Monday, December 20, 2010

Sounds of the Season

At our house, the sounds of the season have included someone falling (twice) through our ceiling that wasn't Santa, the sounds of the tummy bug, mama's frustrated yelling at cranky children, stomping feet by said cranky children and the crunch of being rear ended. Despite my best attempts at perspective, I was starting to think agoraphobics are onto something.

And then, there are my babes, constantly reminding me (in their brightest of moments) of the joy and humor of the season. There was the uncontrollable giggling in the back seat from both boys when the dogs barking jingle bells song came on the radio, Pumpkin's eyes lighting up as he helped me shop for his gift (ah, the beauty of a 13 month old memory) by testing out toys in the store, Pumpkin screaming and crying when we attempted the sit on Santa's lap, riding the infamous Pink Pig, watching Peanut "sing" (and pick his nose) during his school's Christmas performance.

As I pack up the clothes, gifts, Santa, car activities and snacks for our trip to North Carolina later this week, I will do my best to remember that my kids, playing with the wrapping paper instead of the gifts while decked out in their matching Christmas pajamas, will more than make up for the crazy that was the rest of December.

Never doubt the power of the matching Christmas pajamas.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More Perspective

Nearly two years to the day, I wrote about getting a little perspective. Funny, but I'm back in the same place.

We spent November sharing a nasty cold from one member to the next. It hung on at least two weeks per family member and it spared no one. Then, last Wednesday, a freak chain of events led to a flooded crawl space and a therefore flooded water heater. From Wednesday until Friday we had no hot water. None. The hubby and I were showering at the Y. The kids were getting sponge baths that we told them were space baths like the astronauts do it (hey, it worked). I was heating up water on the stove to fill the sink to wash our dishes. Thankfully, we got the pilot light relit Friday on a fluke...only for it to go out again today. Looks like our glee at avoiding a several thousand dollar new water heater expense around the holidays was short lived.

Friday, I got a stomach bug. And although it could have been much worse, I was really not myself until Sunday afternoon. Monday, work began in the house to remediate mold found in our crawl space and attic. I can't tell you how stressful of a project that has been to ensure the kids are safe during the process not to mention having to turn our heat off during some of the coldest days Atlanta's seen in December in years while they cleaned the HVAC (um, Brrr?). Then, Peanut got the stomach bug Tuesday night.

Luckily, on the brink of falling into my own pit of self-indulgent pity, I was hit again by the perspective stick. Tonight, I'm making dinner for a neighbor's family. A neighbor who at 46 was struck by heart failure and a series of set backs that laid him out so badly in ICU he was given a one percent chance of survival forcing his wife to prepare their two daughters for daddy's death. That was several weeks ago and through the power of love and prayer and sheer determination, he is coming home soon. He has miles to go, but he's alive and ready to take those miles on.

Then, there was the mail today. The arrival of a Christmas card. From my aunt. Signed with a single name. The absence of a name on the card speaking louder than my aunt's neat, nun-taught script.

As I filled the sink for tonight's primitive dish washing episode and planned tomorrow's schedule around an early work out just to earn a shower at the Y, I took a deep breath. Although my problems are still annoying. Although the sicknesses and the caring of the sicknesses have left me exhausted. Although our wallets are not enjoying the Friday installation of our new (tankless!) water heater. I have my boys. I have the hubby. I have the promise of our blank Christmas tree awaiting trimming.

And I will enjoy all of them a little bit more thanks to this year's perspective.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: Day 31

I got pretty slack there at the end with my 30 days of thanks. Sorry about that. It's not that I wasn't thankful, I was just tied up with NaNoWriMo and taking the time to enjoy our trip away to the NC mountains for Thanksgiving. It was a lovely trip and unfortunately, I came back woefully behind in my word count. It took some serious buckling down to complete it before yesterday's deadline, but I did it.

That's right. In 30 days, I wrote 50,860 words that included a beginning, a middle and an end. I can now claim for all eternity that I wrote a book. WHAT?! Seriously, this still amazes me. Okay, it's got some serious flaws, needs some major continuity help, and I already want to cut a whole character's point of view and develop another character more fully, but those are all things I didn't have 31 days ago.

I learned a lot about my own process during this experiment and how I work best. More importantly, I learned that inspiration is a fickle mistress, but most of the time all you have to do is sit down and start. I battled my fears and proved that yes, I can do it. It's not impossible. And despite all its problems, there are parts of this book I wrote that are darn good. All in all, it was quite the rewarding experience.

That being said, today I am supremely thankful for my family and friends. I made my journey public to my family and was quite vocal about it on Facebook as well as in this space. I can't tell you how the words of encouragement and questions throughout the month of November helped me. Having a personal cheering section made all the difference. So to all of you out there who offered a virtual high five when I was feeling successful, who offered a word of encouragement when I wasn't, asked me how it was going when we ran into each other and who helped me celebrate my victory last night and today now that it's complete - THANK YOU!

So, what's next? Christmas. Catching up on a month's worth of DVR programs. Sleep.

Then, come January, I'll print this sucker out and read it to see what I've truly got. Then the real work begins. After all, it takes most writers years to write a book, not a month. Thanks to the experience and all of the fantastic people in my life, I'm confident that I can handle it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: Vacation

With children, it's not really a vacation anymore, more a change in location. But a change in location is what we have this week.

My parents rented a house in the North Carolina mountains for us to spend Thanksgiving and luckily were amenable to us being here all week with them. I'm not sure what the week holds but I have a feeling there will be some hiking, some waterfall finding, some trains, some movies, some cocoa, some game playing, some eating and most of all, some laughter. We really needed the break. Although traveling with two kids is a lot of work, there is a lot to be said for a change in scenery. And from the sunset we watched over the mountain this afternoon while Peanut identified cloud shapes (we for sure saw a dinosaur and an alligator), this change in scenery will agree with us.

The only thing that would make it better would be if my sister and her hubby could be here now instead of coming up Wednesday (boo work commitments!). Although if they saw the way Peanut was running around here tonight trying to avoid bedtime, they would probably be thankful they aren't here yet.

After all, the crazy came with us.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: Teachers

As I continue my NaNoWriMo journey, I am reminded of a couple of teachers in my life.

Mrs. Morrison was my second grade teacher. If I remember correctly, we were all a little afraid of her. She was pretty strict and a lot no nonsense. But, in second grade, we started writing stories. Around St. Patrick's Day, we were given a story prompt and we were tasked with finishing the story. Mine turned into some leprechaun story with 17 little leprechauns making mischief in my house, my parents were dismayed, but no worries (here comes the happy ending), they were the leprechauns who guarded the gold at the end of the rainbow and they agreed to share it with my family. Oh, and they promised to clean up their mess, too. A literary gem of a story, no? Probably not, but Mrs. Morrison liked it and commented on how well thought out of a story it was. She praised it so much, my English teacher aunt framed the story for me and it hung on my bedroom wall for years.

Ms. Solem was my fourth grade teacher. She was a bit more of a free spirit. We had to write and perform several skits portraying historical scenes and mythology that year, if I recall. Anyway, at the end of the year, she signed my little elementary school yearbook suggesting I become a playwright. I was on cloud nine all the way home. Where I promptly looked up what a playwright was and then deciding that yes, I wanted to be one.

I had several other teachers along the way who encouraged my writing, but I have to say, these two early educators planted a seed that continues to grow. When I sit down to put pen to paper, or fingers to keys, it is the little girl that they knew and taught every day that takes my place - the insecure, unsure, novice full of hope. And it is their words of encouragement that I hear that keep me going.

I have no idea what happened to Mrs. Morrison or Ms. Solem. I would like to tell them how important their confidence in me was and still is. I would like them to know that the influence they had on me wasn't relegated to the year they had me in their class. I would like them to know that decades later, I still think of them and wish to thank them.

So, Mrs. Morrison, Ms. Solem and all the teachers who ever truly believed we, their students, could be something, thank you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: Month 12

Pumpkin is at that stage where he's becoming himself. He's finding his sense of humor and giggling at things he finds funny (mostly his brother, dogs and when I make animal noises for him). He's pointing along at books during story time. He imitates anything and everything that his older brother does. He has the most contagious full faced laugh when you tickle him that I have to remind myself not to take advantage of that trick just to get a belly laugh fix. He's learning how to ask for things, even if it's just a point, a grunt or the old "gimme" hand gesture.

He's at that wonderful age where he's on the cusp. On the cusp of communicating. On the cusp of walking. On the cusp of toddlerhood.

I love this phase. I know it won't last forever, so today, I am thankful that it's here. More importantly, maybe, I'm thankful that I recognize it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: 3 Hours

Today I am thankful for three hours of peace and quiet found in the salon chair while my fabulous stylist cut and colored my hair and kept my hands filled with trashy magazines (oh, Nikki knows what I like).

Not only did someone massage my head during a shampoo, did I find out Jake Gyllenhall and Taylor Swift are dating (WHAT? Seriously?) and I came out with a fabulous blow out I won't have to wash for at least three days (don't judge me), but I returned home with a fresh perspective. It's amazing what a three hour break from the whining and the nose wiping and the train track building can do for a gal.

Only 10 weeks until the next appointment. Not that I'm counting or anything...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: The Sweater

Today I'm thankful for my favorite sweater. Oh, it's nothing special. Just that nice, snugly sweater that looks great with anything, I feel great in and would wear just about every day if I could get away with it.

I finally broke out that sweater today for our parent-teacher conference at Peanut's preschool. All day, I felt good in that sweater.

And when you are sick with a cold and just barely holding on while caring for a sick infant and a preschooler who has no school for two days (two days, people!) because of the aforementioned parent-teacher conferences, you take what you can get.

Today, I'm thankful for that sweater. And don't judge me if I'm wearing it again in another day or so.

Monday, November 15, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: Breaks and Halfway Points

You may have noticed it was dark here yesterday. Yes, I missed a day of the 30 Days of Thanks. Oh well. I'm sure I was thankful for something, but to be honest, I was most thankful for giving myself a break and just not writing over here. I have the horrible cold Peanut had last week and making myself sit down to write for NaNoWriMo was enough. When I was done, I was done. And I don't feel guilty for making myself a priority (well, after spending all day with the kids, going grocery shopping, making my own comfort food, starting the laundry and writing 1,778 words).

Today, however, I am thankful for Kleenex, pain relievers, hot tea, steamy showers and Breathe Right nasal strips. I am also thankful that I am halfway through this little experiment. Today is the 15th of the month, which means only 15 more days to go. In terms of word count, I'm 794 away from actually hitting the 25,000 halfway point. However, THANKS to my favorite character, we racked up the words tonight to nearly obliterate the deficit I was in from a skipped night early on. I really can't thank her enough for having so much to say today. Here's hoping the rest of these yahoos I'm writing about have something to say tomorrow.

In the meantime, me and the Kleenex *sniff* are headed to bed *cough*.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: Throat Drops

The hubby had a cold that started Halloween weekend. Pumpkin was sick that following week. Peanut got the cold and cough this week. And now? My throat hurts.

I shouldn't be surprised. I've been wiping up Peanut's nose for the last three days and although I try to wash my hands after each time, I'm not sure what was rubbed on me Thursday night when he ended up in bed with us, insisting on snuggling with mama and coughing and sniffling all over my pillow. Bleh.

Today is that day of a cold where you feel it coming. The drip is in the back of your throat making it burn when you swallow. Your eyes feel tired. You know that there isn't anything you can do to stop it.

And so today I am thankful for the good old Ricola throat soothers that ease the discomfort for a little bit. Tomorrow, I imagine I'll be thankful for the soft tissue the hubby picked up from the store for me. Or cough medicine. Or both.

Although, as crappy as I'm starting to feel, I'm also thankful that Peanut still needs/wants mama snuggles to make him feel better. I suppose the cold is a small price to pay for my child's comfort.

Or so I keep telling myself as I avoid swallowing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: Sticking with it

Today I am thankful that I haven't given up.

It's true that most nights I sit down at the computer complaining about how hard NaNoWriMo is, how what I'm writing is totally trite, how I hate this character one day only to hate this other character the next, how I'll never be able to write 1,667 words tonight, how this stinks and blah, blah, blah.

And most nights, I'm wrong. Most nights I don't have much of an idea of where the story is going. Occasionally, I have a brainstorm in the middle of the day and can't wait to see where it's going to lead. A lot of the time, I'm writing a whole lot of crap only to find a nugget of potential buried in there somewhere. And it's that nugget that keeps me going, keeps me coming back, keeps me interested enough to see where it's going to go.

There has only been one night where I didn't write at all (but I had some really valid excuses, really) and then one night when some technical issues drove me to the point of panic and I wrote about 500 words and then nearly face planted on the computer from exhaustion so the hubby sent me to bed.

Although most nights you'll hear me complaining, I'm still sitting down each night to write.

18,451 words to date. 31,459 to go.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: Veterans Day

Today, I am thankful for veterans - past, present and future.

Forgive me for linking back to an earlier post, but I wrote this during the inaugural 30 Days of Thanks in 2008 and I couldn't think of a way to say it better, so...I'll say it again.

And I'll say this again: Thank you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: Tech Support

Sure, I was thankful for the hubby already during this little exercise, but tonight, he came home from the gym when I called him in a panic because my ancient computer ate my homework.

More specifically, my ancient, evil, spiteful computer ate my 13,739 words (yes, I'm counting) before I started the night's writing.

Luckily, he found them and they are since backed up. A lot.

As frustrating as this NaNoWriMo project has been so far, when I was faced with losing it all, faced with having to start over, I was scared. I didn't want to lose the people I've created so far. I didn't want to lose the journey they have started on. I want to see where they end up. Thankfully, my own personal tech support guru has given me back that opportunity.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: It's a Lame One

Today, I'm thankful for frozen pizza. Oh yeah, I said it.

We spent a lovely afternoon at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens with some friends. A long enough afternoon that the roast chicken I originally planned to do for dinner would not have enough time to roast. No problem, I'll just do some quesadillas instead, except the avocado for my black bean, corn, tomato and avocado salsa wasn't ready yet.

Like I said, today I'm thankful for a frozen pizza in the freezer and the fixings for salad in the fridge. Dinner saved. Not dinner great, but dinner saved.

Monday, November 8, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: A Change in Direction

Let's just say this morning was chock full of bad mommy moments before 9am.

Thanks to a finally fever free Pumpkin, a morning break with Peanut off to preschool and a workout on a beautifully warm fall morning, the afternoon did not follow the same path. A deep breath and a conscious decision to not repeat the same morning mistakes made for a calmer, more patient mommy.

Sometimes recognizing the pattern doesn't always lead to breaking it. I am thankful that today it did.

Here's to hopefully getting on the right road the first time tomorrow.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

30 Days of Thanks; Applesauce Cake

My great-grandmother made an applesauce cake she would send to my Uncle B. (a different uncle than has recently appeared in this space) while he was in the service. As legend would have it, the guys in his unit would fight over pieces of the cake, devouring it within moments of the care package having been open.

Today, I am thankful for this super simple, dairy-free cake and the fact that Pumpkin's fever appears to have broken this afternoon long enough for him to enjoy it. Two days late, we finally had a good old cake-smashing time for his first birthday.

I'm not sure of the truth of the tales that my uncle's buddies watched his mail call just to see if a cake had arrived for him, but I can attest to the fact that my little guy thought it was pretty much the best thing he's ever eaten.

Although, in all honesty, he's been subsisting on a diet of plain noodles, bananas and Cheerios for the last 5 days.

Either way, I know I'm looking forward to a piece.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: Saturday Doctor's Hours and Mom

Pumpkin has been sick all week. The lovely "D" word. Ick. However, he'd been acting normally, despite the current state of his intestinal track. I made the obligatory call to the nurse's line, got my instructions and happily went about my week planning our next trip up to NC. We were planning on going up this weekend for my uncle's memorial service, which meant we canceled Pumpkin's 1st birthday party we had originally planned for at home this weekend and decided to do a smaller, immediate family lunch in NC.

Until last night. A half hour before leaving to pick the hubby up at the airport, I noticed Pumpkin had a fever. Ugh. Fever, of course, being one of the symptoms the nurse said we should watch for, advising we bring him in if one developed.

Thankfully, our pediatrician has walk-in hours on Saturday mornings. I packed us up last night for our road trip, hoping we could simply depart a little later than planned and then brought Pumpkin to the doctor first thing this morning. Although it's nothing serious and probably just a virus, the doctor "could not in good conscience" advise us to go on this road trip.

After the week I had, I made it to the elevator after checking out before I started to feel the tears coming on. Losing my uncle, the trip up to NC and back last weekend, a sick baby, the hubby out of town all week, a 4 year old's rebellion on day 4 of hubby being out of town, unpacking from one trip just to repack for another, canceling one party just to plan for another 7 hours away, locking Pumpkin and my keys in the car yesterday...let's just say a kink in the plans was not exactly what my psyche could handle this morning.

Thankfully, there is my mom. When I called and told her Pumpkin wasn't any better, what the doctor said and that I had looked up flights to fly up to the memorial alone, she in no uncertain terms told me I needed to stay home. She said everything I knew was true and everything I needed to hear and listened to me cry and hem and haw and try to reason my way into going, but, in the end, won. We are staying home.

It's not that I don't think the hubby could take care of Pumpkin while I was gone, I know he would. It's the thought of Pumpkin reaching out for me and me not being there. It's the reality that every minute I was gone, I'd be thinking about Peanut - and would that be fair to anyone else?

My family means a lot to me. It's a big, rambunctious group who live and love loudly. Not being there to support a branch that's been damaged is tearing me up inside. My thoughts, prayers and heart will be with them all on Monday. But, I know I have to do what's best for my little ones.

If I've learned anything since becoming a parent it's that kids have impeccable timing.

Friday, November 5, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: Happy Birthday, Pumpkin

Today, little Pumpkin, you are one. You are on the brink of toddlerhood and I have no idea how it happened. Everyone told me to cherish your babyness since the second time around goes so much faster. And I tried, really I did. But somehow, here you are, all bright smiles and toothy grins and I can barely remember that newborn squishyness.

Luckily, for me, you aren't walking yet, so I can hold onto your babyhood for awhile longer. You've started to ask to be picked up in your own little hold onto mommy's knees attempting to climb up her leg until she picks you up kind of way. You babble constantly and we're all trying to latch on to any words or consistent sounds for things. You idolize your big brother. Dinner has gotten out of control with the two of you egging each other on. You spent the other night imitating every action Peanut did, much to the delight of both of you.

I can barely remember our family life without you, proving that you were the missing link to our little family. Not that it wasn't perfect before, but you've brought our little clan to a whole new level of perfection. Oh sure, adding a second one to the family has brought its own kind of stress with it, managing schedules and various needs. But the new laughter? The wonder when you discover new skills like clapping or waving? The squeals when you're crawling all over your big brother in his bed during bed time stories? Let's just say I wouldn't change it.

We've been through a lot, you and I. There was my hospitalization when I was separated from you on your 12th day for the longest 24 hours of my life. There was your trip to the children's hospital when I had to forcefully hold down your arm to keep the IV in. There was the time I locked you in the car with the keys and had to play peek-a-boo with you until help arrived (oh wait, that was today - happy birthday).

You're brother made me a mother. You've made me a better mother. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.

Here's to another year of belly laughs, discovery and a few bumps along the way to keep it interesting.

Your Mama

Thursday, November 4, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: The Hubby

The hubby is currently out of town on a trip that keeps getting longer and longer each day NASA doesn't send Discovery into space. I've written about the hubby's love of space before and his attempts to see a shuttle launch as a bystander. Since then, however, he's leveraged his space knowledge into an asset for his employer and is in Florida to cover his second space launch. I'm so proud of all that he's done and is doing.

That being said, I'm really ready for him to be home. Especially at about 4pm when the witching hours begin and I realize that I don't have a reprieve at 6pm like I usually do. Factor in a sick Pumpkin this week and planning Pumpkin's second first birthday party (it's complicated) and I'm simply exhausted. Having the hubby gone shows me just how much he does do around here.

It's really easy for me to feel like I'm doing all the heavy lifting since I'm the one home all day with the boys. I manage the school stuff, handle the meals, do the grocery shopping, laundry, etc... But I'm truly lucky in that I have a hubby who handles breakfast every morning for the boys. He takes care of bath and bedtime, too, while I clean up dinner and pop in for a last nursing session and good night kisses. He's always there for me when I need him and it's been pretty lonely without him around to just be a presence in my day.

Plus, let's face it, I really enjoy being able to sleep until 7:30 while he gets up with the kiddos. 6:05 just isn't all that fun for me.

So, sweetie, in case I don't tell you enough, thank you. Thank you for taking risks at work and showing our boys what hard work can accomplish. Thank you for all the you do here to keep me sane. Thank you for being a wonderful father. Thank you for all the little things you do to try to make my day easier.

Try to remember that when I complain about the "to file pile" when you get home. :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: Dessert

Today I am thankful for honey vanilla chamomile tea and shortbread cookies. The promise of those two items have honestly been the only things to get me through the last three hours of solo parenting during bedtime, dinner clean up and writing.

I really wanted to pack it in and fire up the DVR tonight after getting the kids in bed. It's been a long day. The hubby's out of town on a business trip. I have 800 different things to get done before another trip out of town this weekend with the family. Pumpkin's been sick and was up at 4:30 this morning.

Instead of giving into DVR temptation, however, I promised myself the orange frosted shortbread cookie (sorry honey, you leave it here, I eat it) and a cup of tea at the end of my day's writing. And that's really all I have the energy to say about that.

Excuse me, I have a cookie to eat before I pass out in bed.

NaNoWriMo update: 1,996 words tonight, 4,904 total. I'm just 97 words shy of where I should be on day 3.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: Impromptu Field Trips

Today, I am thankful for a last minute field trip to the Georgia Aquarium.

School was canceled today for Peanut because the church is a polling place. We just came back from out of town yesterday, meaning a tough re-entry day as it is, not to mention a tough day fooling with the school routine. Oh, and did I mention that the hubby left dark and early this morning for a several days long business trip?

Months ago, I had purchased a discounted ticket from the aquarium during Mommy & Me promotion. And so we put it to use. Peanut LOVED it. We found lots of cool things to explore and learn about. Pumpkin was happy to just stare at the fish from his stroller. We had a nice, if overpriced, lunch. We played, we goofed off, we giggled.

As we were driving home, talking about all the interesting things we'd seen, Peanut piped up from the back seat and said "I had an awesome time at the aquarium, mommy."

Despite the unpacking, the mail piles to sort, the exhaustion I feel from a busy weekend of travel, I am thankful for blowing it all off for an impromptu day of fun. The great thing is that Peanut appreciated it, too.

Now, what to do to get us through the afternoon until bedtime? I see drawing pictures of fishies in our future!

Monday, November 1, 2010

30 Days of Thanks: 1,113 Words

Hi, my name is High Heeled Mama and I am a glutton for punishment.

While attempting to tackle NaNoWriMo, I was also reminded that 30 Days of Thanks has arrived. Back in 2008, I was in need of a little refocus and therefore challenged myself to write every day about something I was thankful for. Last year, a friend took on the task, since I was busy getting to know my little Pumpkin, and turned it into a movement. Since I am oh so thankful that a little idea I had blossomed into something so much bigger than I could have imagined, I feel the need to show my gratitude by joining in this year.

Today, I am thankful for 1,113 words.

We spent the weekend in NC for UNC's homecoming and drove back today. After seven hours in the car, a super fast grocery run to stock up for the week, two loads of laundry, making dinner, taking a shower, kid bedtime and profusely thanking the hubby for all his help accomplishing all those things, I finally sat down and forced my brain into "creative mode."

THANKFULLY, something came out and 1,113 words found their way onto the computer screen. Sure, I could have pushed myself a little further instead of coming to a stopping point and doing just that, but 1,113 words seems like about 1,100 more than I thought I'd come up with and for that I am grateful. If I can squeeze out 1,113 when I haven't got a clue what I'm going to say and am bone tired on top it, than tomorrow should certainly be a better day for writing.

Time will tell.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Today, I Went for a Run

Today, I went for a run.

The first member of my family in my parent's generation passed away early this morning. My uncle has been fighting a valiant fight against prostate cancer for the last 15 years. I hear he went peacefully, on his terms, with his wife by his side and a smile on his face. No fear, he has said through this process. No fear.

My uncle was a high school teacher and track coach. When I was in middle school, he would tell me I should run track. Hurdles, he said. I want to see you run hurdles. I never did. Running never appealed to me. As I've gotten older, I found I wish I did want to run. There's a romance to it. A peacefulness I recognize, now. But the fact of the matter is, I'm just not a runner.

Today, I went for a run.

Friday night, the high school my uncle dedicated his career to, will be dedicating its track in his honor. It's been scheduled for some time now and he had hoped to attend. Until last week. Instead, my cousins and my aunt will stand surrounded by the community they gave so much to and that gave so much to them and see the Acton Boxborough Regional High School track named for Richard E. Dow.

Today, I went for a run.

The news this morning wasn't unexpected, but it still hurts. It still scares me that someone so close to my parents' age is gone. It still pains me that my cousins have lost a father, that my aunt lost her husband, that my father lost a brother-in-law, that my other uncles lost a friend.

Today, after Peanut's preschool Halloween parade, class party, and packing for a trip we leave for tomorrow, I loaded up the kids in the Double BOB and I went for a run. I felt my head clear. I watched Peachtree Creek, full from yesterday's rain, run the opposite direction. I smelled the damp ground. I felt my physical self as my feet found their rhythm against the pavement, my breath evened and my heart pounded in my chest. I heard a crow in a nearby tree, the distant rumble of the growing rush hour traffic. I found myself completely focused on the present. A rare gift.


In honor of my uncle. To take a moment and mourn him. To join his legacy of runners (if only for a half an hour).

I went for a run.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Busy Day: Then and Now

I have a lot going on today: play date this afternoon, dinner with a friend who is in town for a conference, followed by book club at 8pm.

And I found myself stressing about all this activity before I went to bed last night.

This morning, however, as I was making muffins for the play date and debating whether to blow dry my hair or pray that the humidity gods will make the curl livable, I laughed at how times they have changed.

There was a time in my working world where one meeting at 2pm, a happy hour with a client, ending with a book club date in the evening would have been nothing. That would have just been a Tuesday. Nothing special. Nothing to stress about. In fact, I probably would have been stressing that there wasn't a 10am and a lunch meeting in there, too.

So how come it suddenly seems so daunting when I have three items on one day's calendar?

The pace of life as a stay at home mom is certainly different. The monotony of the day to day tasks move at a snail's pace sometimes compared to the fast paced meeting-to-meeting-to-proposal-writing-to-conference-call-to-commute that made up my working days. Routine is a mommy's friend, so three changes to that routine in one day is actually quite an anomaly. Not to mention the fact that I was only responsible for getting me and maybe a presentation or proposal to a meeting - not two kids, a diaper bag, snacks, activities to distract them during dinner and a plan to make sure car seats are in the right cars for the kid switch post-dinner.

Oh well. Times they have changed. And I'm okay with that. Let someone else run the rat race for a little while. I'm good.

Monday, October 25, 2010

NaNoWriMo Pre-Update: Under Pressure

I am starting to panic.

My throat is tightening at the thought.

And yet every day. There it is. One day closer.


Holy cow, what was I thinking committing to Nanowrimo? Really? Why hasn't anyone tried to talk me out of this? Instead, you've all been so blindly supportive that I thought, no problem. I GOT this.

Now? With only 6 days separating me from November 1st? Freaking out a little bit.

In all honesty, I'm not totally clear what I want to write. Probably not a good sign, huh? I have some characters in mind. I have a general premise. But plot? In need of one. Background? Might be nice to have one. Setting? Cluelessville.

And so I've started to panic.

I really don't know what's going to happen in November with this self-imposed challenge to bang out 50,000 words in a month. I'm not sure how to physically fit it in considering the challenge starts during one trip and ends shortly after another. I have no idea where to start. And instead of being proactive and seeking out advice, getting some research done or jotting down some outlines and ideas, I've been focusing on Halloween and trip preparations, cleaning out my closets and organizing the desk.

I have to admit, part of me is enjoying the panic and is excited by it. I'm curious to see what will happen. Will I sink or swim? Will magic happen? Will it be completely painful every minute? Will I finish? The fact is, I haven't done this before and the whole point of this exaggerated exercise is to force myself to find out what it's like, where my weaknesses are, how I work, what my process is.

And the other part of me is screaming into a pillow: WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?!

So thank you for all your encouragement and support both here and in person. It means a lot to me, your unconditional faith. I will try not to let you down. I will try not to let myself down. Let's just say, at this point, I will TRY.

Now where did that pillow get to?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bad Mommy Moments

I have mentioned before that I am a Stroller Strider. Make no mistake, this is no stroll. The trainers here mean business and as much as I vocally complain during class, I totally love it for the camaraderie, the fitness example I can set for my children and the less jiggle in my jeans than would otherwise be there post babies.

During a recent class, we had several new moms to the group. The day's trainer came up with a fun way to distract us from the push-ups and step-ups and lunges and ab work by asking an endless number of get to know you questions. We spent the class learning each other's favorite junk foods, movies that make us cry, trend we just can't pull off, teen heart throbs and list toppers (you know, that list?).

Towards the end of class, she benignly asked, "What's your worst mommy moment?" The answers started with some of the moms of the youngest babies. Cute answers emerged like, "I totally scratched my baby putting him in the car seat." Or "I forgot to change her diaper and then wondered why she was upset at dinner." Or "I let him cry in the exersaucer for a few minutes so I can check my email."

I shot a look to my friend who has two kids about the same ages as mine and with whom I share my truly bad mommy moments and we giggled to each other quietly, "Just wait."

Just wait until you yell at your child. In public. Just wait until your child is choking on a grape you gave him and you're on the phone with 911 waiting for the paramedics to arrive. Just wait until your 5 month old falls off the bed while you're trying to put your older child in time out. Just wait until you snap at both your kids that mommy needs quiet time. Just wait until you wonder if all your mommy moments are bad mommy moments.

But they aren't. They happen. To all of us. And we survive them. More importantly, our children survive them. We aren't perfect, as much as we strive to be. Our children, as much as we wish they were or expect them to be, are far from perfect, too. And that's okay. If everything was so perfect all the time, would we laugh as hard at the malapropisms of a four year old at dinner? Would the slimy, squished avocado all over a naked baby belly and elbow and cheeks and hair be as endearing? Would the moment of quiet that descends on the house after bedtime be as peaceful? Would the glass of wine taste as delicious as it does after one of "those"days?

I like my life a little messy. I'll own my bad mommy moments and try hard not to repeat them. God knows there will be plenty of new ones to meet me down the road.

There is a reason that people don't pull you aside at your baby shower to clue you into the sheer number of moments you'll feel like bad mommy. It's because the good mommy moments are that much sweeter because of them.

So all you new moms who are feeling guilty for accidentally clipping that pesky baby nail too short or not checking on that weird cry in the middle of the night only to find your son covered in dried vomit the next morning, don't worry. It gets worse. And it gets oh so much better.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thank You, Thursday

Thursdays, the Peanut stays at school until 2pm. I can't even begin to describe how much I love those extra two hours once a week. Part of me feels guilty for feeling this good, but it's less about Peanut not being here and more about relaxed, one-on-one time with one child. Admittedly, one child who is a lot easier to entertain with a wooden spoon and stainless steel bowl than the other is. Not having to rush after Pumpkin's morning nap to make carpool doesn't hurt my goodwill feelings towards Thursday, either.

So today, I had a second cup of coffee, did some online research for that pesky November project, surfed eBay for some vintage hardware I'm in need of and cleaned up the kitchen. And that was only during Pumpkin's morning nap. Once he was awake, we read some stories, picked up some toys, put Little People in a bus, took Little People out of a bus, put Little People in a bus..., had lunch, played with a ball, giggled, watched the curtains move in the breeze.

I can't afford a nanny or regular babysitter. I don't have a cleaning lady. Shoot, we don't even have our yard service anymore. What I do have is lunch bunch every Thursday afternoon to give mommy a little breathing room. And it is worth each and every penny.

The bonus? Once we got home, Pumpkin went down for his afternoon nap and Peanut's having some rest time...even more time for mama! Did I mention how much I love Thursdays?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Running My Own Race

I recently had the opportunity to see Secretariat*, Disney's newest inspiring true story movie along the lines of Miracle and The Rookie. Now, I'm no movie reviewer, so if you want a real review of the movie, I would trust this guy.

I did, however, like the movie. And not just because seeing such beautiful creatures as race horses on the big screen is a sight to be seen, or because the movie managed to make suspenseful a story line whose outcome you already knew, but because it was a story of a dream realized. A dream realized for many involved with this magnificent animal, but mostly, a dream realized for Penny Chenery.

Penny Chenery. A mom. In the early 70s. Who recognized an opportunity and fought for it. A woman who seemed to live simultaneously in Denver and Virginia to keep the family farm alive for the promise of this one horse. A woman in a man's world who simply went about her business, and kicked a little tail in the process.

As I embark on this journey to write a novel in a month, a scene from the movie keeps coming back to me (I suppose this is a spoiler, but probably not a surprise based on the fact that it's common knowledge Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973 and this is billed as a feel-good, family movie): Just before the Belmont, the final race of the three, Penny (played by Diane Lane) is joined at the pre-race ball by her children and husband. Within the excitement of the moment, you see how very proud her children are of her, of what she has accomplished, of what is to come. Despite the fact that the journey was a hardship on her family, that it took her away for days and weeks at a time, that it strained her marriage, it was recognized in the eyes of her children. Recognized, honored and celebrated.

I watched my own mother go back to school when my younger sister started kindergarten and saw her struggle to fulfill her many roles as wife, mother, student. I saw her start a new career and will always be proud of all that she has accomplished, especially because I never considered her a working mom, she was just mom. I watched my father put up his own shingle, straining our family resources and dynamic as the once traveling businessman was soon working from home, expected to shuttle my sister and I to orthodontist appointments and practices. Despite our teenage angst, he managed to carve out a successful business and I am enormously proud of all that he has accomplished.

Attempting to write a novel in a month is less about writing the great American novel in 30 days and more about the journey, of showing my kids that with great risk comes great reward. They may be too young to remember it, sure, but I will always have the experience to share with them. And, hopefully, the road will fork into new words that need to be written, opportunities and dreams.

Because one day, what I want is for my kids to be proud of their mom in the same way I am proud of my parents. I want them to feel a part of the woman I am and am becoming. I want them to see that reinvention, challenge, hardship and risk are what create their character and are to be invited, learned from and cherished.

We will never own a Triple Crown winner, but it doesn't mean our ending will be any less happy. As long as we remember to always run our own race.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive free passes for me and a guest to an advanced screening of Secretariat thanks to Disney and BlogHer.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


It's so easy, as a parent, to let time slip through my fingers. At the end of a long day, it's entirely too tempting to just throw on the sweats, crawl onto the couch and fire up the DVR.

The problem is that I am increasingly frustrated at how I tend to wear myself out for everyone else leaving me not only empty, but lacking the energy to do the things that fill me up. I'm tired of saying how much I want to write, yet doing very little of it. I'm tired of putting it off. I'm tired of making excuses and wondering what if...

And so, with great anxiety, excitement and a dash of crazy, I am announcing that I will be participating in this year's National Novel Writing Month. What does that mean? For the month of November, I have no more excuses. I will write something that resembles a novel before November 30th. 50,000 words. Come hell or high water.

I am confident that I will write a lot of crap. I am certain there will be a lot of tears. I am positive that there will be a lot of frustration as I try to find the time to do this. But, I needed a kick in the pants. A deadline. Accountability.

Yes, I'm scared to death. There are a lot of new what ifs that enter the picture and a lot of personal discomforts to endure. But, it's time. Time to take a risk. Time for mama.

So have some patience with me in November. I may be writing here more or less depending on how it's going. I do promise to update this space with my progress: the good, the bad and the most certainly ugly.

*Deep breath* Here we go...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Let it Be, Part II

Parenting is all about the moments. The moments you stop doing the dishes to read a story with your child. The moments you hold a hurt child in your arms. The moments of laughter. The moments that shine.

Today, my little man asked me to dance. We'd been playing an intricate game of cement truck, fire truck and police car that had more plot twists than the final season of Lost, while listening to the Beatles. As "Let it Be" began to play, he looked up and said, "Mommy, let's dance." And so we did.

We stood, holding hands while we swayed, spun and dipped. I lifted him up on my hip and held tight to his little boy body, so different from the baby I once rocked to endless loops of music in the late afternoons. I showed him how a gentleman dances with a lady. I rested my head on his bony shoulder, breathing in the promise of the man he'd become. I felt his little hand on my back, the giggle in his throat as we turned.

The song played on. The afternoon sun slanted through the playroom windows and, for a moment, the whole world shone.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pinball Thoughts

Peanut was about 10 months old when I started this blog. He had finally settled into a predictable routine. I was settling into my role as a stay at home mom while the fog of his early infancy had cleared leaving me with the mental need for an outlet and the time to devote to it.

Three years later, Pumpkin is in his tenth month (yes, I'm in denial at how quickly that 11 month mark is approaching since the big bad first birthday is quick on its heels. Sniff.). He's finally settling into his little routines. School's back in and I have found a little mental breathing room in my life again.

As a result, I find my head is in constant action as a variety of thoughts, ideas, plans ricochet their way through my brain. I can't turn it off. Some of these ideas downright inspire me. Some scare the crap out of me. Some require more rumination and research. All demand more physical time than I seem to be able to conjure up and that, my friends, frustrates me no end. The time I *found* when Peanut was this age just doesn't exist this time around with an older child's demands.

My brain desperately wants to latch onto one of these thoughts/ideas/plans and dig in, get dirty in the execution/research/completion. Unfortunately, my physical self can't commit.

Am I rushing into it? Attempting to add more to my plate than my stomach can hold? Or am I afraid? Afraid of starting something I may love, something challenging, something time consuming that may make my short term uncomfortable but could pay off in the long term mama happiness bank?

I wish I knew. Unfortunately, Curious George is almost over and, therefore, so is my break time. One of these days I'll have it figured out. Won't I?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Attention, Attention

Peanut is back in preschool leaving me and Pumpkin three hours together on M/T/W and five whole hours on Thursdays. I'm newly inspired to accomplish all this nonsense on my to do list with only one child underfoot. It's amazing how much I can get done, suddenly. Until I remembered that I should be inspired to pay some individual attention to my youngest.

So, last week after dropping Peanut off at his first day of school, I sat on the floor of the playroom across from Pumpkin, surrounded by toys and attempting to engage him. He, apparently, couldn't care less. He was much more interested in rolling a ball around the floor to chase after, independent of anything I was saying or doing. Hm.

I realized in that moment how much Peanut dictates the tempo of this house. I wondered what in the world was I doing with Peanut all day long when he was this age? I questioned whether I was short changing Pumpkin.

Then we picked Peanut up from school and Pumpkin's eyes lit up once the second car seat was filled with the exuberance that is his older brother. I saw how during afternoon play time, he eagerly wanted to play with Peanut, crawling after him, pulling up on the train table to see what was going on, searching out Peanut's toys to experiment with, imitating him at lunch time, squealing with delight when Peanut popped into his room after nap time.

Although Pumpkin may not get the same individual mom attention that Peanut did, he doesn't lack for actual attention. The example that Peanut sets, the silly things Peanut does to make Pumpkin laugh, the attempt Peanut makes (sometimes) to play with his little brother all give Pumpkin a level of attention and care that I couldn't possibly provide alone.

That doesn't mean I won't still try to play with the roly-poly goodness of my second born, it just means I'll relax into the moments more, not feel guilty for filling the dishwasher while Peanut's at school and look forward to the beauty of their reunions each day during car pool.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Do You Hear What I Hear?

The blank page can sometimes be an evil thing. It stares at you, the cursor blinking, practically daring you to put thoughts to font. Then there is that delete button in the corner. Easily accessible to wiping out the babble, the bleh, the bad. Back to a blank page. Empty.

Somehow the clutter in my mind has manifested itself as a blank page. If only I could put that delete key to work in my brain. There has been a constant flow of thoughts, words, lists and tasks bumping around in my head. The result is a constant noise. An exhausting cacophony of to-dos, what ifs, not dones.

And so it is that I realize I haven't written in more than a week. More frustrating is that I haven't had that burning idea come to me in the shower that rattles around in my head until I just have to share it. And it's not for lack of things going on. Peanut's back in school this week. I'm tackling a side project. Pumpkin's cutting his third tooth and learning how to clap.

Maybe that's it. The busyness of life has clogged my thought process. Maybe. For now, I'll take small comfort in the words I've put down today. I'll work hard to fill another page tomorrow, or maybe the next day. And hopefully quiet the chaos enough to hear my own voice again.

That is the greater truth, isn't it? That we mother's are so busy listening for the cry on the playground, the bad dream whimpers in the middle of the night, the lack of sound when a toddler and a crayon might have been left alone too long, the yawns before nap time, that we often forget to listen to ourselves. And we need to hear ourselves. We need to hear the solutions, the dreams, the voice of our self. The self that isn't mommy. The self that isn't the speediest grocery shopper this side of the Mississippi. The self searching for words to put on a blank page.

So I'll take this rare new moment of quiet in my house while Peanut's at school and Pumpkin's napping to take a deep breath and listen. What will you hear?

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Battle I'm Going to Lose

It's not often that the hubby and I disagree on parenting issues or techniques, thank goodness. We tend to agree on how to handle the kids, the discipline problems, the outings, the TV time. And it makes life a lot easier. Or at least more consistent for the kiddos.

We have, however, come to an impasse.

Next weekend is the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game here in Atlanta, featuring my North Carolina Tar Heels against the LSU Tigers. It's been a long time since our football team has earned such national recognition and we've been pretty excited about the game since it was announced. Of course a lot of that excitement stemmed from the fact that we can go see our beloved Heels without having to drive six hours to Chapel Hill with two screaming kids in the car. To top it off, my lovely parents are going to come down for the holiday weekend and watch the boys while the hubby and I go the game. Bonus!

So far, so good. No issues here.

Until we began discussing other activities to take place over the weekend. I suggested that we could take in a bit of the Decatur Book Festival on Saturday morning. I even found out that Anna Dewdney (author of one of some of our faves, Llama, Llama Mad at Mama and Llama, Llama Red Pajama) will be leading a Pajama Parade and reading Saturday morning. I suggested we could go with the boys and my folks that morning, be home in time for nap time that afternoon and then we can head out to the game.

I was then informed: "Honestly, I'd rather take Peanut over to the College Game Day stuff that morning. I mean, it's the Heels."

Books vs. sports. My first love vs. the hubby's. *sigh*

Somehow, I know how this one's going to turn out.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Delayed Answer

While catching up with a former colleague on the phone last week, she announced that she's expecting. I am thrilled for her and of course offered a very sincere "if you have questions about anything..." And then when asked what my must-haves would be, I drew a blank. I think I threw out some random thoughts on snap bibs over Velcro and cloth diapers as burp cloths, but I'm sure nothing that the glowing, expectant mom hoped to see twinkling on a registry list.

After Peanut was born, I had lots of answers. When friends asked for my advice or opinions, I had them. What I liked about strollers, the best bottles, the most comforting swing, thoughts on play mats and exersaucers and post-delivery expectations... Why is it that it's so hard now? Is it that those were all things I didn't have to consider this time around so the decision making process is that much more distant? Or am I too busy to care anymore?

I think the reality is that the second time around you aren't analyzing the stuff anymore. You use what works and you don't what doesn't. You move through life with a bit more of an accelerated purpose than you did when your focus could be whether this toy or that was holding your little one's attention. For example, today Pumpkin's favorite play things were playground mulch at the park and an IKEA catalog. And I'm okay with that.

So after two kids, here is my list of must haves for new mamas:

* Love - Be ready to feel love in a way that you never have before. In a way that lives and breathes separate from you but inside of you at the same time. Be prepared to lose your breath at their beauty and chunks of time staring into their little faces.

* Patience - Whether it's sleepless nights, post-partum hormones, or fitting into your pre-pregnancy pants, you'll need patience to deal with it all. Remind your spouse of this fact. He'll need this one, too.

* Confidence - Everyone will tell you that your mothering instinct will kick in. In some way shape or form, it will. That doesn't mean that you will miraculously know exactly how to handle every baby situation thrown at you or can whip up a cake from scratch, but it does mean that you will be the best observer of and advocate for your baby. Whatever you do, trust yourself to know when you need to ask for help, ask if something's "right," or stand up for what you want. It's your body (during and post-delivery) and it's your baby. Nurses, doctors, family members, grocery store clerks, they all mean well, but they aren't going to be the ones nursing your baby at 2am or pacing the floors when they've missed curfew in 16 years. It's you and your kid in it for the long haul. Start trusting yourself now.

* Rest - All moms need to recharge in order to be the best mom they can be. You can follow the whole "sleep when the baby sleeps" mantra or simply take a bath or go out for coffee or put on a pair of heels when you go to the pediatrician's office. Whatever it takes to make you feel like you, do it. It sounds easy, but can prove to be difficult. Use that confidence you registered for above to help you stand up for your rest time.

* Stroller/Carrier/Car Seat/High Chair - Yup, you're going to need all that stuff. Don't stress about it. You do NOT need a $1,500 stroller just because the latest celebrimom has it. You do need to pick products that are safe and reliable and meet whatever other standards you have. Just remember that your kid will throw up in it, at least once, no matter how much you spend on it.

* A Sense of Humor - I can guarantee that your sweet, adorable little baby will wait to spit up all over you until after you shower for the first time in two days and put on your last clean shirt. You will also experience one blessed morning when you are actually leaving on time, not 15 minutes late, and realize, as you pick up the infant seat with your precious bundle snugly snapped inside and grinning at you, that he has pooped. Big time. If you can't learn to laugh at these situations, it's going to be a long road.

* Your baby - All you really need is this new little person you get to spend the rest of your life getting to know. And all they really need is you. The gear, the clothes, the toys, it's all just stuff. The soft baby smell at the back of the neck, the lip pursing when they're fast asleep, the sighs, the grunts, the smiles, the cries, the things that only you will know about your child, that's what you'll remember down the road, not the model number of the car seat or what color the Boppy cover was.

That being said, you will actually need diapers. But you can always swipe a few from the hospital at discharge.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Grading Mommy

I chose this. This life. This job. This this. This stay-at-homeness. My choice. For my family.

So, why do I sometimes stop and wonder what the heck I was thinking to leave my job, my professional persona, my heels behind? Why do I feel I'm not as good at this whole stay at home mom gig as I thought I would be?

Back in the working world I suffered through the annual review. I took those days away from real work to complete the torturous process of self-analysis and goal setting for the next year. I strangely enjoyed those meetings, dreaming up new challenges and ways to meet them, looking back on a year's worth of work to see what, in actuality, had I accomplished. New clients, client growth, story successes. All documented in a spreadsheet or report and gone over by bosses and bosses bosses followed up with a line-by-line of new goals and the all important performance raise circled at the bottom, initialed by me, put in a folder to endure the rinse and repeat process the following year.

The parameters for this new job are a bit more variable. Success or failure is fluid, the final results not in until years and years in the future. Instead, I find I measure myself against the day-to-day to-do list. And I'm often disheartened by what I see.

Cooking? Passable. Nothing too inspired.

Laundry? Onesies still banana stained, shorts still ice cream stained and really what is up with t-shirt sweat stains? And that doesn't count the laundry I forget in the washer for three days that has to be rerun.

Housekeeping? Ugh. Don't ask. The house is under a constant tornado watch. For every 10 things I clear off a surface, there seem to be 15 taking their place in the same spot by the time I return to it. I can't seem to get ahead.

The kids? Unpredictable. At times sweet, loving, funny and well behaved. Other times, hitting and pushing and obstinate.

We're all our own worst critics and how any one hour goes can define how we feel about the job we're doing as parents. So why is this weighing heavy on my mind all of a sudden?

Peanut's birthday party.

I put together a "handmade" pirate-themed party for Peanut's fourth. We did a treasure hunt obstacle course, complete with treasure map that arrived in a glass bottle. I had a great time making it theme-y without making it pricey and the kids had a blast. Peanut's still bringing it up and I received rave reviews from my friends and family.

And it felt good. Really good. That's when I realized how rare that kind of feedback is. How long it's been since I had accomplished something concrete with real results. Something that would have made the spreadsheet:

2010 Goal: Peanut's 4th Birthday Party.
Create theme and execute on a budget a two hour party with snacks that results in joy, laughter and memories for the birthday boy and 10 to 15 young guests.

Unfortunately, most of the mommy tasks don't fit so well into the corporate personnel analysis model and I'm left wondering if I'm doing enough, well enough. The fact of the matter is, who would be qualified to judge this job I'm doing anyway?

I know this is a circular problem. There are no answers. There are no yearly reviews to fall back on. There are only the day-to-day challenges. There are only the highs and the lows.

Then there are the raspberries that Peanut blew on Pumpkin's chunky baby cheeks this evening until they both dissolved into wet, sloppy giggles.

That's when I remember that I chose this. This life. This job. This this. This stay-at-homeness. My choice. For my family.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Four. A presidential term. A college education. The number of Beatles.

But today, four means the length of time Peanut has been a part of our world.

I've struggled with what to write about Peanut on his fourth birthday. Struggled partly because I'm still in a post party weekend exhaustion funk, partly because the past year has been all over the map. Three was not exactly an easy age. Peanut discovered his power. The power to stall, to pick the most inconvenient (read: public) moments to misbehave, to hit, to negotiate everything, to push my buttons.

Although this new found power turned a lot of our day-to-day interactions into a virtual tug-of-war that has often driven me to the brink of my patience, we have also had some super fantastic moments.

Peanut started preschool where a whole new little boy began to emerge. A confident, although sometimes coy, learner. A kid who started to learn how to make friends and negotiate those relationships on his own. A boy who is starting to find his legs (in all their gangly, knobby-kneed glory) and use them for more coordinated play, running, jumping, dancing, climbing. A curious child before school, he is now even more so.

He is a creative child when it comes to narrative play and building, less so when it comes to coloring or art. He can be literal to a fault. He is a sponge when it comes to letters, spelling, numbers, books. He is a creature of habit. He loves slapstick and will watch Wipeout with his daddy (DVR'd for Saturday morning viewing) and America's Funniest Videos just to laugh at people falling or getting hit in the face with something. I watch simply to watch him, giggling at his reactions.

He also became a big brother this year. He can be a sweet and loving big brother. He loves to make Pumpkin laugh, will offer him toys and roll a ball with him to Pumpkin's delight. And then, he can test his boundaries with baby brother with a random whack, push or bonk. Recent weeks have shown Peanut finding more joy in his brother and the potential for their play relationship and I can't wait to see what develops as Pumpkin continues to grow.

He continues to amaze, confound and tickle me. I am blessed to have him in my life, Pumpkin is lucky to have him as a big brother and our family wouldn't be the same without him. Even on his most difficult days, I count myself lucky to be his mama.

Happy Birthday, Peanut.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Fly on the Wall

I distinctly remember learning to swim at the local Y. The damp, chlorinated smell of the indoor pool. The slippery blue kick boards. The thrill of graduating to the deep end. I loved every second of it.

Peanut started his Y swim lessons last week. 30 years later, it's foam noodles and buckets with "Cars" characters on them. But the indoor pool? Yup, smells the same. Timeless.

I am able to watch the lessons from the other side of a glass wall in a little lounge area. It's been fascinating to be a fly on the wall. I have been able to observe him listening to another adult, being forced out of his comfort zone, see the excitement of achievement, gaining confidence in the water. But, almost more importantly, I have found myself learning. Learning that perhaps I hold Peanut back sometimes.

This summer, the times we've been in the pool, I am that helicopter mom. I live in fear of something happening. The first day that the instructor let Peanut go to swim to the wall on his own, he sank. I nearly jumped up to bang on that glass wall to pull my kid up. BUT before I could, there Peanut was. Swimming. Well, making an attempt at swimming. When he pulled himself up on that wall, shaking the water out of his hair, he was grinning ear to ear.

And so was I.

Tomorrow is our last class and I'm already going to miss it. I'm going to miss the activity it provides, the confidence it gives him, the totally cute, 20-something, tan, shirtless swim instructor...(yeah, I need to get out more).

I am thankful that I have had this time to take a breath and be an observant mom. Our day-to-day lives tend to be a constant conflict of the in the moment kid-centered activity and mom's
hovering, marathon long to-do list. As a result, it's sometimes hard to really see Peanut and the child he is becoming.

I'm happy to report, he is becoming one fantastic kid. Maybe not the best swimmer yet, but a happy, eager, fun little boy. And mom? She's learning to trust the boy he is becoming.

We'll see you at the pool.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Be a Memory

I am a Tar Heel. Class of 1998.

In the fall of my senior year, iconic basketball coach, Dean Smith, retired. He was a man I much admired. Not only was he beyond compare when it came to coaching basketball in a state where basketball is close to religion, but 96.6% of his players graduated and he fought for integration in a time and place when it wasn't the popular thing to do, but it was the right thing to do.

Recent days have revealed that Coach Smith, 80 years old now, is battling a memory disorder. As a family of Tar Heels, we are, of course, following the story, reading a variety of articles and watching the comments and posts coming in through Facebook.

And it's beginning to bother me. A lot.

Let me point out that Coach Smith has not passed on. He is still alive. He is still living his life. That was quite clear in the statement put out by his family. Yes, his life is amended. Yes, he isn't doing all that he was doing a year ago, five years ago, 10 years ago. But, yes, he is doing. Yes, he is LIVING.

The tone of so many of these articles has been one of loss, almost obituary-like. Like somehow he is somewhat less than as a result of a medical diagnosis. Perhaps it's the fascination of watching a great one fall, not wanting to see a hero weakened. But I think some of it has to do with being uncomfortable. And memory disorders do that to those not suffering. Make them uncomfortable.

I watched my grandmother suffer from a form of dementia. There is nothing more painful than not being recognized by a woman you love dearly and who has loved you. The blank stare. The empty smile. The subtle twitch of an eyebrow as perhaps somewhere she recognizes that she should know this young woman before her, but honestly and truly does not. Perhaps more painful was the struggle her husband and children encountered as they bore the brunt of the paranoia, the anger, the yelling and screaming, all born from a terrifying frustration, I'm sure, as you realize your own mind has failed you and you can do nothing to stop it.

I watched her at my grandfather's funeral. The funeral mass that was said in the chapel of her nursing home so that she could attend. Even though no one had told her yet that her husband had died. Because she hadn't noticed yet. And would she remember if told? She sat in a wheelchair in the back. She listened. She smiled politely. This person they spoke of seemed like a very nice man. He had a lovely family gathered around him to say goodbye. Perhaps she even thought we looked like the kind of family she'd like to have. I hope so. Because it was the family she did have. And our tears flowed that day, not only for the man we had lost but for the woman we seemed to have already lost to this horrible, humiliating disease.

When she did pass, not even a year after my grandfather, we all sighed and said it was for the best. We comforted ourselves by saying we'd said goodbye years ago since she was certainly not the tour-de-force woman we remembered. But she was still gone. And it still hurt. I can't help but wonder what those dementia years were like inside her mind. How hard that must have been for her. How she must have said goodbye to a piece of herself each and every day while fighting so damn hard to hold on to it.

Just this past weekend, on our wedding anniversary, a cousin of mine wished us well and pointed out a hilarious moment from our reception where he somehow ended up dancing with my grandmother to Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On." What a memory that is. A memory that I'm sure my grandmother would not have been able to call up in those last years, but would certainly have laughed at and appreciated the woman who danced so ridiculously with her grown grandson.

So I am bothered. I am bothered because Coach Smith has good days ahead of him. I am bothered because he has a family who will refuse to say goodbye until the time of parting. I am bothered because it is not a weakness, it is a disease. I am bothered because those who say goodbye to this man and his legacy now only serve to isolate him, and isolated is a scary way to live, regardless of whether you remember it or not.

Tar Heel nation and beyond, if you are bothered, uncomfortable, saddened or otherwise affected by this announcement, do something. Be Coach's memory. Take the lessons he imparted on the court to his players, take the model he was in the community and become a memory for someone else. Fight for research into these disorders. Visit that family member and share stories of the past.

Memories don't need to live inside your own mind to be alive.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Time to On Ramp?

I think about going back to the working world, wonder when the right time will be, daydream about what that "work" will be, struggle with how it will impact the family. So far, however, this has all been part of a thought process, not an imminent road map to on ramping.

However, apparently Peanut's ready for me to go back.

We were driving down the local highway when we saw a MARTA train. He's a bit obsessed with trains and immediately pointed out that it was a subway train. I thought this was my opportunity to earn some street cred and told him about how his mommy used to ride a train like that every day to work, only it was called the Metro.

His lips parted, his eyes sparkled. "What did you say?"

I explained how just like daddy goes to work every day, mommy used to go to work every day before I stopped to take care of him and Pumpkin. But unlike daddy, mommy had to take a bus to a train to get to work and that train was called the Metro. Maybe one day we'll go to that city, Washington, DC, and I'll show you the train mommy used to ride on.

Days later, he pipes up at the dinner table:

"Is today Sunday?"

- Yes, why?

"Do you go to work tomorrow, mommy?"

- No, sweetie, daddy goes to work tomorrow.

"I want you to go to work, mommy. And I'll come with you. We can ride the train."

If ever there was a reason to go back...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It Takes a Village

Seven miles. That was the distance between the front door of the house I grew up in and the dorm I lived in for three out of my four years of college. Seven miles.

After graduation, I wanted space. I wanted to test my wings and see if I could fly. And so we did. The hubby and I -- a month and a half after our wedding, three and a half months after my graduating college -- packed up a U-Haul and the cat, left our families in the rear view mirror and headed to Washington, DC. I maybe stopped crying around Petersburg, VA.

Six years later, with enough for a moving truck instead of the old U-Haul, we packed up again and headed south to Atlanta. This time, to fulfill the hubby's dream. I maybe stopped crying around Petersburg, VA.

I always thought we'd end up back in North Carolina. I wasn't sure when, it just seemed a given. Then we had Peanut. Then we built a life. Then we had Pumpkin. Here we are six years after moving to Atlanta, 12 years after leaving NC on that hot, tear-filled Labor Day weekend and I have no idea when or if we'll ever make it back to the old home state.

And that's okay. Most days.

But then I see how much our families miss by not seeing Peanut and Pumpkin on a frequent basis. Sure, I try to keep our families updated through a family blog, pictures, emails, phone calls and Skype, but it's not the same, is it? And then there are those selfish moments. Those moments when I wish I didn't have to worry about who was going to watch the kids so I could run to the dentist or the grocery store or have a regular date night with the hubby without breaking the bank. Those moments when I wish we could share not only a holiday, milestone or challenge in person with our families, but a random Wednesday night.

Peanut had a play date with a friend from school today. His mom is from Hungary. Although my family is a lot closer than an international flight, we were able to share in the pain of raising kids away from family help. We laughed about how great a Sunday dinner prepared by our moms would be, where we wouldn't have to do the dishes but could just go home afterwards. We daydreamed about calling someone for pinch hitting help on those rough days. We commiserated that those with help nearby will never understand just how good they have it, that we'd never take it for granted.

And then we talked about our neighborhoods. Our mom friends. Our girl friends. Our kids' school. I realized that not only does it take a village to raise a child, but that I have an awesome village. I have a circle of friends who have dropped whatever they are doing to help me in a pinch, as I have done for them. I have a network of neighbors to provide referrals on services, babysitters, preschools and more. I have women in my life who have provided me the honest advice and nonjudgmental support about becoming a better mom while also accepting the mother I am. I have a community that includes stimulating activities and educational opportunities for both my boys.

I'm not saying that those who live close to their families don't have these things, but there is a certain level of dependence this familial independence creates. The village takes on a whole new level of importance.

As much as I wish I was physically closer to our families, I take solace in knowing that I am creating a village that will teach, support and enhance Peanut's and Pumpkin's childhoods. And that will just have to do.

Until the next time I hear James Taylor's "Carolina In My Mind." Man, that song makes me homesick every time.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

C is for Date Night?

Tonight at dinner, we were working on getting Peanut to eat his spaghetti relatively neatly. My expectations aren't too high, but I do expect him to give a good faith effort at the dinner table. He's big into pretend, right now, so I suggested we pretend we are in a fancy restaurant.

Peanut thought it was somewhat fun as I acted like a completely silly waiter, but tried to insist that restaurants aren't in houses and we were in a house. I tried another tack:

High Heeled Mama: "Someday you might want to take LG (his friend from school he calls his girlfriend) to a nice restaurant, so you'll need to know how to behave."

Peanut: "No, I want to take her to the place with the cookies. Where was that place, mommy?"

HHM: "Schlotzky's Deli?" (Where we met up with the hubby for lunch near his office last week and P's meal came with a cookie).

P: "Yeah, schlozzie's. That's a good place."

Oh, my poor child's future dates. I apologize in advance. This boy has a lot to learn.

Although, I suppose cookies isn't a bad place to start...

Thursday, July 8, 2010


It's been a parenting challenge in our house lately. Peanut has been showing age three the door with a bang that I can only hope will keep that bad attitude out when four arrives...but I'm not so sure yet. Power struggles, taking out aggression on the little brother, defiance, deaf ears, we've got it all. And it hasn't been pretty.

Activity, and lots of it, tend to be our behavior savior around here. Unfortunately, it was to the detriment of Pumpkin's naps. I scaled back the activity meter a little bit, made a few timing adjustments and naps have gotten back on track. I've been sucking up the repercussions each afternoon about 4pm when Peanut gets bored or frustrated about sharing time. And by sucking it up, I mean counting down the minutes until the hubby gets home to help balance the adult to child ratio.

Today, however, was a good day. A really good day. We met up with some friends at an area train museum. Okay, so it was 100 degrees out - not the best environment for climbing in and out of trains. Outside. But the kids had a great time checking out all the different cars and engines and buses and models and signals and lights and whistles. We had a few moments of Peanut turning a deaf ear, but brief moments that didn't mar our adventures, moments more a product of excited distraction than intentional defiance.

I braced myself, however, for the onslaught of bad behavior the afternoon would bring. We were all hot and tired. It was destined. And then. It didn't happen. We played a few games. We did some puzzles. He cleaned up the blocks after he was done with them (what?!). He crashed cars on his train table to the sheer delight of his baby brother who just stood on my legs, watching, squealing in that delicious, uncontrollable baby belly laugh way at every hit, bang and car flip.

Later, as we "spied" for the hubby to come home, I spotted two brothers that live up the street as they walked home from a friends house. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but they walked close to each other. Sharing stories of their day, perhaps, or planning the evening's games or discussing whose favorite superhero was superior. It was the closeness that got me. The nearness of their swaying arms, the almost imperceptible tilt of their heads towards each other as they trudged home from another busy summer day of play, sun, freedom.

And there it was. In the depth of the laughter, in the sway of those brothers' arms, in the pressure of Pumpkin's little feet on my thigh, was a promise of the future. A future that isn't so distant. I felt that moment stand still and etch itself into my memory to be recalled on those afternoons that aren't so perfect. I relaxed into it. I smiled.

Correction. I smile.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Evolution of the Fourth

The Fourth of July holiday has always been special to me. Growing up, we often spent the 4th celebrating America's independence in the cradle of the Revolution - at either my grandparents' in Rhode Island or my aunt's in Massachusetts. Clam boils, tubing, swimming, the Boston Pops, pop-up thunderstorms, cousins, hide and seek, coffee ice cream, red, white and blue, we had it all. And it was good.

As I got older, work, moves, my grandparents' passing all made these fourths less frequent. I realized today just how different the 4ths of my recent past have been from the 4ths of my youth.

Six years ago this 4th, the hubby and I were in Atlanta from DC to go house hunting before our big move. I spent the morning before meeting with the real estate agent kneeling on the cold tile floor of the Omni Hotel bathroom convinced I was going to hurl at any moment. I was excited about the move. Confident on the outside to the point where I think I was starting to believe it. In the moments before meeting a total stranger who would soon show us possible homes in a city I knew very little about, the reality of uprooting our lives hit me like a ton of bricks.

Somewhere in our agent's car while looking at houses in neighborhoods as different from each other as Buckhead and Candler Park, I fell in love with this diverse new city of ours. By the end of the weekend, we had a contract on a house and the real fun began.

Four years ago this 4th, I was 8 months pregnant and went to a Braves game with the hubby. What was I thinking? It was hot. I was swollen. It was hot. I couldn't drink beer. It was hot. There was a huge thunderstorm that sent us scurrying to the sweltering safety of the concourse where no one offered the swollen, sweaty, gigantic pregnant lady a seat. I sat on the ground until it stopped raining enough for us to call it a night and head back to the car in relative dryness, at which point the poor hubby had to hoist me in a very ungraceful way off of the floor. We made it home in time to watch the remainder of the game with my swollen ankles up on the sofa and a gallon of ice cream perched on my belly.

A year ago this Fourth, I was pregnant again and somehow decided that since I was sick with some horrible respiratory thing and not going anywhere anyway that I'd commence potty training boot camp. That weekend was the last time this house saw a diaper until Pumpkin arrived. Gives new meaning to Independence Day, huh?

This year, there are four of us. How appropriate.

When I think of the Fourth of July, I am instantly transported to the 4ths of my youth, yet here I am with significant events marking my adult 4ths. And now, as we move into yet another phase of life, we will begin to formulate memories of the 4th for our children.

It might be time to schedule a clam boil for next year. Guess I better start calling the cousins.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wondering if I Should be Insulted

I'm in the midst of Camp Peanut over here. The one thing I've noticed since Peanut's been out of school is that he does much better when he's busy. The more outings, adventures, activities we have, the better behaved he is and the happier we all are.

The problem with this, is that I can hardly keep up. There are only so many at home activities I can brainstorm in a day after I've exhausted offering puzzles, games, Play-Doh, water paints, inflatable pools, stories... Most of the time my efforts are shot down with an "I want to play trains" or "I want to watch TV" (that one kills me a little more each time).

In order to diversify his interests, we've been taking advantage of all our Atlanta-area memberships. Last week, we hit up two different playgrounds, the pool, Fernbank, the Children's Museum and Target (hey, it's next to a busy train track so that totally counts as a field trip). The problem with this is I have completely succeeded in ruining Pumpkin's nap time schedule. He doesn't know when he needs to sleep or catches a nap in the car seat and as a result, spends much of his day overtired and cranky refusing crib naps when he most needs them. This week, as a result, I'm trying to slow the schedule down a bit and see if we can get Pumpkin back on the nap track.

Instead, I've been working really hard to keep Peanut occupied and interested in a variety of activities at home. But two days in a row now, Peanut has thrown an absolute fit. Why? Because he can't go to his friends' house. Yesterday, we had our normal workout and post-workout play date at the playground. As we were leaving, I had to drag Peanut away from D's stroller. He wanted to go to D's house desperately. I tried talking up all the fun things we could do at home. D's mama tried boring him with the list of things she needed to do: grocery shopping, laundry, chores. Peanut replied he loved the grocery store and would help D with his chores (if only Peanut would do the ones I ask of him at home with such enthusiasm). Today, Peanut's friend J was over for a play date. Peanut insisted he was going to go home with J. I told him that no, we had things we needed to do here and J and his mommy had things to do this afternoon, too. Again, another scene. This one complete with "It's booooooring here."

My kid is basically telling me I'm no fun. Great. Either I stink as a cruise director or his teenage years are really gonna kill me.

Either way, we're in for another long afternoon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Stealing Time

Life with two kids who don't regularly nap/rest/calm down means I rarely have a moment to think in complete sentences not to mention spend it doing something that truly energizes or restores me. Sure, I can grab a quick peek at Twitter or maybe read a magazine article while nursing, but settle into a comfy chair with a cup of (decaf) coffee and a book or find a quiet space to work on that writing project? Eh, not so much.

Every once in awhile, though, you come across a gift of a moment. An unexpected place or time is suddenly opportunity for solitude.

Today? The doctor's office. Who knew waiting to have a mole removed would be so restful? This is why I never travel anywhere without a book. While waiting in a quiet room, I was transported, absorbed in someone else's words without the demand of a preschooler to help build the (fifth of the day) train track or the cry of an infant who desperately needs but adamantly refuses a nap or the pull of sleep when I finally crack the spine at bedtime.

Ah, a moment. A stolen moment just for me.

Although I could have used a more comfy chair.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

I met the hubby when I was 15. He was 18. Oh, it was scandalous.

I had no idea then that he would be the amazing man, loving father and patient husband that he is today (let's be honest, he was cute, he was funny, he was a senior and that was reason enough to date him). He's probably going to be surprised to read this since I've been a total nitpicker lately.

Two kids has put much more of a strain on our marriage than one did. We were married eight years when Peanut entered our lives and I am thankful for every last one of those child-free years we spent together. We traveled. We went out. We took risks. We knew each other inside and out so that when those first sleep-deprived days descended and we both were acting like crazed new parent lunatics, we could slough it off knowing that the "real" person was underneath the hormones, the spit up and the puffy eyes.

Pumpkin's arrival has been a whole different ball of wax. Nothing and everything changed. Peanut's routines are still Peanut's routines, we simply have a whole other human being to care for on top of it. I've been having a harder time adjusting to that than anyone else in the house and, unfortunately, the hubby gets the brunt of my frustration whether he deserves it at that moment or not.

Although this time around has been harder and more challenging, I wouldn't trade a day of it (okay, maybe I'd trade my trip to the ER or Pumpkin's milk allergy, but two days out of a couple of hundred isn't bad). The hubby is an involved dad. He's not afraid to take on the stinky diapers, the nighttime sleep training, the solo trips to Florida with a newly potty trained toddler. He's in charge of bedtime every night. He's even taken two kids to the grocery store while I was getting a massage. I don't think that will ever happen again, but he did it. Voluntarily. Without complaint.

He's a partner, not a babysitter. He's involved in parenting decisions, reading as much parenting lit as I do, offering suggestions, trying techniques, providing perspective when I can't see the forest for the trees. His priority each and every day is my and the boy's happiness. He's a patient, patient man and much more than I deserve.

I feel a lot of pressure to raise good men. Men who respect women. Men who make good choices. Men who contribute. Men who will make worthy partners in the future. Then I take a look at the man they see most often and relax. I could not have asked for a better man to be a role model for my boys.

For all this and much, much more, I am so thankful for him on this Father's Day.

Happy Father's Day, honey.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Zero, Zip, Zilch

I got nothing.

I just spent 45 minutes drafting a post that's turning into some sort of self-flagellation at my inability to get my seven month old to nap and my three year old to stop hitting. I was beginning to bore myself.

Instead of that dribble, here I am, admitting that I'm stuck. Stuck in the parenting weeds. Mired down in the mundane. Running from task to task, feeling like no one is getting the best of me and so tired at the end of the day that I'm not even sure what the best of me is anymore.

So bear with me. I'm working on a few things, sorting a few things out, tapping into some creative resources that hopefully will remind me of, well, me. And then I can sit down here and string together some words that are more interesting than the wasted ones I spent the last 45 minutes typing.

I promise.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Same Shoes, Different Day

Last week, during a workout, a new mom was lamenting stiffness in her Achilles, complaining she could barely walk each morning when she first gets out of bed. Another mother of a newborn, joined in the conversation asking if she used to wear heels a lot for work.

"It really can take awhile for your legs to get used to flats."

I chuckled.

Three years ago today I started writing in this little corner of the Internet. Peanut was nearly 10 months old. I was finally leaving that fog of infant upheaval and settling into a fairly predictable routine. As a result, I was finally realizing that I had really and truly left my job. Although I didn't want to go back to my job, I started missing some of what it offered: intellectual challenge, adult conversation, personal success, and, you know, a daily excuse to wear fabulous shoes. This space became my place to explore those feelings and, maybe, just maybe, provide a little of that stimulation and camaraderie I was missing.

Three years later, I am so thankful for this space. Thankful for the venting it allows me to do; the opportunity it provides for me to take a step back and analyze a challenge I'm facing - whether that's potty training or guilt about living far away from family; the conversations I've had as a result of a post. Three years later, however, I am still struggling with what I want to be when I grow up, how I'm going to on-ramp, and when my kids and I will be ready to take that route.

Three years later, my legs are certainly much more acclimated to flats than heels, but the mama? Although I may wear the heels only on the rare occasion now, I think it's safe to say, I'm still just a high heeled girl adjusting to a life in flats.