Monday, October 31, 2011

The Late Night Musings of a Little J Bird

The J-bird, after weeks of awful allergies, has now caught a cold, and so (of course) have I.  I couldn't sleep last night, so I did another round of child checks (tucking them back in, making sure they're breathing) around 10:30 and found him still awake.  There was nothing for it, but to slide in next to him for a snuggle and some talking.  There's nothing quite like a late-night conversation with a four year old.  Here's some of what we talked about:

J-bird:  "Mommy, why do you have some moles on your skin?"
Me: "I don't know why.  Nobody knows.  Maybe someday we'll ask God why.  I'll bet God knows."
J-bird: "I'll bet Dahlia knows."
(Dahlia is his best friend.  She is also four.)

Our conversation turned to my brother, Joe, one of my J-bird's heroes in life, and the workshop he keeps in my parents' barn.

J-bird: "Mama, Uncle Joey has TWO homes.  One is right by Granny's house.  He loves Granny, so that's ok.  Then, he has ANOTHER home that is a LITTLE bit far away."
Me: "Do you mean Uncle Joey's workshop in Granny's barn?"
J-bird: "Yeah.  That's one of his homes."

We talked for about fifteen minutes, until we were both getting a little sleepy, and then I tucked him back in and got ready to attempt some sleep in my own bed. (For the record, that didn't go well.  It was a rough night)

Me: "Now buddy, I want you to try to go to sleep. 
J-bird: "Okay, Mama.  I'll TRY."
Me: "Pinky promise?"
J-bird: "Mmmmmm.....let's thumb promise."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Little girls are the nicest things that happen to people. They are born with a little bit of angelshine about them, and though it wears thin sometimes there is always enough left to lasso your heart. . ."
-- Alan Beck

"Brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet." Vietnamese Proverb

"A small son can charm himself into, and out of, most things."  -- Jenny de Vries

"A sibling may be the keeper of one's identity, the only person with the keys to one's unfettered, more fundamental self." Marian Sandmaier

Friday, October 28, 2011

New Hobby

A certain tiny girl in our house has discovered just how much fun it is to unroll the entire roll of toilet paper. 

Which is great, because I've really been hoping for something else to clean up several times a day.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Pack of Pumpkin Painters

 Every Fall, the J-bird paints a pumpkin

This year, Miss V is big enough to join in!

 I gave each of them a plate with a few colors of acrylic craft paint and a brush and turned 'em loose.

 Miss V kept holding out her paint covered fingers, saying "Uck!  Uck!".  Then she rubbed the paintbrush in her hair.

 They had fun

 And enjoyed getting covered in paint.

 (No worries - I threw them in the tub.  The paint comes right off with a little soap and water.)

And their pumpkin masterpieces look great on the porch.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


If you've read here before, you may know that, like most mothers, I'm fairly attached to my children.  I don't mean that in an obnoxious way, just that I really like being with them.  In fact, I'm with them most of the time.  Since I have the privilege and luxury of staying home with them, I put a lot of thought into most of our days.  Don't get me wrong - we have "pajamas all day" days and times when we watch cartoons for way too long (yeah, yeah...TV is the devil, and Dora the Explorer is his emissary), but for the most part, I'm dedicated to giving them both wonderful childhoods, while helping them to soak up tons of knowledge that they'll need later.  It's more than a job for me, it's a vocation. 

That's a great thing, because my kids get all of me.  That's a not-so-great thing when there's nothing of me left.  Nothing left for James and the "being a wife" portion of my life.  Nothing left for ME, in the "still a person" portion of my life.  In four and a half years of motherhood, I've teetered back and forth, trying to find a balance, and it's hard to do.  Mainly because of THE GUILT.  It eats me alive, even when I know it's not logical.  As if leaving my children with a sitter for a couple of hours to go to supper with my husband is somehow cheating them.  As if sometimes leaving them with their dad for an hour, so I can step away and do something by myself is horribly selfish.  As if that feeling of rejuvenation and renewed joy in what I do when I get back from these rare outings means I'm less of a mother, because I needed to take a breath.

And then, there's THE TIRED, which is a ridiculous, self perpetuating cycle.  I want to give my kids all of me, so I'm so TIRED by the time they take a nap that all I want to do is finish my chores without two little people pulling at my pants-leg and taking everything I've just put away back out; and then eat Nutella straight out of the jar and bask in the silence.  Sounds like a really righteous excuse for never getting any real exercise, right?  It's not that I'm LAZY, I'm just TIRED.  And I AM tired, but really?  I can't spare thirty minutes of their nap time a few times a week to get some exercise?  Sadly, the answer for a long time has been, "Um...that sounds very sweaty and uncomfortable, and...I'd rather not."

 But what this...

 ...and this, combined with years of steroids for asthma and a wicked fondness for pasta have done to my body is not gorgeous.

I've tried, sporadically.  I've gone on jags where I'd pack the kids into the heavy stroller and huff and puff around the neighborhood every day for a while.  I've got exercise videos.  I even attempted CrossFit, right around the time I got pregnant with Miss V, but, to my eternal shame, I ran away screaming from that when, during the morning sickness portion of my pregnancy, I lost my breakfast after a workout.  I've been too humiliated to go back.  If you haven't heard of CrossFit, it's awesome, but it is serious business.  Those folks are TOUGH, and I am a soft pile of weakness next to them.   Maybe someday, I'll try it again, but for now, I've decided to follow the example of my husband. 

James got his MBA a few years ago, while still working full time.  The double schedule left him no time at all for exercise, and we both like to eat, so he gained a lot of weight.  He hit a point though, about two years ago, where he was tired of being so out of shape that he just decided it was time.  He started exercising, slowly at first, treating it like brushing his teeth - non-negotiable, in other words.  After a few months, he started slowly modifying his diet.  Little by little, over the course of two years, he has lost about 80 pounds, and he looks and feels amazing.  For whatever reason, it took me way too long to accept that slow and steady approach.  I would like to find a miracle that takes 50 pounds off, like...NOW.  None of this "calories in, calories out" junk.  Alas, that's not going to happen.  So, about three months ago I took a look at the Couch to 5K program.  Taking it very, very slowly, I'm working my way through the levels.  I'm not weighing myself constantly, because I find that discouraging, but I can tell you that I've lost about a pants size and my shirts aren't tight anymore.  There's a little bit of tone, where once there was only flab.  Even if I don't lose a pound though, I feel fantastic.  Getting on the treadmill three times a week and alternating running and walking until I'm sweaty and gross has become something I can do that is just for me.  I'm less tired.  I'm more patient.  I just feel better.

I'm an expert at starting, and then failing at diet and exercise programs, so who knows if this will last, but I'm encouraged that I've stuck with it this long.  And things that used to just discourage me and make me want to quit (like seeing myself on video, for example) now inspire me to keep at it instead.  So I suppose we'll see.  Maybe 21 months from now, I'll be looking back and seeing how far I've come.  Hopefully, I won't be eating Nutella out of the jar and moaning about how tired I am.

Dare to dream, I guess.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

And All Manner Of Things Will Be Well

 It happened.  The concert has been sung.  People showed up to listen.  We raised more donations for the church than I ever dreamed possible.

And it felt amazing.

 And also, exhausting.

The weekend started out kind of dismal.  My sweet mother-in-law was going to come out here for the weekend, but she ended up getting too sick to make it.  The J-bird's allergies are acting up, and Miss V is still working on one last molar.  We planned to video the whole concert, but we couldn't get our blasted camera to work.  And I was going to do a live feed via FaceTime with my parents, but I was walking up to the church earlier in the afternoon, trying to connect to the WiFi available downtown to test it, and the connection wasn't working.  My day was piling up disappointments, and I was feeling it. 

And then I looked up, and my parents were standing there, in front of the church, waiting for me.  I'm pretty sure half my brain melted on the spot.  My mom and dad planned the whole thing as a surprise, and they had me fooled, but GOOD!  It was such an amazing surprise!  It didn't even matter that my house looked like a bomb had gone off inside because I've been so preoccupied with rehearsals.  It didn't matter that I was nervous or that the video camera wouldn't turn on.  Nothing mattered, because they were HERE.  It was an amazing moment.

And it turned the tide.  We went back to my (appallingly messy) house and found the camera miraculously working, the children napped and rested and thrilled to see their grandparents, my darling husband more thrilled than I've ever seen a man to spend time with his in-laws, and most of my nerves just evaporated.  Everything felt good and right and ready.  So I got dressed and prepped, headed to the church for sound check and prepared to just enjoy the ride.

And it was so fun.  I got to make music with my friends for a much bigger crowd than I'd anticipated.  We raised a wonderful sum of donations for the church.  And I got to see if I could still do this.  It was a wonderful realization when I learned that I can.

Church and non-church friends turned out, which made for an audience that reflected love back at me, and that soothed any worries I had about laying my heart out there.  All in all, it was a fantastic way to jump back into singing.  Not that I'll be ready to put another concert together next week or anything, but I'm definitely not going back into retirement.

 Afterward, we headed back to my house, where James and I let the kids stay up WAY past bedtime to steal a few more precious, fleeting moments with my folks, who left very, very early this morning - can you believe they flew all the way from Kansas for one night only?!  Amazing.
Since my J-bird is (mostly) reading now, James leaves him a note on this whiteboard each evening.  My parents took over the note writing for last night.  He was thrilled this morning.

So to those who came out last night and supported me and my church, THANK YOU.  To my friends, Jen, Ellen, Deena, Laura, Kathleen, Robert, Justin, Brian and Howard, who spent hours and hours rehearsing with me and who stood up and made music with me last night, THANK YOU.  I couldn't have done it without you.  To my parents, who made the long, uncomfortable, expensive journey out here to be with me, you completely blew my mind and made my night.  I love you.

And to my James, who took over kid duty while I traipsed off to rehearsal after rehearsal, who soothed and reassured me night after night as I worried and fretted and stewed, who listened to me practice and gave me feedback on songs, who stood at the back of the room last night and smiled at me every time I looked at him, and who, when I finished the last song, threw both arms in the air in triumph - THANK YOU.  I may be the jerk who forgot to thank you publicly, but you hold my heart, and I hope that shines from me in everything I do.  Every song is for you.  Every one.  I love you.

And now, back to real life.  I've got my work cut out for me.  This house is a WRECK!!! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tomorrow's the big day.  My pastor told me to quit saying that I'm nervous, so I'll change it to...apprehensive.  Vocally, I'm as ready as I'm going to get.  I've put in lots and lots of hours of practice, I've worked with all the other musicians until I'm pretty sure they're sick of me.  I'm organized.  I even have clothes picked out. 

But see, there's this: when James and I were engaged (for a whopping three months), three different people wanted to throw me three different bridal showers, the last one being more "bachelorette - y", and I thought they were lovely to offer and said okey dokey.  The first one and the third one were packed.  The second was thrown by a long-time family friend, a wonderful woman who put a ton of work into it, but we'd picked a day when every other thing in the world was apparently happening, and...NO ONE CAME.  Seriously.  It was Family Friend and her daughters, my mom and sisters, and my best friend.  And me.  Blushing.  And we laugh about it now, but every time I throw a party, I'm utterly convinced that no one will show up, because they've all come to realize what a nerdy loser I am.

On the flip side, all this singing has really revived a passion that I'd kind of lost for a while.  Singing is something I've always done.  I'm decent at it, I have lots of training, and it's always been pretty natural.  Everyone has their thing, you know?  It had started to feel like an obligation though, and I was almost resentful whenever someone would ask me to sing.  So, a couple of years ago, I decided to go on and set it down for a bit.  I never intended to leave it put away forever, but I needed some time.  Putting together this concert has forced me to take that part of my life back out, dust it off and remember how it works, and to my delight, it's been like putting on an old pair of jeans I haven't worn for a while, learning that they fit again AND finding a $20 bill in the pocket.  Pretty sweet.

I guess what I'm saying, in my long-winded way, is that, anxiety aside, I'm excited to sing on Saturday, whether it's for 2 people or 20.  I'm hoping to gather some donations for the church I love and to enjoy making some music with my friends.  If you are moved to come down and sing along, I'd be honored to see your face, and I promise - no bridal shower games.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Roses For Weeks

 James gave me 75 roses for our anniversary - 25 for me, 25 for the J-bird and 25 for Miss V.  They were stunning.

Most of them have now joined my collection of dried roses that sits on top of my kitchen cabinet to hide my canning equipment, which is craftily hid behind.  A few were still perky though, so I put them in a smaller vase and set that in this cute box that my friend, Traci gave me.  Fun, yeah?  It makes me smile every time I look at it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Family Photos

 My good friend, S asked me to try taking some photos of her family for this year's Christmas cards, and I, always in the mood to take pictures, was thrilled to give it a whirl.  I am BY NO MEANS a pro at this, but it's so fun to play around, learn more about my camera and interact with kids who aren't already sick of hearing me click the shutter at them (ahem...Miss V and Sir J-Bird?  Looking in your general direction here...)  Anyhow, here are some of the shots we got.

This is such a sweet, loving family, and I'm so glad they let me experiment on them photographically.  :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

18 Months Old

 This little girl is growing and changing every day.

 She definitely has an independent and...uh...

 ...slightly naughty streak.

 She's pretty sure she runs the joint, which makes us giggle (I know, I know - that's probably a mistake, but we can't help it.)  She follows behind me as I clean the house, undoing as much of my work as she can.  She insists on doing whatever her brother does and BEING wherever he is, most especially if he happens to be anywhere near Daddy.  She goes days on end with no potty accidents, then has several in one day.  She loves books, but also has a tendency to destroy them.  She has discovered Magic Mommy Kisses and runs to me whenever she gets an owie, dutifully presenting the hurt part for a kiss before running off to play again.  She loves to dance.  She is sweet and funny and precious.

 And I can't imagine life without her.