Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I have a dream...

Every year, even before I had kids, I would have these visions of what the holidays were supposed to look like...

4th of July would always be on a boat with fireworks bursting over the bay, while holding a cold beer; Thanksgiving was hanging out in the kitchen with spiced cider, the movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles playing on repeat in the background, and everyone leaves the dishes in the sink to find a cozy place on the couch, curl up and pass out with bellies full of turkey; Christmas, of course, is holiday music blasting all day, eggnog, pine-scented candles, and a reading of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" where everyone sits around in a circle, listening intently.

In reality, 75% of my fantasy does not happen.  And that's ok.  My motto is "It's never too late."  So every year, I just keep trying, happily accepting my defeat as an opportunity to do better next year.

Now, Memorial Day, though its true meaning is very important, is a little too heavy for a toddler... but how about roasting s'mores over an open fire, going fishing off the pier, and picking fresh apples-- as in, a real apple tree, and then throwing the rotten ones into the field with Grandpop?

That sounds like a home run in the childhood fantasy department.  That was the plan.  I packed up those marshmallows and graham crackers in a little picnic basket and we made a special trip to the hardware store to get a crabbing pot and a big net. 

Again, 75% of it didn't happen.

But the 25% that did?  Well, it was totally worth it...

And the 75% that didn't... we did our own little generic version for good measure.

You can't really catch too many crabs without chicken necks-- but you can wear serial killer-style fisherman gloves while riding a tractor.

And so what if your kid is too hyper and over-tired to indulge in a sweet treat on either night of the holiday weekend?  You can eat s'mores by yourself at 10pm Monday night, hovering over your stove when everyone is finally (for the love of God) sound asleep.

And despite Matt's trip to the ER for a waterskiing accident that resulted in a slipped disk in his back, I'm going to call this holiday weekend a total success.  Because what would a family vacay be without a little-- or a lot-- of chaos?  Chaos is part of the fantasy.  A very important part of making the fantasy come to life.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

My Worst Nightmare

You always wonder what your first serious 'mom freak out' is going to look like and what will have caused it-- or maybe that's just me and my well-known gift of perpetually going to the dark place.  Not in a 'wandering hopelessly through life in a depressed state of mind' kind of way, but in the 'hypochondriac, overly worried, everyone's going to die, spaz' kind of way-- not sure which one is worse.

It's not my fault really; despite my truly optimistic lease on life, my mind just can't help but to "go there" a bit too often, and my friends make fun of me about it all the time.  Oh, that's just Kerry thinking her plane is going to burst into pieces while she's in mid-flight.  Oh, that's just Kerry worried that she picked up that case of e-coli that was spotted out in Utah last week. You get the idea.

It's pretty much the popular SNL skit of "Debbie Downer" to a tee...

"Hey, do you guys want to go on the haunted elevator?  It's supposed to drop straight down!"

Debbie: "Did you guys hear about that massive train crash in North Korea?  The media is so secretive there, we may never know how many perished..."

So, the first mom freak out happened today.  Well, the first warranted one.  I did have 1 tiny little setback when Niall was 2 weeks old.  I was holding him and he went completely limp so quickly that I thought something was really wrong.  I noticed that his pigment was a little bluish and I couldn't seem to find that rising and falling of his chest.  After telling the 911 operator that my baby wasn't breathing, 2 firetrucks later, we discovered that he had been peacefully sleeping, as 2 week-olds often do.  Just putting my tax dollars to good use, no biggie.

But today was different.  Today, my 2 year old and 4 month old were locked inside of a hot car with my diaper bag containing my phone and keys.

Begin heart palpitations.

Thank God my neighbor was with me.  We were going to drive to a trail and go for a long walk, but her car died on our way up our street.  When we turned around for her to switch cars with her husband, I decided to nurse Brendan on the front steps while she got the car seats situated.  As I was nursing him, Niall began rifling through my diaper bag (on the front seat), took my keys out and put them in the ignition.

He didn't turn it on, just managed to figure out the right key and get it in there.  I was highly impressed!  And a little freaked out.  But hey, thanks for getting half the leg work done for me, right?  Wrong.  When Brendan finished nursing, I put him in his car seat and grabbed Niall out of the driver seat to move him back to his seat.  Once everyone was buckled in, I shut the doors and walked around to the driver's side.

Clu-clunk.  The sound of the doors automatically locking.  Apparently, there is a feature that turns on "lock-down" mode when the keys are in the ignition, but the car isn't turned on.  I haven't even attempted to wrap my head around the reason for this, and it doesn't matter because I am never shutting any car doors ever again unless all of the windows are rolled down. 

My first reaction was honestly, "Shoot, now I'm going to have to call AAA..."  Followed 1/18 of a millisecond later by "MY KIDS ARE TRAPPED IN THE CAR!*^#@+=/<;"  Followed 1/4 of a millisecond later by "MY PHONE IS TRAPPED IN THE CAR!!"  Again, Thank God my neighbor was with me.  She had gotten into her car already at this point, so she didn't see any of this... but she definitely saw me stumbling up to her car, pulling the skin off my face zombie-style, and promptly got out to see what was wrong.

She put it together pretty quickly and as I began shouting out pointless observations (i.e. "It's hot in there!", "I can't get in", "I'm hyperventilating!"), she called 911 and the firetrucks were there in about a minute and a half (no joke).  It took them a good 5 minutes to get the lock popped, which doesn't sound like that much, but Debbie Downer here has seen the Dateline special of kids being left in cars while their parents go grocery shopping-- and I know it only takes a couple of minutes for them to really become dangerously overheated (wah wahhhh).

I had my face glued to the window and kept asking Niall if he was OK throughout the whole thing.  But I knew that Niall had his water and his snack and could be comforted by me talking to him through the window... it was Brendan that I was worried about.  I could see the beads of sweat flickering on both of their faces and poor baby B was getting really squirmy and flustered in there.

Once again, I couldn't be happier to have 2 boys who I know are going to be such great friends.  Niall came to his brother's rescue right away by reaching over to hold his hand, making sure he was ok the whole time.  When the locks finally popped and the doors opened, I busted in there in true mom-freak-out fashion, got my boys out of there and hugged them tight. 

And then I thanked my tax dollars (and firemen) for bailing me out once more.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Between 2 worlds

A toddler's life can be tough.  They want to taste that sweet nectar of freedom and independence, but sometimes they just need that little bit of extra help from mom (or many times, mom needs to beat it and only dad will do). 

Niall turned 2 1/2 yesterday and I can really see the struggle unfolding between his two worlds-- the 2 year old who is still living in a baby-proofed house vs. the 3 year old who is a real boy.

There are days when he shouts from the rooftops "I WANT TO DO IT my-SELF!!!=*u(@$&^#" and then there are days when he timidly hugs my leg and asks "do you want to play with me, maybe, mommy?"... that's the point where I melt into a puddle and drop the laundry and dishes and say "Of course I do!"

Honestly, on most days, he's the 3 year old.  The grown boy, doing things himself, running and climbing as far as he can without ever looking back.

He's really getting there.  And it's exciting to see him conquer these hurdles. But I have to admit, it's also a relief when he occasionally turns around and decides that he doesn't want to go any further without mom by his side.

I remember vividly when Niall was 7 weeks old, Matt and I just wanted to freeze time.  It was this one particular day and we knew he would be turning 2 months soon, which just sounded like he was slipping right out of babyhood before we could blink.  We didn't want him to get any older; we just wanted him to stay a tiny little baby forever.

But then he turned 2 months, then 3 months, then 6 and then a year.  And at every milestone, there was that split second of sadness for the baby we were losing, but then this overwhelming amazement at how it was even possible that he was getting cuter and funnier and everything that we never thought he could become any more of.  But he did.  He just kept getting better and better.

So now Brendan comes into the picture...

And suddenly I don't want to freeze time anymore.  I surprisingly want it to move forward.  It's not just that I know he's going to become so much more fun every single month, but I can't wait for these two little guys to be able to play together.

And Niall really can't wait.  He's so ready, he's taking matters into his own hands-- dumping train tracks and helicopters and all kinds of hard plastic toys onto Brendan's lap (and head).

Even though Brendan can't physically join in yet, he is already participating with his eyes and his expressions.  He loves watching Niall play-- actually it kills him because he wants to join in so badly.  He flails his legs and arms and lets out these excited grunts when Niall puts toys on him and plays in front of him...

Well, most of the time.  But sometimes, he gives me this look:

The "Mom, are you going to save me from this crazy kid any time soon?" look.  And instead of saving him, I run and get the camera.

Anyway, Brendan is getting bigger even faster than Niall did.  He's already grown out of the newborn phase.  He's now an infant, holding his head up, smiling, rolling over and too big for me to hold like a football anymore.  And it should make me sad, but this time it doesn't, because there's so much to look forward to.

I just know they are going to be such great friends.  And somehow that trumps holding onto those sweet little baby faces and chubby little baby thighs for dear life.  I'm willing to make an exception this time and let Brendan graduate from babyhood and move onto brotherhood.  Something tells me it's going to be worth it :)

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Garden Gurus

One of my favorite things about the spring is starting anew with our garden.  Just when the old stuff is starting to look a little drab, it's time to pack up the kids and take a trip to Home Depot to get some bright new plants and flowers.

Ok, let's be honest, the trip to Home Depot with 2 kids is the not so fun part.  Chasing Niall around the nursery, begging him to stop pulling the blooms off the flowers with a baby strapped to my chest, trying to hold 10 pound potted plants at the same time is not exactly fun...

But picking out the new plants really makes me happy, and once we get home, Niall is ready to work hard...

And its a good thing because guess who's not ready to work hard?

That's right, I'm willing to pull the "I'm just a frail little lady" card on Matt when it comes to these things.  I do the part I like and I leave the rest for him to deal with.  That's probably my favorite thing about gardening :)

I like to dig the hole and put the plant in... and if I'm feeling really ambitious, I'll even throw the mulch on top of there.

But weeding and pruning just ain't my jam.  That's up to the hubs.

Mmmm, no thank you
I might also just find that after all my hard work on one garden bed, I'm just too exhausted to go on to the other side.  And it may sit there half finished for a number of weeks or so...

But hey, at least I put the plants in.  I got the ball rolling and that's what counts in my book.

Apparently Matt ran into the same problem with the stone pavers leading to the back yard.  He worked so hard putting those first 6 in a few months ago that he decided he was never going to put the last 3 down...

But let's not talk about lack of motivation.  Let's get down to my real pride and joy--


The plant bed in the back yard never existed before my brilliant idea.  I dug this puppy out next to our new basement well fence to test out a little theory about bugs.  Supposedly, rosemary, marigolds and basil keep mosquitoes away, so I planted them near our fire pit in the hopes that we would actually be able to sit out there this year without experiencing the plague.

It seems to be working so far in terms of mosquitoes.   But I didn't realize that it's the gnats that really get to me, not so much the mosquitoes.  Those things find their way into my nostrils, mouth and the corners of my eye within about 5 minutes of being outside.  And there aren't any plants that repel those suckers. 

Anyway, Niall loves to help with yard work, and help he did.  He immediately grabbed his blue shovel and started scooping out all of the mulch that I had just put into the plant bed.  I would put some in and he would happily scoop it back out. That's what I call symbiosis.

Baby B helped even more by staying quietly in his little beach cocoon while we worked.

This thing is amazing because it has netting over it to keep the bugs out.  I can just plop him in there and go about my business, while he plays with the dangly toys that hang down from the top.  It keeps him occupied for at least 45 minutes, which is a new record.  It's a must have for all serious baby gardeners. 

I don't know what I'd do without my little helpers :)

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Monday, May 14, 2012

The Mother of All Mother's Days

When I was little, I would imagine myself as a mom on Mother's Day and what it would be like... in my little fantasy, the day would only be complete with a giant bouquet of bright, beautiful flowers, a heartfelt card with touching messages from each individual family member, breakfast in bed brought to me on one of those little wicker trays, and the whole family would be smiling and holding hands as we sauntered into church in our prettiest outfits.

Oh, and pictures... lots and lots of family pictures commemorating the day.

Now, as a mom, I can say with confidence that what really makes me happy on Mother's Day strangely doesn't include any of those things.  And somehow my day was still fantastic...

Yes, of course I got flowers.  But Matt is very thoughtful about his floral arrangements.  No massive bouquet-- just 2 yellow roses, one for each of my boys, and yellow for my favorite color. 

No heartfelt card-- Matt couldn't find a pen anywhere in the house, so I got a blank one instead... and we have a running joke of getting each other the cheesiest cards we can find every holiday:

No breakfast in bed, but Niall did bring me an uncooked egg that he had cracked and licked on his way up the stairs... so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he doesn't get salmonella.

And no Sunday Stepford Family Brigade walking into church in our finest garb holding hands-- instead we were 15 minutes late due to my inability to find a dress that a) fits me and b) allows me to nurse, so I had to wear some shabby beach bum dress that made me look like the bag lady.  Niall sported a pair of too-tight shorts from last summer and Brendan stayed in his puke stained onesie from earlier that morning.  Matt looked nice, though... 

Oh wait....

Sorry-- no family pictures, like I said.  I think I've made it through 4 holidays now, where I've woken up the next day and said "Seriously?  We didn't take a single picture yesterday??"

No, I don't need any of those fantasies to make me smile.  What made this Mother's Day truly special was that Matt really went out of his way to give me exactly what I wanted:

-to sleep in
-to take a long, quiet nap
-to not have to give the kids a bath
-to not have to clean anything up
-to go somewhere for brunch where I wouldn't be stressing about Niall not sitting still

Niall and Uncle Pat

How's this place for an amazing kid's spot?  Mexican brunch with a sand pit... and a margarita.  It's almost exactly like being at the beach, except there's no water and it's overlooking a major highway.  Does life get any better?

Hubby delivered, let me tell you.  I couldn't have asked for a better day, and as much as I joke about just wanting some peace and quiet, I truly love being a mom.  It has been everything I ever dreamed and more.  Happy belated Mother's Day to all of you moms out there!

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