Follow by Email

Thursday, December 31, 2015

What I Did on My Winter Vacation

Mal and Daphne each opened their one (and only) Christmas gift on Christmas eve, because Christmas morning, we got up, went to breakfast at The Waffle House, and then headed to the airport for our winter holiday.

We'd thought about getting an Uber driver, but there weren't many on Christmas morning and we didn't want to risk being late. Driving ourselves meant we could stop at James' favorite breakfast spot, so that was good...

But when we got to the airport, the far-out parking lot was blocked off. So was the close-in parking. When we headed out the gate, the attendant told us that everything was full except for the $23 per day garage. Even remote parking? Yep. Wow.
v rvrbyffffffdsxz2
We circled the airport and came back in, but there were zero spots in the garage closest to the terminal. So I dropped James, Daphne, Mal, and all of our bags off at the front of that garage and made a beeline to the furthest end of the second garage, because I didn't feel like driving around for hours.

I parked, made a note of where I'd left the van, and headed to the front of the garage to help get the bags into the terminal. This I will call "POOR COMMUNICATIONS INCIDENT #1." I thought James and the kids would be where I left them. James thought the plan was to get the bags over and ready to check in (which seemed impossible to me, as we each had 2 checked items, as well as carry-ons, and Mal is sort of a jerk about helping with that sort of thing).

When I arrived at the elevator where I was certain I dropped them off, my family was not there. I went up the stairs, but it was open air and that wasn't right. I went downstairs, but I knew we hadn't been on the ground floor. I texted James, "Where are you?" Nothing. I texted Daphne. Nothing. I waited a minute, and then I called James. I thought I might even hear his phone ring, but I didn't hear anything. I walked up and down the stairs again. I actually thought about going across to the terminal, but didn't want to get too far away. I could imagine that Mal might be bothered by my having been gone so long. I called James again. Twice. I called Daphne. Neither answered.

At this point, I shouted to the otherwise deserted parking garage, "ANSWER YOUR PHONES!" Strangely, that had no effect. I'm not sure why I started to panic, but I did. The garage wasn't that big. I knew where I'd left them. What the heck?

I was heading downstairs when I saw that I had a voice mail. It was from Daphne. She said, "I can't tell what you're saying." I texted her to call me NOW. She did, and said that they were in the terminal on the first floor. By the time I got to them. I was a sobbing mess. James and I realized our miscommunication, I calmed down, and we headed to check our bags.

There was a line, so we got into it and James started making out tags for the luggage. As it turned out, the line was going amazingly fast, so we had to let people pass us. By the time we got to the front, James had only done a couple of bags, but we went ahead and started processing our stuff.

The counter attendant politely asked for a copy of Mal's birth certificate. "I don't have that." "We have to have it to verify his date of birth." "I don't have it. I didn't know I had to." Guess what? I might have started crying a second time in like eight minutes.

We flew Southwest with Daphne at least three times before she was two, and never had to have any proof of her age. Apparently it's a thing now, and it's on their website. But it would help if it popped up when you tell the site that you're going to have a lap child. I didn't read the whole site, because I've traveled with a baby before (in fact, I traveled with Mal a year ago, but it was on Virgin) and no one has said "boo" about verifying their birth date before.

Fortunately, the attendant talked to someone and said they were giving us a Christmas present by letting us get onto the plane, but that they were noting it in the file and we wouldn't be allowed to board without either his shot records or birth certificate next time. Also fortunately, my sister took her son to our house to feed the cats the other day, and she got a couple of pictures of the birth certificate, so we're set for the flight home. (Whew!)

That out of the way, going through security actually wasn't too bad. They told me I could leave Mal in the carrier and wear him, which never happens. We made it through quickly, though James got frisked. He always does. I guess he looks shady.

We were through the line about two hours before the plane was supposed to leave, but by the time we regrouped, put our shoes back on, got a snack, used the restroom, and looked around a bit, it was already time to board. The flight was 100% full ON CHRISTMAS DAY! We ended up sitting about 9/10 of the way back, but got a row together. There was a grandma sitting across the aisle from Mal and me, and she made friends with him. She gave us cheese and crackers for Mal and D to share, and she tried to amuse and distract Mal, which was nice.

He actually fell asleep pretty much as we were taxiing, and we took off twenty minutes early! Yay for no stragglers! The boy slept for much of the flight, waking for a little less than an hour. He did fine the whole way, but by the time we landed, he was ready to get up and walk. Since we were in the back, we still had a good ten to fifteen minutes to wait. Great trip, though. Love being early!

We took our time getting to baggage claim, and our stuff was already there. We had to take a bus to the rental center, and for our company, there was a long line. While I waited, James let Mal run off some steam. Twenty-five minutes later, we were on our way to the garage.

Something neat Dollar does here in Phoenix (and might everywhere; I rarely rent cars): The guy looked at our contract and said, "You have a mid-sized SUV... that's aisle E. Pick whichever one you like." So that was fun! We selected a Jeep Patriot 4x4, just in case we encountered winter driving conditions (we did not). THEN we had to wait in line about ten minutes to get out of that garage, since the attendant had to scan stuff and put which vehicle everyone chose. Blehh.

But THEN we were on our way to our Phoenix hotel for the night.

Hotwire picked a winner with the Radisson Phoenix North! Daphne was ready to be "home" for the evening, but James and I walked to a Japanese buffet and grill, and we had quite the Christmas feast.

The next morning, we got up and headed north to Flagstaff. There had been an automobile accident on I-17, so what should have been an hour and forty-five minute trip took us about two and a half hours. Mal slept a bit, but was pretty cranky about being in the car toward the end. It was fun to see the decorated Christmas tree around mile marker 255, and to drive from many saguaro cacti into an alpine forest, where snow had fallen and we could enjoy it on the sides of the road, but not have to deal with it falling or our driving in it!

We arrived in Flagstaff during one of their windiest days, and it was pretty chilly! But at long last, Mal and his cousin Emily got to meet and hang out, and we got to meet baby Konnor.


From December 2015
After a few hours, both kiddos were tired, so we went to our hotel to check in. Another winner! We had a suite less than 1/2 of a mile from James' brother's house. D had her own room, we had ours, and we had a nice common area.

James and I went to the grocery store after Mal's nap. We loaded up on snacks and freezer food, and it ended up being perfect because Daphne didn't feel like getting out for many of our meals (or she wasn't awake yet!), and she just finished everything up last night before we left. Mal lost his snow boot in the parking lot, but the next day when James went back, they had it in lost and found (despite not having it when I called the night before). Whew!

James' parents got into town that same afternoon, but by the time James' brother got off of work that evening, Mal was ready to go to bed. James went over and visited with his family for a few hours, and the rest of us had a quiet evening in.

Our awesome hotel had a complimentary full breakfast every morning, and not just continental... good stuff! Typically, Mal would wake up early and we'd head to the office so James could sleep a bit longer.




From December 2015
Saturday morning, after we'd all eaten breakfast, James' parents came over to visit for a while. Then Mal took a nap, after which we planned to go explore downtown.

This whole afternoon was what I will call POOR COMMUNICATIONS INCIDENT #2. We headed downtown because I wanted to eat at The Toasted Owl, and the rest of James' family met us there. His brother, Khrys, had several breweries he wanted to share with James. This was probably like the list we made before Mal was born... we'd picked places we wanted to take James' mom when she was in town. We came up with like 15 places without even thinking too hard. There was no way we'd have time to do them all... and then Mal ended up not being born until she was there, anyway, so we didn't visit more than a couple, anyway.

Our lunch was excellent, and The Toasted Owl was a really neat little place. Mal being the way he is, I had to walk around the restaurant with him before our food came. And after we'd eaten, he was ready to get up and going again, so I followed him around until everyone else was done. One of the breweries happened to be across the street, so we headed over there.

This place is a working brewery, with the "vats" (whatever they're called) out in the open. Mal was very interested, and wanted to touch nobs and pipes and all sorts of things. We went out into the courtyard to listen to music and play while we waited. After a bit, we headed back in to see if maybe Mal would hang out with his cousin and not run all over the place. He didn't. In fact, he almost ducked behind a bar where I couldn't have gotten to him. Back outside.

Mal really enjoyed kicking at the snow with his boots and stomping around in general. He was looking for puddles and found one off of the curb. James came outside and he thought I was leaving, which I wasn't. So he said, "Do you want me to text you when we're done?" I thought he was cutting me loose, which he wasn't. I asked (not too nicely), "How long will that be?" "Ten to fifteen minutes?" "Sure."

So Mal and I walked toward downtown. We went into the train station/visitors center and looked at some memorabilia.


From December 2015

We made our way to the Historic Route 66 and I pulled my phone out to see where Flagstaff Chocolates might be. We were only a few blocks away! As we walked that way, we passed a sweet shop that sold gelato. We got some awesome stuff with caramel and chocolate chunks, and then went up front to eat it. Although there were plenty of seats for us, people were sitting with a chair between them, with their shopping bags in the other chairs. Grr. We ended up sitting on the floor, but there was a vent that Mal enjoyed playing with while we ate, so it was all good.

We continued on to the chocolate shop, and James texted me that they were done. I asked him to drive over because I was tired from carrying Mal so far! He did walk some, but when we needed to make actual distance, I needed to help him out a bit.

The Old Town Building, where the chocolate shop is located, also has some other businesses, including a cute boutique that had a night shirt about how to sleep with a cat that I wanted to get Daphne until I saw that it was $30. Mal ran right in there, found a dressing room, and tried to pull the full-length mirror off of the wall. When we went to the chocolate shop, he kept picking things up and trying to stick them into his mouth. He succeeded with the Christmas popcorn, which I ended up having to buy. It's nearly impossible to shop solo with this guy; he requires eyes (and hands) at all times!

As we were leaving the building, James texted that they were close. I sat on the sidewalk to wait for him, and soon we saw Khrys and Emily. I'd forgotten that the rental place gave us one key ring for our keys, and we can't separate them without wire-cutters, and I had the only set in my purse. So James had ridden over with his parents, maybe. Anyway, the plan was to try to hit one of the other breweries, but I knew there was no way Mal was going to go for that, and I didn't feel like killing more time by myself with him. I told James I was going to go back to the hotel. Khrys offered to try to get me to the car, but I decided just to walk so everyone could stay where they were and go about their business.

And this is where things started going downhill for me, emotionally. Mal and I got back to the car (on the way, I realized that Flagstaff must be one of those places where you have to wait for people to get allll the way out of the crosswalk before you can drive through it; bummer. I was going as fast as I could!), I strapped him in, and as I drove away, I started thinking, "Why did I even come? I can watch Mal by myself at home. In fact, I do. And a lot less stressfully. This is stupid. I'm basically here in a caretaker capacity. Trot Mal out when he can, then when he is done, remove him. I don't get to sit and socialize. I'm always on baby duty. James should have come by himself, except that everyone wanted to see Mal and Emily together..." Etc.

So I called my sister to have her talk me down, but she was busy or ignoring me or something. Instead, I prayed. By the time we got back to the hotel, I had calmed down and was looking forward to spending some time visiting with my girl. But when I got out of the car, everyone was there. Immediately, my brain said, "Oh! They've changed their mind. Good thing I didn't text James anything guilt-inducing or selfish!"

Incidentally, I was wrong. Apparently, the idea was maybe to drop off James' parents with us because they weren't interested in the second brewery. Then the rest of the "kids" would go back out. But I didn't know this yet.

James took Mal, and I cheerfully went upstairs with them. As we were chatting, I said, "I thought I heard Mei Li say that she was going to stay in the car with the kids." James said, "Right." I looked puzzled, and he indicated that "we" were about to leave again. At first, I thought he meant we were going over to their house, which would have been fine, but I wished I hadn't gotten Mal out of the car seat. Then I realized he meant THEY were going back out, and something snapped inside of my brain or heart or something.

I started yelling. "Then why did you even come here?! I thought maybe you were being sensitive and had changed your mind to come hang out with me! This is Khrys' one day off, and your parents are leaving tomorrow, and I don't get to see anyone. I'm just here to take care of the baby, which I could do in Austin! But, no, I'm so glad that you can go out and drink! Please do, and enjoy yourself!" Oh, and also ugly crying. It was not my finest moment.

My sweet husband went downstairs and said something (God knows what) to everyone, and they ended up staying at our place instead.


From December 2015

James and I talked about this at length later, and he said he didn't think he was a very good intermediary. He said the plan was to explore downtown together, hitting the breweries as we passed them. It sounded to me like the plan was "hit all of the breweries," and I knew that I couldn't.

But here's something I realized, and I really hate: I want very much to be a nice person, a kind person who is genuinely happy with my lot and pleased for other people who have things differently. And I'm happy, I seriously am. I love my son, and I love my family, and I often am certain that I wouldn't change a thing. But this is the ugly truth: I can wallow in some serious pity and even get close to envying people I deem have it "easier" than I do. Parenting, and mothering in particular, is so weirdly isolating, even though a whole lot of people are involved in the same enterprise.

It's been more than a year, and I still can't commit to going anywhere after 7. The car ride up to Flagstaff from Phoenix was the longest I've ever gone without holding my son. I love him. I adore him. I also long to be able to sit and have a grown-up conversation from start to finish, and I can't. Other parents seem to be able to manage that. My husband can do it. I can't. I'm the default parent. I typically don't mind. This trip, I've been resentful. Even though my sister-in-law just had a baby a week ago, I found myself jealous that the baby slept hours on hours at a time, sitting in his car seat at the opposite end of the table from his mom. That even though their daughter was up and around, they could sit at the brewery and drink a beer and hang out. I don't get to hang out with adults, basically, ever. I always have to get up. Always have to chase. And it's always me. No, that's not true or fair. It's 85% me. But that's what I signed on for. And typically, I don't feel sorry for myself. But, man, it was so easy to go there.

As much as I would like to be all chill and low maintenance, I think that I need a plan so my expectations are in line. Anyway, James and I had some good talks and everything ended up fine, as far as we were concerned. But I'm still going to have to work on not having pity parties, because I truly love my kid and wouldn't trade him for anything, even an easier social life (or more precious sleep).

The next day, James' parents came over before they headed back home. James and I went to lunch at Miz Zip's, where Mal stood in the booth and played with the sugar packets (without trying to put any in his mouth!) but ate a whole bowl of canned fruit and quite a few French fries, behaving himself admirably and giving us an easy time of consuming our food! He fell asleep on the drive home, napping for a couple of hours. He would have slept a lot longer except we wanted to get to the Lowell Observatory by their 4 o'clock sun viewing. Turned out to be too cloudy, and we didn't feel like paying just to see the museum stuff, so we took Daphne back to the hotel and headed with Mal over to Mei Li's so the kids could play and we could visit. That night, Khrys and Mei Li brought pizza to our place as Mal was asleep shortly after Khrys got off work.

On Tuesday, James and I decided to go downtown and explore it a bit together. It was colder than it had been the previous two days, but sunny and not windy, so it wasn't unbearable. We walked to this beautiful old church and I wanted to get a few pictures inside, but my son thought the echo was cool and kept going, "Oooh! Ooooh!" to hear himself. There were people in the sanctuary praying, and I felt like we were being boorish, so we high-tailed it out of there.

From December 2015

We went back to the shops where I'd taken Mal and he'd gone nutso crazy, but it was a lot more manageable with a partner! We went into Flag Buzz and bought Daphne and James some tea. We got a gelato at the Sweet Shop, and dang it if the same thing didn't happen with people sitting spread out in the front so we had to step outside (where it was in the mid-20s) to eat our stinking gelato.

As we made our way down Rte. 66, we passed Flagstaff Brewing Company. James asked if I thought Mal could take a stop, and we'd been walking quite a while so I figured he'd be able to. It was also approaching nap time, so I thought he might be winding down a bit.

Once again, Mal stood in the seat the whole time, but he stayed in his seat. Two days running! James was just going to try a beer, but I saw French onion soup on the menu and it sounded great. Then the waiter told us that their soup of the day was tomato bisque, so we ended up ordering - and thoroughly enjoying - soup for lunch.

By this time, it was getting cloudy so colder and we went back to the hotel. Mal took a little nap, and then it was time to start packing up for our return trip. Our hotel hosts dinner/mixers Tuesday through Thursday nights, so that evening we got to enjoy some free Asian chicken salad.

Later, I suggested that James take Khrys and Mei Li out to dinner since he wanted to try out a Mexican place and that's mehh to me. They ended up eating somewhere else, but then we had POOR COMMUNICATIONS INCIDENT #3. I thought James was just going out to dinner, so I was kind of waiting up for him. After dinner, he went back to visit at their house. I was lonely and started to descend into whiny internal monologuing, so went to sleep. Then the dishwasher started beeping and did so for about twenty minutes because it took me that long to figure out what the heck was beeping, as it would sound once then be quiet for five minutes. That wake-up and my nervous "What the heck is that?" jaunt, plus my subsequent difficulty getting to sleep threatened to throw me back into a dang pity party, but I fortunately managed to konk back out, thus avoiding doing or saying or even thinking something I might regret later.

Wednesday morning, we got up and went to breakfast at the Crown Railroad Cafe. We'd been wanting to eat there the whole week, and it was passable but really not worth giving up the free breakfast we could have had at our hotel. At least the decor was fun!




From December 2015

Soon, we were on the road back toward Phoenix. It was a much quicker trip than the drive up, since there was no accident to stop traffic. We met James' parents at an In N Out Burger on the way, and even Kitana and her friends Alex and Anthonie drove over, so it was nice to see everyone and stretch our legs a bit before we hit the hotel for the evening. Mal and Daphne and pretty much all of the "kids" enjoyed feeding the birds French fries. Actually, we all really enjoyed it!

James and I talked about taking Mal and Daphne to Castles and Coasters, which was right by the hotel. Daphne wasn't interested, and in the end, we decided Mal wouldn't know the difference, anyway, so we just walked across the street to Barnes and Noble and Mal had a great time pushing around the rolling stepping stool. Also, I got a $6 clearance cookbook that has interactive pages; you take a picture of the picture and it will pull up the recipe and make a shopping list for you to save on your phone. It has recipes and menu ideas, so I can't wait to try some of the stuff next week.

This morning, we drove back to the airport. We were fortunate to get to check our luggage in at the car rental return building; the line at the terminal for Southwest was probably over an hour long. It was nuts! I did have to prove Mal's age, and was able to, so that worked (even though we got shuffled around a few times trying to avoid the line since we only needed the boarding pass and not to do anything else with luggage or checking in).

Oh, man, it's so nice. They let you wear your baby through security now. They've never done that when I've traveled with Daphne or Mal, and it was so much easier!

We had an uneventful flight home. Mal stayed awake most of the time, but enjoyed himself immensely. He fell asleep about twenty minutes out, and that was it.

Two of our bags didn't end up with the rest of them, so we're currently waiting to see if Southwest can locate them. I hope so, because I really want our tea, honey, and chocolates... and all of my CuddlDuds that I just purchased. Oh well. While we waited at the luggage carousel (and waited. and waited), Mal got a little agitated. He was trying to sit in his car seat even though it was lying on its back in the floor.

Once we got out to the van and strapped him into the car seat - which he usually detests - he just giggled and babbled the whole way home. I think he was so happy to be back in "his" van, facing backwards, with his mirror and his giant window... and the first thing he wanted to do when we got into the apartment was to pull out his step ladder and "cook" on the stove. So much for my hope that his being gone for a week would make him forget that little obsession.

We had a great trip; it was so wonderful to see everyone and to enjoy the cold and beauty of Flagstaff. Also, eating out every meal and not cleaning the house are always awesome. Even with my emotional roller coastering, this trip was so much less stressful than traveling with Mal when he was a year younger. Daphne even said she had fun, though she missed drawing on her computer. I think she enjoyed not having chores as much as I did.

We have two mini trips planned for 2016 already, and I'm already looking forward to traveling with my family! (But not flying. Nope. Done with that for a good while.)

From December 2015
P.S. Yes, I have pictures of Daphne. She asked me not to post them. :)

Monday, December 21, 2015

A very special birthday

Yesterday was my husband's birthday. I wanted to make it special, but...

We'd had family in town over the weekend, and getting ready for the "Christmas" celebration took up a lot of my mental energy (which isn't in overstock right now, anyway).

Mal was sick.

We're gearing up for Christmas, the real one.

But mostly, Mal was sick.

We did manage to bring home food from Taquiera Chapala, because my man loves Mexican food.

Mal isn't sure he likes Tex-Mex. He looks to Daphne for his cues.

I'd told him I'd make him shepherd's pie, too, but after I'd spent three hours holding a restlessly-sleeping Mal, I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it. He was fine with a rain check.

We did get to watch two full episodes of "Agents of SHIELD," which is awesome and rare. James asked me why I was crying at the end of the second episode, which just proves that he still doesn't know much about women.

I did get to make the pie, with Mal's help, actually. It turned out great. And we had wee little cakes for James.






Anyway, I tried to make his birthday special, despite being fairly depleted of resources. He's not one to make or to want a big fuss, but I'm sure schlepping to Wal-Mart to get replacement batteries for our thermometer wasn't on his birthday wish list.

Still, I wanted his day to be special because I always want him to know how special he is, and how much I love him.

I like to tease James, to anyone who'll listen, about how I wanted to get together with him in high school. And I did. But it's so, so good that we didn't date then. We weren't ready for each other. We weren't right for each other. It took years of growth and hurt and roller coaster living to prepare us.

James and I are very, very different. We came at our relationship, as adults, from very different places. In fact, there were several times that we considered ending it. I remember once saying, "If that's the deal, let's just break up now because I can't." And another time, James recalls driving to work wondering, "Do I really want to be in a relationship with someone who's this high maintenance?" Obviously, he decided that he did. He also decided that "the deal" wasn't too important and kicked it by the wayside, because he wanted to try to make this work.

We are very, very different. But it didn't take too long before those differences, instead of being something shocking and even maybe hurtful, became this wonderful dance of filling in where the other is weaker, or of opportunities to practice selflessness and grace.

James is not like anyone else I ever dated, especially not seriously. He has a mind that is amazing and, honestly, a bit scary. Even knowing him as well as I do (he says he has no more secrets from me), I still sense that I have barely scratched the surface of who he is. He has outlooks and ideas that I might not agree with, but those have become wonderfully enriching and have helped a lot with parenting my teenager.

James is brilliant, but he doesn't make me feel stupid. He knows how to get his point across, even when I'm wrong, without gloating or even sounding like he might be correcting me. He makes me believe, even on my hormone-iest, most exhausting days, that I am beautiful, and I think that I am beautiful because he thinks so. If I weren't older and wiser, it would be tempting to take his love for granted... because I can. That's a first. I can seriously not worry about losing his affection. But this doesn't make me want to slack off; it makes me more grateful and more in love than ever.

I adore this man more than words can say, and I can't pretend to rue the years we didn't have together, because I really don't. I'm so glad I wasn't his "starter wife," or that we didn't date and blow up and ruin the possibility of a future together. I look forward to every bit of time we have for the rest of our lives, and only wish I had more than tiny cakes and a shepherds pie to show for how much I care.

There's always next year. And the next. And I'm ridiculously happy about that.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Hey, parents, stop freaking ruining Christmas with your laziness and manipulation

It wasn't my intention to roll out THREE blog posts today. Believe it or not, I have stuff to do! But I can't take this trend I'm seeing on social media and I wanted to address it.

First of all, if you have shared any of these, I'm not really talking to you because I assume I have the kind of friends who would never do this and maybe just think the idea is humorous in theory.

However, if you're a parent who actually thinks, as many of the testimonials say, "This is a great idea!" then I'd like to appeal to you on several levels.

Let's start with this: 


Let me quote from this lady's blog: "This elf warning for naughty kids is probably the most useful thing I’ve ever stumbled across on Pinterest. Seriously! Two of the kids (I won’t say which ones) actually cried this morning when they found the Elf Warning instead of Fred. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t like making my kids cry, but I’ll take any help I can get in keeping them in line."

Then there's this:


"This will always fix the problem."

And finally, one that is making the rounds today. In fact, it's been shared more than 40,000 times TONIGHT.


First, one of my friends pointed out that "Grinch" and "bench" don't technically rhyme. :)

The list goes on and on. I could post lots more, but you get the idea.

WHAT THE HELL, PARENTS?

Seriously? What kind of people are you?

Why is this not at all funny and actually wrong? Oh, my lord, there are reasons upon reasons. Let's just start wherever:

1) It's cowardly. You are your kids' parent. There is no outside third party monitoring you get to shrug and blame when their annoying actions have fabricated (and cruel) "consequences." No, the sadness they feel about losing a present is not a reasonable and logical consequence to whatever they did to piss you off, even if it was really really bad. YOU are the parent. Tackle the behaviors together. "Running in the house"? SERIOUSLY? You will threaten losing presents because an energetic kid moves too fast for your taste? You are the one with a problem.

2) It teaches all of the wrong lessons.

a) "Be good because someone is watching you." Also known as: If you're going to be naughty, do it way hidden so you might not get caught and then get in trouble. Also known as: It's only really wrong if you get caught. In other words: The reason you want your kids to "behave" is not because they think they might get in trouble (in this case, losing Christmas presents). You want your kids to "behave" because they understand which actions aren't acceptable and why. "I know you want that, but I can't get it right now, and your whining seriously hurts my head and makes me tired. Can you please talk to me about it in a normal voice?" If they don't? Well, they're kids. Keep reminding them. You're the adult. Teach them the right reasons to do the right thing.

b) "This is Santa's function":


c) "Christmas is all about YOU and the presents YOU might or might not get." I've heard parents gripe about how self-centered their kids are, how entitled. Well, when the parent is the one making this whole season about how many presents their kids might receive, the parent is the one focusing the kids' attention on this. Which brings me to something this...

d) "The only gifts you get are the ones you earn." I direct you to the dictionary, which would indicate that a gift is "something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned." If you earn something, it isn't a gift. It's a wage, or an incentive. (Right, department stores... there's no "free gift with purchase" there's "free incentive to purchase." We're not that naive, but I do like free stuff, so keep it up!) Some people like to teach their kids a version of "There's no such thing as a free lunch," but that's wrong. I've been given plenty of things I didn't earn in my life. So have you. If a carrot is dangled in front of you as a "present" but you can lose it if you're "bad enough," then it was never a present.

A present is given out of the joy and grace of the gift-giver, and ESPECIALLY Christians should understand and want to teach their kids this.

3) If your family is celebrating Christmas, religiously or secularly, don't you want your kids to have a sense of wonder and awe about the whole thing? Why turn it into another test they have to pass or else?

Actually, the Grinch himself said it:


If you want to be a lazy coward then use the threat to call the cops like you do the rest of the year. Don't ruin Christmas, too.

By the way, that was a joke. Don't do this to cops, either. Grow up and be a parent.

4) None of this shows any respect for kids at all. Are kids sometimes annoying? Yes. Do they do things that they're not supposed to? Of course. As their parents, it's our job to work WITH them to fix these things. not to threaten to ruin one of the biggest holidays of the year because in the days leading up to an arbitrary date on the calendar, we didn't like how they were being. Think about it! It's a busy time of year, the school semester is closing out, there are parties and lots of things going on... They might be even more "lively" than usual. Plan for it. Prepare for it emotionally. Be there to help, not to reflect your own irritation back onto them. They pick up on that, too, and it makes things worse.

Can you imagine getting up Christmas morning and having your significant other tell you, "I had bought you that coat you loved but thought was too expensive. However, the last two times the trash collection has come, you haven't taken the garbage out in time, and so I did it myself and returned the coat." You'd be so angry!

You might argue that you're not a kid, but I'd argue that no one deserves to be "pwned" that way. No one deserves to be manipulated into compliance. We don't learn to serve in genuine grace through coercion or fear; it has to be a choice made out of relationship or self-discipline. And littles don't have much self-discipline, so your relationship with them is the strongest tool you have. Treating them like the enemy destroys that, even if they don't know you're doing it. YOU know, and it trains you to think of them as the enemy... a force to be contained and avoided.

5) It robs the parent of experiencing joy and wonder through their kids' eyes, since they're busy strategizing ways to maximize the power of the holiday. Gross, people. Just stop.

I could think of more reasons, but I've been clacking away for almost an hour and have been fortunate that my baby has slept through this so far. I'm not pushing my luck any further.

Will you do me a favor? Please don't use this season of goodwill as a whip to beat your kids into shape. Either take it or leave it, but if you take it, strategize ways to maximize the memories and traditions that will be the foundation of your kids' memories. You will never regret it.

Signs of the time and other firsts

After nearly 15 months, Mal is finally getting that signs can be used to communicate!

His first regularly-used sign was "more." I mean, he uses that appropriately for "more," but also for "help" or "get me some of that." Anyway, when you ask, "Do you want more?" he'll sign if he does.

About a week later, he started signing "all done" or "finished." This one he uses regularly but less frequently.

A third sign he uses multiple times daily is "diaper." It's the funniest thing: When he's pooped, he will sign "diaper." So I'll ask, "Do we need to change your diaper?" Then he never wants to. He HATES diaper changes. But it's almost like he has a compulsion to tell me, now that he can, when his "diaper" is dirty.

Sometimes he does like to role-play diaper changing. He'll pull out the pad and sit on it. Real changes he hates.
Yesterday we had an important first: While Mal was home AND awake, I took a full-length (read: I didn't rush) shower while James played with Mal. Not once did that child wander off to see where I was and what I was doing, much less did he stand at the tub and cry until I got out. It was so super freeing. Hoping that thing lasts!

Then today, well, it was a good morning. I've been making cookies for... it seems like ever. Mal has started "helping" me in the kitchen. He climbs up on the two-step ladder and watches. He tries to "help" by sticking measuring cups into the mixer (while it's running), and taste-testing dough throughout the process. There is a lot of my having to move things (all of the small appliances are unplugged because he plays with the knobs, and between the Griddler and James' grandma's ancient toaster oven, he'd burn this apartment down), and telling him, "Not now; it's too hot" or "That will hurt you" or "It's not good yet" or "It's not for us," but it's so much better than him running around at my legs crying. He's very interested and very keen to participate.

I was able to prepare and bake the genoise for my buche de Noel under his watchful eye, and also bake the cookies for our ReWork cookie exchange.

We have a pretty full (for us) schedule this weekend, but it's getting easier to tote Mal to multiple places and have him happily participate.

Oh, earlier this week, I read an article about how the "average" adult awakes between six and twenty times per night, whether they become fully conscious or not. So I decided to count how many times Mal woke up to nurse each night for a week. Sunday night, he woke up basically 8 times: twice before I went to sleep, 5 times between the hours of 10 PM and 6 AM, and then the time he woke up for the morning. That actually felt like a good night's sleep. Monday night, I lost track at 10, because sometimes he'd seem to doze off, then want to change sides and I wasn't sure whether that counted as one or two wake-ups because he had fallen to sleep a bit, but I hadn't. Anyway, it was at least 15. The next night, I just couldn't think, and then I gave up because I decided we're "normal" and the only difference is that I'm fully aware of wakening.

Every time we wake up, I kiss Mal and tell him I love him. I really do, too, and maybe I'll miss this when/if he outgrows it. I can't imagine that, but I just might.

Finally, Mal eats like a freaking champ. He takes after his sister that way. This week, he's eaten veggie pizza, spinach and artichoke-stuffed mushrooms, my own Malt-o-Meal concoction, tomato basil crackers with cheese, steak, enough blackberries to warrant a bath, enough cantaloupe that the day after I regretted it, and a ton of food in addition to his fruit/veggie pouches and snacks. He has recently gotten one molar, and that's probably helping him process solid food better. Also, he's gotten taller. He's grown over an inch since his birthday in September!

Review: Several dry shampoos; which is the best?

Here's the thing about my hair: I have to "fix" it. I wish I had the kind of hair I could just wash and walk out the door... and I do that on occasion. But I rarely feel "put together" in that case. Before the baby, I would heat-roll my hair every other day or so. Sometimes, I'd use big chunky rollers. Sometimes I'd use the old Benders. And on occasion, I'd use a very small ceramic wand for super ringlets.

Since Mal was born, I don't use a lot of heat on it as I shampoo at night and typically wrap my hair in a headband so it's not just stick straight. I mean, I wish it were sleek and stick straight, and I'd be happy. Instead, it's knotted log made of hay straight.

Regardless, my hair needs something. But it is also, due both to processing and apparently just to my biology, very dry. If I shampooed my hair every day, it'd be adding insult to injury. Unfortunately, my scalp isn't dry at all. It tends to get oily and make me feel very ookey if I go more than one day without washing it.

A few years ago, I bought my first dry shampoo. It was Not Your Mother's Clean Freak, and there was a learning curve.


I think I was holding it too close or spraying too long or something at first. I'd follow the directions and end up smelling great but looking like I was a teenager playing an old person in a play. You know... like I'd powdered my hair? Even if I waited a few minutes. Even after I'd brushed. I still had "hot" roots.

To remedy that, I tried this: Beyond the Zone's Rock On dry shampoo for "medium to dark hair."


It didn't leave my roots gray, but I also didn't fell like it absorbed as much of the oil.

By the way, that's basically the point of dry shampoos. I mean, besides fresh smell: It contains either alcohol or a starch that absorbs oil from your scalp, making your hair look and smell cleaner than without.

For myself, a person with fine hair, it also adds a little volume, which is nice, as one of the added effects of oily hair is that it plasters itself down on my skull.

My sister experimented at one time with using straight up talcum powder and cinnamon once, and I think she was pleased enough with it. I have enough trouble spraying, so I can't imagine trying trying to sprinkle powder evenly on my head. (Also, she said that the powder absorbed and basically disappeared, but at the end of the day she still had cinnamon in her hair.)

Finally, I'd heard that Dove has a dry shampoo. It's slightly less expensive that NYM and quite a bit less expensive than BTZ.


I'm pleased to announce that it's actually my favorite! And because it's so readily available, I can get it via Instacart when I'm buying groceries... err, someone else is buying me groceries. Oh, and I need to do a post on Instacart, while I'm at it. That'll be coming soon. :)

Bottom line: Dry shampoo is great for a day or two when you either can't or don't want to dry your hair out by (ironically) shampooing it. And Dove is the least expensive and my favorite. Just hold the can 6 inches from your head, use your free hand to pull your hair away from your head to get to your scalp around your hair line especially, and try to wait more than the two minutes recommended before you brush your hair out. But don't forget to brush it before you leave the house.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Picky Picky

This morning, I was awake for a while after an emergency 4:20 AM diaper change (for the baby, not me). I was thinking through something that happened the other day: Mal had his finger up his nose, which he is wont to do, and an older lady said something like, "Eww, don't to that. It's dirty," and moved like she was going to brush his hand away from his face, but then she didn't.

I was thinking, "Why is picking noses considered disgusting?" I mean, I get that picking a big juicy one and either passing it around for a gander or wiping it on the couch or under a chair is just rude, but here's my reality and Mal's, too...

I have allergies and often my sinuses are stuffed up. When this happens, I sometimes sniff a lot. People often ask me if I need a tissue to blow my nose, which I don't. The stuff isn't in my nose; it's up higher. Sniffing helps bring air in so it doesn't feel like it's dripping, which is a relief, but during those times, I can blow my nose and have absolutely nothing happen.

When my nose is stuffed up, it's, well, sorry to be gauche, but dry and crusty. Typically, it's only if I'm hot or sad that the mucous membranes in my nasal passages moisten enough that I can blow my nose and have it be productive. (The past month or two, though, every morning I've had to do this, which is rare and also allergies are super bad right now and I'm way over it.)

All of that to say: Very often (including in Mal's one year pictures), I can see that he has dried boogies in his nose. The Nosefrida doesn't help with this (in the rare event that I can get it lined up and suctioned before he flips his crud), and it will be a cold day in hell before Mal lets me squirt saline or breast milk up his nose to loosen that stuff up.

He's like me: when he gets hurt or upset, he'll cry and, man, is his face a mess then. But if he has a good day and doesn't dissolve in sobbing fits, what's he to do? I'd rather him pick those babies out himself and be able to breathe easier.

Yes, I'll work on things like "put it in a tissue, throw it away, and wash your hands." He's still growing. But even when he gets bigger, I'll tell him about the social stigma associated with nose-picking without making it a hygiene rule in our house. It just doesn't make sense to me.

Furthermore, a lung specialist in Austria (Bischinger) went even further than "picking your nose isn't too disgusting" and said this: "With the finger you can get to places you just can't reach with a handkerchief, keeping your nose far cleaner. And eating the dry remains of what you pull out is a great way of strengthening the body's immune system. Medically it makes great sense and is a perfectly natural thing to do. In terms of the immune system the nose is a filter in which a great deal of bacteria are collected, and when this mixture arrives in the intestines it works just like a medicine. Modern medicine is constantly trying to do the same thing through far more complicated methods. People who pick their nose and eat it get a natural boost to their immune system for free. I would recommend a new approach where children are encouraged to pick their nose. It is a completely natural response and medically a good idea as well. Children happily pick their noses, yet by the time they have become adults they have stopped under pressure from a society that has branded it disgusting and anti social." So.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Thoughts on Laura Ingraham's parenting story

I've decided that when I hear or read something that raises my hackles so that I feel like I have to address it or die, I'm going to do it here. And not share on social media. So if anyone cares and wants to read, they can. If not, I'm fine with that; I just need to get my ideas out of my head. I'll tag all of them with "response" if you want to click and read all of my "grrrr." I'm sure you don't. :)

I don't listen to talk radio, but the other day, Mal had been playing with the radio channels while we did time in the van waiting for him to be ready to get into his car seat. I was in the back seat and ended up listening to part of a call to the Laura Ingraham show. The caller was talking about how you have to love your kids, and in agreement, Laura told a story I'll paraphrase:

Last night, someone (husband? older kid?) had set up a tent city and my son wanted to sleep in it on the bean bag chair. The tent city is fine and all, but I told him "no" because I knew what would happen: He'd end up in my room at 1 AM, complaining about a crick in his neck. He was really upset, crying and going on and on about wanting to sleep on the bean bag, and I reminded him that Sunday is St. Nicholas Day, and he'd better straighten up if he wanted St. Nicholas to bring him something. Well, that got his attention. He calmed down, and I just gave him a hug and... whatever else she said.

Seriously? This is held up as a successful parenting moment? I have so many questions.

1) Why not? Seriously, why not? He'll wake you up at 1 and what? You can say, "I'm sorry your neck hurts. Let's get you to bed and situate the pillows to help him feel better. It takes, what, ten minutes away from your beauty sleep? Isn't it worth it for him to have an experience that will be different, and maybe he will even learn something?

2) If you're having to coerce your kid into behaving by making up some garbage story about how Santa isn't going to leave him something, what are you teaching him? Gifts are supposed to be free, no strings attached. You don't earn gifts or they'd be wages. Gifts are given from the good graces of the giver. This just makes St. Nicholas look like he's a disciplinarian in cahoots with the parents.

3) Anyway, your kid is disappointed. Can you let him work through that? Can you help him work through it? Maybe say, "I know it sounds like that'd be fun, but it's a school night and I think it's important that you get your best sleep tonight. Can we plan it for Friday night, when you don't have to be up early?" Something like that. And if you're not willing to do it at all, at least still let him voice his disappointment, and tell him genuinely that you're sorry.

Anyway, I think this is parenting at its laziest, frankly. Automatic no and using a third party as a henchman. Ugh. 

Divine Serendipity

Tuesday night, I had one of the best nights of sleep I've had in recent memory (read: a year). Mal woke up at least 4 times to nurse, but that's not as many as usual, and each time he just woke up, wanted milk, and went back to sleep.

Last night? Last night was very different. Mal got a little wound up at an event last night, and when it came time to go to sleep, he was ready, but there was some crying involved and there usually isn't (although there's always some aerobics involved).

Then, all night, he wanted to nurse. And not just nurse. He wanted to cry because he was on the "wrong" side, climb over me to get to the other side, not want to wait for me to readjust at all, and then get madder when, in trying to cover my cold self, I accidentally covered HIM with a blanket (which is just *not* done!), and he had to kick it off.

All. night. long.

I don't count because I don't want to go crazy, but let's just estimate that this happened 15 times. He'd wake up into a full stand a few times, too. I had to wrestle him back to bed before he lost his balance and fell over, hitting his head against the wall or window (I don't think he's fully awake when he does this).

I might have started grumbling and complaining at some point. You know, just to share the joy with my husband. I'm not proud of it, but there it is.

Then, at a bit before six, Mal had drunk so much that he soaked through is special night-time Pull-Up and I had to go change his diaper and his clothes. James got a towel to put over where he'd been lying, and I hoped against hope that Mal would go back to sleep.

It didn't look promising. Mal sat up, talked, climbed over me several times. In my exhaustion, I started thinking black thoughts like, "Why, in 14 months, has my husband never taken this child first thing in the morning so I can get some extra sleep?" (The reality of that probably lies somewhere between "He doesn't want/have to" and "Mal wouldn't let him, anyway.")

But, praises for small miracles, eventually Mal konked out lying on my shoulder. My arm went to sleep and my hand was freezing, but I did not dare move as I was able to doze on and off for another hour.

When we finally got up, I started the laundry. Sheets, blankets, mattress cover, etc. I managed to get James lunch (as it was, not much) but he had to find breakfast on the way to work. Mal and I did our usual morning stuff, but he was already getting tired and fussy. I ended up opening the 73-piece kitchen set we were going to give him for Christmas (what does he know about Christmas this year, anyway?) just so he'd have something new to distract him.

By 9 AM, I knew we had to get out of the house. Crepe Crazy has a new location on South Lamar grand opening today, so I thought we'd hit the gym for just a few, then go on to that. By the time I changed out the laundry, straightened Mal's room, and got everything together, we were ready to leave here at about 9:20, just in time to be at the gym when it opened at 9:30.

Mal was excited! We got down to the car, I opened the driver's side door and put him in (our back door doesn't open anymore, so we go through the front, just so you can stop worrying that I let him ride in the front), then clicked the "unlock" button. Nothing. Aww, crap.

Last night, I'd turned on the dome lights to keep Mal awake while we drove home from the gingerbread contest awards ceremony.

I don't know who won this category, but this was my favorite.
I'd turned my front lights off so I could drive in the dark, and just must not have noticed that they were still on. So our battery was dead.

I stood there thinking for a minute. There were guys coming to work on the apartment remodels, and I thought about asking one of them to help me jump start the van, but they were on the clock and I didn't want them to fall behind schedule.

Also, of course, though I usually back into my parking space, because I was in a hurry last night and wanting to get Mal upstairs to see his dad before he fell asleep, I had pulled straight into the parking space, which meant my battery was facing the forest. Fortunately, the parking space is sloped, so I could back out, but it'd be tight, since I'm parked perpendicular and barely behind the covered parking for our building.

After about five minutes, I decided to go ask our downstairs neighbor Reggie if she could give us a jump. We knocked on her door and she answered, groggy but happy to see us. Apparently, she has trouble sleeping and was napping. Oops. But she told us she'd be happy to help, and asked us to go chat with her mom while she got her keys and got ready (dressed).

I was glad we had the chance to talk to the mom, because she loves Mal and we haven't seen her in a while. She'd fallen at a beauty salon a couple of months ago and had to do rehab, but said she's doing a lot better. She's going in for some tests this afternoon to make sure she doesn't have cancer anymore.

While we were there, Mal managed to change the input for her TV before we got the remote from him, but fortunately her daughter knew that the input as supposed to be HDMI2 (I'd tried cable/antenna, video, HDMI 1, and figured... why would it be 2? But it was...)

When we got outside, Reggie pulled her car out so we wouldn't block her, and I tried to back out in neutral. Problem: I was right on the curb, and the tire was caught. I managed to push it back using one leg, but it only went back about 3 feet and stopped. This time, I did ask the contractors for help. It took three of them, but they got the car pushed back far enough for the cables to reach, but not for me to hit the car behind me (steering is sluggish and difficult when you have a big vehicle and power steering is out!).

As I went to get Reggie's hood open, she told me she'd never opened it herself before. It took me a few tries before I figured it out, but once I did, we got everything hooked up and it worked fine. She was concerned about my driving anywhere, but I stopped to get gas on the way (leaving the car running; trust me, it's fine) and by the time we got to Mal's gym, the car has been running 25 minutes, which was plenty to recharge the battery.

About the gym: I think I spend about half of my time there re-closing the bathroom doors (hurray for you parents with kids who *don't* play in toilets, but could you help a sister out?), about a third of my time there giving Mal snacks, and about a sixth of the time actually watching and helping him play in the gym.

Anyway, we ran by BK to use some coupons on the way home, and when we got here, Mal was ready for a nap. He wasn't quite asleep yet, which is just how I like it, when we started up the stairs... And Reggie came out of her apartment to ask me a favor. She wanted to know if I'd be willing to sit with her mom sometimes when she needs to run out to the store really quickly. I was so tickled! Ever since we started moving in, I have been wanting to do something for them besides just visiting (although that helps a lot, morale-wise).

If my battery hadn't been dead and I hadn't asked for a favor, she might not have felt comfortable asking for one in return. So, if that was the point of all of that, then I think it was incredible, and I thank God for it. It wasn't even that bad, anyway; just a little inconvenient. And now we get to do something nice for the ladies downstairs. Well-played, God.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Guys, I'm Tired

It seems like Mal was doing a growth-spurt thing this weekend, eating voraciously, and then nursing *a lot* at night. Like a lot a lot. Like I'm starting to want to wear undergarments all day and night because my girls are just tender and touchy and even if I accidentally brush up against the refrigerator door when I'm opening it, I want to yell at the door, "Leave me alone for three seconds!"

Now, he might be sick or he might be teething. Very easily upset, very demanding, very... booby. I was actually able to put him off the longest we've ever gone on Saturday: just over 4 hours! It would have been longer, but his gym was closed over the weekend for Thanksgiving, and so I ended up nursing him for a bit when we got home because he'd gone to sleep in the car and I wanted him to stay asleep when we got home. And the reason I was able to make it so long is that we went out to breakfast, then to the grocery store. At home, he's less easily distracted. I offer him water, food, a baby food pouch, or I say, "Just a minute. Let me go put my contacts in," etc. to see if he'll forget. This morning, there was no forgetting. I didn't even make it to 9 AM, and had already nursed him about 4 times before he fell asleep at 11ish. I'm not proud of it, but there it is.

Also, the more emotional Mal is (up or down), the more likely he is to bite. And nothing is worse than getting bit/hurt when your patience is already worn down and you're really, REALLY trying to be maternal and caring. A furious little bubble pops inside of my chest and I have to fight so hard not to yell at him. I'm not saying I don't say, "Do NOT bite Mommy" between clenched teeth, because I do. I'm just super ready for that phase to be over with. And it's also more than a bit humbling how hard it is to control my own temper sometimes.

It's funny... a lady in the cry room yesterday at church asked me how Mal was sleeping. She has a little girl probably about the same age, and then an older girl. She said the older girl has always had sleep issues, and they're trying to avoid it with the younger daughter; she thought maybe I'd figured out the secret. I just laughed. I think I've just gotten used to the sleep thing. I wish it were easier, but I don't fight it anymore. If I did, I'd have gone crazy. I'd be a lot more exhausted than I am. And I'm finding the actual bed-sharing part isn't as bad as I'd thought it might be. The waking up every hour or so I could do without but, again, we've kind of just gotten used to it. I've gotten really good at conking back out pretty quickly.

Mal is definitely growing and maturing. He understands things. I can ask him to do something and he might or might not do it, but he definitely understands what I'm asking, as long as it's about something familiar to him and I make it a simple request. Yesterday, he'd taken an eyeball from a book (don't ask) into the other room and had come back later. I asked him if he could go back and get the eyeball so I could put it where it belongs. He thought about it for a minute, and he did it!

-- Update from the next day: The rest of the day was more of the same, exhaustion-wise. Several bitings, lots of cryings. I try to have so many "yes" spaces in our house, but it seems like Mal gravitates to the "no" things, and now that he can climb, it's worse. I feel like I'm saying "No, get down; that's dangerous; you'll hurt yourself; I'm sorry you're mad, but..." about 80% of my waking time.

So, actually, stuff is probably developmentally appropriate, baby-wise. And it's tiring. That's just the nature of the beast. But I'm also a little tired... of... people. :\ This probably explains a lot about my post yesterday about how I don't have any friends.

Last week was Thanksgiving, and there was just so much disgruntled rumbling all over the place: Stores selling Christmas stuff "too early," people putting up their decorations "too early," stores being open on Thanksgiving, people being jerks going to those stores or waiting in lines for Black Friday sales. I don't get why people are so hacked off. Just celebrate the holiday the way YOU want to and don't worry about everyone else, maybe?

Then there's all of the tension about accepting Syrian refugees. The response from so many people has been so negative. I'm sorry, but I don't get it. Take a look at this photo essay. I realize there are adult male refugees and that people are concerned that they might have bought into ISIS, but I think that is statistically insignificant enough that we can extend a welcome, as our country is supposed to do, what with the huddled masses yearning to be free and all. The rhetoric going on around this has been demoralizing to the max. I hurt for the refugees and I hurt that people can harden their hearts against people who are desperately in need of asylum because they're scared for themselves. I don't know. Maybe I'd feel differently if threatened. I hope not.

And tons of people are posting, like recently, within the last week, about the evils of screens. This, to me, is like my fighting my son to sleep "better." It is what it is, so chill out and if you want to change your own habits, go for it. But most of the stuff being published is alarmist and without foundation. For instance, one recent post included the fact that ADHD diagnoses have increased since the introduction of computers/smart phones/tablets, etc. into our home. But correlation does not equal causation! You know what else has happened during that same time? School days have gotten longer. Kids are not going to recess or art class or music class in a lot of schools. They are involved in activity after activity when they're not in school. Run here, run there, do your homework at the gym while your sister practices. And then we blame computers when they can't concentrate on something?

Not to mention the fact that we expect children to act like adults more and more and when they don't, we "diagnose" them and often dose them.

I'm not buying at all that this is the fault of computers or tablets or smart phones. Have those things changed our lives? Definitely. For the worse? I seriously doubt it.

I was going to go off on another tangent, but I won't. I'll just say that there have been things like televisions and fish tanks and magazines in waiting rooms for a long time to give people something to do and to look at that is NOT the person sitting across from them. So people on their phones in situations like that don't bother me. Actually, a family at dinner all on their phones doesn't bother me. If that's how they want to enjoy their meal, who cares? It's not my business. Let them do it.

I had to stop writing this yesterday because my sweetheart woke up and life started up again. But in thinking it over the rest of the afternoon, I realized what I have to do: I have to use Facebook like I use email: to communicate efficiently with people when necessary, and "delete" everything else. Since I can't do that literally, I'm deciding to stop reading my news feed at all. I'll go in and check on my family and some friends, of course, but I'm just going to have to stop reading the rest. I know I can hide people, but the time it would take me to hide everyone... I just don't want to. I'm just going to stop. I have to, for my mental health.

I compare it to this: I had a dear friend I loved immensely who just had a negative outlook on life. He could stuff it for a while, but the closer we got, the more constant the stream was: Everyone hated him, including God. Everything was out to get him. People were all jerks and losers and screwing him out of the happy life he deserved. In the end, I told him that I couldn't be his friend anymore because I didn't share his gloom and doom view of the universe, and I couldn't stand to be poured into by that train of thought anymore.

Honestly, this has been brewing since the Marriage Equality Act passed several months ago. I was just crushed and disheartened by the response of so many people... or the articles and blogs to which they were linking.

I should have stopped then, honestly. And if I've replied rather aggressively to a post you've made in the past two or three weeks, I'm sincerely sorry. It got to the point that I couldn't take it anymore and I accidentally slipped into this:


It's eating up too much of my emotional and mental energy, and I really need that for my family. And for you, when I see you in person. So, again, I apologize.

I wish, I really do, that Facebook still allowed you to choose "only important updates" to see from people. I love the pictures of your life, your kids, your dogs, your food, and to know what movie you just enjoyed. But I can't read any more about how someone in Obama's cabinet is a known Muslim trying to convert America to Islam. Friends, I just can't.

So thanks for being patient with me (internet-wise, and in person... because it's seriously difficult to find words when I'm talking to a face because of the toddler thing), and thanks for reading and being my friend even when I'm disgruntled about people being so dang disgruntled. I need to focus on positive things. I WANT to focus on positive things. Onward and upward, then...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

All By Myseyellfff...

For some reason, last week I thought of the television series "Northern Exposure," and that I'd like to watch it again. And although it has been a good fifteen years since I've seen the show (which ended TWENTY YEARS AGO, people!), I kept thinking about the characters on the show, remembering them fondly. This morning, I was playing with Mal and thinking about Maurice, the tavern-owner. Then I remembered Ed... and was getting all mushy with nostalgia about these fictional characters.

What the?

Later, I told James that I think I've been remembering them fondly and wanting to see them again as friends because right now, I can't really maintain friendships. It's difficult to manage a full conversation, honestly, so all-out relationships just aren't happening. Fortunately, James is my best friend and he lives here. It's still not easy to complete thoughts out loud to each other, but we manage.

And my sister is only a few miles away, but between her kids and work and my very high needs kiddo, we still only really talk or see each other maybe once a week. But she's family, so comparatively, it's still "easy."

When Daphne was little, I was still "in there." I was out and doing things. I remember very distinctly, when there was some stuff going on in our church ministry, meeting up at IHOP with our lay leader and a woman involved. Daphne was probably Mal's age and was with me. She ate while we delved into some pretty heavy stuff, then took a bottle, fell asleep, and took a 2-hour nap on my shoulder while we continued our conversation. Mal won't fall asleep at a restaurant. Or anywhere but the car or home, really. He did doze off at my sister's last week, and it totally threw me!

But as I was thinking through this and the fact that we're going to miss James' work party next week because of our super attached sweetie, and how I have to bounce in and out of conversations with acquaintances because I have to jump up and chase Mal down or redirect him or tend to something or other, I realized... I'm using him as a scapegoat.

Because, yeah, he's a lot to handle. And, yeah, I'm super busy with him most of the time. And, true, I have to clock out from the real world and only access it via the internet after about 8 PM every night.

Still...

Friendship-wise, it's kind of more of the same for me.

I mean, social media is full of pictures of women getting together with their closest friends for dinner, or a girls' cruise, or things like that. And I just... don't. I never have. I feel sometimes like having a really close female friend is something I'd like, but I don't know if it's just that I don't know how to maintain that kind of friendship, or because I get antsy and like to move after five years or so, or what it is.

I remember going to a couple of girls' nights in at a friend's house in Las Vegas, and I was always miserable when I was there. I wanted to go, I wanted to have fun, but then I got there and I just wanted to be home with my family.

I didn't feel like I fit in. I almost never feel like I fit in.

When I'm with people, especially women, I look around and it's difficult to find someone who seems really sympatico with me. I sometimes have this affinity with men, but since I'm married, I prefer to keep my husband my best guy friend... and thank God that's not difficult; he's awesome! So he's my best friend period.

Anyway, I don't really have a point. I just wanted to put this out there, in case anyone else felt lonely as a mom, or as a woman, or just as a human who sometimes feels pretty alien in the world. So there. It's out there. And it's not just you.



Thursday, November 26, 2015

Please Make These! Pumpkin Gingersnap S'mores!

A few weeks ago, I came across a blog with which I'm marginally obsessed, if that's a thing. I mean, I don't have all day to spend reading up on past installments, but when I get some time, I like to scroll through. This lady has neat ideas, and I kind of want to be adopted into her family. I keep telling myself that we'll be able to do awesome crafty stuff like she does some day soon when Mal's needs aren't so pressing that they take all of my brain energy so that I'm left with no way to plan anything ever.

Anyhoo, the one post I could not get out of my head was Pumpkin Gingerbread S'mores. Hello. That sounds amazing. I wanted to make some, but came a little too late to the pumpkin spice marshmallow game, apparently. After seeing the exorbitant price sellers on Amazon were charging, I thought, "Duh. I can make them."

Making marshmallows is fun and easy and not much more expensive than buying them at the store... only they taste much, much better. Seriously, when I say "easy," I mean it. I've never had a batch of marshmallows *not* turn out good, which is something I cannot say for almost anything else I've ever made: cake, cookies, bread, candies, etc.

I found this pumpkin spice marshmallow recipe to use.


Beautiful pan of marshmallow. You can see the spices!


After they've been cut and dusted with corn starch.

My plan was to get Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Snaps because they are perfectly spicy and amazing. But first, I forgot to get them when I was at TJ's. Then, I thought, "The marshmallows and the chocolate will be square-ish. Why not make a pan of ginger snaps myself and cut them like graham crackers?

Fortunately, I found a good and easy recipe for those, too.

One review made me laugh; he complains about how all he can taste is the baking soda and ginger. Well, 1) I'd be willing to bet someone put 2 Tbsp. of baking soda instead of 2 tsp., and 2) they're GINGER snaps. You're SUPPOSED to taste the ginger.

I thought they were perfect.


I decided to use Cadbury's milk chocolate bars for the chocolate, because, I'm sorry, I know Hershey's owns them now, but the chocolate is still a lot smoother and better-tasting than the traditional Hershey bar.

Took the individual ingredients to our Thanksgiving luncheon and put them together there.


Isn't it beautiful?!

I baked them at a temperature I have no idea what it was (the oven was already on from cooking a ham), but just watched until the chocolate was glossy and the marshmallows started to wilt and brown around the edges. (I thought about using the broiler but have a notoriously difficult time with those things and did NOT want to waste any of this!)


So, my gosh, I can't even begin to tell you how rich and delicious these were. They were like having a slice of autumn jump into my mouth. No treacle annoyance, though it was plenty sweet. Just... just look...


Yeah. Try it. You will be glad that you did!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Another Quick Story

Okay, this one blew us away.

Tonight, Mal had brought me his animal board book to "read" for about the eighth time today. Instead, I reached up high for another animal book that we don't typically read because it's regular paper. But I needed a break from repeating the same six books over and over.

We'd gotten to one page when Mal stood up and walked to the bookshelf for another book. Oh well. It was his book of colors this time, and he brought it to me, opened it, and started going, "ooooh oooh." That's his ape sound and the only thing it could be was the orangutan on the "brown" page.

Once I'd turned it there, Mal put the book down beside the book we'd just been looking at... Dang it if that same orangutan picture isn't in both books, just flipped. An orangutan eating an apple. Mal recognized it and showed us.

Smart cookie (in a box).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Things They Know



Just a quick story I have to tell you about this kid...

Today, James and I were in Mal's room with him when Mal noticed that a page had fallen out of his Jesus Storybook Bible. It bothered him, and he showed me. So I said, "Go get the tape for Momma and I'll fix it." He looked at me like he knew I'd told him to do something, so he kind of walked toward his door and stopped.

I repeated, "Go get Momma the tape, so I can fix your book." He stood there for a minute, so I gave him some time to process, and then said, "Go get the tape and bring it to me, please" two more times. I told James I had no idea if he knew what I meant, but thought it was an interesting experiment.

A moment later, he went into the living room and seemed to have opened the correct drawer. We have 2 low-lying drawers that have various office supplies in them; pencils, envelopes, paper, markers, tape, staples, printer ink, two different cameras, etc. I couldn't see Mal, but I heard one of those drawers open, and that he was shuffling stuff around.

In case he'd forgotten, I said, "Get the tape and bring it to Momma."

He ran back into his room... with the clear packing tape! James and I laughed and congratulated him; I almost cried. Of course, I wasn't using packing tape to fix the book, but, oh my gosh, he went and got tape in a totally different room and brought it back to me. That's a lot of processing going on at once! So fun to watch this little guy grow. Such a blessing.

(And, yes, I immediately got the... whatever you call off-brand "Scotch" tape and fixed his book.)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Updates on the Malster

Okay, so it's been a while, and this kid is growing by leaps and bounds!



Last night, we went to see a model apartment in our complex, one that shows what our upgrades are going to be when we renew. I was walking the stroller up to the street, but it looked like Mal was rarin' to go, so I put the stroller away, and he walked (mostly ran) to the building. After, we came home a different way, and he decided he wanted to walk up the hill toward the office. It seemed like a good time to part company, so James stayed with him and I literally ran home to get a shower. James said he walked up the hill, came back down, ran back up, came down again, and ran up it a third time before fully realizing I wasn't there and wanting to come home. I mapped it, and that kid walked/ran over half a mile. If this is the kind of energy he has, no wonder he doesn't sleep very soundly for very long! Holy cow!

Mal loves to have books read to him. I read through most of his board books about 2-3 times per day. However, he's gotten to where he now has favorite parts in each book, and often will just jump up after we read his favorite part and get the next book he wants to enjoy. Also, he's taken to trying to find certain things in several books, and since I don't know what he's looking for, I can't help him. Often, he can't turn the pages to where he wants to be, so he'll get very frustrated. It's neat that he remembers the books, but I'm sorry I can't help him get to the part he wants!

Tonight, we laughed so hard at this sweet boy, and probably shouldn't have. But after dinner, I looked and saw that we had maybe 1/8 of a cup (like a small home scoop) of Ben and Jerry's ice cream left. I got it out to eat it, and Mal wanted to share. I tried to give him tiny bites, and give myself tiny bites, so that it would last a while, but it was gone too soon. I showed Mal that the carton was empty, and I even scraped out the melty parts that I could. But then I said, "It's all gone." He burst into tears and started stomping around. I told him that's exactly how I feel about ice cream. He then begged me to magically make more appear in the carton, and cried again when I couldn't. Such a cutie. It was then that we decided bedtime was imminent.

Mal went through something for a couple of weeks and he just didn't eat much food. He sometimes has periods like that, when his diapers will look like they used to look at 4 months or so: breast milk diapers. Well, he had some allergy stuff earlier this week, and was coming off of the not eating much, and he was nursing ALL of the time, with last night being the absolute worst... He pretty much nursed the whole night, waking up crying and climbing all over the place ten times or so.

Anyway, when I was telling James what Mal ate today, I realized that he's back on track with the solid foods, I think: slice of Dave's Killer Bread toast, Clementine orange, grapes, fruit and yogurt smoothie (literally banana, strawberry, unsweetened yogurt) pouch, freeze-dried grapes, 1/4 serving pumpkin cheesecake, slice of turkey sausage with cranberry sauce, turkey and dressing potato chip, sample cup of apple pie (all three were samples at Trader Joe's), veggie nugget, 1/4 cup macaroni and cheese, pouch of applesauce and carrots, graham cracker, 1/4 cheese quesadilla, 2 Tbsp. ice cream.

Oh, that list reminds me; I was at a different grocery store earlier this week and saw a very pregnant lady carefully selecting her organic vegetables. I think her eyes might have bugged out a little bit when I passed her and she saw Mal reaching into a McDonald's sack and come out with three fries, all of which he tried (unsuccessfully) to shove into his mouth at the same time. Whatever. It all balances out over time.

That's it for now!