Monthly Archives: March 2015

Can’t we just pause it?

We’ve instituted a Friday night movie night custom in our house and it’s been in place now for a couple of months. The girls really look forward to being able to choose a movie and enjoy Liam’s homemade popcorn, especially when Mommy throws in some surprise M&Ms at the bottom of the bowl.

The oldest, ever like her mother, insists on not wanting to miss out on anything. She’s learned that there is a pause function on the TV and so she regularly demands we pause the movie when she needs to break for the bathroom or retrieve random objects she believes she requires during the middle of the film, such as slippers, barrettes, or cloth napkins, which double not only as hand cleaners, but also blankets for baby dolls.

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She’s also learned how to program the pause button on her CD player. She may be dancing to tunes in the living room and have to pee, so she’ll run across to the player, hit pause, dash to the bathroom, and then resume playing, singing, and dancing when she returns.

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Just last week I was enjoying watching her, without her really being aware of my presence, as she set up several stuffed animal friends on the dining room table edge. She then proceeded to put on a dancing show for them in the kitchen. This involved lots of spinning and expressive arm movements, and humming and singing, of course.

In the middle of her charade, I observed her doing a kind of pee-pee dance, as we call it around here, and then watched as she ran over to her furry friends, pressed an imaginary button, complete with her own clicking noise, and then said, “Hold on, guys. Your teacher is going to pause the show. I will be right back, so don’t go away.” Then she made me promise not to let her younger sister interfere with the friends or the show in her absence.

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This past Saturday I had plans to take the girls, my sister, and my niece to the local theater to see a family production of Cinderella. As our luck would have it though, the oldest woke up with tummy troubles, yet again, early that morning. I confess, it might have had something to do with the fact that the night before, we had fried fish sandwiches and French fries for dinner. Though her stomach had been good for days, her appetite hadn’t really returned until that point. And, up until then, she’d had some pretty safe and bland foods. I wasn’t really expecting her to eat much of the food, but she dug right in, and showed no signs of wanting to nibble politely as she had done for days before. Instead, she was like a famished runaway orphan, seizing the opportunity of a hot meal as though she didn’t know when she’d be able to eat ever again.

So, yesterday morning she woke up, puked once, and then proceeded to have diarrhea (What is it about this word, by the way, that is so supremely distasteful? Ugh!) off and on for the next several hours. Mom of the year, here, I tell you.

I explained to her that we might not be able to go to the show because her tummy was upset. I told her that we wouldn’t want to have to keep going to the potty and getting up from our seats. She thought about this for a second and then said, “But can’t we just pause it?”

I laughed out loud and explained that the show was not a movie, but a play. There would be real people on stage acting out the story, and other people in the audience would be watching, so we wouldn’t be able to actually pause the show. She looked very disappointed, and slightly confused, as I explained all of this and she contemplated what it meant.

In the end, we did go to the show. We only had to use the bathroom one time, more than halfway through the play. We could hear music and faint voices from our stall in the restroom. She wondered aloud about what part we were missing and I gave her the play-by-play as best I could, that the prince had just met Cinderella at the ball, and they were likely dancing and falling in love. 

We made it back to our seats and finished the show without any other incidents, unless you consider her asking right at the end, as the cast lined up, in an extremely loud voice, whether or not she could talk to Cinderella because she had some questions to ask her. 

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Then, in the middle of eating a meal together this evening, the oldest needed to go to the bathroom, yet again (thankfully, it seems the tummy troubles are behind us). As my husband was getting ready to put a forkful of pasta into his mouth, she asked if he could pause dinner. Of course, to her delight, he humored her and froze his fork in midair, while she ran to the bathroom with a big smile on her face. When she was out of sight, my husband continued eating and I just looked at him smiling and shaking my head.

If only pausing on demand were so easy for the rest of us. I’d invoke that power all the time. Maybe the next time the girls get into a heated argument about something I’ll just scream, “Pause, please!” at the top of my lungs, and see what happens. Seems like it might be worth a try. 

I can’t decide which is more annoying: typing out entire blog posts on my cell phone, or using my laptop with a significant broken key.

For a little over a year now, my beloved MacBook Pro has been without a functioning delete key (see image below: where working key should be, you’ll notice an empty key space filled with glowing backlight).

How did this happen? Well, let me tell you. Last Christmas, I decided I needed a big crafting project for our basement play space. I set my sights on several online DIY tutorials for a child’s teepee and worked for days like a madwoman until it was finished, imperfections and all.

The finished product.

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Two dads trying out the space just to make sure it was safe and suitable for the children. They look quite at home, don’t they?

Each morning for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s I took my coffee downstairs to work on cutting and sewing canvas, spacing out poles, and eventually, assembling the whole thing together. I had my laptop with me on the floor because I was using the online tutorials as a guide.

One morning, I carelessly knocked over my cup of coffee. I didn’t notice it right away, but the coffee had spilled onto part of the Mac keyboard. When I finally saw it, after I let out a string of oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shits, I swiftly righted the cup, flipped my laptop upside down and ran to get a towel. An initial assessment showed that every key was working except the delete key. An hours later assessment still showed that every key was working except the delete key.

I did some quick and dirty research online to see about replacing the keyboard. It all seemed to point to a very expensive replacement and no easy fix. I’ve never taken it anywhere to be serviced or inquired about a repair. Liam and I have simply dealt with life without delete. It is a HUGE pain in the ass to be typing anything of some length (e-mails, blog posts, lesson plans, etc.), because we inevitably make mistakes when we type, and there is no ease of just hitting a button to go backwards and erase. Instead, we must highlight the error and either type on top of it, or just hit the space bar to clear it. Often this latter move results in creating two spaces between words, when there is meant to be just one, so we have to highlight both spaces again and press the space bar one more time. Let me tell you, it is a real drag.

Forget forward deleting either, an easy alternative option on a non-Mac keyboard. There is this option on a Mac too, using a shortcut, but you have to use the command key in conjunction with the delete key.

Want to go back to a previously viewed website on your browser? Can’t do it with a quick and simple keystroke anymore. Have to use the trackpad to go and press that backward arrow. Major waste of time. Deleting massive amount of photos, or clips in iMovie? No problem, right? WHEN. YOUR. DELETE. KEY. WORKS. Now we have to manually drag everything to the trash. Such a chore.

I suppose it could be worse. We could be without the ‘e’ key, the most frequently occurring letter in the English alphabet, a fact I just looked up online. What would we do then? Substitute with another vowel, like ‘a’? Frances would be Francas. Restless Roost would be Rastlass Roost. Similar enough, right? It might even be fun for word-smithy readers to try and decipher blog posts using that simple key switcheroo, a cryptoquip of sorts.

Liam and I have agreed that the best, though, is when we get to work and use our Dell, district/office provided laptops—machines with fully functional keyboards. We’ll both forget that we can actually use the backspace key. So, we find ourselves doing the whole highlight and type-over bit, and then realize—wait a minute! We can actually just hit this key right here, and all is well with the world again. So easy. So the way it should be.

And because things are not as they should be, I find myself at times preferring to type out blog posts on my cell phone, a fact Liam thinks is just absurd given the small size of the screen. I admit this can be equally frustrating since the keyboard is mini-sized too and this makes it easy for misplaced fingers to type lots of errors. However, when this sort of thing happens, I can just easily hit the delete key, erase my mistake and type again!

Hopefully someday in the future we will once again have a functioning keyboard on the laptop. Until then, we are becoming expert highlighters and type-over-ers. Be thankful for your working keys, people. Don’t take them for granted!

Magazines: The good, the bad and the ugly.

We are a magazine-loving family. We subscribe to several: Food and Wine, Golf, Martha Stewart Living (although I boycotted during the prison years on principle alone), Better Homes and Gardens, Parents. Even our oldest gets pumped when her monthly Highlights subscription arrives in the mail.

What is it about the glossy pages of magazines and catalogs—wait. Did I mention catalogs? No? Well, catalogs too. For the life of me I can’t recall ever signing up for one of these. However, they continue to arrive regularly, as a frequent reminder, that at some point in our lives we have bought something from their company, ever tempting us with material goodness, which we cannot responsibly afford. Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, Land’s End, L.L. Bean, Williams Sonoma, Patagonia. This time of year I especially love thumbing through Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds and Johnny’s seeds, as we anticipate spring gardening in the next month or so.

We love our magazines and catalogs because they inspire us. They help us to find ways to perfect our golf grip and swing. They include tips on how to perfectly frost a cake, and trim back roses, never mind that we’re never going to find the time to make that cake in the first place, or that we don’t even own a rose bush. They include lofty calendars with gentle reminders and suggestions about what we could be doing with our days—planting asparagus, going horseback riding on the beach, doing Pilates practice three times a week, dry cleaning and putting away sweaters for the season, knitting tea-towel dresses for the kids—as if!

Magazines provide images and descriptions of the remodeling process of a small kitchen like ours, and its transformation through the breaking down of walls and building of additions that end up housing a gorgeous granite island, and a complementary backsplash, along with a charming eating nook and of course, stainless steel appliances. This kind of browsing, while hopeful with potential, can be also especially depressing when we reflect on how we rent our small old house and can only imagine one day owning a space as described above. Because the chances of this actually happening—us being able to afford a house in the first place, never mind a fancy remodel, are about one in five billion. We can still dream, right? Magazines help make it so. And, well, there is the fact that we do participate in the annual HGTV Blog Cabin sweepstakes, so our odds of living in some kind of amazing space probably go up to like one in four-point-five billion, right?

For all of the reasons we love our magazines, there is but one reason to both hate and fear them. (Well, apart from the obvious consumerism and materialism, which surely we can and should live without. Our life is perfect and charming as it is and we don’t need anything on those glossy pages to make us happy). No. The reason I’m talking about is—you guessed it—and if you didn’t, shame on you. You should have. Clutter. With a capital C.

If left to their own devices magazines will cleverly stack themselves in both tidy and messy piles on various surfaces and containers in your home. They aren’t picky about where they congregate. They’ll cover up other, far more important mail. They’ll act as a coaster and host a glass or two or three. They’ll even lovingly provide a sturdy surface upon which your toddler or preschooler can work on a coloring page.

I suppose if you are a clutter-lover, or at least more tolerant than me when it comes to clutter, this kind of thing wouldn’t bother you so much. But, if you’ve any sense of the stress and displeasure I feel upon seeing loads of papers gathering about in my house, you might imagine my magazine frustration, which will flare up from time to time.

Let’s start with the food magazines. These are really Liam’s thing, although I do love to browse through recipes and look at food photography from time to time. But the way I look at it is, they are only useful for keeping around if you are going to attempt to make the concoctions they describe on their pages. And, let’s face it. We rarely do. Every now and then one of us will try one of the recipes. Liam recently discovered an amazing one for hot oatmeal, which is definitely a keeper. But for the most part, the magazines are read for entertainment in the moment only, and then left around to collect dust. I wish I could say we go back and look at old issues when we are planning out meals for the week, but we honestly don’t even do that. It’s so much easier to look online, or fall back on our regular dishes. So what’s the point in keeping them around, I ask?

For years I was on Liam’s case about hanging onto dozens and dozens of Gourmet magazines. He insisted and still insists on keeping them since they are no longer in print. Some of them reside now with our cookbooks. Some I’ve made him take down to the basement. And the rest are stashed away in the bottom drawer of a nightstand where no one can see them. Perfectly useful, right?

I’m much better about disposing of my magazines. Typically, when I read through one of them, I’ll fold down the corner of any page that contains something that’s caught my eye. It could be a recipe I’d like to try, or a craft with the kids. Sometimes it’s book or a product review, which I can add to Pinterest or an Amazon wish list. Most often, however, I find I’m drawn to images of other people’s homes and outdoor spaces. So, these pages eventually get ripped out, and sorted into corresponding file folders based on their content (kitchens, wall art, entryways, storage ideas, etc.). This is my pre-Pinterest, non-techy paper system, and I’m sticking to it. And before you go getting all, “But isn’t that cluttersome too?” on me, you should know that my filing system takes up only three-quarters of a bottom desk drawer. If it ever comes time to need more space than that, I know I will have to purge, or at least by then have purchased a damn house already so we can make use of the ideas on those damn pages.

Now, if a month or two or three should go by, and I haven’t dealt with filing or Pinning the pages, I will either make fast work of getting it done, or simply trash the things, trusting that there is nothing on the pages so special that my life would be worse off for having missed out on capturing it in the first place.

So why this love-hate relationship with our maggos, as I affectionately call them? Well, it stems from my childhood, like most of my OCD issues, I guess. You see, one of my parents, and I won’t mention her name here, but her initials are M.O.M., had a bad habit of collecting newspapers and magazines and mail and receipts and coupons, without ever actually regularly looking at or going through any of them. These papers and scraps of papers would pile up on chairs and counters, floors and boxes, and even black trash bags, in our childhood home until one weekend, several times a year, M.O.M. would decide to ‘go through them.’ The only problem with this was, since there were so many to begin with, she rarely made a dent, and to top things off, most items never got trashed, but simply recycled back into some other filing system which nobody but her ever understood. It was total madness.

She will readily admit to being a pack rat. By the way, I love this euphemism for hoarder. Let’s just call it was it was and is. In her defense, she worked a lot. Long hours at the office and long hours being M.O.M. to four kids. She couldn’t keep up with the clutter. I think in her mind she thought that if she threw something away, there was a chance she would miss out on something that would be so harmful it wasn’t worth doing. Like, what if she threw away a newspaper that had an article about my dad and his policing in it? Or a magazine that had the world’s best chocolate chip cookie recipe in it? I think she always thought there would be time in her busy schedule to go through things more thoroughly. But history showed this was not to be the case.

There is still evidence of this clutter in my parents’ home today. M.O.M. is very sensitive to criticism about it, and all of her children as well as her husband are aware of it, and try to steer clear from commenting about it. A few years ago, however, on a trip through their garage, I just couldn’t help it. And so I asked M.O.M. why on Earth did she insist on hanging on to the stack of Family Circle magazines from the 1980s. Or the plastic baggie full of expired coupons from the nineties.

“Leave me alone!” she shouted defensively. Clearly D.A.D. must have been on her case about it too. “Maybe I’m going to read those magazines someday.”

“M.O.M.,” I said, “I’ve never seen you read a magazine. Like ever. In all my thirty-some years.” (Even now that she is partially retired I’ve never seen the woman read a magazine).

But back then, this is what she said: “You can all burn my magazines when I’m dead! How’s that?”

I don’t know why, but her comment struck me as insanely funny. I know I should have been horrified, for that is my normal reaction when anyone I care about carelessly or humorously mentions his or her own death. As it is the source of my greatest anxiety—losing a loved one—I typically recoil when these kinds of comments are made.

That time was different, though. I can recall having the most distinct and vivid image of us all standing around weeping, yet laughing through our tears as we had a bonfire in the backyard, torching all of those old Family Circles and Reader’s Digests. What a loving tribute that would be, huh?

And so, because I do not want to burden my own children with the task of burning my magazines upon my death, brilliant as that plan is, I will continue to go through them, when I can, to keep our house from being overtaken by paper clutter.

I hope they will appreciate this when they are older.

The storm before the storm?

What happened to the calm, you ask? That’s what I’d like to know.

In the middle of the night, sometime around 1:30 a.m., Liam and I awoke to a pre-puking cough warning from Frances. I sat up in a hurry, forgetting my huge belly, in an effort to retrieve a trash can. I didn’t make it in time. 

After changing sheets, blankets, pjs, and resettling back into bed, I discovered that my body was starting to develop a pretty regular rhythm of contractions. I’m not sure if it was the physical reaction of sitting up so suddenly, or the stress and anxiety of dealing with another sick kid, but it seemed like labor had begun.

However, after about two hours, two more spit-ups, a shower, and a snack of peanut butter and banana toast, I was able to fall back to sleep. A total stall.

I stayed home from work today with our little sicko just in case things would start to progress further. Franny and I rested a lot and did loads of pukey sheets and blankets in the laundry.

After Nora came home from school we all enjoyed a walk around the neighborhood on this seasonably warm afternoon. Ever since then I’ve been pretty uncomfortable (in a good way if you consider the pain and pressure to be an early sign of impending labor, which I do!). But, contractions are still not regular or super frequent, so who really knows.

We just returned from another walk, post-dinner, with Liam. The girls walked nearly the whole loop around the neighborhood, a sure sign that this winter has been a terrible one (they usually walk for a bit and then request to be carried or ride in the stroller). They were loving running and skipping about in the fresh air.

Halfway through the 25-minute walk, Liam and I glanced at the troubling sky, which was only slightly, if brightly, cloudy when we set out. Dark, storm clouds had begun rolling in at a concerning speed. Neither one of us had known about or expected a storm this evening. I reached for my phone to check the weather, and the advisory confirmed our suspicions. A serious hail-producing thunderstorm was due to hit our area in fifteen minutes. We picked the girls up and put them in the stroller and walked briskly home. 

We did get caught in the rain and wind for a few minutes, though thankfully no hail or lightning. And, I may have thought, just for a moment, that our fast pace and laughter at our situation was going to bring on the baby.

Now I’m settled on the couch and resting comfortably again, wondering what the night will bring. 

More puking? Or has the stomach bug decided to finally let us be? More contractions? A trip to the hospital? To make things even more dramatic, my parents, our Plan A for caring for the girls should we need to go to the hospital, are halfway to Atlanta by now, on a trip to visit my dad’s mom, who turns 90 this weekend. We have Plans B and C in place. Should make for an interesting next 48 hours.

Or, alternatively, I could wake up, still pregnant, feeling like a million bucks, and head into work for one more day before the week’s end. Only time will tell.

Pictures below show the sky just a few minutes apart from our walk.

   

 

An evening of small victories.

After puking off and on for three days, eating little more than nibbles of toast, drinking water and juice only when forced by her concerned parents, logging more couch time and watching more TV than ever before in just three days, and crawling around because “I just can’t walk, Mommy,” the oldest child seems to be (knock on wood) coming around to some sense of health. She’s eaten some soup tonight and is drinking without threat from her parents. She’s even begun to sing again some of her favorite movie musical ditties. Thank goodness for all of this!

The youngest wanted to wear undies after bath tonight, and announced, promptly after peeing in said underpants, that she had to go potty. She then sat confidently on the potty, without fear, and finished her business (never done before!). We were all jubilant! Even the proud older sister who only hours before had been catatonic.

The husband made a scrumptious dinner, served up with a glass of wine, and cleaned the kitchen afterwards. And took the girls for a walk so I could take an early bath. And got them ready for bed and entertained them while I hid away in bed reading my latest Kindle title (yes, a romance novel; I almost went for a literary award winner, but then decided against it at the last moment).

Nursing the littlest now as I finish typing on my phone. Then picking up my book to enjoy some more reading before sleep.

Feeling totally grateful.

  

For how many more days will I get to enjoy this pregnancy perk?

  

Pet peeves: Part two (a bathroom special).

I honestly don’t know how he does it, but my husband has this uncanny ability to sense when I’ve just cleaned the bathroom sink. Then, and only then, like a magnet drawn to a piece of iron, does he decide it’s a great time to trim and/or shave his beard. He couldn’t have a different sense? Like, deciding right before I’m planning on cleaning to execute this chore?

After getting his facial hair all over every last surface of the sink, Liam does manage to clean up after himself. Thank goodness for this! But, he usually leaves pools of water all over the edges around the basin. So while evidence of the hair goes away, it ends up looking like he splashed about in there and just tossed water all over the place. Which, let’s face it, is probably exactly how it all goes down.

This is the exact state in which I found the sink last night when I went to brush my teeth, an hour after having just cleaned it spotless post stomach bug of our oldest kiddo. “Seriously?!?” I asked out loud (he was standing just outside the door). He knew exactly what I was talking about. I bust his balls about this all the time.

“What? I cleaned up,” he admitted, with a knowing smirk.

When I mentioned the wet spots, he asked me, “What’s worse? Beard hair all over, or puddles of water?”

“Both! Equally so!” I admonished.

Then, he grabbed the clean hand towel I had just hung up and wiped up every last inch of water. I couldn’t tell him then that I’d prefer he use a paper towel and not add insult to injury by soaking up a perfectly dry hand towel, offending my better sense of order and cleanliness. I know, I have my issues. I thanked him kindly, and then tossed the wet towel in the laundry when he wasn’t looking, and replaced it with a new one.

While we are on the subject of wasting towels, let’s discuss the little girls’ use, or overuse, rather, of washcloths while taking a bath. I keep a small basket of washcloths within reach of the bathtub. This is perhaps my error. I should probably move the basket to where little arms cannot reach it. The girls know I have a firm rule about using one washcloth per girl per bath. I’ll let them each have one, to be fair, but more than that is not necessary. This way, after they finish bathing, I can drape one cloth over the faucet, and one on a hook up near the shampoo rack to sufficiently dry out and be used again on following evenings.

A couple of months ago, Nora shouted to me from the tub where she and Frances had been happily playing. “Mommy! Frances did something naughty!”

I ran in there thinking I would find floating poops or razor blades or something equally dreadful. Instead, I saw, splayed out on the edge of the tub, five or six used, soaking, sopping wet washcloths. Frances had raided the basket and grabbed up every last clean cloth to play with. “Frances,” I said sternly. “One washcloth. You don’t need this many.” The tone of my voice must have clearly communicated my extreme displeasure, for she burst into tears at my reprimanding. Why do I care, you may be wondering? Why make my daughter cry over something so insignificant?

I hate, hate, HATE, having to do unnecessary laundry. In general, if clothes don’t get too dirty, they go back into drawers for wearing another time. We use cloth diapers, and so already do three cycles of diaper laundry every other day of the week, in addition to the normal laundry load.

When a certain child decides to use five washcloths, they end up getting stacked, one on top of the other, on top of the bathroom faucet, where, due to their number alone, they surely will never have time to dry, thus creating the perfect environment for mold and other unsavory bacteria to form, grow, and multiply. So, into the laundry they go. Am I overreacting? Yes, of course. I am aware. They’re just washcloths. But they have the power to undo me. I wish it wasn’t so. Really.

Thankfully the girls have caught on for the most part. We seldom have more than two washcloths in use at a time these days. When the occasional accident happens, and a third cloth sneaks in, the girls are quick to apologize, making me feel like the real OCD jerk I am. I’m working on my reactions though. “That’s OK girls. Not a problem,” I’ll say in a fake, cheery voice. Even though inside I’m trying to control the rage and the urge to rid the house of washcloths once and for all. Grrrrr.