Keep On Keepin’ On

The funny thing about life is that it keeps right on moving forward regardless of grief or loss or crisis. This is particularly true when you have children. Lexi, especially, is entirely oblivious to our grief. She’s maintained her routine of eating, sleeping, cuddling and laughing (usually in that order). In a way, I’m grateful for this sweet distraction even as I feel a pang of guilt for the fact that everything here is still “normal.” I know that my friend’s loss was tragic and was in no way my fault, but every time the Irishman walks through our door, I can’t help but lean heavily on him in gratitude simply because I can. (There’s that guilt again.)

Speaking of Lexi, looking at this picture above, I realize that it’s been a while since I’ve posted one of her. As you can see, her bottom two teeth are now fully in and she’s also cut one top tooth (with another one coming any day now). She’s putting those teeth to good use and eating finely diced fruit and shredded cheese. Crazy, right? Oh and in case you’re wondering, she’s still mostly immobile. With each day that passes, I’m more convinced that she thinks crawling is for the birds. She generally scoots herself over to a piece of furniture and then pulls up so that she can cruise along even though she can’t go far….yet.

In case you’re wondering if I’m getting any work done, I’m managing (albeit barely). Parker snapped this picture of us right before I left for my conference and this is generally how I work – one hand on the computer, the other one holding her up as she toddles around in circles. I’m just praying that she holds off on walking until near or after her first birthday since that’s also the end of the semester and I’m not going to get a lick of work done if I have to chase her around the house.

As for the rest of the family…let’s just say that they’re definitely feeling the effects of my absence. I don’t think anyone slept well for the 6 nights that I was gone, but now that we’re all safely back under one roof again, they’re catching up on sleep just fine.

As an aside, if you look closely, you’ll notice that Parker’s toenails are blue. I happened to paint mine that color on a whim yesterday and he asked me to paint his, too. He’s asked me this a dozen times before and I had always found some reason (that didn’t sound blatantly sexist) to put him off. In my current frame of mind, however, it seems silly to deny him something so simple just because of cultural expectations. So, I sent my son to school with blue toenails. I’m sure his teacher got a chuckle out of that.

Other than that, we’re just anxiously awaiting spring and sunshine. I know that we had quite the mild winter comparatively speaking, but it’s still been cold and rainy and we’re ready to trade in our winter boots for flip flops. Sunshine is always good for the soul.

 

 

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Still Here…

Hi folks, I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I went to Raleigh for a conference last Wednesday and while I was there, I received horrible news. A dear friend’s husband was killed in the line of duty (he was a detective) on Thursday night. After scanning flights and rental cars, I decided that just driving my own car was the fastest way to get down to Florida. Unfortunately, my car was home (I had ridden over in one of two vans with other faculty and students). Our solution was that the Irishman dropped my car off at a rest stop on the highway about an hour from home. So, on Saturday morning, I was dropped off at the rest stop and drove the 7 hours to my friend’s house. The next three days are too sad to speak of now, but I got home late Monday night.

Once I can gather my thoughts, blogging will resume, but for now, I just want to say that this world has lost one of the kindest and gentlest people I ever had the privilege of knowing. My heart breaks hourly for my friend and her two children (4 years old and 5 months old) and I pray that she can one day find peace with this senseless tragedy.

Valentine’s Day

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of this lovey dovey holiday and last year, I wrote an entire diatribe about what a disservice we do ourselves when we buy into the Hollywood, commercialized idea of love. This year, I’ve decided to be less philosophical about the whole thing and I even lifted my moratorium on present giving. Crazy, I know. In full disclosure, I only did that because I found an awesome deal on archery lessons and I couldn’t wait to share it with the Irishman. We’re both fascinated by weaponry of all kinds and I knew he’d love going on a date where we get to shoot things. Well, we’ll be shooting targets, not things. Or animals. Or people. Aren’t you glad I cleared that up?

Any who, back to the gift giving. Don’t worry, I gave him plenty of warning about the entire gift giving thing so that he didn’t feel bad for showing up empty handed. Even though I’m totally okay with that, I knew he would have felt reeeeallly bad about it. In classic Irishman fashion, he stepped up and bought be a fancy SD card for my camera as well as a lens cleaning kit (he knows me well and wouldn’t have wasted money on flowers or cards). We actually got to exchange presents this morning and spend some quality time with our munchkins because nature complied and gave us a present too.

Yup, that’s right. We got a Valentine’s Snow Day! So, I pulled out all the stops and made store bought cinnamon rolls. Popping that can open and dyeing the frosting pink was hard work! Here are the cinnamon rolls cooling off on our window buffet.

While I felt slightly guilty by cutting a few corners this morning, I don’t think that Parker minded one bit.

My fervent wish in life is that this sweet boy always remains this easy to please. Happy Sugar Day everyone!

 

Back In The Saddle Again…

So, I done fell off the wagon. The running wagon that is. First I had a head cold, then I had three crazy days of retched fatigue… All in all, I missed 3 runs over the last week. Starting tomorrow, I need to pick back up where I left off. Since I missed my 6 miler last weekend, I’m going to do 6 miles tomorrow instead of the 7 miles that were on my schedule. I think that getting a longer run under my belt will help put my head back in the game.

No matter how much I hate feeling like poo, it’s a good reminder that no matter what life throws your way, you can always pick back up where you left off. I seem to be learning and re-learning that lesson a lot lately. To leave you on a positive note, here are some pictures of the lovely weather we’ve been having lately. I took these around 9:30am, which was precisely the time when the morning fog was dissipating to give way to a gorgeous, cool day.

Wish me luck on my run tomorrow, I’m going to need it!

Moonlight

Last night, I was tired. So very, very tired. The kind of tired that seeps into your bones and each step feels like you’re dragging a brick behind you. As soon as the kids were asleep, I grabbed the iPad, snuggled into bed and prepared to catch up on the latest season of Grey’s Anatomy. Just as I was about to start an episode, I noticed a spotlight coming through my bedroom window. There’s just one problem – the closest street light is more than a mile away.

That meant that the light could only be coming from the moon. I had a moment’s hesitation before going to investigate further. I mean, my bed was warm, the complicated relationships of Seattle Grace Hospital were beckoning and I was really freakin’ tired (did I already mention that?). But, a full moon this bright can only mean a clear night and I can’t remember the last full moon that I was awake to see.

So, I grabbed my camera, dragged my lazy self out of my warm, cozy bed and stepped out into the cold night to see what nature had in store.

The cold toes were worth it.

Fudge Walnut Brownies

In a recent issue of Cooking Light, they had a contest to determine the best chocolate recipe they ever tried. These brownies took home top honors. Naturally, I had to try them immediately. Let me assure you, they did not disappoint. I’ve made them 3 times now (much to the detriment of my hips) and each time, we polished off the pan in less than a day. De-licious!

Ingredients:
3/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chocolate chunks or chocolate chips
1/3 cup milk
6 Tbs. melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, sugars, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

Combine 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and milk and microwave for 1 minute. Add milk mixture to melted butter, vanilla and eggs. Mix well. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Next, add in the remaining chocolate and the walnuts.

Pour the batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan coated with cooking spray and bake for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with “moist crumbs clinging.”

These are seriously good! You can mix it up and add in cherries or skip the nuts if that’s not your thing. For Valentine’s Day next week, these are definitely on the menu as dessert. Now, just to figure out what’s on the rest of the menu…

Parenting 101: Let’s Get Real

Before I got pregnant with Parker, I spent a lot of time thinking about what it would be like to have children. For me, contemplating having kids was a lot like deciding whether to ride the biggest, baddest roller coaster in the amusement park. Standing in line for the ride, I was nervous and scared and second guessing my decision to stay in line, but the people coming off of the ride looked like they had so much fun that the feeling was infectious. So I went for it and boy, it’s certainly been one wild ride.

While there are moments every day where my heart is elated beyond measure at the joy my children bring me, I now know that what my roller coaster analogy missed was the part where all of those happy people were just minutes before swearing on the top of their lungs, hanging on for dear life and questioning their sanity for making such a crazy decision in the first place. So last night, between the hours of 1:42am and 3:15am (when I was awake with my sweet, darling teething daughter), I thought up a battery of sadistic tests that people considering parenting should take before embarking on this lovely thing called parenting. Consider the following exercises a crash course called “Parenting 101: S$%! Just Got Real.”

Test #1: Preparing for an Infant
The only thing I recall learning from the childbirth and parenting class that I took before my first pregnancy was how to change a diaper and how to bathe a newborn. Was that important information? Sure. What I was grossly unprepared for, however, was the massive sleep deprivation that comes with the territory, which in our case, lasted until shortly before Parker’s 4th birthday. Seriously, the child would not sleep. The following exercise would have been a helpful preparatory exercise to give me a more realistic idea of what I’d be up against.

All you need for the sleep deprivation test is a partner in crime to assist you in the experiment. This is how the experiment works: get comfortable and ready for bed. As soon as it looks like you’ve fallen asleep, instruct your helper to nudge you awake. Repeat this pattern for the next 45 minutes. After the 45 minutes are up, your helper is to allow you a two hour block of sleep, after which point you are to be woken up with an air horn. Repeat this process from beginning to end until you need to wake up in the morning. I suggest at least two weeks of this exercise in order to make the experiment seem real because that, my friends, is a solid beginning to sleep deprivation, which is every new mother’s constant companion.

Test #2: Preparing for a “High Needs” Baby
I would like to first say that I am not a fan of the term “high needs” as a categorization for infants. I mean, all babies are high needs to some degree, some just need a bit more touch time to feel secure. By calling some of them high needs, the world is implying that some parents are going to get off easy. I think this is a very bad idea because even if you have a lower needs baby, all babies teethe, get sick or go through different phases where they just need more of your time. Lexi, for example, has just entered a serious mommy phase. If she can not see me, she screams. If she wants to be held by me and I put her down, she screams. If I’m holding her, however, she is sunshine and roses and cuter than a 2 day old fuzzy bunny.

To help prepare future parents for such a scenario, I created the following drill based on that example. Okay, go out and buy a 20 lb. sack of rice. From sun up to sun down, do all of your work and chores while holding that sack of rice on your hip. In the event that you need to put the rice down to pee (for example), rig your house so that the smoke detector goes off at full volume the entire time the sack of flour is on the floor. Ah, what fun.

Test #2: Preparing for a Toddler
I must admit that my toddler skills are a bit rusty since Parker graduated from that phase years ago, but from what I remember, the following should give you a small peek into toddlerhood.

First, go and buy (or borrow) a parrot. The next step is to train the parrot to say the following words: “No!” “Mine!” and my personal favorite, “Why?” The parrot is to respond to any question you ask it with one of the aforementioned words. The only deviation from this exercise is that the parrot should be instructed to recognize any curse words that you might say and to repeat those at the most inopportune times like in church, at the pediatrician’s office or at the dinner table when your in-laws are visiting.

Test #3: Preparing for a Pre-Schooler/Kindergartner
Pre-schoolers are smart, funny and have the attention span of a squirrel. This makes giving basic instructions and having them followed quite challenging. The following exercise is a two-parter and also involves an animal, but the type depends on what kind you can get your hands on. I should also mention in advance that this test is a timed exercise.

You have 20 minutes to complete the following drill. First, stand in front of a brick wall for 10 minutes and give it basic directions like, “Please finish your breakfast,” “Please put on your shoes,” and “Please brush your teeth.” Yes, I think future parents should speak to brick walls. It’s great practice. Now, for the next phase of this exercise you need a large animal of some sort. If you have access to a greased pig, I think it would be best, but a rambunctious 50 lb. puppy would also work. Now, to complete the following exercise, simple release either the greased pig or the puppy into your living room and with a 10 minute time limit, clothe said pig or puppy in pants, a shirt, socks, shoes, a hat and mittens.

Conclusion
While the above tests won’t give someone the full idea of what everyday life is like with a small child,  it is a lot closer than someone handing you a baby doll and a disposable diaper and telling you that you are acquiring parenting skills. Now that I’m thinking about it, what they should do instead is hand you a screaming eel to diaper if they want you to have a more realistic experience, but I digress. In all seriousness, having children has been the greatest joy of my life. It’s also the hardest and craziest thing I’ve ever done. I’m sure that when the children are grown, I will look back on these years wistfully and with great nostalgia, but for now, I’m holding on for dear life, praying for more sleep, more patience and more wine. Amen.