Monday, July 13, 2015

It's been real...

.... and it's been fun.

And now, I'm taking this insanity over to wordpress. Please come join me at Housewife(ish) -- I promise to provide the same irregularly scheduled programming. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Camping and Insanity...

I'm in the middle of a million projects. I started writing an "ode to mothers" post… On. Mothers'. Day. and I haven't finished it (which might actually be fitting). I have bathrooms that need to be cleaned. Piles of preschool projects that needed to be sorted and -- gasp! -- purged. Newborn clothes that need to be boxed up to make room for our little slugger's 3 month wardrobe.

Mostly, though? The laundry. We went camping over the weekend and virtually every piece of fabric we own smells like campfire. Does it matter that it was chilly, which means that we all wore the same 3 articles of clothing the whole weekend? No. Does it matter if the clothes were touched by campfire-scented hands? No. Does it matter if it even went to the lake with us? Absolutely not. I have clothes in the back of my drawer that I haven't worn in 3 1/2 years (which just so happens to be around the time I had to move into maternity clothes with J. Damn you, birthing hips.) that I might wash… just to be safe.

But, as I recuperate from the beautiful chaos that was the 3 days of prep and 3 days of camping, and find myself knee-deep in what is sure to be 3 days of clean-up, I thought maybe some camping story background would be appropriate therapy.

When we were first married, we lived in Western Washington (state, guys, not D.C.), and I pretended to be adventurous. One October (roughly 6 months into wedded bliss), K got the hair brained idea that we should go camping. Not the KOA "Kamping," mind you, which had been the vast majority of my camping experience until that point (what can I say? My mom has a penchant for running water and heated showers… a trait that she passed right on down to me.). Oh, no. He wanted to go the pack-in-pack-out camping where the "facilities" are a glorified outhouse and there aren't "camping spots" as much as "find a kind of flat place to set up your tent and hope it's not in a flood zone." The lovely part of living in Western Washington is there's tons of beautiful rainforest. The crappy part about rain forests, though, is it rains kind of a lot. Especially in October (this is what we call foreshadowing). Against my better judgment, I agreed, which was just as surprising to me as it was to K.

(P.S. - I've never seen this movie, so don't judge me if it sucks.)

K found some lake that was a 3 mile "hike" in, and a few days later, we packed up our gear and set out on a grand adventure. Except, it was raining… it rained the whole 1 1/2 hour drive to the trail, but we were being adventurous. Plus, how long could the rain last, really?? (Spoiler alert: a really damn long time. That's why the call it a bloody rain forest.) So we busted out the ponchos and set off into the pouring rain.

Regarding the rain: this wasn't the Seattle Drizzle, where you don't really need an umbrella, just a lack of concern for your uncontrollably frizzy hair. I was wearing a ball cap under my poncho, and it rained so hard that it turned into an excellent textbook example of the wicking effect: the water soaked the cap, gradually made its way back so that the entire hat was dripping wet, then soaked my hair, which in turn started dripping down the back of my fleece. 

After about 2 1/2 miles of this deluge, I started asking if we were getting close. K kept telling me that it was just around the next corner, which was a lie. Only 6 months into our marriage and he was already lying to me. This wasn't a good start. About 2 3/4 miles in, I started to cry, I think. I know that my face did that "sonofabitch I'm experiencing unpleasant emotions" thing, but there was just so much water that it all intermingled and I couldn't tell. 

We finally reached the campsite, and K set up the tent, engineered a little shelter with a poncho and some string, and dug out the camp stove and tuna helper, while I went to the "bathroom." Like I said earlier, it was a glorified outhouse. The stench was incredible, and I found myself sobbing and trying to decide which was worse, being in the monsoon or enduring the fetor that comes with years of use. I finally braved the conditions once again to return to our "camp site," and start preparing our gourmet dinner. Except, the only spoon we had was plastic. I kept trying to stir in the tuna, only to have it immediately become bent to the point of ineffective. And then, I sloshed half of it on the ground. Did I mention that this was bear country??

K returned from his surprisingly unsuccessful attempt at starting a fire, and noticed that the poncho-turned-canopy was sagging from the accumulated water. Without considering the shape or construction of typical ponchos, he stood directly under the center and pushed, which dumped about 17 gallons of water directly on his head. At that point, we decided to take the crappiest tuna helper ever made (which, let's face it, is saying something) and head into the tent, where at least we'd be dry. 

Following best camping-in-the-rain practice, we had set up the gear that needed to be dry by morning in our tent, which meant that there really wasn't room for us. But, we busted out the wine and Dove chocolates and tried to be less than completely miserable.

(In case anyone was wondering, this was not a scene from our trip. Mostly because I didn't have pearls on. Kidding… it was because we were miserable and not in a Nicholas Sparks book/movie.)

A little while later, I felt some water on my face. I wasn't sure if it was a drip or just my nerves recreating the trauma of the previous 4 hours until I felt several more in quick succession. Then, I thought maybe there was a leak in the tent. But, after being assured by my outdoorsman/husband that it was actually a high quality tent that had no potential for leaking, I realized that we had successfully, though unintentionally, performed science experiment #2: creating rain. Apparently, as we had warmed up the air in the tent, the condensation had accumulated at the ceiling of the tent, until it started dripping. And voila! Rain. 

And that was the moment. I turned to K in the tent-rain, at 2 am, in the pitch black, 3 miles away from our car, and said, "You need to get me out of here. Now."

We hiked/slid back down to the car, all while making conversation in loud voices so as to avoid being mauled (I did mention that this was bear country, right??). It was still pouring. I dug out a bunch of clothes that never made it to the Goodwill drop-off, and we drove the couple hours back to the warmth of our condo. 

Among the things that were ruined that day: a $200 point-and-shoot camera and my desire to ever go camping ever again. 

That is, until a few weeks ago when K convinced me that we should rent a pop-up tent trailer and take our 2 kids out into the wilderness. That story to follow. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Continually Increasing Chaos...

Now that we're officially a family of four humans (those few years with two "fur babies" [holy mother of pearl, how I hate that phrase!] don't count), I sometimes reflect on past stages of then-overwhelming moments, and how those activities are still overwhelming, but on a much different plane.

Parenthetically, there are things that are overwhelming even in retrospect, like the time that The Herpes Cat died in my bathroom (true story). But, that's one for another post (unless I already wrote about it...? What can I say, I'm currently a little overwhelmed by this stage in life).

Some examples of how the overwhelming evolves:

Going outside: When we lived in Italy, I had it in my head that it would be edifying for our cats to explore The Great Outdoors (aka, our patio). However, there were feral farm cats, so to keep them safe, I bought -- and used! -- little harnesses intended for use by the littlest of dogs. Oh, along with dog leashes. (Feel free to roll your eyes. Lord knows I am.) So, on one of the first warm days of spring sunshine, I harnessed up one of the cats (there was hissing involved. The cat wasn't happy either.), made myself a chai tea latte, grabbed a textbook, and opened the doors to go outside. I don't remember the exact details of the next few minutes, but it involved a cat pissed about going outside, me stepping in a puddle from a backed-up drain that I didn't notice, a leash tangled up around my legs, a broken mug, a soggy textbook, and cat prints throughout the house of whatever sort of drain water. Oh, and tears.

Then, we had a baby, who grew into a toddler, who eventually decided he liked playing in the snow. This "playing outside" was a 75 minute evolution, with only 15 of those minutes actually spent outside. There was the finding misplaced snow gear, the "If you don't help Momma put on your [snow pants/boots/coat/hat/mittens/whatever], we can't go outside!!" threats, the putting on the snow gear, and the 7 minutes of re-convincing the toddler that he wanted to go outside. Then, if we were lucky, he'd be entertained for 10-15 minutes before wanting to go back inside for hot chocolate. This started out as a fun treat, towards the beginning of the winter when I was all gung-ho about "making memories." Dumb. What it turned into was 30-40 minutes of mixing hot chocolate mix into a sippy cup ("No! Jack stir!"), explaining 17 times that we were all out of cool whip, adding sprinkles ("No! Jack pour sprinkles!"), spilled hot chocolate, and cleaning up the hot chocolate ("No! Jack wipe-wipe-wipe!"). It was exhausting, and every time someone said anything about going outside, I started hyperventilating -- did Jack hear that word? Was he going to demand (and then un-demand, and then re-demand, etc...) to go outside? Would it be any easier today than it had been for the past month? Spoiler alert, the answers are yes, yes, and no, respectively.

Now, I look back fondly at those snow days (which, living in New England, were really only a couple weeks ago). Much of that routine is still the same, although now that it's a balmy 40* out, there isn't quite the level of gear necessary. Lately, though, there has been the addition of a newly-postpartum momma and a newborn. For example, a couple weeks ago we decided to go for a family walk. We found Jack's monkey "backpack" (read: leash) and put on jackets, only to realize that the baby needed to eat (what can I say? cluster feeding is a bitch). 30 minutes later, we started the process all over, then tried to put the baby in the carrier. It's not really that hard, and she likes it, but it takes a few times to get used to putting it on and plopping her in, and then it takes her a few minutes of bouncing and shushing to calm her back down. Finally, we got outside. It was waaaay colder than I was dressed for. And, of course, being newly post-partum, it was an emotional crisis. We weren't even a block down the road when I asked K for the keys and walked back home. Of course, Jack was crying that I wasn't going to continue on the walk, and I was near-sobbing over ruining a family moment, and internally yelling at myself for not being able to cope with crap (which obviously made sense, since it had been a whole 12 days since pushing a human out of my body). Not gonna lie, that moment is still a little overwhelming to me.

Blog Posts: I started this blog when Jack was only a few months old. It would take me a whole hour to sit, write, proofread, and click "post." But, (as evident by the few posts from that time period) I was hard-pressed to find even that much down time. The thought of putting the baby down for a nap was traumatizing enough -- putting him down for my own selfish project seemed like an action worthy of a call to CPS. Then, I had a toddler. He napped (in his crib!) for a couple hours a day, but I used that time to do things like play games on my phone or mindlessly watch NCIS. When I did sit down to write, he would inevitably wake up and demand my full attention. It took me several sittings to write even one short post. Now: well, let's just say I wrote out a few notes in between feedings and filling sippy cups, and those notes have been sitting in my overpriced, under-utilized planner for about a week. Oh, and I'm also on my 3rd sitting.

Traveling: Jack was around 7 months old the first time I flew with him. And I was terrified. There were lists for each carry on. I bought "necessities" on Amazon and had them sent straight to each set of grandparents' houses. I assembled several "blowout kits," which consisted of wipes, a diaper, a clean sleeper for Jack, and a clean shirt for me -- all in a handy-dandy gallon Ziploc bag. (OK, not gonna lie - that trick was actually brilliant, even if slightly Doomsday-Prepper-ish) I spent hours worrying that he wouldn't sleep, or that people would be mean, or that I would forget how to collapse the stroller and be "that parent" who holds up the line at security for 14 minutes (which actually ended up happening). But, each successive time flying on my own with him, I've longed for those early flights, when he slept the whole way in my arms, didn't demand to share my $12 fruit and cheese plate, and was un-intimidating enough for strangers to offer to hold him while I peed. Now?? There's no way in hell I'll be flying with both kids by myself. In fact, we're planning on flying home within the next few months, and I've wondered if Ken would be willing to fly with the kids by himself and I'd go on a different flight. Ahhh.... that sounds dreamy.

Lastly, Date Night: Before we had kids, dates were kind of the norm. I mean, what do you call it when you can just leave and go out to dinner on a random Tuesday? Isn't that a date? Is it only a date if you go to a nice enough restaurant? Spend over a certain amount of money? Have to make a reservation? Still, we would plan "date nights," which were legitimate events for us. Sometimes, even those date nights required prep. "Ugh," I would think, "I only have an hour to shower, apply makeup, and blow dry my hair.... and what am I going to wear??" After kid number one, things got a little more complicated: I needed a few days' notice to book the sitter. I'd only have 35 minutes to get ready (hello, wet hair thrown into a ponytail!). I'd have to pull an easy meal out of the cupboard/fridge for the babysitter to make. There were details to take care of. Now, it's a whole other level of crazy, mostly because 1) baby girl cluster feeds in the evening, and turns out I'm the sucker that feeds her constantly (no pun intended); 2) I'm so exhausted that I can barely keep my eyes open for an episode of Castle at the end of the day; and 3) I'm not really ready to leave her with anyone yet. (Do candle-lit restaurants have room for a stroller in the dining room?? What about changing tables?? Are people going to judge me for throwing back gin & tonics while nursing the baby??)

So, maybe it's natural for life to just keep getting crazier and crazier, with or without kid(s). Maybe we just take on more stuff until we're overwhelmed with whatever our life looks like? (P.S., I didn't even touch housework, meals/eating, shopping, or just leaving the house.... 'cause baby girl needs to eat, and ain't nobody got time for that.)

But, whatever the "normal" reason for people's increasing chaos, here's ours:

Miss Clara Anne
(photo by Chelsea Ahl)
Also, I'm thinking I should start working from home, ASAP. That seems completely reasonable, right??

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Quest for Control

Maybe it's the pregnancy; maybe it's some sort of epiphany about what functional adults do; maybe it's the look that K gives me when he tells me he's out of black uniform socks, so could I please do a load of darks, and I say, "don't you wear tall boots?? Can't you just wear argyle ones? or ankle ones?" Whatever the reason, I've been on a kick recently to try to keep up with crap around here -- you know, stupid, normal things like cleaning the bathrooms before they look like our family is trapped in a game of Jumanji or occasionally being able to see the bottom of a laundry basket (this shouldn't be unreasonable -- we have approximately 7 of them). So, I made schedules: outlined routines that I should be able to accomplish each(ish) morning and evening, larger tasks to do during nap time, and -- gasp -- started meal planning.

In conjunction with this, I've also put J on more defined schedule. We also recently moved him into a big-boy bed. It's been, um, a process. He was doing fine for the first few nights, and then he started doing things like squeezing all the A&D out of a full tube and rubbing it into his sheets in the middle of the night. A few nights last week were especially bad. He went from sleeping 12-14 hours at night with a 2+ hour afternoon nap (please, other parents, don't hate me…) to only sleeping 5-6 hours at night, with a significant amount of those curled up with a blankie and pillow next to the door, and maybe 45 minutes of a nap. In fact, I came up with a couple new mantras. Wednesday's was, "he's not purposely conspiring to break my spirit." Thursday's was, "well… maybe he is." In my desperation for sleep, I thought back to all those times that I had judged parents whose kids don't sleep, and realized that 1) I was a jerk; and 2) if it's going to take him 2 hours to fall asleep, we're gonna start that process a lot earlier.

Armed with a newfound zealousness and a healthy dose of pregnancy hormones, I set out to control some shit. I bought an overpriced planner, complete with overpriced custom inserts from etsy (that are actually fantastic -- they're printed on 30# paper, and sometimes I find myself stroking them for comfort. I acknowledge that that's disturbing and something that normal adults don't do). I created a checklist for each day's routines and actually checked them off.  I started breaking my cardinal rule of "never wake a sleeping baby child," in favor of actually sleeping at night. And, surprise of all surprises, it actually started making a difference. There were a couple of days that I didn't do my daily load of laundry because (phone the press!) there wasn't enough of any pile for a full load. The bed has been made every morning (yes - the one that we sleep in every night). We weren't ordering pizza at the last minute because I forgot to get groceries/take chicken out of the freezer/cried every time I saw the pile of dishes in the kitchen.

Which leads me to last night. Night before last, it snowed several inches, which basically means that I don't leave the house barring a large fire or a craving for a peppermint mocha. Like my schedule said, I got up before J, unloaded the dishwasher, started some laundry, had breakfast, ordered groceries online (that my amazing husband volunteered to pick up on his way home), and made some phone calls. Then, I got J up, and we spent the morning playing on the floor (let's not talk about the time or 7 I got stuck and he had to help "puuuuuuuuuuuuuuuull" me up. Thanks, toddler.), snuggling on the couch watching Curious George, dropping golf balls in the demijohns, and watching the snow fall. Then, during his nap time, I prepped dinner, cleaned the bathroom, did some work on the computer, and checked off boxes in my planner. I was caught up. It was amazing.

Then, I got J up from his nap. Keep in mind -- up to this point, all of the boxes were checked. I was doing it. Accomplishing things. Regaining control. Being a functional adult. Hell, I'd even changed my son out of his footie pajamas. Things were happening around here.

Then a few things happened over the course of about 30 minutes: as I was pulling things out of the fridge to start dinner, I got a phone call from K saying that my perfectly timed dinner was going to have to be pushed back a few minutes; he was running late. I had J help me measure/pour the rice into the pot (since it'll just be a little mess, and it's good for him to help, right??), and we scooped a massive bloody stink bug out of the damn bag of rice, which proceeded to fly straight into the light fixture and make loud cracking noises every time that winged spawn of Satan (name that movie) smacked into one of the bulbs. I immediately picked up J, went into the next room, and called K on the verge of hysteria: "there was a bug, and you're gonna have to buy rice, and also do you think they sell flame throwers at the grocery store, because I will not be entering the kitchen until it is completely gutted and remodeled." While I was hyperventilating, J returned to the kitchen because he apparently wasn't finished helping. He grabbed the disease-riddled bag of rice and attempted to dump it into the pan, but ended up with 90% of it on the floor. I frantically hung up on K, whisked J away from rice that would most certainly give him Ebola, endured panicked toddler pleas of "moooooooo riiiice?!!" and started the roomba. Apparently, though, no matter how desperate the situation, roombas don't do well with mountains of rice. She mostly flung it across the kitchen, and kept escaping to the dining room despite being on spot clean mode ("Quit going in there!! I told you to stay by the table until it was clean, you overpriced piece of junk!!"). It was at this point that K walked in and I saw with fresh eyes the utter shit show that was our life: a toddler throwing a fit over not being able to push the roomba buttons, grains of rice blanketing the floor, a roomba freaking out about being stuck under the wine rack, a massive insect whacking repeatedly into light bulbs, and a frazzled wife muttering something about "but I checked all the boxes! with color-coded pens!"

Like a knight in shining armor, K immediately swooped in, put J in his room for a few minutes of quiet time, killed the bug, freed the roomba, gushed over how good pre-packaged ravioli sounded for dinner, told me how great the bathroom/straightened up bedroom looked, and poured me a half-glass of wine. He did all this while still wearing his boots, meaning he tracked water all over the house. It's fine, though, because my daily task for today is mopping.

Moral of the story: I've determined over the course of the last 17 hours that there's no such thing as getting a handle on life with kids. Have I mentioned we're having another one?? I might set up a paypal account for people to make donations to my therapy/house cleaner/nanny/pizza-ordering fund.

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering… J is back to his normal sleeping self, although we're sticking to the more regimented schedule. K noticed him pulling at his ear a couple days ago, so we've been giving him tylenol before bed and he's out within 15 minutes. Last night we didn't at first, and he didn't fall asleep until about 20 minutes after finally getting "meh-hinnnn" (medicine). Either he's got a lingering earache/infection that is causing no other symptoms or we're raising a kid to be dependent on artificially flavored red syrup. Which reminds me… I need to call his pediatrician and make an appointment, and then write it in color-coded ink in my fancy planner.