Friday, November 25, 2011

The Year it Started to Work

I think I've mentioned in the past that I've been a little over-eager (and thus frequently disappointed) for the kids to "get" the holidays. Before they really understand what's coming it is hard to get them involved in the anticipation and build-up I love so much.

Anyway, this is the year that holidays have started to be SO much fun. Easter was awesome...I didn't actually do Easter baskets for the kids but we dyed eggs and hid them in the backyard and that was way more fun than I even hoped. We have an awesome backyard for hiding eggs so next year will be an epic hunt.

Halloween was so much fun too, and yesterday we had a very successful Thanksgiving. I mean, sure, the kids each ate rolls and nothing else (Pacey licked his fork when I told him he had to try something else before having more bread) but at least no one cried when they saw the plate of food this year (Brighton did get something from me!)

We had Thanksgiving lunch rather than dinner, which meant that we had eaten and cleaned up by the kids' nap/rest time. It was so peaceful I was actually...bored by late afternoon! We cooled down the hot tub a little and let the kids come in for the first time too, which was a resounding success. I wish I'd had my camera accessible for a shot of Pacey lounging in the tub watching football with his dad.

It's so reassuring to be having so much fun with the kids now. I just didn't enjoy the early baby days all that much and I felt sort of let I wasn't going to like being a mom as much as I always thought I would. But I think I'm just much more of a toddler-on-up person. Sure babies are cute (and I love other people's babies) but the kids just get more and more fun with each passing day and I feel so much more deeply connected to them.

Bring on the feast!

 Fifteen minutes after we sat down:

Chris's plate. I wish I'd gotten a photo of it full, everything
mixed together

My plate. Notice nothing is touching. I like my flavors to
remain pure. 
Bring on the Christmas season, I can tell this year will be the best yet.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Finding THEIR Fuel

One of the things I am most grateful for is that my kids are so very good at entertaining themselves. I do let them watch movies, but more often than not when I go downstairs to check on them, they are playing in the playroom and not actually watching the movie. They make up silly games ("going to sleep" is still one of their favorite games and one I think my sister is hoping they will teach my nephew when they're here in a few weeks) and half the time I have no idea what they are playing.

Don't get me wrong, I actually do like playing with my kids especially now that we can do more interesting activities like puzzles and even some of the simplest board games. But when I need to get some things done or, like this morning, when I was feeling a little under the weather and wanted to lay down for a few minutes, it's really nice knowing that they can amuse themselves.

Here's a series of photos of them I snapped this morning. They are not technically allowed in the hot tub room, which is adjacent to the master bedroom, but sometimes we forget to lock that door and they sneak in. The cover is far too heavy for them to lift (and I don't think they actually know what is under there) so they aren't in danger and what they really love to do is jump around and dance on the cover of the tub. Silly monkeys.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Finding My Fuel

This post is one of my all-time favorite blog posts. In it, the author Kelle talks about the difference between the fuel in your life - the things that keep you inspired and happy - and the filler, all the mundane little tasks that have to be completed but tend to deplete or, at best, have a neutral effect. Go read her post and then come back.


Before I quit my job, I was terrified at the prospect of filling all the hours of the day. I didn't really know how to entertain my kids, they were a lot less independent at the time then they are now, and my most recent experience with being at home had been maternity leave which, honestly, I hated.

It was pleasantly surprising, therefore, to realize exactly how easy it is to fill your days without going to an office job. There are meals to plan, shop for and cook, clothes to wash, messes to clean, errands to run, correspondence to write, small injuries to kiss better, school pick ups and drop offs and a thousand other small chores that tend to add together to far more than the waking hours available in a day (note: it is a wonder to me how even a percentage of this stuff got done when we both worked outside the house).

At first, completing all these "filler" tasks was my fuel. For the first time since I had kids I felt vaguely on top of things and like I was at least wearing all my hats somewhat competently rather than feeling like an abject failure on all fronts. Over a year later, I've got routines down, our days mostly planned out and a pretty good rotation of cleaning chores and errand running. It doesn't stretch my mind to complete my to-do lists each day, but the filler can, well, fill the hours effortlessly.

What I'm finding more challenging these days is pinpointing my fuel. I love taking photographs, but the weather is colder now and not enjoyable (for me) to be outside in. You can only take so many photos of the inside of your house and if we are out and about the kids tend to require a level of vigilance and/or manhandling that doesn't allow for my camera to tag along. I love reading, but that tends to be more of a mental escape for me than something to really rev me up. In the past I've found physical exercise to be particularly fueling but I've gotten out of the groove and haven't found the motivation to get back to it (so very many excuses available!)


Returning to the transition from working outside the house to staying at home, I'm discovering that I need a tangible feeling of achievement to be fulfilled at the end of the day. Sure, the over-arching achievement is the raising of my kids and I don't mean to minimize the importance of that. I love that I can do the things that make ME feel like a good parent and am not having to fit that in around a job with office hours. But it's easy to feel like you're just running on a treadmill all day long - making meals that may or may not get eaten, washing the same dishes day in and day out, endless loops of laundry and circuits between school-grocery store-drycleaner-Target.

I'm fueled by doing, by accomplishing. For the first 12 months or so after we moved into the house, I had endless lists of projects that went into creating our new home. That list has dwindled now to smaller, less satisfying chores and simultaneously I have fewer usable kid-free hours to sink my teeth into a project.


With all the holiday happenings throughout the next six weeks, I don't think I'll miss the fuel. In fact, selecting gifts for loved ones  and participating in efforts to help others are two things that do fuel me and will keep me going. But I can foresee that come January I will need to have some plans in place to propel me through the second half of the winter.

What kinds of things fuel you?

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Few Brighton-isms to Preserve

I love, love, LOVE the stage of language development Brighton is in. Every day she comes out with some new phrase that surprises and amuses me. She's already starting to correct her pronunciation of words so I wanted to capture a few of the sweet little things she says.

Bathing suit = "baby soup"

Bottom = "bobbum"

 Seeing me take a bra out of the washing machine: "Mama! Dat for woobies!"
(Personally I am not a big fan of the word boobies but woobies is darn cute)

Me: Brighton, what's my name?

Brighton: "Jaida!"

Me: That's right! What's daddy's name?

Brighton: "Hon!"

I love that she has heard me call him "hon" so many times she thinks that's his name :)

I've been reading her the book Love You Forever (have you read this book? Have kleenex handy) before bed lately and she's mostly memorized it. Now, when we finish reading the book we have to take turns rocking each other and singing the little song from the book:

I'll love you forever
I'll like you for always
As long as I'm living
My baby(Mommy) you'll be

It's kind of a heartbreaking book, but to hear her little-girl voice reciting the song and knowing that, for now, she has no idea what it means that the mother gets too old and sick to finish the song is about the best way to finish off a day.

Brighton, as long as I'm living, my tempestuous, silly, enthusiastic, adorable baby you'll be.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

About Face

Did you know I wanted to be a doctor?

I think I was about eight or nine when I decided. My grandfather was a well-respected pediatrician who did some important work with underserved populations and I attended a ceremony in which he was recognized for that work. I had a natural interest in biology and enjoyed quizzing my mom on medical terminology when she went back to school to become a certified medical assistant.

My interest in biology and medicine continued through school. In high school I took as many advanced biology and anatomy/physiology courses as were available, and even joined a few friends in an extra-curricular opportunity to dissect a cat (oh god I was a nerd). During my senior year of high school I applied for a mentorship program which allowed me to spend several afternoons a week working with my mentor, a family practice physician. I saw patients with him, practiced dictation and charting and completed a project on developing patient education materials.

When I interviewed at colleges, one of the things that cemented my interest in Scripps was the quoted 93% acceptance rate to medical school. I declared a biology major as soon as I could, and set myself up on the track to complete all pre-med requirements. This included figuring out how to study abroad while sticking to a pretty rigorous schedule of pre-med classes; there was only one school in the world that offered a second-semester Organic Chemistry course when I needed it. That's how I ended up at the University of Sussex in the spring of 2001.

I can't exactly pinpoint the moment when doubt started to creep in. I elected not to take the MCAT prep course that my fellow study-abroad pre-meds were taking in England...I think I made the choice under the guise of saving the not-insignificant cost.

My time in England was obviously life-changing (hello future husband!) and I came back with a little more doubt. I was still full steam ahead towards medical school at this point, attending lectures on med school interviews, looking into internships and beginning my thesis on the history of tuberculosis in Alaska. I bought MCAT prep books and started on a schedule of studying.

Senior year of college was kind of hard. My closest friend had moved off campus into an apartment and I was feeling a little lonely. I was conducting my relationship with Chris over several thousand miles (a lot harder back then before skype, etc) and not entirely sure how it was going to end up. I was more than ready to be done with school but not really looking forward to the next steps.

It was during an MCAT study session that I finally realized that part of the reason I was feeling so unsettled about my future was that I actually DIDN'T want to be a doctor anymore. I'd had so many experiences that left me feeling like I wanted more out of the following 10 years than more school, more pressure, more stress. So I opted out. I have no memory whatsoever of any of the conversations about that decision...I have a vague recollection that I felt like I'd be letting people down, but I'd made the decision and never wavered.

I can say with 100% certainty that it was the best decision I have ever made. When I think about how different my life would be had I followed along that path, I feel like I made a narrow escape. I'm sure I would have found my way and built my happiness around that set of circumstances, but in my last job I developed a very in-depth knowledge of what it is like to be a doctor in the current environment and I can say with confidence, NO THANKS.

Medicine is still what interests me. I listen to Doctor Radio, I like reading about various medical developments and I'm always drawn to the Health and Science articles in the news. I even (can't believe I am admitting this) added an anatomy coloring book to my Christmas wishlist (in my defense, I spend a decent amount of time coloring with the kids and I'd love to keep my knowledge up).

I wonder sometimes (like, say, when I am paying my student loan bills) if, knowing how it all turned out, I'd have chosen differently in school. Science is what I loved, so I think I would have stuck with the biology major, but it would have been nice to have a little more latitude in choosing other courses; for instance it would have been nice to take a few more classes in literature and writing. I certainly used a lot of my background knowledge in each of the jobs I had after college. I don't know what, if anything, I will do career-wise in the future but I'd like to think it will further utilize all that hard work and knowledge taking up valuable real estate in my brain.

I do think that my experience will lead me to encourage my kids to explore all their different interests in school and not feel pressured to commit to one passion too early. I hope that my story will help them feel comfortable listening to their inner voices and not to be afraid to make difficult decisions and follow an unexpected path.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Things I'm Digging

1. Good Food Made Simple frozen steel cut oatmeal

I found this in the freezer section at Costco. I think it was around $9-10 for 8 single-serving frozen pouches. There are four maple flavor and four fruit and berry flavor. I haven't tried the maple yet, but the berry is full of blueberries and cherries that taste as though they were added fresh to the oats before freezing (rather than being dehydrated). It takes 3-4  minutes in the microwave and is a good-sized portion that keeps me full until lunch. I just feel...virtuous having this for breakfast and it's really delicious.

2. Ziploc Zip 'n Steam bags

I'm not very imaginative when it comes to vegetables, but I am trying to add more into our meals on a daily basis. I personally don't mind frozen veg for the most part but there are some things I prefer to buy fresh and cook myself, such as broccoli and cauliflower. That's where these steam bags come into play - you just cut up your vegetables and seal them into the ziploc. There are cooking instructions on the front of the bag for a variety of the most common things you might want to cook in there (there are instructions for a full bag or half bag). Throw it in the microwave for the recommended time and voila, steamed vegetables that haven't lost all their goodness and - most importantly - aren't mushy. I think these will help motivate me to keep giving the kids vegetables to try even when I know they won't eat's easier when I know I won't be investing a lot of wasted time.

3. Pandora

Not a new thing, but between my husband and I we have created a list of about 10 stations that cover pretty much any musical mood. It's a really awesome way to discover new artists as well, which I like because I don't listen to the radio at all these days. I'll be firing up my holiday stations any day now :)

4. Amazon's Gift Organizer

Simple concept but it's been really helpful in organizing my ideas for Christmas gifts. You just put in the  names of all the people you need to buy for and you can post links to your ideas right there in the list (whether you find them on Amazon or not).

5. Squeezable Fruit Pouches

My kids are rather suspicious about new foods in general right now, and especially vegetables (see above #2). I'm still trying to find Brighton's kryptonite, but for Pacey it's been the wide availability of pureed fruits/veggies in pouches. I knew that he liked yogurt in a tube so I tried an applesauce pouch, which he loved (I gave B one too, but she gagged so violently after the first squeeze that I gave up for now). Anyway, I've managed to sneak in some of the mixed fruit and vegetable pouches too now. Ultimately, I'd obviously like to get both kids eating whole veggies but for now, if I can sneak a little butternut squash in without him noticing, I'll take it!

6. Oil of Olay Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System (see it here on Amazon)

My sister gave me this for my birthday and I love it. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a Beauty Routine kinda girl. It's a simple moisturizer in the morning and usually just a face cleansing wipe at night (my sister is cringing reading this). This is a more reasonable version of a Clarisonic brush; I use it in the shower with a mild exfoliator and it's like having a little mini face massage every morning. Very refreshing!

What are you loving lately?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Build Up

I LOVE the holiday season. I don't care that the Halloween clearance is immediately replaced with Christmas items. Bring it on. I loved themed party items, Christmas candy, silly Christmas socks, and you can pretty much count on finding Christmas music playing in my house from Thanksgiving on. We typically get our Christmas tree on Thanksgiving weekend so we can enjoy it all the way through the build up to Christmas. I am working my way through my Christmas shopping list, taking advantage of early bargains and getting immense satisfaction ticking things off my list.

On the flip side, however, as of the day after Christmas I am DUNN. I want the decorations gone, the presents put away and all that leftover bad-for-you food either eaten or tossed. One of the best gifts my husband ever gave me was the year Pacey was in the NICU. Christmas sort of sucked anyway because he wasn't home, and although we did our best it was a bit like just going through the motions. Anyhow, the day after Christmas I went to spend some time with him in the hospital and when I returned home a couple of hours later, Chris had completely undressed the tree, put away the ornaments and dragged the tree out of the house. It was awesome.

One of my pet peeves is seeing Christmas wreaths still hung up in February and March. I don't know why, but there were a significant number around our neighborhood last year and I was really tempted to go around Grinch-style and take them all down (I didn't).

Anyway, in the spirit of early-bird celebration, I wanted to share two websites that I have found useful in getting good deals. I really love the process of selecting gifts for people. Getting something for someone you know is exactly what they want is great, but there is also something to be said for knowing someone well enough to pick something that is completely unexpected and yet perfect.

Want Not is my go-to site for limited time online deals. She basically trolls the internet for hot deals each day and posts links to them with the relevant coupon codes if necessary. I have gotten some truly ridiculous deals this way, and she is great about explaining to how stack coupon codes to get the most out of various deals.

This Holiday Gift Guide is a great source for ideas - it's a list of 100 different gifts all under $25. There are ideas for all different types of people, so there is truly something for everyone. Check it out!

What about you? Do you revel in the Christmas carols in November or do you shop with earplugs until December 15th? Do you love Christmas shopping or hate it?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Circling the Wagons

I keep coming to write a post but my head's been full of heavy thoughts I haven't really wanted to put down.

The horror unfolding at Penn State has crept under my skin a little...that and the seemingly endless stories in the news of missing babies/kids. It makes me want to keep my kids within arms' length at all times and the world just seems a little more threatening lately. There was a brief moment last weekend where I couldn't find Brighton anywhere in the house...I knew the likelihood of her being truly missing was remote but the few minutes I couldn't find her were torturous (she ended up being in Pacey's room with the door closed).

I guess that's the thing about having kids. The magnitude of what you'd lose if anything ever happened to them is staggering. I've written before about how overwhelming the responsibility of keeping them safe feels at times and nothing I read about in the news lately makes me feel any better about the world we're supposed to be preparing them to live in.

See? Kind of a downer.


It's not all doom and gloom though. We're preparing for the winter ahead, and I am looking forward to certain parts of it. I'm enjoying the earlier evenings...the nightly routine of closing the blinds, lighting a fall-scented candle and starting dinner. Soon we'll start building fires in the fireplaces and watching the snow fall from the hot tub. This weekend we'll have our first traditional English roast dinner of the season with good friends.

Perhaps the most exciting thing to look forward to is a visit from my sister and her family in December. It will definitely mitigate a lot of the sting of not having family or friends around for Thanksgiving. I can't wait to see the kids with their cousin.


It seems like every stage of children's development has its unique challenges, and sometimes I forget to appreciate the hurdles we've crossed. Like physical pain, it never seems as bad when it's gone. But in the spirit of trying to inject a little more positivity into my psyche, I'm going to acknowledge some of the things I'm really grateful NOT to be experiencing anymore.

- I'm really glad that neither of my children poops at night and then removes their diaper prior to my getting them up in the morning anymore. Baths first thing in the morning are no fun.

- I'm really glad we're past the putting-things-in-mouths stage. Pacey got a marble run for his birthday and, while I prefer that it be a supervised activity, I'm not too freaked out that someone's going to put marbles in their mouth.

- I'm really glad my kids can chew tablets instead of having syringes of Tylenol/Motrin. Boy do I hate having that sticky sh*t spit all over me.

- I'm really happy Pacey stopped removing his socks and shoes and throwing them around the car every time we go anywhere. Nope, that one's been revived.

- It's really nice to only have one child's nap to plan our days around, and even then we can get away with skipping it every now and then.

- I'm happy that we can occasionally stay out past the kids' bedtime by a couple of hours without any massive consequences.

- I'm grateful that at least 50% of the time now the kids can articulate what they want or need (even if they can't have it). The guessing game is so hard, especially when you're doing it through screams.


Anyone want to tell me a story about an amazing act of humanity that made you feel good about the world? I could use a boost.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Glutton for Punishment

Sometimes I really make life difficult for myself.

Yesterday was an awesome day. We celebrated Pacey's birthday, had the best kid birthday party you can hope for and I think he felt really special all day. He got some really cool new stuff, including lots of new puzzles which are his current obsession.

Anyway, with all the excitement and the party, the kids went to bed later than usual even not considering the hour time change. They were up at a normal time this morning...anyone doing the math here can figure out they did not get enough sleep. If I was less of a masochist, I'd have just let them stay in their jammies, play with new toys and enjoy the fact that we don't have anywhere scheduled we have to be on Monday mornings.

Instead? I took us on a forced march to the zoo. In my defense, the weather is gorgeous (if chilly) and I don't know how many more days we are going to get that are at all appealing for outdoor adventures. Still...I was punished for my industriousness.

Pacey spent the whole time asking about his new toys, alternating between refusing to walk and running off in the opposite direction, attempting to climb into enclosures and become someone's tasty midmorning snack, and asking to go home.

Brighton was marginally more compliant, but is also quite full of her two-year-old self and seems to be developing an immunity to reverse psychology (crap).

A stroll through the tropics

Sloth breeding program...who knew?

My little scientist insisted on bringing her
magnifying glass

A giant bronze tortoise today, a Harley

Learning about ocean conservation

This bear was...disconcertingly close

Pacey refusing to move (insert the sound of fake
snoring here)

Quite possibly their favorite part of the
outing...watching a digger at work
I think we'll be spending the afternoon at home.

(The most amusing part of the outing for me was the zookeeper talk in the zebra exhibit. He was telling us about how the male had been brought in with the females for breeding purposes and then went on to describe how one female wasn't terribly interested but the other one was "really receptive to the whole thing" and how they were hoping for at least one baby zebra in the spring. It was a little awkward.)

(Also - fun fact: a newborn polar bear weighs about one pound whereas a newborn zebra weighs about 50!!)

Sunday, November 6, 2011


From this:

Me, my mom and Pacey, the first time I got to hold him.

To this: five unbelievable years.

Happy birthday to my amazing guy. We love you so much.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Borrowed Time

I really didn't want to lose the momentum from October's daily posting, but this week has been...uninspiring. Halloween was so much fun, but the next day was sort of awful and in general it was just a week of getting not-so-fun jobs out of the way.

I promised the kids that after naptime today I would take them to the Treehouse (the indoor play structure at our gym). Cometh the time, however, Pacey specifically asked to go to the playground. I have a pretty hard time denying Pacey anything he asks for by name, and this was no exception. Despite the fact I really (really, really) didn't feel like going, I couldn't ignore the fact that the late autumn sun was gorgeous and the temperature an unbelievable 55 degrees. This time last year was equally pretty but much colder, and our first snowfall blizzard (though we didn't know it at the time) was only a week away. I know winter is just around the corner, whether we are ready or not, so I packed up my camera and we headed to the playground.

Going to the park gave me such angst when we first moved here. I was entirely unused to spending so much time with the kids, didn't know what their limits were in terms of physical abilities, and didn't really derive any pleasure from running around after them trying to keep them from taking headers off the structures (Brighton) or running into the thankfully quiet street (Pacey). But now, 12 months later, it's actually pretty fun. They can both manage 95% of the equipment on their own and they entertain me with their creativity. I'm always blown away by Pacey's agility on the playground because he just had such a hard time with strength and endurance in his first couple of years. But Brighton, too, blows me away in how confident she's become and how she's using her imagination in physical play.

Anyway, blah blah blah, here's some pictures I snapped:

"I see kids! And a princess!" she says. 

Pacey thought he was being nice by pushing her...she disagreed


Scratching their backs on a tree...Jungle Book has been
getting a lot of air time lately

This handsome boy bears almost no resemblance to my
squishy little peanut of almost FIVE years ago. Be still
my heart.

Graham crackers never go out of style.
We have a fun weekend planned that will culminate in celebrating Pacey's birthday with our adopted Minnesotan family. For now? I have a date with a cold beer, a fire in the fireplace and escapism on the TV. Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Different is Good Too

12 years ago, Halloween looked like this:

Why yes, I am taking photos of photos in lieu of actually scanning them. Lazy points!

I'm sure you can spot me, and the brooding construction worker to the right is my really good friend, S. She is my best friend from college; we lived together in England when we studied abroad and she was with me the night I met my husband. She just happens to live about 10 minutes away from where I do small factor in deciding to up and move to a new state. 

S had her first baby last November and it's been such a trip to be spending more time than ever together, and now as moms. This is what Halloween this year looked like:

I can honestly say that last night was every bit as fun as that night 12 years ago (and approximately one million times less painful this morning).