Sunday, November 27, 2011

30 Days of Thanks: The Holiday Weekend

I've been so slack about my daily thank yous. Not that I haven't had anything to be thankful for, but between work and kids and strep throat and hosting Thanksgiving, sometimes the last thing I could do at the end of the evening was put my fingers on a keyboard and expect something coherent to appear.

In an attempt to make up some ground, here is what I am thankful for after our fantastic Thanksgiving weekend:

* Visitors! My kids were so excited that people were coming here. I think they realized how special that was. And not having to pack up for the fourth time in as many months to make the six hour drive north on I85 on Wednesday was definitely something for us to be thankful for.

* Nieces. My sister's six month old little girl is a complete and total munchkin. Watching her perfect sitting up and come perilously close to crawling while trying to keep up with the boys was so much more fabulous than the hour or two I normally get with her when we're in town bustling between her house and whatever commitments we have and visiting with our other niece and nephew. Having one on one time with any member of our family is a precious commodity and I truly value the opportunity we had this weekend to watch her over the course of several days and wonder at her perfection.

* Sisters. Let's just say last Thanksgiving featured pregnancy hormones and the Thanksgiving before that boasted my postpartum hormones and both led to some not-pretty sisterly moments. This year? It was back to the best of times and I had a blast. Particularly because I was able to see her in full on mommy mode and she is awesome at it.

* Parents/Grandparents. Maybe I'm weird, but I like hanging out with my folks. We have interesting conversations about politics and books and assorted randomness. It was nice to just pour a glass of wine and chat. On the other hand, I also love watching them with the boys. Reading stories, building blocks, playing games, watching movies, they are all in when it comes to their grandkids and I love it. And hearing my toddler refer to Grandpa as "Buppa" is just too cute for words.

* The Atlanta Botanical Gardens. If you live in the Atlanta area, please go see the Garden Lights this season. The whole family (and half of Atlanta) went on Friday night and it was just spectacularly beautiful. Walking hand-in-hand with my five year old through the pitch black rain forest house with the frogs chirping all around us and looking up into the vine draped canopy that was glittering in green laser lights was a moment I will hold onto forever. Trust me. You should go.

* Warm climates. We spent Friday at a local park walking and playing and chasing after Peanut on his big wheel trike. Then we spent that evening at the Botanical Gardens without having to bundle up in 5 layers to stay warm. Enjoying the outdoors as a family and walking off the previous days pies was a wonderful way to spend the day.

* Sunday. This morning, my parents stopped in between their hotel and their trip north. They hit the road at 10am and called about 4:15 to say they had arrived home. In that time, I finished a book, did three loads of laundry, changed the linens in the boys' room, emptied the dishwasher, and wrote four press releases for work. That doesn't include all the activities the boys have all been up to in that time. Not having to drive the six hours home from a family holiday was a unique moment for us, and one that I truly appreciate.

I hope your holiday weekends were as lovely and filled with thanks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

30 Days of Thanks: New Carpet

We moved into our Atlanta home seven years ago. It was quite a change from DC to Atlanta and even more of a change from our three-story, brand-spankin' new town home in the burbs, to a much smaller, 1952 ranch in the city. In the seven years that we've been here, our second bedroom has gone from my home office to a nursery to a bustling bedroom for two rambunctious boys. Our "keeping" room has gone from casual dining area to a casual dining area/office (see preparing for nursery phase) to a playroom.

Through it all, our den has sported horrible, disgusting carpet that needed to be replaced the moment we moved in. It was old, worn and stained with bleach by the sliding glass door. At first it was a financial decision to wait to replace it. We'd just moved. The hubby was in grad school. Then I was pregnant. Then we had a baby and only one income. Then we got a tax refund. Then we found somewhere else to spend that refund. Then we had another baby. Then we just figured crappy carpet is good to have with two messy boys running around. Then, we couldn't take it anymore and we bit the bullet.

Today, I am looking at a beautiful new, cushy carpet. I am also looking at a decluttered room. In the process of taking things out of the room for the install, I am realizing how little I want to bring back in. It's forcing us to take a harder look at how we live and how we can better organize it.

But I think we'll save the harder look for after turkey day, leave the boxes in the attic and spend Thanksgiving with our guests in a lovely, open, brighter space.

Monday, November 21, 2011

30 Days of Thanks: Support

In a weird upside down world today, the hubby stayed home with the kids while I went to work. The kids are out of school this week and the hubby took the week off thanks to some PTO he's got to burn. As a result, I was the one in her school clothes, laptop packed up and kissing kids goodbye at the door.

Throughout this whole adventure back into heels, the hubby has been nothing but supportive, emotionally when I need a pick up, and physically when I need him to take kid duty so I can get a few hours of work done. Even though they are far away, my family has been supportive, checking in, being curious and listening to me when I feel stressed. My friends have offered play dates if I need them for child care and have been patient when I seem scattered.

Without this support, I'm not quite sure I'd be able to do what I'm doing. I'm enjoying the work, the people are great and there is something incredibly confidence building about putting on "real" clothes and heading out into the world to use your noggin. But, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't hard. Inevitably, there are days with a deadline that my toddler doesn't understand. There are days when I feel pulled in 100 different directions and I'm in control of none of them. There are days when my messy house points out to me that I am not, in fact, "doing it all."

Those are the days when the hubby, my family and my friends are my lifesaver. Reminding me why I'm doing this, telling me that they are proud of me, urging me on. Today was not one of "those" days (thanks to the hubby being home with the young'uns) and yet there was my sister-in-law, in the midst of her own career-changing happy news telling me how great she thinks it is that I'm doing what I'm doing.

And so far all who have called, emailed or simply asked how it's been going, thank you. I hope I can pay the encouragement forward.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

30 Days of Thanks: Brothers

Strep's been making the rounds. The hubby fell after me and Peanut started sporting a ping-pong sized lump in his neck Wednesday that normally would have instilled panic in his mother, but with the dreaded strep germ plowing through the family, it simply meant a trip for a quick throat swab followed by the expected stop at the drug store for ye old antibiotics.

So forgive my absence but I've been alternating between resting, nursing sickos, doctor's offices, work and disinfecting the house.

Between the sick days and a few teacher conference days at Peanut's school, there has been a lot of together time around here. As stressful as all that indoor forced time has been, I have enjoyed watching the budding buddy-ship develop between my two boys. Not that there isn't still a lot of pushing, whacking and toy-stealing, but there has also been whispering, giggling and creating games together. Teamwork has started to emerge and I can see them try to please each other with silly antics or new ideas for train tracks/buildings/car races, beaming with satisfaction when the other one "gets" it.

The kicker was driving the boys home from something the other day and hearing Peanut start singing the ABC song for his little brother and Pumpkin joining in (there are lots of 'E's and 'S's in his alphabet). The sound of their sweet voices together in the car was enough to melt a mother's heart, but peeking in the rearview, I could see their little heads turned towards each other as they sang, smiles on their faces as they got to the "big finish."

I took a mental picture, memorizing the moment in my mother's soul. It's a moment I'll need to hold fast to and remind them of when their relationship is tested, when voices are raised, when life might take them to different corners of the world.

The moment I saw them as more than brothers, but as friends.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

30 Days of Thanks: Timing

There is no good time to be sick. Especially when you're a parent.

This time, though, I am thankful that if I had to get strep, at least I got it on a weekend. The hubby took care of the kids all weekend letting me get the rest I needed. He took care of dinners and waking up with the kids and keeping them away when I needed him to. I got to sleep in and take naps and stay in my jammies.

Sure, I'll need to take care of the grocery shopping y, and the laundry at some point this week. But being able to just be for two days and let my body heal instead of squeezing in rest time between car pool and play time on a weekday has been priceless.

I'm not 100 percent yet, but I'm definitely a lot farther along than I would be otherwise. And for that small luxury, I am thankful.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

30 Days of Thanks: Silver Linings

I have strep throat. And it sucks. You have no idea how much energy your kids have or how loud they are until you don't feel good and just want to lay still on a couch willing the antibiotics to work faster, much, much faster.

The last time I had strep I was a senior in college. One of my roommates and I drove ourselves to student health, both miserable, and left with two sets of antibiotics. Our third roommate headed for the hills (aka, her boyfriend's apartment) to avoid the germs. Lara and I took up positions on the couches under layers of blankets. There was lots of oatmeal, tea and Lifetime movies. We complained and laughed and in a few days finally felt well enough to disinfect the apartment so our third could come back home.

What was on the surface a no fun couple of days, now is one of my fondest memories of Lara. It was a few days where it was just the two of us. We talked about anything and everything. We commiserated over the pain of swallowing. We had nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Lara passed away seven years ago in a car accident.

So although I am once again prone on the sofa, about to see what crappy TV I can find as I snuggle under a different pile of blankets, I am thinking of Lara and all the silly, wonderful things I miss about her. The butter and sugar she loaded into her oatmeal. The episodes of "Walker, Texas Ranger" she could watch over and over. Her brilliant smile.

It sucks being sick. It sucks that my friend is gone. But thinking about her right now actually makes me feel a little bit better.

Today, Lara, I am thankful for you. I miss you.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

30 Days of Thanks: Moments of Quiet

The days I head into the office with not much on my agenda but some time to get work done in the presence of other adults always end up being the craziest days. So, it was much to my dismay that a friend texted about meeting at a playground in the afternoon. I just didn't think I could swing it with all that had suddenly appeared in my lap. Then, she offered to simply take the 5 year old for the afternoon so I could get some work done. An unexpected surprise.

What was a miracle was that the littlest guy actually took a nap. Since moving him into his "big boy bed" due to his crawling out of the crib antics, he has not been napping. He was beyond cranky as I tried to pull his lunch together after school today. I took him into our room and rocked him to calm him down. Much to my surprise, he drifted off to sleep.

After settling him into bed, I had an afternoon of quiet in front of me. Not only was I able to get work done, but I was able to do it without the stress of pulled focus.

The icing on the cake was Pumpkin waking up hours later in a fabulous mood. And my mood wasn't so bad either. It's amazing what a nap can do -- for both baby and mama.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

30 Days of Thanks: Moments of Beauty

In the every day hustle and bustle of herding children out the door, into the car, back into the car, back into the door and all that fills in the minutes, hours and days in between, I sometimes lose sight of what's right in front of me. The little things. The beautiful things.

A child might hand me a leaf or want to linger by a duck pond providing a moment or two of quiet reflection at the beauty in the world, but it's typically followed by a tantrum about leaving. Luckily, today, I had a longer moment. A moment that was mine.

I was doing crunches (ugh). Along with several other women taking part in today's workout class, I was flat on my back, lifting my shoulders to the sky, lamenting the fact that my abdominal wall might never actually meet in the middle again (or if it did, I will never see it due to that layer I prefer to call insulation). Then, I took a deep breath and saw what was around me. Well, more accurately, what was above me.

A beautiful blue sky. A wisp of a cloud. The warmth of the sun on my arms. The brilliant colors of the leaves. It was breathtaking and quiet and peaceful and I am thankful for being able to recognize that moment. Sometimes that's all you need.

Monday, November 7, 2011

30 Days of Thanks: My Dad

Today I am thankful for my dad. He's just been on my mind today. And I want to say thank you for being strong, thank you for being honest, thank you for walking through the tunnel even when you weren't sure where the light was, thank you for being braver than brave.

I love you.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

30 Days of Thanks: A Good Foundation

It's no secret that having babies changes a few things. Many of them are wonderful, awesome changes. There is the new little person who loves you unconditionally. You get to witness them experience the world and all its sights, scents and textures. They start to say the most fantastically hysterical things. There are also the changes you could have done without. The hours of lost sleep, the ear infections, the smart mouthing.

And then there are the physical changes. The battle scars you bear for bearing your children. The stretch marks. The wider hips. The sag.

So today, I sucked it up, got remeasured and plunked down some serious change so that tomorrow when I get dressed, I will feel great from the inside out. And for that, I am thankful.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

30 Days of Thanks: Second Birthdays

Today is Pumpkin's second birthday. It has most certainly been a better birthday than last year.

For his first, I had the invitations printed, invited a handful of friends and our families and made the appropriate plans for a fun-filled first birthday party. Then, my uncle passed away. Party cancelled. We regrouped and decided to do an even smaller, immediate family only get together while we were in NC for my uncle's funeral. Then, Pumpkin got sick. The pediatrician did not recommend that we travel. Second party cancelled.  We have the saddest pictures of our sick little guy opening presents, just staring at the camera, expressionless.

I was excited to have this year as a do-over. And yet, somehow, it all got away from me. No play dates planned. No backyard barbecues. All were thoughtfully considered and then promptly pushed aside by the 13 other priority tasks at any given moment. Suddenly it was a few days before and I had to suck it up and admit that we weren't doing anything special for his birthday.

Typical second kid, I guess. Peanut has had some sort of celebration for each of his five birthdays. I'm 0 for 2 with Pumpkin. And yet, somehow, we've had the perfect day. Just the four of us. Our little nuclear unit. There were outings and presents and cake and giggles and hugs and kisses and just enough crazy to make it a normal day. And at the end of it, we tucked Pumpkin into his "big boy bed" for the first time.

A year ago, he wasn't walking. A year ago, I was still nursing. A year ago, we thought he had a milk allergy. A year ago, he wasn't talking. A year ago, he was still my baby.

Today? Well, today he's running. He's crawling out his crib so much that we had to ditch the front wall of it and transition it to a bed in an attempt to save our sanity. He's talking up a storm, exploding with new words this week alone. He's thoughtful and funny. He and his brother are working together more than ever, making up games, making each other laugh, making up when they fight (after some prompting).  He can count to three on his fingers, proclaiming a triumphant "YAY!" each time he gets to three. He loves books and animals and all things vehicular from trains to cars to space shuttles. His favorite color is orange and he always gets it right. His next favorite color is green, which he does not always get right, and purple, which essentially is anything blue or darker. Flowers and butterflies are "wubbies." Monkey and pumpkin sound exactly the same. He jumps. He wiggles. He sings. He is on the verge of boyhood.

Although we are on the precipice of those terrible twos, he is still my comic relief to the power struggles I have with the five year old. He's always one tickle spot and giggle fit away from melting away all my worries. His little "hi" makes me smile and is always impeccably timed.

Today, I am thankful for my not-so-little-anymore Pumpkin and all the joy and wonder he has brought into our family. Here's to another great year of discovery.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

30(ish) Days of Thanks

I can't believe it's been a month since I've posted here. To say I have missed this space is an understatement. I think of post-worthy material all the time. Between adjusting to work, my husband being gone on a seven day road trip, the not-yet-two-year-old learning to climb out of his crib and the resulting later bedtimes and lack of naps. There's been a lot to say and not a lot of time to say it.

Suddenly, it's November again. I noticed a bunch of NaNoWriMo posts on Monday night. Folks I know gearing up for the big 50,000 word count challenge. As crazy as last year was (and as dusty as that manuscript has become in my closet), I was jealous. I wish I could take November and devote it to reworking last year's attempt. Unfortunately, it's just not in the cards. I just haven't achieved that level of balance yet.

Then. The kicker. I started seeing friends and strangers posting 30 Days of Thanks posts. Wow. A little idea I had a few years ago that's blossomed beyond my imagination. And it seemed to be all happening without me.

In all the hustle and bustle that has become my daily life and with the promise of another hectic holiday season upon us, I need to take a step back. I need to remind myself that there is so much in my life that I'm grateful for. And although I know that and see that every day, I do need to be present in it. I need to acknowledge it. I need to come to this space and write about it.

So forgive me for being absent. Forgive me if my daily posts this month aren't daily. Forgive me if they are brief. Just know that I'm trying.

Let me begin this year's 30 Days of Thanks by catching up (after all, it is the third already):

1 - I am thankful for Halloween candy. I shouldn't be thankful for it based on my inability to squeeze in enough workouts lately, but when that toddler of mine decides to not nap and fill our afternoons with added cranky chaos, a Reese's peanut butter cup (or two) certainly helps dull the frustration for a minute.

2 - I am thankful for piles of leaves. Watching my boys frolic under a tree in the park with half the neighborhood kids in a  massive leaf throwing frenzy made me forget the deadlines and the dishes, if just for an hour.

3 - Today, I am thankful for this space. Thankful for a place where I can work out my frustrations, challenges, joys and pains with a community of readers who just may be struggling with a similar issue at that moment. Thank you for giving me this place and for honoring me with a few moments of your own busy days to read what I have put there. I am truly grateful.

Participating in this year's 30 Days of Thanks? You don't have to have a blog. Simply post a daily thank you on Facebook or Twitter.