Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bitter Pills

We are all sleep deprived and grumpy at our house. Lucy is cutting in at least three molars. At the same time...

 For any of you who might not be parents yet, I warn you: this particular teething experience will be awful. For those of you who are or have been, I hope you will send good karma my way so that we can get through this.

It all started about a week ago. She started getting picky about her food. Then she stopped napping for more than a few minutes at a time. For the first time since she was a newborn she would wake up multiple times in a night crying and virtually inconsolable. Then she started getting a fever, which is always alarming in a small child, no matter how many doctors and nurses confirm that it's a completely normal part of the process: something to be monitored rather than panicked over. But all that very sensible advice feels less than worthless after being woken for fourth time in two hours by the screaming human furnace in the next room...

I feel extra grateful for the brave individuals who've watched her while Patrick and I were at work this week. I barely have the patience to cope with the ornery gremlin that has possessed my sweet girl, so I have nothing but admiration for those who have willing stepped in to help.

Apart from the general decrease in our mental capacity at the moment, Patrick and I experiencing some life lessons in disappointment.

He won a multipass to the upcoming Salt Lake Comic Con several months ago and has been so excited to go! Every night we'd look on Facebook and check out all the fun exhibits and celebrity guests he'd get to see. He even grew out his goatee for the last month just so he could dress up like one of his favorite characters. But due to some unfortunate timing of bills and paychecks (and a pair of broken eyeglasses courtesy of Lucy), it doesn't look like we'll be able to make this happen after all. And, if I'm honest, it breaks my heart. We've been working so hard to cut back on our expenses and stay within a tight budget--and most of the sacrifices affect him more than Lucy or I--I just wanted so much for him to have something to be excited about after long days of work and school, and restless nights at home. So after saving all we could manage, to find out we're too poor to even take advantage of a FREE's been disheartening for both of us.

Add on top of that the fact that we're stressed and scrambling to try to even make one of our regular payments this check due to the unplanned repair bill for my glasses and...I just don't know.

I've always felt very strongly opposed to posting negative happenings/emotions like this on the Internet. But as I sit here typing (all the while debating whether or not to just delete the whole whiny post) I can't help but feel a deep catharsis settle over me. Maybe I'm just in a place where I can't see the forest for the trees. Maybe we really are financially cursed. Maybe we're about to turn the proverbial corner and find something better. Maybe not. Maybe, maybe, maybe....

This whole experience makes me think of the poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox called "Solitude."

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
    Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
    But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
    Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
    But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
    Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
    But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
    Be sad, and you lose them all,—
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
    But alone you must drink life’s gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
    Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
    But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
    For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
    Through the narrow aisles of pain.

I suppose I'm always afraid to lay out my trouble because in the back of my mind I know that I'm not alone in my suffering. Lots of people struggle with money, with difficult parenting moments, and countless other daily inconveniences and trials...I'm not unique in that respect...and it often feels as though there is nothing to be gained by sharing such feelings. They will either be met with indifference (Yeah, yeah...take a number.) or with rejection. (You think you've got troubles, lady? Well let me tell you...)

Though, in the end, I'm choosing to risk it anyway for the chance that someone out there will be able to offer some consolation or reassurance. Because after a week like this I want to believe that there is something better ahead.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bon Anniversaire, Maman

I'm sorry to admit it's been a long time since I have consciously remembered my mother. In part because I feel the loss of her more during those times, and none of us like to dwell on our losses...but partly because life carries on. There's always work to be done, children to be fed, laundry to be folded, and somehow memories get lost or fade in the shuffle of daily living...I'm sometimes afraid that I've forgotten more of her than I remember...but then I will find a picture or some other token and it all comes rushing back in a wonderful, comforting wave.

I was thinking about her last night. Today would have been her 56th birthday, aka "the high holy holiday!" In the past, the day would have been spent playing hooky from work and filled with a leisurely afternoon of lunch (or high tea) and wandering through shops and gardens before gathering for a family dinner. It was saddening to realize that it wasn't going to work out that way when I woke in the morning...

Feeling listless, I picked up one from a stack of her gardening books on my nightstand that I've been leafing through to gather ideas for our yard. I was thumbing idly through the pages, not really paying attention to what I was doing and I glanced over at picture of her on her last birthday. She is standing surrounded by a spray of pink roses wearing a red hat in honor of making it to 50 years. I've glanced at this picture many times in the six years since she passed, but for some reason I really stopped to just look at her for a while and soak in the details I've often passed over.

She had high, fine cheekbones and deep crinkles around her eyes from laughter and years of squinting in the sunshine while working on her garden. Her short dark brown hair was baby soft and still stick straight, despite her hopes that it would turn curly after multiple rounds of chemotherapy. Her hands aren't visible, but I remember the callused palms she kept soft and supple with generous amounts lavender-scented lotion. I remember the creases near the base of her neck that used to collect lines of dust from hours spent turning over the compost pile. And I remember the look in her eyes when she would listen to me talk about all the inane angst of my teenage years. They were open, clear, and without judgement--silently encouraging me to work through whatever the challenge was without fear of the outcome.

As I sat and mentally listed each precious detail, I realized what I was missing most at the moment was that silent encouragement I felt in her presence. Somehow in the past few years, I have become less optimistic about the future. It seems to be a place that breeds endless hardship and work more than possibilities and exciting opportunities...but I suddenly recalled looking into my mother's eyes...and I remembered that's not true at all. It wasn't the future that was bleak, it was me. When did I start fearing the outcome of the future enough to let it stop me from enjoying the present? Truthfully, I don't know.

I took one more long look, drinking in the background of the picture: the roses. Pink climbing roses. Vicious things with whip-like tendrils and masses of thorns that had inflicted more than their fair share of cuts and bruises when it was time to prune and train them up the latticework...but beautiful. With glorious sprays of fragrant blooms and glossy foliage. I think she would tell you they were worth the trouble. And if the roses weren't any less beautiful for the thorns; why should I feel my life was any less wonderful for the challenges in it?

My mom started giving me the same piece of advice over and over again in her last years, I didn't understand it then--and I certainly didn't appreciate it for what it was--but I hope I'm closer to understanding now. She would say "Be grateful for the hard times. That's how you know you're alive." It strikes me as very similar to a quote from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: "Everything will be alright in the end. So if it is not yet alright, then it is not yet the end."

Thank you for the reminder, mom. Happy Birthday.

P.S. I found the courage to go back and read some of her blog today at work. (Perhaps not the wisest decision as I teared up and everyone keeps asking me if I'm okay--which anyone in my family can tell you will only makes us cry more--but I still don't regret doing it.) I found this entry written seven years ago today. I thought it was nice to "hear" her voice once more on her birthday.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Conundrum

Good morning. If you've read my last post, you'll remember that I am in the middle of an epic "Organize My Life" project. I'm happy to report that I have now reclaimed a second room from the chaos in my home: the bathroom! (My "daily use" bases are almost covered. :-D If I can get the kitchen under control soon I'll be on the downhill slope!) I'm even more pleased to confide that since I last wrote, my bedroom floor is still clear, the nightstands are uncluttered and the bed gets made every day. (For those unfamiliar with me, that is quite the streak of continuous tidiness. Kudos to Patrick for helping me keep it that way.)

While I continue to make slow, steady progress in sprucing up my home. I have reached a bit of a standstill with the yard. You see, I have a bit of a chicken or the egg style problem: there are so many things that need to be accomplished that I have no idea where to start. Once I'm done clearing out the debris and weeds, one of four things need to happen: Building a shed, putting in a fence, getting some kind of watering system (I'd love sprinklers but I can't afford to install them so I'm trying to figure out what else I can do with my one hose attachment), and creating a 'lasagna' style compost weed barrier (over pretty much the whole yard) to rehabilitate the soil. I have most of the stuff for the compost, but everything I've researched indicates that that should be one of the last steps of this whole process--that I ought to do any and all hardscaping first. But I really don't have the resources to do that right what do I do?

Do any of you have experience with landscaping on a tight budget? Should I go ahead and just do what I can when I can--even though I might have to rip it back out later when I finally am able to put some other things in? Or should I postpone and save money to try to do it in the "proper order?" (This probably really isn't as a big of a deal as I'm making it, but I just feel stuck. I'm also mentally cursing myself for watching all those renovation shows where huge crews swoop in and totally fix up a space in two days...I feel like they ought to teach us how to do things in bits rather than all at once for a true DIY experience.)

Right now most of my yard stuff is strewn about the front porch--which is hazardous (and ugly)--or collecting cobwebs in the basement--which is a giant pain when I have to keep hauling them back outside and up and down stairs. (We tried once just leaving some of it in the back yard and my bike ended up getting stolen.) I would REALLY like to get all the outdoor stuff out of there so I can actually use my basement for storing things like baby clothes, crafting stuff, extra food, holiday decorations, etc. But I can't because I have nowhere to put things where they won't get stolen, so my house keeps getting more cluttered as we try to find places to put things! It's a vicious cycle...

I feel like a Dr. Seuss character: "She puzzled and puzzled, till her puzzler was sore..."

If any of you have advice, I'd be happy to hear it!

Friday, August 1, 2014

One day at a time...

I recently came across a quote that I really like and wanted to apply to my life. (I apologize in advance: I can't remember who or where it's from, but you can visit our ol' pal Google if you're just burning to find out.)

"It's only possible to live happily ever after one day at a time."

I feel like I've been putting a lot of things on my "to do" list lately beyond the usual daily stuff, and stressing about my self-imposed deadlines. I really want to deep clean my house, fix the travesty that is my yard weed patch, make more time for learning-focused play with Lucy, and so on, and so forth... you get the idea.

Anyhow, I came across the above quote during some down time at work about a week ago or so, and I decided to scale back my ambitions to one day at a time. I have to say, I feel so much better. I may not be making the leaps and bounds of progress I originally envisioned (do any of us, ever?), but I am progressing more than I thought I'd be able to at this pace.

The house is not spotless. But I went to work in my bedroom: purging junk, rearranging furniture, cleaning the way my mom used to make us do before the annual Christmas party (aka: white glove test clean); and now I have a haven of peace in the midst of the swirling vortex of chaos. I can retreat when it gets to be too much, and I am able to recharge enough to attempt to tame the madness once again.

My yard is not a place you'd want to spend time in. But thanks to the generous spirit of one of my coworkers, it's graduated from "condemned" to "shambles." After graciously listening to me complain about "the badlands" (as I've taken to referring to the backyard), she didn't say, "Oh, that's too bad. I'm sure that's frustrating! Good luck!" as I expected her to. She said, "I've got a shovel and a truck. Want some help?" I was actually stunned speechless--and further amazed when she came by the next day to get started! Her can-do attitude totally motivated me; and with her help we were able to rip out an overgrown flower weed bed and take down an inconvenient tree in the space of two hours. (That's more progress that I've made on my own in almost two years!)

My daughter has not blossomed into a child prodigy under my careful tutelage. But she is happy, healthy, well-fed and cared for. I may not have a lot of extra time to spend just reading or going on nature walks with her, but I'm trying to make more space for her in my own daily routine. Rather than just popping her in her bouncer in front of the TV for an hour or so while I quickly clean/fix dinner, I've been trying to let her get involved with what I'm doing, instead of just shutting her out. She likes to hand me clothing one piece at a time when I fold laundry. She'll happily sit on the floor and chew on her tooth brush when I tidy the bathroom. And we've had a modicum of success with moving her high chair into the kitchen and giving her a snack, or some wooden spoons to play with while I cook and do the dishes. (She'd still rather investigate the glassware cabinet most of the time...but the days it works I feel like the greatest mom ever, reigning over a scene of domestic bliss!) Sure, everything takes me about four times longer than it should...and lots of times I end up having to redo tasks once she's napping...but all in all, I feel like a better parent after readjusting my attitude to work with her rather than around  her. And, as I mentioned before, some days I do better than others...but if I'm not patient enough one day, I can try again the next.

At any rate, this has been the stuff of my life since my last post. (With one gloriously decadent exception on Patrick's birthday, when we got a sitter and ran away to do all grown-up things for the day: like golf and eat sushi!) It's not very glamorous or unique, but it is my version of "happily ever after." One day at a time. :-)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

It's Too Darn Hot!

First of all, I hope everyone had a very happy Independence Day!

Even though Patrick had to work part of the day, we got to enjoy playing games with family and going to watch the fireworks display. (Thanks again to Laura for the photos! Remembering a camera is obviously not one of my strong suits, but it's a skill I hope to develop. That way we might have documentation of at least half of our memorable moments...)
Lucy looking patriotic 

Playing patty cake while waiting for the fireworks to start

Patrick pulling yet another silly face in what is supposed to be the "normal" family picture...
(Although if I'm being honest this is probably much closer to reality.)
As far as the rest of our weekend goes: I feel like the title is fairly self explanatory.

We live in an adorable little bungalow-style starter home that was built in the 1920s. It has plenty of personality and charm, but very little in the way of air conditioning (or storage space--but that's for another post). Add to all this the fact that it sits on a hill facing west, and you've got a perfect recipe for a human-sized Easy Bake Oven. 

After two years in our home, we've developed a pretty good formula for keeping the temperature at tolerable levels during the summer months. (Please note: I say "tolerable" because from mid-June to late-September there's no such thing as "cool" in our house.) Using an elaborate time table for opening/closing windows and moving portable fans, we can usually manage to maintain the temperature in the mid 70s. But then there are the other days.

These are the days that I truly dread, and unfortunately, this Sunday fell squarely in that category. When we got home from church it was a daunting 83 degrees. Two hours later, when then sun hit the west facing picture window in the front room, it skyrocketed up to 89. It's just now come back down to 83 at nearly 10 o'clock at night...oy vey. On this kind of day I worry that my family will suffer from malnourishment. Pretty much the only things we ate were Jell-O and Popsicles. It's the kind of day that sucks the energy from my body and turns me into a zombie. It feels like all I do is shamble from room to room, stop randomly and stare for a minute, then turn and retrace my steps while trying to remember what the heck I was hoping to accomplish by moving. 

This is also the kind of day when the dress code at my house becomes seriously "casual". Lucy wanders around in just a diaper. As for Patrick and I, we do stay clothed, but in as few layers as possible. (FYI: should you ever feel like visiting us on one of these kind of days--though I can't imagine why anyone would want to--we'd appreciate a head's up. And so would you.) If the temperature doesn't come back down to the tolerable range by morning, we may invite ourselves over to someone else's house where we can wear normal clothes without feeling like we're suffocating. 

Right now, I'm just thanking my lucky stars that it's not hot and humid...I visited the South once, and it confirmed my doubts that I could survive that kind of environment. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Where Did That Year Go?

I recently was chatting with a friend of mine and she mentioned casually how she missed reading my blog posts. I've felt so busy lately that it took me a moment to realize it has been nearly a YEAR since I last made an entry...

Holy. Cow. Where did all that time go?

SO much has happened in the last year that often I just felt like I was swept along for the ride--hanging on for dear life at times--and I didn't even notice the moments going by. After the usual onset of guilt that accompanies these kind of moments for me, I decided to shrug it off and take an "it wasn't meant to be" kind of attitude toward blogging. But I couldn't. I kept coming back to the thought that it would be important later on that I leave behind some kind of record of me and my family's daily life.

So, here we are again. Let's see if I can manage to get back in the saddle after being out for so long. As I stated before: a lot has happened in the last year. So I'm going to try to condense as much of it as I can.

Lucy's First Year Milestones!
1 1/2 months--started sleeping through the night. Score! (I am sure she got her ability to sleep for long periods of time from her father. An aptitude that I still don't always appreciate in him, but I absolutely love in her.)
5 months--started rolling over, and sitting (the latter with some assistance)
6 months--started eating solids, got her first two bottom teeth!
7 months--started crawling (For real this time. She'd been trying to crawl as soon as she learned to roll onto her tummy but she finally worked it out by Christmastime!)
8 months--started cruising around the furniture, got her two top canine teeth (With her pale complexion and her pointy teeth we promptly started calling her "vampire baby")
9 months--she grew enough hair that I could start putting it pigtails! (Yes, they totally looked like a bug's antennae for the first little while...)
10 months--started walking (Aaah! Slow down! I was not prepared to baby proof above table tops yet, but she had a longer reach that I imagined possible.)
10 1/2 months--first word: Mama (Yes! I won! However, she only says it when she's super tired or upset...I'm still waiting for an excited tone rather than accusatory.)
11 months--started getting her first top middle tooth in (We swapped calling her "vampire" for "hillbilly")
12 months--started weaning, became a confirmed chocoholic/sweet tooth, and started to develop a mischievous streak that promises to add some gray hairs to her parents' heads.

Other big moments for us have included Patrick going back to school to get his Bachelors degree. (Go, Patch! I'm so proud of you!) Me going back to work full time while juggling mom/wife stuff. The States Family Baby Boom -- it started with Lucy and in the nine months that followed after her birth we welcomed three new boy cousins!--I'm predicting it will be a grand adventure for her, having so many cousins so close in age. A bit of a financial roller coaster ride (which could be said for many of us, I'm sure) that seems to have reached a good kind of plateau. (Fingers crossed!) And, last but not least: getting a wonderful new step-mom and lots of fun new siblings and cousins when my dad married Carol Thomas a few weeks ago! It's a little strange to have your family expand so drastically so quickly, but we've always been of "the more the merrier" frame of mind, and I look forward to getting to know everyone better and building new relationships.

Cheers to another year of new adventures!

(P.S. I feel like it's a good omen that I start blogging again on the 4th of July weekend. The fireworks, the fun of it all...It feels like I'm starting off with a bang. I like it!)

Friday, July 26, 2013


Today was not my favorite.

We got some disheartening news this morning and my mood never quite bounced back. I felt drained before the day really even started. I chose to sleep for most of the day with the baby instead of getting stuff done like I had planned.

To be honest, I'm surprised I was even able to summon the energy to write as much as I have...but now I hear the baby screaming and it's time to muster up the reserves of energy to go be a parent...

I hope tomorrow will be better and that I'll be able to shake off this funk.