Thursday, December 27, 2007

Naked Barbies and Other Things

After a long holiday hiatus, I return to ask the question, “Why must Barbie always be naked?” I couldn’t be less of a Barbie mom, but I have the two most Barbie-loving kids on the planet. They can’t get enough and play with them constantly. I’m embarrassed to say we probably have twenty (most of them naked Barbie herself) all over the house. Well, I think the insanity of too many gifts again this year has finally pushed me over the edge; we need to sort, store, donate and throw away around here! My big plan began yesterday when I retrieved one of those big plastic bins from our basement and filled it with the new Barbie stuff and any other stray parts I saw. Yes, it will likely be full of Barbie stuff – I am hoping it will close.

Because of the multiple Christmas bags full of goodies and the unending amount of boxes requiring my attention to open, that’s as far as I got. I went from this pile to that one, trying to sort recycling from trash, to not lose pieces in the process and slowly, to get things put away. As the day trudged on, I became more frustrated even with Santa’s gifts and wondered about the significance of it all. I mean, my kids did a great job of feeling and expressing thanks for everything they received, especially Logan, she’s the perfect age and personality for it all this year. A little shy, a little greedy, super thankful, very excited and most of all, she's a true believer in the magic of it all. Every time she opened a gift and thanked the gift-giver I felt extremely proud of her. Riley kept up with the “thank you’s” as well, but they were, more... well, four year old “thank you’s”; obligations not-so-filled with heartfelt gratitude. Finn is not even worth mentioning and rightly so, at 19 months, he can’t even begin to grasp much more than the word he’s so fond of: MORE!

It all just made me wonder about what kind of job I am doing to make sure that they experience and feel gratitude for all the things they have. We are not rich, not quite comfortable, but they have so much in so many ways. I try everyday to experience gratitude for the small and big things in my life, but it is easy to get sidetracked, especially in the midst of the holiday craziness. I am also a terrible liar, totally unable to fake that I like a gift no matter how hard I try. I am so glad that focusing on gratitude, not on the gift, is working for me. I am thrilled at the thought behind it all; instead of wishing for something more thoughtful, or more “right” (these feelings are usually reserved for husband gifts unfortunately), I’m just plain grateful. (Hey, I’m just being honest – we’ve all felt that stuff, right?) I’m no where near perfect, but still a forward moving work in progress. I hope that it is rubbing off where it counts most, on the three little people who could avoid ever feeling that gift-involved frustration. Based on how Logan did, I’d say she’s got it, her daddy always has and I bet she gets it from him. As for the other two, I think they’ll get it too.

So they received far more than they needed this year, like lots of kids. It’s okay, it’s Christmas. So many of those gifts came from those seeking out the joy of giving, and they got that joy, so I need not feel guilty. And we’ll continue to give back in little ways whenever we can. We’ll focus on the feelings and not on the things. And, as we embark into 2008, we’ll try to remain filled with gratitude to the bone for all that we have been blessed with.

Monday, December 17, 2007

HO HO HO (or is it HA HA HA?)

It was supposed to be a perfect weekend of holiday bliss, kicked off with a trek to the tree farm to cut down our tree and ending with us all basking in the glory of its perfect beauty after our annual trip to Santa’s house. Of course, life got in the way and actually made for a very typical weekend of a house full of young kids, sugared up and anxiously anticipating the arrival of the big man himself. To top it off, our yearly onslaught of houseguests begins on Tuesday and ends January 4th, only to be followed by what seems to be a month long celebration of three out of our five birthdays that same month. Yes, it couldn’t be a busier time of year, but that’s just the way it is and we love it!

Mike and I actually got out on Friday night to celebrate a wonderful friend’s reception of his Master’s degree – Michael Strode, we’re so proud of you! It was great and a nice departure from our regular Friday night. On Saturday, we were up early and out the door (in a hurried rush even though I woke with plenty of time) and slightly late to the tree lot. The girls were fired up and bickering within minutes and I was frustrated by the fifteen extra trips I had to make into the house for forgotten items. Mike joked, “Ah yes, the holidays, what could be better?” He was right. We all lightened up and turned up the carols.

We wandered for too long in the frigid temps, but ended up with a monster of a tree and a little boy who was shocked that we had kept him and his tiny appendages freezing for so long. Finn cried the whole way back to the car as I yelled, “Just take that one!” and then told the girls to “Go watch daddy cut the tree down.” It was a far cry from my imagination of the event; all of us standing in a cheerful circle around daddy and the tree and merrily yelling “Timber!” We barely squeaked out a family picture before the tree guys shook and bailed it and we were off.

It snowed, or iced, the whole way home and the tree was covered. We enjoyed a fun lunch with good friends and after hours of waiting for our tree to thaw we started to decorate just in time for Finn to wake up. This was a challenge, but made easier by the fact that he just loved it even though his curious fingers could not stay away. The girls did an amazing job decorating this year; I think I only rearranged one ornament to save a weak branch. It’s a gorgeous tree; a little top heavy with ornaments to keep the toddler away, but gorgeous just the same.

Sunday started great for me with a breakfast out with friends. I met Mike and the kids at Santa’s house and the wait wasn’t too long. As we waited at the door, next to go in, Finn poked his finger in my already assaulted camera and damaged it beyond repair. Nothing like adding that expense this week – but I certainly don’t see anyway around it! Logan and Riley decided at the last minute to ask for American Girl dolls – of course Santa completed shopping at least a month ago, so some last minute purchases were made after arriving home. To boot, Logan asked Santa for one of his reindeer’s bells and he said “No”, can you believe it? He told her that he was asked so often for bells that the presents weren’t getting built and that he just couldn’t do it and did she understand. We felt terrible for her, but I actually think she did understand. I can assure you that Santa has in his possession one last bell to leave for Logan.

To my relief, I managed to sneak away in the afternoon to grocery shop alone, what could be better? Well, five minutes into the store, the fire alarm went off and continued to blare at unimaginable and inhumane levels my entire trip. It was so loud it actually made you nauseous and there were screaming, scared kids everywhere. They announced that there was a short in the system and to keep shopping. Ah, to shop alone…..

All in all, it was really a great weekend. We did all that important stuff and were lucky enough to even have our moms join us for the Santa visit. We got some alone time, some one-on-one time, we love our tree and our kids are happy. All this other stuff is, well…. funny! We ended our day picking up Grammy and GiGi and taking them to see the most amazing house with Christmas lights set to music. It was the perfect Christmas weekend.

Now I’m off to buy a camera….

Friday, December 14, 2007

Little Artists

For someone who loves to paint, I hate to let my kids do it. This is crazy, I know, but it’s just such a mess and I can’t handle it. The thought of pastel colors all over my floors and little finger prints on tables, walls and countertops, makes me cringe. Sadly, I think I only pull out the water colors a few times a year and maybe the real stuff only once. Could I be more of a scrooge? Yesterday was the day that I decided to soften and really pulled out the stops. I grabbed my huge container of like, one hundred different acrylic paints and all the supplies and gave Logan and Riley each their own canvas. Although I had a few momentary breakdowns as paint slid between the floorboards, we all survived, the girls had a great time and we have some killer artwork to boot!

The whole time we painted, Logan repeated, “I just want to know why we have not done this before!” Riley was in her own world of free style painting, creating a very cool, autumnal-colored abstract that I would love to hang up in the house. Logan meticulously painted a beautiful summer scene, so grown up and reminiscent of something that I would have done at her age. I love it and want it, but she plans to give it away.

It was a great afternoon and although it was a lot of running around, catching drips, wiping hands and brush washing, it was totally worth it. (Maybe next time I won’t make a batch of Christmas cookies and begin my own painting for a friend’s new baby girl at the same time!) The best part is that the girls got the chance to have fun creating something totally unique that they are insanely proud of – they were bursting at the seams to show daddy after work. At this moment, I vow to loosen up and let their creative juices flow more often!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Can I get a side of ranch?

I guess that we’re a ranch family. What I mean is we like it on our salads, our nuggets, our fries and thanks to an old friend from Tampa, even our pizza. Finn recently discovered the stuff and likes to dip anything in it and suck the ranch off. He really has no interest in any food other than “noo noo’s” a.k.a. noodles, so the “dipper” doesn’t matter. I’ve often thought that he would just prefer a bowl of ranch with a spoon in lieu of the healthy choices I offer him daily. I’m pretty sure that I’m right.

I was in the laundry room for two minutes, trying to change a load while listening to Logan try to pair down her birthday party list in order to have it at Libby Lu (this will inevitably end up in its own post as I am not sure what the ethics are for birthday party invites – all I know is that a Libby Lu party for 12 is out of the question right now!) Anyway, all of a sudden Logan says, “Finn!” And then “Oh no! Mom, I don’t even want to tell you what he did!” I don’t know what I really thought as I poked my head around the corner; it just wasn’t what I saw.

During my few minutes with the laundry, Finn had managed to climb into the garbage can and retrieve one of the girl’s chicken nugget boxes which had one whole side filled with ranch. I have no idea how he did it, but he must have been spinning around because not only did he get it all over himself, but all over a good 6 square foot section of the kitchen floor. After that, he apparently thought it best to pop the open box on his face, where it still was, ranch dripping out from under it.

My first instinct was, well, not the appropriate one. On second thought, I grabbed my camera and captured a few shots. He was totally crying since I’m sure it didn’t feel good in his eyes. I wiped him clean and started in on the floor. Let me just say that I cleaned this same floor on my hands and knees only two hours earlier, using the very last of my ridiculously expensive, but totally worth it, hardwood floor cleaner. The ranch left a lovely and stinky white film on my recently, and momentarily spotless floor.

Sometimes you just want to scream.

Thank God it was naptime and I scooped Finn up, changed his ultra-smelly clothes and gave his face and hands a really good wash. The kicker is he apparently has some kind of skin allergy to ranch dressing. Everywhere it touched his skin, there was a raised pink welt. I quickly grabbed my camera to capture this as well, but realized that during the time I cleaned the floor, Finn had broken the lens on my camera rendering it useless. (Temporarily, I hope.)

What can I do? How can I even be angry? I am fighting a losing battle day-by-day, but hopefully winning in the long term. Anyway, I think I am cured of my own ranch addiction.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mad Mom

I’m ticked. I will be spending my afternoon (and probably at least one more) correcting a situation that never needed to happen. Not to mention, this situation directly affects one of my kids, so I am fuming about it!

A couple of months ago, Logan had a dentist appointment and I’m sorry to say, after her first set of x-rays, they found FOUR cavities. (UGH.) In the midst of my debilitating guilt, I managed to make the call to our new dentist to schedule her appointments. The place was impressive; totally state-of-the-art and they seemed great, planning on doing it over two appointments so that the experience was a good as it could be for her. We went for appointment number one and, after a mix up on the paperwork about which teeth should be filled was corrected (because I noticed the price they were charging me was not what they had quoted me on the phone) she did great. Afterward, the dentist came out and said he ran short on time and only got one filling done (thankfully without Novocain) and four sealants. She’d need to return in a few weeks to get three more fillings. It would take an hour.

So, three weeks later, we trekked back to the dentist on a crisp Saturday morning. Logan, a total trooper about the whole thing, said she was nervous, but went willingly. They got her right in and much to my surprise, the dentist came out twenty minutes later and announced she had to have Novocain this time, but she was all done. I said, “So you did all three then?” He said, “No, she only had one.” I reminded him of our discussion weeks prior and he said he needed to check the chart. As I listened, he and his assistant counted six cavities while looking at the x-rays.

I was becoming more and more agitated by the second and in lieu of causing a scene, I quickly developed my red blotchy read-me-like-a-book rash on my neck and face. I was trying to be cool and not scare Logan, but I needed an explanation. After several other clarifications and confirmations, the dentist now declared that Logan had five cavities and one that he would watch. I was exhausted from the back and forth of it all, and since she was numb, I allowed them to fill two others that were in the same area. They said they needed twenty minutes and after another hour they brought her out. I was furious. All said and done she was in the chair for an hour and forty minutes at five years old. She was beat.

Of course they apologized about the SCHEDULING CONFLICT and nothing else. They almost didn’t let me leave without scheduling her next fillings. I have no idea how many cavities she had or has had filled and I feel totally taken advantage of. When I picked up her records to go for a second opinion from our former far away dentist, they not only gave me a hard time and tried to make me pay $25, but they handed me a print out that they use that clearly states how much benefit she has remaining for the year. I can’t help but fear that the office used that information when determining how many fillings she needed. I hope that she did not receive any that weren’t necessary!

And thanks to all their mix ups, intentional or not, I will spend the day waking up my baby from his nap to drag all three kids an hour away to sit quietly (yeah right) in our old dentist’s office. Worse, my poor five year old will have to spend more time in the chair. I am a totally unsatisfied customer and will never set foot in Wheatland Dental, state-of-the-art or not, ever again.

UPDATE: We did see our old dentist who unfortunately let us know that she only really needed one filling in his opinion. He said that the four she did receive were on baby teeth, thankfully. And in no uncertain terms he let us know that we should not go back. UGH!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Puffy Coats

Man do I love the first real snowfall of the season. We were all so excited to see the white stuff coming down on Tuesday night; the girls because they knew they’d get to wear those new snow boots and play in it and Mike and I because we were experiencing our first winter wonderland in our new home. Seeing those giant blowing flakes against that wide clear night sky was pretty cool. I love the way the snow lines the trees leaving them all glistening in the moonlight. It was pretty much beautiful.

The next morning, we bundled up especially well for the two minute ride to school. With Logan in her leopard accessories, Riley in her hot pink boots with flashing lights and both of them in their “puffy coats”, we set out. I can’t tell you how much I love those puffy coats! I see them both standing in line as I wait to pick them up from school each day in those coats. All toasty and warm with their hats and scarves peeking from beneath their hoods, their mittens a bit too big and hanging off their little hands. They both have these rosy red cheeks and bright blue excited eyes, making the package of their cuteness complete. It brings a fast true smile to my face every single day.

I guess I like them so much because, when wrapped up in those ridiculous get ups, my kids are just little kids; it’s undeniable. They can’t do the latest “shake-your-booty” move or talk about Hannah Montana or the fact that I won’t buy them Bratz dolls. They aren’t annoyed with each other or fighting, picking up Finn or trying to be older than they are. They just are these tiny little people, all bundled up, so stuffed into their puffy coats and waiting for their mommy. I love looking at and enjoying them from afar and relishing the last few moments of watching them before our afternoon craziness begins. Yes, I love those coats and the kids inside.

I have a puffy coat. Although it keeps me incredibly warm, it fails to bring me the same joy – I mostly just wonder how much like a giant marshmallow I actually look. Guess I opt for functionality over fashion most days!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Joy of a Boy

Let me start by saying that we were not the couple that got pregnant a third time only with hopes to have a boy. We didn’t care at all. As Finn’s due date drew close, I just knew I’d be a mom of three girls. When he arrived with all his little male parts, I was pretty much shocked but instantly knew he was meant to be a part of my life. I love that I have been given the blessing of raising both a boy and girls, but can honestly say that I would have considered it a blessing however it panned out. So, I have a boy….

There are numerous things that Finn does that the girls would have never even thought to do. He runs straight away from me whenever we are in public, he eats everything in sight (see October’s “Gotta Light?”), he climbs to unimaginable heights and he continually destroys anything in his reach on purpose, and then laughs. He is an enigma to me, that’s for sure. His latest trick has left me the most perplexed…. Constantly screaming the word “OWWWW!” whenever I touch him. (When he doesn’t want me to.) This is fine at home as I’m sure you can imagine, but in public, well…. I’m sure you can imagine.

Yes, that’s me with my child in the grocery store. You hear the “Owww!” and wonder, “Is that his mommy? What’s she doing to him?” You even go in for a closer peek and give me a pitied look when you realize he’s the one in control of the situation. I feel terrible for him and for how I appear, but I trudge on through and keep doing whatever I’m doing; wiping his messy face or hands, taking away a choking hazard, moving him from an unsafe location or carrying him across the parking lot. All the while, the “Owww’s” follow us wherever we go! On top of all his other illustrious acts, this fully exhausts me by the end of my day and I can’t wait for bedtime. And then, as soon as he’s down, I miss him.

Because you see, Finn has some very endearing qualities as well. He is more attached to me than I ever could’ve imagined and even cries when I go to the bathroom. He loves to be held and when I hold him he plays with my hair and whispers “Mommy” over and over. He is so cuddly and will actually sit in my lap and watch at least part of a movie which is pretty impressive at 18 months. He goes to bed like a champ, happily trotting up the stairs, picking a book and saying “Nigh, nigh.” He has the deepest blue eyes you’ve ever seen and I’ll cry the day those white curls turn dark. He is so in love with his teddy bears that when a dear friend brought over her 18 month old daughter, he held all three of his favorites in a death grip for hours until she left. He does a head bob when he dances, loves to spin and get dizzy. And when you drive him around to see Christmas lights, he screams “WOW!” over and over. It’s adorable.

So Finn is new territory for me and a learning experience every single day. Even with all his boy craziness, his sweetness outweighs his “Ow’s” by far. I guess they’re the price I pay for the cuddles and the hair playing. Someday soon, he’ll grow up and things will change. I’ll miss it all as we move onto to new things. So for now, say “ow” Finn, say “ow.”