Thursday, September 26, 2013

Split Seconds

Ever had one of those weeks where your kids both have miserable colds which causes them to be a) miserable and b) almost insufferable, your husband works late every night and then you get in a car accident at the end of the week?

Maybe just me, then.

Luckily, the colds have cleared up slightly (except poor Dash is still kind of a mess), my husband always comes home and the car will be fixed and our injuries were pretty minor.

Here's what happened, for curious minds:

We were going to my grandma's house to visit her on Saturday morning. It was a gorgeous fall day - clear and sunny - and my grandma has had quite a bit of health setbacks recently, so we thought we'd make the hour long drive to see her.

We were two blocks from her house (my dad also lives there with his wife), and going straight down a residential road. There's a car coming out a side road about to turn left. He's got his nose out and is looking right, down the street to see if he's clear. He's barely clear - there's a car coming - but I think he thought he could probably accelerate and squeeze in front of the car. So, he accelerates out quickly, but the problem is, he doesn't look to his left. Where we were driving down the road.

Peter sees this about to happen, I think. He swerves and honks to try to miss the impending crash, as he judges (accurately, I'm sure) that he doesn't have enough space to brake.

The car accelerates out, tries to turn left, and instead plows directly into the rear passenger side of our car. Smacks the wheel and the passenger door pretty hard. Which is, of course, the door my youngest baby sits next to. We get jostled pretty hard before coming to a stop, but I doubt we were even at a complete stop before I'm out of the car and opening the door to get to my baby as fast as humanly possible.

Here's the thing: when you're in a situation like this, time simultaneously slows way down and speeds way up. It's a split second. Not enough long enough to fully understand what has happened. But plenty of time for your brain to immediately process the fact that your baby, your whole heart, is the closest person in the car to the point of impact. You have no idea how bad the crash was, all you can think is "SHIT" while your heart momentarily stops and the worst case scenario runs through your head - despite the fact that within a split second you have exited the car to get your precious baby into your arms faster than even humanly possible.

I leapt out of the car and snatched my baby out of his carseat, where he was safely sitting. Peter's out of the car and down the street, where he's yelling at the other driver. Ellie's crying to be picked up - poor girl was rightly very scared and has talked about it all week since. (She keeps telling me in her limited vocabulary that she was scared and she wanted to be picked up, but we weren't picking her up because we were busy. Breaks my heart!)

The 16 year old boy who hit us was very apologetic and emotional, and my heart also broke a bit for him. He made a mistake, and I'm pretty sure he'll never make that kind of mistake again.

Bottom line: cars can be repaired, my whiplash seems to be the only injury that's arisen for our family (knock on wood...) and I am incredibly thankful for the fantastic carseats that did their job and protected my babes.

These two.
My whole heart.
car accident means new carseats! What Dash thinks of his!
What Ellie thinks of hers!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Feels Like Home

Amelia is one of my favorite bloggers. I love how real and honest she is and how she never fails to paint an accurate picture of what her life is really like. She has two adorable and energetic boys, works full time like a boss and kicks ass daily. And, she's a sweetheart. She sent me such a thoughtful care package while I was pregnant, and we're still reaping the benefits of the bath toys she included (the shortbread is long, long gone though. sadly.). She was a sorority sister back in the day, and now she's a dear internet friend (who I'd love to catch in real life one of these days/months/years).

ANYWAY. She wrote this post about her real life home, not the one she fantasizes about creating or the one she wishes she had. I love her honestly and so, in return, I give you MY real home.

My house is a mess 95% of the time. When it's clean and decluttered, it's my favorite place on earth. When it isn't, I want to run away and escape from the endless stacks of paper, dog hair scattered around the carpet regardless of when I vacuumed last, dishes inevitably piled up in the sink, piles of clothing EVERYWHERE, toddler toys littered throughout, miniature baby strollers with a random stuffed animal strapped in, snacks left out, stickers stuck, diaper strewn somewhere. You're in luck today, because after a week of two sick children, my house is impeccable (note sarcasm!) and in perfect condition to share with the internet. :)

My kitchen is beautiful. We remodeled it last year. I love how it turned out, and I love cooking in it. I'm a good cook, and I don't mind the mess I make because that's the price we pay for a great meal. Most of the time, the counters house all sorts of papers, trinkets, cups, plates, to-do lists, crumbs, etc. It's cleared off once every three weeks when our cleaners come, and it's spotless for three minutes after we walk in the door. It's the center of our home, and I love living there.

Our living room is a reminder that young children live here. There is always, at the very least, something out of place, but usually it looks like a tornado came through.

Our tornado's name is Eleanor and this is what she looked like last night:
discovered the joys of markers!
This is our china cabinet. It's also where everything accumulates during the day, and where I get ready (makeup, etc.) You can see nothing is out of place. :) Also, you can see what I looked like this morning when I took this picture having not showered in three days. Like I said, two sick babies, so I get a free pass, right?!

Peter built this awesome booth, and refinished our table. We aim for one family meal here per day, and even if the meal is spent trying to convince a toddler to eat something, or staring off into space having exhausted all mental capacity keeping up with the day, it's a good way to connect. I hope so, at least. He also recently re-finished the secretary to the left of the table. He's a regular Renaissance Man, my husband!

Our entry way houses several diaper bags, work bags, lots of pairs of shoes and many random pieces of clothing. We don't have a mud room, so this is it.

Our bathrooms range from horrifically dated to fairly new and cute. They're functional most of the time, and I'm grateful we have three working toilets and two tubs/showers. Our two year old adores "spa time" so despite the grime, this is a place we often hang out as a family.
new-ish and cute-ish
In between
horrifically dated. she's taking the photo opportunity to hop into the tub for a little "spa time" :)
Here's our laundry area. Try as I might, keeping up with laundry will never happen. It's an easy trade off for having a family of four!

Our Master Bedroom pretty much always looks like this. Hourly speaking, it's the room I spend the most time in, but since I'm asleep, or at least wishing I was asleep, it gets the least attention.

Where Dash "sleeps." Needless to say, he hasn't actually slept there in many nights. 
Peter's corner. He built the bookshelves and reupholstered the chair. Handyman!
This is my favorite room. When it's clean and tidy, it's just how I want it to be. I love the red bed and bedspread, the eclectic furniture, the personal significance of all the framed pieces of art. Most of all, I love that this is the room that makes me feel the most like a mother, because despite everything else that mother's do, making sure her babies have a nice, cozy place to sleep and feel safe is a priority. It's often in shambles, but that's because it's a very lived in and much loved space.

Lastly, my other two favorite parts of our home. Our mantle, made by Peter, and our family picture wall, which is, by definition, a work in progress.

I don't show you these to paint myself as a slovenly, filthy person. In reality, our place is pretty clean (housecleaners do the deep cleaning and I keep up with the smaller stuff in between visits), but cluttered. It's lived in and loved in. I don't believe that my kids should be tidied up after constantly, or kept to certain areas of the house - they live here too, and the mobile one plays pretty hard here, and that's just the way I want it. I try to pick up after she goes to sleep, but some days it just doesn't happen, and that's perfectly okay. My dishes pile up because when there is finally time to do them, it means the kids are asleep and I've earned a bit of a break. Like now - the kids are napping (or is she? who knows!) and I'm blogging. They get done eventually, and the counters get wiped down, and we start all over again. I show you these because it's important to keep our lives in perspective. It's important for mothers especially to see other women struggle to keep up an image of perfection, and pulling back the drapes to expose reality. This is really my home, and it's really my favorite home I've ever lived in.

Funny note about this home: the first time Peter asked me to come to over, we watched a movie together on the couch. We watched Once and held hands and kissed for the first time. And I had this distinct moment where I was sitting there, looking around, and for the first time in my life really, I felt home. The place had a distinct feeling of bachelor-hood, but I imagined that someday I, and our two kids, would call this house home. That's when I knew that we were likely in it for the long haul, for forever. That's how you know you've found your home.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Kids These Days

It's 10 am on a dreary fall morning, and of course, that means my husband can be found at the bar. To be fair, he goes to any bar an average of 15 times a year, and always at 10am, and only to watch his beloved Vikings play football (I'm too stingy to buy the NFL network - in fact, this year, I convinced him to cancel cable all together, but that's another story). That means the kids and I are up and watching PBS weekend tv, and I'm happy to have my two babies piled onto my lap. And do a little blog updating.

All three of us have circles under our eyes this morning. Ellie's enjoying the freedom of her big girl bed a little too much these nights (and early mornings), and both are teething, and I'm getting the short end of both these sticks when it comes to sleep. Days like these I especially appreciate not heading off to work in the morning.

I had a dream last night in which Dash was back in the hospital and was acting fine - no breathing or feeding assistance required. I begged the nurse to let me take him home and she asked the doctor who gave us the okay to be discharged. I cried tears of joy and when I woke up my relief was palpable. Thank goodness he's ours and he's healthy. I recounted my dream to Peter, who reminded me that today is Dash's five month birthday. So it is! Happy five months, big guy!
Too busy laughing to stay still for the camera
What's Dash up to these days? Besides teething, which is keeping him from sleeping too soundly but not making him grumpy or unhappy otherwise?
See? Teething
He found his feet this week and is pretty thrilled to have built in toys which his sister cannot steal away from him, regardless of how hard she tries. He's still a bit on the young side of the developmental spectrum - really he acts more like a four month old in most ways (except his size. He passed the 20 pound mark and is snuggly wearing size 12-18 month). He found his voice too, and likes to experiment with it, likes to converse with us and will give us some priceless giggles if we work hard enough. Although he's rolled over in the past, he prefers being stationary and watching the chaos unfold around him. I have a feeling he'll be a bit slower on the movement front, which is just FINE with this tired mama.

He's a champion nurser (obviously) and lately has spent the majority of his waking hours attached to my breast. We're good at breastfeeding on the go, but it is making me quite hungry all the time. :) He's showing almost zero interest in real food, and I'm going to let him take the lead on this one. He'll eat when he's ready (although, I admit I have shared a couple "bites" of peaches and plums with him already. I can't help it - this end of summer fruit is so delicious, I have to let him try it before it's gone for another year! I love him too much to have him wait for his first bite of delicious summer peach). Sleep could be better, but could be worse too, so I'm counting it as a win. Dash is perfectly content sitting and watching whatever is happening around him, which makes him literally the easiest baby I've ever encountered. He's so happy, so sweet and so easy and so darn cute that I find myself many, many times a day shaking my head in disbelief that he's mine. You guys - I just love him so incredibly much.

And his big sister? I love her incredibly much too, of course. What's she up to these days?

Ellie is simultaneously the biggest handful and the biggest source of joy to me. Such a combination of incredibly frustrating and heart-bursting amazing this little girl is. I suppose that's true of most two year olds? She's so thirsty for knowledge these days (and water too, and JUICE!). She amazed us by quickly learning almost all the letters almost entirely on her own, and has moved on to trying to draw them. She loves trucks, trains, airplanes etc, and will beg for as much tv as we let her watch. Superwhy is a favorite, but Dinosaur Train is not far behind, with the old Pixar standbys reliably waiting in the wings. She loves her brother, but occasionally finds joy in kicking him, which leads to a most unhappy timeout. She loves her crib/toddler bed, but does not love to stay in it unless she determines she's been rocked and "talked to" enough before hand. She calls the process of rocking and talking "SO" (because we always begin the conversation with "so, how was your day?") and will beg and cry for "MORE SO!" and come out of the room as many times as she wants asking for "more so?" until we either give in or determine that she's done - in which case she will cry herself to sleep.... It's pretty exhausting. Additionally she refuses to sleep in her twin bed and will only use her crib/toddler bed, which would be fine, but we're getting anxious to move Dash to the crib and out of bed with me. It'll get there, eventually.
Dash is just fine in the twin bed, however.
Superwhy! on the kindle! 
She loves playdough and coloring and playing blocks with Daddy and riding her airplane around the house and pushing her baby stroller. She's a pretty good eater most of the time. She seems to be at a language plateau, which is frustrating for everyone.

She's teething her molars which seems pretty painful at times. Eleanor's creative and silly and sweet and fun-loving and brave, and strong willed and energetic and frustrated at her limitations (either self imposed or imposed by us) all in one. She loves her brother almost all the time, but you never know if she's about to shove something in his face and jump on him with love, or get super angry at whatever he's holding or attention he's garnering. She's started a two hour a week Toddler Group, which after one session, I can say she earned an A+ for attitude and F for following the group.

She's amazing. She's a handful. We're quite lucky.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

This Matters

We had a day. You know - the kind with the high highs and low lows. Example: Dash giving us his first honest to goodness belly laugh, at his sister and I being silly. Low: we were in the doctor's office when it happened, because he spent the better first half of the day screaming in pain of sorts. What a sneaky trickster, pulling one over on us like that, just as the doctor walked in. Another good low (not sure I can call it that) involved Ellie waddling up the stairs holding a poopy diaper in her hand (removed by hers truly!) and me asking her if there was poop downstairs on the carpet. Her answer: yeah. HA!

And so I'm thinking...

I've struggled with self-identity probably my whole life, but especially my adult life. Ironically, now that I have the official label of "Stay At Home Mom" attached to me, I struggle the most.

Why is this so hard for me? Why is it still hard, 18 months later, to label myself a Stay At Home Mom? Is it some negative connotation or stereotype that I've bought into too fully? could be. If asked, I rarely (if ever) use that phrase. Usually I say something like, "oh, I'm at home right now with the kids" or something along those lines. Is it deeper than a negative association with the phrase? doubt it. Is it because in this post feminist era and area of the country I live in, I feel I'm sort of going "backwards" away from women's liberation? quite likely. Through the years women fought for the opportunity to go to work, to succeed and to be recognized as equals. Here I am, allowing myself to reap those benefits, but choosing to eschew their efforts. Is it that I'm ashamed of having a great education and not using it? possibly. Friends are doctors, lawyers, successful businesswomen and men. My day revolves around naps and diapers, and hunting for poop on carpet. Is it that I wasn't happy in my professional life before stepping out, and therefore have no idea what else I'd be doing? sure. Is it that I don't think what I do with my day really matters? no.

Bare with me, I'm sorting this all out in my head. I honestly don't know what my problem is. :)

It's an interesting place to be. When I worked, I yearned with every fiber of my being to be with my baby. I cannot imagine not being with them, day in and day out. As soon as we could financially make it even remotely feasible, I begged my husband to get on board with the plan. It's not the best idea for us, for me to be out of the job market right now, but it works in the short term. And let's be clear: I absolutely adore being home with them. Sometimes when asked I brush it off a bit, I think at risk of alienating the person asking. Who wants to hear a mother gush on and on about how much she loves her babies and being home with them all day? But, I do. I really do. However, that doesn't mean that I don't miss the intellectual stimulation working provided, the socialization, the feeling that I was making a difference in the business world and the hopeful aspiration of moving up, and up, and up. I knowingly gave all that up to change direction - to stay home with my babies and pursue other passions (more on that later).

So, why the reluctance? I'm not sure, but I am sure that I'm probably not alone in how I feel. It's risky to admit to these sorts of feelings, but at least its honest. I think it part it's recognizing that in this world, it's darn hard to achieve what you consider to be both the pinnacle of personal and professional success. I know very few mothers who haven't had to make serious sacrifices on either the professional side or family side (usually both) to try to do what works best for themselves and their families. We're told we can "have it all" - but I don't think that's true for most people. To me, it is easy to see the benefit a working mother brings to the table: she is not only making a financial contribution but she is showing that this is something that should not be the responsibility of only one gender. She leads by example how important an education is. Her children see her juggling responsibilities and making tough choices. If she is fulfilled by her work, she shows how crucial it is to be constantly bettering oneself. There are countless clear benefits.

One thing I'm sure of though: despite the occasional doubt popping up into my head that I'm not making a big difference or living to my potential - I am certain that I am. First, I am a happier person - both for myself, my husband and my children - being home during the days. I am certain of that much. A less tense me almost certainly positively affects my family, which is the very most important thing in my life. Whatever I can do to lift my family I should do. Further though - I believe I am building roots for my children. I am building them a nest and the certain knowledge that their family is where they belong and with whom they belong. That we will always be there for them and a cushion for them to fall into when life gets hard. That no matter what, they have parents who will be guiding and gently pushing and providing for them. And when I doubt, I realize how quickly exponential figures add up. If I can positively affect my two children, and they have two children, and so on, very quickly I have made a difference in the lives of many. There is no question here - what I'm doing does matter. My days may be quiet and sometimes mundane, and sometimes may even have me questioning why I do it at all, but when I go to sleep at night I can be sure that in this stage of life, I am making a difference to the three most important people in my world. And that's more than enough to remind me that this matters.