Days of Plenty

Lately my children have been on sweetness overdrive. Seriously, the stuff that comes out of their mouths the last few weeks make me stop in my tracks, get all doe-eyed, and let out an audible “Oohhh!”  Here are a few examples:

-While reading a comic book, David asked me what lovesick means. I explained that sometimes when you love someone your stomach gets fluttery and your heart races and it makes you feel sick in a good way. His reply, “like how I feel about Sydney at her birthday party.” Awww….

-A few nights later, David tells me, “Mom, I’m lovesick for you.” Double Awww…

-I go to the Y to workout and leave Ben at the daycare for about an hour. When I came to pick him up yesterday, the girl a the counter was holding him. When he saw me, he got a huge smile, clapped his hands and yelled, “Mommy’s here!” I don’t know if anyone has ever been more happy to see me than my kids are, even if I have only been gone from the room long enough to go pee.

-A recent conversation between David and Ben:

David: Hi Ben, did you have a good sleep, sweet pea?

Ben: Yes!

David: Can I snuggle with you?

Ben: Yes!

David (crawling under the covers): See outside? It’s foggy today.

Ben: It’s foggy!

David (kissing Ben on the forehead): I love you.

Ben: I love you too!

-Ben’s favorite game right now is when I pretend to be a shark and he’s a fish. I do the Jaws theme (na-na, na-na, na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, NA-Na-NA!) and then eat him up. My kid is pretty rad.

-David calls me sweetie, honey, and “my best mom” on a daily basis. Must remember this in the future when those names will be replaced with annoying, nag, and “pain in my ass.”

Life is about the tiny moments of joy that too often pass by unrecognized. I wanted to save these, write them down, give them a place of permanence for a time when I need to be reminded that everything is amazing. Because everything is.

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The Presence Project: Breaking the iPhone Addiction

They say the first step down the road to recovery is admittance you have a problem so here it goes: My name is Jamie, and I am an iPhone addict. My phone has become an ever-present part of who I am. It goes in the car with me, to the bathroom, and sits next to my pillow while I sleep. If, on the very rare occasion, I forget my phone, it is as if an essential part of me has been left behind. Like my right arm. When Ben wakes me in the middle of the night to get him a bottle, I use that as an opportunity to check up on all the Facebook statuses I missed while I was sleeping. I have my earbuds in so often that my husband has given up trying to have a verbal conversation with me and instead communicates vital information through pantomime. I check my email constantly even though the most pertinent information I receive is a two-for-one-sale on socks at Old Navy. Nothing strikes me with more dread than when the “10% battery life” warning flashes on my screen.

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I saw this and laughed, without irony, while looking at my phone in line at the grocery store. Clearly, I have a long way to go.
Photo courtesy of autowreck.com

 

I realize this is a big problem, one that I have been avoiding. My husband has tried to tell me that I should put my phone down once in awhile. Usually these gentle suggestions come after I complain that my neck and shoulders are always achy or that I can’t read anything smaller than a billboard after 8pm, and they are always prefaced with “now don’t get mad at me but…” So I guess maybe I am a little defensive on the whole phone issue. To be fair, he is on his phone and iPad a lot too, but he is reading Wall Street Journal and New York TImes articles while I am checking Us Weekly and TMZ updates. Occasionally, he will say something to me like “can you believe what’s going on in Turkey right now?” and I’ll put on a concerned face and vaguely say, “yeah, it’s crazy,” hoping that I might pass as well-informed while I secretly wish that, just once, he would ask me my opinion on Miley Cyrus or the Duck Dynasty controversy.

But really, he’s right, and I know he is. I use my phone as a way to check out, take a break from the constant demands of parenting, which is fine if it was once in awhile. But now it is to the point that I am afraid my children’s’ clearest  memory will be of me sitting slack jawed, illuminated by the white glow of my phone screen, ignoring their demands for attention with a muttered “in a minute. Just let me like this picture some person I haven’t talked to since third grade just posted of their kid’s dance recital,” And soon my kids will have their own phones and their own Facebook accounts. I can already hear my future shrieks of “put down that freaking phone!” ringing in my ears. It is going to be very hard to stay atop that high horse if I myself can’t go pee without checking Instagram at the same time.

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Photo courtesy of storiesofahappymom.com

 

So the first step of my year of living in the present is to put down the phone. Not completely, let’s not be crazy, but I am going to dramatically cut down the amount of time I am on it. Yesterday I even decided to turn off my music while on a run and just try to be fully aware of the moment I was in. Which turned out to be a bad idea because I haven’t run in a really long time and all I could hear was my own gasping breathes and shuffling feet and it was pretty discouraging. Anyway, I am going on iPhone restriction. And as a true step in the right direction, I am deleting the Facebook app from my phone. Right after I comment on this picture of a half eaten bagel my old college professor posted…

Harry, the Laziest Elf on the Shelf Ever

I never planned on getting on the Elf of the Shelf bandwagon. It seemed too cutesy for me and honestly, that wide-eyed elf face creeps me the eff out. But one day a few weeks ago the kids were fighting over what to watch on TV. David was watching Spongebob and Benny kept turning off the TV. David would get up and scream at Ben for turning it off. Then Ben turned the TV off again and laughed. Then David did his high-pitched whiny thing he does when he is really frustrated and and screamed “Benny stop it!” before turning the TV on again. Periodically, I would yell from the kitchen, where I was trying to prepare the 300th meal of the day, to stop touching the TV. I think i even said something like the button would wear out from being pushed so much and that I wouldn’t buy a new TV if they broke it. They didn’t care and after this loop of annoyance was repeated over and over, I lost it.

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Tell me this isn’t the stuff nightmares are made of.
Photo courtesy of http://www.elfontheshelf.com

 

“That’s it!” I yelled, stomping my way to the living room. “I am sick of you guys not listening to me. I called Santa and he is sending an elf to watch you and tell him if you are being bad!” Because nothing says Christmas like threatening your children with a permanent spot on the naughty list.

“Santa is sending us an elf?”David said, his eyes lit with glee. “Can I see the elf? When is he coming?” I hadn’t anticipated his excitement since I didn’t exactly frame this elf thing in a positive light, but David was excited. Benny just looked at me and then hucked a train across the room.

So the elf came and we read the book and picked a name (Harry) and set him on the shelf. And it worked like magic. Every time the kids started to fight over a toy, I would see David look up at the shelf, and then hand his brother whatever piece of plastic they were about to come to blows over. Throughout the next few days, David chattered happily about all the good things Harry was going to tell Santa. Everything was going according to plan, except for one thing–I didn’t realize how much involvement this stinking elf would require of me. I’m supposed to move this stone faced little freak all over my house each night. But I can’t just stick him on the couch and be done with it, it’s supposed to be getting into mischief. Now I barely have enough room in my brain to remember to feed the dog twice (okay once, but it’s a super big bowl) a day, how am I supposed to come up with 24 fun and original scenes of elfin adventures?

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Seriously people, can we lower the bar a little?
Photo courtesy of crazyloucreations.blogspot.com

 

On day three, David woke up and ran into the living room. His face fell as he looked at the shelf and at Harry sitting exactly as he was the day before. “Hey, Harry didn’t move!”David yelled. “I thought he was magic.” Leave it to me to introduce a heartwarming and cherished Christmas tradition just to crush it three days in. In my defense, I fall asleep putting my kids to bed most nights. It’s not like I should be expected to stay awake past 8:30pm just to move a stupid elf around the house.

Thinking quickly, and having enough introspection to know that Harry would be sitting on that shelf for many more mornings to come, I said, “David! Can you believe it? Santa sent us a lazy elf! Harry is so lazy he doesn’t even move.” David looked at me and the rumpled his eyebrows.

“Mom, our elf is so lazy! Santa is going to be so mad at you Harry!” David said, pointing at the wrongly accused elf. I couldn’t help smiling to myself and thinking how lucky David is to have such a smart mom. Now David is happy when Harry is found in a different spot in the house (I did manage to hid him in the pile of laundry on the couch and in a bag of pretzels) or if he is still on the shelf. So the moral of the story is to know yourself, your limitations and abilities, and have a clever excuse at the ready to explain away any of your shortcomings.

Are you an Elf on the Shelf over-achiever or slacker?

Merry Christmas!

Jamie’s Jargon: The Resurrection

Well here I am at the close of another year, hair greasy from the lack of a shower, house smelling faintly of onion and burnt tire after the dog was assaulted by a skunk last night, and a pile of dirty dishes waiting in the sink. So, obviously nothing has really changed for me in the last year, which should make the lack of blog posts easier to come to terms with. I know, you have all been wondering what I have been up to the last twelve months. While staring into your slightly mushy bowl of cornflakes you may have found yourself thinking “I wonder how big  the pile of laundry on Jamie’s couch is?” or “I wonder if Benny and David are sleeping in there own beds yet?” or “I wonder how many times Jamie had to clean up vomit from the crevasses of the car seat?” The answers to your questions are huge, no, and too many to count. Side note: I have discovered that the best way to rid your car of the smell of curdled milk after your two-year-old rage barfs all over the backseat is diluted white vinegar. You’re welcome. And now we are all caught up!

Seriously though, everything I just wrote is completely true and a pretty good summary of the year. Life as a housewife is redundant and, if you are lucky, the household crises  don’t rise above the level of expelled bodily fluids or waking up at 5:30am because your son has decided the become partially nocturnal and wants to rise before the sun. We made it through another year happy, healthy, and (mostly) sane. And for that I am endlessly grateful.

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Look, we all held still long enough to get a picture without a blurred head (David and Ben) or a half-closed eye and open mouth (Me). It’s a Christmas miracle!

I am going to write a more extensive post in the next few days about what I am working towards in the New Year. Not resolutions so much as prioritizing those things that are important to me but that get pushed aside for the daily grind of parenthood. One thing I can share now–I am writing with intention and part of that will include regular updates to this blog. So I am hoping you are looking forward to hearing a lot more from me. See, it’s like I just gave you all a virtual Christmas present!

Sentences I Never Said Before Having Kids

Motherhood forces you to explain the obvious, the absurd, and the disgusting on a daily basis.  Every so often you hear yourself utter a sentence that makes you stop and think, “Did I really just say that?”  For example:

-“If it stinks, stop sniffing it and go wash your hands.”

-“Please stop licking my sunglasses.”

-“I already told you, they don’t sell shrink-rays at Target.”

-“You can’t eat your ice cream until you finish your french fries.”

-“I’m sorry, but when your brother throws up on your shoes it’s time to leave the zoo.”

-“The mailman doesn’t want to see your wiener, please close your shades.”

What is your favorite parenting sentence?

Confessions of a Tired Mom: Why I Decided to Sleep Train

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture.  Deprive someone of sleep for long enough and they will be willing to betray their country, confess to crimes they didn’t commit, and forsake every family member they have.  After nine-and-a-half months without a full nights sleep, I am positive that the key to taking down al-Qaeda is to have their top general care for a baby that refuses to sleep. In a few short weeks his brain will be so addled that he won’t remember to inform his operatives that the secret password was switched and he will leave the blueprints for the next terror strike on the table at Starbucks while he is waiting for his triple-shot latte.

Irritability…check. Memory lapses…check. Decreased reaction time…check.

Before you all judge me, I realize that Benjamin’s sleep problems are my fault.  They are the same problems that David had with sleeping when he was a baby.  Instead of letting them cry a little when they were infants, I picked them up, rocked them and nursed them to sleep.  At first I would be able to lay them down once they drifted off, but after a few months, both boys decided their favorite place to sleep was on top of me, and I accommodated them.  It wasn’t out of some strong maternal need to be in physical contact with my children at all times, but because it was the easiest way to get the most sleep at the time.  You would think I would have learned my lesson the first time, but I didn’t, and holy crap am I paying for it now.

Let me paint a picture of what I typical night is like for me now.  At 7pm I go to lay down with Benni in my room.  Since my husband gets home around 5:45 that means we say exactly three sentences to each other (“How was work? The kids are driving me nuts. Dinner is on the stove.”) before I have to get Benni to sleep.  Once in my room, I lay with Benni while he flops around, tries to climb over me to get out, and (on really fun nights) crams his fingers in my eyes.  Eventually, he settles down enough to drink a bottle and then falls asleep, my arm acting as his pillow.  I then spend about 30 minutes trying to get my arm out from under him without him waking up before I give up and resolve myself to a bedtime that even senior citizens would laugh at.  And then Benni wakes up.  At 11:00. And 1:30. And 3:30. Around 4:30am he feels pretty perky and tries to get up for the day.  I know that because he hits me in the face and then giggles as I scream “It’s time for sleeping!” I then repeat the process of getting him to go to sleep which takes about 45 minutes.  If I’m lucky, he will stay asleep until 6:30am, but I’m not usually lucky.  On a typical night, I estimate I get around four to five hours of sleep (cumulative not successive), which is nowhere near enough.

Given that I sleep less than an insomniac on a 5 Hour Energy binge, it’s pretty remarkable that I am still able to do all the things required of me as a wife and mother and remain fairly pleasant and coherent.  But if I am being really honest, while I do the things required of me, I don’t do them well.  Things slip by me, emails go unanswered, calls go unreturned, paperwork, bills, appointments are all forgotten.  Relationships, like my marriage, like the one with my oldest son, start to show the wear of too little time and attention.  And it’s all just too much for me anymore.  Something has to change. So I am going to let Benni cry it out.  You can think I am selfish or cruel if you want to (I obviously have had those thoughts about myself as well) but I have to get my life back, even if it’s just a free hour in the afternoon and a few consecutive hours of sleep at night.

While I know this is not going to be easy, I think it is the best thing I can do for me and for my family.  And when I feel my resolve start to slip, I will keep this quote in mind:

Dear Universe

Dear Universe,

We have had our ups and downs, you and I, throughout the years.  Sometimes you have given me more good fortune than I deserved, (remember that time I found $200 in the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper when I was working at the dry cleaners? That was pretty awesome.) and sometimes you have seemed singularly focused on effing up my day (like that time my hoopty Cadillac windows stopped rolling down at the exact moment the radiator started spewing rotten fish stink into the car while I was on my way to work.).  And sometimes it seems like you, dear Universe, have stacked the cosmic deck with more bad luck than one person can bear.  This is one of those times.

Yeah, I’m talking to you
photo courtesy of
discoverystudentadventures.blogspot.com

It began when the car we purchased last year started to shift hard. I took it to AAMCO for a “free” diagnostics check, and agreed to the $3000 repair, just wanting the car to be safe for my children.  “You’ll have it back by the end of the week.” I sort of knew that was a lie when the manager said it, but I hoped for the best.  This was FOUR WEEKS AGO. Four weeks.  Now Universe, I don’t know if it is fair to blame you for the mechanics incompetence, but that is what he wants me to believe.  He said the parts he used were defective, and then the new parts were also defective. Then he said the wrongs parts were sent to him.  Then it wasn’t the transmission but the computer causing the problem.  And he received the wrong computer. Twice. See? All of the explanations for the never-ending car repair seem to be your fault.

But the car is only the tip of the shit-that’s-gone-wrong iceberg.  The sofa is broken.  It’s actually the third sofa to break.  Each time it breaks, the store we bought it from refuses to refund our money, and instead gives us a new version of the same over-priced crap couch, which then, within two months, caves in on itself and gives anyone who sits on it the sensation of sinking into quicksand.  And the microwave died.  Just died in the middle of cooking dinner.  It was also the fan to the oven, so now every time I cook I also get to play amateur fire marshal, waving a kitchen towel frantically in front of the smoke alarm before it wakes my sleeping husband and thus ruining the sentiment of a home-cooked breakfast.  The temperature in the fridge varies between 36-49 degrees for no apparent reason.  My solution has been to move the thermometer waaaaay in the back where I can’t see it and pretend to enjoy lukewarm orange juice.  The printer says it’s jammed and no amount of unjamming, hitting, unplugging, or threatening will convince it otherwise.  The knobs keep falling off the kitchen cabinets and I keep putting them away until we have time to put them back on, but now I can’t remember where I put them.  The Apple TV refuses to stream Netflix, meaning I am instead left watching Jersey Shore and endless episodes of Cupcake Wars (okay, I admit, this doesn’t actually bother me too much).

I was trying to take all these mishaps in stride, but then I woke up this morning to find that Benjamin has a horrible case of thrush in his mouth. And so do I, except mine isn’t in my mouth.  I have tried to be patient, tried to see the humor in these set backs, but let me tell you, there is nothing funny about blotchy red nipples that itch like I gave them a poison oak rub down.  So Universe, all I have left to say to you is WTF is your problem? Seriously, what have I done  to make you so cranky? Me and my family are good people; we pay our taxes, love and care for our children, and I always leave way more pennies than I take from the little tray at the gas station.  What gives?

See, I give to charity.
photo courtesy of dearjournalentries.blogspot.com

Oh wait, is this one of those times where you are trying to teach me a lesson? Like that time you gave me stomach flu on my birthday after I pretended to be sick to get out of a geometry test? Okay wait, let me think…everything we own is breaking and we don’t have enough money to replace even half of it….are you trying to tell us to convert to Buddism? Yeah, so when we get to the part where we have to give up all our worldly possessions we can be all “no biggie, all our shit is broken anyway.”

I’m going to have to practice this hand-candle thing.
Photo courtesy of religionfacts.com

But wait, first all our stuff broke and then me and Benni got sick…oh….wait…I get it. Were you trying to teach me a lesson about how material things don’t matter as long as you and those you love are healthy and happy, and then I kept on bitching about how everything sucks, so then you decided to give me a reminder of how shit can always get worse so I  better be appreciative of all the good things in my life even when things get tough?

Ummm yeah, this is embarrassing. Sorry about that Universe. Could you do me a favor and just disregard the above letter please?

Respectfully Yours,

Jamie