What are you doing . . .

in 2010?

I hate resolutions. I hate the word; I hate the very idea of them. I feel like, when I set resolutions, I invariably set myself up to fail. However, this year, I have decided that I’m not making resolutions so much as taking up challenges and setting goals. So, my goals/challenges this year:

1) Complete the read the Bible in 90 days challenge (I did day one already, so I’m off to a fantastic start).

2) Run a 5k. I have the Couch to 5K app on my iPod and I have good running shoes and a treadmill. I’m ready to go with this on.

3) Organize and declutter my house. Those of you who have followed along know I tried Regina Leeds last year. For reasons I don’t want to pursue too much, I lost momentum and that ended sadly/badly. So, new year, new guru: Organize Now!: A Week By Week Guide To Simplify Your Space And Your Life and we’ll try it again. I’m hoping that the addition of the Motivated Moms chore list, I’m going to be able to accomplish this.

4) Pursue happiness by developing my own happiness project/create my life list. I have (not surprisingly) two books I’m going to use for this (if you haven’t figured out that my biggest decluttering project is going to be my books, then you don’t know me well enough yet). The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun and Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide
It’s sure to be interesting, at any rate.

5) Keep a gratitude journal for a year. This is actually a gimme at this point because I’ve been doing this every year. I use one of these: Journal 10+ 2010-2020 I bought it last year and I LOVE IT.

6) Keep an image journal for Katie. I did this for Ben between one and two, so now I’m going to do one for Katie. These are written images, but in Katie’s case, there’s also going to be a photograph a week for a year. It’s not as daunting to me to take Katie’s picture every week and I think it’s going to be fascinating to see how she grows.

7) Become a more intentional eater. To some degree, I want to follow Michael Pollan, but not all the way. I believe in good food; I don’t drink diet soda and I use real butter. Having said that, portion control and more thought are going to be my ways, hopefully, of bringing my health back under control.

8) Develop an exercise habit. I don’t want to do the 5K and then sit on my ass for the rest of the year. I want to be more active. To that end, we are joining the Y in order to give me protected workout time (child care every morning for two hours is enough to get me in there, seriously). We have tons of active Wii games, a treadmill in our bedroom, and with all of that, I fully intend to be healthy by the end of 2010.

9) I’m also paying close attention to Kristen Chase’s current challenge. I’m not going to elaborate on that except that I will be playing along as soon as I can (though it may require a trip to the doctor before I can, dang it).

10) Develop a better plan for our homeschooling and actually implement it. I need to actually apply and use all of this wonderful stuff that I’ve collected to learn with. Not as much to sit down and do book work as to experience. Also, need to be taking better advantage of the options available to him at the zoo, the library, the local theatre, and so forth.

11) One last one, become a more intentional parent. I referenced Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids a couple of times already. This is my bible for creating stronger, better relationships with my kids.

If I had to sum this all up, I would say that I need to be more active and more engaged in life. I think that’s an excellent goal for the coming year and the coming decade.

Today has been very strange for me in that I’ve felt lighter and happier in spirit than I have in a long, long time. Maybe the old decade really was just too much for me and I needed a new one to shed the depression and unhappiness of the old and develop a new attitude.

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Year in Review — 2009

Let me preface this by saying that prior to last year, I had a private blog, not a public one. I have been doing this year in review in the private blog for several years and decided to move it here this year. Though I haven’t completely abandoned my private blog, I virtually have. It’s for a different purpose and this one more accurately reflects where I am with my life. Tomorrow, I plan to post my goals for 2010. We’ll see how accommodating the crazy drivers in this area are.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before? Started using Twitter and Facebook. I can’t believe the difference those two tools have made in my life.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I did not keep the majority of my resolutions. I expected to be far healthier and far less distracted by my kids than I actually was. I have some goals for this year that I hope to achieve. We’ll see how I do.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? My buddy and writing partner, Nomi — to twins!
4. Did anyone close to you die? For once, my family didn’t suffer a loss.
5. What countries did you visit? None.
6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? More patience with my kids.
7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? October 20. The date of my daughter’s cranial reconstructive surgery.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Making the decision to homeschool our kids. It’s obviously the start of a long process, but the fact that we researched, made decisions, and yet have been flexible enough to change as what we thought would work didn’t has been a huge accomplishment.
9. What was your biggest failure? It’s weird; I’m thinking about this and I’m not 100% sure that I can identify one. I guess not recognizing sooner that I was in a downward spiral and then when I did, not being willing to talk about it as fast as I should have.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? The usual assortment of colds, flus, sprains, aches, and pains, but nothing that required surgery or other massive intervention.
11. What was the best thing you bought? A yellow sundress from Eddie Bauer. I haven’t actually gotten to wear it yet, but it is very, very pretty and I’m looking forward to wearing it at Easter this year. Also? Things for the Mac and the iPod Touch and the printable chore lists from Motivated Moms. Oh, and my “big car” — I completely forgot about it. That’s embarrassing.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Some of my blogging friends, most specifically: Mommy Melee. She’s one tough, smart cookie and we should all be glad to have her advocating for the rest of us.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Some bloggers who find their bliss in others’ pain. I cannot believe the number of trollish comments that people get on really painful topics. It is seriously unreal to me and why I avoided public blogging for so very long.
14. Where did most of your money go? Bills. My new car. Katie’s surgery.
15. What did you get really excited about? Katie’s first Christmas that actually meant anything. She was just over a month old last Christmas, so she basically didn’t get anything about it. This time, she was at least vaguely interested in everything.
16. What song will always remind you of 2009? “Love Your Love the Most” Eric Church
17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder? Happier. I’m learning to accept that I can’t change things or will people to be different than they are. I have to work on setting my limits and enforcing them.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? I wish I had been more active and that I could have taken B to more cool activities.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Screwed around on the Internet. Blogging, interacting is one thing, but spending time just pointlessly surfing has to stop.
20. How did you spend Christmas? Sick. Ben, Katie, and I all contracted some sort of monster illness and were sick for the holiday. It was actually fun because there were virtually no expectations.
21. Did you fall in love in 2009? With fancy chocolate, excellent crystalized ginger, and new ideas. Yes.
22. Think of something important to mention. Before we speak we should consider three points: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? (This comes from Simplicity Parenting which I will be talking a lot more about in the near future).
23. How many one-night stands? None.
24. What was your favorite TV program? Top Chef: Masters
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I don’t hate anyone. I dislike a number of people, but I don’t hate anyone.
26. What was the best book you read? Hmmm. Non-fiction: Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids. The book is rocking my world and I’m going to be talking A LOT about it over the next few months. True Compass: A Memoir. He really had a huge impact on the world as I know it. It’s fun to read his recollections of things (I will NEVER get the image of the president of the United States running across a field and climbing a fence to escape his father out of my head). Fiction: The Graveyard Book So yeah, this would be the best. I read a lot of Lisa Kleypas’s historical romances this year and loved them.
27. What was your greatest musical discovery? Eric Church.
28. What did you want and get? Katie’s tag for my Mommy Tag necklace.
29. What did you want and not get?My front hall painted. I know we’re going to get to it, but it’s reaching serious joke proportions when the paint is almost five years old :).
30. What was your favorite film of this year? I’m a Netflix chick; I don’t go to theaters, so . . . August Rush.
31. What did you do on your birthday? Took care of the kids while P tried to take care of his parents..
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Finishing more of the projects that I started.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009? Jeans and t-shirts. Not exactly inspiring on any level.
34. What kept you sane? Keeping my gratitude journal.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? George Clooney. I’m sorry, the man is gorgeous.
36. What political issue stirred you the most? Health care reform.
37. Who do you miss? My grandmother. It’s so weird to still feel this way, but watching a Vikings game and wanting to call her and then remembering she’s been gone for almost nine years. Geez, it still hits the gut HARD.
38. Who was the best new person you met? Oh, my. I’ve met so many new people this year. I think I have to settle for a top three, and those top three are: Katie, Momsomniac, and Adrienne. But know that there are so many more both on Twitter and on the blogs who have made such a huge impact on my life this year. I literally can’t list you all because I’d run out of room. I’m thinking I need to update my blogroll. Seriously.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009. Test everything you want to say with these three words: True. Kind. Necessary. If what you want to say passes all three, then say it.
40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“I’m alive . . . and well.” Kenny Chesney w/Dave Matthews.

Today is my birthday . . .

My son has a book that he adores The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli. It’s a great story about a little baby (gender undetermined) who is all excited about getting a box for his/her birthday. Inside the box is a puppy. It’s a nice, gentle story and makes birthdays, even not super exciting ones, seem good.

Today, however, is my real, actual birthday. Not that you would know this by anything that’s going on, but it is. And not only is it my birthday, it’s a milestone birthday. Today, I am 40. I am not upset by this or distressed or anything. I don’t feel like I’ve just crossed some imaginary line that means I will never be what I was or anything.

I had big plans for my birthday. After years of not taking my birthday very seriously, I decided that this year I was going to do what I wanted to do. What I wanted to do was go out with some of my friends, minus my children, then take the kids to Safari Nights at our zoo, and finally, go out to dinner with my husband — by ourselves.

Unfortunately, none of that is going to happen. The immediate reasons involve a health crisis for my mother-in-law which has put my husband in some very difficult situations in the last few days.

I’m not upset about it and I’m thankful that I didn’t let myself get too excited about the plan, but I’m honestly not sure how much more we can take as a family without cracking a bit.

I don’t really even have much else to say right now. Just that we’re very stressed and no part of this is easy. Every time we think we’re out of the woods, something else happens. It would be unbelievable if I heard someone telling the story of the last five days, and I just cannot believe that I’m living it.

Waiting

Waiting sucks.

We are waiting, patiently, for the doctors to coordinate and let us know when they plan to operate on Katie. We have a tentative date and I’ve used that tentative date to book kennel space for the dogs, but we can’t make arrangements for Ben until we have an actual date. We can’t inform all of the parties who want to know what’s going on because we don’t know ourselves.

I only received the tentative date because I begged for it. I had to explain that Sam (the older dog) has serious medical issues, which she does. Serious enough that she cannot be kenneled by any reputable kennel in this area. There are too many pills and too many issues that have to be dealt with for her to be comfortable and safe in a normal environment. She has, in the past, gone to stay with my parents, but at this juncture, her needs are a little too complex for them to handle and their environment (having to be walked where other dogs are walked) is not ideal for her. Fortunately, her vet is willing to board her and, from what we’ve been told, goes to some rather serious extremes to protect her when she’s with them. They’ve agreed to take her partner in crime as well, even though that takes away one emergency space should they need it. I am so grateful the girls can stay together. Sam will be calmer and less likely to stop eating if Peyton is with her. Since Peyton won’t stop eating for anything, it’s very likely that Sam will eat, too. Plus, I know that if anything starts to go wrong, Sam is in the best place for her, so I don’t have to worry about her while we’re handling Katie’s situation.

Katie continues to grow and, to me at least, it’s becoming more obvious that her forehead isn’t keeping up with the rest of her. She’s adorable, but her face does look out of proportion and that makes me sad. I know that P has continued to believe this is all wrong and she’s suddenly going to surprise everyone and just be fine, but I think even he is letting go of that dream now. Even he can see that something just isn’t quite right with our adorable little girl.

And she is adorable. While she’s waiting for this big event, which still seems so unreal to me, she is getting teeth (top front right came in on Monday), learning to stand, crawling, and starting on puffy snacks. She’s doing this all with amazing grace and speed.

We’re living our whole lives in a before the surgery vs. after the surgery mode. It’s draining and emotionally battering. We can’t seem to plan past September. I’m afraid to go beyond that because I don’t know what the future is going to hold. I want to believe that she’s going to be okay. I want to believe that this is going to go fine and she’s going to come out the other side with no lasting issues.

And then I remember she’s my daughter and I remember her birth, and I remember that just because these are done all the time and these are things that have so few people experience complications, that doesn’t mean that she won’t experience them. I’m thinking positively. I’m praying. I’m keeping the faith, but I’m here to tell you that it gets harder every day and will continue to get harder until we get that date so at least we know when our lives are going to be put on hold.

I hope it’s soon.

Making Work Work

I’ve drifted a bit lately from my larger purpose of talking about how work-at-home and full-time parenting work together and what things I’m learning.

One thing I’ve learned these last few days is that when a kid is sick the work has to be fit in around the kid. Ben has been feverish and generally just ill for the last couple of days. Right now, he and I are cozied up in a recliner in the way that he wants while I set up to evaluate some papers. Of course, I stopped to blog first because, well, I wanted to.

The notable thing, of course, is that the work doesn’t stop just because I’m at home or he’s sick. So, I work with what he’s willing to accept. Right now, I’m typing one-handed and holding onto him with the other. Would he prefer I put the computer down? Probably. Does he understand that sometimes this is the best he can have at this moment? I think so. We’ve worked on connecting my work to things he likes. You get X special thing because Mom works. If Mom didn’t work, you wouldn’t be able to have the special things.

I know some would say that what he needs most is undivided attention. I don’t essentially agree. He gets a great deal of attention, even with a baby sister. He’s started going on errands with me on the weekends, and he’s learned that it’s okay not to get to go every time. He gets to go sometimes and that seems to be enough.

Work is steady and I can’t complain. There are times when it seems like a lot of things all pile on at once. I’ve been moving back toward my “full” load slowly. I teach less than many people I know, but I’m juggling different things than others are. I know many work-at-home types are advocates for having a set work day, turning off the computer, hiring someone to watch the child, and so on.

For me, that defeats the purpose of working from home. I want to be with my kids as much as I can for as long as they want me. If they get a little less attention because I’m working while I’m with them, then I think that’s okay. Ben is most relaxed if I’m there to see things when he’s done with them.

While he’s been in the sickbed, he’s been doing a lot of building with his duplo blocks. Yesterday, he build a staircase. It was wonderful. He didn’t talk to me or really pay attention to anything but his blocks for a bit. Then said, “MomMom, look.” I looked, complimented his work, and he went back to what he was doing. He needed me in that moment, but not for the moments around them.

I do have the luxury of figuring out where and how I want to get the work down around specific deadlines. Grading is challenging, but doesn’t necessarily require the extreme concentration that some other professions may require (numbers and the IRS come to mind). I recognize that I’m extremely lucky to have a job that a love in an industry that’s stable that allows me to spend my time as I choose (at least to a degree).

There are times when I have to work and I have to lock myself in my office and let my husband handle our kids. And there are times when I’m desperate for an adult conversation. But, contrast that to this morning when I put Katie down for her nap and I get to hear Ben call, “See you later, Sunshine.” I’ll trade the adult conversation for that.

Stress and Challenges

I find myself in a weird situation where there are things going on in our family that I would very much like to talk about, but I also feel like talking about them amounts to a “poor me” situation, which is not the experience that I look for here. I tend toward being something of a reticent/shy person (for all my willingness to talk endlessly about my dogs and my kids, there are things I don’t talk about and don’t share, though I likely will as time goes on.)

I’m very conscious of the fact that people abuse this medium and I don’t want to be mistaken for one of them. I feel so badly for the people who need and crave that level of attention, but, by the exact same token I know that people who need support, whose very existence depends on that support, can and do get it through the internet. It’s a double-edged sword, the internet. Really, it is.

So, here we’re undergoing a great deal of stress and it is showing in the parenting that we’re doing, the dog stewardship that we’re doing, and in the lack of some things that we’re doing.

On Twitter (I’m adjunctmom, if you’re looking), I made a comment about the new plagues being surgery on small child, ants, canine ear issues, and mouthy, stubborn 3 yo. So, to take those in my own sort of order:

Mouthy, stubborn 3 yo: this is not surprising. He’s my son. He’s P’s son. If he were neither mouthy nor stubborn, I would demand a DNA test. Seriously. He’s reacting to the stress around him and he’s doing things that he has never done before in an attempt to gain some of the attention that’s going in other directions at the moment. It’s true for both dogs and children, negative attention is better than no attention at all. We made a concerted effort this weekend and today to draw attention to the great things he’s doing and give him lots of support and praise. I think it’s working; we’ll see.

Canine ear issues: Peyt went to the vet on Friday. The good news is that her ears look 80% better than they did three weeks ago. The bad news is there’s 20% more still to go. Approximately three more weeks of ear meds twice a day and then a week off and THEN another trip to the vet to see if the ears have improved. Added to the ear issues, I had a quiet word with the vet explaining that when we bring Sam in (for her semi-annual exam) we need to make sure to discuss, IN FRONT OF BEN, that there are things that Dr. Chip just can’t fix. Fortunately, we have a great vet who both has kids and loves kids, so he knows what I’m getting at. He asked how she’s doing and if she’s slowing down. I confessed that she hasn’t slept on the bed in almost a month. Sam has slept on my bed every night since she was three years old. I was horrified to discover that her choosing not to sleep on the bed may indicate that she’s in pain. So, during Peyt’s week off, we’re doing a medication trial for Sam to see if twice a day pain meds would improve her situation or if it has little to no effect. She’s been up on the bed once in the last month and it was a struggle for her to get up. It worries me.

Ants: Wednesday of last week, P went into the closet to get a shirt for work. He started to put it on and realized that it was full of ants. Not fire ants, but not little sugar ants either. Those in-between ants that are both annoying and unpleasant. The contents of our closet are now spread across our bedroom, the living room, and the office. I can no longer see my desk. The closet has now been ant free for five days. This is promising. His plan, assuming things stay ant free today, is to move the stuff in the living room and office back into the closet, but not to completely refill it because we have plans for that closet that he would like to enact.

small child having surgery: when Katie had her four month well baby check, her pediatrician commented that her forehead seemed a little narrow to him, but he wasn’t concerned. When she went in for her six month well baby check not too long ago, her forehead had not changed it’s shape at all, as in it was still as narrow as it was before, there were obvious indentations that look like those grab thingies on large plastic containers (the spots cut into the plastic for you to pick up the awkward jug with) where her temples should be, and her eyes seem to be a little too close together. At this point, he was concerned. Concerned enough that he wanted us to make an appointment with a specialist for these issues.

We made the appointment, but were called shortly thereafter to move the appointment from the main office to the clinic where more of the team would be present. We were hoping that this would be a rule out appointment, but that was not to be. On Monday we found out that Katie has trigonocephaly. This is not life threatening and aside from causing lots of stress, is a relatively benign condition, though they’re concerned that she may have vision problems if we don’t take care of it. So, we’re going to deal with it. It feels too much like a gamble to wait and see when it’s much harder to correct when she’s older. I would rather gamble with surgery now than gamble with her development later. So, the last week has been a flurry of phone calls trying to set up appointments and organize things. We’re looking at surgery in the middle of September as they’d like to wait until she gains a bit more weight and, right now, there doesn’t seem to be any significant risk to her.

So we’re under stress. P and I deal with stress in different ways. He gets angry. I tend to eat, read, and play video games. I’m something of a Sims addict and now? They have Sims for the iPhone. I love it. Probably too much, but right now, I’m not going to worry about it. The thing is, we both need healthier methods of dealing with stress so that our son can learn better methods than the ones that we have. We’re working on it.

So, this blog may be hijacked for the next little while with discussions of doctor’s appointments, coping strategies, and general stressiness. To me, this is part of parenting in the 21st century.

Finally, I want to say that we’re so grateful to our pediatrician who caught this, to our friends who have immediately offered all kinds of support (from the shoulder to cry on [virtual and local] to offers to take Ben, the girls, or both), to our medical professional friends who have helped us better understand what we’re dealing with, to both of our places of work whose immediate responses were how can we help and what do you need rather than how will this affect us, and, finally, for the faith that will sustain us in the days to come. If we can remember to turn to rather than away, we’ll be okay.

Best Baby Products for a Work at Home Mom

I’ll tackle the toddler/preschooler next week, but this week, Katie is on my mind and what makes for the best set up to be able to care for her and complete the work I need to do. Among the things we do is keep a pack-n-play in my office. We have it there so she can sleep while I work and later play while I work. I’m a big believer in some amount of independent play starting at a young age. I love playing with my kids, don’t get me wrong, but I feel that if I play too much with them, they don’t develop their imaginations and they don’t learn how to deal with the “I’m bored” factor.

The things, however, that I would not live without are:

1. Sara Bear Diaper Caddy. This thing is really pretty and that makes me happy, but it is also super-functional. It allows me to just carry the diapers and needed accessories to where Katie is currently hanging out without having to race across the house with her to her changing area in her room. This seems almost inconsequential, but I had no idea how much it would improve our quality of life. I bought it because it was pretty and I didn’t need to buy much for Katie. We considered it a non-necessity, but now I don’t believe that it is.

2. Ergo Baby Carrier. I had a Bjorn with Ben. It still looks like new. Seriously. I hated the thing and it never seemed to work right for me. The Ergo is outstanding in every way. It makes it so easy to take Katie and go out with Ben to play in the yard. The positioning of the carrier is so much better and the infant insert makes it easier for me to work with her and keep her comfortable. The carriers are well-designed and well thought out and they work well for a busy mom who wants to have her young child with her but also have her hands free to play with the older child (or grade a few papers). We’ve even determined that she can be fed in the carrier. I am bottle feeding, but it still works for her and is relatively easy to accomplish.

3. TinyLove Tropical Isle Playmat. We had one of these for Ben and he loved it. His was borrowed and so returned when we were done with it. We bought one for Katie and this has been a great investment. It not only helps us with keeping her occupied, but is a major source of enjoyment for her.