Tuesday, November 25, 2008



Elisabeth Talbot

This photo was taken at about two weeks - she turned four weeks yesterday!

She was three weeks early and "small for gestational age." So at 4 pounds 6 ounces she was the size of a preemie, but as developed and generally as healthy as a regular three week old. She is up to 6 and a half pounds and looks so much different already!

We planned to call her Betsy, but because she is so teensy we've been calling her "Bitsy," instead.

Nicknack was a little clingy for a few days, probably more from my prolonged absence at the hospital (we were there a few days because of my preeclampsia and to make sure Bitsy started to put on weight) than from the presence of his "babyseester." He has really warmed up to her and has shown no signs of sibling rivalry. He loves to give her hugs and kisses, pat her head, and help me by getting things for her.

So now we are a happy little family of four. YAY! More photos soon!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Random Thoughts

I woke up this morning at 4:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. My mind is full of to do list items. Then I started thinking about Nicknack, and finally decided to get up and write a quick post to capture a few random things that he's doing these days, that I don't want to forget.

WARNING: this would bore absolutely anyone other than Nicholas's own parents, I'm quite sure.

I absolutely love this age - I think this is where I would "freeze" him in time, if I could. When he's not having a meltdown, he is pure joy.

I just realized that he finally stopped saying "Where eee you?" and now says "Where are you?" Very sad. I loved that. But he still says, "Where is he go?" when he's hiding. I'll sometimes be somewhere random in the house and hear a far-away voice calling "Ready! Ta DA!" and I realize he's started a game of hide and seek all by himself and I'd better go find him.

As his language has developed we've figured out what were once his mystery phrases. For the longest time he'd always yell: "Back! Back a ME!" Sometime around his second birthday it started turning into what he actually intended, "Mack! Wait for Me! Come back!" from Cars, of course.

He was "Bob-builder" for Halloween this year. We had the construction hat and overalls and down vest - I just bought an orange plaid shirt on clearance. Very easy and inexpensive. He didn't really like trick or treating. Penn took him to about five houses in the neighborhood and he ran into three of them and did a lap. Oops, sorry about that. Two year olds just have no sense of privacy.

Oh, and he's back in school. I know, I know. I've flip flopped. I tried to pull him out but he begged every day for school and I felt horrible. So I talked to his teachers and the school director and we agreed that if transitioning from one activity to another was too much for him they'd let him be, as much as possible. Now that he gets the routine, he's doing pretty well with it. He makes crafts and sits down for snacks with the best of them. Anytime the routine is changed drastically, he has trouble. So on the day the firemen visit and on picture day, etc. I help wrangle him. But he really is crazy about school. When I get him out of the car he runs all the way to his classroom and knocks on the door shouting "Come in!" And he is never as happy as at "gym time" at the end of the day, when the kids have the run of the church gym with about 20 tricycles & push cars, slides, kiddie pools filled with plastic balls, etc. And it's only a grand total of four hours a week, so there you go. In future, I will not start preschool until my other children are at least three. Live and learn.

One thing that I want to record because it makes me SOOOOO happy is that Nicknack has moved past his "full-time mess-maker" status. For a while (around age two) he was into making piles. He would take any and everything loose in the room and stack it into a big mound and then sit in the middle and sort of stir it with his hands and feet. I can't tell you how disheartening it is to pick up all the various items and put them away, make a quick trip to the bathroom, and come back to find a new pile. Sigh.

We've been working on developing good habits, since I am naturally a "messie" who has (with a lot of effort and intention) reformed herself. So every day I ask him to do little helpful things and pick up this or that before moving on to new things. I can't believe how compliant he is - he really likes to help. The best part is that so much of it is now routine. For example, every day when I tell him it's nap time he heads to his room singing "Clean up, Clean up!" because we put all the cars in his room in their bins before nap and bedtime. Two days ago I was shocked because I noticed he'd played with some balls and cones and left them in the living room and when I came back later they were gone. I looked in the ball bin and, sure enough, he'd put them back without any prompting. Love it!

Speaking of habits, Nicholas often sends himself to his room. At least three times a week. We send him to his room when he has a fit. He's welcome to express his frustration, we just don't feel obligated to listen. So we ask him to go to his room and off he runs. Sometimes when he's upset he'll run off to his room and slam the door. He comes back in a couple of minutes and we greet him with a cheerful "HI!" He's not being disobedient or naughty, he just needs a fresh start. The bad part is that he sometimes sends himself to his room when we tell him no in just a slightly firm tone. He says, "Go to my room?" and runs for the hall. It's very sad. He also says he's sorry a lot, for nothing in particular. I haven't figured out how to explain to him when he doesn't have to go to his room or say he's sorry.

He also says "Go on!" and "Be quiet!" I couldn't figure out where he heard "Go on!" (he says it daily!) and was worrying that someone at school said that to him. Grr. I was racking my brain until my mother pointed out that I say it when I'm on the phone with her. I didn't even realize that I was telling him to "Go on, Mama's on the phone" or Go on and play." I think I say it in a pretty kind voice, although that is not how Nicholas seems to have interpreted it. And we have a very noisy pet bird and several times a day he (the bird, not Nicholas) drives me to distraction and I tell him to "BE QUIET!" So Nicknack repeats that, too.

Great. I'm sure he says all of these things at school, probably in succession. "Sorry! Go to my room! Go ON! BE QUIET!" They must think we are so harsh with him when in actuality we are quite calm and shamelessly doting.

Moving on.

He has been transitioned into his big boy room and bed for a month now. The first couple of nights were tricky - we basically had to rock him repeatedly and put him in his bed already asleep. But since then it's been surprisingly smooth. He loves his twin bed - and he looks so little in it! He loves his room. He loves his new bigger boy books and having all his little cars in there to play with on his bookcase. (And I love having them all in once place and not in the living room!) Unfortunately, I'm past the point of being able to comfortably rock him. He and I are both too big. But there is plenty of room for both of us in his bed so sometimes I get in with him and sing to him there and it's so cozy. When he goes away to college someday I'll probably set up residence in his room.

Trying out his new bed.

Jumping on his new bed.

Actually being sleepy in his new bed. (Yes, he still loves his "gigi" (pacifier). No, he's not potty trained yet. Yes, he still drinks from a sippy cup.)

Okay, I'm almost finished.

Another thing that delights me - he loves Mr. Rogers now! This is special to me because I watched Mr. Rogers every day at his age. I seriously adore him and I hope I get to tell him so someday, in heaven. Anyway, Nicholas is just enraptured by the show. Every night we sing three songs from the program and it's touches me the next day to see him sing along while he eats his breakfast and watches "Neighbor show" or "Mr. Robbers."

Okay, only two more things.

Nicknack has chosen a nickname for himself. We've always called him lots of things - monkey, pumpkin, etc. One day, several months ago, I came in the living room and said, "Hi, Bug!" Probably because my mother used to call me "baby bug." At least four or five times that day he repeated, "Hi, BUG!" Then a few days later he had the sniffles. I was holding him and said, "I'm sorry you're sick." He answered back, "I'm sorry you're sick, BUG." I repeated that to him and he gave me a huge smile. Since then, I call him Bug or Buggie. If he has an owie or is upset and I don't use his preferred nickname he'll remind me. For some reason he appreciates being called Bug. He did go through a Bug's Life phase...


You know you're a boy Mama when you take note of every single construction vehicle, garbage truck, etc. even when you're in the car all by yourself. And when you squeal - out loud - because you discover new! Cars! cars at Target ("new" Mater, tractor, and Red!). I'm still excited about it, honestly. I can't wait for Christmas!

Whew! That's all for now.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ode to My Laundry System

Although I have many, many homemaking weaknesses, laundry is probably my strong suit. Oh sure, I get backed up on occasion. But because we have a system that works perfectly for our family, it's easy to do a little catch up and get back on track. I recently shared our laundry routine with a friend who was at her wit's end trying to stay on top of her family of four's laundry. After typing it all out I decided to post it here, on my blog. I'd love to hear about your laundry tips and routines, because I'm dorky like that.

First of all, I have three laundry "rules:"

1. Sort as you go!
I can't deal with a big pile or hamper full of mixed up laundry. Ick. Who would want to manage that? If my laundry wasn't in a continuous state of "already sorted" I know myself well enough to know I would put it off until I had to run out and buy everyone in the house new underwear.

So we sort as we remove our clothing, finish with our towel, etc. We have three hampers in our master bedroom closet. Towels (because the towel hamper gets in the way in the bathroom), whites (or almost whites), and darks (aka everything else). I'm not one of those people who separates "darks" from "brights." If it isn't mostly white, it's a dark. (Unless it is a brand new item that is, for example, red, in which case I would round up a bright load for its first washing.)

Nicknack's room has a hamper. Since he is old enough to "help," it is lightweight enough that he can "help" drag said hamper down the hall to the laundry room on his laundry day. Like most two-and-a-half year olds, he loves "helping." I hope it lasts. When our baby girl is born her room will also have it's own hamper.

The kitchen has a small basket for used dishcloths/towels/cleaning rags.

The laundry room has two stacking hampers. One for clothing that requires attention (stain spray or bleach pen). I don't pretreat stains. I'm just too lazy. I just like to have a separate place to keep them so that I don't forget about them and wash them without treating them. Then I find the stain when I'm folding and have to put it through the laundry cycle all over again.

The stacking basket is for those kitchen linens. Since I only wash kitchen linens once a week I try to bring in the basket each day to lay out the towels/cloths that are wet (over the sides of the basket), so they don't get all grungy and moldy. Then when I dump off the next day's load I put those now-dry linens in the basket and lay out the newly wet stuff.

Rule #2: Label all baskets/hampers. This is the only way I've found to get my normally cooperative husband to sort with accuracy. Even if a basket was clearly full of white clothes, he'd toss in a towel. The labels helped, and now it's a habit.

Rule #3: Pull all clothes out of the dryer before it stops dinging, so as to avoid the dreaded task of ironing. I let myself be lazy about rags and towels, though, because who cares if the dishcloth is wrinkly?

Some people will make a very persuasive argument as to why all the household laundry should be laundered on one (or maybe two, depending on the size of the household) day each week. I respectfully disagree. A day of marathon laundering is about the least pleasant day I can think of, and I can't imagine doing that to myself once every seven days. Whereas one or two loads each morning is manageable and not terribly unpleasant. It's easy to motivate yourself when you know that if you just fold that one load that's dinging at you from the dryer, you're finished!

I do have a laundry schedule, which probably makes me sound more organized than I really am. It coincides with my cleaning schedule. For example, I clean the bathrooms on Saturday, so I wash the household towels on Saturday. Please note that I am not an accomplished housekeeper, so I might not actually get to the cleaning part, other than the bare minimum. But we always need clean towels, so I stay on top of laundry, for the most part.

The thing I like about having a schedule - a day for each type of laundry - is that it's easy to play catch up if you slack off for a couple of days. You can just do two days of laundry until you catch back up to the right day and you don't have to stop and figure out where to begin. If you think up a logical schedule for your family it's very easy to memorize. For example, I do Nicknack's laundry before I do whites because his laundry is sure to contain whites that need a little bleach treatment.

Here is our schedule:

Monday - I wash Penn's work darks, which are polos and khakis only. His work week starts on Tuesday, so he has a closet full of fresh work clothing on Tuesday morning, rather than a bunch of empty hangers with only his least favorite polos hanging there. This is the only day I actually do any sorting. I dump out the whole dark hamper, pull out his work clothing, and put the rest back in the hamper. I know that if I tried to make Penn a "work darks" hamper he'd put polos in the regular dark hamper (hey, they're dark!) and his socks in the work hamper (hey, he wears them to work!). So for the sake of simplicity, I break my sort-as-you-go rule.

Tuesday - I wash the rest of our darks (Penn's and mine). This sometimes takes two loads.

Wednesday - I wash Nicknack's laundry. I pull out the things that need bleach treatment and toss them into that stain/bleach basket and pull out the things from the basket that are his that are stained and treat them before tossing them in with the rest of the load.

When the baby is born she'll get her own load on this day, too, separate from Nicknack. Boy clothes tend to be dark-colored, girl clothes tend to be pastel/bright. Also, it's easiest to put clothes away when they stay separate throughout the laundering process. You don't have to run from room to room, you can just take the whole folded basket in and put it all away in the same place.

Thursday - I wash whites, including Nicknack's shirts that needed a little bleach spot treatment. I'm petrified of ruining non-white items with bleach, so I like to have a whole separate day for whites, without any other laundry in the vicinity of the laundry room. Speaking of whites, I keep a "mateless sock" basket in our closet for all the stray socks and I sort through it every time our sock supply seems mysteriously low.

Friday - the day I clean my kitchen thoroughly, I also wash the kitchen linens. I keep them separate from the household towels so I can add bleach.

Saturday - I wash towels. This usually takes two loads, although I don't know why since we all use our towels twice.

Sunday - I wash our sheets. I love to start the week with fresh sheets and I strategically schedule this for Penn's day off so that I can enlist his help in remaking the bed. I HATE dressing the bed.

By the way, we only have one set of sheets per bed (other than crib sheets). I hate folding sheets, especially fitted sheets. So I just strip the bed, wash the sheets/bedding, dry the sheets/bedding, and put it all right back on the bed. It just seems like an extra and unnecessary step to put a different set of sheets on the bed, which would require folding when the old sheets come out of the dryer. But that's just my personal preference, since I try to avoid any extra work whenever possible!

One last tip is that I fold everything on our master bed because the height is perfect, there is a ton of room for sorting folded clothing into categories, and the location is so convenient. It's a good place also, because I can lay out the clothes that require hangers so that they don't get wrinkled while I'm folding everything else. Our bedroom is more pleasant and light-filled than our laundry room and I can watch TV while I fold. The only down side to this is that Nicknack likes to climb up on the bed and "help," occasionally messing up some of the folded laundry. But I figure this is why I stay home with him - to spend time together, not to have perfectly folded laundry.

Okay, so that's our laundry system in a (large) nutshell. As you can see, I'm terribly lax about traditional laundry rules like sorting by color, pre-treating, reading a garment's care label, etc. But I'm pretty emphatic about pre-sorting and folding at the ding. Just because both things prevent a greater deal of work later. It's a system that works for us, as evidenced by the fact that I'm on schedule with our laundry as I type this AND I don't dread laundry, which I used to when I tried to do several loads at once or didn't have everything in a continuous state of "already-sorted."

Back to School

No, not Nicknack. Penn, of all people.

Penn has been trying to find a job comparable to the one he currently has for over a year now. We've known for many years that, although Seattle is a lovely city, we don't want to raise our family in a city. No offense if you do! :) We're just over it.

The problem has been that Penn has one of those needle-in-a-haystack kind of jobs. They're out there, just not anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. He's interviewed here and there. In places like Connecticut, Manhattan/Long Island, Chicago, the Silicon Valley, Vail/Aspen, etc. Places where either: a) we can't afford to purchase a home, b) we would be moving way too far away from our families, or c) we wouldn't be moving to the small-town-environment we desire. Or all of the above.

The other problem is that as Penn looks around at other opportunities he realizes that the 55-60 hours he works each week is pretty much the norm in his line of work. He works strange hours and has strange days off. And his schedule changes from week to week - he can't ever commit to anything ahead-of-time, unless it falls on a Sunday. And only then because he has INSISTED, much to his employer's chagrin, that he always has that one day off. Getting time for vacation is like pulling teeth. Last year we his boss wasn't able to commit to his vacation dates until less than two weeks before-hand. The two places we most wanted to visit were booked solid.

None of this is a big problem with very little ones at home. It's easy to be super flexible. Penn spends his time w/Nicknack in the mornings, rather than the evenings. Nicknack doesn't have a school schedule, so it doesn't matter that Daddy works most Saturdays and is home most Mondays. Or that at the last minute we have to cancel some plan or the other because Penn's employer's schedule has changed.

All of this will become problematic when Nicknack starts school. When he starts activities like Boy Scouts and tennis, or even things like Parent-Teacher conferences or school concerts. With Penn's schedule, he would rarely, if ever, be able to participate in any of those things. And I know that would kill him. Nicknack is his world.

So, after a few months of tossing around the idea, we have a new plan, and one that is a drastic change for all of us. Penn is going back to college to become a teacher. Probably a PE/health teacher.

He attended one year of college as an eighteen year old, but dropped out to take a job promotion. He was one of those people who worked full-time all through high school and his freshman year, so he never got much out of school.

Because the program he'll be entering takes five years, he'll still need more than a year at our local community college. So we signed him up for courses and he started last week. He has a major math phobia, so I think these first few quarters will be the most difficult for him. He's had to swallow his pride and go in and take the placement tests alongside sixteen year old "running start" high school students. He's also learning about the frustrating inefficiency of most college registration processes. He's been to campus this week on three separate occasions to pick up packets and books that have been added at the last minute to his course lists. Luckily, he's taking his courses online, so other than a few proctored exams, he can work at his leisure at home. I'm his trusty "secretary," getting him organized with to do lists for the weeks. I'll also be his personal proofreader/editor. I love school so much I wish I could just take his classes for him. I'm kind of jealous, even I've already taken the exact same classes before.

In about eighteen months Penn will quit his job and we are going to (drumroll, please)... MOVE IN WITH MY PARENTS in their mini-ranch, conveniently located in a small college town about 2 hours from us. They're in the process of building a new house and will convert the three-car garage for us as a small apartment. So we'll be going from our four bedroom home to a two bedroom, one-bath modified garage, using the main house kitchen and laundry room. We'll be snug as bugs!

I realize it's sort of a strange plan. As we were considering this decision and sharing it with those closest to us I kept expecting strong resistance. Something along the lines of, "So let me get this straight. Penn is going to quit his job, so that he can go to school, to make way less than half of his current salary. And your family of four, with two small children, will live in your parents' GARAGE for almost two years?!"

But, surprisingly, everyone seems to think it is a good idea. Especially my Mother (an elementary school counselor) and Step Dad (a retired high school science teacher). Which is good since we'll be invading their home and will need occasional babysitting help. They've given us a good picture of what to expect as future educators, so we aren't going into all this with rose-colored glasses.

The main thing is that Penn wants to have more time with his family. When I eventually go back to work I also plan to teach. So we'll have the same schedules. The same 14 weeks a year off. Since Penn has another 25 years to work, he'll have about 350 weeks of vacation until retirement, rather than 50 weeks. Not to mention 40 hour work weeks, on average - instead of 50, 55, or 60. Also, our family will be covered with better medical and retirement benefits than we currently enjoy. And we can find some little town in the middle of nowhere that needs a PE teacher and make it home.

We won't ever live in that big family dream house I've always imagined us in. We'll probably live in a shoebox. And the new minivan we planned to buy this fall is out. Ah well, cars are depreciating assets anyway. We'll never get to take impressive vacations. We're envisioning ourselves criss-crossing the country with some second-hand winnebago in tow. Which sounds amazing. Just think of all the historical sights and beaches and national parks we can visit "on the cheap." We'll have so much more time together that it almost seems ridiculous that we didn't think of this at least five years ago.

I wanted to share this with you so that you know why we've stopped looking for that dream job for Penn. And why the summer-after-next we'll be packing up our lovely home and moving. And why all of a sudden I've become interested in pinching pennies. I figure we'll have to save about two years worth of living expenses (utilities, health insurance, clothing for the kids, grocery money, gas, car/life insurance, tuition & books, etc.) in the next 18 months. Yikes.

But that's the plan and I'm really excited!!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Have I mentioned that our baby is a girl?

I don't think I have. Oops.

We decided not to find out with Nicknack and that was really fun. I would strongly recommend being surprised with at least one pregnancy. But we both felt differently this time around and decided to "peek."

With Nicknack, even though we never officially found out, I always felt he was a boy, and told everyone so. This time I had a hunch it was a girl, but not so strongly. And I didn't breathe a word of my suspicions, because I didn't want to get up Penn or my mother's hopes. (Both were not so secretly rooting for a girl.) But I did write down the word "girl" on a pink sticky note and hid it in my pocket the morning of the ultrasound.

The technician asked us if we'd like to know the gender. She said she'd gotten a good look at textbook "parts" and could tell us with certainty whether Nicknack would have a little brother or sister. Even though I was guessing girl it still took my breath when she said "It's a... girl!"

I immediately pulled out my sticky note and showed it triumphantly to Penn, just because I like to be right. Don't we all?

I am excited to report that this baby is already demonstrating her sass. At our first, very early ultrasound, she did a funny, jerky little body wiggle throughout the exam. At our other ultrasound (when we got to know her gender), she had her fingers wrapped around her toes, in a pike position. It was very impressive! Maybe she'll want to be a gymnast or a competitive diver someday.

Everyone is very excited to welcome a baby girl into our little family. Nicknack calls her babysister, with the emphasis on the "baby" part, like the word babysitter. He has only the most vague understanding that there is a baby in mama's tummy, but he likes to pat my ever-increasing midsection. At a recent family get together he heard someone mention the baby, ran over, and tried to pull up my blouse to show off the baby. I didn't really go for that.

I have the same lumpy shape that I had with Nicknack, where all my pre-baby fat has been pushed up between the bottom of my brassiere and the actual baby bump. So I have more of a barrel shape than the nice basketball look that a more slender expectant mother typically sports.

It's really not cute and I have no idea if people can tell that I'm expecting or if they think I just carry a lot of weight around my middle. I'm guessing the latter because at last week's dental exam no one in the office realized I was 30 weeks pregnant, despite the obvious maternity shirt and aforementioned protruding tummy. Okaaaay.

So she's a girl. Please feel free to suggest any names that you don't mind someone stealing. So far our three favorites are Elisabeth (nickname Betsy), Kendall (Penn's fave), and Talbot (my favorite girl name since I was about 18).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Preschool Saga: Day Two

Today was Nicknack's second day of preschool. And probably his last day, at least for a while.

We dropped him off this morning, watching and waiting to see how he would do. Things seemed better. Instead of obsessing over the one station, like on Monday, he flitted from station to station, stopping to interact with others. Also, several other children threw tantrums for various reasons, which made us feel like he was doing pretty well, in comparison. After ten minutes we realized we were the only parents still lingering and drove to a nearby cafe for breakfast.

As we waited for our meal we discussed this whole preschool thing. We both feel that if he isn't emotionally ready, who cares? We agreed that it is probably too much for him. He's so... emotional these days. But if things went smoothly today and next week, we decided we'd probably keep him in the class.

About fifteen minutes into our omelets the director of the preschool, our Pastor's lovely wife, telephoned. (She is so cute and from Ireland, so she has the neatest accent in the world.) Nicknack was having problems transitioning from one activity to the next and had become inconsolable over the gentle suggestion that he join in on some group activity or another. He was eventually brought down to play with toys in the office. And he was asking for me.

So we had our breakfasts boxed up and made a beeline back to our church.

We discussed the situation with Mrs. B and she suggested we try one more day. If he didn't adjust they would save a spot for him and we could try again next month or in January or next year.

Honestly, I don't think we'll even try one more day.

Before class started, we got there a few minutes early and had to wait, resulting in a meltdown. Oh, and then there was the tantrum this morning while I tried to get him ready for school because he wanted to go out the door to see his friend (whom he was looking all over the house for - although she's never even been in our home) right that VERY second. Then there was the huge fit when he realized we were leaving school and not taking him out to the playground. We felt as if we are torturing him with all these emotional ups and downs. The whole way home he was calling out his friend's name and begging us to take him back to the playground. (We couldn't because it was the four-year-old class outdoor time.) I sat in the front seat trying not to cry along with him. He was just SO upset and disappointed. He loves the people and the environment. Just not the actual "school" part.

Let's face it. He's not ready for preschool! It's just too much for him to handle. I don't want to put him through this even one time more.

He'll still get to play in that same classroom, with the same toys, with many of the same kids, and on that same playground twice a week - on my ladies' Bible study day and on Sundays, while we're at church.

So that's that. I just need to call Mrs. B and e-mail my friend, his teacher, to let them know what we've decided.

I feel kind of silly because I got so excited about this whole preschool thing. To let you know how worthwhile I thought it would be? I actually IRONED. Let me let that statement sink in.

I haven't used my iron in a few years, probably. At least. In fact, I didn't even know that I didn't have an ironing board until my mother visited last year and needed one. (She went out and bought one for us.) I've always felt that life is just too short to iron. I try very hard to pull our clothes out of the dryer when the buzzer rings and fold them or hang them and put them away right away. To avoid ironing. And if I don't, I "fluff" them in the dryer with a wet washcloth. Terribly environmentally unfriendly, I know. I'm trying to break the habit by being extremely diligent about the immediate folding/hanging policy.

But on Sunday night I actually ironed Nicholas's outfits for the week! It took me well over an hour to iron three little t-shirts, button down shirts, and pairs of pants.

But one thing is for sure. He may be a preschool drop out, but he looked so darn cute these past few days that I could hardly stand it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

First Day of Preschool

Today was Nicknacks's first day of preschool. It's our home church preschool, so he's familiar with the environment because he's been nearby in the nursery twice a week since he was a baby. His little friend (whom we've decided should be his future wife) is in his class, and her mother (my friend from Bible study) is the teacher. So I've been SO excited for him all summer, and especially since Parent Orientation - thinking about the fun projects he'd be doing and all the friends he would make.

The class is only two hours a day, two days a week. He'll also spend another three or four hours a week in the same room for Bible study and church. Since we don't have any friends, neighbors, or relatives with children his age, Nicknack is pretty isolated, socially. So I thought this would be a good chance for him to interact with his peers and learn some new skills. Things I can't easily teach at home, like taking turns.

However, he is the youngest in the class. The birthday cut off for the class is June 1, and he has a May 31 birthday. Some of the children in his class turn three next month. Also, I think he's "young" for his age. He's great with numbers, letters, colors, shapes, and "school" stuff. We have that covered. But he's immature in other ways. Maybe because (for now) he's an only child, or because I'm home with him, or because Penn and I baby him, or just because that's his temperament.

At any rate, it was pretty clear today that he's not ready for preschool. The first five minutes of the class were set aside for "free play," while everyone got adjusted to being there. Then the children and parents were invited to Circle Time, for a story. This was when the trouble began. Nicknack was enraptured with the station full of trains, cars, firetrucks, etc. You know, almost exactly the same toys he spends hours a day playing with at home? So he threw a big fit when we tried to get him to join in at Circle Time. After a minute in the hall to calm down we came back in and just let him keep playing with the vehicles, while all the other children sat at least semi-patiently listening to the story. Except for one little boy who threw a huge tantrum because his parents made him sit with them through the whole story.

So then it was time for the parents to leave. He was fine with that, because he was loving the vehicles so much. He is obsessed with things that go. When I came back to pick him up the children had moved to the playground and Nicknack was having a ball. Pushing a police car along the perimeter of the playground. Again with the vehicles. :)

When I talked to my friend, the main teacher, she told me that he had pretty much just played with cars the entire time. They hadn't even been able to lure him away at snack time (he isn't at all motivated by food - even cookies!) or craft time. His cubby had the only little hand print with no coloring on it. It was kind of sad.

After we finished talking he showed me all around the playground. Then I sat nearby while he played. It was then that I observed him taking a toy another little boy was playing with, which I've never known him to do. He usually plays with older kids (cousins, etc.), which for some reason, always goes perfectly smoothly. Then I watched him get smacked by this other little boy who was frustrated because Nicknack had grabbed his dump truck. I was close enough to step in and told Nicholas to say "no hitting!" and then "helped" him to give the dump truck back and showed them how they could both play with it. I hope that wasn't inappropriate, but I figured that if the situation was reversed I would be okay if another mom did the same thing.

Then it was time to go back to the classroom. It was difficult to convince him to come inside, and he made a beeline for the vehicles again, totally ignoring the "goodbye song." Then he had another meltdown when it was time to leave for the day.

So my friend and are going to give it a couple of weeks to see if he adjusts to the concept of doing different activities. Maybe he would just do well with more of a "free play" environment at this age. There is a one-day-a-week class and he could switch to that, plus still have his unstructured time in the same classroom while I'm at my weekly Bible study. Or we could just skip preschool altogether this year and worry about it next year.

I'm torn because I would like Nicknack to have the experience of being around his peers. But I'm not sure that he's ready for the way the time in the classroom is structured. And, also, I keep thinking about the hitting incident at the playground. I know it is normal behavior, but I wonder if a smaller group of kids - or even just one-on-one would be better at this age. I know we parents aren't supposed to hover and manage all of our children's little problems (I think that's called helicopter-parenting, right?), but at this age a lot of guidance seems appropriate. Probably more guidance than I can realistically expect with 13 classmates.

Sorry this has been such a long and detailed post! Especially when I haven't posted in so long! Any opinions or advice would be appreciated!

Sunday, August 10, 2008


My husband is adorable. He is unbelievably good to me and I am not just saying this to sound humble: I don't deserve him. Ask my family. I still can't believe I "lucked" into such a happy marriage.

Having said that, Jeesh, husbands are so funny sometimes! And not funny as in, "ha ha." Funny as in, "Whattheheck?"

Here is what I don't get. Why can't husbands find anything? Is it just mine? Here are a few of the conversations Penn and I have shared, this week alone.

P: Honey, where are the CAR KEYS? (kind of annoyed-like, as if I've misplaced them)
K: Um, aren't they hanging on the KEY RACK?
P: Oh, yes, HERE they are! (like a big mystery has been solved)

P: Honey, do you know where Nicknack's sunscreen might be?
K: Yes, I know exactly where it is. It's in the third drawer of the secretary desk.
P: Oh, it is?
K: Yes, remember how I told you I was finding a home for the sunscreen because I was sick of looking for it all the time? And how I mentioned I would be putting all the sunscreens there? You nodded and said, "Uh huh, the secretary desk, third drawer, got it."
P: Oh yeah, now I remember. Uuuummm.... What is a secretary desk?
K: It's that big desky drawer thing in the Foyer. (to be fair to Penn we've only had it for a few months.)
P: Oh, okay. (a few seconds of rummaging) Honey, it's not in here!
K: It's definitely there, in the THIRD DRAWER! Did you look in the THIRD DRAWER?
P: Okay, I'll check again... (in a tone that clearly implies the attempt will be futile) ... (prolonged rummaging) Honey, it's not in the THIRD DRAWER!
K: (trying not to stomp over to said secretary desk, opening the third drawer, pointing to the label in the drawer that says "Sunscreen," pointing to the plastic container by the label in the drawer that is also labeled "Sunscreen."
P: Oh, I didn't know it was in a CONTAINER.

I seriously don't know why I bother to label things. I guess I need to invest in brighter label colors or use a much larger font size.

I would need a huge label, the size of a stop sign by our dishwasher. It would read: "Please load all dishes into the dishwasher. Not to be bossy, but kind of NOW, please. As opposed to later." Leonard is so, so helpful around the house. So I try not to nitpick about his one big flaw. He never, ever, ever loads his dishes into the dishwasher as he is finished with them. He leaves them on the counter or in the sink or on the end table or nightstand. Then later, once they've started to accumulate (assuming I haven't picked them up and put them into the dishwasher in the meantime) he loads them in.

And the same goes with recycling and garbage. Why not just empty that soda can and put it straight into the recycling bin or take the extra two seconds now, instead of later, to toss that paper towel in the garbage? I don't understand.

I'm guilty of this sometimes, too. When I'm feeling lazy or I'm super busy. But with Penn, it's just the way he always does things.

It's making a one-step process into a two-step process. Also, you have to look at those dishes, etc. for however long, when you could hide them away. And when one of us loads the dishwasher we almost always have to fish a fork out of the disposal, or scrape some goopy half-dried oatmeal off the cereal bowl.

My mother says my Dad is exactly the same, and he is in all other respects, a neat freak.

My in-laws have a similar housekeeping difference of opinion. Penn's Dad feels the dishes should be done right after dinner so that they can relax for the rest of the evening and wake up to a clean kitchen each morning. Penn's Mom says, "Who cares if dirty dishes sit in the sink all night when no one is awake to see them?" She'd rather tackle them in the morning, when she has more energy.

So Penn's Dad does all the family's dinner dishes. My MIL cooks, so it's now a pretty square deal. But growing up, both of Penn's parents worked and his Dad actually got home first and therefore did the cooking and the clean up. I guess it was worth it for him to just do them himself, rather than live with those dishes on the counter.

So that's kind of where I am about all this housekeeping minutia. I load a dish or two in the dishwasher almost everytime I walk through the kitchen to try to avoid the dreaded big-kitchen-clean-up that seems to be required whenever you let a kitchen sit unattended to for half a day. And I organize the keys and chapstick and spare change and receipts and pens that Penn dumps from his coat pockets each evening. The pile of whatever doesn't bother him. It does me. And I label everything that will sit still long enough. It gives me peace of mind to know that, for example, our maps have a home and I know where it is. And if only Penn would read the drawer label, he, too, could find a map someday when he needs one.

Of course, I'm selectively neat. Remember how Monica, from Friends, was so insanely organized? She even had a "ribbon drawer." Yet there was that secret, locked closet that no one could open. When Chandler finally picked the lock a huge pile of clutter fell out - Monica's secret shame. I have an entire room like that - our Study. It's 50% perfectly organized and labeled and 50% big jumbled mess. My mother even came for a day to help me organize it. She was so disappointed when she came back a month later and it looked bad again. I've gone in three or four afternoons to finish the room, only to be sidetracked by small projects. I just feel overwhelmed.

I have a timeline to attend to it, because of the room shuffle we'll be doing before the baby arrives in November. Nursery changes ownership from Nicknack to baby. Guest Room becomes Nicknack's Big Boy Room. Study becomes combination Guest Room/Office.

I also may need to invite houseguests for additional motivation. That always does the trick.

Being married is an interesting, challenging, and mostly fun balancing act. It's pretty amazing how two seperate people with different upbringings, habits, philosophies, tastes, priorities, interests, etc. can become so one-minded. Before marrying Penn I worried that we would ever be compatible enough to live together happily. Now I feel like we are the most compatible couple I know.

Except for my occasional quibbling about household details and our every-few-year argument (which is notable, as we rarely fight) about whether or not we could please give away that wretched, gigantic, utterly useless, unattractive, space-wasting, and ridiculously heavy-weight comforter he moved from Connecticut with in 2001 which he refuses to part with. Ugh.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Random Stuff

Oops. It looks like I published a draft version of my last post. I'm sure I had edited it to be much more witty and entertaining. Plus I know I added at least a couple of paragraphs. Obviously not anything terribly important, as I only remember one thing that wasn't included in the published post.

Which is...

Nicholas is short! 5th percentile, in fact. When our new and wonderful Pediatrician told us that I couldn't believe it.

"50th?" I clarified?
"No, fifth."
"Fifteenth?" Penn asked?
"No, fifth... FIVE"

It's surprising because Penn is almost 6'5!

There are apparently two ways to guesstimate one's adult height at this age. The first is to double the age two height. Which would make Nicknack, as a grown man, 5'4. Hmm. That just doesn't seem possible. No males on either side of our family are that height. That's shorter than ME! Plus he is taller than both of his friends, which would mean that both children, each a couple of months older than Nicknack, would be 5'2 grown ups. What are the odds of us all having such little offspring when we are all of average or taller height?

The other way to predict height is to add five inches to the mother's height (I guess I'd be a 5'10 male) and average that with the father's. Which would put Nicknack in the 6'1-6'2 range.

I obviously don't care how tall Nicknack is or will be. But I'm pretty sure most men wouldn't choose to be 5'4. And yet I hope he isn't as tall as his dad, because he's darn hard to buy clothes for.

For example, a few weekends ago we went to my parents' for the weekend and I forgot to pack any pants for Penn. Just shorts (it's usually blazing in Ellensburg this time of year), but it became increasingly windy and sprinkly. I can tell you that their good-sized Fred Meyer did not contain a SINGLE pair of jeans or pants that were 34s (Penn's length), even in the Big and Tall section. I know this because my mother and I checked each and every pair of pants in the place. Literally. They should just call the Big and Tall section the Big section because the pants get larger and larger around the waist, but not any longer!

Thank heavens for Land's End, which has lots of nice, well-made, basic, classic, inexpensive "big and tall" clothes. And it's so convenient to order everything online, have it delivered to our door, and we are able to make returns at Sears.

I just hate shopping in person. I know, that's unusual for a woman. I truly detest going to the mall. I only go about twice a year and we live in a good-sized city, full of great malls. I am rarely invited to go shopping with female friends and relatives because a)I usually decline and b)I'm not fun to shop with. After about three stores I'm so bored my eyes start to glaze over and I have a difficult time not acting impatient because I'm so ready to go. I especially hate waiting while people try things on in the dressing room. Just those last two words make me want to run screaming.

The exception is shopping for Nicknack's clothing at the outlet mall. I love doing that, but Penn I have a very efficient system and breeze through the stores at a breakneck speed. I know exactly what style I like, what colors looks nicest on Nicknack, what he'll get the most use of of, and what brands fit him best. And best of all, no one has to try on a thing. It's beautiful.

Speaking of shopping, this year I started visiting the consignment stores in our area, and even the big used stores like Value Village and Goodwill. A couple of years ago I wouldn't have stepped foot in such places. I would have been embarassed and also kind of grossed out at the thought of putting Nicknack in clothing previously worn by random strangers.

But this is something that is quite socially acceptable in our neck of the woods. We live in an older inner-ring suburb between two of the fancier Seattle zipcodes. Our church happens to be located in one of these nicer areas and so most of the women in my Bible study have homes two or three times larger than our modest late fifties ranch.

So imagine my surprise one day when one of my Bible study ladies called to tell me that such-and-such consignment store was having a huge sale and everything one could fit in a bag was only a dollar!

I was so taken off guard. My first thought was "maybe she thinks we're poor!?" But no, she would have to be in the store herself to know about this sale, right?

Then a few weeks later several of the women in my group were standing by their monstrously large and tricked out SUVs, discussing the best day to shop at Goodwill. Okaaay.

Finally one day my friend and I were having coffee and she asked me if I wanted to stop at Value Village on the way home. I really did not, but I didn't want to be rude.

So I went with her and I was shocked to find a whole bunch of great stuff for Nicknack. Ralph Lauren, Janie and Jack, Lacoste, J Crew Crewcuts, etc. Plus all of our standby brands like Gap, Carters, and Osh Kosh. I seriously have his Christmas photo outfits put away for the next few years.

So since then I've been back a few times and it's kind of fun! I can fill a bag with dozens of things for the price of one of the items new.

Heaven help us if this baby is a girl. We are going to take a big financial hit. They just make the most darling little girl clothing and I know I won't be able to control myself. But I guess as long as I stick with the outlet mall and the consignments stores I won't be able to do too much damage.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Mr. Two

Well, it's official. Nicknack is two.

The weirdest thing happened. He must have received some kind of secret memo, because he woke up on the morning of his birthday and started acting... well, two. And everyday since.

Have you ever heard of such a thing? 729 days old and he is pretty much easy. Day 730 rolls around and all of a sudden he's "difficult."

This morning I ordered a time-out mat, like the one I noticed on Jon & Kate Plus Eight (that show is my new obsession, by the way).

May I please take a moment to do something I never do? I would like to complain about the weather. Usually, when other people have unkind things to say about Seattle's weather, I stick up for her. For one thing, it's not usually that bad. Drizzly all fall and winter and pretty much perfect all summer. Except this year has been terrible. I think we have literally had three days of actual sunshine all year. Yesterday I could actually see my breath outside. It's JUNE!

Dear God,
As you know, you have blessed me with an extremely active little man who loves to be outside running amuck and making a mess. He's been spending a lot of time indoors lately, running amuck and making a mess. Multiple messes. Constant messes. So many messes. Please, please, please send summer. I would settle for 65 degrees and partly cloudy at this point. But I would be so, so grateful for a little sunshine. You know, short sleeved weather? Maybe even shorts weather? I would love to set up his sand/water table and kiddie pool and watch him frolick in the sprinkler. I promise to slather him (and myself) with sunscreen.
Thank you for your time and consideration.

I have nothing else to report. Thank heavens there is another baby in the works, so Penn and I didn't have to make fools of our selves blubbering over Nicknack's milestone birthday. Knowing we get to do it again helps us to let go a little and enjoy Nicknack's

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fear of Flying (with Nicknack)

A million years ago I was a nanny. I traveled quite a bit with the family, but the trip that stands out in my mind was the time the Dad and I took the two boys by ourselves, while Mom stayed home with the new baby.

Thanks to the combined efforts of the Mom, the Housekeeper, the Laundress, and myself, we were extremely well-prepared. We shipped the bags and car seats ahead of time so that we didn't have any pesky luggage to worry about. We had a carefully planned itinerary to stick to. The travel agent had coordinated our car service and other logistical details - all we had to do was show up. It should have been the least stressful trip in the world.

Unfortunately, we ran into some bad weather at the airport and were stuck out on the runway for about 90 minutes, waiting for our turn to take off. In the meantime, the younger brother (age 2 and a few months) threw a tantrum. Like, the entire time. Like, the loudest and most enthusiastic tantrum I'd ever seen.

We were in the first row of first class, just a few feet from a stern and eagle-eyed flight attendant. All the little mister wanted was for us to unbuckle his seatbelt. I tried to stealthily unlatch it while the mean lady was looking the other way, but she noticed immediately (probably because the crying/screaming/wailing/kicking suddenly stopped). She then proceeded to remind us in a nasally monotone about FAA regulation blah-blah-blah which states blah-blah-blah... basically, he had to wear the seatbelt. No exceptions. Buckle up or get off the aircraft. Then she stood guard for the duration of our wait to make sure that we complied. I know she was just doing her job but it was hard to remember that, what with all the screeching and hollering.

It probably doesn't sound like a big deal, but it was extremely stressful. Upsetting. And mortifying.

Ever since that incident I've always said I'd never fly anywhere with my children until the youngest was at least three. Until then, car trips would be good enough for us.

Except for the fact that my cousin got married and is having the reception in August. In Alaska. Have you ever driven the Al-Can Highway? With a toddler? For one thing, it would take us a week to get there and back.

I decided I just wouldn't go to the reception, especially since Penn has to work and I'd be traveling with Nicknack all by myself. Oh, and six months pregnant.

But I can't shake off the nagging feeling that I absolutely need to go. I don't want to miss it! And I can't leave Nicknack at home, so he has to come along.

So now the great debate has begun. I've been waffling back and forth all day. Should I book our seats in coach and just hope and pray that 24 hours before each flight I'll be able do web check-in and pay the extra $200 (each way) to upgrade us to first class? Or should I bite the bullet and pay the $1000 (!) extra to just book us in first class now, so I don't have to worry about it until August. Or we could just deal with coach.

I just can't imagine my big-fat-pregnant bee-hind squeezed into a middle seat. And if Nicknack is in his giant carseat in the aisle seat, what a pain for the person in the window seat to get in and out. On the other hand, if Nicknack is in the window seat, what if he needs to get up and go potty or wants to walk up and down the aisle? Either way the third person in our row will be disturbed.

Worst of all, what if Nicknack throws a huge fit and the that random person sitting next to us gets upset? The flights to Alaska are packed in the summer, so we are sure to have a neighbor.

Of course, if we're in coach there are likely to be a more families/children so there might be other kids misbehaving and the other travelers might be more sympathetic to an unruly little person.

What do you think? Have you traveled with a toddler before? Do you have any advice? Do you think I need the extra space/privacy of first class so as not to annoy the heck out of an unsuspecting stranger? Can I risk the fact that we might get stuck in coach if I don't cough up the extra money now? I hate to waste money? And if we don't, should we sit in the aisle/middle or window/middle?

Did I mention that Nicknack will be the exact same age as that little boy was when he threw that big fit?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I've started to write this post a half dozen times and I either get interrupted or don't like what I've written.

So let me just get right to the point.

We're expecting another baby! Yay!

I found out two days after I wrote my last post. No wonder I was in a sentimental mood! I was already pregnant.

We've taken a test every two weeks since Nicknack was about six months old. We weren't sure how best to space our kids, but we immediately knew we wanted another, God willing. We weren't sure if God would bless us in this way, again. We've always wanted to adopt (and still do), so we wondered if that was God's plan for us now.

But one morning, as I was rushing around to finish packing for a weekend trip I suddenly realized that I'd been feeling seasick for a few days. And I was really, really, really tiiiiiiired. So on a whim, I took another test. It was immediately positive. Two happy pink lines that took my breath away. (Yes, it's taped to the fridge, just like last time.)

I'd been planning on telling Penn in a cute or creative way, should we ever have the joy of another positive pregnancy test. But instead I flung open the shower door and shoved the piece of plastic in his confused, soapy face. He was not wearing his glasses, so I also had to tell him what I was showing him and why.

Then I ran to tell Nicknack, who was eating his breakfast and enjoying the antics of his second family, the gang from Sesame Street. When I told him he was going to be a big brother he smiled at me with a mouthful of french toast. Even though he had no idea what I was sharing with him with such excitement, he was happy about it. It was sweet.

Unlike last time, we immediately accepted this pregnancy and celebrated with a lot less worry. The first time around it just seemed to good to be true. This time it is not as shocking, since we know it is possible.

I feel like we've won the lottery, twice!

It's still pretty early and we don't have a real due date yet. Probably the third week of November, sometime around Thanksgiving.

So we have tons of time to get Nicknack moved to his "big boy" room, unpack all the infant clothing, and come up with the perfect name. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

In the meantime I'm looking forward to moving out of the first trimester and the fatigue that comes with it. I don't remember being this tired with Nicknack. But I could have a selective memory. Also, I didn't have a toddler to chase after and clean up after. And I had a lot more time for naps.

I can't wait until that nesting instinct kicks in! I distinctly remember scrubbing our garage doors and exterior window sills with kitchen cleaner when I was about eight months pregnant. Lest you think I'm a fastidious housekeeper, I haven't done any such thing since. So I'm thinking it was pregnancy-related.

We're off to the Oregon this weekend to visit my Dad, the lovely coast, and Sesame Street Live! (Thank you for the idea, Sunni!

Have a wonderful spring weekend!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jury Duty

Poor Penn. He is on his third full day of jury duty selection, and they still haven't chosen the actual jury. It's been a very frustrating and inefficient process. We are just crossing our fingers that he won't get chosen for this four week criminal trial in downtown Seattle. He would have to spend his days at the courtroom and then cram his normal ten or eleven hour work day into about four hours in the evening. This is what he's been doing for the past few days and it has required leaving before Nicholas gets up in the morning and returning home after I've put him to bed. He's hoping to be dismissed this afternoon.

I can't help but blush when I think of the one and only time I was called for jury duty.

It was a few years ago. My group at Washington Mutual, the Innovation and Consumer Research Group, had just been "disbanded." I was "working from home" until my official lay off date. This involved checking my e-mail a few times a day and... that's just about it. So when I received my jury summons in the mail I figured the timing was perfect. Someone has to be on juries, and many people find it to be very disruptive to their schedules, jobs, families, and finances. Not true in my case.

I was almost looking forward to it. After all, it was my civic duty.

I went to our little local courthouse on a Monday morning in September. It was a three minute drive from our house. The wait wasn't very long at all. I hardly had any time to read the book I'd brought. We were speedily questioned and I was the first name called for the first jury. I felt kind of proud. Like I'd won some kind of good citizen award. The case lasted until Thursday, when we easily reached a unanimous decision. Guilty of DUI.

The only really terrible part was walking back into the courtroom after making the decision, and especially filing past the defendant trying to make the same casually friendly amount of eye contact I had all week. It was excruciating waiting for the verdict to be read. Imagine how he must have felt. He was very pleasant about it and even thanked us afterward. He didn't seem surprised at all. He was just... very humble.

That night, as I tried to fall asleep, I couldn't get him out of my mind. I couldn't stop seeing the expression on his face. I kept replaying every word he'd said in the trial. I couldn't shake the thought, "What if we were wrong!?" I had nightmares that night and slept terribly.

And, unfortunately, I had to go back the very next day to see if I might be selected for another jury.

I woke up early that Friday morning. And I realized something. Something I was expecting hadn't arrived. So I took a test, just in case. I didn't get my hopes up, as I'd taken dozens of these tests in the 15 or 16 months that we'd been trying to conceive. I'd been visiting my OB/Gyn several times a month for follicle studies and shots. The last visit had been the worst. It appeared that I hadn't ovulated at all that month, rather than just being way later than the average woman. My doctor was troubled and I'd sat in her office crying as she said doubtfully, "It's possible that you ovulated much earlier than usual... Stranger things have happened."

A blood test confirmed that I had, indeed ovulated. I held out a tiny bit of hope that maybe this month would be the month, but it wasn't likely. I couldn't even remember if Penn and I had timed things correctly, since we hadn't known we should be ttc so much earlier than usual.

It had been almost three weeks since that visit, and I'd already gotten a negative pregnancy test on Monday or Tuesday. But that Friday morning I decided I'd better take another test, just to be sure.

I don't know about you, but I can never wait the recommended two or three minutes, so I just stare at the thing until the results appear. Trying to will that second line to appear. This particular test was of the plus or minus variety. Before I could even go through my normal routine of mentally bracing myself for a negative response, it was positive.

My body reacted before my brain did. I was shaking and crying before my mind even recognized the symbol as a plus. I just couldn't wrap my mind around it. I thought of all the times I'd looked down at a negative test with tears in my eyes, wondering if I'd ever know what it was like to see that blessed positive sign or second line appear.

I was over the moon. Ecstatic would be a huge, huge understatement. Hysterical. Blubbering. Shaking. I was violently happy.

Penn was sleeping. I stumbled out of the bathroom and tried to control my voice, but accidentally scream-whispered "PENN!" (We had houseguests in the next room, by the way.) I attempted to regain my composure as I calmly screamed "PENN!!!!" and added "canyoulookatsomethingplease?" Penn literally JUMPED up out of bed with the confused and alarmed expression of one who is abruptly and urgently yanked out of a deep sleep. At first, he thought there was a big spider in the bathroom that I needed help with.

He was as overwhelmed as I was and we just sat on the bed looking at the test, screaming in hushed voices, crying, hugging, then looking at the test again. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

I kept saying over and over, "Let's not get our hopes up!" And, yet, I did. We called the 1-800 number on the box to verify that the light line was still a "real" line. We figured out our due date. We did a happy dance and jumped up and down.

Then I had to rush to get ready for jury duty.

That morning at the courthouse was not pretty. I was seated in the very first row, against the wall, so I was the first one called when they asked us to raise our hands if we would rather not serve on a jury that day. I was asked to stand and explain why.

"Um, well, see, I was on a jury earlier this week, and, um, I've just been kind of HAUNTED by our verdict, you know, just kind of questioning, what if we made the wrong decision, feeling very guilty about it, and very stressed about it, and I thought about it all night, and even had nightmares about it, and well, it's just too much responsibility for me, and I don't think I'm cut out to be on a jury, thank you."

As I stood there waiting for the the prosecutor and defense attorney to whisper amongst themselves, I realized I was kind of...well, crying, actually. I wasn't sure why. But... Yes, I was definitely crying. Perhaps no one had noticed. Being in the front row most of the other hundreds of people were behind me. I was pretty sure I was disguising my emotion fairly well. I started to calm down. Until the person behind me offered me a tissue.

And that just made it so much worse. I am a sympathetic crier. If someone else cries, for any reason, I will cry. Last night, for example, I cried while watching "Girlicious, the Search for the Next Pussycat Doll." One of the girls was homesick and crying, so I cried, too. The other thing about being a sympathetic crier is that if anyone shows any sympathy for me, as the crier, it will be ten times worse.

I tried so hard not to lose it. I had no real reason to cry. I was just so emotionally raw from receiving the biggest and best news of my life earlier in the morning. And the sympathetic look of the gentleman who gave me the tissue was just too much to bear.

You know when your mouth gets all sticky and your throat feels dry and tight and you wipe your eyes and can tell that your eyelids are all swollen? Almost like an allergic reaction. I could just feel the ugly cry face coming on.

The prosecutor continued to question me, although my answers were becoming less and less coherant. He paused and looked at me and asked, "Mrs. Hox, Don't you think that, because you obviously take this responsibility so seriously, it means that you would make a good juror?" (Or something to that effect.)

All I could say was "Noooooooooo!" sob, sob, sniffle

Relenting, he asked, "Mrs. Hox, Would you like me to ask the judge if he will dismiss you from jury duty today?"

"Yeeeeessssssss." sniffle, sob, blubber

He went over and conferred with the judge, who kindly said, "Thank you for your service, Mrs. Hox, you are free to leave."

I edged past the dozen people in my row, shoulders heaving, and walked out of the courtroom - facing all the other potential jurors in their rows - with tears and snot streaming down my face. It was so, so humiliating. A few of the people from my jury group waved at me on my way out. They must have thought I was emotionally unstable.

As I got in my car and tried to fix my face I said out loud to myself, twice: "Either I am pregnant or I have gone crazy."

I came home and took another test, and called Penn, my doctor, and my mother. Then I taped those two tests to the fridge. They served as a reminder - until it became physically apparent - that I wasn't dreaming. My mother even took a photo of me, beaming with pride, in front of the fridge by those purple pieces of plastic that revealed my destiny. Motherhood.

Next to the day Nicholas was born, that was the best the day of my life. Jury duty and all.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


A couple of weeks ago I went to bed early. I awoke at 11pm or so to the sound of Penn rummaging around our bedroom, for a flashlight. "How can you sleep through that?!" he asked in a stage whisper. I listened. There was a very loud helicopter hovering over our home. It had apparently been doing so for several minutes. It's search light was sweeping the steep wooded cliff that runs along the other side of our backyard fence, and those of our neighbors.

I jumped up, made sure Nicholas was still asleep in his bed and checked all the doors and windows. Penn looked out every window with a flashlight to make sure no one was around our house. He and I had a brief argument about whether or not all the lights in the house should be on or off. I was of the mind, ON. If there was someone out there I wanted him to know we were awake and at the ready! Penn felt very strongly that they should be OFF, so that we could see out but no one could see in. I realized he was right so we hunkered down at our respective bedroom windows and peeked through the curtains for a few minutes.

The search continued. The helicopter searchlight hovered for a minute on this neighbor's patio, a minute on that neighbor's tree, a minute on our own bushes. I tried to stay calm and not let my mind run away with me. "But really, what could it be?" I wondered. My first thought was escaped convict. Except, to my knowledge, we don't live near a prison. Missing person maybe? Dear God, it could be a body. I tried to think of something positive that could result in a helicopter search, but my mind drew a blank. So I waited and prayed.

Finally I couldn't take it. This thing had been hovering around our house for almost forty-five minutes by now! I turned on the TV and looked for a breaking story. Nothing. I opened my laptop and found a report on one of the local news channel's websites. There had just been a pitbull attack at our closest Target. One of the dogs had been shot by officers, the other was on the loose. It seemed kind of far away (at least five miles), but I guessed that a dog could run pretty far, pretty fast, if extremely motivated. I wasn't thrilled about the idea of a pitbull on a rampage in our neighborhood, but I immediately felt hugely relieved. There was no way it could get in our home. I got the stray cat inside and we promptly went to bed.

The helicopter must have been waiting on us, because almost the moment we said goodnight its noise started to fade and it was soon gone. I still had some residual butterflies in my stomach, so I prayed and fell asleep almost immediately.

Imagine my surprise when, yesterday, my husband handed me the neighborhood newsletter. I scanned the thing, wondering what in the world could have attracted my husband's attention. The upcoming Easter egg hunt, maybe? A change to the recycling pickup schedule, perhaps? At the bottom of the second page was a small blurb about the "excitement" in our neighborhood a couple of weeks prior. It turns out it was an armed robber on the loose. In our neighborhood! In our yards! I have no idea what this person robbed, but he'd led police on a chase right down our street. We live on cliffside lane that is full of sharp curves, steep hills, and lots of dead ends. The suspect had accidentally gotten lost in our 'hood and stuck on street that didn't go through. He'd abandoned his car on a neighbor's lawn and hoofed it. Right through our super quiet, little-old-lady-filled neighborhood.

I have no idea what to think of this. I'm not really worried, since it happened some time ago and I doubt he has any reason to come back. For heaven's sake, we live three doors down from a police officer. No one knows whether the robber was apprehended. I'd like to think so. But mostly I am exceedingly and overwhelmingly grateful that I didn't know what was really happening at the time it was happening. Obviously, it would have been a sleepless night. In fact, I'm fairly certain I would have lost my mind. I had already suggested to Penn that we all get in the car and drive to a hotel (before I found out about the pitbull incident). Penn shot that down right away. Luckily. Can you imagine if we'd opened our garage door and made ourselves vulnerable to someone - someone with a gun - in desperate need of a getaway vehicle!?

It may not seem like it from the details of this post, but God has really healed me from so much of the anxiety and fear I used to live with. Since childhood, I've spent the bulk of my nights lying awake, imaging worst case scenarios. What I would do in a fire. How I would react if there was an earthquake. Or nuclear-terrorist attack. My course of action if gunmen broke into the house. Or an axe murderer. Or a baby thief. What if something happened to my mother. Or Penn. Or me. Who would take care of Nicholas if Penn and I, and my parents all died? I would get so wrapped up in my imaginings that I often found myself trembling with fear or my eyes full of tears.

Talk about borrowing trouble! Why not wait until one of those things actually happened to feel the terror or grief of it?

There are so many Bible verses that speak to us about what to do with our anxieties and fears, as well as how to battle the evil of the world. The kind of evil that we see on the evening news or even willingly invite into our minds when we chose to watch certain television shows or movies. This is why I've had to swear off crime dramas and can't watch anything, fiction or non-fiction, about crashes of any kind. And I haven't watched anything remotely scary for years. Seriously, we rented Nancy Drew a couple of days ago and I was scared! My husband had to laugh at me with my hands over my eyes, peeking through my fingers. But it was suspenseful!

I've spent most of my life going to church every Sunday. And Sunday School, youth groups, the choir. But I never really got serious about Bible study or having a regular "quiet time" until the past couple of years. And It's really creating profound changes in a whole bunch of areas of my life, including fear and anxiety. I don't live under the cloud of fear or in the depression fog that consumed me for most of my adult life. I still have those same flashes of thought. My trigger thoughts. At night they tend to be either "What's that noise?" or worst of all "What if..." But I don't indulge them anymore.

It's kind of like when I quit chewing my nails many years ago. It wasn't that I quit cold turkey. I would have had to cover all my nails in band-aids to do that, because it was such an unconscious habit. Instead, the moment I caught myself chewing my nails I'd just stop, immediately. Sometimes I'd chew a whole nail off before I even noticed what I was doing. But pretty soon I noticed more quickly. And pretty soon I had stopped chewing my nails. Every once in a while I would briefly reverting back, and I would just stop in mid-chew, because it felt unnatural and because I had developed the habit to stop myself and choose another course.

I find that I have to do the same thing to keep my thoughts under control. I don't know how to go cold turkey from dark thoughts, because I don't have control of every thought that crosses my mind, before I think it. But every time I catch myself thinking the thoughts that I know I shouldn't, I stop. Sometimes I've gotten far along enough in my line of thinking that I'm already frightened or depressed. But more and more I notice almost right away that I just had a destructive thought.

Then I can do one of the many things the Bible instructs when I feel fear, anxiety, melancholy, etc. Rather than focusing on negative thoughts I can think about "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right..." (Philippians 4:8). I can choose to turn away from my anxiety and "in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving" present my concerns to God. (Philippians 4:6) Why worry about something I can't handle when I can give those concerns to God and enjoy a good night's sleep? I can refuse to let the evil of the world overwhelm me and can instead "overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21) I don't have the power to change the terrible things that are a part of each evening's news report. But I do have power. The power to pray. The power of good deeds to share the love of Christ with those who suffer. And the power to combat all the bad and dark things of this world by doing my best to glorify and share the one true source of goodness and light, Jesus Christ.

I can personally testify that God's instruction can lead to less anxiety and more sleep. And more importantly it has a radical impact on our souls and our needy world. And best of all, when we chose to believe and follow God's Word, we tell him that we have put our trust in him and in his ways, not our silly broken cistern way of life.

Is it just me, or is the Bible the best "self-help" book in all of creation? It works!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Spring is in the Air

Well, it's March, and you know what that means.

Spring Cleaning time! Woo hoo!

No, I'm serious. I love Spring Cleaning. Duh, not the actual cleaning part. The planning and the results. The work involved in between the two is worth it.

I started yesterday. I have a not terribly ambitious plan to tackle one room per day. I plan my attack in the morning and do the bulk of the work during Nicholas's two hour nap period. (Oh, the leisurely schedule of a mama of one child, right?) Then the rest of the afternoon I wrap up the loose ends.

Yesterday was the master bedroom. Today was the master bedroom closet. Yes, the closet get it's own day. It's huge and full of stuff! At this rate I will have the entire house and yard ship shape by March 22. (I'm not working on Sundays.) Even the garage and "study" for which I've allotted more than one day. If you saw either room, you'd understand.

Penn will chip in on his days off. I've assigned him boy chores like washing the outside windows, changing the lightbulbs, testing the smoke alarms, and all the tasks I find especially loathesome. Oh, and he's on spider patrol. Meaning he searches the room of the day for any spiders that may be lurking under the furniture or in the closet so they don't surprise me later.

The best part is that I'll be finished the day before Easter, the day before we host all our in-laws at our home, and the day before my birthday! (All three things fall on the same day this year.)

Phase two of Spring Cleaning will be projects around the house. Nothing expensive, since we could be moving in a few months. It could also be a few years, though, so we're going to address a few issues that have been bothering us since we moved in.

1. The kitchen linoleum. Circa 1959. We're replacing it with something very, very inexpensive. But it will be new and clean. Even when I scrub the floor with a brush it never looks clean! I can't wait.

2. THE FAUX WOOD PANELING. It covers every wall of the great room! Can you stand it? How have I lived with it this long, you must be wondering. It used to bother me every second of every day. Then I got over it and now I hardly notice it. We're going to paint it, using wood paneling primer/paint. If you've attempted a project like this please let me know!

3. Curtains. Or the lack thereof. Exactly two of the house's many, many, MANY windows have a treatment. I'm going to be using The Nester's window "mistreatment" techniques which require only fabric, upholstery tacks, some trim, and a glue gun! That's right, no hardware, lining, or SEWING! (Did I ever mention how much I hate sewing?)

4. Photos/frames/albums. All of which are in need of organization or need to be hung. It's shameful how bare our walls are.

Well, I'm off to vacuum dust bunnies and purge clutter.

PS I know it is not technically Spring yet, but it feels like Spring here in Seattle and that's good enough for me!

Friday, February 29, 2008

How to Know Whether or Not You Are Ready to Be a Parent Test

I just read this on an adoption web site and thought it was worth sharing:

How To Know Whether or Not You Are Ready to Be a Parent

Mess Test:

Smear peanut butter on the sofa and curtains.
Now rub your hands in the wet flowerbed and rub on the walls.
Cover the stains with crayons.
Place a fish stick behind the couch and leave it there all summer.

Toy Test:

Obtain a 55-gallon box of Legos.
Have a friend spread them all over the house.
Put on a blindfold. Try to walk to the bathroom or kitchen.
Do not scream. (this could wake a child at night.)

Grocery Store Test:

Borrow one or two small animals (goats are best) and take them with you as you shop at the grocery store.
Always keep them in sight and pay for anything they eat or damage.

Dressing Test:

Obtain one live octopus.
Stuff into a small net bag making sure that all arms stay inside.

Feeding Test:

Obtain a large plastic milk jug. Fill halfway with water.
Suspend from the ceiling with a cord.
Start the jug swinging.
Try to insert spoonfuls of soggy cereal (such as Fruit Loops or Cheerios) into the mouth of the jug, while pretending to be an airplane.
When finished, dump the contents of the jug on the floor.

Night Test:

Prepare by obtaining a small cloth bag and fill it with 8 -12 pounds of sand.
Soak it thoroughly in water.
At 8:00 PM begin to waltz and hum with the bag until 9:00 PM.
Lay down your bag and set your alarm for 10:00 PM.
Get up, pick up your bag, and sing every song you have ever heard.
Make up about a dozen more and sing these too until 4:00 AM.
Set alarm for 6:00 AM. Get up and make breakfast.
Keep this up for a few years. Look cheerful.

Physical Test:

Go to the nearest store that sells diapers.
Set your wallet on the counter.
Ask the clerk to help himself.
Now proceed to the nearest grocery store.
Call your employer and arrange for your paycheck to be directly deposited to the store.
While you're there, purchase a newspaper. Go home and read it quietly for the last time.

Final Assignment:

Find a couple who already has a small child.
Give them many, many helpful suggestions about on how they can improve their discipline, patience, tolerance, toilet training, and child's table manners.
Emphasize to them that they should never allow their children to run riot.
Enjoy this experience. It will be the last time you will have all the answers.

And if after all this you realize there can be nothing better, then you're ready!
~ Author Unknown

Okay, the sleep part might be a little exaggerated, but the mess test is spot on.

And I have photographic proof. Here is what happens when one very stupid mama talks on the phone for fifteen minutes, around the corner and out of sight (although not earshot) from her toddler, who discovers the game cupboard.

Ta DA! (should be blown up for full experience)

I like this photo because if you look closely you can see a little Risk character in mid fling.

The best part was sliding on the cards.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My First Haircut

I got my hair cut yesterday! Three inches off, woo hoo!

But the "first" haircut to which I refer is the cut I gave Nicholas this afternoon. My first time cutting hair. Other than my own bangs, but I won't go into that traumatic story. Let me just urge you not to cut your own bangs a week before your child's baptism. Unless you like the look of 3/4 inch bangs.

I was just about ready to book Nicholas's third haircut at the adorable children's salon in our neck of the woods. Then I started thinking about how many children we might someday have (I want five, Penn wants three, so let's just say four) and calculated that 4 x $25 a pop kid haircuts + $$ (Penn's haircuts) + $$$$ (my haircuts) = a lot!

So I figured I'd better learn how to cut my own children's hair and why not start today?

Let me just say that my own stylist and my Mother-in-Law both encouraged me, telling me how easy it would be. I should have thought about that a little bit. Of course it's easy for my stylist to cut her son's hair. She went to beauty school! And my Mother-in-Law... You know how if you don't have anything nice to say you shouldn't say anything at all? I'm not going to say a single word about my dear husband's childhood hair, as captured in circa 1975 photos and you can read between the lines.

But I didn't think of that. At least not until it was too late.

I was going to research on the internet and find a how-to-cut-your-toddler's-hair-guide, because you know there is one somewhere on the world wide web. But then I just decided to go for it. I'm one of those people who learns best by doing.

So I did.

It looks... um... well... kind of like his mom cut it.

The front looks very Dumb and Dumber (Lloyd, not Harry), but since we brush it to the side, it works. The main thing that was irking me were the too long sideburns, which looked very "Fab Four." So those look better although I cut them a little too much. But they're fine.

But the back. Oh dear. The back. I thought I would just need to snip off the shaggy ends at the neckline. Let's just ignore the fact that it's all jagged because of a certain squirmer. Besides that, it's just wrong. Choppy and... wrong. I'm hoping that it will grow out to look nicer in a couple of weeks.

I wouldn't really care that much about how it looks, since he doesn't turn two until the end of May. We have plenty of time for it to grow out before his two year portrait, birthday party, etc. It's just hair, it will grow.

But, unfortunately, the experience semi-traumatized him. He hardly noticed the nice lady was cutting his hair when he got to sit in the tractor chair and play with strange new toys. Sitting in his booster chair in the living room watching Super Why just didn't cut it. It didn't distract him at all. The sight of mama with a squirt bottle and scissors was all it took to set him off. He started wailing before the first snip and by the time I was finished there were little golden hairs stuck all over his wet (with tears and snot) face.

So it just wasn't a good experience and I don't know if we'll attempt it again at some point, or not. Maybe when he's older.

Have you ever cut your child's hair?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Toddler Times

Nicholas is doing a few new things.

For starters, when I drop him off at the church nursery for my weekly Ladies Bible Study, and when Penn and I drop him off for church, he cries!

This is totally new for us. He never went through any "separation anxiety" that we could detect back when the baby books suggested he might. It was more like, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out, people!" I didn't know whether to feel slighted or relieved.

So all of a sudden, he cares when we say goodbye. I usually stay with him for five or ten minutes, getting him settled in and distracted. Then I sneak out, going so far as to crouch down and practically crawl away when the dutch door closes behind me. Okay, not practically. Literally.

I'm assuming this is a phase, and it isn't a big deal or anything. Just kind of out of character for our Mister Independent.

So now this week he has decided he loves! his! mama! Keep in mind he has hardly noticed me up to this point in his life. What I mean by that is that if there were four people in the room, he would never show much partiality to me at all. He liked mom. He just liked everyone else, too.

Last weekend the all-time-most-favorite-fascinating-and-fun-person, his Grandpa W came for a visit while my mother was out of state. And he brought with him their dog, Maddy. Nicholas drives her to distraction chasing her around and throwing balls at, I mean TO her. Then Gramsy came back and visited for a day, also.

When they left, I was expecting major water works, like usual. But instead he was incredibly clingy the rest of the day. And the day after that. And all week, in fact.

It's so strange! He just wants me all the time. If I sit somewhere, he pulls my hand to follow him. If I stand, he pulls my pant leg until I pick him up. Fifty times a day I hear "Mama!" (Music to my ears...) And I've even been on the receiving end of dozens of unsolicited kisses and hugs!

It really is a nice little phase.

But yesterday, by his bedtime I was exhausted! Frazzled! Worn out!

I shut myself in my bedroom and read most of the evening, while Penn watched TV in the living room.

I was telling my mother about this and she pointed out how tired mom's with clingy children must be all the time! I've always been a little (okay, more than a little) envious of those mother's blessed with a mama's boy or girl. And I still think it is wonderful. But now I see that it is also more demanding than an almost completely independent toddler.

So I'm adjusting my schedule so I can get things done before he wakes up and during his nap, so that I don't get frustrated when I don't get anything accomplished during his waking hours.

In other news, Nicholas went peeps in the potty for the first time the day before yesterday! Yay! I think we scared him with our celebratory exuberance and excitement.

We're going to be switching him to training pants (w/a waterproof liner for a while) once we run out of diapers. But we'll still keep him in his nighttime diapers at night. We're reading the book "Diaper Free Before Three" and I wish we had started when he turned one. (I'm filing this away in my mind for our next child.) It's a nice compromise between the ultra EC method of training and the wait-until-your-child-is-"ready" approach. I think it's interesting that in most other parts of the world (including most of Europe), children are potty trained much earlier than in the US. And even a couple of generations ago most children were potty trained around age two. I guess the increasingly absorbant properties of disposable diapers have contributed to the age of readiness getting pushed back farther and farther. It's kind of hard for a kid to decide the are ready if they have no incentive (like being uncomfortable or wet) to nudge them toward that readiness. I can't believe Nicholas is only 20 (and a half) months old and I already wish I'd done a whole bunch of things differently. Oh well.

Well, that's all that's new around here.

Oh, if you have a toddler and you don't already have bathtub crayons, I highly recommend them. The best $5 I've spent in a while. They are great for practicing letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and, of course, for scribbling. I purchased the kind that have a nice plastic shell around the crayon parts, so they don't break or get all melty and messy. They are wonderful!

Oh, and he's starting to say "Pees" and "Ay-Q", which just gets me -right there- every time. We've been terribly lax about his manners and it's like living with a monkey, much of the time. I'm so relieved that he's saying these words on his own. I had no idea how to go about teaching him this, since he doesn't listen to a word I say. I'm happy he's picked them up by osmosis. Actually, I guess this proves that he does listen to us, he just doesn't let on that he's listening. Now about those table manners...

Friday, February 8, 2008

Self Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The Artist

His Work

Self-Portrait... see the signature on the lower right?

The thing is, I don't know how he smuggled a crayon into his crib as I, myself tucked him in for his nap. And I can't even find the crayon!

I know I'm probably supposed to be cross about this, but my immediate reaction was delight. He was just so happy with his masterpieces, as you can see from the (albeit blurry) photos. The scribbles aren't hurting anything, and, besides... I think they're sweet. I have no plans to remove them.

I love being a parent because I get to make the rules (along with my husband, of course). He agrees. The scribbles stay!