The Pendulum Swings

Not to alarm anyone, but things are starting to fall apart at home a little bit. I’m a little bit flummoxed as how to stop the slip sliding away. This time. Because isn’t this an on-going theme?

Sleep less doesn’t seem like a good option. But it’s going that way.

(No, not with my marriage. And the kids are okay, I guess.)

I’m losing track of the details. Like yesterday, I thought it was a half day at my girls’ school. I made arrangements with my FIL to pick the girls up and take them to daycare (same daycare where M is).

At some point, though, the school changed the schedule because they had to make up a day from November. (I don’t even recall that they had a snow day in November.) So Tuesday became a full day, and Wednesday became a half day.

I didn’t read the memo. Literally, I didn’t read the email that noted the change. So when the school called asking why my FIL was there and were the girls supposed to have an early dismissal, my response was, “Didn’t you have a half day today?” *Ahem, no, it’s tomorrow.*

I am not on top of the shit, people.

Which is ironic, because *at work* I am on top of the shit. Maybe because there are fewer bodies around and someone has to be; maybe because I work with a team of people in similar straits as I; maybe because the interruptions are less random and more related to the task at hand.

Maybe because there’s less shit (or different shit, I’m not really sure).

Bills slip through the gaps, and get paid late. Things that should get done, don’t get done in a timely manner. (Usually, they eventually do get done. Usually.) The paper piles up. The house is… getting out of control again. We don’t have places to put things. We have too many things, and I don’t have time to purge. A decent level of cleanliness is present, but the clutter is starting to encroach.

However, I dutifully RSVP to every birthday party my children are invited to. Sometimes yea, sometimes nay. My priorities might be screwed up.

The girls are supposed to start soccer next week. This means two evenings of practice during the week (one for Kate, and one for Flora), and two games on Saturdays. I had originally signed them up thinking I could draft the nanny into helping at least one night a week. But her work hours changed, so she’s probably not available when I need her.

I’m trying not to panic about that. On the bright side, I see more fresh air and exercise in my future.

Oh, and we haven’t found a place to have the party for Flora’s First Holy Communion. I’m a little worried about that.

The good news is that I’m aware that my stress levels are pretty damn high. I have some regular chiropractic appointments scheduled, and I made a spa appointment for a Saturday in April. Next up is trying to get in some Pilates or yoga about twice a week. I found a great workout on demand. I want to get up in the morning and do it. At least once a week.

It’s hard to motivate myself to get up and do it, though. I am not a morning person. So how do I do it? I need to strengthen my core muscles, primarily so my back and hips stop aching all the time. But I lay there at 6 a.m., loathe to get out of bed to do a 26 minute routine. How can I do this? Internet, please help.

As for the rest of the stuff… I don’t know. I need to organize. I need time. I need a personal assistant!

Tell me something to cheer me up. Send puppy pictures. Whatever.

Meatless Monday: Slow Cooker Fried Rice

After weeks of cooking on autopilot, I finally made it a point to try some new recipes this weekend. I have a refrigerator full of leftovers and a freezer full of food. I may never have this much food to hand again. Or at least for the foreseeable future.

Having had leftover rice, which I seem to always end up throwing out, I put out a call on Twitter for what to do with it. I got many, many good suggestions, most of which I’m sure I will use at some point. Saturday, however, became slow cooker day, so this recipe (h/t @TwinMamaTeb) won the day.

Slow Cooker Fried Rice
adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking

2 cups leftover rice
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sweet and sour sauce
black pepper (a pinch or to taste)
1 cup vegetables, whatever you have to hand (I used 1/2 cup frozen peas, and 1/2 cup fresh diced carrots)
3/4 to a whole block of extra firm tofu, lightly drained and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 egg

Here’s the best part: Throw all the ingredients into a slow cooker. Mix it up. Turn the slow cooker on high for two hours.

Dinner!

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Honorable mention goes to @AbbyKuftic, who suggested arancini, which I had to look up. Arancini is Sicilian for “little orange”, which is what these deep fried rice balls end up resembling. They call for Arborio rice rather than plain white rice. So I’m going to cook up a batch of risotto. I might try this recipe for Easter Day if I have the time!

What do you do with leftover rice?

Two Kate Stories

Just because.

1.

Kate usually pushes Flora’s buttons by humming or singing along to songs that we play in my car. I mean, it drives Flora around the bend. (I don’t notice Kate’s noise, but Flora’s whinging about it drives ME around the bend. Oy.)

On a recent trip to the library, they started in on each other, and to disrupt it, I said to Kate, “Tell us a story instead.”

Kate told her version of The Three Bears:

“Once upon a time, there were three bears who lived in the woods. One day they got up and decided to have porridge for breakfast. The papa bear took a bite and said, ‘This porridge is too hot! Patoie!’ The mama bear took a bite and said, ‘This porridge is too cold! Patoie!’ The baby bear said, ‘I’M DYING!'”

Maybe you had to hear her delivery, but Flora and I *broke up*.

2.

We’ve had a periodic critter problem since we have moved into our house eight years ago. The mice find it nice and cozy in the wintertime.

Since demo’ing most of the basement, the activity on the main floor of the house has seen a significant upswing.

We don’t like it. We recently upgraded to snap traps from the glue traps we had been using. Somehow those fuckers have been able to get out of the glue traps.

Flora does not like the look of the snap traps. She finds it distressing to think of the mice dying like that.

Kate this morning blithely pointed out, “Yeah but Flora, those glue traps have caught your foot, Michael’s hand, and one mouse.”

It’s Not Supposed to be Easy

“What parent has it easy? I just never make the difficulty of it an obstacle. I just do it.” — Marlee Matlin

My parents shared this quote with me this weekend, based in part in my fretting in last Thursday’s post.

I assured them that I don’t actually think about parenting too much. It may look like I over think it, but that’s just because I talk about it “in public” as it were.

It’s true, parenting is a tough job. It’s easy to over think (if you are an over thinker, like I am). Despite the obstacles, once you are a parent, when you are a good parent, Matlin has it right. You just do it.

As one of my history teachers in high school used to say, no one ever claimed life was going to be easy.

I am okay with parenting not being easy. I am okay with not feeling like I am a “natural” parent, like I struggle to parent my children well. I *want* to parent my children well, and I think that’s important.

And yes, I worry, I fret, I over think. And maybe I do make it look harder than it actually is. (Seriously considering making this my new tagline: “I make parenting look hard, yo.”) But I write about it, and I crowd source my parenting, because if I didn’t, this would be one of the things that kept me up. I fret publicly so I can let it go and don’t have to have anxious thoughts at 3 a.m. about this. (I still have anxious thoughts at 3 a.m. They are seldom about how I’m parenting.)

This site has enabled me to find resources to help me parent better. It helps me parent better just by giving me a space and a voice to express myself. Writing things out helps me process the problems, and find my way to solutions. From the people who comment here, to the friends I’ve made on Twitter and IRL, this “blogging” thing has proved very valuable to me. I stumble sometimes, worry about what to write about, but in general, I will probably not give up this space any time soon.

I need it. I don’t care that it doesn’t make me money, and I don’t care that I don’t have a readership of thousands (or even hundreds).

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for worrying that I worry. I do. This space helps me do it constructively.

Thank you, readers, for checking in here and for reading. Thanks especially to my commenters (facie is right; why isn’t this a word?) here and on Twitter. You help me feel less alone in the world of parenting, and you always have something constructive to say. I appreciate that more than I can put in words.

Gender Difference

Since we found out Michael was a boy (about 32 months ago now — what WHAT?) I have wondered how he would be different.

Not just different in his temperament and personality — my two girls are so different, it was hard to imagine how he would be different. We tend to hold Kate and Flora in contrast to each other. But of course there are millions of personalities in the world. I wondered what kind M would have. I was also curious to see if certain traits were “boyish” traits. I tend not to be a gender absolutist. Being the mother of two girls and one boy, I still hold that children are different because they are different, not because they are of one sex or the other.

That all being said, here are some Michael differences I have noticed:

1. He’s a terrible eater. It’s not that he’s picky, even, he just doesn’t want to bother. If everyone is sitting down eating, and there are not outside distractions, he will apply himself to food. Otherwise, he is not interested in food.

My girls would sit and eat when it was meal time, and they were good eaters who liked everything. M will taste everything, but not necessarily eat much. All three of my kids are grazers (I am too). Which is fine with me, and why I keep a lot of healthy snacks at home.

2. Constant noise. Now, all of my children do certain things to make noise almost all the time. I used to wonder how there could be any words left in the world when Flora was 3 and 4. She talked all. the. time. M is stunningly verbal for a 2-year-old. Kate was super quiet until after her ear tube surgery (at 27 months). Since M had tubes placed at about 14 months, he didn’t have the hearing barrier she had. He now talks all the time.

Flora whistles. Kate sings. M punctuates everything with car noises: “vroom” he says, “whoosh”. He’s not necessarily playing with cars. He’s playing in the bath, or I’m carrying him down the stairs. He started with car noises as early as 15 months. I’m pretty sure this is the most “boy” thing about him. It must be encoded on the Y chromosome, because he knew what to do and how to make these noises without any assistance at home.

3. As far as constant movement (this is the one I heard all the time: “Oh, boys are so much more active than girls!” To which I used to say, “Yes, but I have a Kate.”) M may be a touch more active than Kate was at 2. But it’s danged close. Plus, he started walking two or three months later than the girls (13 months to their 10).

Honestly, it’s a wonder I can think with all the noise and activity in my house most of the time. I am hoping that once they can all read, things will settle down a little bit!

4. M is temperamentally different from the girls, but I attribute this much more to him simply being a different child. He’s generally easy-going and cheerful, amazingly affectionate, fairly compliant (‘uh-kay!’). He’s starting to have his incredibly willful moments, and he wants what he wants RIGHT NOW, but those are hallmarks of toddlerhood. He’s a little sensitive — laughing at the wrong time or yelling too loudly can bring him to tears. Cuddling can cheer him up again, usually.

5. He is much more stubborn about getting dressed, and has a stronger opinion about what he wants to wear than the girls EVER were or did. He dislikes pajamas, so he either sleeps in his diaper or in whatever shirt he’s already wearing. He outright rejects certain items of clothing; I’ve noticed stiffer fabrics do not sit well with him. Some days it’s just easier to let him decide which shirt or pants to put on than wrestle him.

6. He’s been taking his diaper off at night sometimes, which the girls never did. He’s a side sleeper, too, which the girls weren’t at that age. They were stomach sleepers (butts in the air).

At this point, I simply don’t notice that M is particularly A BOY in many things. A unique personality in our family of five to be sure.

Life would be boring if we were all the same!

Do you notice things about your kids that you attribute to their sex?

One of Those Things

I mentioned in my last post that I’m having a problem with one of my children.

This is a dilemma of “mommy” blogging, if you will. Do I talk about this problem? How to do so in such a way that spares the feelings of the child in question? Is that possible? It is definitely desired.

There are stories that I haven’t told here, out of respect for my children. I don’t want them labeled as problem children, or think I am complaining about them, or that I don’t love them. Even as I am going out of my mind with frustration or worry, I steer away from this space to talk about it. Some of my lucky friends (who also read this blog) get alarmed emails from me, though.

How to ask for help without getting criticized for bad parenting, or exposing my child(ren) to outside criticism? Granted, this has proven to be a safe space (except for that one time I talked about the health care law). Then again, I certainly don’t want one of my kids stumbling on this space and thinking that she or he were ever a real problem child.

I also have the opportunity in this platform to *ask for help* though. People who know me and know my family know that I find one of my children to be a bit more challenging (most of the time; believe me, all my kids have their moments). She’s not a problem child, though, well-behaved in school, and well-loved by everyone she comes in contact with.

(I know, we all know who I’m talking about.)

It’s just that there are things that happen that I want to stop happening, now. Is there a book out there I should look at? A website? Something about stopping the negative attention feedback (“Even negative attention is good!”).

Or is this a phase that she is going through, and Dan and I just have to wait it out?

Or are middle/second children unique creatures that I need to study up on? (Dan and I are both oldest children.)

How can I become a better parent to this child, and relatedly to all my children? That’s the goal here: not to change her, or to change me, but to change the way we interact (when it’s bad, and it’s not always bad. She is a bright, funny, delightful, and loving child. And also GAH! STOP PUSHING EVERYONE’S BUTTONS!).

See where I’m going with this?

My husband said something that hit home with me recently: This is it. This is the only chance we get with our kids.

I’m not going to be a perfect parent. They aren’t going to be perfect kids. And I don’t want to helicopter — those are not the types of strategies I am looking for here.

I think I can do better with her, though. I just am not sure how.

So, my parent friends, my non-parent friends, my once-upon-a-time-I-was-a younger-sibling friends, my once-upon-a-time-I-was-a-challenging child friends: any suggestions for me?

Progress Report

It’s been a month or so since I made Focus my word of the year, and frankly, I’m not very impressed with myself.

Here it is Wednesday, and this is my first post this week.

Also, I’ve started this post four times now. Over two days.

Maybe Flora and my husband are not the only ones with attention deficit issues.

Anyhoo, it’s already over a month since I wrote my über-list. I haven’t started on the big projects yet (which is fine), but I have managed to start incorporating a couple of little things.

I am having more fun as a mother. Mileage varies. But when I focus on how I want to respond to my kids, I can generally steer away from frustration, exasperation, or yelling. I can channel energy into something that will make us all laugh, or find a way to make a chore less onerous (a big one: timed cleaning contests!). It’s far less stressful, even when things need to happen (cleaning, time outs, homework, practice).

Yes, I still yell, and yes, I still get annoyed. But already less so than I used to.

I am behind on my non-fiction reading. In one improvement, though, I am trying to make visits to the library a weekly or semi-monthly event. I need to print out the list of non-fiction suggestions, and start requesting those. Although my next non-fiction book should be about dealing with a fractious middle child. Kate and I are currently locked in a vicious cycle of “even negative attention is attention”. Hence, yelling. I may need help on this one.

Exercise continues to prove challenging due to time constraints. I walk a little more, and the kids and I can rock the kitchen dance party. I really need to find a way to tone some muscles and have a routine. The never-ending challenge.

I have also done well getting more fruits and vegetables. Which sounds somewhat ridiculous maybe — I’m a flipping vegetarian who gets a farm share (when it’s active). But I got lazy about salads, and about prepping vegetables in general, and I was hardly eating any fruit (winter is lousy for produce in my part of the world). I’ve been getting better, though, making salads more often, steaming beans and/or broccoli (Kate has rediscovered her love for broccoli), and eating apples and oranges. And raw carrots with hummus. So, yeah.

Still, lots of work to do, lots of habits to continue to develop. I’ve also done badly with Lent — I’ve read a few Slate articles, and played around in the comments. Although instead of wasting hours away, I only waste minutes, like 15 at a time. I consider that an improvement.

What are you doing well these days?

Open Letter to Gotye

Re: Somebody That I Used to Know

Dear Gotye,

I know it’s been awhile, and that has been my choice, not yours. You seem to have taken it a little personally. I mean, I’m just saying. I’m glad you got a Grammy award out of it, though. And from Prince! *swoon*, am I right?

I, too, sometimes think about when we were together. I thought I was happy, and I thought I loved you. I was definitely in love with you. You were a nice enough guy, after all, we had a pretty good time together, and you never went out of your way to harm me. But I felt lonely, too. It just felt like we weren’t really pulling together.

I know I said that we could still be friends. But you seemed to think that that meant that I could be your fallback position whenever you wanted to hang out, and you also seemed to take it to mean “friends with benefits”, which is not what I intended. I know, we did have sex a few times after we broke up. I was lonely, too, and you were safe and known. And sex feels good. Until it’s over.

I knew if I didn’t stop that pattern, of hanging out, maybe having some drinks, talking like “old friends”, and then falling into bed together, it would just keep happening. And if it kept happening with you, it wasn’t going to start happening with someone else.

I needed to move on, find someone who loved me — because I am deserving of love. And I couldn’t move on when you still called me out of the blue. You knew all my weak points: Sunday afternoon, Thursday evenings, my love of Starbucks tea, Burn Notice marathons on USA, IPAs, and take-out Chinese.

I wanted someone else to learn those things about me too, though. Actually I wanted someone to learn my strengths, not my weaknesses. I wanted someone who valued the same things as I did, and someone who would challenge me to grow — not just accept me as I am. Someone who would let me challenge him, too, without taking it so damned personally. Would it really have killed you to take ballroom dancing lessons for six weeks? I wasn’t looking for Silver Linings Playbook. Just something to do that wasn’t hanging out on my couch watching cable, or playing pool at the local bar.

So, I did have to cut you off. I did have to pretend that I didn’t know you, had never cared for you. Because otherwise some little bird of hope stayed alive in my chest whenever I saw your name come up on my cell phone. And that little bird was killing me. I needed it to leave the nest.

Besides, it’s not like you were waiting around pining for me. I saw you in the grocery store with your new friend, after all. I remember shopping with you like that, for dinner ingredients. Breakfast ingredients, too, for that matter. It hurt a little. Okay, a lot. But you know what? It helped me a lot too. It clarified my position quite pointedly.

Don’t take this too hard, but to be frank, I realized I *didn’t* want to be friends with someone like you. You didn’t value me enough to treat me well when it didn’t suit you. You didn’t want to be part of my life, but you liked it that I was around. Sometimes you were mean. And after we broke up, you exploited my weaknesses instead of leaving me to develop my strengths. I don’t need that kind of person in my life.

Sorry that my friends were jerks when they came to get my stuff. They are very protective of me, and you were the bad guy who hurt me, you know?

By the way: Elliot Smith did it first.

Wishing you all the very best (really, I am),
Somebody That You Used to Know

This one goes out to a friend, who is suffering the same heartache I did when I was her age (26). Breakups clearly still suck.

Musical Monday: Grammys and Beyond

I had meant to write about the 2012 Grammy Awards earlier. I was excited for the Grammys show this year, which hasn’t happened in forever. I did end up “live tweeting” it, god bless my husband for putting up with my antics.

I remember when Lauryn Hill’s album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill won a Grammy — in 1998 — I decided to buy it. Hill won a number of categories that year: Best New Artist, Album of the Year, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, Best R&B Song, and Best R&B Album. At the time, she broke records by being the first woman to be nominated in 10 categories in a single year, and the first woman to win five times in one night. I thought it was an exciting time for women in music! Maybe the Grammys were relevant again!

The album, however, was not as exciting as the hoopla in my opinion, and I pretty much stopped paying attention to the Grammys.

And then the 2012 Grammy Awards rolled around and it turned out that I owned music from a lot of the nominees. Either the Grammys are relevant again, or my taste in music stunk last year.

Mileage varies.

The Grammy artists that I had in heavy rotation in 2012: Black Keys, Mumford & Sons, Gotye, fun., Jack White, “Call Me Maybe”, Rihanna, Adele (who won HUGE for her 2011 album 21), The Lumineers (whom I saw live a about a month ago — the week before the Grammys as a matter of fact — and who have a great, great, great live show. Tons of energy), Florence and the Machine, even (I’m not afraid to admit it), The Muppets soundtrack.

Anyhoo, I enjoyed watching the show. The best performances of the night in my opinion were Jack White, the Levon Helm tribute, the Bob Marley tribute, and Mumford & Sons. I didn’t like the pairing of Black Keys with Dr. John and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band — although I seemed to be in the minority there.

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In the meantime, going forward, these are some of the songs Flora has stumbled onto lately (the first two thanks to me, the last thanks — I guess — to Pokemon).

She really likes “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotye. I should probably worry about that?

I also turned the girls onto The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, which is like a Sly Stone/ABBA/80s synth pop mash up. The single we keep listening to is “Heart Attack”. I love that she says, “Jeez Louise.” Bonus: They cover that ’80s pop classic “Safety Dance”. Playing that for the girls tonight!

Finally, she likes this cut by a band named Superchick, “Stand in the Rain”. I said, “That’s a pretty good song” to which she replied, “It’s a *great* song.” Well, all righty then. Bonus: American Christian alternative pop/rock. So, safe to listen to more!

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Did you watch the Grammys? What’s on your kids’ (or your own) playlists?

Random Thoughts: The Insert Blog Post Here II Edition

1. I want to write something, I really do.

2. I am so tired. For good reasons: Sick kids waking me, keeping me up. For a reason: Kate coming into bed with me for a week at 5 a.m. like clockwork. For no reason: 3:30 a.m. insomnia. String a couple of weeks together like this. You get a little zombified.

3. M wanted nothing to do with daycare this morning. Nope, no way, Jose, no thank you, NO NO NO. He didn’t want me to change his diaper; he didn’t want to put on clothes; he didn’t want to put on socks, shoes, or a jacket. He didn’t want to go outside; he didn’t want to go for a car ride with mommy. He wanted to bring ALL THE TOYS. (I let him bring a bag of Little People, although we had another meltdown when he had to leave them in the car.) He did not want to play with his friends, and he definitely didn’t want mommy to leave.

That was one of the toughest drop offs EVER.

4. Weekend: Housewarming party tonight (the girls and I are going); two birthday parties on Saturday (Kate’s friends, one at 11 a.m., one at 5 p.m.); a grown-up dinner out with friends on Sunday night.

I thought we “lost an hour” this weekend, but the time change is *next* Sunday at 2 a.m. So, uh, that’s good I guess.

5. I, in very basic terms, described sexual intercourse to Flora last night. I have got to stop letting her watch me change M’s diaper.

I don’t mind talking to my children about their bodies, or about how babies are made, or where babies come from. It’s just that I never *plan* these conversations. So while I’m thinking, “This is okay. You’re being a good mom for talking to her openly about this stuff”, I’m also simultaneously trying not to: a) hyperventilate, b) giggle, c) give Flora more information than she needs.

I’m patting myself on the back for stopping myself before I explained what an erection was.

6. We were listening to the radio on the way home last night, and NPR did a story about the passage of VAWA (THANK YOU, FINALLY, CONGRESS), and there was a clip of a woman senator (which, I’m sorry I can’t recall her name) who was very impassioned about including provisions for *all* women, and she mentioned rape. A couple of times. And I winced, but let it stand — didn’t go for the volume on the radio, or try to suddenly change the subject. Flora, glancing over at me after a moment of silence, said, “She used a bad word, didn’t she?”

I said, “No, she didn’t use a bad word, Flora. But she was talking about something very horrific.”

“What’s horrific mean?”

“I means something awful and violent.”

“Okay.”

And that conversation stopped there.

7. Gah, people. This talking to your kids thing is hard.

8. Speaking of Congress, and I will try to keep this as short as possible: Sequestration happens now, and I just — my head wanted to catch on fire whenever I heard members of Congress talk about it on the radio (which is where I get my news, I think I mentioned that recently) because instead of anything being solved or suggested by anyone (and I mean on either side of the aisle) it was a giant blame game, and I wanted to just yell.

Instead, I (and a lot of people like me, I’m guessing) will be holding my breath, waiting to see how directly this affects my life, and when.

What’s got you on edge this week?