Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Warming up to summer

Despite being uncomfortably pregnant, this summer has actually been the best I can remember in the last several years.  Unlike almost everyone I know, I'm not really a huge summer person; a) because I don't enjoy feeling like I'm living in an oven every day for 3 months, b) because Irish girls like me might actually become cooked much like something you would put in the oven, and c) take the 'Irish' skin and add the curly hair in 90% humidity and... well, it's just not pretty.

There was a time when I dreamed that maybe-- just maybe-- by the last day of the summer, I would have some mild version of that beautiful tan glow that all of my friends seemed to have by some time around June 15... but then I realized that I could only lay on a towel in direct sunlight for about 15 minutes before I would plunge full speed into the ocean/pool for relief.   That's when I threw in the towel and started lathering on the SPF 50, sitting under umbrellas, and calling myself "fair-skinned" instead of "pale" (like it might become some kind of sought-after fashion trend).

So I have to say: THANK YOU GOD for keeping the 100 + degree heat index days to a bare minimum this year.  I vividly remember locking myself in my house almost every day last summer, promptly by noon and not coming back out until after 8pm (if at all).  This morning, I went for a walk at 9am in yoga pants and a light long sleeved shirt.  It was glorious, and I hear that the rest of this week will be just like today.  I seriously can't stop smiling.  I'm actually writing this blog post on my back porch sipping on a glass of homemade lemonade (and by homemade, I mean one of those all-natural ones that doesn't have a lot of sugar in it, so it feels kind of like I made it myself... maybe).

I would also like to give God a shout-out for the relatively low incident rate of bodily harm/ assaults by mosquitos.  If you could possibly take care of the gnats while you're at it, I would love you even more, but I'm not going to get greedy.

Finally, the most crucial contributor to my summer of happiness:  let's talk about this age...  Oh, this age.  It has been like the light at the end of the tunnel.  As much as Brendan drives me crazy with his struggle for independence these days, this summer with Niall and Brendan has been SO MUCH FUN.

I hardly know what to do with myself now that I can plop down in a chair and just watch them play.  Last summer, Brendan was 1 1/2, so he was walking but in a super NOT FUN kind of way.  The kind of walking where the kid can only get himself into trouble and the mom just wants to strap the kid into a stroller while the older one plays, but the kid is too smart for those kinds of tricks at that stage, and so you end up crawling through playground tunnels that are wayyy too small for you, just to make sure your little guy doesn't skydive off the platform on the other side.

I was helicopter-ing him everywhere he went and never had a second to relax or even remotely pay attention when other moms would try to talk to me.  In fact, every time we got in the car to go to a pool or park or other outdoor excursion where the kids couldn't be contained in one area, I did a quick mental assessment of how miserable the excursion we were about to attend would be (for me) and then force myself to snap out of it and go anyway.

This summer has been like heaven compared to that.  Brendan and Niall not only play together, but I can somewhat trust that Brendan is going to be ok as long as I keep an eye on him (from a comfortable sitting distance).  It also helps that nothing makes a better summer combo than boys and dads...








Ice cream, crabs, water slides and turtle discoveries come in at a close second ;)





Ok, maybe I'm changing my mind about summer... I guess it is kind of awesome :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rules Are Rules

I am a big time rule-follower; always have been, always will be.  I am the girl who tries to sign in under a friend's name at the pool and my face turns so bright red that I can't meet eyes with the people at the front desk.  These days, I will take a bite of an Italian sub, chew it up just to enjoy that one second of flavor, and then spit it out because I am told that you are not allowed to eat lunchmeat when pregnant.  Also, I am far more intimidated by my kid's pre-school teacher when I am helping out in the classroom than I'm sure any of those 4-year-olds are.  The point is: I just don't feel comfortable messing with the rule book, regardless of who makes those rules.

So I would really appreciate it if, each time I get pregnant with another kid, the mysterious "THEY" could stop adding 15 new regulations and guidelines to make my life so thoroughly miserable for 9 solid months.

What's this about how I'm not allowed to sleep on my right side this go-around??  It was hard enough for me to adjust to not sleeping on my back with the first two; now I'm not even allowed to roll over?  I'm not sure if it's just the fact that I have been told I can't, or if I am really this tortured by the way I wake up 4 times a night with the urge to flop onto my other side and suddenly remember that I am undoubtedly going to rupture some crucial artery by doing that.

My better judgement keeps telling me that the thousands of generations of women in the past did just fine without the right side artery crushing sleep rule, but I am not one to test those waters-- after all, rules are rules.

And now that I'm at a point in my pregnancy where I can't comfortably bend over or squat for more than 5 seconds, they have conveniently decided to come out with a study on the dangers of kids' spray-on sunscreen.  Of course they did!  Why would I be able to apply sunscreen in an easy, no-fuss- kind-of-way that kept my varicose veins from bursting out of my legs?  That would be absurd.

The drop side crib I used just 2 years ago?  It's in the trash.  Not allowed.

Bug spray?  Don't you preggo ladies dare.  You can sit inside or be eaten by the West Nile spreading monsters of the back porch.

Oh, and apparently, even after what I thought was some pretty thorough research on which fish I needed to stay away from (swordfish, shark, tuna only allowed in moderation), I just found out that I shouldn't have eaten those crabs over the weekend or the shrimp I've had just about every other week for the last six months.

And I certainly hope you don't get a sore throat.  Because after I popped about 6 of those Ricola herbal throat drops, I found out that they will most certainly cause me to miscarry.  Thankfully, that was about 4 months ago, so I must have been one of the lucky ones.  

Is there a certain point where I am allowed to say "no" to all of the so-called expert advice?  Where I get to say "If I can't have a beer at a BBQ, I'm going to savor every last sip of an ice-cold coke and not feel guilty about it" (another apparent no-no).

Well, if there is, who am I kidding?  I'm too much of a worry wart to torture myself wondering what terrible fate awaits every time I defy the pregnancy commandments.  So I will stick it out and play it safe for these 3 more months-- but someone had better bring me a knock-your-socks-off cold cut and a thoroughly chilled Blue Moon right up to my hospital bed on this little guy's birthday ;)

Monday, July 7, 2014

No, I'm not a soccer mom... (but my kids do play soccer)

If you had asked me 10 years ago, I never would have dreamed that this day would come.  In fact, I would have bet my life that it wouldn't.  But the first kid came along, and along with that tiny little 7 pound bundle of love came strollers and backpack carriers and giant seats and diaper bags the size of a week's worth of luggage... and then the second kid multiplied that cargo... and now a third will triple it.  You probably know where I'm going with this.  Yep, last weekend, we decided it was time:


Needless to say, there are a lot of emotional hurdles to conquer on the day you trade in your sporty mid-size SUV for the keys to a minivan.

  • First of all, you need to accept that any shred of coolness you had left in you is now gone forever.  I imagine that I lost that last shred a few years back, but at least I didn't have to announce it to the whole world.
  • Second, you have to tell yourself that you are different from the other soccer moms in this world, because you are still a regular person-- you just needed a little bit more space (like the other moms didn't get a van for that exact same reason) .
  • Third, you have to mentally prepare your talking points of the many cool new technological features that minivans come with these days for when your friends without kids start making fun of you.  

Obviously, I am going to do that right here and now... because honestly, this van is SO AWESOME!!! (I'm actually not joking... at all)

We walked into the Chevy dealership on 4th of July with full intentions of getting a Traverse (it's like the car I had but with a third back row).  But when we found out the model we wanted had sold the day before, we both agreed that we should at least look at the Honda Odyssey at the dealership next door.  And when we did, it was no competition.  I don't care what anyone says-- the Odyssey is the nicest car I have ever been inside of (note: I have never been inside of a really nice/ expensive car before.  other note: Yes, we did feel really guilty for being so un-American by purchasing a Japanese car on our great nation's birthday.)

Aside from the fact that there are like 12 cup holders, a "cool box" to keep drinks cold, and Pandora streaming... aside from all the hands free everything, blind spot cameras for turning, and aside from the fact that the arm rests adjust to different levels for short people (my personal favorite)... let's be real here:  the back of this van could host a better shindig than my current living room.  Even when we put the third back seat in, this thing is like a party bus!



So, in conclusion, I would like to rest my case by saying... I have probably done anything in this long winded explanation except prove that I am still cool; BUT I'm definitely happy and feeling much more prepared for a third, so that should count for something right ;)

Long live the minivan (and the soccer mom)!

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Little Soldier

I think, by now, that everyone who knows me is aware of how much I like to gripe joke about what a royal pain my sweet little B-bop can be on a daily basis.  He is truly... something else.  A real soldier marching to the beat of his own drum.  Always has, probably always will.

He likes to do everything on his own; except when he can't... and in that case, he likes to blame it on you for honoring his wishes and letting him try it out himself.  He is also a big time enforcer of what I like to call "reciprocal reinforcement", which typically involves me doling out a consequence for bad behavior and then Brendan, in turn, telling me that I am facing the same consequence.  He also enjoys testing out how fast he can escape from me in a SuperTarget, parking lot, or any public place really (no need to be choosy when there are so many options).  Let's just say I am getting my fair share of exercise and torture while trying to keep my varicose veins from exploding out of my poor overworked legs.

But I was thinking about it the other day, when I was telling someone how his new favorite thing is to wake up at 5:30, tiptoe into my room and jam his fingers in my mouth while I am sleeping (it's kind of like when your phone alarm is set to a really obnoxious ring tone, but way more offensive)... Anyway, she has 5 kids who are all in middle school and up, and she said "Ohh, I miss when my kids used to crawl into my bed and poke me in the face and do stuff like that."  At the time, I thought she must be having one of those repressed memories like how you forget the pain of childbirth, but now I am starting to realize that if this little guy ever mellows out, (as relieved as I will probably be), I am actually going to miss the 'crazy, out-of-control, little devil monster' B-bop.

Despite his mischievous tendencies that often drive me up the wall, he is without a doubt, the cutest little stinker I have ever seen.  No offense to Niall; he is adorable, as well, but in a more handsome way.  Brendan is straight up CUTE.  As in, I want to introduce him to my wooden spoon one second and then hug him and kiss him until he can't stand it anymore the next.   And when he is sick, forget it.  I am a puddle of mush.  The poor little guy is trying to kick a virus right now, and all he wants to do is snuggle... which is FINE. BY. ME.  I am loving every single second of it and I think he may have been kissed on his feverish little cheeks and forehead 2,000 times since yesterday.

So throughout all of this reminiscing about all of the times I've thrown poor B under the bus and had less than kind things to say about him, I realized that I better set the record straight... No matter how much I complain about Brendan, he is the peanut butter to my jelly, the cheese to my macaroni, the gravy to my mashed potatoes.  I love him so much my heart could explode.  He is such a blessing to our family and makes us laugh every single day, without fail.  If anything ever happened to him, I wouldn't be able to go on-- and I do worry about that at times, given his inclination to put himself in extremely dangerous situations just about every day, but I also worry about the way life can be so unpredictable.

So on that note, I am always happy to shed light on health topics that could help another family, especially when it is something that has had an impact on my own.  I don't think I know a single person who hasn't been affected, in some way, by cancer.  Sometimes, people are lucky and catch it early; other times, people don't even notice symptoms until it is much too late.  So when a disease can really easily be prevented, just by sharing a little knowledge on the topic, I am thrilled to pitch in.

A woman named Heather reached out to me to ask for some help with a campaign she got involved with after she was given just over a year to live, shortly after giving birth to her first daughter.  After a life saving surgery that included removal of her left lung, she is now doing just fine-- 8 years later! The thing that really compelled me about her story is that her type of cancer, mesothelioma, is COMPLETELY PREVENTABLE.  I feel like you don't hear about that with too many cancers.  It is solely caused by asbestos exposure.

An individual may be at risk to develop mesothelioma if he or she was exposed to asbestos in the workplace or at home.  Renovation and construction both at home and in schools, and other public facilities also posed high risk areas for asbestos exposure. Asbestos related cancer is common among military veterans who we exposed on naval ships, in shipyards and at military bases, as well as workers at commercial and industrial locations including refineries, power plants, steel mills, auto production facilities and large construction sites. Some of the occupations of workers at risk include electricians, plumbers, boilermakers, carpenters, mechanics, machinists and more. Additionally, if you lived with someone who was regularly exposed to asbestos and washed their clothes, you could be at risk for second hand asbestos exposure.

In most cases, mesothelioma symptoms will not appear in an individual exposed to asbestos until many years after the exposure has occurred.  As with most cancers, the earlier it is diagnosed, the more likely it is to be caught at an early stage.

Read more: http://www.mesothelioma.com/

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It's a BOY!

I guess the third time around (if you are me), you kind of become so tied up with all that is happening around you that you forget to tell people you are, in fact, 5 months pregnant.  I started getting confused stares about a month ago from the other moms at Niall's pre-school and some of the acquaintances that I frequently see around town. People wanted to ask me if I was expecting-- but as all smart, cautious, polite ladies who don't enjoy jamming their foot in their mouths, they were hesitant to ask.

By now, there is just no hiding it; although I feel like there has been no hiding it since about a week after I took my pregnancy test.  The first time I was pregnant, I could fit into a life jacket and water ski until I was almost 7 months pregnant.  So I confidently went to strap myself into one about a month ago (4 months pregnant) and was shocked to find that there was no earthly way I was getting that thing closed.  People I don't even know are now asking me how I'm feeling and if it's a boy or a girl.  I am always tempted to give them a sad, blank stare back and pretend they had made a terrible mistake, just to see the look of horror on their faces... but I am pretty sure I wouldn't be able to keep a straight face long enough to pull that off.

The first time around, with Niall, we decided to be surprised about the sex.  But not the kind of surprise that a new mother is envisioning when she chooses to turn the other way for every sonogram appointment over the course of 9 months; not the one where everyone is smiling and cheering at that precious moment when they meet the baby for the first time.  I was so drugged up from my unexpected c-section, that all I could say when they shouted "boy" and held him over the blue curtain was "Oh... he's actually cute... that's great" (long story, but the doctor had convinced me during my labor that I was about to give birth to some horrifying creature straight out of the movie "Coneheads").

Consequently, I decided to find out the sex on my second go-around in the hopes that I might actually enjoy the special moment.  I was with my sister in law at the time of the appointment, so that was exciting and we were able to fully appreciate the news on a level of consciousness that I hadn't experienced last time.

So this time, I had to shake things up a bit.  Knowing that this would be my third c-section, I wanted to find out ahead of time again, but I thought it would be fun to torture myself for a few days first.  I had the sonographer put the "results" in an envelope, which I had to hold onto for 24 hours before dropping it off at a bakery, where they would make a cake that was either pink or blue on the inside-- not to be picked up until 3 days later.  I had heard of this before and thought it was a cute idea, but I didn't realize how fun and exciting it would actually be.  I honestly had no idea until I cut into that cake and was completely shocked to find out that we are having ANOTHER BOY!







Now that people know, everyone is feeling sorry for me and asking if I am devastated that I didn't get a girl-- honestly, I am not.  Of course, I would have been thrilled if it was a girl, but I am also just a boy kind of mom at this point.  The crazy boy train has been running at this house for almost 5 years now, and I've kind of got this whole mom-to-a-boy thing locked down, so this little guy will fit right in with us.

I am coming to terms with the fact that my bathrooms will inevitably smell like an Amoco Station rest stop for the next 18 years and that there are no tea parties in my foreseeable future... but I am thrilled that Niall and Brendan will have another little buddy to take under their wing.  It will be so cute to watch these 3 little guys grow up as best friends, despite how outnumbered I will be in this family :)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Accept the things you cannot change

Honestly, this could apply to any number of things in my life-- it would probably eliminate a big source of stress if I could accept the fact that my 2 year old doesn't respond to any form of discipline whatsoever-- but right now, at this point in time, I'm having a really difficult time accepting that I simply can't do everything that I set out to do on a daily basis.  I am stretched too thin, and what I need to tell myself (and believe it) is that it's OK.

Every day for the last 8 months or so, I have told myself right before I go to bed, that I am going to wake up at 5:45 and get some writing done/ enjoy some time to myself. Then, at 7:30 am, right after breakfast, I am going to squeeze in a half hour walk with the kids before heading out the door to drop Niall off at pre-school.  Then, at nap time, I am going to do all of the laundry and clean the house.  The list goes on and on, but the "checks" never seem to get ticked off that list.

Why am I so surprised that I hit the snooze for an hour every morning, become consumed with random issues that come up after breakfast, and then find myself returning emails and sorting through the junk pile at nap time?  Every day this happens and every day, I am so confused and saddened that I can't seem to squeeze a 25th hour into the day.

I think that giving ourselves a break, as parents of young children, is probably one of the most important and most difficult things we can do for ourselves.  And yet whenever I do, I feel guilty about it.

I can barely stomach the number of missed photo ops with my kids in the last year, I've lost my patience so much more than I should have (or even did a year ago), pretended I was listening to Niall's stories when I was really zoning out thinking about all of the other things I needed to be doing...

But every once in a while, I get so tired that all I can do is plop down on the couch and completely give up on the never-ending lists... and that's when I get to soak up the best moments; the unexpected ones.  That's when the boys climb up on me and we all start making funny faces or have a pillow fight or read ALL of the pages of a book (not my abridged version).  These are the precious memories that I know are slipping away and will soon be gone forever.  These are the moments when I have to force myself to abandon the daily grind in order to live for something better.

And so, I've decided that I will.  And I will stop beating myself up about it.  I know that I will always feel a little guilty for not getting other things done, but I also know that it's ok for things to be just "good enough" for now.  One day, I will have my order again; my schedules; my attainable goals.  But right now, I only have one more year until Niall is in real school-- as in all day long; as in he will be away from me for more time than he will be with me in a given day.

I can literally hear "Cats in the Cradle" playing in my head every time I tell him that I don't have time to build a lego tower together or read him 2 stories instead of just 1 or watch his cool new dance move because I'm in the middle of making dinner.  I want to look back on these few fleeting years I have with my kiddos and remember myself putting down the grocery bags to stop and marvel at a worm the boys found in the mud, ditching my phone to go paint with them instead of "supervising" from a distance, and completely tearing apart the sectional couch to build the best fort ever-- regardless of how annoying it is to put it all back together.  (And no matter how much Niall insists he can help me with that, I am way too psycho to accept zipper side out and upside down cushions).  

So I will strive to be less "perfect", less structured, less of everything that I have always tried to be... in order to be a different kind of perfect.  Perfect for this phase in my life, this phase in their life.  Perfect for what I want my memories of my young family to be.  Perfect for being completely imperfect.  And that's OK... for now :)




Friday, May 9, 2014

The Silver Lining

You know the old saying, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." That's pretty much the reason I've stayed off this blog for the entire month of April.  I know that kids go through phases, but it kind of feels like these 2 have purposely joined forces at the exact same time and decided to see just what will it take to make their mother lock herself in the closet and never come out again.

For this post, I had originally typed up a long, bitter rant about all of the things that have gone wrong and/or driven me up the wall over the last month or so.  At some point in there, I even gave a thorough description of what hell must be like (and I'm pretty confident that it may have been somewhat accurate)... but even so, I decided for the first time in my 4 1/2 year blogging history, that I needed to sit on it.  I kept telling myself "Just wait until tomorrow and see if you still want to publish this."  And so I did... for 3 days.

In that short time period, I experienced a very poignant, very humbling realization that life is just too short to focus on the stuff that doesn't matter.  Will it continue to drive me insane that my 4 1/2 year old won't stop pooping in his pants?  Of course.  Will it become easier for me not to turn into the incredible Hulk every time my 2 year old hits me in the face?  Not a chance.

But when I look back over the course of this entire month-- what really matters, what will go down in the history books (or at least my history book) is not how many pairs of ninja turtle underwear I cleaned up/ threw away, not how many hours Brendan spent in time out (and believe me, it may very well have taken up the better part of half the entire month).

It's brothers walking along the beach together, hand in hand



It's a trip to the ice cream shop for no good reason



It's conquering your fears



It's the magical look on a kid's face when he knows he is sitting on top of the world



It's gasping with excitement, even when he has already shown you 37 other shells just like this one



It's that feeling of being in complete control



It's accepting that sometimes things will be completely out of control



It's that sense of accomplishment that can only come from finding the world's biggest sand crab



It's allowing yourself to do something fun even though you know it's gonna get messy



It's taking a joy ride every now and again



It's the realization that, as much as you want to, you just can't stay mad at this kid




And it's knowing with 100% certainty that no matter how many times you want to throw yourself out the window, you wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

7 things you just can't child-proof

I was sitting in my basement the other day, when this wave of nausea came over me and I suddenly found myself shouting at my kids: "IS IT JUST ME OR IS IT HOT IN HERE???"

That's when I realized...  It WAS hot in here, way hotter than it should have been.  That's when I put two and two together and ran upstairs to find this:


This is just one of the many obstacles I have faced in child-proofing our house in the last 3 or 4 months.  Brendan has suddenly become VERY curious/ mischievous/ strong willed/ defiant about exploring certain things in the house.  Basically, if he wants it, he is going to find a way to get to it.  Case closed.

Here are 6 other things in my house that simply can't be child-proofed... which has been a super fun challenge for me to (unsuccessfully) try to figure out.

1)  


2)  

3)   


4)   


5)     


6)   

(Niall's shoe... true story)

I have my work cut out for me :)