What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

So let me just be honest with you here for a moment, internet, if I may.

I believe it’s traditional around these mommy blogger parts to copy Dooce as often as possible.  We’ve all written the letters to our kids on their birthdays, right?  But this year when Eli turned 5, you may have noticed, I didn’t write a letter, and although I am sure I could have trotted out a few nicely turned phrases about the colors of his eyes or how he knows all the names for all the dinosaurs, the truth is that I was afraid it would have rung false.  The truth is that I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough nice things to say about him to fill an entire letter.

Eli didn’t so much do the terrible twos. He was saving his energy for the horrible threes and the tremendous asshole fours, I guess, because honestly, it’s been years now. YEARS of this just…effing awful behavior.

To be quite frank with you the only thing that has kept me sane through being at home with this child have been:

1. My husband and my neighbor.

2. My belief that somewhere in there, there must be someone who was not in fact a tremendous asshole.

3. How cute he looks when he’s asleep.

4. All my friends who don’t blink when I send emails with the subject lines “tremendous asshole” to them four times a day.  Because honestly hearing about how fabulous your child is while my child lies on the floor and screams at me because I asked him to get dressed? It has limited appeal. Hearing that we’re all going through this together and we’re going to actually enjoy these horrible beasts someday? Even though today is not that day? It helps more than anything else does, pretty much.

5. And the fact that Katie is a really easy charming baby who is pretty much happy all the time, because otherwise I think by now I’d be locked up in a crazy house or else I’d have sent my four year old off to military school.  Seriously.  I told everyone on the tour that Alcatraz sounded pretty good to me. and I was serious.

It may stun you to hear this, but I try not to come to this space and complain about things. When I am mad at my husband or frustrated with my family or dealing with a four year old who is a tremendous asshole, I don’t know that it helps enormously to air my grievances in a one sided forum where no one else gets a say.  After all, I hear that being four is a tough business, especially when you get a brand new sister that everyone is always making a big stupid deal over.

But the fact is that raising this child has been very very hard for me.  My darling Eli, he is really something else, and it’s taken every ounce of everything I’ve had and some days I just haven’t had it.  Because for awhile there our days were nothing but non stop tantrums and screaming and discipline, and nothing seemed to work and nothing made any difference.  I counted up time outs one afternoon and I think I got to 4o time outs before I lost track.  FORTY TIME OUTS, and it was like water upon the desert. It seemed to make no difference, and after awhile, it was hard to even face the day, knowing that it was looking something like: Ask Eli to get dressed. Get screamed at.  Put Eli in time out.  Get screamed at.  Tell Eli to put his pajamas in the laundry basket.  Get screamed at.  Put Eli back in time out. Get screamed at.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

There were phases, to be sure, ups for the downs.  But to be honest with you, the good phases weren’t so much good phases as lulls, and then we’d enter another phase of wretched awfulness and think “Oh. Wish I would have known THAT was a good phase so I could have enjoyed it more.”

I’ve been holding on for 5 with everything I’ve got, basically, because I just had to believe that 5 was going to better. I just had to believe that this wasn’t how kids are always are, because honestly, if it was? No one would do this. No one would choose this. It seriously was that damn bad.

But.  I think.  I think, just maybe, maybe…5 is better. I think we may have turned a corner.

I am not quite sure we’re all the way there yet.  I still get screamed at. I still have to take a deep breath and face the day. I still wish the damn sun would come out.  But I am pretty sure that actually?  There IS a wonderful amazing fabulous smart fantastic funny delightful wonderful charming boy in there, thank the good lord above.   I am very hopeful that we are done with the screaming.  I am very hopeful that now comes the fun part. And I cannot wait to find out just how cool this kid actually is under the layer of complete and total pain in the ass that is finally finally! starting to wear off.

(Especially because I am pretty sure that SOMEONE just started the terrible twos three months early and VERY EXTRA LOUDLY.)

Ten Things, Just Because

1. I think pregnancy and Eli’s weight dramatics have given me permanent anxiety about going to the doctor. Seriously, I could not hate it more.  This amount of anxiety over something so stupid is ridiculous! It makes me wonder if my “be less anxious” medicine is actually working.

2. So far the “uniform” is working out quite well, although I had to return about half the stuff I ordered online because I forgot that American Eagle is actually for 12 year old girls and all their skirts are crazy pants short.  But I cleaned out my drawers and now that I have somethings that fit and all these colors that go together, it’s actually starting to be fun to get dressed in the morning again.

3. Although I did realize that the “uniform” is super skewed towards hot weather and MUCH EASIER to figure out for summer months.  Although yes, it’s hot here a lot, I think I will have to revisit the issue in the fall.  I’m thinking boots/a new coat/wintery type skirts that can be worn with tights or leggings.

4. In other news, I have stopped doing my children’s laundry.  My (super generous) cousin sends me all of her daughter’s hand me downs, and between those things and my MIL and Target and thrifting, my kids have a ton of clothes.  One day it occurred to me that doing laundry every time the laundry basket was full made no sense at all.  It just meant that I was always folding or washing or putting away childrens clothes, when in fact their drawers were still crammed full of clean things.  So I thought I’d see how long we could go before someone ran out of something, and then I’d just do all the kid laundry in one day.  Sometimes I sneak something I know they have a little less of into my laundry (underwear or pants) but so far, I haven’t emptied the big laundry bin in their room, and I started filling a diaper box with dirty laundry, and no one has run out of anything, and it’s been totally awesome not spending every minute of my day either doing laundry or thinking I should be doing laundry.


5. If this terrible rainy gray cold weather keeps up, I am moving to Minnesota.

6. The past two weeks have been a heady mixture of sickness/rain/leaking windows/car break downs/ear infections/cramps.  I’m waiting for a tree to land on our house.  As thrilled as I am to spend all my time with a child crying on me/barfing on me/wiping snot on me, I’m about done with this sheniganizing. I’m not asking for lottery winning here, but I am going to need either some sunshine, some health improvements, or something  to take that’s stronger than Tylenol PM.

7. I am really happy about my new car, though.  Mr. E and I both secretly decided that after we’re done with this car (which is only 2 years old) we want a brand new car, and from now on we’re only getting new cars, and then convened in the kitchen to tell each other this while filling syringes of Children’s Motrin.  Keep in mind that the Jetta was used when we bought it, and we drove that car for 11 years.  ELEVEN YEARS.  This new car has door locks that open when you push a button! It’s pretty exciting.  (I realize that this makes me sound like an idiot. But I find it genuinely fascinating that we hear so much about how things don’t matter and it’s what in your heart that counts or whatever mumbo jumbo people are platituding all over Pinterest and yet, this nice clean newish car makes me so damn happy every time I get in it, multiple times a day.  I just find that fascinating.)

8. I am also fascinated with winning the lottery. It’s one of my favorite things to think about and talk about.  Mr. E and I have had honest to god GIANT FIGHTS about what we’d do with the money if we won, but I also spend A LOT of time worrying and reading about how the lottery can ruin your life and supposedly will probably make you miserable.  Isn’t that so interesting?  ALL THIS MONEY can just ruin your life, or so they say.  I spend way more time thinking about the lottery than I should, especially when you consider the fact that I have never actually purchased a lottery ticket.

9. I bought a new rug for the living room. I do not like it. But it literally NEVER shows kid stains or dirt.  So there’s that.

10.  I am really tired of feeling sick.


One Life

(I am republishing this post I wrote last year because today is World Down Syndrome Day so I thought it was fitting.)

I recently read a series in the New York Times all about having a baby with Down syndrome.  They were really hard for me to read.  Especially the piece written by the couple who ended up terminating the pregnancy because the husband didn’t want the child, although the wife did.  That hit me like a shot to my gut, because when I was pregnant with Katherine, we had genetic testing done and the tests showed that she had an elevated risk for Down syndrome.

That was really hard.

I know how hard a life with Down syndrome is.  That made it harder.  But I also know how well my sister is doing, how happy her life is.  That made it much much easier.

And ultimately of course, K Dub doesn’t have Down syndrome, but for us, it wouldn’t have mattered.  For me, it wouldn’t have mattered.  I was overcome then, as I am now, with a primal mom feeling.  Regardless, they will pry my child from my cold dead hands, no matter what, and if we have any more children, I’m not having testing done, because it won’t matter.  It doesn’t matter to me.  I am as pro choice as they come, and still, as I said, they will pry MY child, any child of mine, from my cold dead hands.

But I am in a unique situation.

The thing I am always struck by when I read these articles – people don’t know what a baby or a kid or a person with Down syndrome is like.  Are they imagining institutions and children who can’t talk or feed themselves?

I cannot speak to what it’s like to have a child with Down syndrome, to how it feels when people stare in public or tell you that your special angel was a gift from god.  Even I don’t know what that’s like, because I have a sibling with Down syndrome, not a child.  I would imagine all of those things – the things the rest of the world brings with it – are insanely hard.

But I can speak to what the life of an adult with Down syndrome is like, in a tiny corner of the world, and I am here to tell you that well, it’s a damn good life.

It’s really hard to describe Annie’s place, her life, without stating exactly where and what it is, but it’s a pretty amazing place.  A sustainable farm, with cows and chickens and gardens and tomatoes and eggs and raw milk.  Spotlessly clean.  Warm, and bright, and with vases of fresh flowers from the yard on all the tables.  Set in a little town that loves it and sustains it and learns from it.

Annie can knit scarves and she makes pictures from felting that you’d be proud to hang in your house, should you be able to get your hands on one.  She goes out to dinner and to movies and reads books and sends email.  She has a job at a local artisanal cheese maker.   She cooks breakfast for her house every weekend, she collects eggs, she cleans out barns and she has a cow that she is in charge of milking, except right now that cow is pregnant and gets to take a rest.  She yells at everyone else to hurry up on hikes.  She makes apple cider and churns butter.  She bakes muffins as presents.   When she arrived she weighed over 200 pounds, and now she’s lost over 80. She has a boyfriend and best friends and people who care for her like she is their family, because she is.  She is polite and well spoken, but she can also be a total pain in the ass, because she’s not an angel sent from  god, she’s my sister, and we fight just like sisters fight, sometimes, but at the end of the day she goes home to her house, and I go home to mine, just as it should be, now that we are grown.

You should also know that my sister is one of my favorite people of all time.  She makes me laugh every time I talk to her.  I have never, not never ever, wished she was not here, and when I think of her, the word “burden” never comes to mind.  I have often wished that she did not have Down syndrome, but I have never wished that I did not have her.

This is not meant to be a judgment or a contest, or a ranking of the correctness of the decisions of others.  To each their own would be embroidered on a sampler and hung on my living room wall, if I knew how to, you know, embroider.  It’s just me saying that nope, Annie’s not a burden.  I am glad she is here.  And I am absolutely certain she is glad to be here as well.

My mother believes this place has saved Annie’s life.  I just think it’s given her one.   And while is is expensive and it’s small and it’s not always perfect, it is one way.  It exists.  It isn’t, of course,  everyone’s life, but it is someone’s life, and that someone is my sister.


I Made This: Zig Zag Baby Quilt

I should probably warn you that I am kind of ridiculously proud of this project.  Just so you know.



Mainly I’m proud that I actually pulled this off, because this was the sort of project where it was all fun and games and pinning pictures of cute quilts and thinking “I like this one!”, until it came time to actually MAKE the quilt and then all of a sudden I was more than a little concerned that I didn’t actually have it in me to actually, you know, MAKE THIS QUILT and that the whole thing would end in disaster.

I made this at Jennie’s request, for her friend Natalie who is having a baby boy.  Jennie needed a very special baby gift for Natalie because best friends don’t have babies every day, and while I was working on this and cursing Jennie to high heaven and thinking about how happy I am that Jennie is in my life and all the good things she’s brought me, I realized that this is one of the very best things about Jennie.  Whatever it is, SHE THINKS YOU CAN DO IT.  She asks me to do these things because she has 100% no doubt absolute faith that I can.  She is about a thousand times more confident in my abilities than I am, and I appreciate that more than I can say. I’d be the first to tell you I can’t do something, whatever it is.  Jennie would be the first to tell you that I can do anything, whatever it is.  That’s just amazing, don’t you think? I pretty much think it is, even if it does find me hunched over my sewing machine at 10 oclock at night while I watch seven episodes of Sons of Anarchy in a row.

This was not necessarily the hardest thing I’ve ever made, since I once had a lot more time on my hands and made my mother a full size quilt by hand, but all the precision involved made me nervous and I am pretty proud of how well it turned out. I kind of want to make one for myself now, except that I never want to iron another triangle seam for as long as I live.

(I followed the directions at The Purl Bee, but I modified them a bit.  I didn’t add in the extra white pieces, I have an extra row of zig zags and mine are a row longer, and I started out with smaller strips that I had to sew together, so I made my squares 5″.)


Is anyone else here seeing what I’m seeing?

I mean seriously.

Exhibit A:


Exhibit B:

I rest my case.


More Uniformity

Maybe calling it a uniform is somewhat deceptive?  Although keep in mind I spent 12 years in Catholic school. Uniforms don’t scare me.

I have no desire to spend every day in khaki pants and a navy blue polo shirt, day in and day out, but my current system consists of 1. buying random t shirts on sale at Target in ugly colors and 2. buying aspirational clothing that I don’t actually reach for when it comes time to get dressed.  Things don’t go with each other.  Things don’t fit.  Things are pilly or uncomfortable.  Those things need to go.

This uniform is really meant to be a list of things I should have on hand at all times, and to help me eliminate buying extra stuff that doesn’t look good or that I don’t need. If I have all five t shirts on hand, then I don’t need to buy ANY random ugly colored t shirts at Target.  I am ALWAYS happy when I see that I have a clean navy t shirt or a clean white t in the drawer. So why not just have those?

This is not meant to be a collection of expensive pieces I can have forever. I spent my days being pawed by little children, working in my garden, and running around town. My clothes get ruined on a daily basis, and I don’t currently have a tremendous amount of disposable income.  I go through t shirt after t shirt after t shirt, they need to cost $6.  That’s just how it is, right now.

Also, like I said before, this list doesn’t include fancy dress up clothes, as that’s not my issue on a day to day basis.

5 of each thing doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you add in bottoms, I think you can see that this is actually SO MANY clothes, and hopefully with tons of mix and match potential, especially when you count the nine thousand pairs of shoes that I own and lots of fun skirts.

I also feel like this will help keep me on track and help me shop smarter.  I can be on the lookout for one great (but cheap) button down shirt that fits perfectly, and then if it gets stained/worn out/too big/too small, I’ll throw it out and go get another one from the same place.  I know I like the t shirts from Old Navy, I know I should have about five around in navy/white/one other color, I can get another one if one gets worn out, and the rest of the time, I won’t buy t-shirts.

Sound like a plan?

Anyway, here is the uniform so far, with the understanding that I am sure some of this won’t work.  But this is what I have OR what I have recently ordered online OR what I am keeping a lookout for.

Five T Shirts, 2 white, 2 navy, 1 in one other color.  These are the perfect tee from Old Navy, in v neck and crew neck.  They have the best cheap t shirts, imho.

Five Long Sleeved T Shirts. It’s about to be summer, so I am not buying these right now, but in general, imagine that top picture with long sleeves.

Five Tank Tops.  This is also uninteresting, and generally only worn under other things.  Picture some ribbed tank tops and some spaghetti strapped tank tops.

Five Sweaters. We’re going to get to this when fall rolls around.  I have way more than five sweaters right now so I will need to weed this out, not buy more.

Five “Other” Shirts.  So. you can see, there is room in this plan for “fancy tshirts”, just not an endless supply of them that I never wear.

This is the lace inset t shirt from American Eagle, the kimono t shirt from American Eagle, a fancy blouseish thing from Banana Republic that is not this one but is similar that I already own, a button down t shirt from the men’s section of American Eagle, and a polo shirt from American Eagle.

Five Long Bottoms. Again, these are not $200 jeans. I am sure $200 jeans are lovely, but I am not in a $200 jeans phase of my life.  I a in a “where did that stain come from?” phase of my life. Hence, Old Navy $29.99 jeans.

These are the Old Navy Sweetheart Jeans, the Old Navy Dreamer Jeans, and some Old Navy trouser jeans that I need to have taken in at the waist and that aren’t on their web site anymore.  Plus a pair of Old Navy leggings in black, and the Merona women’s utility pant from Target. I am sure it’s the lamest thing in the world but as someone who is proportioned so that my pants are always falling down, I love that drawstring waist.

Five Shortish Bottoms.  I am all about the Bermuda short.  I have been blessed with chunky thighs and the bermuda short is my best friend.  However, I have a hard time finding bermuda shorts that don’t make me look like a girl scout leader unless I buy them at American Eagle, so I don’t even try on the shorts most other places these days.  And then there’s the orange shorts (from J. Crew, the only place I could find them, so rather overpriced, but what can you do). I don’t know, ok. I have an inexplicable need to wear a navy polo shirt, some orange shorts, and some silver shoes. I blame the internet.

I am sure cropped jeans are the high of dorkiness, but I don’t care. I have a pair and I love them and wear them all the time, and when I see them on someone else, I always think they look cute.

I only put the work out shorts on here to make the numbers come out right, but I do own two pairs of long Under Armour compression shorts and I love them.  I wear them on every run.

I have altered these numbers slightly from my original plan because honestly that’s not a lot of shorts.  But I don’t really love shorts and I was hesitant to buy more.  What I do love though, are skirts, so now the plan has five skirts in it.  (And I kind of want more).  I could wear an elastic waisted poofy skirt with a t shirt over it every day of my life.

The first one is a chevron striped knit skirt from Old Navy.  It’s not extremely flattering, but eh. I should probably return it, but it was about $12 and it will probably get all pilly in about two minutes anyway.  The second skirt is Ann Taylor Loft, via Ebay.  Third is Gap, via Ebay. Fourth is the American Eagle printed tribal skirt.  Final one is a white one I found at the thrift store, originally from the Gap.

I’d honestly like one more navy printed skirt and a green floral skirt.  And maybe a really hippie tribal one.  And a fun wrap skirt.  And maybe a nice a line denim one. Skirts are my downfall.

Five Dresses.  To make the numbers come out right, I’d need to have five dresses, but I honestly don’t know that I’d ever have that much use for five dresses.  I think the three I have are probably pushing it and may get returned if they’re unflattering, and then I’ll give  up on dresses and buy five more skirts.

This is the American Eagle embroidered dress, the Lands End Polo Dress, and the American Eagle ruffle dress. I am dubious, but I figured I might as well give them a shot. (I ordered this stuff online and am waiting for it to come, when I will probably return it all, but at least I’ll know what I am looking for if none of this stuff works out.)

Things I Still Need:

I really want an orange scarf,and they have a nice one at Target, although sometimes theirs are kind of skimpy so I need to go try it on.  I also really want a chunky yellow necklace, but I am thinking I might just try to spray paint one I already have. I’ll let you know how that goes.  I am waiting to buy that rope belt from Lands End until I find out if I like the dress I’d wear it with (the polo one), and for it to go on sale. In no universe am I paying over $40 for a belt.  I recently had to throw out a bunch of scarves because they got all pilly so if my children ever stop getting sick and I can find my GPS I might venture to Joanne’s to see if I can find some fabric to make into scarves.  It’s a rectangle of fabric – how hard can that be to make?

I also love that chain necklace, but I am waiting until I am wearing an outfit that I think I could wear it with before I let myself buy it. This is why I need a green floral skirt. Can’t you see a green poufy floral skirt, some gold shoes, a navy blue v neck t shirt, and that chain  necklace? I totally can.

Questions? Holler.


Meal Plans for The Next Two Weeks

It’s my goal to stay out of the grocery store until Saturday the 23rd so I can save money for the uniform.

My other goal is to use something from the fall/winter garden in every meal because it’s going to town and we’re having trouble keeping up.  (BTW, if you live somewhere that this sort of garden is possible, I HIGHLY recommend it. Not only is it unbelievably convenient and economical, but it is SO motivating to include this healthy delicious stuff in meals. It’s out there GROWING and basically screaming USE UP THIS DAMN KALE WOMAN! at all hours of the day.)

Anyway, here’s what we’re going to eat:

1. home made ravioli filled with ricotta and chard (From the Garden)

2. chicken, squash, frozen brocolli from Trader Joes.

3. Frozen chinese food from Trader Joes (I am going to eat mine with a side of sauteed chard and garlic)

4. Tri tip tacos, (with lettuce FTG)

5. potato soup, no knead bread, salad (FTG)

6. pulled pork, yam fries, whatever green is growing most out of control at the time (FTG)

7. hamburgers, salad (FTG), mac and cheese?

8. frozen fish from Trader Joes, coleslaw, spinach salad (FTG)

9. turkey meatballs, spaghetti/zucchini ribbons. Chard in the sauce (FTG)

10. gnocchi plus tomatoes, white beans, and chard

I also had a green smoothie for breakfast with spinach (FTG) and I am going to have kale/avocado salad for lunch. (FTG).  Vitamins are oozing out of my ears.