Monday, December 30, 2013

One of those days.

My husband left his work computer at home this morning.

I noticed it when I stumbled downstairs after Finn crawled back into bed with me and informed me in his sweetest voice that he got everything ready for breakfast and it was time to eat now.  I thought he had just gone to the bathroom, but apparently he went downstairs - all the way down to the kitchen where I can't hear anything from all the way up in my room - and pulled out everything he would need to make his breakfast.  Last time he tried this particular trick he actually poured the cereal and milk in his bowl and also all over the counter, step-stool, and floor, so I was fearful of what might greet me in the kitchen before coffee. Luckily this morning he wanted hot cereal.  He knows about the stove - for mamas and daddies only! - so he just had everything laid out on the counter with the precision of a surgeon: cereal box, marshmallows, milk, spoon, bowl, bread, knife, spoon for jelly, jelly.

I pushed start on the coffee (because I get that shit ready the night before) and proceeded to make coco-wheats with marshmallows while Finn told me he would put the bread in the toaster and he push the button down and explained that he needed to get dressed soon so he could have all day clothes day but that I could have all day pajama day (so benevolent, my son) and could I please make the marshmallows into the shape of an n and what starts with n and he needed to test to jelly to "make sure it didn't get solid." Solid is Finn-speak for poisoned; I always tell him that I have to test his food - french fries, Halloween candy, ice cream cones, chocolate cake - to make sure they are not poisoned.  It stems from years trick-or-treating in the world's smallest town and being unable to eat our candy until our parents looked it over to make sure the packages weren't tampered with, there were no needles in our Butterfingers, and crack-cocaine wasn't moonlighting as a box of Nerds. It was the 80s...drugs were everywhere and parents needed to be vigilant. I'm just carrying on as my mother before me did: vigilant.

Anyway, I drank three cups of coffee while Finn ate his breakfast.  I read a chapter of my book (I'm trying to make this one last because it is so good) and then I watered some plants.  It's Monday and that's plant watering day - and the sun is sort of out, so I had to put them all on the kitchen table to soak it up.  I drank another cup of coffee and read another chapter of my book.  Finn dumped the rainbow rice on the floor and made 3 trips down to the kitchen with various construction trucks and dinosaurs.  I stepped an a million little rice grains to get the load (from yesterday) out of the dryer.  I read another chapter in my book, drank another cup of coffee and contemplated what needed to get done today.  I ignored the mental list and read another chapter.  I talked myself into taking out the trash and the compost (it's 20 below here; it takes some mental preparation to go outside when it's that cold but it's garbage man day, so it needed to be done).

Finn decided, in the midst of his field of rainbow rice, that he needed to take a morning bath.  I obliged and loaded the tub with hot water and bubbles, tossed him in and snuggled on my bed to read another chapter.

Now - usually on extremely lazy days like this, I make sure that by the time my husband comes home from work in the evening, everything looks presentable and the day appears to have been somewhat productive. The dishwasher has been emptied, the living room and library have been tidied of random books and hotwheels, the kitchen counters are wiped down and the chairs are pushed in around the table.  There aren't any coats and mittens laying around and the couch cushions are neat and orderly.  When I worked, I always liked to come home from a long day to a semi-neat house and I feel like it's a nice thing to do for my husband when he comes home (does that sound very circa-1950? I don't change my apron, apply fresh lipstick or pinch my cheeks to give them some color before he get's home, though.).

Today, however, it was only 11:30 - I had the whole day ahead of me to get my 1950s housewife on.  And then I heard the door open and heavy feet coming up the stairs.  It was one of two things: either Finn and I were about to be made into sausage by a crazed lunatic or my husband popped home in the middle of the day.  And then I remembered the work computer left on the coffee table.  Knowing that he had to step over 12 million grains of rainbow rice in the kitchen, walk through a maze of trains and hotwheels, bypass sloppy couch cushions and come upstairs to find me snug in bed with a book and our son taking what is referred to in our house as a "day bath," I was secretly hoping for a crazed lunatic.

My husband knows that I work hard for this house; dinner is made in a timely manner, clothes are washed and put away, I can be counted on to dust occasionally, the floor usually gets swept, the bathroom is almost always clean and I make the bed most days.  But we have had some heated discussions about just what gets done around the house on a daily basis and individual contributions (his and mine) and stimulating my kid's brain isn't always readily apparent to the naked (albeit tired) eye.  So it's days like today when I seem to have made his argument for him - still in my jammies, reading, in bed at nearly noon! - that I feel like a stay at home mom failure.

I know that I'm not - I know that some days require getting dressed and slapping on mascara and some days require little more than a marathon of stories and painting and glue and scissors.  Today is the latter.  Our house will look relatively put-together when my husband gets home this evening; there will be new Finn artwork on the refrigerator door and all the freshly-watered plants will be off the kitchen table and back in their normal spots.  I will have swept up rainbow rice at least three times. There will be a plate for him to heat up and we will chat idly about our respective days while he eats his dinner.  It's just that my daily summary will be somewhat short: finished my book, cleaned a little, painted with dinosaurs.

Monday, December 23, 2013

About writing. Or not writing.

Usually Uriah and I spend our evenings discussing the intricacies of his job and I'm fine with that because, you know, he brings home the paycheck and all; I just cash it and spend it.  I'm a trophy wife like that. I'm happy to be supportive and pass judgement and tell him how to do his job because I don't actually have to do his job (although I could.  How hard can it be to cook for a bunch of people?  Actually, don't answer that.  We got in a huge argument over that statement one night.  I guess it's harder than I give him credit for. Allegedly.).

Last night, however, we talked about my job.  Or lack there of.  Or dreams of.  Or whatever.  I don't really have a job.  Raising kids is a job, yes, I know.  But I don't get a paycheck or my 15 minute break.  I don't accumulate vacation time and I sure as shit can't take any sick days. On the plus side...1:30pm and I'm still in my jammies. Without a bra. I guess that's what one would call a fringe benefit. Anyway, I told him that once again I felt unfunny, that life has dealt some nasty blows lately and I can't seem to find the humor in my days, even though I know it's there. I felt that nothing I had to say had merit; that when I sat down to write, there was a big, fat blank screen staring at me.  If it had a voice, it would be British and it would probably heckle me.  Also, it would look like my sister-in-law's cat while it heckled me because I think that cat does, in fact, hate me. It probably doesn't help that I whisper to him every time I see him that he'd make a great pair of fluffy slippers.

But back to last night...I told Uriah that my kids are annoying.  Abby is lazy and Finn can't clean up his own messes without a major meltdown.  I hate it when he takes all of the cushions off of the couch and jumps on them, regardless of how many times I tell him not to.  I don't really care about the cushions, we need a new sofa, anyway, but it's wrong to send the message that jumping on furniture - no matter how crappy - is okay.  So I tell him to put the cushions back up and then he cries and flails his arms and bemoans how nobody likes him. When I suggest things for either of them to do, I get eye rolls and angry huffs of air, and "Seriously? Why is your cure for boredom cleaning?" and "But I don't want to do that!"  You can guess which kid says what, but that's actually a trick question because their responses are interchangeable .  And really, who wants to read about someone's annoying kids?  I mean...I like to read about people's annoying kids because it makes me feel less alone, but maybe I'm the minority on that one. And for the record, my kids aren't always annoying.  Sometimes they're funny and delightful and precious. And that time is bedtime. Just kidding.  But not really.

So I sit down to write and...I don't write. I do anything but write. Like right now, I feel like sweeping and dusting the stairs and the banister and all of the baseboards and woodwork in our whole house because they are so amazingly disgusting.  I notice that kind of stuff when I'm sitting here, staring off into space. And when I was on Pinterest, I pinned a "towel refresh recipe" whereby you use hot water and vinegar and then an extra rinse and voila!  Suddenly your towels are back to their original fluffiness and are not filmy and gross. You can go here to get it. You're welcome. The thing is, though, I didn't really notice that my towels were filmy and gross, but now I think they are and now I think I should take all of my towels out of every closet and drawer and refresh them.  Even though I just washed a load of towels on Saturday.

That's the kind of stuff I do when I'm writing but not writing.

My New Year's resolution is to try not to care so much.  Uriah hit the nail on the head last night when he said that I care too much about what people think about what I feel I have to say, even though people probably are giving my writing less thought than I think they are. (Holy crap that was a very long, run-on sentence that might not make the point I wanted it to.  But I'll leave it anyway.) He also said that once Abby figured out that I write, and sometimes about her, I immediately censored all the things that I write.  That is a fact. And I'm having a hard time with that, because let me tell you...teenagers are hard to raise - and raise well - and sometimes a lovely vent in the form of a haiku about annoying teenagers is in order.  But then my conscience kicks in and I think: Will she be offended?  Will she understand the undercurrent of sarcasm in this post? And so I stop writing about what it was I was going to write about.

The fact is, I could write a million little posts about how not to teach a tween to shave her legs, how not to react when your kid tells you her friends are "engaged," and especially the right and wrong ways to tell your husband that aforementioned kid's friends are going on birth control. Father's tend to have strong feelings about daughters and boyfriends and shit like that and when sharing news that could potentially be upsetting, approach with caution. Do not, under any circumstances, share startling news via text message. Anyway...all that to say I think I need to refresh my blog because this one has gotten old and a little stale.  Sort of like my towels.  It needs to be rinsed back to its original fluffiness.  And by fluffiness, I mean, funny, cheeky stories about our somewhat boring and irreverent life.

The thing is...our kids say and do funny stuff. Uriah and I say funny stuff to each other all the time.  We are constantly making each other laugh. Last summer I told him that I would be commandeering our neighbor's yard because I didn't think they'd last very long during the zombie apocalypse and I obviously would need a spot close by for my horses (I'm certain when the zombie apocalypse happens, there won't be cars anymore and I will need a mode of transportation: hence, the horses).  He was appalled, not because of the demise of our neighbors - he agreed with my assessment, actually - but because he didn't think I'd know how to take care of horses.  To which I responded, it's probably a lot like hard can it be?

We dream of having a radio show, but it would have to be satellite radio because I don't think our penchant for using cuss words, sarcasm and strong Minnesota accents would be appropriate for most audiences.   So, in lieu of an uncensored radio show where I read the local DNR report in my best Minnesota voice...more of that weird uncensored blog stuff that makes up our life coming soon. Or maybe a vlog (that's a blog video, in case you were uninformed) of me reading the news...oh, the possibilities...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

On my mind:

I cleaned the fish tank today.  It was disgusting.  Almost as disgusting as my wedding ring, which I also cleaned today after suffering a minor heart attack because Finn hid it - or rather, he "buried a treasure" yesterday while we were making Christmas cookies and I didn't realize it was missing until this morning when I went to put it on and it was in neither of the places I usually keep it when I take it off.  Luckily I found it, but not before standing on the edge of a very imminent panic attack, complete with sweaty palms, racing heart and spots in front of my eyes.  Back to the fish tank.  I think this is exactly why we do not have a dog. Dogs require a lot more work than a bath every couple of weeks and feeding them when you happen to remember.  I happen to remember to feed the fish about twice a week.  And still he does not die.

I've been doing a 5-day health/fitness challenge - not very long, but it's about accountability and getting back on track, two things that I've desperately needed lately.  Today is Day 4 and I feel pretty good.  I've been to the gym 3 days in a row, as my screaming calves will attest to, and I've been drinking so much water I've been considering new paint colors for both bathrooms in our house due to the insane number of times I'm in there daily.  I haven't peed this much since I was pregnant with Finn.  But I feel less "snacky," which is pretty awesome because Snacks is my middle name.

I need to work on giving my son a larger variety of lunch options.  That's not true, actually, I give him plenty of options, he just veto's everything in favor of pb&j.  Every single day for lunch.  And usually his request for dinner, too, but I abstain.  Pb&j is a lunch item only.  Today he was forced to have pb&honey having consumed the last of the jelly yesterday and Lord, how he suffered.  He ate it, but he was not happy about it. I checked Pinterest for some toddler-friendly lunch options.  I have some ideas for tomorrow's lunch and I guess that's what matters. I try not to force him to eat everything on his plate, but I do require he tries everything.  So far it hasn't blown up in my face and I feel like he eats until he's full and that's good enough for me.

Abby starts her Christmas break after school today and she doesn't go back to school until January 6th. Once again we'll be going through some growing pains as we work out a new daily "normal."  When I say "we," I mostly mean Abby and me.  She's going to want to "sleep-in and hang out with her friends" because "she's on break" and I still need to come up with some chores and things for her to do because - seriously? - no one is sloughing off during a 17-day break. Things can get cleaned and organized (like closets and her room, which doesn't even look like I stepped foot in it a couple of weeks ago).  I continue to be blow away by how smelly and scatter-brained 14 year old girls can be.

I have 3 different kinds of Christmas cookie dough in the refrigerator right now.  Yesterday, as Finn and I were making some more sugar cookies (piggies that double as grizzly bears and westie dogs - all present and accounted for at the birth of Christ, I guess) I kept wondering why I only make these particular cookies at Christmas time.  Does it make them more special?  I suppose so, but would they be less special if, say, I made them in June?  Does their "once a year" status mean that I have a free-pass to snack on all of them?  That's where my brain has been in the past, and why I made the dough to begin with - because it's Christmas, and at Christmas I make chocolate drops and gingerbread men and Russian tea cakes - but now I'm staring at the dough and thinking of all the cookies they're going to make and wondering just who is going to eat all of those cookies?!  I think I will make them and put them in the freezer and we will have some Christmas in June this year.

We have a Christmas tree up, but have yet to decorate it.  Uriah's been busy and working late.  Finn's been up early and subsequently going to bed early, so we haven't all been awake and at home at the same time.  It looks sparkly and it smells good and if we don't get any decorations on it this year, I guess that will have to be good enough for me.  I've been moving our little elf around the house each night.  It's fun for Finn to look for him and the first thing he says when he snuggles into bed with us each morning is: "Let's go find where Reginald is this morning!"  It's usually about 6:30, numbers I don't really recognize as an actual time.  We wait about a half an hour before getting up, but no one is asleep.

It's nearly dinner time and I have been looking forward to dinner all day - I got some salmon at the grocery store this morning after I went to the gym (it seems so healthy to say that, but truly, I was on the treadmill thinking about Christmas cookies and I decided I needed something really healthy for dinner tonight to balance those sweet thoughts).  I'm going to roast some veggies to go with it - Brussel's sprouts, sweet potatoes and grapes.  Finn lost his skittle's for a minute (the witching hour before dinner) so instead of losing my own mind, I redirected him and we counted potato chunks and Brussel's sprouts.  I had to remind myself to use phrases like: take one away, add two more, how many total.  It's the only "preschool" stuff we did today, but there was snuggling and playing his current favorite game: dark in the tent (wrap a blanket around us - the tent - and then turn on and off the flashlight) and he sang most of the words to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, so I'm considering it a successful learning day. Abby's asked to stay the night at a friend's house after I already had everything ready to go into the oven, so I guess we'll have salmon and veggies for lunch tomorrow, too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tuesday, I feel as though you are the new Monday.

We are still in our pajamas.  The bells have already rang lunch and I can't believe this morning is gone.  The sun is high today but the wind is bitter.  All of my plants are reveling in some Vitamin D in the kitchen; I think I should join them, maybe curl up in a sunbeam on the kitchen floor and just forget the world.  It has finally warmed up to zero degrees and I am waiting once again for laundry pipes to thaw so I can do a load or 2 of laundry.  My camera will not connect to my computer and it is full of fun pictures from celebrating Abby last night (she turns 14 today and Uriah works late tonight, thus the celebration yesterday).  My frustration level is high - especially since I just dumped my camera on Sunday and it worked fine and today it decided to crap its pants.  It probably doesn't help that our computer is old and probably plotting to give up its ghost (which means I have to back everything up to the external hard drive today or risk an even bigger melt-down if it does die).  I guess I will have to write about having a 14 year old tomorrow, but in case you need a dose of the Birthday Girl today, you can find some stellar Abby posts here, here, and here.

Fourteen.  Does this somehow feel bigger than 13?  Yes, I believe it does.  Inching and ticking closer to complete independence.  College visits just around the corner.  Boy-girl parties on her radar.  I think we are all of us in this house aging quicker than I find comfortable.

Finn is whining because he has to clean up the mess that he made in the living room (game chips all over, Christmas books strewn from one end to the other, and every single cushion and pillow pulled off of the couch). Cabin fever has set in.  10 minutes outside might not be so bad, if it were just a few degrees warmer. His ploy to get me to help him when I use my firm voice: "You're scaring me.  Nobody wants to be my friend today."  I can assure you, the sad eyes and the pouty mouth do not work on me.  And if I have to repeat "You put the red chips in the red bag, the blue chips in the blue bag, the yellow chips in the yellow bag, and the green chips in the green bag," one more time, I may have to go out into the frigid back yard myself just to adequately cool off.

Maybe aging and preschool and college aren't such bad things after all...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cold & snow & turkey & elves

We hosted Thanksgiving again this year - the 2nd year in a row - and we continued with the Turducken theme of last year.  Another theme that was repeated?  Snow.  And lots of it.  We picked people up from and dropped them off at the airport in snow.  About 20+ inches of snow in a two-day period.  And our snow blower is broken (who has a broken snow blower in Minnesota in December?!).  So, yes - shoveling the old-fashioned way was necessary!

It's common knowledge that I revoke my own license when the snow starts falling in earnest and this year is no different.  I can toodle around town a little bit once the roads have been cleared, but I get major-highway and hill anxiety if I have to do more than run to the grocery store.  So what possessed us to live in an are that gets a million zillion snowflakes a year?  Well, it is beautiful (from the warm confines of my home!).  And I love the summers here - not too hot, not too cool.  I'm like Goldilocks of the north land - it's mostly just right.

Anyway, as I dig through my pictures of the past week with my family I will share.  It was...epic.  So much food, 19 people for Thanksgiving dinner, a round of illness (not in any way related to the dinner), more hooch than you can shake a stick (or a beer can) at, pies that didn't get eaten and now sit in my freezer, Jac's first steps, birthday cake, maple ice cream, loads and loads and loads of laundry.  I am equal parts happy and exhausted and still picking myself up from the week.

Our elf, Reginald VanWinkle, made his appearance this week.  In spite of my planning and calendar, he was a few days late.  Not that it mattered too much, Finn doesn't even know the days of the week yet.  It's a more laid back year for RVW this year.  Last year he had a lot to do, which you can check out here and here.  This year he's more into hiding and snowball fights and reading.

I had big plans for preparing my kids for Christmas this year, but every good intention got over-taken by planning for Thanksgiving and now my energy level is spent.  We do have an Advent wreath this year, and we light a candle and read a little prayer at dinner time each night.  I did not do 24 Days of Christmas Books this year, in spite of the treasure trove of new books I found that I bought at the end of the season last year.  Instead I have them spread all over the coffee table in the living room so we can read them and look at the pictures whenever we want.  And Finn does so, often!  We've been taking advantage of the Christmas movies on Netflix and hot cocoa with marshmallows.

Today Finn and I are going to make some sugar cookies for our religion kids tomorrow.  Abby's fighting a cold and stuffy nose, so she get's to stay far away from any food preparation/dishes because I do not want those germs spreading.  We've been listening the The Best Christmas song list ever (remember when mixed tapes/CDs were so cool to make?!).

I'm hopeful that some Santa cookies will put me in the Christmas spirit (and not the napping spirit!) because I still need to figure out some Christmas cards this afternoon and I found a paper mache ornament project that I think Finn would have fun with.  Honestly, though...the Christmas movies and couch are definitely calling my is the weekend, after all!