Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Sun Will Come out Tomorrow

Do you remember all those posts I wrote about our beautiful little ray of sunshine?  The happy baby with the smile that could light up a room?  The little bald-headed, blue eyed, tot who cooed and giggled at the simplest things?  She was content and easy going, never fussing too much or demanding too much attention.  She loved playing on the floor, sitting among her boxes of toys, and crawling around to new destinations.  She seemed to make Spahnville easy even when things were hard.  Her tears were few and far between and she seemed to know when we needed that gap-toothed smile to snap any of us out of a fleeting funky mood.

And now, the tides have turned.

Our sweet beautiful ray of sunshine is on holiday. She's been replaced with a full-fledged toddler who has definite ideas about the way things should be.  She's feisty and opinionated and unfortunately, does not have many words to her vocabulary....which results in her go to phrase, "Eh! Eh!" while pointing at what she desperately wants  needs at that exact moment.  She cracks me up because her big brother never once had a typical toddler tantrum-- with the full blown head-thrown-back, body turns into a noodle, and the only sounds emitted are the silent screams of what looks like a desperate emergency.  Sometimes, this one will actually lie face down on the floor and just sob.  Nine out of ten times, these tantrums are related to being told "no" when asking ("Eh! Eh! Eh!) for another snack from the pantry.  (Charlie just stood there and wailed.  Still does, actually.)

But as rough as these moments can be, I feel like they are fleeting.  This time around, I know that this stage will not last forever (although when Charlie still has an hour long meltdown at the age of 'almost six', I start to wonder...) and I try to take it with a grain of salt.  I find myself laughing or chuckling or cooing at her when these tantrums take place--and I feel like a grandmother fondly looking at her grandchild throwing a tantrum over not being able to suck on the Windex bottle.  This time around, I feel like I'm savoring more than just my moments alone.  Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy those alone moments immensely, it's just that now I find myself being a little more accepting of these trying times--knowing we signed up for them and that it really won't be like this for long.

Like everything, there is yang to this yin stage.  It's hard and whiny and tiring and unpredictable.  But it's cute and funny and surprising and noteworthy.  There is nothing better than watching this little person turn into a little person right before your eyes.  She has her own preferences, she has her own ideas, she is uniquely herself-- despite who we guessed she was going to be.  And now, though times can be rough, we never tire of hearing a new word or watching a new talent (like climbing everything or showing off a new dance move).  We all get excited when she masters new skills (like eating with a spoon or traversing the steps without tumbling down) or surprises us with a new trick (like saying, "Iine.....uhnnnna......eht!"  which translates to "I'm.....gonna...get you!")

Back when I was a Psychology major at UNI, I remember learning that the majority of parenting experiences are actually yin-- they are negative and dark. But, our brains are wired to hang on to the memories of the yang--the positive and light.  Because, of course, we need to reproduce!!  But really, we need both of these to experience parenting (and life).  The easy days would not feel so easy if we weren't exposed to the whiny and tiring and hard.  And when I'm old and grey, I'll read this blog post and swear that I was on crack when I wrote it because my children were nothing but beautiful, well behaved, smiling, adorable, miniature people at all times.  

Sixteen in '16

Let me set the scene for you: 

Early morning light streams in through the windows and floods the hard wood floors with a bright blinding glaze.  The floor is peppered with abandoned socks, underwear, and t-shirts from the night before.  A blanket lays haphazardly tossed on a chair, next to an end table with last night's empty wine glass.  In the middle of all this, Mickey Mouse lies face down amidst red and black and green poker chips, as if he has just had one helluva night.  No, it's not the scene from some Disneyland Friday night Bizarro World, it's just my living room at the moment.  And since I don't remember the poker chips, playing with Mickey Mouse or rooting through the nicely folded laundry, I'm going to blame it on my absolutely adorable fifteen month old daughter, who is taking the rare morning nap at this exact moment.  And so, I find myself capitalizing on this rare moment by curling up with my computer and thinking about the upcoming year.  

 I love new things: New tubes of toothpaste, new crayons and markers, new sweatshirts, new jars of peanut butter, (I'll spare you the rest of the list).   But I also love the New Year.  It's fresh and crisp and seems like it holds so much potential.  And usually I feel quite goal oriented and hopeful and find myself making a mental list of things I want to accomplish this year.  (Perhaps blogging on a regular basis should be on this list.  But it's not.  As much as I love making lists of goals and hopes, I'm not fond of setting myself up for failure and I'm pretty sure that's exactly what I would be doing.)  This year is no different, and thoughts of what 2016 holds have been bouncing around my brain for a few weeks now.  Finally, I've narrowed these ideas down to sixteen goals I'd like to accomplish this year.   
So go refill your coffee or tea or hot water with lemon (my current favorite), grab a cozy blanket and some fuzzy socks, and soak up my list of sixteen in '16.  And then weigh in-- do you make resolutions? Lists? Goals? What are they? I'm so curious! 

1.  Just DO things.  I am the world's best procrastinator.  I justify this (I'm also the world's best justifier) by explaining that I work best under a deadline.  But I often procrastinate on stupid stuff that really just needs to be done.  Wipe down Anna's high chair?  In a little while.  Throw in a load of laundry? Tonight.  Clean the bathroom?  After Anna wakes up.  Get online and print that exchange form? Later.  Look through Charlie's bookorder and write the check? It's not due 'till Friday.  You get the picture.  I think if I just DID all-the-things I would feel much better.  We'll see. 

2.  Find my creative self again.  This has been emerging, slowly but surely in the past few months.  I credit Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic" book for some of this but I need to keep going.  A lot of times, I'll want to do something but don't get vertical long enough do it-- so it turns into the whole 'just do it' thing again.  Here are a few specifics:  
      1. Make stockings for Charlie, Mason, myself
      2. Skinnify old jeans, experiment with altering t-shirts and button down shirts. 
      3. Make a t-shirt rug
      4. Learn how to macrame or weave. 

3. And adding to the creativity goals.... learn how to use Grandpa Bernie's scroll saw. It has been sitting in our garage for two years just doing nothing but looking sad.  Mason will be able to teach me but we don't exactly have many (or any) opportunities to hang out in the garage without little ones needing to be supervised.  Maybe we'll need to pay a babysitter to come over for a few hours while we tackle this.  

4. Meditate.  More specifically, make meditating a part of my day.  Shortly after experiencing my 2nd miscarriage, meditation helped me in so many ways.  The constant anxiety, the waves of emotion, the never-ending barrage of internal thoughts-- all of these things were put to bay and I honestly attribute it to meditation. 

5.  Speaking of meditation.....Participate in Buddhist Path at least once.  This group meets at our church once a week and has quite a large following.  It's open to anyone and involves meditation, conversations about Buddhism, and sometimes additional activities like walking meditation or walking labrynths.  

6.  And now, speaking of labyrinths, I would like to walk a labyrinth this year.  I've talked to many people who love this practice and a quick google search will reveal that this ancient tradition has many health benefits like lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety, and eliminating insomnia.  We have an outdoor labyrinth right here in Cedar Falls-- but many are found on church grounds or in public parks.  There are actually several located in Iowa and if you're interested in finding one near you, check out this link: http://labyrinthlocator.com/

7.  Get a new tattoo!!  I love my "OM" tattoo so much and have gotten such positive feedback about it.  Looking at it makes me feel happy and quite frankly, I just want more!!  I have some ideas in mind (three more to be exact) and I'm pretty sure this will happen sooner rather than later.   

8.  Date my husband.  We are terrible about setting time aside for us and honestly, neither one of us really gets worked up about that.  Yes, it would be nice to hang out with Mason more and be able to go get a drink from time to time, but we're pretty okay with relaxing on the couch together too.  We've tried having "date night!" but honestly, it's just more stress and a really expensive way to leave the house for two hours.  But, we've committed to playing pickle ball together and last week we started watching "Orange is the New Black".  This feels like enough and I'm okay with that.    

9.  Make myself a priority.  Sounds crazy selfish (Liz, are you dying laughing now?) but I want to do something just for myself this year.  I try to take time out for myself here and there (the occasional scrapbook night, walks by myself in the summertime, a weekend here or there with some girlfriends, monthly meetings with my church ladies) but I haven't done anything really BIG.  (Not that anything has to be huge to be significant)  But I've had a few items on my bucket list for a long time and I'm finally going to do one of the biggies.  And I've gotta tell you, it's really scary and a little pricey and a lot out of my comfort zone, all of which go against my deeply ingrained Dutch heritage...but flights are booked and plans have been made.  I promise I'll spill the beans and details soon. :)  

10. Write more.  Journal, novels, blogs, letters, ideas, ..... just doing it and not being afraid that it isn't perfect (of course it's not perfect!) or needs to ever become a final version, or shared with anyone, or published in any way.  

11.  Become a puppy mama again.  I think some of us are ready.  Ultimately, I'd love to get a puppy with the hopes of having him or her come with me to school.  However, that's a really lofty goal and depends on a lot of people with way more school power than me.  So for now, I'll just stick to getting the pup.  Oh, one problem though: Mason is NOT on board.  Well, shit. (I'm laughing because he's the one who picks up that too...) 

12.  Take the final two courses in Yoga Calm and continue to use it in the schools. (If I start talking about this now I'll never shut up-- so I'll just leave it at that)

13.  Tidy our house.  As in, go through everything in our house, category by category and save/ donate/ toss.  The goal is to have this done by June.  And the backup plan is to have it done by December.  And the backup to the backup is to have this completed by the time the kids leave for college.  Setting up for success, remember.  

14.  Learn more about Reiki and sign up for a session.  (If you live in this area, there is a Reiki Center on Main Street in Cedar Falls.  The store itself is great-- and has tons of woo-woo things that I would love to have (like sage-burning sticks, salt glow lights, and large OM wall hangings, among other things).  But aside from their products, they offer free 10 minute Reiki sessions on Monday nights and guest speakers about a variety of topics.    

15. Read more.  This working almost-full-time-thing is really cutting into my reading time and it feels weird to have not read much over the past few months.  

16. Move my body.  I know it's more commonly known as "exercise" or "working out" but I just loathe those words (for reasons I won't go into right now...).  I'd much rather just try to walk more, or swim more this summer, or get out on my paddle board and perhaps buy a small kayak when the weather turns nice.  The truth is, I'm not really crazy about exercising, but I love moving. I love the feeling I get when I'm moving, I love bike riding, I love walking around, I love gardening.  I love crawling through the play tunnel with my kiddies.  And when I'm doing these things, I find myself having fun.  So, reminding myself to just get up and move (and not necessarily 'exercise') is something that I hope to work on.  And I think this might be my year to get back into the triathlon scene.... I'm kinda feeling the itch.  Who's in with me?

Disclaimer:  Perhaps all or perhaps none of these things will happen.  Most likely, some of them will be crossed off by the end of the year, which is just fine with me.  I love setting goals but I am also going to try to remain present and authentic this year.  For example, if at some moment during the year I find myself suddenly hating books (hahahaha), I'm not going to stress out because I challenged myself to read more.  I'm just going to pause, re-evaluate, and go from there. Breathing in, breathing out, moving on.... celebrating the good, enduring the bad, relishing the normal...all year long.  


Very Merry: Part 3

Our Christmas in Dubuque was delayed by a few weeks, thanks mostly to our little bout of sickness in Spahnville.  We didn't want to spread the love to our extended family and well, honestly, I really was not capable of venturing too far from my bed for the better part of that weekend.  So finally, after the Christmas trees had been taken down, and the decorations boxed up, we were healthy enough to travel over to Dubuque to celebrate.  And isn't it funny how putting together the same ingredients on a different day still feels just like Christmas?  Because it did. It was relaxing and fun and wonderful all at the same time.

Perhaps my favorite part about traveling to my sister-in-law's house (and brother-in-law's too...) is that things are so relaxed.  I've known Sherry for almost thirteen years and I've really come to realize that it seems to take a lot to rattle this woman.  She prepares meals, hosts our gatherings, and shares her home with us, all without getting too worked up about things.  Sometimes we all are on-pointe and our side dishes fit in the oven, our dinner rolls are perfectly warmed, and we all bring a different bottle of wine to share.  Other times, the ham is done before we even start the sweet potatoes, we completely forget about dinner rolls, everyone brings the same red wine (but nobody really complains about that), and the kids insist on only eating gummy bears for supper.  And yet, things just roll along.  Nobody is flustered, nobody is upset, nobody is tense... we just hang out, sip our vino, and enjoy the time together.

And enjoy our time together we did!

As soon as Grandma Carol walked through the door, Anna was ready to tear into her present.  (And she really hasn't gotten off it in the past three weeks...much thanks to her daddy, who l-o-v-e-s driving her around the living room at break neck speeds while she squeals with delight.

Eventually, she tired of her ride long enough for everyone to eat a meal (which was delicious) and then move on to more presents.  (I apologize for the lack of photos-- I guess we were all a little wrapped up in the moment this time)

And oh, look at that 5 year old's smile- how couldn't we be wrapped up in that?

Sister stole a few snuggles with her brother in the midst of all the unwrapping.  Doesn't look like he was complaining one little bit...

Have I mentioned how much Anna loves to put things over her head ? (blankets, t-shirts, Dad's clean boxer shorts....) So here is Grandma and a walking blanket...

Oh, and this matchbox car hauler can carry "50 plus cars, Mom!"  And even though he received this toy weeks ago, it still is incredibly distracting in the morning.  (But I kind of love that)

As always, I feel so grateful that we are are able to spend this time together.  I guess that goes without saying, but I also feel compelled to mention it.  Although moments and days go by, I often find myself stopping and just noting how lucky we are to have our health, to have our needs (and many wants) met, and especially to have each other.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Right Now....

Right now, Charlie......
*  is still obsessed with football, both NFL and college.  He amazes me with his knowledge.  The other day there was a guy on TV tossing around a football.  I said, "Man, that guy is huge!"  Charlie looks at me and goes, "Mom, that's JJ Watt.  He's number 99 for the Houston Texans."

* still loves to play his "game", which involves running back and forth from the front door to the kitchen table-- and for some reason this also involves being half naked.

* is usually half-naked.  Charlie strips down to his undies like most people change into comfy pants.  As soon as he is in the door, he peels off his pants, shirt, and socks and tosses them aside for the night.

* complains about going to school but seems to love it whenever he's there. I'm convinced it's just the actual transition from home to school that is bothersome because he really seems to be thriving at school.

* is anxiously looking forward to his birthday party in February.  As of now, we know that it's going to involve a giant inflatable slide, pizza, and the UNI mascot.  (????)

Right now, Anna......
*  has a molar coming through.  Watch out food, you aint seen nothing yet!

* still loves eating anything and everything, but we're trying to curb the obsession with the pantry.  She opens it up and pulls out all sorts of things.  The other day she was carrying around a bottle of mayo and whining for it to be opened and tested out.

* has recently fallen love with a baby doll.  She carries it around and pats her back and says, "Beh-beh."  It's stinking adorable and then we laugh even harder when she tires of Beh Beh and flings her over her shoulder (when she hears someone open the pantry door).

* loves music.  She turns on the radio and "dances" around the house.  I've got to say that the girl has some moves too.... we're not sure where she gets these moves but it's probably from her mother.

* cannot sit still for books.  It drives me nuts and makes me weepy.  Charlie would sit and listen to books for hours.  Seriously, if I was feeling particularly lazy, I would just cuddle up with baby Charlie and read and read and read.  Anna is content for about five seconds and then wiggles her way away from me (and heads to the pantry).

Right now, Mason.....
* is enjoying his "slow" time at work.  It allows him to catch up, work on bids, and get things ready for the whirlwind that is spring/summer/fall building season.

*has talked me into playing pickle ball with some other friends this winter.  Should be interesting considering my complete lack of athletic ability.  (Although I will say that James Thurston and I were pretty awesome pickle ball players when we had to play in high school.  Mostly I remember screwing around pretending the paddle was a guitar while James hit the ball......ah, glory days....)  Honestly though, I think it will be fun to get out of the house and do something with Mason.  I think we were good friends at one time....

Right now, I ..........
* am busy working at two schools this year.  It's technically .75 time, but it honestly feels like a full time gig.  My Parkersburg job has stayed the same (working each morning from 8-noon) while I've added Grundy Center afternoons to my schedule.  Being in two schools has really allowed me to determine what I need in a workplace.  There are pros and cons to both environments and I'm very thankful that I had the opportunity to help out this year, not to mention that being Charlie's guidance teacher has been super fun.  But by the end of the week, I'm extra thankful to have my Thursday and Friday afternoons home with Anna.

* am trying to sort and clean and organize our house.  It's an ongoing task, really, but something that I would like to finally get a handle on.  Not sure if this is possible while little kids are growing up, but I'm sure going to try.

* am loving incorporating yoga into my work at school.  It has changed everything about the way I do things and has also changed me. I'm more patient, I feel more connected, and am really enjoying my job like never before.  Plus, kids are giving me great feedback in so many ways.

* am pushing big time for a rescuing a dog.  I've planted the seed in Mason's brain and I'm hoping that maybe Charlie and I can just do this some afternoon and 'surprise' Mason.  Hopefully we won't land in divorce court over it.

* have committed to something pretty big in May.  More details later-- I know, you're biting your nails with anticipation, aren't you?