Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thanks 2014, it's been nice to know ya!

Disclaimer:  Yes, this post will serve as our family Christmas card, a much-needed blog update, and the final blog post of the year. Yes, you can call it "lame", if you'd like. I prefer "efficient". And if you're a family member looking for our Christmas card and haven't read my blog before, check out the "Cast of Characters" page down to the right. I've given the girls all pseudonyms to ensure plausible deniability when they're older. But I'm sure you can figure it out.

2014 was a year of ups and downs, as they all tend to be. We worked. We played. We traveled a bit. But we are all healthy and together at the end of the year, so I call it an overall win. We truly do have much to be thankful for. As I've written before, we are rich. No, we don't have our dream house yet. No, we haven't won the lottery. But we have a comfortable snug home with heat that we can turn up in the winter. We have warm clothes to go play outside in. We have more food than we should probably eat. We have a high-quality and safe school to send our girls to. We have loving parents and siblings that live too far away. We have a loving family of close friends that live a bit nearer. We have friends and family scattered across the nation that pray for us, cheer us on, and bring smiles to our days. We are rich.

And the rest? Well, we're working on a little concept called "contentment".

The girls are just getting bigger and better every day:

HeyMama is 6. She loves to read, loves to do math, and says she wants to be a scientist when she grows up. And no, BestestHusband didn't tell her to say that. But he might be a bit proud... She started playing the piano, and is quite diligent about practicing. She gave a short concert of Christmas music at our friends' house on Christmas Day, and is anxious for lessons to start up again in the new year. She enjoys gymnastics more than ever, and can frequently be found hanging upside down or jumping from things. And she is the most perceptive, doting, and sweet big sister a baby sister could ever hope for. And she likes to talk. A lot. I'm still trying to find a way to bottle her energy. Or just find a mute button.

MeToo is 5. She loves to do whatever her older sister is doing. So she's into reading, math, and maybe being a scientist too. Or a unicorn trainer. Or a dance teacher. We might need to start dance lessons first... She is a child of wide-eyed wonder, finding magic in the most mundane of tasks. "Mama! Come look! I pooped a 7!" And she was right, it really did look like a 7. Other letters and shapes eventually followed. MeToo will interrupt dinner with, "Guess what! I'm having a dream inside my head RIGHT NOW!" She's full of fun ideas and whimsy. She's currently lobbying us to trade her to a neighboring family so she can have a brother.

LittleDebbie morphed into HurricaneDebbie, and is typically a Category 5. At 16 months old, she is already the strongest personality in the household, and that's really saying something... She has quickly learned to communicate her wishes, and this week has decided to do that via sentences:  "I need milk!", "I need Uppa!", "I need Daddy!" She has also learned quickly how to climb up to the top bunk, rock standing in the rocking chair, retrieve things from the middle of the dining room table, let herself out the door to outside, and undo an hour's worth of cleaning and organization in 2 minutes. According to BestestHusband, she is a living example of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. And she makes me want to drink. Good thing she's so dang charming and cute...

The dogs continue to add love, fur, and noise to our household. They have become skilled opportunists, seizing on the chance for a belly rub any time one of us sits or leans over to the floor. They even demand belly rubs from the girls. And you know what? It works. It's sweet to see them develop relationships with the girls, and see the girls take more responsibility in their care.

BestestHusband started a new job at a tech company downstairs from his previous job. What's a guy with a PhD in Chemical Engineering and a background in discovering oncology drugs doing working at a tech company? Something Very Different from what he did before. But he still has the same bike commute. (Some call being a one-car family being "cheap", again I like to call combining a commute and exercise as "efficient".) In his spare time he plays the role of SuperDad, stalks Boston real estate for our future house, tends a good-sized garden, makes out-of-this-world mexican sauces, and helps reign in the chaos that has become our household norm.

I'm still doing many of the same things as last year. I work per diem at local rehab hospitals a few days per week. I shepherd the girls to and from the bus stop. I try to keep up with a kamikaze toddler. I started running again this past year, mostly to improve my patience level. And I started baking sourdough bread. And at the end of the day, when the house has been destroyed by my kamikaze toddler and my patience has been destroyed by everyone else, I at least have something tasty to show for my time.

So if you're in the area, stop by for a slice of fresh bread and a glass of wine I'll be ready to pour. We have a guest bedroom, and plenty of mayhem to share. We are truly blessed by what we have, but are pretty much constantly exhausted by it. And we look forward to a new year of exhaustion, love, joy, tedium, exasperation, and blessings in 2015.

With love,
The Bundles Of Joy Family

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

P90X with a Toddler

So yesterday started off very badly. In fact, by 9:15am, I had admitted defeat and was headed back to bed. We were getting hit by a December Nor'easter (a cold-weather ocean storm, similar to a tropical storm but with cold rain or snow). Two cups of coffee just weren't kicking in. Everyone was grumpy. We got the big girls on the bus, and headed towards the gym. I was hoping an hour on the treadmill would turn things around. But the parking lot was full. As were the street spots anywhere near an entrance. Did I mention that it was raining sideways and cold? So I gave up. I admitted defeat, turned around, and went home. I put my overtired (and now I realize sick) toddler in her crib, laid down in the bed next to it, and we went to sleep. When we both woke up later, things were better. After a quick lunch and some tylenol for LittleDebbie, things were great. The day had turned around. But the babysitting room in the gym was scheduled to close in 20 minutes, and I still wanted to exercise. 

That's when I remembered the P90X DVDs that BestestHusband had borrowed from a coworker a while back. We still had them. And I wanted to try them out. 

I picked a workout that looked like it had some cardio and strength training in it. And I did it. And the day was completely salvaged. All was not lost, after all. I even FELT like I got a good workout, better than the one I would have gotten if I just went to the gym. Maybe I should just do the whole P90X program?

So this morning, after spending 30 minutes at the bus stop in the rain (yes, it's still raining. Send an Ark...), LittleDebbie and I came home to do P90X. I was motivated. I've been wanting to do strength training for a while, and I know myself well enough to know that I need to join a class to do it. And the classes offered when I'm usually at the gym are targeted to older ladies. Much older. Think Seniorcise. So maybe P90X is the answer to my prayers...

I did the first DVD, which targets arms and back, and then abs. And I learned a few things. I knew the part about my horrendously poor upper body strength. That's old news. And the part about my lazy core. I was aware of that, too. But there's a reason that the DVD shows 4 hard-bodies working out in a studio. Showing real people in their real homes would not be nearly as pretty:

"Show some intensity! Kick forward! Side! Back! Then other leg!"
Ok, don't kick the TV, don't kick the sofa, don't kick the kid. Move over to allow room to use the other leg.
"Stretch both arms high, and do big circles."
Ow! When did that light fixture start hanging so low?
"Take a few moments to get some water and be ready to bring the intensity!"
Crap. Where's LittleDebbie? I need to go find her...
"Run in place to keep your heart going, and be ready for legs!"
Where did all of the Christmas ornaments go? And where is LittleDebbie now? I need to go find her...
"Time for some jacks. Jumping jacks are great!"
Jumping jacks are not great after having 3 kids. I'll just cross my legs and jump in place, thankyouverymuch. Ok fine, I'll wave my arms around, too.
"And lunge, punch, hook! Other leg! Lunge, punch, hook!"
Lunge, oh, there's an ornament on the mat! Hey LittleDebbie, please leave my mat alone, put it down!
"30 military pushups! Here we go!"
Hey, I can barely do one pushup, even without you climbing on me. Get off my back, kid!

So I learned that I need to be more relaxed to my workout than the instructor would prefer. I don't yet have all of the equipment I need. But bungee cords from the basement meet my fitness needs for now. I need to set up the play yard for the toddler in advance. She will eventually end up in there. I no longer am interested in working out 'til I feel like puking. Exercising makes my day better. Puking does not. I'll do one only as long as it doesn't result in the other. Who am I trying to impress? The guy on the DVD? I'll stop when I feel like it. 
Doing the workout at 80% accuracy is still better than I would get at the gym. And I think I know a bit more about pelvic stability and residual diastasis than the guy in the DVD. I'll modify my abs workout as I see fit. 

Don't worry buddy, I'll still "Bring It." I'll just bring along my body that's still recovering from having 3 kids in 5 years, my 15 month old, and the limitations of a small living room in a city condo, as well.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Why I Need to Drink After Shopping With My Kids

So, as part of our Advent preparation and focus on thinking of others, the girls will help assemble gift stockings for people in our community. We've made food bags in the past for people asking for change at street corners, and they were generally well-received. So we decided to do gift stockings for them for Christmas. The girls helped brainstorm a list of items that might be appreciated by people who spend their lives out in the cold, and our activity after school today was to go shopping for those items. Sounds good so far, right?

So I took them to Ocean State Job Lot. For those of you who don't know OSJL, don't worry. Your home area probably has something similar. It sells a hodgepodge of everything, mostly deeply-discounted closeouts. So if you need a wide assortment of practical items, you'll find them there. It's the cheapest local place to go, since I live in a city that hates Wal-Mart. (Ok, maybe the city doesn't. But you have to travel more than 30 minutes out of the city to find one.) It's a slightly overstimulating place to begin with. But I went there late on a Wednesday afternoon with 3 girls, aged 6 and under. Are you starting to feel a premonition of danger yet?

You never know what you'll find when you're there. So you can't really write a detailed shopping list and stick to it. You sketch out a broad list, and suspect you'll find maybe half of the items on your list, plus a bunch you never imagined you'd find. And you never know the price you'll pay, so you have to look at everything and consider prices when you're assembling a gift assortment. In other words, it's a constant mental juggling act. What's a better value? The leather gloves or the waterproof Thinsulate-lined? Do homeless men prefer wool socks or these thicker ones with only a small amount more artificial fibers in them after you actually read the labels on the "Marino wool socks." Hmmm, get one of those thick sweat shirts for $7, or not risk getting the wrong sizes and get other things instead that might actually fit in the stocking better? The mental juggling act is constant in OSJL, even without kids along. And of course, there are countless temptations along the way. $8 ladies leather gloves to match my new scarf? I don't mind if I do! Add the kids, and my brain explodes. 

I think it's the sheer overstimulation of my internal monologue plus the 3 overlapping conversations from my children that just causes the trouble. Have you met my children? They are all girls. They are all chatty girls. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I used to pride myself in the early and prolific speech of my children. Now I just curse myself. 

An hour later, we leave the store with 5 stockings that we will fill with hand-warmers, gloves, thick socks, first aid kits, rain ponchos, and candy canes. We also leave with some candy for one of MeToo's teachers, and a few bags of Bob's Red Mill products, because they're awesome and pretty cheap at OSJL for some reason. But I didn't leave with Vital Gluten. Because apparently they don't carry it anymore. And I looked at their BRM offerings in two different places 5 times. It should have taken me 2 minutes to do that. But instead I:
  • Convinced the 6 year old that asking me to guess about minutae from her day while trying to read package labels to find the gluten was counterproductive and would keep us from actually leaving. 
  • Found a snack to stop the toddler's shrieking, doled it out to 3 girls, and kept the open bag from being spilled on the floor. 
  • Returned the toddler to a sitting position in the cart 5 times. The seatbelt was broken. 
  • Refereed a fight between the 5 year old and 6 year old about who got to stand where on the cart. 
  • Stopped 5 and 6 year old from pushing the cart while the toddler was standing up in the seat. 
  • Investigated who was lying about who was or was not pushing that cart while the toddler was standing. 
  • Delivered a stern message about the dangers of lying to the liar, while holding toddler in her seat to keep her from hurting herself while I was trying to discipline her older sister. Tried to ignore the indignant screaming of the toddler. 
  • Tried to manage the remorseful crying of the liar. 
  • Handed out more chocolate animal crackers to all unhappy parties. 
  • Didn't ever find gluten. 

Let's not discuss how long it took to:
  • Look for sizes on the gloves and socks.
  • Try to determine which glove and sock would be warmest for those who live on the street. 
  • Compare sizes, prices, and styles of stockings. 
  • Search for candies that the girls' teachers had identified as their favorites. 
  • Convince the girls that we could only look at toys at the END of the shopping trip.

The good news it that we now have some well-stuff Christmas stockings full of practical gifts that will be supplemented with some homemade treats and hopefully a warm cup of cocoa or coffee. And hopefully I can be emboldened by my children to share a treat and a gift with some total strangers that may or may not want to be recipients of our gifts. But that's a concern and blog post for another day.
Remind me not to shop with 3 little girls again. I need a big glass of wine. Or two.