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I survey the situation from my place on the couch, the cup of coffee I’ve already reheated three times cold again in my hand. The floor is littered with Matchbox cars, discarded stickers and various bits and pieces of other toys. Dog hair tumbleweeds around the furniture. I need to vacuum, but that would require buying some new vacuum bags, and if we’re being honest, last week I just pulled some old hair out of the last bag to make some room. The breakfast dishes are still in the sink; bloated, milk-logged Cheerios floating amongst coffee grounds.

It’s 8 o’clock in the morning. The older boys are still playing fairly well together, though very loudly, but I know the clock is ticking. Some time in the next 45 minutes their bro love will expire and they will transform into shrieking bear cubs tackling each other (and getting covered in dog hair). I know I should get up and start getting us ready for our day. The baby is napping — thank goodness — though it’s taken much longer to get him down than it did even a week ago. He needed to nurse more, had to poop, wanted to check out the world around him. When I nuzzled his neck before placing him in the crib, I noticed he smelled faintly of parmesan. I make a mental note to wash away the traces of spit up when he wakes up.

I’m tired. Six weeks of middle-of-the-night baby time coupled with refereeing the older two is catching up with me. The bags under my eyes can no longer be hidden by makeup. I avoid showing my face when we Skype with my mom so I don’t have to hear her say I look tired. I know I look tired. I AM tired.

I hurl myself up and head to my room. The clothing situation is bleak. I throw on a clean(ish) nursing bra, one of the few shirts that doesn’t emphasize the postpartum middle fluff, and a pair of stretchy shorts I got at Walmart for $3.77. I do my best attempt at eye circle coverage, and twist my hair into a top knot.

I return to the living room just in time to catch the tail-end of an argument over…blocks? A truck? World peace? I don’t even know. Whatever the reason, it involves shrieking, and I end up yelling at them to just leave your brother alone already! before hustling them into clothes and out the front door. Go. Play. Now. I reheat my coffee for the fourth time and join them outside.

They play. Eventually I hear Drew stirring and go to retrieve him. He screams bloody murder as I change his diaper (how DARE I?), but is content when we settle into the Adirondack chair to nurse. As we do, I occasionally have to shoo his brothers away from him, telling them to get out of his face while he’s eating. Repeat this process all day.

~

I know how this sounds. It sounds like I’m not so much into this three kid thing. Truthfully, it’s hard. It’s harder than I thought it would be. We are finding our groove and it’s certainly getting more manageable, but still. For every easy hour there are a handful of tough ones. The biggest challenge? I’m just totally outnumbered. It’s nearly impossible to attend to everyone at once. I just don’t have enough hands!

Despite all that, this three kids thing is also pretty spectacular. Owen and Ryan absolutely adore Drew. The first thing Ryan asks for every morning is “Baby Dooooo”, and Owen has really begun to shine in his role as Biggest Brother. And Drew? Oh, my littlest boy. He is pure sweetness and everything that is good. He’s a bit fussier than I would like, but he sleeps fairly decently and graces us with big gummy smiles and coos. And when he doesn’t smell like parmesan, he smells pretty delicious.

I know eventually the postpartum pounds will drop away, I will sleep through the night again, and my boys will graduate from shouting “THAT’S MINE!” to at least not needing me to referee every fight. I know this is a season in life and one day I will look back on it wistfully. So I am doing my best to stay in the moment and navigate with grace.

Unshowered, sleepy, occasionally grumpy grace, but grace none-the-less.

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The last week or so has been a rough one. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Last Sunday:

How it starts: We load up and hit the road early for a 3.5 hour drive to my sister’s graduation. Knowing I’ve timed it just right, I figure Ryan will nap most of the way and Owen might even fall asleep as well. We will get to New York just around lunch time and both will be rested enough to enjoy the graduation before heading to my aunt and uncle’s house for lunch.

What actually happens: Owen immediately falls asleep and stays that way for most of the ride. Ryan naps for 40 minutes then proceeds to cry on and off the remainder of the trip. Since he’s hardly rested, he is exhausted by the end of the ceremony, yet refuses to nap the rest of the day. At all. He is in full-blown meltdown mode by the time we head back home that evening. Both boys sleep the whole way home and we arrive around 10 p.m.

What happens next: I bring the boys in and Michael lets Kodiak out the front door for a quick bathroom break before bed. It’s pitch black and pouring rain. He’s mad at us for leaving him during the day (even though Michael’s grandmother let him out twice). While Michael is in the garage, Kodiak saunters away into the dark and refuses to come when called. Fast forward through countless searching, both on foot and in the car and calling and calling him, and we give up, angy, and hope he comes home safely. At 1:30 in the morning I hear him bark to come in. I open the slider and as he walks into the house — BAM. I’m hit with it.

He’s been skunked. UGHHHH. We quickly put him in the garage but the damage is done. The house STINKS. It is so overpowering that I have to sleep with the blanket over my head just to breathe. He is so very much in the dog house.

How it ends: In the morning, I wash him twice to no avail. He spends the next three (thankfully sunny) days outside and sleeps in the garage until we can take him to the groomers on Thursday. He is still slightly skunky and will probably smell every time he gets wet for a long time. Did I mention that Sunday was Michael’s birthday? Happy birthday to him, huh?

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Post-skunk bath #1. Pathetic.

Wednesday:

How it starts: I go to get Ryan out of the crib in the morning and immediately feel how hot he is. I take his temperature and it confirms he has a fever. His spirits aren’t to bad, though, so we go about our day just keeping an eye on it. That night we hear a strange sound coming from the crib. When I go to check on him I find that he’s wheezing. Great.

What happens next: I take him to the pediatrician the next morning and he is diagnosed with a virus. Which basically means, sucks for you. Got to ride it out. He’s given a little something to help with the wheezing, but the fever continues for a full 24-hours. He is also now leaking snot and oh! Look at that. Cutting a giant tooth. Poor guy is a mess. I worry, because we are leaving the boys, Ryan for the first time, the next day to attend a wedding. I still want my mom when I’m sick, so I feel for my little baby.

How it ends: Well, this ending was just the beginning. Friday morning his fever is gone, but he is cranky and coughing and generally unhappy. I waffle about leaving him, but am convinced to go. We leave the boys with my mother-in-law at noon and leave for my good friend’s wedding. We have a great night away (there was a cheesecake bar at the wedding. I mean, nom.) but return the following afternoon to absolute chaos. My in-laws are loud people, so the house is a frenzy of noise and activity. As soon as I walk in the door, both kids burst into tears. Ryan is hacking a lung and snotty, and I know the minute I hold Owen that he is now running a fever as well.

Saturday, Sunday, Monday

How it starts: I…I don’t even know. The next few days are a blur of no sleep, bodily fluids and miserable, MISERABLE children. Michael had to work all weekend too, so it was just me and the sick. For days. I keep a detailed white board listing who took which medicine when. I try to find anything they will eat (Owen – some toast, applesauce and a popsicle. Ryan – boob. And then some more boob. And hold on, let me scream my head off for a bit and ok…more boob now), I run humidifiers, put mattresses on angles, offer cool wash clothes and warm baths and anything I can think of to make them feel better. It goes on, and on, and on.

What happens next: Yesterday, Ryan appears to be back on a normal nap schedule. This looks promising. My mother-in-law offers to take Owen for a few hours to get him out of the house and give me a small break. He has fun, but returns feverish and exhausted. He naps on and off for four hours and when he finally wake up, he seems a bit more like himself.

How it ends: I’m hesitant to say it HAS ended, but it looks like we might be almost there. Both boys slept through the night and awoke happy, fever-free and just a little congested. I managed a shower and even met a friend for coffee. Could this endless stretch of suck finally be over? Are we finally emerging?

OMG, I HOPE SO.

(Hope you all had a good Memorial Day. I’m hoping next year includes a bbq and beer instead of fevers and Advil.)

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I want to remember today.

It’s just an every-day. Nothing extraordinary has happened. No monumental events experienced.

No, today we just…played outside. We blew bubbles and hit t-balls. We filled buckets with water and dirt, and dug holes. We pulled dandelions and rolled balls; sat on the deck and stuffed ourselves full of fresh fruit and hummus.

Today the smell of sunscreen mingled with that of the sunny marigolds next to our blanket, and our soundtrack has been the banjo strums of Mumford & Sons wafting between peals of laughter. Only now is it quiet, as the babies fell into an afternoon slumber without protest.

I want to remember today — the beginning of that magical time of year where our days fade lazily into one another and the evenings hold the heat of the sun just long enough. The anticipation of the three magical months ahead. I want to remember because it is the start of something wonderful.

Welcome, Summer. We have missed you.

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- Over the last few days my nose has become progressively more congested, to the point that now it’s just spontaneously leaking. I was all ready to blame those snot-nosed kids at story hour (not that my kids ever have snot, oh no) for hacking some germ on me, until my eyes started to itch and the sneezing kicked in and woe is me, I totally have seasonal allergies. Only, the hell? I’ve lived here how long and at my last check I was 30 years old. Why exactly am I just dealing with this now?

Well whatever reason, it sucks, and my face feels like a giant inflated helium balloon draining directly from my eyeballs and I’m blowing my nose every two minutes. And WHINING ABOUT IT. I’m not going to mess with any over-the-counter stuff while I’m nursing so that’s that. Hopefully whining cures allergies.

- The timing couldn’t be worse for me to be sniffing all the live long day, because Ryan’s baptism is Sunday. Nothing is worse than someone sniffing/sneezing/coughing in a quiet room full of people. Like, uh…a church, for example. I’m totally going to be THAT person. I will hopefully be able to convey with just a look that it’s allergies and not some disgusting plague brought upon by the grimy hands of children, all while mouth-breathing. My goodness, can you just picture how attractive I’m going to be?

- As like any formal-ish event, the whole what do I wear? dilemma has come up. Not just for me, but for the kids. I pulled out the next size up for Ryan yesterday and while I was digging through the totes I became confused. Their birthdays are only a few weeks a part, and yet I found hardly any summer clothes in the 12-month size. How could this be, I wondered. I swear Owen didn’t go naked the summer of 2011. He must have been wearing clothes.

That’s when I realized that I had an abundance of 12-18 month clothes. Emphasis on the 18. Oh, right. Owen was a butterball. Of course he didn’t fit into 12 months when he was ACTUALLY 12 months. Sigh.

Thankfully, I did discover that I had some really sweet polo shirts in a brand that runs small, so Ryan is all set. That left Owen, and I was able to run out yesterday and found an equally cute polo for him. I love having boys, but the only time I get real pangs for a girl is when I see their adorable outfits. However, once you have seen your little boy in Ralph Lauren and Dockers, there’s no fighting the omigod, so cuuuuuuutttteeee!!!! from coming out. Nope.

- A baptism is as good an excuse as any to make banana pudding. Bring on the fat!

- (OMIGOD, MY NOSE.)

Yesterday I spent the day in Massachusetts at my friend’s bridal shower. It was lovely to leave the mommy world for an afternoon and spend some time with some girlfriends and some mimosas. I was gone seven hours — the longest I’ve been apart from Ryan to date — and as much as I love my boys, I’ll admit that I didn’t miss them all that much. Mama needed a break. And enjoyed eating two (TWO!) cupcakes without having to share.

Practically everyone at the shower was wearing either blue, stripes, or a combination of the two, so I fit right in wearing a navy and white striped maxi dress which I bought a few days before at — well let’s just go ahead and get it out in the open. I bought the dress at Wet Seal. The store is across from the bookstore I was buying the shower gift in and I figured I would pop across the way and see if they had any cute inexpensive jewelry. They didn’t, but they did have the dress all cute and cheap at $16, and so I bought it. Thirty years old shopping at Wet Seal. Ahem.

Anyway, while I was at the party, the bride’s sister came up to me (Hi, Ronnie!) and was all, would you update your blog already? She told me she checks daily to see if I’ve written, and since I’ve gone so long in between posts lately, I basically figured no one was reading anyway. It was nice to hear at least one person was, so it kicked my butt into gear.

I’ve just had a touch of the Blog-itis lately. Life is happening — and quickly — and I just haven’t been able to put it down in words. Ryan is nine months going on, oh, who knows. The kid just wants to be big. He’s all over the house. Mostly backwards crawling and some sort of unofficial frontwards army crawl. It’s not what I would call traditionally crawling, but it does the job. When he’s not doing that, he wants to stand, stand, stand, and has started to cruise the furniture ever so slowly. Yesterday he took my cheeseburger right off my plate and ate it. It’s probably second-time-around parenting, because I never would have let Owen do that, but I barely even blinked. Instead, I broke some up into tiny pieces and let him have at it.

Owen is almost three and he’s busy, and loud, and smart, and sassy, and infuriating, and fresh, and amazing, and awesome. Looking at pictures from even just six months ago makes my heart ache a little because he has changed so quickly. He thought I looked “sooooo beautiful” in my Wet Seal dress, though, so that’s pretty cool.

Me? I’ve been getting into photography lately and have really enjoyed photographing my friends’ children along with my own. It’s become a fun hobby for me and one that gives me an outlet beyond the daily stuff.

PR photo

Ryan and my dad

The other day I uttered the words, why is the baby under the ottoman covered in poop?

That’s life, y’all.

I long for the day I wake up and find myself one of those women whose house is uncluttered and beautifully organized. I suspect that won’t happen until the kids are grown, or at the very least, when their attention span for toys isn’t that of a gnat.

Home organization I don’t quite have down, but dinner? I’ve figured that one out. I look forward to sitting down each week with my white board, pen and paper and figuring out our meal plan for the week. Not only has it eliminated the end-of-the-day what am I supposed to make for dinner??? panic, it’s streamlined both my shopping trips and food budget.

Below you will find all the meals we ate this past month. There were some repeats of our favorites, and occasionally we get a take-out pizza because…well, I love take-out pizza! I also make a lot of salads because it’s an easy way to get veggies in. You can put almost anything in a salad! I’ve gotten into the habit of snapping quick photos of a lot of our meals, but I will work on getting the recipes written out in the next few weeks and link back to them.

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Week 1

- Calzones, salad
- Cheeseburgers, sweet potato fries, broccoli
- Garlic noodles, salad
- Asian sticky rice bowls
- Leftovers
- Roast chicken, sweet potato crisps
- Take-out pizza

Week 2

- Chicken Enchiladas
- Mini meatloaves, acorn squash, broccoli
- Chicken soup, homemade bread
- Chicken ranch calzones, salad
- Dinner out with friends
- Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, salad
- Leftovers

Week 3

- Chicken bites, spinach, roasted carrots
- Taco salad
- Homemade pizza, salad
- Baked potato soup, homemade bread
- Sweet potato quinoa chili
- Leftover soup, salad,
- Burritos

Week 4

- Chicken and vegetable stir fry, rice
- Slow cooker shredded beef tacos
- Chicken soup, homemade bread
- Quinoa mac n cheese, broccoli
- Leftovers
- Homemade pizza, salad
- Mini turkey meatloaves, mashed sweet potatoes, peas

And here’s what we’re eating this week:

Week 5

- Philly Cheesesteaks with peppers and onions
- Skillet lasagna, broccoli
- Roasted chicken, sweet potatoes, peas
- Taco salad
- Chicken tamale pie, salad
- Leftovers
- Spaghetti, chicken meatballs, salad

I like to make at least one dessert a week, too. But maybe that’s a post for another time…

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After Hurricane Sandy and the four days we spent without power, we started talking about buying a generator. Michael started doing research on them, but the price tag and life getting in the way made us push it to the back burner. Which is why I started panicking on Friday when reports of 60-80 mile winds hitting the coast on top of two feet of snow started pouring in. If we lost power, we lost.

Not surprisingly, the power shut off that evening. In anticipation, we had cranked the heat up to nearly 80 degrees before it shut off, so it sustained us through the night. In the morning, I bundled the kids in multiple layers and Michael set about trying to get us some power.

There was no rhyme or reason to the outages this time. I saw reports of more than 180,000 customers without power, but by the luck of the draw, a lot of our friends did not lose it. Because of that, if we HAD to leave, we could — assuming we could drive anywhere — which was iffy. Thankfully, friends with a generator didn’t lose their power, and helped us out. By 10 p.m. the generator was running and though the house was cold (it had dropped below 55 by then), it gradually started to warm back up.

I am blown away by the kindness of our friends and neighbors the last few days. Those who could offered whatever they had. Heat, food, a place to stay. One neighbor spent the storm away, and when he returned he said his house was 39 degrees. I am so thankful I was in a position where I could keep my babies warm.

Scenes from Nemo: Happy dog in the snow, a little boy snow gazing, a bundled baby playing and a tired husband snow blowing his mom’s driveway.

Digging out has taken a while, and a slow drive to my mother-in-law’s yesterday painted an eery, cold and still picture of our town. Down lines, telephone poles and snowbanks scattered everywhere. Reports of a transformer blown off into the river. Forty-eight hours later, the power returned. It was bad, but it could have been worse.

Actually, the worse part was last night. After a day with a constantly running nose, Owen woke a few hours after going to bed gagging and burning up. He threw up for the first time and it was a scary experience for him. His fever broke a few hours later and he is a much happier kid today, but I’m ready to wash my hands of the entire weekend and start anew.

Needless to say, we are purchasing a generator.

 

When I lost my job in public relations it felt awful. I left a job and people I loved in the not-for-profit world for one in consumer electronics because I thought it would advance me in my career. It was close to home and paid much more than I was making, and so, after much back and forth, I took it.

The problem was, I wasn’t very good at the new job. The passion I held for the museum I left could not be replicated in the consumer world. I felt timid and confused and spent a better part of a year hoping to not be put on the spot, afraid it would reveal the truth.

Despite all that, getting fired was terrible. Although a part of me felt relief that I could just go, I still felt awful about my performance. It wasn’t the right job for me, but it was still my job. I should have worked harder. Done better.

My current gig is one I am passionate about. Being a mother brings me both joy and a sense of accomplishment. I’m good at this job, most of the time.

Lately, though, I feel like I’m slipping into the failing zone, and while no one can hand me a pink slip, I’m still aware I need to do better.

Two and a half is a challenging age. Owen argues with me, is defiant and fresh. He refuses to nap, pushes boundaries and tells me “no” all day long. At 6 months, Ryan is a happy little thing, until he’s not. Lately I spend my days more frustrated than happy. I feel burdened and unappreciated by my two small people. I am grumpy and annoyed easily and on top of that, I yell.

I could hear myself yelling more than I should, but when Owen called me out on it, I knew it had to stop. After getting out of bed AGAIN to go potty (he knows he can get out of bed for that), I snapped that it was ENOUGH.

“Why are you yelling at me, Mommy?” He asked.

“I’m not, bud,” I said, backtracking.

“Well, you were…”

Ouch.

I’m afraid that I’m so caught up in the endless minutiae of the every day, that I am missing the good stuff. I don’t want to miss a funny quote or a big cheesy grin because I’m mad that I tripped over a stray toy for the 10th time. I don’t want my kids to remember me as a grumpy mommy who yelled over nothing. I want my words and tone to mean something.

I don’t like the mother I’ve been lately, but unlike my previous job, I’m going to do something about it. I need to take a deep breath, calm my blood pressure and start a new. One day my house will stay clean and no one will be fighting me over a nap, but that also means my babies will have left the nest. I need to focus more on the now and appreciate this time while they are still little.

And so, I have an opportunity to change the way things are. This time I can, I WILL, do better.

At least you can have an occasional drink at this job.

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(He’s laughing at me. I lose.)

- I finally took the Christmas decor down last week and now it is glaringly obvious that there is nothing hanging on the unpainted walls. My living room is basically a sterile environment. If you don’t count the Cheerio crumbs and dog hair. I started to pin ideas for the room so if you follow me on Pinterest, I apologize for the recent onslaught of photos of mantels and gallery walls. I would also love to paint, but the room is big and neither Michael nor I likes to paint. Hiring someone isn’t in the budget right now so either we suck it up and do it ourselves, or continue to live in the vast whiteness.

- Anyone remember when we watched my mother-in-law’s crazy dog last year? I swore it would not be a repeat thing, and yet, here we are one year later and about to embark on 13 days with Lucy. Last year she was skittish and whiny and afraid of men. Which meant that any time Michael would come into the house…she would pee. And then, to add icing to the cake, she freaked out and expressed her anal glands in my kitchen, and I’ll just take a moment to let that sink in.

Expressed her anal glands. In my kitchen.

That smell is burned in my memory and so help me, if she does it again I am shipping her off to Florida so my MIL an deal with it. So, SO gross.

- Speaking of my MIL, she bought a cow. Not a whole cow, not even half of a cow. She bought something like a fourth of a cow so we could split it between us. Only, we don’t really eat that much red meat. Maybe once or twice a month. She was insistent, however, so now the entire bottom half of my freezer if filled with beef. Because even splitting up a fourth of a cow is still hundreds of pounds of cow. I’m not kidding when I tell you this meat will last us a year, maybe more. There’s just so.much.beef. I’m going to have to host a beef party or something just to put a dent in it.

Except a beef party sounds disgusting. No one would come if I cordially invited them to a beef party. Or they would, but they would think it was an entirely different type of party with a whole different kind of beef, if you catch my drift. And that would be awkward.

Every night before I go to bed, I check in on my babies. Owen is usually sprawled out on his back at some interesting angle, blanket askew, his “Mommy shirt”, an old t-shirt of mine he made his blankie, draped across him. I gently tuck him back in, occasionally removing his wedged feet from between the bed slats, brush his hair off his forehead, kiss him gently and tip toe out.

Next is the baby. I turn the light on in my bedroom across the hall so I will have just enough light to see him, but not enough for him to wake. He looks like the world’s sweetest little starfish zipped into his blanket. Ryan will have rotated to his right — he always does — and will have pressed his face against the one bumper I have in there. The one bumper I put back in because he kept waking himself up trying to snuggle himself into the crib rails. I have stopped stressing about him sleeping like that now, but I always pause just long enough to see the rise and fall of his chest.

It occurs to me that my children will never know I do these things. They might remember the story hours I took them to, the outings at the playground. They might one day remind me of the pictures we drew together or the songs we danced around the living room to. They will know I parented them all day every day, but the memories of the night will be mine alone.

At night I am transported both back in time, and towards the future. Ryan’s dewy skin and sleepy suckling are all baby, and Owen’s rosy cheeks remind me of when he was tiny. The other night, though, before my eyes adjusted to the dark, I caught a glimpse of who my little boy will become. In the dark, Owen’s sleeping profile was so strikingly similar to his father’s, I actually gasped.

Babies don’t keep, but these nights will. In my mind. In my heart. In the dark.

 

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