Saturday, October 29, 2011

How to "enjoy your kids"

"Enjoy your kids now. They grow up so fast."

Every time someone says those words to me, I usually have one of three mental reactions, depending on my emotional/spiritual state at the time (and whether or not I've gotten "pee pee'd" on yet that day):

(1) nod and say, "Wow, you're right. Thanks for the reminder."
(2) cock my head to the side and say, "And how exactly would you recommend that I do that?"
(3) hand my son off to them and say, "Here, YOU enjoy him for an hour. I'm going shopping."

I'm joking (about #3... sort of...), but Humor is good friends with Honesty, right? In other words, I'm laughing, but I mean it. How am I supposed to enjoy my child's childhood if I can't get past the dirty dishes, diapers, tantrums, un-plannable schedules, constant loads of laundry, lost sleep, crabbiness, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.?

Sometimes, your kids get to you. (And I only have one. Oh brother. Moms and dads of two kids or more are rolling their eyes right about now...)

I'm twenty-six years old. I like skinny jeans, and stilettos, and vanilla lattes, and practicing the guitar, and salsa dancing, and staying up past 10 p.m. to finish the delicious book I picked up the other day. But I've also got a toddler, and so my likes and preferences are sometimes necessarily postponed, or adjusted, to fit the needs of my family. It's how it is (and yep, it is good)... but it's also hard to enjoy it. I'm good at faking it ("Ohhh, YES, Charlie and I just frolicked the day away. We are awesome, La La La!!!"), but not always so good at meaning it.

And so, just in case anyone else ever feels remotely the way I do, I've been working on a list of ways to really enjoy my baby boy. Granted, he's a 1-year-old, so this list will obviously look different for someone who has an infant, or a 3-year-old, or a 13-year-old. But, for what it's worth, here's what I've got:

*Have a tickle-fest when he's cranky. (Does this work with any other kids? Charlie's got such a one-track-mind that he can go from "MOMMY = DISLIKE" to "MOMMY = TICKLE = GOOD!!!!" in three seconds flat.)

*When you're in the middle of something, and he's whining and pulling on your pants, get down on the floor and play with him for ten minutes. Often, just sitting down and getting at his eye level gives him the attention he needs. (Sometimes, if I'm cooking or stirring things in a bowl, I'll get my stuff and put it on the floor, and let him help me.)

*Make a rockin' "to-do with my little guy" list, and pick something once a week. (Make Paper Airplanes. Take a Train Ride. Go to Starbucks, Buy Coffee For Me and Milk for Him. Go To an Art Museum and See How Long We Last Before We Get Kicked Out.) I try to tell myself, "Geez louise, woman, it's a gift to stay at home with your kids. Start acting like it."

*Go to a toy store and run around, pushing all the obnoxious toy buttons. (Charlie hasn't yet figured out that it's possible to actually take toys home with you. We'll see how long that lasts...)

*Keep a journal of all the funny things he does and says. (I'm terrible at writing in it, but I love looking back and seeing how much I've already forgotten about. Like when we got tired of him grunting in the car whenever he didn't like the song that was on, so we taught him how to say "Please," and now, all we hear in the car is, "Please. Please. Please. Please. PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEEEEEEEEEEEASE.")

*Make a baby box. Put his first shoes, his first haircut (is it weird that I kept his hair? oh dear.), his first whatever, inside and then ooooh and aaaah about how big he's getting.

*List the ways you've changed for the better since you've had kids.

*Go to the park. Play until he's ready to leave.

*Give him rides down the hallway in the laundry basket. (If you have wood floors, put a towel underneath, or else you'll scratch your floors. Ooops.)

*Pick a random, everyday-day, and take a picture every hour, from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep. Print the pictures out, stick them in an album, and write little captions. (You'll probably treasure this in the years to come -- or at least, your kids will. I'd love to have something like this from my mom, when I was a baby.)

There's so much more, but that should get me (and you) started. I'd love to hear your ideas, too -- how do you spend time enjoying your kids? How do you savor the moments you have with them, instead of just barreling through your steroid-pumped to-do list like a crazy person, running around with baby under one arm and laundry basket under the other? (Or, um, is that just me?)

At the end of the day, I'm learning that "enjoying Charlie" means putting his best interests first, ahead of my own. It's hard, and tiring, and Marty and I still get that cock-eyed stare from people who say, "Umm, you're not convincing us that having kids is any fun."


If you want "Fun," go ride a roller coaster. (sheesh, you people.)

If you want "unforgettable, life-changing, incredible-and-horrible-and-wonderful, all at the same time"... well then, have a baby.

(And then, enjoy it. I hear it doesn't last forever.)


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

tube socks, part 2

Here's another one.

You have to squint (sorry), but there's little Marty on the left, fooling around with some giant cannon. (That's his dad on the right.) I love this picture. It tells me a lot about the special relationship my husband has with his dad, and I see a lot of Charlie in his daddy's little-boy grin. 

Marty found this print recently, buried in a stack of old papers, and I went out and bought a frame for it. ($1.99 at Ikea. watch out -- BIG SPENDER ALERT.)

With the rise of the digital camera, we've gained convenience and speed, but we've lost a lot, too. Who prints out their pictures anymore? Instead of hard copies that I can hold in my hand, I've got millions of invisible files, taking up literally no space (that I can see)... and that's exactly the problem. I can't see them. We take our pictures, upload them, and poof! ...they're gone.

And so, I'm going out and buying more frames. (more BIG SPENDING. watch out, Ikea.) I'm putting up pictures, and pointing out faces to our little guy. We'll be praying for the people on our walls, smiling as we remember moments that a camera captured... aaand this is starting to sound like a Hallmark commercial. 

(Minus the praying.)

I'm done.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

becca and nate :: engaged!

I've only met them twice, but I really like Becca and Nate. Here are some reasons why:

(1) They like hockey.
(2) They have the cool vibe. (you know. the cool vibe.)
(3) They're Mac-users.
(4) They're getting married in the mountains.
(5) They're both youth pastors. (= they love Jesus.)
(6) Becca has impeccable taste in shoes. (Particularly, red ones.)

I told you they were cool.

On Saturday, we walked around downtown Stillwater, MN (for those of you Chicago-ans who don't know about Stillwater, it's like this cutesy small-town-downtown area that's just really beautiful), and then headed over to the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis.

The weather was perfect.

And Becca and Nate are excellent smile-ers.

And so, it was the best.


{favorite. right here.}

** click here *** for their slideshow!

Monday, October 17, 2011

the plug.

Charlie likes his pluggy
like I like my coffee.
{as in, inside his mouth, all the time.}

In the grocery store the other day,
I noticed an older woman giving Charlie and I a good stare down.
Normally, when someone has something positive to say, they'll just say it.
If it's negative, they'll avert their eyes after they notice that you've noticed them.
This woman looked at Charlie.
Then at his plug.
Then at me.
And then {harrrumph} away.

Oh brother.

Yes, my son is almost two, and still sucks on a pacifier.
Leave me alone.
I like that he takes long naps when he's got his pluggy in,
and furthermore,
I'll be the one paying for his braces,
thank you vurrrrry much.

(and so, happy monday!)

Friday, October 14, 2011

my house {the pretty parts}

Everyone's got an ugly place in their house.
Ours is the basement. 
My challenge {to myself} is this:
find the pretty places instead,
and ignore the ugly ones.

And so, here are a few of my pretty places:
happy friday...
{happy weekend! ! !}

Thursday, October 13, 2011

1:24 p.m.

warming up my coffee
for the third time today
because baby


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

link love

We're in the middle of a busy week around here (partially because we're getting ready for an even busier weekend). Rather than bore you with the particulars, here are a few {random} things that have been particularly inspiring to me over the past few weeks:

These cookies will change your life -- most notably, because (1) you probably have all the ingredients on hand, and (2) they take 15 total minutes to make. Fifteen minutes to the greatest cookie you've ever eaten? Count me in.

Check out this creative mom's guide to a home planner -- organized, simple, and put-together. The cleaning checklist alone has literally changed my life (and I'm not saying that lightly).

This is lame... but I really want one of these. I just read a book on how to sneak healthy food into your child's "favorites" (like mac n' cheese). FOOD WARS are alive and well in our house, and so, a decent food processor is a must. (And it helps that it comes in a cute red...)

Whenever I get in a photographic slump, I head over here. There's good work here, and lots of inspiration to keep. taking. pictures.

I echo these beautiful sentiments exactly... except we only have one baby :)

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, October 10, 2011

blue hats

I think that before you become a parent, you've got an unconscious, mental list of images that define what you think parenting is like:

(1) holding your baby for the first time and realizing, "Wow, this baby is MINE." 
(2) teaching your little one how to walk, ride a bike, or tie their shoes.
(3) experiencing lots of "firsts" with your child: their first snowfall, their first view of the ocean, their first time seeing Christmas lights.

Once your child actually arrives, you realize that, while occasionally parenting can be like that, most of the time parenting is made up of more menial tasks -- changing diapers, figuring out how to get another strong-willed human being to eat nutritional food, finding matching socks, saving your little one's life for the thousandth time that day. These are the things of parenting. The other stuff -- the special stuff you wait for, those milestone moments that most people long for -- those things come, but they're interspersed with the everyday tasks, like pepper specks in a bowl of clam chowder. They add spice... but they can be few and far between, compared to the thick, chunky broth called life.

I'm waxing poetic here, because these pictures are from one of those special moments -- few and far between, but something that makes everything else absolutely, positively worth it. 

It was a sunny weekend afternoon, and Charlie eagerly wanted to help his daddy fix something... except this time, he stuck with his daddy until the project was finished, and -- get this -- they wore matching hats while they worked. 

And that... well, that just made me smile, really big.


Friday, October 7, 2011

cloth diapers: an insider's guide

Fair warning. 
This post uses the word "Poop" and "Stupid," and I talk about gross things. 
Don't eat a brownie and read this. 
Also, don't read this if you're already, or think you may someday be, afraid of babies. 
My intention is never to make anyone not like babies.

I'll admit it: I use cloth diapers.

{sheesh. is this starting to sound like a mom blog or what?}

Before we start here, let me clarify something.
I am not a proud member of Cloth Diaper Mommas, Ltd.

Some of my friends love (LOVE) cloth diapers.
I do not.
I like them. I deal with them. And I love what they save me:


So, here's my story:

When I was pregnant, I first heard of cloth diapers from one of my coworkers {and now, dear friend}, Monica. I was skeptical. She, also pregnant at the time, was optimistic and motivated {two qualities I love about her, and, coincidentally, two characteristics that are relatively necessary for anyone inclined to attempt cloth diapering}. Her optimism/motivation rubbed off on me, and we started saving our pennies for the initial investment in diapers. {Cloth diapers run about $16+ a pop, brand new. yikes.}

We took a trip to a local diaper store two weeks after Charlie was born {He screamed the entire time we were there. It was our first family outing. It was terrifying, and hilarious.}, where we discovered Flip diapers. Basically, these aren't your grandmomma's cloth diapers -- you tuck a microfiber liner inside a waterproof cover, snap it shut, and BOOM, you're done. {That is, until you have to change it. That's another story.} But the Flips were cheap (compared to other cloth diapers) and user-friendly, and they "grew" with Charlie -- we've been using the same diapers since he was two months old, and it's looking like they'll last until he's potty trained (which, my friends, won't be anytime soon).

Here's what the waterproof liner looks like:
(Don't be intimidated by all the snaps; you get the hang of it eventually.)

And here's what the inside looks like, with the liner tucked in:

Now, most people are pretty passionate about this issue (either FOR, or AGAINST it). But, like I said earlier, we're just in it for the money. {Doesn't that sound terrible? What I should say is -- there's other things we'd prefer to spend our money on, rather than disposable diapers that just end up rotting in a landfill somewhere. Pleasant thought. Gross thought. Sorry!}

I wish I could tell you that I'm only doing it to help the environment... but I'm not. (I'd rather recycle everything I own, or only take showers once a week, or make a compost pile.) Yep, it's nice to think that I'm not contributing to smelly, stinky garbage piles. However, there are days when Charlie poops, and it's POOP {moms and dads, you KNOW WHAT I MEAN}, and I'm like, "Forget it. This sixteen-dollar diaper is going in the GARBAGE. MARTY, BRING ME THE PAMPERS."

But then, I clean the stupid diaper out (we're proud owners of a diaper sprayer), and throw the nasty thing in the laundry, and it comes out clean. And then, I take a deep breath, and carry on. Cloth diapering and I coexist for another day.

It's not for everyone. Moms who work outside the home would probably have a hard time getting their childcare provider on board with this one. People who throw up easily might not be able to handle it. {Advocates for cloth diapering argue that "you have to touch poop already. It's not a big deal." Well, they're sort of right, and sort of wrong. I've changed many diapers in my life, but never before have I had to scrape poop out from underneath my fingernails.}

Wow. This is getting yuckier by the minute.

But, because I take care of Charlie myself, and because I have the time and resources to devote to it... we do it. {Marty washes out the diapers too. He is amazing, and awesome, and I don't think he's ever complained about it.} And so, our pediatrician calls them "cadillac diapers," and we get funny looks, and yes, we use disposable diapers sometimes because we need a BREAK.

But, besides all of that, it's been a great experience for us.

And Charlie rocks the diaper poses, when I ask him to show them off:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

the night we {and our boat motor} almost died

I've got a lot to do today, but I haven't posted in awhile... so here's a random story from our recent trip to northern Minnesota, to tide you over until I come up with something, you know, really good. {Warning: this story is completely anti-climactic. Also, I'm writing it in a hurry, while Charlie is napping, when I should be cleaning or something...}

The Night We {and our boat motor} Almost Died

On one of the last nights of vacation, my sister Anna, her husband Steve, Marty, and I decided to go on a little evening fishing trip. We put Charlie to bed, gave the baby monitor to a very sweet, obliging cousin, and set off. Steve is the outdoorsman of the group -- he rigged up our poles for Walleye fishing, and we headed out to the great expanse of Voyageur National Park.

After a 10-minute boat ride, we made it to "the spot" -- 70 feet of water, right in the middle of a giant lake. We were far, far, far from any shoreline (this is important to note for later), right on top of a reef where walleye typically hang out. Because walleye, they like reefs. {See, you didn't even know you'd be learning how to fish when you came over to this little blog today, didja?}

The sun was setting. The fish weren't biting. But it was gorgeous.

We moved to a different spot, because, well, that's what you do when the fish don't bite. {Again -- more with the fishin' learnin'. You'll be a pro in no time...}

Here's Marty and Steve -- it's a terrible picture, but it shows that they were intent. on. catching. fish.
...While I was taking pictures of my shoes, and singing songs to the hypothetical fish in the water.

And then, in the distance, as the sun was setting, we saw it.

A wall of clouds, coming in from Canada.
At first, we were like, "Oh hey, see that lightning way far off over there? Cool."
And then, a few minutes later,
"Oh hey, see that lightning, like A MILE AWAY?"
{This picture doesn't capture the clouds correctly. They were scary, and dark, and loooooming, and filled with lightning and thunder. GAH.}

And then, as the sun was setting...

we went to move to yet another spot...
and the boat motor wouldn't start.

This was our family's boat, the boat we grew up with. I KNEW this boat. The motor never made that noise.

Marty, a brilliant mechanical genius, tried to figure it out. So did Steve {the avid outdoorsman}. Anna even took the lid off the motor, just to, you know, see what was going on. I just started hyperventilating, and then I dug through the entire cabin, looking for the flare gun and a set of paddles. {for the record, there was no flare gun, and only one paddle. rock on.}

Meanwhile, the storm is rolling in. And it's dark. And we're in the middle of a national park, without a radio.

Did I mention that we didn't even tell anyone where we were going?

On a lake that's 212,000 acres, that's KIND OF A PROBLEM, if you're stalled and it's dark and a massive storm is coming in.

And, remember how far we were from the shoreline? Yes. Ohhhh yes.

Here was my most-flattering reaction:

We started up the trolling motor {which will propel your boat at a rate of .000000002 miles per hour}, and promptly began spinning in circles.
Mind you, no one was freaking out, except me,
because I was envisioning spending the night on the shoreline {if we ever made it there}
with bears,
and a massive storm,
and a dead boat.
And I was wearing my skinny jeans {really, what was I thinking?!},
so I was clearly NOT equipped to survive in the wilderness for a night...

even though I'm married to an Eagle Scout, who was sitting right next to me and wasn't worried a bit.

And then.....

after twenty minutes of scary silence.............

TRIUMPH! The boat motor STARTED!!!

We raced home.
{Steve wanted to stay out and fish. He is nuts.}

{Yeah, see those clouds? Yikes.}

We pulled in to the lodge, just before the storm hit.
And then I was sort of sad,
because the story might have been better,
if I could have talked about spending the night on the lake
with bears,
and a dead boat,
and skinny jeans,
and my sister, and her husband, and my husband...
But then I thought about the bears,

and the massive size of the 212,000 acre lake...

and I was very glad that we were safe, indeed :)

p.s. I might have to ask my sister Anna to write her version of the story. 
It might differ slightly from my own...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

a week's summary, in one picture.

Let's play I-Spy:

Used tissues.
Baby monitor {with a low battery}.
White-out, red pen, post-its.
Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed.

{not pictured}
cold medicine.
toddler, adamantly refusing to take naps.
6 piles of laundry.