Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Baby food wars

I'm just appalled by baby food right now. I can't find vegetables for the life of me, but there are shelves of desserts for babies. Why on earth would anyone feed an 8-month-old dessert??? It's no wonder there are so many fat kids in America; we're starting them on the sweet stuff almost at birth.

I've been fortunate with Ella and Lily - they both love vegetables and have since they were tiny. We started off feeding the baby food vegetables before they ever had fruit, and I think that has a lot to do with their current love of squash, carrots, peas and green beans. We even do the "Green Bean Dance" whenever we have them for dinner.

But I'm worried that Campbell won't develop the same love, just because I can't find vegetables for him to eat, other than sweet potatoes. He loves them and ends up eating them so often that I swear his nose is turning orange. But I can't find squash or carrots for the life of me. And it's not just at HEB that I have problems. Even Central Market, with its selection of organic baby foods, is woefully short on veggies. But I can buy any kind of fruit and pudding I want.

Campbell, like his sisters, won't have any kind of dessert or sweets until his first birthday, when I'll let him go nuts with cake and ice cream. But until then, I'd really like to be able to feed him more than one kind of vegetable.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Is it time for school yet?

The girls may not survive summer vacation. Today is the first real day, and they've already driven me around the bend. We spent Sunday and Monday up at the lake, so they had lots of entertainment. But today the reality of normal life hit, and it wasn't pretty. The day started with them crashing into our bedroom to tell on each other. I sat bolt upright in bed and yelled, "Get out of here now!" Once I woke up fully, I had a discussion with them about the appropriate ways to let me know they're awake in the morning.

I sent them in to clean their room a little later, and that didn't go well. Ella does pretty well if I give her specific tasks - like pick up all the dominos, pick up all the books, etc. But she has to come report on a regular basis that Lily isn't doing what I've asked her to do. Ella made good progress this morning until I suggested that she straighten up her desk, which is covered with papers and art work. Somehow, everything got scattered all over the floor again. I'm going to have to go in with a trash bag and take over.

Right now, they're at Heidi's while I'm getting work done and cleaning up the rest of the house. But there is the potential for a looonnnggg afternoon ahead of us. Heidi said she's going to make a daily summer schedule, similar to what they have at school - art time, reading time, cleaning time - and I think it's a good idea. The girls really do need structure in their lives.

Fortunately, Lily goes back to school on Thursday, and they both start swim lessons on Monday. I think things will get a bit easier when they have some scheduled activities in their lives. If that doesn't work, I may resort to locking them in their room and throwing food in once in a while.

Roller Grrrllllzzzz

Brandon, believe it or not, suggested the plan of going roller skating this weekend. One of the realtors in his office invited us to join him, his girlfriend, and his son, and Brandon actually accepted. I almost died from shock.

The girls had so much fun. It took Ella once around the rink holding our hands before she was off on her own. By the end of the hour, she could go all the way around without falling down. Lily went from clinging to us and having her feet go twelve different directions to holding Brandon's hand and making forward progress. They both loved skating, and when we left they were begging to go back.

For me, it was a real blast from the past. I can't even begin to count the number of afternoons I spent at the roller rink in Sarasota. I loved going to skate. The roller rink we went to on Saturday looked just like the one I went to growing up - dingy carpet-covered benches, video games, neon lights, a disco ball. The skates were even the same after all these years.

I had to laugh at one point - a little boy from one of the kindergarten classes was there with his big sister and her friends, and they were teasing him about Ella. They kept calling Ella over to him and then saying, "Ella, he likes you. Do you like him????" and then collapsing in gales of laughter. Ella and the little boy had no idea what was going on or why it was so funny to the girls that they kept saying yes. It's just shades of what's to come, I'm afraid.

I promised Ella that I'd take her, Lily and one of her friends back to skate this summer. I want to leave Campbell behind so that I can actually have a chance to skate.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Don't go breaking my heart

The first picture is of Ella on her first day of kindergarten last August. I cried the whole way home in the car after dropping her off. I couldn't believe that my baby was already in kindergarten.
The second picture is of Ella last week, almost a first grader, and I'm about to cry again. I probably will on her last day of school.
It's just not possible that she has gotten so big, so fast. It seems like just yesterday I was taking her to preschool for the first time - with her backpack full of diapers because she wasn't potty trained yet. Now her backpack is full of notes from her friends and treasures she finds on the ground and art projects she forgets to give me. She also totes around a homework folder - homework!
And as if I needed further proof of how big she's getting, she lost her first tooth two weeks ago. Now she is very proud of her gap-toothed grin and likes to show off how she can stick her tongue in the hole where the tooth used to be.
I wish I could find a way to slow time down, just a little bit, so that I can catch up with how much Ella is changing. Otherwise, before I know it, she'll be driving. And then I'll really be crying.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Just a little pity party

When I first started running down on the Town Lake Trai, I'd see these packs of women go flying by and watch with envy. They were so fast and so cool. I never thought I'd be like them. Then I met Liz and Shelly and Holli and started running with them. In the beginning, I ran behind them more than I ran with them. They'd nicely wait for me at the top of the 35th street bridge at MoPac and at Shoal Creek Hospital while I straggled in, puffing along. Then one day it happened, I was running with them. We were blowing down Speedway, and we caught up with and passed by this guy who was just noodling along. As we ran past, he gave us sort of an awe-struck look, and it hit me that I was finally one of the runner chicks I had always watched go by.

Running with these women was a major part of my social structure. We'd run on Saturdays and then go for breakfast; we'd meet for track and hill workouts at least one evening a week. I loved the time I spent running and socializing with them.

After Ella was born, it took me a solid year to be able to run with the running chicks again. And just as I really started to get back in shape, I got pregnant with Lily. As before, it took me another year to get back into it. But for much of the two years after that, I ran three mornings a week with various groups of women and loved it. It was such a good way to start the day. And then I got pregnant with Campbell.

It's been more than a year since I've been able to run with my friends, and I really miss it. I miss the social aspect and the support. I feel like I've dropped off the face of the planet. This spring has just been lousy for running for me, and now we're heading into the summer, which is a rotten time to get back into shape.

I'm about at the point of finding something different to do, but I don't know what it would be. Nothing makes me feel as good as a solid run with friends.

I know I need to suck it up and be patient, but some days, today especially, it's hard.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Book report

I had the great fortune to hear Anne Lamott speak last night. As wonderful as it was to hear her, it was an odd experience. I came away pretty wrung out and cried most of the way home. It was like this huge group therapy session, and a pretty cathartic one at that.

She read one piece that was new to me and then spoke for about 20 minutes about "everything" she knows about life, and then she read another piece called "Ham of God," which I had read before. As powerful as her writing and storytelling are, I got far more out of her off-the-cuff remarks.

Yesterday was a tough day for Ella. She had a problem with one of her friends at school and came home in tears. I felt so powerless to help. People, even good friends, can be mean and thoughtless sometimes. It's a lesson I wish I could shield her from, but it is one she needs to learn. I didn't know what to do or to say to make things better, so I called on her teacher, which turned out to the be the right choice.

Last night, Anne said that when she and her brothers were dealing with her mother during the early stages of her Alzheimer's, Anne said to a nurse at one point, "I just don't know what to do." The nurse's response was, "Why should you? You've never done this before. That's why I'm here to help."

Hearing Anne say that was like like an epiphany. Of course I don't know what to do with Ella when her heart is broken by a friend - I've never raised a 6-year-old Ella before. I have to go with what I know, and when that doesn't work, I have to ask for help, which is exactly what I did. It was a huge burden off my shoulders.

Anne also talked about something E. L. Doctorow said about writing. He said writing a book is like driving at night with just headlights one - you can only see the little bit of road ahead of you, but you manage to make the whole trip that way. According to Anne, life is like that. We only see the little bit of road ahead of us, but as we move forward we see a little bit more and little bit more. We learn what we need to know as we go along.

I also really related to one of her funnier comments. She said she's an early riser, but that when she wakes up in the morning, all of her neuroses are already up and are sitting on the bed waiting for her. It turns out they've gotten up earlier, and they've already had their coffee. She feels like she starts the day with her list of how she's already behind. That's how I start my days - I wake up and before I've even gotten out of bed, I've gone through my list of what needs to be done, what I've left undone, and what I'm never going to manage to do. I'm exhausted before my feet even hit the floor. I need to learn to be still and just greet the day as a clean slate.

There's so much more I could write about the presentation, but I just can't right now. I'm still processing it all. When I got home, Brandon asked about the reading, and I told him I wasn't ready to talk, and even now, 24 hours later, I'm not ready to write much more. It was that powerful of an evening for me. My hope is that I mange to retain some of the things I heard and really learn from them.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Creative Parenting, 101

Ella has developed this bad little habit of sticking her tongue out at me when she's upset at something I've asked her to do or told her not to do. Actually, she's been pretty uppity all around lately, and I'm getting tired of it. I think she gets told at school that's she's great on a pretty regular basis. Her teacher, who is otherwise a dream come true, can be a bit effusive in her praise of Ella. So now Ella thinks she's hot spit at home, too.

While we were at the beach this weekend, I told Ella to do something, and she stuck her tongue out at me. I just can't allow her to do that - it's rude and disrespectful. So I sent her to the bedroom while Brandon and I talked about what to do. I've tried time outs, I've tried taking things away like bedtime stories, and nothing has worked.

Then I came up with the most brilliant idea and Brandon agreed to give it a try. I called Ella back in and asked her if she remembered what happened to Ralphie in the movie "A Christmas Story" when he said a bad word. I got a very quiet, muttered "had to put soap in his mouth" in response. I told her that Daddy and I had discussed it, and we decided that any time she stuck her tongue out at us, she'd have to lick a bar of soap. Her eyes just about popped out of her head and she gave us the most horrified look ever - even worse than when I threatened to tell her beloved teacher about her bad behavior.

I pointed out to her that this was entirely in her control. If she never sticks her tongue out at me again, she'll never have to lick a bar of soap - the choice is entirely up to her. She fled the room without saying a word. Brandon and I waited until she was out of earshot and started laughing. Our guess was that she was in the other room, sticking her tongue out for all she was worth.

As long as she doesn't do it to my face, she's fine. But one of these days, that little tongue is going to fly out of her mouth before she realizes what she's done. And then the fun will begin.

The weather is here, wish you were beautiful

It seems that every time I leave the safe confines of Austin, I become disgusted with humanity in general and Americans in particular. Really, it's no wonder that the rest of the world hates us. We went to the beach this weekend in Corpus, and I was horrified by most of my fellow beachgoers.

First, 90 percent of them were fat. I'm not talking about a few extra pounds here or there, because goodness knows I can't throw any stones about that right now. I'm talking morbidly obese, and there were whole families of obese people - kids included. One little boy on a blanket near us had bigger boobs than I do.

Then there was the general lack of consideration. Just because you like country music doesn't mean everyone within a 100-yard radius does, too. There were times when it was hard to have conversation because we were drowned out by the competing boom boxes and car stereos. On a positive note, one car pulled in next to us blaring gangsta rap, rife with obscentities (mind you, four WHITE kids were listening to it), and one of the girls in the back seat told the driver he needed to turn off the radio because little kids were near by. He ended up driving off to park somewhere else, which was pretty remarkable. I gave the girl a "thank you" wave as they drove away. I get enough tough questions from Ella these days, I don't need to have to explain those words to her, too.

People left trash everywhere; I pulled floating garbage out of the waves. They let their dogs poop in the water and on the beach. It was awful.

And this isn't a slam at lower income folks. Some of the worst offenders were piling out of nice cars and SUVs. My observation is that the more money they appeared to have, the worse the apparent sense of entitlement - I'm going to do/say/destroy what I want, nevermind who is around me.

There were two French couples next to us on the beach at one point, and I wanted to go over and apologize to them and explain, in my broken French, that not all Americans were boors and idiots, despite evidence to the contrary.

Things didn't get better when we left the beach and headed for home. It seems that ugly American behavior is spreading. Since when are a Hooters tank top, cut-off jeans and flip flops appropriate attire for eating at a restaurant - a real restaurant with napkins and silverware on the table? And at one gas station, I had to duck and dodge a pack of kids who were running wild with no parental supervision.

It was all enough to make me never want to travel again. Or to wear some sort of sign that says I'm not like the rude, ignorant fools all around.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The girls

My friend Megan has a knack for asking me questions, via e-mail, that really get me thinking. I end up writing very long responses and afterwards decide that they'd make a good blog entry. So here's another one. She asked if, as I was watching Campbell grow and change, I was noticing changes in the girls as they get older.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about the three kids and how my relationships with each are so different, so I really do notice the changes in all of them. Ella is so OLD now that she's almost done with kindergarten. She's not as snuggly as she used to be, and when Brandon and I are joking around and being silly with her, she's more likely to give us the eye roll than she is to join in. But she is so much fun to just hang out with. We can have real conversations about things - like stuff at school and what books she's reading and why she likes them. We're really getting a feel for the person she's becoming

Lily has really turned into a little mother-hen in the last few months. I have to stop her from smothering Campbell on a regular basis. And I often hear Ella saying, "Lily, you're not the boss of me!" to her. I usually let them sort out their differences without much interference. Lily is also such a ham these days, usually without meaning to be. The other night at dinner, she propped her elbows on the table, folded her hands together, looked at all of us and asked, "So, how was your day today? What did you do today? Anything exciting?" Brandon and I just about fell out of our chairs laughing - we ask the girls that question at dinner all the time, and she nailed our tone perfectly.

As my parents commented about me and my sister, it's amazing that two such different people can come from the same parents. I look forward to seeing what Campbell is like. So far, he's just a happy, roly-poly little guy. But I'm sure that will change.

Monday, May 07, 2007

I'b sig

Moms aren't allowed to get sick, yet here I am, feeling worse than I have since I had the flu in college. Really, it's that bad. Bad enough that I spent the weekend in bed. I missed the annual neighborhood arts festival for the first time ever. And I sent all three kids away yesterday - it's the first time I've let Campbell go to B's grandmother's house without me. That should be an indication of just how horrible I felt.

I gave up yesterday afternoon and went to a doc-in-the-box who told me it's either a sinus infection for the flu. Nothing like narrowing down the possibilities. He gave me antibiotics and said that if I started feeling better after 24 hours it was a sinus infection. I started the antibiotics last night, and I feel a little better, but only a little.

Brandon's been great through all of this. Friday was his birthday, and I was in bed by 8:00. Fortuntately, his cousin's wife invited him over for a porch party. Saturday Brandon took the girls to the festival so I could sleep while Campbell did, and yesterday he drove everyone out to his grandmother's house. I don't know what I would have done without him.

In the meantime, the house has completely fallen apart. There are piles of unfolded laundry all over the place from people hunting for clean clothes. The kitchen counter is piled with dishes, and the floor is covered with cheerios and dog fur. I think I'm going to have to cowboy up today and clean for all I'm worth.

The only problem is Lily - she seems to be coming down with whatever we've had. She was up all night coughing and is saying that she feels sick. And Campbell's very cranky. I hope he's not relapsing. I think we need a quarantine sign on the door.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Stay-at-home v. Full-time work

A friend who has a one-year-old wrote to ask whether I'd wrestled with the whole staying at home versus working full time issue. She's feeling the pull to go back to work. It's something I think about on a regular basis, as do most mothers, I'm sure. And surprisingly, most mothers don't like to talk about it. It's such a loaded issue, with moms who work outside the home and moms who stay home full time feeling like they are on opposite sides, when really we aren't. We all have to figure out what's right for us and our families, whether it's staying home, working full time or something in between. Maybe if we could talk about our feelings more openly, it wouldn't be such a loaded topic. So here's my response to my friend, in the interest of furthering the dialogue.

I wrestled a lot with the whole SAHM vs. work issue. When Ella was a baby, I worked half-time at home and half-time in the office. B's schedule allowed him to be home in the mornings while I was at the office, which was an ideal situation. I had the best and worst of both the SAH and work worlds.

When Lily was born, I decided to switch to freelance, which has worked out well over the past four years overall, but there are times when I struggle with it, especially when I don't have any work lined up. This is the first time since I was 16 that I haven't had a steady paying job and income, and it still feels very strange, even after four years.

Even though I know that what I do around the house is of value and that we couldn't afford to pay someone to watch three kids and cook and clean full-time, I still have times when I feel like I'm not pulling my own weight. I think it's something every mom who stays home wrestles with.

But at the same time, I am so profoundly grateful that Brandon and I have been able to arrange things so that I can be at home with the kids. I love my time with them, I love being able to walk to school in the afternoons and pick Ella up, I love taking Lily to her "ballelet" class (even if I do feel like I have to bring the entire house along in my diaper bag), I love being able to snooze with Campbell in the mornings. They get so big so fast that I treasure the time I have with them now. I'm also glad that I don't have to juggle things last minute when a kid is sick and I need to be at work.

That doesn't mean there aren't days when I'm emptying the dish washer for the third time and folding my fourth basket of laundry and the girls are fighting with each other and Campbell is crying that I wish I could give it all up and go to an office and be with grown-ups every day.

No, you aren't alone in your feelings, and I think they're things a lot of moms don't discuss and should. We need to know we're not alone when we get these bouts of doubt and guilt. But in the end, it all boils down to what you feel is best for you and your family.

No matter what you decide to do, you are great mom and will continue to be one, whether it's at home full time or at the office full time or some combination of the two.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The stars aligned . . . almost

After a month-long spell of solid running, I've slipped back to struggling to even get out the door. There are all sorts of reasons - Campbell wasn't sleeping, kids were sick, Brandon was out of town, it was raining - but mostly they were excuses. So late last week I decided to make Monday my re-start date.

And the stars aligned . . . almost. Amazingly, Campbell slept through the night, and so did I. Usually, when he sleeps through, I wake up every hour or so to listen for him making noise over the monitor. So I woke up Monday morning after 7 hours of GOOD sleep an hour before my alarm was set to go off. I got up, got dressed in running clothes and fed Campbell. He cooperated by eating and going right back to sleep. I did a very quiet little happy dance in the living room and went to get my running shoes off the front porch. And that's when it started raining.

I'll run in the rain, to a point. A little mist or drizzle is fine. Even a light sprinkle doesn't bother me much. But it was pouring. So I grumbled and went back inside to read the paper. About fifteen minutes later the rain stopped, so I bolted out the door. I only had 20 minutes before I needed to get Ella up, so I didn't waste any time rounding up my iPod or stretching - I just ran. And surprisingly, despite a week's layoff, it was a great run. I pushed the pace, deciding to make the most of my limited time, and I felt great the whole way.

It was a good way to re-start my running come back, for the fourth or fifth time.