Rain and May and Stuff and Things

Rain and May and Stuff and Things

It has been grey and drizzly all week and I just love it so much. Our windows have been open and the smell of wet grass and dirt has been wafting in, and I swear it makes my coffee taste better and my head feel clearer. If we could have four days of grey and three days of sun every week, I would be more than satisfied.

rainmaystuffthings2

The big 3 0.

I turned 30 on the 30th. I always kind of quietly viewed this milestone as something I’d be upset about, since Rachel got SO UPSET about it on Friends (which is real life, you know), but as I got closer I realized that 30 is probably going to be pretty awesome. I’ve got an actual real post about this brewing, but until then, let’s just leave it with the fact that my friends and family are incredible, and life is good. Life is good.

Mugs Half Full

Erin and I had a couple of Mugs Half Full comics come out a little rapid-fire, and I’d love it if you’d check ‘em out and maybe share them if you feel compelled!

Working out the kinks.  (This one’s about exercising with the kids around.)

Moms, Memories… and Toast. (This one’s about becoming part of a long line moms, and other sentimental-but-not-too-sentimental things.)

Her View from Home

I recently submitted a post to Leslie over at Her View from Home and got asked to send in some new material. The second post I wrote is about my transition from staying home full-time to getting a part-time barista job. It’s one of the first introspective family life posts I’ve written in a long time, and has kind of turned into one of my favorites. I’m hoping the post does well enough to warrant me a regular writing gig over there, so please click on over and share if the spirit moves you!

The Gluten

I’m currently trying to limit my gluten intake, as per the suggestion of my super smart functional medicine practitioner sister. I unfortunately made this decision right before a birthday weekend and another birthday weekend so I haven’t stuck to it like I should, but I think I’m actually able to tell a difference between when I’m eating it and when I’m not. (Insert a mental image of me here, crying giant tears of butter while sitting dejectedly on a pile of bread.) Anyway, now that the ridiculous numbers of special occasions are almost out of the way, I’ll do this for real, and I’ll keep you updated. (Takes sip of delicious local beer the same way a doomed convict would walk down the hallway on his way to a firing squad.)

rainmaystuffthings3

Home Life

Life is very satisfying right now. It’s also incredibly frustrating and exhausting sometimes, but my kids and husband are happy and healthy, and we’ve got a buttload of turnips growing in our garden, and I haven’t really had much to do with it, because Paul’s been the garden whisperer. (I solemnly swear to make delicious things with whatever comes out of that garden, though.) That Paul guys sure is pretty awesome, and if you see him anytime soon, you should probably give him lots of high fives.

We’ve got a new Betta fish named Goldie, and Lucy has been a kitty for about two months now. She will sometimes go an entire hour in the mornings only communicating with me by saying “meow.” Charlie is starting to be able to read, and it’s pretty awesome.

rainmaystuffthings4

Have I mentioned how grateful I am for my friends? I have friends here and far away that fill up my heart and my brain, and this person that I’m turning into owes a lot of that to them. So, thanks, friends. Friends that I see regularly and friends that I don’t: you guys are so awesome and important to me, and we should probably all go out for Karaoke sometime soon.

Changes and Spring and Stuff and Things

Changes and Spring and Stuff and Things

I am long long long overdue for a Stuff & Things post. Life has been full around here… quite full indeed.

I’ve got a FIVE-year-old.

What!?!?!?

I seriously can’t believe it. He’s already gone in for his Kindergarten physical. I want to say that it feels like just yesterday he was a teeny tiny baby… but it doesn’t. I remember those baby days, but I think it feels like I’ve just spent the last five years of my life with this guy in it, and those years were packed with a lot of awesome things. He’s so sensitive and creative, and he likes listening to Star Wars soundtrack albums. I’ll write an official “oh my gracious my Charlie’s five” post here soon, but I just don’t have the brain capacity (or a box of tissues on-hand) at the moment.

changesspringstuffthings3

I’ve DEFINITELY got a two-year-old.

I forgot how awesome/terrible two year olds are. I’m not kidding… the screams that can come out of Lucy literally make my ears feel numb sometimes. I think Stephen King could probably write the horror novel of the decade if he chose to focus it on the act of getting a two-year-old who doesn’t want to sit in their car seat to ohmygosh please just sit in their car seat. BUT then they also things like “Thees eengy bud Chewbacca.” (this angry bird is Chewbacca) and “I yut you mommy. And I yut Chawwie and Daddy.” (I love you mommy. And I love Charlie and Daddy) and “Thees my favit bobble.” (This is my favorite marble.) She’s hilarious and a little nuts… but most two-year-olds are, I’m learning. Luckily, though, with her small jumps in maturity, she and Charlie are beginning to have nice chunks of time in which they play together without too much screaming. Sometimes.

changesspringstuffthings4

Oh, hey there Change. Can we be friends?

I am not good with change. The mere possibility of change turns me grumpy, anxious, and unpleasant in general. Sure enough, though, change swoops in and suddenly I go from work-at-home mom to work-at-home-and-also-at-a-coffee-shop-and-also-stay-at-home-sometimes-mom. Paul was working at a slightly shady, unpleasant college here in town in addition to an above-board respectable one, so we decided to shake things up a bit. Now I’ve got a pretty awesome part time job making coffee, and he’s got a pretty awesome job teaching people, and we both get to spend a healthy amount of time with the kids. It’s change, sure, but it seems to be good change so far.

changesspringstuffthings1

Music! Old friend! I’ve come back to you!

In college, I loved music. I genuinely cared about it. I would go to Hasting’s Books and Music on Tuesdays to check out the new releases. I would stay up until midnight and go to Wal-Mart of all places, just so I could get my hands on new albums as quickly as possible. I have a plastic tote in the basement, full to the brim with band-plastered T-shirts that I collected when I was going to school. I don’t know if it was too many disappointments from John Mayer’s social life (how are you supposed to swoon over his songwriting when he’s clearly THE WORST?) or just the fact that life took over and the only music I cared about was Sara Bareilles’ ONE ALBUM for, literally, almost two years. I don’t know, I don’t know, but that beautiful and frantic genre that is Pop Punk has come back to sweep me off my feet with a vengeance. I don’t have much more to say about that, other than it’s pretty awesome.

Workin’ It                                                                          

A pleasant surprise is that my contract work has taken an upturn… It’s nice to have deadlines but not too many deadlines. It’s also nice to be able to contribute financially to our household as I start to turn my sights back to actively budgeting. I don’t know if any of you remember our Dave Ramsey stint allllllll the way back in 2011, but I’m gearing up to get a little hardcore about it again. We’ve loosely kept the principles over the years, but haven’t had the income to really attack our student loans with “gazelle intensity” as good ole Dave says. ANYWAY I’m getting more freelance work and it feels pretty great. I’m excited to re-attend the conferences I went to last year and get my face out there a little more.

I hope that you guys are emerging from the winter well, and if you’re getting presented with any big changes, I hope they’re at least being kind to you!

Lucille, at the Moment

Lucille, at the Moment

(Photo courtesy of Brittany Brooke Photography)

Why is it so hard for me to write posts about my kids?  I plan on it and plan on it, and when it comes time to actually write one, I stress so much about it that it almost never gets written.

I suppose it’s a sign that I still have maturing to do as a writer… but that’s okay. Hopefully I’ll get there someday. I’m doing it now, though. I’m doing it. Really, here we go.

Lucille1

Lucy.

She’s got about a bajillion nicknames, but I think my favorite one is Luey. Or Kabluey. We joke that if she ever gets into roller derby when she’s older, her name should be “Kabluey Bonk.”  If she does in fact become a roller derby enthusiast, my new nickname will be “Constant Almost-Heart Attack Bonk,” or “Nervous Nellie.”

I’m not going to spend the whole post comparing her to Charlie, but I will say that I expected my second child to be, I don’t know, just a version of my first… but slightly different.  I was toooootally wrong.

Lucille2

Lucy is (duh, Lauren) a completely different kid. She is equal parts bulldozer and sweetheart. I mean “bulldozer” almost literally. When she’s feeling particularly surly, she will stick her belly out and knock people over… simply because they happen to be sitting on the floor, minding their own business. When she’s feeling sweet, she will put her hands on my chin, turn my head toward her face, and plant a big fat kiss on my lips. Or she’ll wake up in the morning and throw her arms around my legs, sighing “Mommy!”

Lucille3

She has also started talking much earlier than Charlie did. Charlie waited until he felt he had a handle on a word before he even uttered a syllable… Lucy just goes with it. Sometimes she’ll let out a long jumble of words, looking me straight in the eye, and I will have absolutely no idea what she just said.  She also has these weird pauses before certain words that are surprisingly consistent, regardless of the word order. Here are some of my favorite Lucy-isms right now:

“I’m… not… a kitty. All right?”

“Two… meenits… Chawwie. No more eengy buds.” (Two more minutes, Charlie, then no more Angry Birds.)

“Happy to you. Happy to you, ah Mommy. Boo it?” (Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you dear Mommy. Blow it?)

“Hot… chockit?” (She sometimes likes to play a game where she makes hot chocolate and offers it to people.)

“You going Mommy? I meeeeess you. Hug me. Hug Chawwie. Hug Daddy.”

“Uh Bamma.” (This means “call Grandma,” but sounds REMARKABLY like “Obama.”)

Lucille4

I’m finally starting to realize that she’s going to grow up and be an adult human being, too. As Charlie grows up, visions of him as a teenager are starting to appear in my brain. His face is starting to collect expressions and traits that will be with him no matter how old he gets, and that blows my mind. What blows my mind even more is that I’m going to have to clear room in my brain for teenage Lucy, too.

Lucy’s always been a sparsely-haired kid, and that has perpetuated the idea in my head that she’s still a baby. I still call her a baby, and dudes, she is NOT a baby. She is a full-on two-year-old… which will probably help me a lot when it comes to imagining what teenage Lucy will be like.

Her feisty, sometimes surly nature makes her sweet times even more wonderful to me… and her (rare but increasing) moments of empathy always make me all gushy and syrupy. Sometimes she’ll ask kids if they’re okay, patting their head firmly and giving them a hug. If I mention that I’m hungry while she has food in her hands, she’ll say “Want Cheerio, Mommy?”

Lucille5

I’m curious (but not in a hurry) to see what kind of a human she’ll turn into… but from what I see now, I know she’ll be a human who cares and a human who gets things done… and that’s a pretty awesome place to start, I think.

A New Tradition

A New Tradition

Charlie and I have accidentally started a Christmas tradition, and it turns me into a ridiculous, gushy bag of emotions just thinking about it.

Last year, we went to see Elf the Musical together at the Orpheum, thanks to Omaha Performing Arts, and this year, we got invited to join my friend and her son in seeing A Christmas Story at the Rose Theater.

(Just to clear it up, this post isn’t sponsored… I just love these organizations forever long time.)

Walking up to the theater holding an excited Charlie’s hand will never get old… even when I’m forcing him to do it as a 17-year-old.

Last year, Charlie got a little upset at the tension before intermission during Elf, and fell asleep in Act II, but he still talks about it to this day. This year, at A Christmas Story, he stayed awake the whole time and only got a little distressed at a few of the conflicts that came up in the show.

I don’t know if it was the fact that I was with Charlie, the show itself, or the amount of time it’s been since I’ve last seen a play… but I was emotional almost the entire time I watched that show. I’m sure it was a combination of all three factors.

The show truly was wonderful. I have some lack-luster onstage memories of the Christmas Story production I was in in college, and this has done a great job of re-instating the love I have for the show. The original movie was a HUGE DEAL in our house during my childhood, and I’m happy to add more layers of love to it. The actors were pleasant and endearing, and the boy who played Ralphie hit some notes that made me almost burst into tears every time.

I think what I loved most about the show itself was that there seemed to be a lot more love at the heart of it than there is in the movie… or at least obvious love, anyway. The father was a much more likeable character, and the relationship between him and the mother seemed more fulfilling.

For the most part, Charlie was old enough for the show… there were only a few moments that he had a hard time with. The bullies and the breaking of the leg lamp got him pretty worked up, and he had difficulty understanding Ralphie’s bouts of imagination that were mixed in with “reality.” He thought the imaginary sequences were fun, but just couldn’t quite get the fact that it wasn’t really happening.

The Rose Theater is GORGEOUS, and the people there were so kid-friendly, I could barely believe it. A replica of the department store Santa slide was out front, and Charlie and his buddy got to take a trip down it before heading to their seats.

At one point during the show, I looked over to see Charlie imitating the arm gestures of Ralphie’s old man, and almost lost it again. I’m telling you, it was an emotional night. We left the theater, boys holding hands with moms, all singing “Ralphie to the rescue, ohowhooooaaahhhh!”

He says he would like to be in plays, too, and that’s so cool. Whether that’s true or he was just caught in the moment, it was incredibly heartwarming to share with him something that was once such a huge part of my life. He couldn’t believe that I had played the part of Esther Jane (one of the school girls), and was so excited to see which one she was.

Another cool thing about all of this? If Charlie wants to take some little kid acting classes, he totally can. The Rose offers classes for kids 3-18 years old. THAT IS AMAZING. Can you imagine teaching a bunch of three year olds acting classes? I sure can’t, but the fact that there are people in town who can is just crazy, crazy awesome.

So, big thanks to my friend for inviting us, thanks to the Rose for putting on such a wonderful show, and thanks again to Omaha Performing Arts for getting this tradition started.

If you have a chance to go to the Rose or see a kids show put on by Omaha Performing Arts, please do. If you’re not in Omaha, but have a local theater, see if they’ve got children-friendly show. I think it’ll end up being a pretty special experience for you.

Okay, I’m going to go somewhere and cry it out now. Thanks for reading.

Cray-cray on Vacaycay

Cray-cray on Vacaycay

I have at least three other blog posts sitting patiently in Word documents… all full of deep thinking, work-related, and emotional things.  They’re going to have to continue to be patient, because my brain is going on strike.  It’s time for a picture-based recap post.

Since Paul is working on a career track in the mystical land of academics, our summers are often filled with mish-mashes of side jobs.  This year, Paul worked for a local restaurant at the State Fair.  Just so you know, the state fair is NOT close to where we live, and lasts for almost TWO WEEKS.  Since I had no interest in solo-parenting for that long, we trekked out West and stayed with my parents for the first week, and Paul’s parents for the second.

LucyCanyon

Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures to share from my parents’ house, as they live out in the country, and the kids spent almost the entire time in varying states of undress.  Lucy barely had a diaper on for about a week. So, in the interest of not posting a bunch of nude pictures of my kids… just know that they had a lot of fun.

It’s so nice out there.  The canyon is gorgeous, and the kids love to play with my parents’ dogs.  Charlie loves helping my dad fix bikes, and my mom spends the entire time chasing the kids around the house.  It’s the big old house on the prairie, and it’s nice to feel so free for a while.  My mom took Charlie to the little indoor pool in a neighboring town, and he was in heaven.  I had no idea this kid loved water so much!

vacaycay2

One of the main highlights was the window-well full of toads.  I remember this being a highlight of my childhood, too.  After it rained, toads would congregate down in the wells by our basement windows, and Alli and I would lay there and play with them for hours.  Lucy spent most of her time roaring at them, and it was hilarious.

vacaycay3

About midway through the trip, we visited Paul at the State Fair.  It was so so so nice to see him. We rode the Ferris wheel with Charlie while Lucy screamed indignantly in the stroller with Grandma, and we took an Old West Picture.  I didn’t really want to, but I’m so glad Paul pushed it.  That picture is hilarious. I was grumpy right up until it was time to take the photo, and then, of course, I couldn’t keep a straight face.  Guh.  Oh, well.

 

vacaycay5

The second week was spent with Paul’s parents, and the big highlight was their recently-purchased cabin on the lake.  I need to be honest here and say that I do not like lakes.  I liked them when I was little, and now I do not like them.  I think they are gross and drowning is scary.  BUT, this cabin is slowly changing my mind.  I even went tubing and enjoyed it. Charlie went fishing, fishing, fishing, and boating, boating, boating.  That kid learned terms like “jig head,” caught three fish, named a bait-fish, dealt with the death of said bait-fish, cried a little, then went fishing some more.  It was a full weekend.

vacaycay6

Lucy probably didn’t have as much fun as Charlie, since she couldn’t really do everything she wanted to do, and couldn’t fully communicate what she did want to do.  Next year, though. Next year, she will have a blast out at the cabin.

 

One of my favorite parts of the whole trip was when my parents came out to the cabin. We all rode in the boat, and it was so fun to see Charlie with all four of his grandparents.  Lucy just leans back and lets the wind blow over her with a big grin on her face. I have vague memories of riding on my dad’s old boat, and seeing him on the boat brought them back a little more vividly.

vacaycay4

Overall, it was a good trip.  The kids got so much grandma and grandpa time, and I am incredibly grateful for the help.  I know I would have done okay if we had stayed in Omaha, because I have one of the most awesome “villages” I could ask for, but the nights would have been rough and a little scary.  We’ve ended this two-week stretch feeling pretty drained, but it’s so comforting to be reminded of the support system we have and how many people there are who love us.

Coming back after this is the perfect reset.  We are starting the school year for both Paul (as a teacher) and Charlie (as a three-day-a-week preschooler), and I’m more than ready to get some routine in our lives, because we haven’t really had once since April.

Be prepared for a bunch of super-motivated posts that will last two months, and then peter out around Thanksgiving. (Pie!!!)

Good riddance, Summer! Bring on the Fall!

Charlie, In General.

Charlie, In General.

Charlie, right now, is wonderful and frustrating, and from what I can tell, definitely a four year old.

I’m discovering that four is a pretty monumental age.  Three was a year of discovery and frolicking and tantrums that could be dispelled by a hug.  Four is an age of pouting that cannot be kissed away, and of some pretty scary discoveries.

Death

I’ll get the Debbie Downer stuff out of the way right off the bat.  Charlie’s got a bit of a death obsession right now, and, really, can you blame him?  Around Christmastime, after watching River Monsters with his older cousin, Charlie asked me, “Mom?  Do animals die?”

Oh my frick.  Crap.  “Yeah, bud, they do.”

Fiddling with Legos.  “Do we die?”

Crap. Frick. Can we talk about Pingu, maybe?  Even Thomas?  Or Caillou?  Let’s watch Caillou.  “Yeah, Charlie, after a long long long time, we do.”

I mean, really, am I going to say, “Yep!  It’s actually a little terrifying.  Actually, some electrical wiring could totally go faulty right now, and the house could burn down, and we could all totally die,”?  No.  No, I’m not going to say that.  Eventually we got to the fact that sometimes people get sick or in accidents and die, but at that time, a “long long long time” from now, sounded pretty good.

So, yeah.  Charlie will bring up “dying day,” quite a bit, and Paul is much better at dealing with it than I am.  I’m trying, and listening to Paul’s responses has been helpful, but it doesn’t mean I like it.  It’s very interesting to see his little brain work through it, though, and I’m amazed that he’s better at thinking about death at age 4 than I am as a 29 year old woman.

Poop

Charlie thinks poop is hilarious.  Thank goodness he has a little friend named Bob who also thinks poop is hilarious.  They seem to get most of their poop talk out of their systems (ba-doom chick) when they’re playing together, and it doesn’t come up too much in polite conversation.

Angry Birds

I cannot believe how much of a thing Angry Birds have become around here.  It all started when a spectacular guy at a wonderful coffee shop in Omaha let Charlie play his Angry Birds “Knock on Wood” game.  He now has 3 different versions of that game, another secretly waiting in the closet, and me sitting on eBay for hours trying to find the DAMN “HAPPY HAM O WEEN” game that is LITERALLY NOWHERE TO BE FOUND.  I’m seriously amazed by this phenomenon.  But, I’m telling you guys, watching Charlie and Bob play Angry Birds for hours is hilarious and delightful.  They do voices and come up with stories and it’s straight-up fantastic.

Charlieingeneral3

Lucy

Lucy and Charlie are in the stage where every once in a while I will find them hugging and most of the time I will find their foreheads shoved together like two angry fighting moose.  Or finding Lucy’s teeth furiously locked onto Charlie’s skin while his eyes are wide with excruciating pain and disbelief while Lucy’s eyes are ablaze with mischief and glee.

Needless to say it gets a little bit frustrating.

Sure enough, though, I will see Charlie squeezing his fists and “pretend hitting” Lucy so that he doesn’t actually hit her.  I’m not sure how to explain this… he kind of bats the air around her head while gritting his teeth.  I can see how frustrated he is, and I can see him trying not to actually hurt Lucy.  Charlie’s a sensitive little guy, and I love that he’s trying so hard not to hurt his sister.  You can only take so many chomps from a mischievous little pixie with a thirst for 4-year-old blood before you actually start hitting, though.  I tell him to just count to ten and walk away from her… but I totally understand why he’s upset.  Her teeth are like angry little razors attached to one of the cutest damn faces I ever did see.  The feelings are conflicting.

Charlieingeneral1

Charlie, in general

Charlie is so sweet.  I love his groggy face when he walks out of his bedroom in the mornings.  He’s so genuinely glad to see me, and heads straight for a hug or a snuggle before quietly pleading to watch gameplay videos of geeks on YouTube playing Angry Birds.  He hugs his sister even though she leaves teeth marks on him, and desperately loves to make surprises for his daddy while he’s away at work.  Sometimes I look at him at my heart hurts because he has perfect Luke Skywalker hair, or because his eyes are actually green sometimes more than they are blue.  I’m not terribly good at sentimental writing when it comes to my own stuff, but oh my gosh, I love this kid.  I love him so much that I don’t like to think about how much I love him, if that makes sense.  So, it should be totally unsurprising that I leave you with a joke that he told me last week:

“Mom!  Why did the angry bird jump into the lava!?!?”

“I don’t know, Charlie.  Why?”

“BECAUSE HE THOUGHT IT WAS A SWIMMING POOL!!!!  THAT’S SILLY BECAUSE IT WOULD BE TOO HOT AND HE WOULD SAY OW OW OW AND DIE BLEHHHHH!!!!!”