This Month's Topic: Focus on Finance

A New House, a New Chapter

Last night, Kevin and I signed the closing documents on a new house.

The house isn’t far from our current home, just two minutes, really, but it still feels like a big move.

As we signed one paper after another in a large conference room that the sellers and I tried to keep from being too quiet by throwing out the occasional joke, I couldn’t help but sense the gravity of the situation, and I could tell from looking at Kevin’s face – plus, the fact that he wasn’t really laughing at some of my best material – that he felt it, too.

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Our neighbors decorated our house to welcome us home from the hospital when Anna was born.

This will be a big move for us. We’re going to move out of our first home together, the home where we started our life together as husband and wife, the home where we welcomed our two children. We’ve loved here, laughed here, cried here. We’ve grown here. Physically and metaphorically. We’ve erected gates (for crawling babies) and knocked down walls (for opening up our kitchen/dining area). We’ve “pink-ified” a gender-neutral bedroom (for Anna) and built a train table (for Brayden). We’ve learned how to make tough decisions on our own here, how to be parents here. We’ve dealt with illnesses together here and deaths in the family here and broken bones here. We’ve weathered changes in jobs here, changes in health here and changes in mood here. We’ve finished a basement here and a kitchen here and now we’re just… finished. Ready to move on.

Our new home is a four-bedroom, two-and-half bathroom, two-story brick house. It’s a walk to a park, a walk to a cute, bustling downtown, and a walk to the school Brayden and Anna will eventually attend. It has a big yard, not much traffic and (apparently) kids our kids’ ages. Everything on its list checks off everything on ours. It gives us a lot more space in a great location. We want to repaint the house and decided to hire house painting company http://www.paintstucco.com/

But it doesn’t have our amazing neighbors. Our amazing friends. Our amazing memories. It doesn’t have our cul-de-sac littered with kids and toys and bikes and balls. It doesn’t have our “community,” a word I used to convince my sister to move to our area, a word I’ve relished so much in relation to where we live. We have community in spades in our current home, our current neighborhood. We have a home we know, a home we love, filled with and surrounded by people we know and love. We have Friday night plans at the ready here, one phone call away from a walk down the street to playmates for our kids, shared pizza, and wine and beers for the adults.

Our new home looks beautiful from the outside, on a beautiful street, in a beautiful location (from our not-at-all-biased eyes), but everything inside its walls is still foreign to us. The couple selling the house to us raised four kids in it, kids who are now grown and moved out and moved on. The couple wanted to sell the house to us so we can take over the reigns and continue the legacy. It’s up to us now to write our own stories within its walls, to write our own legacy, to, hopefully, raise our own kids there until they’re moved out and moved on and we can sell the house to another young couple who can take over the reigns and continue the legacy.

It’s a tough move, but I think it’s a good one for our family. Life is all about making hard choices and moving ahead with decisions you can’t know in advance will be correct, but you trust the feeling in your gut that they will be.

Kevin and I will probably look back at our years in our first house as some of the best of our lives. We feel as though it’s the end of an era, but we’ll start this new chapter with courage and with confidence, and with the comfort in knowing we can take our memories and friendships with us.

 

Sophia and the Stairs

I fear that my daughter has a death wish.

Either that or she will be the female version of Evel Knievel in a few years.

Seriously, the girl lives for danger. Or, she just lives without fear. Either way, she’s got me scared to death.

She was an extremely content little baby, I know I’ve said that. But that relaxed, easygoing personality, when mobile, simply means that she doesn’t know how gravity works and could care less to learn.

IMG_1879She does a lot of things that just terrify me.

She throws her head backward on the couch and stares up. Fine. But sometimes, she’ll do it and misjudge the proximity of the couch. It isn’t pretty. However, the worst is when she does it on our laps or in our arms. She has me in a constant state of readiness, and I’m always especially tense when I hold her. Which just isn’t fair when she’s sooooo relaxed.

We recently discovered another terrifying habit of hers while visiting the playground. Because she has been walking for awhile now, I thought, sure, let’s help her up on these super cool playgrounds at the park. What fun! Yes, it’s fun. It’s better than lugging her around on my hip, and I’ll be especially glad of that in the heat of summer. However, my fearless girl isn’t worried about heights and, once again, gravity doesn’t worry her. So, my girl walks up on those awesome playgrounds and attempts to walk right off of them, as well. Super!

Speaking of playgrounds, let’s talk slides. Sophia has no hesitation when it comes to the slide. She dives in headfirst. Literally. She thinks she’s Superman. Or Wonderwoman. Whatever!

Lastly, and the most petrifying, is her fixation on the stairs. It’s all my fault. I was so happy when she finally took an interest in climbing the stairs. Awesome, I thought. I don’t have to carry her and all the drinks/bottles, toys and clothes up the stairs all the time. Hallelujah. Well, she took to climbing the stairs and never looked back.

Now, we’ve got the house on pretty good gate lockdown. There’s a gate at the top of the stairs, a gate at the bottom and two gates that keep the kids contained to the three main rooms of the house. But, all it takes is one time to forget to close the gate and up she goes, in a matter of seconds. And, even if we do remember to close the gates, the gate at the bottom of the stairs has a little space to crawl under, which she does.

One time, Adam and I were home together, and Noah needed to go potty (which is outside the main three rooms). Sure enough, a minute passed and, in all the excitement of Noah going potty, we lost track of Sophia. We scrambled around the house and, upon not finding her, raced to the stairs. There she was. Sitting at the very top, smiling down at us.IMG_1816

It happened again today. I asked Noah to close the gate, and I swear he did, but when I ran a pair of sunglasses out to my sister who stopped by to pick them up, Sophia discovered the gate was ajar and off she went. Fortunately, I wasn’t outside for longer than a minute, and I caught her on the second step.

I have nightmares about my little girl all the time. At the pool, at the playground, on the steps, anywhere, with her just stepping off the ledge. I wake up in a cold sweat, and it takes some serious effort for me to realize it isn’t real.

Because it could be totally real.

Our pediatrician has said at the kids’ last few appointments that the only real thing she warns parents of toddlers about is safety. Forget the exact amount of milk they should be drinking, how many viruses they’re going to catch. What you should be most worried about is keeping your kid safe. Boy, is she right!

Especially when you have a little Evel Knievel as a child. Then, you should just have the house covered with padding and bubble wrap.

Oh, yeah, and the playgrounds and swing sets, too.

A Tale of Two Sick Days

Anna woke up Tuesday morning with a runny nose.

It’s a cold, I thought. No big deal. Someone always has a cold around here. That was my mantra right up until dinnertime, when I noticed fluid draining out of her ear and gunky, green stuff spilling out of her eye. Lovely, I thought. Maybe it’s not just a cold after all.

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A breakfast of juice

I managed to squeeze her in at our doctor’s office Tuesday evening, which was a blessing because Anna ended up having a 102 temperature, a double ear infection and pink eye. Brayden was coughing, sneezing and not looking too hot himself at the end of the day and, with Kevin out of town Tuesday and Wednesday this week, I crossed my fingers that the night wouldn’t go too badly, gave the kids some Ibuprofen (and Anna’s six other medications – not even exaggerating) and tucked them into bed.

Of course, the night did go pretty badly. If I wasn’t up with one, I was up with the other. Around midnight, I e-mailed Brayden’s school and told them he wouldn’t be in on Wednesday. Yet when we all finally pulled ourselves out of bed Wednesday morning around 9 (don’t judge; it had been a long night), I actually felt refreshed and, surprisingly, ready to tackle a day of no plans, a day of just me and the kids all day long.

If you know me at all, you know I’m a planner. There really isn’t much I fear more than a day without plans. I knew when I quit my full-time job I could only do it if I kept us busy: outings, play dates, lunch dates, whatever. There just had to be plans every day.

That’s why I was feeling pretty confused by my positive outlook but game enough to see where it would take me. As it turned out, it took me pretty far.

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Playing hide-and-seek

I fed the kids breakfast (what they would eat of it, anyways) and gave them all the juice they wanted. We watched “Cars” and then “Cinderella.” We built Legos, played My Little Pony, lounged in our pajamas, played hide-and-seek, made waffles for lunch and a cake for the heck of it before dinner. Anna took a frustratingly short 45-minute nap, but Brayden, who literally NEVER naps, took a three-hour one. After dinner, a bath and a piece of our freshly made cake, I sat on the couch, ready to dim the lights and put on “Dora,” their favorite bedtime TV show. I felt I’d earned a break and a chance to put my legs up. And that’s about when the exhaustion of the former night and the long day full of my sunny disposition finally caught up to me.

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Brayden’s three-hour nap

“Let’s build a Lego rocket ship, Mommy,” Brayden implored.

He was loving having me on the floor with him for most of the day, I think, and I’d loved it, too, honestly. It was nice to be forced to take a break, to slow down for a day and just be present with my kids, fully and completely. But at that point, I didn’t want to be on the floor anymore. I wanted to sit on the couch. I wanted to be alone, to have no one touching me for the rest of the night. I really wanted to watch “Friends” or some other mindless TV or read my book.

I agreed, though, and helped Brayden build his rocket ship. Then, Anna wanted to help.

“Anna, back up,” I snapped.

She kept getting too close and knocking Legos off the table inadvertently. I knew I was snapping at her, but something inside me had snapped and I felt like I had to run away and hide before the moonlight turned me into a werewolf.

We finally finished the rocket ship. I sat back down, and Anna asked for her milk.

“I’ll get it in a minute, Anna,” I replied.

“Now, Mommy!” She whined.

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Baking a cake

I got up, got her the milk and sat back down. They squeezed in on both sides of me until their show was over, and then squeezed in on both sides of me in Brayden’s bed while I read them a book. I medicated them, tucked them in, crossed my fingers that the night would go a little more smoothly than the last at least, and then realized I’d lost track of Anna’s milk.

I flipped the switch back on in Brayden’s room.

“Is Anna’s milk in here?”

Brayden was more than happy to help me look, but we turned up empty-handed.

I flipped the switch back on in Anna’s room.

“Is your milk in here?”

She mumbled something unintelligible, so I knew I couldn’t count on her to help. I couldn’t find it in her bed, next to her bed or on her dresser. I finally dropped to my knees and looked under her bed, and there it was… somehow.

I’m now back on the couch, finally enjoying a little peace and quiet and time to myself, without anyone touching me or asking me for something. I feel good. I also feel guilty.

I truly had enjoyed the day. I need something to come along every so often that forces me to take a break, and I think it was just what I needed today. So why couldn’t I make it to the finish line? Why had I petered out when the race wasn’t over? Why didn’t I have enough to give?

I’m not sure, but I do know the pictures I took of the day and the memories I now have in my mind will make me remember it as a good day. I think that’s the best you can ask for sometimes.

 

 

A Winter to Remember

Well, it’s official. Noah’s moving onward and upward. He’s out of diapers, into underwear and the wall to the crib is off. It’s been a big winter.

It all happened very quickly, and I honestly don’t know if it was because he was ready, we were ready or we were all getting bored of the winter and needed something new to focus on besides how ugly it has been outside.

The Big Boy Bed

The big boy bed

Whatever the case, it is done.

The little boy has slept in the bed with only three walls three times now (two naps and a bed time) and so far, so good.

The Underwear Wearing and I Can (Kinda) Dress Myself Boy

The underwear-wearing-and-I-can-(kinda)-dress-myself boy

I can’t believe we’re here. I can’t believe it’s finally happened. Those two things (potty training and the big boy bed) have been looming over our heads for months and now that we’ve finally done it – taken the wall off and packed the diapers away – I can’t believe how easy it all seemed to have been looking back.

I remember in January, stressing to my mom about potty training.

“Mom, he has to be potty trained by September or he won’t be able to go to preschool! What should I do? The child needs to go to preschool. OK, I need the child to go to preschool.” I was pretty frantic on the phone.

And my mom, in her never-ending wisdom, (the wisdom you gain from raising your own kids and then secretly kind of enjoying watching them attempt to do the same) assured me, “You still have plenty of time. Believe me, it’ll happen and when it does, you’ll wonder what you were so worried about in the first place.”

It’s almost a little aggravating how right on she usually is.

I think that’s how much of parenthood goes. When you’re in it, you’re in it and it’s really hard to see past the troubles of right now. But once you’re over the hump, whatever that hump might have been, you can’t even remember how you got there. It’s like a roller coaster: You go so slowly up the hill but then the rest of the ride is such a whirlwind that when you get off, you want to go again, remembering only the exciting parts of the ride and feeling the high of completion.

For instance, Sophia turned 1 last month, so I’m slowly getting rid of her bottles. No matter what I know from my experience with Noah or what I hear from very experienced moms around me, I’m still stressed about it.

The Birthday Girl

The birthday girl

What if she’s not getting enough to eat? What if she’s dehydrated? What if I’m hurting her with hunger pains?!

The Walking Girl

The walking girl

But in the sane part of my mind (and I swear it exists), I know that in a month or so, when I look back on the whole ordeal, it’ll feel like it happened in the blink of an eye. I also know I will tell anyone who asks that it wasn’t a problem at all. And I’m truly not lying or trying to sound like a super mom – seriously, we’ve covered the contrary on here so many times before that what would I be trying to prove? – it’s because I actually will believe that it was no big deal.

I know that women were actually built with hormones that make us forget a lot of the pains of childbirth. Well, I’d bet a pretty high amount that we’re also built with hormones that make us focus on our successes as a mother and quickly forget about the difficult climb to achieve them.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s the hormones. Or the wine.

But the point is, you do forget. And that is a big blessing. But it’s also quite a scary thing. Because when it comes down to it, I know in my heart (and because people say it all the time) that even though the days are long, the years are short. Because of that hormone (wine), a lot of the hard times and struggles will be swept under the rug and forgotten, making room in our minds for more exciting, happier and sweeter memories.

That’s a good thing, I guess. If not for it, Adam and I wouldn’t even be considering having more kids.

So, even though this winter was a long one, I know, looking back, when I think of it, I’ll only remember a few things:

Sophia learned to walk. Sophia turned 1. Noah started wearing underwear. Noah moved into a big boy bed. Oh yeah, and there was an anniversary and a couple more birthdays in there. (Am I really 30? Oh, for the love of…) Anyways.

Yes, the winter of ’13/’14 was a big one. However, I’ll remember it not because of how long and draining it was, but because of all the huge milestones we’ve reached during it.

It truly was a winter to remember.

 

When a Good Thing Becomes Too Much

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Brayden and his bike

Today, I was determined to be outside as much as possible. That was my goal. It was one of the first days we’ve had this year where we could be outside for any length of time without wearing multiple layers or enduring multiple shivering fits. And the day certainly delivered: the sun was out, the weather was warm, the playground was calling our names. Anna and I picked up Brayden from school and headed to the park with lunches packed. We met some friends, ate lunch and the kids ran and ran. And ran. It was truly glorious watching them run and play.

After two hours, I was sad to see our park time end. The kids were so happy. I was so happy. Why leave? Then, I had an idea. We would stop for ice cream, skip nap time entirely and, after a quick stop home, head back outside to play. It was a perfect plan. What could go wrong?

As it would turn out, plenty.

We’d only been outside riding bikes for a few minutes before the cracks started to show. Anna whined because she needed a push. Brayden wiped out, his bike landing on top of him. Anna, after receiving her push, stalled again and started crying and pointing toward the garage for another toy.

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Anna running circles around the tree

At first, I was patient. I picked Brayden up, wiped him off and fetched Anna another toy. But no sooner had I set Anna’s tricycle down that she was whining again that she was thirsty. Luckily, Brayden was happily occupied with his bike, so I led Anna up to the porch and gave her a drink from my water bottle.

“Mommy! I want a drink, too!”

It was, of course, Brayden, who had, of course, seen me giving Anna a drink of my water bottle and wanted one, too. I sighed but yelled “OK,” then winced as he let his bike fall in the middle of the street and ran up to the porch.

After taking a drink, Brayden disappeared into the garage and came back with his wiffle ball set, which wouldn’t have been a problem except that Anna, of course, wanted to play, too, and there was only one bat. She screamed and swatted at him, he squeezed her arm hard, and she started crying.

“We take turns, kids! We take turns! Are you both tired? Was this a really bad idea? Should we go in and nap?”

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Anna crying on the porch swing

Both kids wiped their noses and shook their heads “no” in reply, but I had my answer. The red flags were all around me. I should cut my losses now and retreat inside. But the sun was still out, the grass was still green, the day was still full of promise.

“OK, kids, but if I hear one more person whining or crying, we’re going inside,” I warned sternly.

Anna immediately jumped onto the porch swing and started crying that she was hungry. It was over. I needed to concede defeat. I glanced longingly at the spot on the grass I’d been eyeing as the perfect place to curl up with my magazine and turned to tell Brayden it was time to go in.

But Brayden wasn’t there. He was back on his bike in the middle of the street.

“Brayden! Time to go in!”

“I don’t want to go in, Mommy!”

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The kids where they belonged… at least at that point in time.

I could understand how he felt, but Anna was still on the porch whining – loudly – about being hungry, so I marched into the street, helped Brayden off his bike and shepherded him up the driveway. “Time. To. Go. In.”

Finally, I had the two of them inside the house with the door closed behind us, white flag raised and waving.

“We’re hungry, Mommy. We’re hungry.”

I peeled and cut up an apple and deposited Brayden and Anna in front of the TV with bowls in hand, happy to leave them in front of their ever-welcoming old friend for a bit.

My plan had been good, that couldn’t be denied, but it was also inherently flawed: I should’ve kept nap time. Too much exertion without rest leads to crankiness. Apparently, for kids, too.

 

 

 

 

Bedtime Musings on Thursday Night

Today, Sophia had her 1-year check-up. She cried from the moment the first nurse walked in until we were five minutes into our drive home. It’s like she knew right off the bat that she was NOT going to like this appointment. I told the nurse, mid-shot, that I really wished I could promise her a milkshake afterwards, you know, like your mom always did after a you got a horrendous strep shot in your tush? And then, still mid-shot, I found myself wondering if I could stop and get a milkshake on my way home. Nah. Back to helping my poor girl.

I know, I know, Sophia looks pretty rough- but it's just been that kind of day.

I know, I know, Sophia looks pretty rough, but it’s just been that kind of day.

Sophia is in the 90th percentile for everything: weight, height and head size. I love my girl, but I’m torn between thinking she could be a model one day, hoping she’ll even out eventually, or worrying that she’ll be a giant first grader.

Noah threw up today. He’s got the bug or the flu or whatever. This is our third strand of some stomach virus or other this winter, and it’s getting pretty old. And smelly. It just plain stinks. (See what I did there?)

Sophia has started to follow Noah around. She is a total copycat. So much so that when I sent Noah to timeout for pushing her down, she went and sat right in front of him. She loves that boy so much she didn’t even notice that while she was doing everything to get close to him, he was doing his best to ever-so-nonchalantly edge her away from him.

I guess he likes her a little bit.

I guess he likes her a little bit.

Aw. Siblings. I really wish this phase didn’t start on a day Noah threw up, but what are you gonna do?

Seeing your kids hurt and feel bad is the worst. So when they ask for a hug, you happily comply. When the one that just threw up leans in for a kiss, you close your lips tight and as soon as he looks away, you wipe those germs off so hard, your lips may just come off, too.

Now, as I sit at my computer, trying everything I can not to take a little peek at Facebook (two days in now!), I worry.

I worry because Noah drank an awful lot of Pedialyte this evening and for a little kid who just started wearing underwear overnight, isn’t that just a little bit scary?

And that’s the end of my deep thoughts, by Sarah Stulberg.

The Day My Little Stinker Princess Wore Underwear

It was a stomach-dropping experience, an “oh-shit” moment.

There we were, Anna and me, facing each other in a changing stall as our bathing suits dripped onto a not-even-a-little-bit clean, tiled floor. Anna’s teeth were chattering from standing in an air-conditioned bathroom after leaving the waters of an indoor pool. So were mine.

“OK, Anna. L-let’s take off your suit and g-get you dressed.”

I pulled Anna’s soaked suit off her and threw it on the floor, figuring the bathing suit we could wash but frostbite was definitely the worse of the two evils.

“I j-just have to find your d-diaper, honey.”

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This was the first time Anna sat on the potty. It was one day over the summer, and I doubt she did anything.

I fished around in my diaper bag. No diaper. I fished around some more. Still no diaper.

Anna’s chattering teeth went into overdrive, and I straightened the towel around her now-naked, little body. Plunged my hand back into the diaper bag. Still nothing. I shoved bags of wipes out of the way, old, baby toys I still hadn’t cleaned out and… a pair of Brayden’s underwear.

I held them up. Looked at Anna shivering in her towel. Clutched at my own, soaked towel. I had a split-second to make a decision. I could either haul Anna and all of our crap back through the halls of the air-conditioned bathroom and across the indoor water park to where my purse was sitting and see if there was a diaper in there, or I could put Brayden’s underwear on Anna.

It’s worth mentioning that Anna isn’t potty trained. Not even a little bit. Has never worn underwear. I’m a gradual potty-trainer, if such a thing exists, and, as such, I’ve spent the last two months having Anna sit on the potty in the morning, before nap, after nap and before bed. I figure in the spring I’ll take it up a (still gradual) notch, putting her on the potty more often and offering her treats if she tells me when she has to go (kind of like house-training a dog, I know).

At any rate, the underwear swinging from my fingertip terrified me. And yet, I was freezing, Anna was freezing and going on a quest for a diaper in my purse, which might as well have been light-years away, was not an option.

I dangled the underwear in front of Anna.

“A-Anna? These are underwear. I’m going to p-put these on you because I don’t have a d-diaper. You can’t go p-potty in them.”

Anna’s brown eyes stared back at me solemnly.

“Do you understand, Anna? You can’t g-go potty until we get h-home.”

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Anna in her “tighty whities,” looking proud.

Anna nodded.

Decision made and fate sealed – come what may, I hurried to dress Anna and myself and rushed out of the frigid restroom to find Kevin and Brayden.

“Anna’s wearing Brayden’s underwear,” I tossed over my shoulder at Kevin as we threw bags and purses and more bags over our shoulders and headed for the door.

Kevin’s eyebrows furrowed.

“Really?”

“Yes. It was necessary. I’m sorry for whatever happens.”

We walked to the car, still shivering in the 20-degree temps. I held Anna against my hip and kept waiting to feel something warm.

“Anna, do you remember you can’t go potty in the underwear? Those are underwear, not a diaper, and big girls wear them when they know how to use the potty all the time. You’re a big girl, aren’t you?”

Anna closed her eyes, nodded and smiled primly. My little stinker princess.

When we got to the car and strapped her in, I reminded Anna again of what she was wearing and felt one more time to make sure there wasn’t anything warm yet. So far, so good. I drummed my fingers against the car door the whole 25-minute drive home. (Why, oh, why, couldn’t it have been the five-minute drive from our community pool?) Occasionally, I’d glance over my shoulder at Anna and remind her of the underwear, then I’d look at Kevin. “Is that making it worse? Calling attention to it?”

Finally, we pulled into the driveway. I rushed to unstrap Anna. She was dry! I couldn’t believe it! I ran her inside the house, stripped her clothes off and sat her on the potty. The little stinker princess peed!

Fabulous day! I couldn’t believe I’d won one! I can only hope the gradual potty-trainer in me was taking notes!

 

Dinner Conversation

My family eats dinner together almost every night.

It’s something that’s very important to me for a few reasons:

  1. That’s how I was raised. Every night, dinner at the table with everyone. It didn’t matter what dinner consisted of and sometimes the starch was buttered white bread, but it was dinner together.
  2. I get hungry by 6, just like my kids. I know there are some parents who wait until their kids go to bed to get their dinner on, but I couldn’t last that long. Did I mention I get really crabby when I’m hungry? No one would last that long.
  3. I am all about only cooking the minimum. I like to cook and all, but cooking two entirely different meals means more pots, more dishes to do and too much work.
  4. The conversations that happen during those dinners are worth it.

Up until last night, it hasn’t been anything to write about. Just really sweet, little nothings. Laughing at Sophia while she attempts to use a spoon and losing all the contents on her shirt before it ever makes it to her mouth. Praying together beforehand, with Adam holding Noah’s hand still as he tries to shove another piece of meatball in his mouth and Sophia watching with this big smile, almost like she thinks it’s our little skit we do for her before dinner.

Our dinner companions.. on a different night.

Our dinner companions… on a different night.

And then there’s Noah’s top question at the dinner table: “How was your day, Daddy?”

Ugh. The first time he said that, I about melted. It was so sweet. And honestly, he truly wanted to know. He would listen and nod as Adam talked about the ins and outs of his day (abbreviated, of course).

Then Noah started to have a follow-up question. The same one every time, but always just as sweet.

“Who did you see?”

It makes sense. The questions are the same two questions that Adam likes to ask Noah at the table: “How was your day, Noah? Who did you see?”

I can’t tell you how neat it is to see how we’re rubbing off on our little man. (OK, not everything he learns from us is gold. In fact, I am getting more and more nervous to take the kid out in public, so afraid of what he’ll say that he’s learned from dear old mom and dad.) But when it’s good stuff, like “Who did you see?”? So incredibly neat.

Last night, it got even better.IMG_1035

There we were, sitting down to a pretty boring chicken dinner, Noah dressed in his Spiderman pajamas, with webs in the arms and everything, and Sophia, already covered in applesauce, tipping the bowl over her face, working hard to get every last lick. Buzz and Woody, seated at the empty chair across from Noah – as always, ever present. Adam and I were talking about our days while the kids were busy with their food. (Side note: Our dinner conversations are never longer than a minute or two. This is not a miracle dinner table by any stretch of the word.)

There was a moment of quiet and Noah looked up and predictably asked, “How was your day, Daddy?”

And, ever the enthusiast, Adam responded with his also very predictable,  “It was good, Noah! Thanks for asking!”

On to the follow-up: “Who did you see?”

I sighed. Adam had just finished telling me he had led a meeting of 30-plus people all day, and I was a little concerned he was going to start naming names. When he starts naming names, Noah likes to ask what their kids’ names are. And on and on it goes. Not the most interesting conversation of the day, but definitely not the worst.

Anyways, Adam didn’t name names, but instead started to describe the different groups of people who were in the meeting with him, Noah nodding along.

Adam finished his explanation by telling Noah he was in charge of teaching them all something that was very difficult to learn.

IMG_1036Noah surprised us both with an, “Interesting! How did you do that?”

Adam and I looked at each other and smiled at his response. “How cute was that?” Meanwhile, Sophia started whimpering and reaching for her drink. For a moment, I was lost in a world of good conversation, forgetting that we were sitting at a table with two, young children.

Noah continued to ask a few more questions, and Adam finally ended the conversation with something like, “It’s important to always keep learning.”

With that, Noah agreed, “OK,” and it was over. The magical, little moment ended. And Noah shoved an entire chicken nugget in his mouth and proceeded to chew it very loudly, as if to remind us that he is only 2 after all.

Now, I’m not saying that my kid is a genius. Not by a long shot. I’ve seen genius kids on the news and talk shows. Noah is not speaking five languages, doing complicated math problems or memorizing the presidents. He’s just a kid who sits and eats with his parents almost every night and, in doing so, has picked up some social cues.

Again, not all of the things he’s learned from us are great. Did I mention the little boy said the “sh” word on the same day he dumped his milk all over the ground and laughed. (I still don’t know why I’m not getting a mother-of-the-year award, people!)

But on nights like tonight, I can see that our family dinners are making a good difference. Our kids are learning how to be little people in this great, big world. These are lessons that aren’t often stressed – basic consideration and politeness, and they’re lessons that go the distance.

Yes, it’s wonderful if your children get straight A’s or are superstar athletes. But if they can’t look a person in the eye and have a conversation, even for a moment, they’re at a real loss.

So, we’ll continue our family dinners. And tomorrow night, during our simple but wonderful conversations, I’ll remember to put a bib on Sophia if she has applesauce again, and I’ll make sure Noah takes smaller bites. But, most importantly, all the while, I’ll be talking with my family.

Breaking up with Facebook

Lent is coming up and, as I am a practicing Catholic, I am trying to decide what to give up.

For those of you who aren’t Catholic or don’t observe Lent, let me give you a little rundown. Lent is the season of preparation before Easter. It is a time for you to make some sacrifices and mentally prepare yourself to help understand the retelling of the Lord’s dying and rising. It helps to make you ready to fully appreciate Easter. Like anything, it’s all about a little discomfort that makes you more much more aware of the more important things.

I typed Lent into Google and all of this came up. At least I know I'm not alone on a lot of the things on my list.

I typed Lent into Google and all of this came up. At least I know I’m not alone on a lot of the things on my list.

That said, what it means to many in a more outwardly way is simply, you have to give something up. For the next 40-plus days, you are expected to give something up. Something that you do often, something that, if gone, will make you uncomfortable, but, ultimately, that discomfort will make you a better person.

So, the question is: What do I give up?

Oh, I have a number of ideas. One starts with “C” and ends with “offee.” But that won’t make me a better person, and definitely not a better mom. Another one starts with “T” and ends with “V.” But that’s already taken quite a hit since the kids arrived. And I don’t think Noah and Sophia would appreciate that sacrifice. My kids love them some Wiggles.

There are many more, but I won’t go into all of it.

I know, ultimately, it needs to be something that I will miss, but missing it will make me a better person.

My New Year’s resolution was all about focusing on my relationships. Being a better mother, a better wife, a better friend, daughter and sister. That’s five balls that I am working on juggling and, to my dismay, I have found that I am not a good juggler. But I’m working on it.

However, there’s someone else. Someone I have given way too much time and energy to. Someone who keeps me from being a better juggler.

It’s a relationship that I am shamefully embarrassed to mention but I also know I am not alone. It is a relationship that occupies too much of my time and one that even though I will greatly miss, must go for a few weeks.

To my Family: You'd better keep it interesting for me!

To my family: You’d better keep it interesting for me!

This relationships disrupts my date nights with my husband, disrupts playing with my kids and even disrupts my cooking.

And so, Facebook, I bid you adieu.  Not forever, but for awhile.

Because you are the sixth ball I am trying to juggle in this life, and, it turns out, you’re the ball I’m willing to let drop.

Now, I know there’s no way to escape technology. Technology is the future. Technology and social networking are part of life. It’s unavoidable. But Facebook? Facebook I can avoid for awhile.

I saw (on Facebook) that there was a way to actually check how many hours you’ve spent on Facebook. The person laughed that she’s been on it for some CRAZY amount of time. And you know what I did? I cringed. And didn’t go to the link to see what my time was. And isn’t that a little too telling?

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Facebook!

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Facebook!

If you are a type of person who doesn’t check Facebook all the time during the day, good for you! You are a stronger person than I. Your relationship with Facebook is different than mine. Facebook isn’t a sixth ball to juggle in your life. It’s more of a timeout to the juggling (and all jugglers need breaks).

This girl needs to go cold turkey or nothing will change.

And so, to the people in my life who are more important than Facebook, my sacrifice is for you. I will think of you often these next few weeks and wonder if you’ve posted anything interesting on Facebook that day.

And to Mark Zuckerberg, I’m sure you’ll be just fine without me. We just needed a break.

The Best Gift

I’m not scheduled to blog today, but I had a moment and thought I’d write about a little something that’s on my mind.

IMG_0046

Having two is hard. I don’t even want to think about having more … not for a year or so at least. Two children equals two living beings who need you. They need your time and your attention almost all of the time, but even more so, it seems, at the same time.  Over the last four weeks, those needs have been difficult to handle. I’ve felt overwhelmed, frustrated, but mostly, just guilty.

I feel guilty that Sophia is crying while I make Noah his breakfast. I feel guilty when I walk into Noah’s room with Sophia in my arms and all he wants is for me to snuggle with him for a little bit. I feel guilty that Noah walks around with poop in his diaper while I feed Sophia. I feel guilty that I don’t take more time to just be with my daughter at naptime because, usually, I’m running around trying to do a million things around the house at that time. I could go on and on and name hundreds of other times during the day when I feel guilty.

When I was pregnant, people asked me if I was worried about this guilt. Truthfully, I wasn’t worried. I don’t think I had a clue of what to expect before Sophia was born. So, I’d answer that no, it would be hard, but we’d be OK. I’m actually glad I couldn’t truly grasp the concept at the time, that would have made the last few weeks of pregnancy even harder. But now, I do know that guilt. I know it very well, and I know that the guilt will only grow as my kids get older.

However, also when I was pregnant, I had another conversation, one that I won’t soon forget, especially in those extremely guilty moments. Noah and I were at the grocery store, and I, being pretty pregnant, was stopped by an older woman. She smiled at Noah and me, and then asked how far apart in age Noah and his new sibling would be. I answered that they would be around 21 months apart. I then prepared myself for one of the many, common responses I had received over the last few months: “Wow, you’ll have your hands full.” Or, “Goodness, that won’t be easy.” Mostly, it was the wide-eyed looks that bothered me the most.

But this older woman never stopped smiling, and her eyes never widened. She simply said, “The best gift you could give your child is a sibling.” And with that she walked away.

I’m thinking about this brief conversation now, during a lull in a particularly guilt-filled day at my house, and decided to write this post. I hope that all the other moms of more than one have been told what this woman told me, but in case you haven’t, I’m glad you can read it now. I am so thankful for that woman, and I hope that I can make someone else feelWyoming to print 203 better about all the madness, too.

It gets crazy, sometimes awful. Patience is tested, and the guilt is sometimes unbearable. But that woman was absolutely right. If I think back to my childhood – obviously, I have two sisters – I do not remember feeling neglected or ignored. It probably happened from time to time. My mom and dad, as incredible as they were and are, couldn’t perform miracles. What I do remember, however, is how much fun I had with my sisters. They were and are my best friends. They keep me grounded when I need a little reality in life. They build me up when I get knocked down. They understand my sense of humor when no one else does. They are always, always in my corner, no matter what. I can’t think of a greater gift.

So, I’ll leave you moms of more than one with that wonderfully happy thought. The best gift you can give to your child is a sibling. Makes me smile every time.