My Take On Two

Here’s something interesting, and as usual, let’s all take “interesting” with a grain of salt.

I always figured I would use this blog and the various and sundry baby books and the one million baby pictures as a substitute for memories, because I thought the days would fly by so fast that I’d have no hope of remembering what five pounds of baby looks like or what Eli wore home from the hospital or any of those first fleeting moments.

But even now four years later I remember those firsts as though they happened yesterday. I can see the tiny yellow fuzzy outfit coming home coveralls and the way they hung off of him, and I remember sitting on our old blue couch nursing all the time and I remember the way every time we’d take him anywhere, out to breakfast in his little bucket car seat, everyone would stop and peer in at him and say “Oh! SO tiny!’ and we’d beam with pride at our minuscule, perfect boy.

But I am glad I have these records because while I remember the beginning of Eli with a clarity I hope I will always possess, the time from 6 months to 3 years might as well have not existed, that’s how little I have retained from that time.  I look back and I wonder if it was the fog of depression or if I was just too tired or too busy and I am not sure I will ever know the reason especially because self awareness has never been my strong suit, but the fact is, I have nothing of those times.  I know only that it was hard.  It was really really hard.

I do know that I looked down at a six month old and I wasn’t at all sure what to do with such a creature, and I do remember thinking a great deal of the time that it would be really wonderful if he would just take a fricking nap already so I could do something I wanted to do, something like read blogs or take a shower.  I know that I fretted that I was supposed to be teaching him baby games or playing him music or STIMULATING! HIS! BRAIN! or god knows what, and at no point did it feel like any kind of natural mothering instinct was at work and the thought that our days would not always consist of me staring nervously at a six month old did not occur to me.

This is just a long winded way of saying that lord, I had no idea how on earth I was going to hack it with two of these mysterious creatures, and as with all great things I have ever done, I took a leap of faith and I trusted in something and I trusted in my husband the baby whispererer, and while it is also true that I have a baby who should come with a warning label because she is SO AMAZING and EASY and WONDERFUL, the reality is that for me, two is easier. Two is way way easier than one was, for me.

The best way I can think of to explain it is that it’s the difference between one of those jobs where you don’t have enough to do, and your day seems very very long, and between one of those jobs where you are very very busy, and your day goes by very quickly.  Please notice I am not saying that two is less work.  It is a lot of work, it is more work, but I do not have silences to fill.  And I find three almost four year olds very entertaining, as compared to six month old babies, and on those days when I am ready to sell the three year old to the gypsies, then I have my little garbonzo bean baby to smoosh and I smell her neck folds and then it’s time to make dinner and another day comes to an end.

At times I am tired, and at most times I desperately wish I had someone to clean my house.  I don’t love loading two children in and out of the back of a Volkswagon Jetta.  But most of all I am astonished at how good I have it, how right I was to leap, how empty things seem now, looking back.  And more than anything else, really,  I just simply can’t imagine my life, this life, without my two.

Amazing

I can only say that

I can hardly believe

that one day there was this:

which has now become this.

 

The Darndest Things

Eli, trying goat milk for the first time.  (Makes a face).

Erik: “Did you like it, buddy?”

Eli:  “Hmmm, no.  It was kind of….goaty. ”

***************

I am painting the bedframe in the backyard, Eli is looking on. When I’m finished I say “Done! What do you think?”

Eli: “Uh, mom? Is it ok to say that something is ugly, if you just think it in your head and don’t say it out loud?”

**************

On the way home from preschool today, I am singing one of my favorite songs (“there was a cowgirl fair, and a desperado…)  as a distraction, because I am tired of the “you are are a _______” game.  Eli says “Oh no mom.  I want that to be over.  I had enough singing at preschool.”

 

My Sixteen Steps

So recently a non blog friend of mine emailed me to tell me that she having a hard time of it, but that she had made a list of things that she was going to do as part of her plan for improvement.  I LOVE this idea.  It’s supposed to be 12 things, but I am long winded.  Obvs.

I don’t want this to be a list of things to accomplish or a list of things that I am not getting done or a list of things that I am failing at. I like to think of it as a list of things that keep me sane in a crazy crazy world.  At least until summer comes along and I can take a big deep breath of sunshine.
1. Sit with my magic light every day for 20 minutes, and turn on all the lights in the house as much as possible.
2. Fit back into the giant load of pants I have stashed away in Rubbermaid bins all over my house. (I am doing this Biggest Blogging Loser thing and I have high hopes. I no longer have any desire to be “skinny” but if I cannot make good use of the 14 pairs of size 10 pants I have, that’s ridiculous. I have lots of mini steps to add to this plan but I shall refrain from listing them because Manda told me I am only allowed to help her or we won’t win! Kidding, kidding. But not really.)
3. Paint my toenails and keep them painted (this is a good one).
4. Try to remember to put on face lotion, brush my hair, brush my teeth, put on a tiny bit of makeup, and wear earrings every day.  This makes me feel so much better about myself and I never do it.
5. Keep the dining room table cleared off.  Also like fighting a losing battle, but it makes me feel so much better when I manage it.
6. Make the bed every morning.  I just started doing this after 34 years, and every time I walk in the bedroom, it makes me happy. It takes 30 seconds and it makes a huge difference in my day.
7. Magic pills! (more on this later)
8. Drive every day. The more I do it, the less it terrifies me.
9. Do some form of exercise at least three times a week.  I hurt my knee so it might just have to be yoga, but even that makes a big difference.  I have this crazy yoga lady on PBS I love and I have recorded some of her sessions on the DVR.
10. Spend evenings reading with my electric blanket, instead of watching TV or surfing the internet. I am getting internetted out. I need to step away from the computer.
11. Vacuum incessantly.  I feel SO much better about my house and my day when the floor is clean. I have a dirty husband and a dog and a cat and a toddler and a six month old, so this has to be done all the time, but it’s the number one thing that takes me from “I hate my house and my life” to a feeling of peace and contentment.
12. Cut my hair.  I am growing it out. I hate it. I need to get it cut.
13. Keep a to do list of only the things I hope to get accomplished THAT day instead of a giant list that overwhelms me and stresses me out.
14. Keep on banging out house projects, and quit buying clothes so I can afford to do this.  Working on our new bed right now, and then the bedroom will be almost done!  I am thinking of making that crazy wax paper pendant as the last touch.  And I need a nightstand.  And then I’ll move onto the crib.  And then I’m going to debrownify my living room.  And then I am going to tackle the kitchen, oh yes I am.
15. Return emails when I read them and keep my in box to 100 emails or less.

16.  Check out and read The Happiness Project, and acknowledge my need for gold stars.  Give myself lots of gold stars.  Tell other people to give me gold stars.  And try to give up on needing gold stars so much.

I have 16! I need to get rid of some!

Fashion Emergency*

One of my New Year’s Resolutions that I just now invented because I felt like it is to wear something on my feet besides flip flops and faux Uggs.  I have nine trillion pairs of gorgeous shoes just rotting away in my closet and if you can’t wear a pair of red high heels to pre school drop off then where the heck can you wear them, I ask you?

However as I was rooting around on my shoe shelf area earlier it occurred that I had better check with the internet to confirm – are we still doing the pointy toed shoe thing? Because most of my shoes are either 1. flip flops 2. impractically high heels and 3. very pointed toed flats, and maybe all the very pointy toed flats are super passe and lame and so four years ago? I mean, I am willing to maybe not be on the cutting edge of fashion, for example I don’t need to wear shoes made of actual bacon, but I’d like the other moms not to, say, point and laugh.

Please advise.  Although these shoes are pretty great, you have to admit, and I might just have to wear them anyway, fashion be damned.

PS When I say “Fashion Emergency”, I obviously mean like not really an emergency of any kind.

Christmas Recap

I am calling Christmas Plan a success, this year.

The advent calendar was nice, although we sort of ran out of steam towards the end of the month.  But it really helped us to plan things we wanted to do and to keep us interested in things like the Santa Parade.  The amount of presents was reasonable, and my plan to space them out worked really really well.  I opened a lot of stuff ahead of time and wrapped it back up after seeing what it was.  Some of it I donated.  Some of it went into a special pile and then the week before Chrismas Eli got to open one thing per day, of my choosing, and let me tell you he had a waaaaaaaaay greater appreciation for a book or a music box on its own than as part of a giant pile of gifts.  It also helped me tremendously because I am the WORST over anticipator of Christmas gifts.  I swear to god I see any random box and think “diamond necklace!” or “car keys!” and uh, it’s not usually those things.  Knowing ahead of time that I was getting a calendar or a book helped SO MUCH.  In the past I would have been SO ANNOYED at getting a calendar, one that I didn’t even ASK FOR.  And this year, I was like, oh, here’s this lame calendar again, and then I opened it up and guess what? I really like it! I’m kind of crazy about it! It’s one of my favorite presents.  LOW EXPECTATIONS are the key to my happiness, apparently.

And also, I think you can see by this list that I was thoroughly spoiled and have nothing to complain about, diamond necklaces and car keys notwithstanding.

Christmas Eve we opened all the family presents, and that was perfect.  It got a big wad of presents out of the way, and it kicked off the getting excited about Christmas vibe.  The whole “fattening appetizers” thing wasn’t my favorite, though. I think next year we might just do pizza or something else easy, but I don’t know.  Even frozen appetizers were a lot of work and they weren’t that great.  And it was way too much food and ended up being really expensive.  So I need a new plan for next year for Christmas Eve.

I also tried REALLY REALLY REALLY hard to buy less stuff for Eli and for Erik.  It was not a total success, and in fact some of the stuff I did buy him I am not sure he loved, but the stack of stuff I ended up buying was much more reasonable than the original list.

After we opened up presents, we drove around and looked at lights and listened to Christmas music, and that was my favorite part of Christmas, hands down.  It was lovely and amazing.

Then Christmas morning we woke up and opened up Santa presents.  The other thing I was going to say was that for some reason this way of doing Christmas really increased my enjoyment of the whole “stocking buying” situation.  In years past I have bought a SHITLOAD of presents for everyone and wrapped up every damn thing I could think of, and then gone out on Christmas Eve or a few days before Christmas and purchased a bunch of strange random crap for the stockings.  This year, I was trying to dramatically decrease the amount of stuff under the tree, so things like pajamas and dvd’s and colored pencils and socks and a head lamp and stuff I would normally have wrapped and added to the pile of presents, I added to the stockings.  And I had a lot of fun buying some nicer stuff for the stockings and I didn’t have to go spend $100 on random crap I don’t want on Christmas Eve.  This is where I put all the impulse buys and sale finds (stuff like Melissa and Doug stamp kits from Amazon on sale for $5.99) And I funneled a lot of the grandparent presents into the stockings as well.  That was fun.

Then we had dim sum and we were the only non Asian people in the restaurant which made me very happy.  It was lightning fast but super delicious.  Put that in the “annual tradition” column.

And Christmas night we went over to my neighbors for dinner and Eli watched a movie and ate canned black olives and it was really nice, and then we came home and Erik fiddled with his Roku and I ate chocolate and felt blissfully happy.

Also, last year Mr. E and I bought ourselves presents in January. This year I bought him his Roku and some other small things, and it went under the tree and he opened it Christmas Eve.  And I picked myself out a coat and the electric blanket and he bought me a few surprises and I really liked how that worked out.  I thought I wanted to go spend $200 on myself in January but it turned out that I found the things I wanted on sale ahead of Christmas and I liked that it kept it small and cheap and I got stuff under the tree and then it was done.   And this was actually a good plan because looking up these things now most of them have gone back up to much higher prices than they were before Christmas.  Plus I really don’t feel the need to go spend a wad of cash on myself now, which is nice because that means we can buy some things for the house to get jump started on house projects now that December has been swept out with the pine needles.

What I got:

the coat I picked out for myself at Old Navy

(on sale for $30 dollars!)

an electric fleece blanket which is my new Best Thing Ever (on sale for $23 dollars)

a terra cotta nativity scene from Mr. E, sort of like this, which is GORGEOUS and AMAZING in person.

the book Mes Confitures which I have been lusting after for quite some time. Lemon jam!

a hat which I am going to attach a pink! pom pom onto (on sale for ($9.99)

some Alyssa Ettinger milk vases which I think you have to admit are just plain dreamy and wonderful and amazing and which made me cry when I opened them that’s how much I loved them.

and a Kate and William Commemerative mug which made me laugh my ass off.

Oh, AND a big white fluffy bathrobe, and a giant box full of thrifted trim (love!).

And a new IPOD Nano from my brother who also gave us that little red coat for Katherine which lets be honest was a gift for me.

some new lip stuff from MAC

and a Kate Spade day planner, and a gorgeous pink! scarf which I have already received bootles of compliments on,  and a Coach wristlet and some face lotion and fabric from Paris! and prior to Christmas, two lovely ladies sent me my Doc Marten boots and a Beaba Baby Cooker!!!!!!

And don’t forget my calendar.

Plus stuff like soap and chocolate and dried cherries and TWO half gallons of real maple syrup. HOLY CRAP I AM SPOILED.

Anyway, this Christmas was the year I realized that my whole “hands off let life happen” thing doesn’t work to apply to Christmas.  I have to micromanage it, or else I will end up having the Christmas other people want me to have.  It was a hard lesson to learn because there’s a part of me that still wants to lie around on my parents couch while someone gives me stuff and makes me food, but that’s just not…what’s going to happen anymore.  Now it’s my turn, and someone else is lying on the couch.  Under MY electric blanket, I might add.

Fourth Quarter Book List 2010

I know I haven’t made my goal to read 200 books this year, but honestly? That’s too many for me.  I start to make myself read books I don’t even like just because they’re short, which is stupid.  So next year I am sticking with 150 books, again.

Here’s the last of what I read this year:

112.  Delta Girls.  This wasn’t any kind of high literature and it had a weird plot twist toward the end, but I really liked it.  It was interesting and I learned a lot about pears, oddly enough, and it made me want to make pear jam, which I did and it was super fun and delicious.  Win win.

113.  Going In Circles.  I so wanted to like this book, but I so did not.  It was really really terrible.  My library didn’t have it and so I had to buy it because I wanted to read it so much (I really loved her first book, Why Girls Are Weird) and this was a miss for me. I even hated the paper the book was written on and the giant type and just…no.

114.  Freedom.  The first half was one of my favorite things I’ve read in a long time.  One of those books you read and you think “I could never do this. It’s absolutely hopeless” because Jonathan Franzen just GETS things and the way he writes about people is so insightful and funny and dark and I love it.  The second half of the book felt like he was writing about completely different people, and they became strange and felt like caricatures of themselves and I no longer loved them.  It felt like two different books.  It felt like at first he really liked the people he was writing about, with all their flaws, and then he sold them down the river and they just weren’t real or interesting and they became strange cliches of themselves.

115.  The Supernaturalists.  I have no memory of this book.

116.  Peace Love and Baby Ducks. No.  Just no.

117.  Money For Nothing.  This is about lottery winners and one of my favorite subjects ever:  how terrible it is to win the lottery even though you’d think it wouldn’t be.  There was a little too much uninteresting info about the author and his dubious life decisions but overall the book itself was fascinating.

118.  American Salvage.  Oh my god.  I’ve been wanting to read this book for FOREVER because it was supposedly about the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is where Mr. E grew up.  I almost bought it for my father in law sight unseen but THANK GOD I requested it from inter library loan first.  DEAR GOD NO.  I CANNOT BELIEVE I ALMOST GAVE THIS TO MY FATHER LAW.  It’s essentially just a bunch of short stories about the insanely low depths meth addicts will sink to.  And let me tell you those are some LOW FREAKING DEPTHS.  Hrgggh.

119.  As Simple As It Seems.  This was ok.  I think this was the year I realized that with rare exceptions, I don’t like middle readers.  I really shouldn’t check out anything from the library that’s in the “children’s literature” section rather than the “young adult fiction” section because it just bores me.

120.  Hungry.  I thought I would love this, but alas, I did not.  It’s Crystal Renn’s memoir about how terrible it was to be a model and it was just strange and kind of boring.

121.  The Maze Runner.  Eh.  Another apocalyptic strange mysterious adventure story that we are getting a flood of in the wake of the popularity of the Hunger Games.  It wasn’t my least favorite version of this story, but I ‘m kind of over the whole genre.

122.  The Shell Seekers.  I read this on the plane to Chicago, because it was the longest smallest book I could find.  It was entertaining enough, I guess.

123.  Something Like Fate.  I even just read the Amazon description of this and I literally have no memory of this book.

124.  Mad Dogs & An Englishwoman.  More nonfiction on another subject which totally fascinates me – alaskan sled dogs.  Pretty interesting for nonfiction which is normally not my bag.  Sled dog racing sounds terrifying and exhausting.  Pretty sure I should cross that off the imaginary life list.

125.  Dark Water.  I really really really liked this book, and I had very low expectations going in.  The end is maybe a little strange?  The main character really messes up and she doesn’t seem as sorry as she should be, but I really liked her, despite all her issues.  It was interesting and funny and I really really liked it.  Terrible cover, good book, and not driven by some weird annoying “issue” or “adventure” like every other gd YAF novel out there right now.

126.  Messenger.  Am I the only person in the world who doesn’t like the Giver and the rest of the series?  This is the last book in the series. I didn’t like the Giver and I didn’t like Gathering Blue and I didn’t really like the Messenger.

127.  Play Their Hearts Out.  More nonfiction.  This one is about NBA recruiting in Junior High.  This is when I realized that I can’t read non fiction this depressing.  It’s hard to invest time in reading 400 plus pages when you are talking about kids lives being totally screwed up.

128.  The Half Life of Planets.  Ok, so here’s the deal. I am done reading books about mothers leaving, and I am done reading books about parents drinking, and now I am done reading books where your brother/best friend/boyfriend has autism/aspergers/some other issue.  DONE.  And the sad thing it’s so unnecessary! You don’t need any of these plot devices to write an interesting book! Just write a book about funny, quirky, interesting characters being people and that’s all you need! Look at Sarah Dessen! Sigh.

129.  The Invisible Bridge.  This was so boring I could not get into it.

130.  Extraordinary.  I read Impossible by Nancy Werlin last  year and both this books gave me the same weird creepy feeling.  Almost kind of masochistic?  I don’t know. I wanted to like it but it just made me a little too uncomfortable for some reason.

131.  The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry.  Interesting, but not as great as Service Included, which I loved.

132.  Songs for a Teenage Nomad.  Meh. I have no idea what’s wrong with me, I like no books, apparently.

133.  Half Baked.  It really is as great as the whole internet says it is.  Also, it made me feel way less crazy and anxious.  Also, I know how it ends since I read Alexa’s blog and I still devoured it in three days.  Great funny and insightful and clever and just all around awesome.

134.  Hush Hush.  Really not good.

135.  Matched.  I wanted to love it, but alas, I did not.   The main character gave me a pain.  She just seemed SO clueless.  What do you mean “THE SOCIETY” isn’t all good?  Should I question authority?  Do these people NOT WANT WHAT IS BEST FOR ME YOU DON’T SAY?

136.  Life Would be Perfect If I Lived In That House.  Oh Meghan Daum.  YOU JUST KILL ME.  I spent the last four years moving to Nebraska and then buying a tiny house in California.  Megan Daum also moved to Nebraska, and then bought a tiny house in California.  The difference between us is that while I was moaning around all  “I want to write a book but I have nothing to write about!” she was writing TWO BOOKS.  One about: moving to Nebraska.  And the other one?  About:  moving to a tiny house in California.  Sigh.  I obviously need to examine my life and figure out whatever I am doing right now that seems boring and lame and that is what Meghan Daum is probably currently writing her next book about.

That being said, I liked this book, and it was funny and interesting, but I did not want to marry it like I wanted to marry her first book.  (The Quality of Life Report).

137.  A Visit From the Goon Squad. I was so excited because this book was on the NYT’s Best Fiction of 2010 list and I was so happy that a YAF book was on the list! Only it’s…not actually YAF.  And I have no idea where I got the idea that it was.  Anyway, it was ok.  I liked it but it’s written about a lot of of different characters and some of them were much stronger and more interesting than others.

138.  Blank Confession.  Bo-Ring.

139.  Before I Fall.  The only other YAF that I really liked this quarter.  The main character is interesting and funny and she’s…kind of bitchy.  She’s popular and cool and I don’t know, this was just really well written. It felt like the author really knew about teenage girls and high school.  Not sure how I felt about the end, but I really hope that the author writes more YAF because I think she has a great voice and I really liked her characters.

140.  The Passage.  HOLY GOD.  This book was SO LONG.  And there’s going to be a SEQUEL.  AND IT WAS SOOOOO LONG how on earth could there need to be MORE?  Also, every time I read it I felt depressed and sad.  But I still really liked it.  It was like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.  Big and cheesy and I couldn’t stop reading it and I enjoyed the ride.  But still.  Wicked wicked long.  And some parts went on forever and a day and dude, so long.

141.  Lonely Werewolf Girl. I wanted to like this book but I just couldn’t get into it. It felt like it was trying too hard, and the cutesy/clever tone felt a little too in love with itself after some time.

142.  The Slap.  Blergh.

143.  The Hand That First Held Mine.  I am only half way through this but so far it’s not doing much for me.

144.  Apologize, Apologize!.  Wicked boring.

145.  Crazy Love.  Good god the dialogue is terrible in this book.   Also, I have LIMITED SYMPATHY for someone whose boyfriend chokes her and says “I OWN YOU” while they are,um, you know, having the special time,  and then she marries him anyway, but nevertheless, I could not put this down.  But dear god is the dialogue painful.

146.  The Rose Variations.  I tried to get through this many many times.  It was totally passable but just not that interesting.

147.  The Ask.  Weird and in love with itself and annoying.

148.  The Road Home.  Eh.  I’m still trying to read it.

149.  You.  Meh.

150.  The Bitch In the House. I really don’t know why I can’t remember that I don’t like short stories.

151.  Raising A Boy:  Women Writers on Raising Sons.  See number 150.