party.  They had a ton of fun.  We told him that in two weeks we're going to invite R and one of J's friends over for a sleepover.  Baseball starts in the spring.  So more opportunities are coming.  And he's growing and maturing.  

Parenting is hard.  Our hearts break when our kids are hurting.  And this is just the beginning.  Wait until they start noticing the girls.

And a side note to a couple of my adult friends:  Thanks for lunching with me yesterday.  You are delightful ladies, and excellent friends.  And even though friendship is something that can be difficult to navigate even as adults, just remember that friendship should be easy.  It's a soft place to fall, not something that should make for sleepless nights, knots in our stomachs, or bitchy text messages.  It's a place for laughing, encouragement, and understanding.  And the occasional cocktail.  Anything less than that may not be worth your time!

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I love the word Badass.  It works for so many things.  My kids give me a look when I use it, and they really shudder when I use it to describe something about them.  Their reactions only make me use it more.  Ha!

Today I want to write about two of the best reasons I know to use the word.  I have two badass men in my life (by the way--I love that spellcheck doesn't even flag the word!  Yay!).  They are my hubby and my brother.  The hubby is a badass no matter what.  He's a loving father, affectionate, and sweet, but he's tough as nails.  LITERALLY.

Last year when he was working on our porch, which he built for the most part by himself (again--badass), there was a day when he was home alone working and I was out at the store.  He called me at the store and told me he thought he might need me to come home.

"I may need a ride to the Urgent Care.  I shot a nail through my thumb with the nail gun."

"WHAT?!?!?!?!"  I felt faint.

"Well I got the nail out, but I should probably go have it looked at.  There's a lot of blood."

"How did you get it out?"

"I went over to the shop and pulled it out with a pair of pliers."

I think I came dangerously close to passing out at that moment.  I ran out of the store and drove home, and it's all a blur, but I remember him getting into the car with a towel around his hand.  The nail had driven through the middle of his thumbnail and out the other side.  Oh.  My.  God.  It's surprising I was able to get us to the Urgent Care without passing out or barfing.  But I got him there, and he got fixed up.  He still has a metal shard in his thumb, and he received a couple stitches, but the doctor was amazed that he yanked the nail out himself.  Badass.  I was impressed and completely horrified at the same time.  That's my man.

And my brother is on the badass list too.  He has a new story this week that renewed his badass status.  Some people would call him a hothead, but I think he's just a -- well, you know.

The other day they were at a local ski hill watching Nephew1 race.  When they went out to their car, the window was busted in, and SIL1's purse had been stolen!  A beautiful new Coach purse with a matching wallet.  And it was full of stuff--credit cards, cash, all that good stuff.  All she had taken out of it were her driver's license and her bank card, so that's at least good.  But yikes!  So they start making the calls to cancel all the cards, and of course it's already been used a bunch.  There are such losers out there.  They discover the card was used at some gas stations, and at a nearby mall.  There was a charge at a T-Mobile store that got flagged and declined, and that was only a few minutes ago!  So instead of driving to the police station, the brother turns around and speeds toward the mall, in full rage mode.  I wish I could have seen SIL1's face, and I bet Nephew1 was nervous.

So they get to the mall and he runs in to the T-Mobile store and asks if they recently had a big charge declined, and they said yes, and he asks for a description.  Apparently he was pretty much shouting and causing a scene.  Awesome.  They tell him it was two women and that one was wearing an Ed Hardy hat (lovely).  So he looks outside, and the woman is sitting on a bench outside the store!!!!  Holy crap!  She had the ugly hat (which wasn't even a real Ed Hardy hat, not that that would have been any better) on the bench next to her and was clutching a COACH PURSE!!!  So he just started screaming at her and yelling bad words and raging in a style only he can pull off.  She kept trying to tell different stories, the security guards ran over, the police were called, and it all ended well.  The cops apparently allowed him to rage at the woman for a pretty satisfying amount of time, and he said he kept making her cry.  SIL1 even felt sorry for the criminal!  Ha!  But they got her purse and wallet (completely empty) back, minus the cash and a substantial gift card, which sucks.  The criminal's partner in crime took off as soon as the brother started screaming at Ed Hardy hat lady, so that stuff is gone.  But they got their cards canceled and aren't responsible for any of those charges, and all ended all right.  But they have to get their car window replaced.  Apparently the lady had a long record and is going to jail, so chalk one up for the good guys.  My brother was a regular Charles Bronson, as the hubby said.  Woohoo!

So I love a good badass, and I love badass stories.  I'm proud of my badass men.  Maybe I've been watching too much Sons of Anarchy.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Just. Slow. Down.

The other night A came down to me with tears in his eyes.  It was after bedtime, and I'm sure he had been upstairs, laying in his bed, unable to sleep.  He is absolutely a night owl, so this is not unusual.  But this night he was worried.  They were doing a cursive worksheet at school, and apparently he had not finished it.  He was to finish it at home, but forgot it at school.  He was very concerned that he would get in trouble or get a "yellow sticker" in his planner.  He hates the yellow stickers.

My A has some school issues that I have addressed briefly before in this blog.  This year I haven't heard as much about it, but I know the issues are still there.  Hopefully he's growing and improving, but there are definitely still concerns.  And since the teachers are aware of his "quirks", I feel like sometimes it's perfectly fine to ask for some special consideration.  I wrote an e-mail to his teacher, as A was standing next to me in his jammies, asking for him to be given some extra time to finish his cursive worksheet in the morning, as I knew he had forgotten it at school.  My goal was to put A's mind at ease and to hopefully avoid the dreaded yellow sticker.  The yellow sticker is just a shout out to the parents that the kid is missing something, by the way.  Homework or a book or whatever.  But A looks at them as personal failures.

Anyway, his teacher got back to me promptly and said that would be fine, and also let me know that they have started doing larger multiplication problems--two digits multiplied by two digits--and that A seems to be struggling with it quite a bit.  He was sending home a sheet of problems, and asked if I could spend some time working on it with him.

So last night after we got all settled down and he watched his episode of whatever on whatever station it is that he's watching these days, we sat down at the table.  He was all excited because he had finished his worksheet on the bus, all but one problem.  So I sat down at the table and looked over the problems, and erased the mistakes to work on them with him.  There were 12 problems.  He got two perfect.

This may seem pretty poor, but A is a different kind of kid.  Instead of me seeing 10 problems that were not done correctly, I saw not only two that were, but I saw that the nine he had attempted at were done correctly, he had just made small mistakes in his calculations that messed up his answers.  That was HUGE to me.  Not long ago, just teaching him the process of doing these long problems would have been nearly impossible.  He was having major problems learning things that required more than two steps.  And with these, you have to multiply first the two numbers in the top number by the "ones" digit in the bottom number, remembering to carry numbers and add them in as you go, but then you have to write in your zero.  Then you cross out the "ones" number that you're done with.  Then you multiply the "tens" digit by the two digits in the top number.  Remembering to carry the numbers and add them in.  Then you add the whole thing together.  All the while, remembering to line up your numbers correctly.  It's actually a much larger job than I think we remember.

And he did the whole process.  In most of the problems, he missed an addition calculation, sometimes by forgetting to add the carried number, or else he wrote a "4" too sloppy and misinterpreted it for a "9", or whatever, but he got it.  He got the process.  And to me, it was a very major accomplishment.

I said to him, "A, you need to slow down."  Seriously, it seemed to me like that was the biggest problem.  If he could just slow down.  Focus on each step.  Write more slowly and carefully.  He would have had them all correct.  Just.  Slow.  Down.  But inside, I was THRILLED with his progress.  I can't make too much of a big deal to him in front of him, because I don't want him to think I'm surprised that he can do it.  I just made sure he knew I was proud of him.

I promised him he could have a fudgesicle when he finished his homework.  So right when he was done, he popped up to go to the refrigerator, and promptly tripped on his way into the kitchen, falling on the floor and stubbing his toe.  I just looked at  him, shaking my head.  He does that stuff all the time.  It would appear that his life would be so much better in general if he would just slow down.  With everything.

This morning we ran through is spelling words.  And he got them all right.  I don't know what he'll do on his test today, but at home he got them right.  So he knows them, somewhere in his head.  I guess that's all that matters, somehow.  My baby's growing up.  And he's going to be fine.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Crud Cloud

I'm doing that frustrating thing right now where I sit at the computer, feeling a need to write, to settle my brain, to purge some of my weird thoughts.  And whatever I start writing sounds so incredibly lame that I just delete it, not wanting to bore people to death.

But that's my reality.  Life seems boring to me right now.  My slump is here, like a monkey on my back, and I can't shake him.  I'm throwing myself a pity party for no good reason.  At all.  Life is pretty good right now.  I'm still struggling with feelings about the loss of my dad and worries about my mom, but I think I'm dealing with that.  I don't know what my slump is all about.  It might be the weather.

I know that sounds silly, but seriously!  We're having this bizzaro freakish "winter" with too much warmth and no snow.  The warmth thing is sort of all right, I guess.  It will make for a winter that feels short.  But when I'm outside, it's a bummer.  It's too cool to feel super comfortable, and not nearly cold enough to really be a winter.  And everything's dead and ugly.  The grass is dry and brown.  The trees are naked.  There are no signs of life.  There's not enough need for the birds to come to our feeders, so we are even not seeing the birds we usually enjoy this time of year.  It's depressing!  My skin hurts from how dry it is.  My fingertips are dry, painful, and cracking.  I feel like I want to fill gloves with lotion and then stuff my hands in them and wear them all day.  Gross.

When it's cold and snowy, I feel better.  At least in the winter.  The house feels cozier when it's colder outside.  We have fires in the fireplace.  The snow is bright and cheerful and clean.  And when there's snow on the ground the sun seems to shine brighter because it reflects off the white.  It's sparkly.  What we have outside right now is the opposite of sparkly.

That must be part of my problem.  Plus, I cannot keep up with my house lately, so that's stressing me out.  We have good reason for the chaos right now--the basement project.  So I know it's temporary, but this time I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around it.  My life with my hubby is a constant stream of projects.  I should be used to this by now.  We finish one thing, and right as we're finishing it and I'm feeling excited about it, he starts something else.  We had just taken down all the Christmas decorations and were packing them away and cleaning up, when he started hauling things up from the basement.  Now there's crap everywhere.  I know it's temporary, but sheesh.  It makes it very hard to feel like doing any chores--what's the point?  I need a swift kick in the pants.

What is all the doom and gloom?  I know more than a couple people out there that are struggling with it right now.  Life can't be that bad.  Hubby was telling me yesterday about a guy he heard on the radio who traveled the world working on a project about finding happiness.  He said the happiest people he found were in the most impoverished parts of the world.  And here we are.  Americans.  With homes, food, cars, iPads.  TV.  Jobs and income.  Why are we so gloomy?  I'm ashamed of myself that I'm this selfish.  Of course, that doesn't make me feel any better, maybe worse, but how stupid.  And lazy.  I am really going to try to shake this monkey off today.  I think if I keep myself busy and productive he'll leave me alone.  It's when I give myself the option of having nothing to do that the crud cloud comes rolling in.  I can't control this wack-a-doo weather, but I can control my own ass.  And whether it's sitting on the couch or not.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Calgon, Take Me Away!

Here's a disclaimer I should probably throw out there before I continue writing:  I love my kids.  I love being a parent and a wife.  I am very well aware of my blessings.  My kids are great kids.

Sometimes parenting makes me feel completely bonkers.  And usually it's not really for much good reason. Out of the blue, I'll become irritated at little things that don't always bother me.  And sometimes it's more than irritated.  Sometimes I quietly feel like my brain is swelling and that at any moment my skull is sure to crack wide open at the sheer pressure of it all.  

I felt a bit like this just today, driving around with my family.  The car is a major stressor for me, when we're all in it.  I get claustrophobic.  The kids will be in the back, talking in what I'm sure is obscenely loud voices, and often arguing.  The radio is on.  The hubby is talking to me about something that happened earlier, or politics, or how we should fix up the basement.  And my hubby, through no fault of his own, has an unusually loud voice anyway.  I'm trying to focus on what he's saying, while trying to ignore the kids in the back, the fact that I feel like he's driving too crazy, ignore the radio, and sometimes the clicking and swishing of the stupid windshield wipers, and all of a sudden I feel like I'm going to have a panic attack.  Nobody is doing anything wrong, and yet I feel like I have to jump out of the moving car and run screaming down the road.  In the other direction.

And at home, the same thing will happen to me occasionally.  I am the only girl in a house full of boys.  Even our dog is a boy.  I don't even completely understand the male brain--how could I?--and so I'm sure they don't completely understand me.  It's hard for them to remember that I need peace and quiet.  Just once in a while.  When the boys were toddlers, I remember there were times when just going to the bathroom was like a mini vacation for me.  It was so peaceful in there.  Sometimes it was the only peace I had.  It's not the same now, but it's almost crazier.  The boys are bigger.  Messier.  Louder.  It's getting to be like living with three men, like in college.  

I have, at this VERY moment, a hubby trying to get me to put some headphones on to see if I think they sound good or if there's something wrong with them.  He just found them in the basement he's clearing out.  A 9-year old who wants me to help him figure out if he's building this little model airplane correctly, because he's not sure if he's got the right piece.  A 10-year old who wants me to read something on a crumpled up piece of paper, and a dog who's desperately trying to dig a tennis ball out from under the shelves next to me.  This is happening right now.  Right this second.  As I'm writing this.  And nobody's noticing that I'm busy writing.  They're not even seeing that I'm writing about what they're doing RIGHT NOW!!!!  

Ugh.  I just said, "I'm in the middle of something right now," rather loudly and sternly.  All four of them just went out the back door, and right now I have probably three to four minutes of silence, no sound but the clicking of my keyboard.  Ahhhhh.  

So as I was saying.  I think I need a door on my office.  There's no door on it right now.  And if I could get a door on it, I think I need one with a lock.  I want to come in here when I need to be left alone, so I can take some deep breaths, open the door, and be happy to see my family again.

I am pulled in four different directions every day.  It's the universal difficulty of being a mom.  I come last.  This is my life, and I know many would be thrilled to have what I have.  And I have nine very short years left until my babies leave me for college.  That's what I try to remind myself whenever I feel like ripping out my hair or jumping in my car and driving very far away.  I'm sure there's times when I'm no peach.  

Ahh.  That was a nice chunk of quiet.  They're all back inside now, and I'm done griping.  Now I have counted to ten, taken a few deep breaths, and I'm going to go hug my babies and kiss my hubby.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Kid and his Rock

My 9-year old, J, is fascinated with geology.  He collects rocks, gems, and minerals, and knows more about them than I ever care to.  It's a pretty cool hobby.  This past Christmas his list for Santa was filled with nothing but rocks:

It was difficult, but Santa was able to bring about 10 pieces off his list, after visiting a very cool rock and gem shop.  The two prizes of his collection are a rock that has a real fleck of gold in it and a real topaz crystal.  Topaz is his birthstone, and it looks very cool in its natural form.  J was thrilled with his "rocks" from Santa, and has been very proud of his growing collection.

Yesterday was the first day back to school after the Christmas break.  Of course, J was very excited to show his class some of his treasures, and he brought the topaz crystal to school.  It made me very concerned.  But he had made a little paper box to bring it in, and he promised me he would leave it in his backpack until sharing time.  I even told him that the paper box would get squished in his backpack, but he was determined.  And I remember being so excited to share special things with my class.  So I let him.

Well, I think the topaz is gone.  He was in a panicked state this morning, thinking he left it at school.  First he thought he left it on the shelf of his locker, which wouldn't have been so bad (although it was supposed to only be in his hands or in his backpack), but then, horror of horrors:  he remembered taking it out and passing it to a couple friends ON THE BUS.  The dreaded bus.  In a small, homemade paper box.  He doesn't remember putting it back in his backpack, and it's not in there now.

It's gone.

He was devastated!  He spent much of the morning howling and crying, and claiming that this is the WORST DAY OF HIS LIFE!  I was super irritated, too irritated to feel bad for him.  I actually heard myself saying to him, "this is a learning moment, J.  You need to be more aware of your things and take better care of them."  I really am a mom.  And a mean one.  But geez, I really tried to warn him.  I shouldn't have let him take it, but he really does need to learn some responsibility.

I feel bad for him.  I'm hoping he still can have a decent day at school.  And I feel bad for Santa who made the trek out twice to the rock and gem shop to find these special things for the kid.  Very frustrating.  But I remember that crushed feeling.  When you're a kid, things hurt more, I think.  He's claiming this is the worst day of his life.  If I wasn't so irritated, it might be almost funny.  But it's not.  Because in the moment, that's genuinely how he feels.  Not that he won't stop thinking about by morning break at school, or that it will affect his childhood, but the pain of the moment is acute.  Because when you're a kid you don't have much of a filter and aren't practiced at thinking things through.  Poor little guy.

So hopefully the worst day of his life will get a little better.  And maybe his topaz will turn up.  I doubt it, but maybe.  And if not, maybe he needs to take some of his Christmas money and have dad take him to Santa's rock shop.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Day

Here we are!  2012!  Very exciting.  I hear the world's going to end this year, so we all better make the best of it, right?

And on that note, I just finished the Hunger Games.  I sat on my rear end in my chair all day yesterday.  I felt headachy and nauseous all day, possibly just beat up from holiday exhaustion, but I felt like I couldn't move.  So I spent the whole day doing nothing.  And I read almost the whole book in one day.  It was very interesting.  Very creative and original, and I'm really looking forward to the next two books.  I'm also looking forward to the movie.  It's nice that there's some original stuff out there, when there's way too much just reheated old ideas in books and movies these days.

We have un-decked our halls.  It's looking pretty roomy in here now, and I noticed an echo in my kitchen yesterday that I swear was not there before we decked the halls.  It's very strange.  But it's cleansing to get it all down, and yes, I'm already looking forward to next year.  The only thing that bums me out about it is how fast time flies and how I know the year is going to speed past as I barely have time to catch my breath.  But it was a good feeling to get it done, and it gave us a new project.  I used to store my Christmas stuff in the basement.  We have a large basement, I call it the dungeon.  In our old farmhouse, it is the basement you would imagine--concrete floor, block walls, cold and unwelcoming.  And full of crap.  Full.  of Crap.  So this year hubby took my Christmas decorations (32 bins plus some random loose things) out to his workshop.  He's storing them up on these really high shelves, where he solemnly swears no mice will get at them and they will stay dry and safe.  That opened up a very exciting amount of room in our big room down in the basement, and it inspired us to start  emptying out the basement and getting it ready to finish!

When we first moved here 13 years ago, the basement was damp, and it would flood in the spring.  We installed drain tile a couple years later and since then it doesn't even get damp at all.  Kind of amazing, really.  So now we can finish it with recessed lights, ceiling, walls, and carpet.  There are no heat ducts down there so we'll have to install some kind of heat, but still.  It has HUGE potential.  The thought that we could have a family room down there where we could put a TV, the PS3 and the Wii is very exciting for me.  Hubby is a whiz with electrical projects and construction stuff, so there's not much of a reason why we shouldn't be able to get it done.  Maybe even this winter????  I'll keep my fingers crossed.  For now, all I can do is help get it empty and cleaned out.  I'll keep you posted.  I know you're all holding your breath about what we're going to do!  Ha.

The kiddos are back in school tomorrow.  We're back to regular life around here.  My busy cycle should be slowing down now.  I sort of live my life with my hair on fire from September to January, then it calms back down again.  I have so many birthdays and holidays packed in that time, and not much during the spring and summer.  So this time of year is usually a big relief.  I can focus on some other things.  And today I'm focusing on my health.  I have to figure out the best way to shake off some pounds.  This is an extremely touchy thing for me, and I don't talk about it easily.  I am HYPER self-conscious about my body, and it completely affects my whole life.  Mostly I try to pretend I'm fine, but really I'm a mess about it.  I cannot figure out a way out of the cycle, and I need a new approach.

I have joined and quit Weight Watchers more times than I care to admit.  I have lost weight every time, a couple times even come close to a goal, but then I slow down, plateau, and eventually quit.  I start getting extremely frustrated with it, both with how difficult it is to lose the weight and with how much the process of losing it takes over my life.  I HATE thinking about it so much.  The program itself is great.  It works.  If you do it.  But working the program involves constantly thinking about eating, about food, about your diet.  And I would love to stop thinking about it.  I spend almost all of my awake hours completely aware of how fat I feel.  It's in my mind at ALL times.  Even when I'm busy, it's there in the background, telling me how lazy I am, how worthless I am, how unappealing I am, what a failure I am.  I can push it back a little, but it's there.

Then when I'm doing things to lose weight, it's almost worse.  I feel a bit of pride when I'm accomplishing some weight loss, but the focus on food and weight is even stronger.  It's a horrible, vicious cycle.  And I just want out.  I just want to find a way to get healthier, to get these thoughts out of my head.  There has to be a way for me to get better without it consuming me.  I hate working out.  I know I need to get more active, so that's what I'm going to try next.

We have a treadmill.  It's not working, but we need to get it fixed.  I LOVE walking.  I love walking with my iPod, by myself, zoning out with the music and the fresh air.  But I know myself, and I know I won't do it in the supercold weather.  Which is coming.  I think if I can get myself into a walking routine again, that will be a good start.  And if I can start just choosing my food a bit more carefully, that's a good next step.  I am not diving into WW again.  It consumes me.  I am tired of being consumed.

But I can handle having a healthy breakfast.  Today I had oatmeal and a cup of coffee and a glass of milk.  Instead of nothing until I'm crazy hungry later and eat anything I can get my hands on.  And I can have a sandwich and some grapes for lunch.  And I can make a good dinner for my family tonight.  That should be all I need.  And I can get some work done in my basement and in the house, which will keep me active and occupied.  Pushing those grumpy thoughts back a bit.  And then tomorrow will be another new day.