Friday, April 01, 2011

Moving Up, On, Out... Sort of

Well, crickets, the time has come to talk of other things.  I am not yet sold on discontinuing things on this my beloved (six-year-old!) blog.  But recently, when looking back over my archives, I realized something.  Things have changed.  Not just my messy real estate portfolio or marital status or career or number of adorable progeny inhabiting my tiny house.  Perhaps because of all those changes, I have changed. Thank goodness.

Looking back at some of my words over the years, I have been less than kind, less than thoughtful.  Loud and passionate does not often equal gracious. So, in the spirit of embracing change, living intentionally, and...ugh...turning 30, I have started another blog. Like me, it's not really sure what it wants to be yet.  But there I will work to be more open and thoughtful while writing through my life.  I hope you'll come visit:

I am very grateful for your patience and persistence over the years!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tykes on a Plane

When we took our first (cross-country!) flight with two toddlers last month, I expected the worst.  Good thing.

Things I've learned about flying with two little ones:

1. It's not possible to have too many snack options
2. There are seemingly endless uses for a gauzy scarf (blanket, scarf, lovey, burp cloth, nursing cover (I'm no longer nursing, but I can imagine how useful it would be if I were))
3. It's easier than you think to change a baby in an airport bathroom, especially if you have a diaper changing wallet (holds diapers, wipes and has a built in changing pad)
4. The Ergo baby carrier (even though Southwest wouldn't let me fasten it) is a lifesaver on the plane and just in general
5. Three-year-olds think drinkable applesauce is awesome
6. How to pack milk for a (weaned) baby without breaking liquid restrictions: Pre-measure formula in disposable bottle liners, roll the liners up and secure them with tape, then buy bottled water after going through security.  Upside: you can carry on many servings without carrying on liquid and while saving space (don't have to pack multiple bottles).  Downside: the rolled up bottle liners look like contraband, prompting The Boy to say "You know we have to make it through airport security, right?"  Thankfully, though the rolls aroused the suspicion of my parents, my sister-in-law and my husband, the TSA was not curious.
7. Portable DVD players that can hold a charge are well worth the trouble/expense it takes to procure them (we were lucky enough to borrow one) and kid-sized ear buds are worth the expense
8. With the exception of one American Airlines flight attendant, people are more understanding than you might think.  An  apologetic smile and visible attempts at courtesy seemed to go a long way.
9. Though others are, I am not capable of doing it alone. I could not have done it without The Boy (on the way out), and my parents on the way back.

Other lessons from our trip to California:
1. Disneyland may be one of the happiest places on earth, but we wouldn't know.  We spent that day at the UC Irvine ER, as Mirabella had a 104-degree fever I couldn't get down.
2. If you're going to take a jet-lagged baby for walk around the lobby at 6AM in a convention hotel, don't wear your jammies.  No one else is.
3. If your hotel room doesn't have a refrigerator, just ask.   I wish we would have known this sooner. An overachieving desk clerk mentioned it to us and provided it at no extra charge.
4. To get a baby to sleep in a hotel room when you're not yet ready to go to sleep, hide on the floor.  You heard it here first.

While I am grateful we got to spend those few days with The Boy, joining him on a work trip is not all it's cracked up to be. The most important lesson I learned on our trip: I don't want to do it again any time soon.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

West Coast Serendipity

So far, while the benefits of The Boy's new job have been numerous, the benefits of his traveling for said job have not.  Mostly, for the three of us left at home, it has made things much harder. While I have the odd moment of mothering greatness, I hear myself getting impatient with the girls more often than I'm comfortable with. I am tired of working. I am tired of turning down jobs at work while bringing up my personal life again. I am tired of drawing attention to myself.  And, really, I'm just tired. I don't sleep well when he's away, staying up way too late (like I am now) for no good reason.

I mention this because this month is particularly bad.  This week and next, six days away, one night home, seven more days away.  Now, of course I know there are plenty of people who have it much harder than this.  I never intend to compare my life to that of actual single mothers or military families-- I know that's a whole other thing.  But this is new for me, and it's not what I'd prefer.  And even though it's not the hardest thing, it is still hard.

The second leg of three in this trip is four days in Anaheim at a conference where both my parents and my sister will also be.  We wondered if we could make it work for the girls and me to tag along. We could pay for half of the airfare with points, and then would really only need incidentals for the girls and me, the things that were not expressly for The Boy.  It was a small amount considering it was a cross-country trip, but we are in the midst of planning our anniversary trip and dealing with other financial challenges.

As I drove on the day the trip would need to be booked, I prayed a strange prayer. "Lord, if we're meant to go, please just let me find the money."  I don't really know what I meant, but I know I didn't mean "let me find it in our budget."  I was not comfortable with the idea of spending the money.  I never pray like this, but I meant something along the lines of winning a contest or a corrected bank error-- something I didn't have the creativity to imagine.  I really didn't think we were going to go.

Not 20 minutes later, visiting with a dear family friend, I mentioned we were debating the trip.  "Why wouldn't you go?" she asked.

"We're just not sure it's the best way to spend the money," I said casually.  I don't like talking about money, and this friend and I talk about many things, but that's not one of them.  As I gathered our things to go, she told me she wanted me to go to California.

"How much does the ticket cost?" she asked.

"About $300," I said, "so we'll see."

"I want you to go," she repeated, and she handed me $300 in cash.  She would not let me refuse, though I tried, dumbfounded, several times.

I called The Boy and told him to book the trip.  We had been toying with the idea of taking Mirabella to see Disney Princesses on Ice, so when we asked if she wanted to see the princesses, she thought that's what we meant.  "No, Mira," I said, "do you want to see them at their house?"  We showed her videos on Disneyland's website.

"Ohmygoodness...." she said lowly-- she could not believe such a place existed.  So we are excited to go, if for no other reason, to be somewhere we've never been and to be sleeping in the same place.  I am far less excited about a six-hour flight with a squirmy and screechy one-year-old who is inconveniently getting her canines. I'm thinking of wearing a shirt that reads "I'm sorry."

We are grateful for unexpected time together. I feel so loved-- because of our friend's generosity, for sure-- but also because God heard my ridiculous prayer and chose to bless us in this way. I'm grateful for the trip and the accompanying peace I have about it.  Now I just hope some of that peace rubs off on Emerie.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

She Uses Vaseline

On the same day Mirabella emerged from her nap sporting full hand and foot tattoos,
I struggled to zip up the dress I had bought for my brother's wedding last summer while Mirabella watched. It still had the tags on it-- it hadn't fit when I needed it. Now, facing a Valentine's dinner The Boy had cooked several days early, since he would be away the entire week of the actual made-up holiday, I thought I'd try to make it special. I felt a little like ten pounds of sugar in a five pound bag, but I went for it.
"Oh, you look beautiful, Mommy," Mirabella gushed, "Daddy gonna love it." I finally got her to bed and descended to china and candles and my favorite Spanish wine. I was proud of us-- we weren't just finding time for romance, I thought, we were forcing it. As we finished eating, we heard noises from upstairs. The Boy ran up to check, then right back down.

"Okay, you choose-- dishes or your daughter." And, back to our reality.

"Which daughter and what's wrong with her?" I asked.

"Mirabella, and I can't even-- you just have to see it. She put Vaseline all over herself. She is shiny."

"Whatever, it can't be that bad," I said. I made it within two stairs of her room before I collapsed in laughter.
"Mirabella! What happened?" I said.

She would not meet my eyes. "Well, I had to get up to go potty, then I had to go potty a-gain."

"That's not what I'm talking about. What happened to your hair?"

"Oh, that?" She said, nonchalantly, "That's just my hair lotion."
Her hair lotion was half a tub of Vaseline. It was also all over her body and her dollhouse family. I did not even know where to begin. It took a while to stop laughing, but as soon as I realized just how un-water soluble Vaseline is, it stopped being funny. I tried to wash it out, and the water just beaded up. The tub looked like an oil slick. I knew I needed something to absorb the oil, so I grabbed baking soda, but it didn't work at all. I ran down the stairs where The Boy was washing dishes and still chuckling, "To the cloud," I said, and Googled "Vaseline remove from hair." There were thousands of results, some as specific as "how to remove Vaseline from a toddler's hair." Based on my findings, I tried corn starch, Dawn dish liquid, and baking powder, but nothing worked.
After 11PM I posted my dilemma on Facebook: "So, let's say your three-year-old used half a jar of Vaseline on her head as "hair lotion" while she was allegedly in bed and you were having a candlelit Valentine's Day dinner with your spouse...what would you use to get it out? Hypothetically?" I had nearly 30 responses, like, "hypothetically, I want pictures." The most serious came from my friend Alex, who earned a Chemical Engineering undergraduate degree. He spoke of emulsifiers and organic solvents and said, "I guess paint thinner or xylene is out of the question?" How to remove the Vaseline without using harsh chemicals on her head?

Some people asked if she was punished. Watching her shiver in the bath that night as I washed her hair more than ten times, hours after her bed time, changing the water so frequently we ran out of hot water, I thought it was probably punishment enough.

"When we make choices, there are consequences, Mirabella," I said, "good ones or bad ones. You have to have your hair washed a bunch of times because that's the consequence of putting Vaseline in your hair. Do you think that was a good choice?"

"No, Mommy. This is NOT a fun bath," she pouted. "But now do you want to talk about how I pee peed in the potty?"

The Boy said, "If she still looks like John Travolta in the morning, I am not taking her to church."

The next day we used the sprayer in the kitchen sink, and her daddy got involved. The baking powder worked better than anything so far, but we were still embarrassed to take her out of the house. She wore pigtails to the store that night where I got plant-based Goo Gone and clarifying shampoo. Alas, greasy pigtails again on Monday.

I read the strangest variety of remedies. People tried Coke, baby oil, and even kerosene. I drew the line at putting gasoline on my kid's head, and was reluctant to try baby oil for fear it would get worse. Also, I didn't have any. My dad thought vegetable oil might be an okay stand in. It was not. Pigtail knots to day care on Tuesday.

I finally broke down and made another trip to the store for Goop. I was hopeful. That night , my sister-in-law came over to help with the kids and offered to wash Mirabella's hair again while I did some work. She lathered the Goop on dry hair and let it sit.
After 5-10 minutes, Mirabella complained it was hurting her head, and we panicked and washed it out. I was already lining up my next moves. Glycerine soap? Or the dreaded baby oil? But then she emerged with dry hair that actually looked dry.
Success! I told Alex, "I'm not sure how much a Chemical Engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon costs, but I submit it was worth every penny. A canister of Goop - $1.67. Getting the Vaseline out of my toddler's hair after 4 days - priceless." Alex, a former Naval Officer and current almost attorney said it's about the only practical application he's found for his degree. I'm glad I could help.

If you found this blog while looking for Vaseline removal remedies, you have my empathy and my advice to RUN to your nearest WalMart or hardware store to buy Goop. Try it first, really! Save yourself the pain and days of excessive hair washing! Be sure to apply it to dry hair, let it sit, then wash it out (we used clarifying shampoo). Happy parenting...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Resolve That

I'm not typically a resolution kind of girl. I used to be the type that made several resolutions each new year, until I realized that most years they were the same. Variations on a theme.

My journal, always more populated in January, would look something like this:

Work out more (never specific-- harder to fail)
Read Bible more (occasionally, "read through the whole thing in a year")
Write every day (loyal readers, you can guess how that went)

Once I realized this, I resolved not to make resolutions. They didn't work. Why wait until the beginning of the year, I thought. I've never been good at doing things just because I was "supposed to." So, I would periodically attempt self betterment, usually fail, repeat again later.

Last June when my dear co-worker passed away, I made a resolution that actually stuck. I admired Bob because he treated people with respect and found commonality with many diverse individuals. When I heard the way others described him after his death, I was deeply convicted; this was the kind of person I wanted to be. Not just a "witness" or a "light," or a "servant," not that there is anything wrong with any of these adjectives, but I wanted to be a friend. A lover of people-- all people, even the really hard to love. Especially the really hard to love. I started making concerted efforts not just to avoid showing frustration with others, but to avoid being frustrated with others (without avoiding the people themselves). I swore off talking behind people's backs, which I had fallen into because I hung around some wickedly funny people and enjoyed the verbal sparring-- even though it occurred at the expense of others. I selected a couple people I had historically found irritating or difficult to love and worked to get to know them. I invested in them.

And it worked! I was afraid it would be a show, that I'd be nice on the surface and seething on the inside, which is a type of dishonesty I find particularly offensive. But when I got to know the people and to understand the reasons behind the things they did, their quirks didn't bother me as much. I have since put in a preemptive, internal guard against resentment, whereupon meeting new people, (or repeatedly encountering difficult people) I try to find at least one aspect of their lives to identify with or remember-- one connection point. This probably sounds extremely elementary and is automatic to most people. But to me, it was a revelation. People around me, the ones I used to snicker with, didn't understand. One actually asked why I was befriending another, and I stammered while I explained the reasons behind the change. She could not understand.

Life, particularly at work, has gotten easier. Regardless of the project I'm working on, I feel a sense of accomplishment if I've made it through the day having invested in, listened to, and supported the people around me. If you knew me, you'd know this is not the Christina of yore who would actually say, out loud, "Yeah, I'm just not that compassionate. Sorry," like I was proud of it. Ugh. Thank goodness for progress.

With this happy transformation under my belt, I moved toward the new year. 2010 was major for me and my family. We had a second child, that second child had a near-death experience at my hands, and The Boy dove into an exciting new endeavor, leaving me with a more complicated career situation and, in theory, "more time." As a couple, we have struggled to adjust to all the changes. We finally let go of setting a timeline for when we might escape from under our house and our city and fully embraced our life here. Five years after moving here, we established roots, and we were rewarded with a new church family, friends just around the corner that act like family, a place in a vibrant and family-oriented community, and neighbors we love.

So, in 2011, with trepidation, I am going back to making resolutions. It's just one, but it's sweeping. It is not poetic: I resolve to get organized. But what does that mean? It means purging all the rooms of my house, definitely. I have already used my label maker more this month than in all of last year combined. But I am not good at compartmentalizing, and it's hard for me to treat this change as if it applies only to stuff. I am reading the book, Organized Simplicity, that defines living simply as "living holistically with your life's purpose." For me, that means setting systems in place to: a) make my home a haven for my family and others around us, and b) make our life count. If you roll your eyes, I won't judge you. These are principles that would have made me nauseated even just a year ago. It has taken me a long time to get to where I am; to where I want to embrace the life and gifts I've been given with my whole self and without fear. It means a lot of change that will take time and tears. It involves painful decisions I'm not yet ready to share. It means letting go of one dream in favor of another and choosing not to let a past failure dictate our family's future.

In my reading last week (I'm now on a three-year-plan), I came across this passage in Genesis 12: "Get out of your country, from your family and your father's house, to a land I will show you." I do not take this literally. I don't believe we are moving abroad, or anywhere, necessarily. Just that, in our case, right now, not knowing the final outcome or destination is not cause for postponing the change.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pre-School Mutiny

Everyone's favorite Irishman, our wonderful neighbor, knocked on the door at 8:30 last night. "I'm here to take your bins out," he said, referring to the recycling. The dog could not contain his excitement, and and my wet-haired kids were decidedly not in bed. We had just finished reading Eloise, quite possibly the least appropriate children's book ever. I thanked him profusely, since taking three large bins of recycling, damp and heavy from melted snow, over the fence and down our dark, narrow alley was more than I felt capable of handling.

"Don't be daft, Christina," he said, "This is a good time to be sexist; this is a man's job."

It was nearly two hours later before the giggling then crying coming from the girls' room finally ceased. After 11:00, while I lay in bed reading my beloved Nook for a precious few minutes, I heard crashing aluminum cans. I nosed through my blinds to see a sweatsuit clad 20-something man up to his waist in my recycle bin. His comrade shouted from the corner, trash bag in hand. And we don't even live in a deposit state.

This morning around 6, as I headed to take a shower, Mirabella screamed.

"MOM-MY!" I raced up the stairs to see if I could address her concern before she woke her sister. No such luck.

"My nose is yucky," she whined. I handed her a tissue and scooped up Emerie, her eyes only half open, already signing for milk.

Welcome to our house, halfway through The Boy's inaugural trip of the new year. He's in frigid Milwaukee and snowy Chicago. It's going to be 1 there tonight. I mean, really.

So after calming Mirabella down and feeding Emerie a bottle, I placed Emerie and some toys in the only safe place in the house for a new walker-- the crib-- so I could finally take my shower. After that I negotiated each step of the dressing process with Mirabella, shamed the dog for eating a Pull Up, finished getting ready for work, listened to a story Mirabella told about Dora and "the doll that has this hair" (said as she pulled up a lock of her own hair), shamed the dog for eating half my English muffin, made another English muffin and loaded everybody in the car. A good 20 minutes later than I should have. I laughed at the glowing gas light. Mirabella wanted to know what was so funny.

Feeling over dramatic and sorry for myself on the bumpy access road to get to the tunnel, I tried to snap out of it and find my perspective. To finish a sentence that started with "at least." As I merged into the EZ Pass lane, a compact car cut me off. The utility van in front of him, realizing he did not have an EZ Pass, abruptly threw his car into reverse, slamming into him. A bad fender bender, but not for us.

A few minutes after I got to work, our daycare provider called to tell me, when she went to unbuckle Emerie from her car seat, she realized she was never buckled in the first place. In my haste, I bundled, but didn't buckle. And she was fine.

Ah, there it is.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Present

I am more excited for Christmas than I've been since I was a little kid. As parents of a perceptive three-year-old, we have been conscious of how we present Christmas. We do Santa Claus, but we don't talk about it much. I feel like she will learn about that without us teaching her. But we talk about Jesus and the story of his birth every day. She plays with her Little People nativity scene; she and Emerie stand in front of it and try to elbow each other out of the way. Today, Mary is a single mother-- Joseph is probably under the couch again. She's standing at the manger alone. Other days, there's been a donkey on top of the manger, a princess with a magic wand bearing gifts and once, inexplicably, Noah was at the birth of Jesus. It's important to me that my kids have a happy, exciting childhood; I want Christmas to be important and spiritual, but also magical. It's a tall order.

We've been talking about what it means to be thankful and kind; that not everyone has enough, not everyone gets to live in a warm house or open Christmas presents, and that God wants us to share what we've been given. We adopted a family, a single mother and three children who lost their house in a fire and their father in court. It's been a horrible year. But she's going back to school and working in her field. She emailed me last week to tell me her seven-year-old daughter was student of the week. Things are looking up. I have tried to include Mirabella in the shopping and in the story. I'm proud that she didn't ask to keep the presents-- she is excited to give them away.

Living in the city, we drive past homeless people on a daily basis. One bitter-cold night, as we drove past the arena that is lined with blanket-covered shopping carts, she noticed a man on the street. "Dat man doesn't got shelter, Mommy?" I told her no, not everyone has a home. "But we got a home, Mommy." I asked her what we should do. "He can come live at our home, Mommy. We can share." I almost cried; I was unprepared for her innocent logic.

Often I feel like I'm making it up as I go. I don't have all the answers for her. But I am so thankful for every day with my sweet children. I mentioned to a woman at church how exciting Christmas is now. She is in town from New Zealand for six months to care for her new granddaughter. "It is such an awesome privilege," she said, "to experience all of the wonder of life through their eyes."

Mirabella was sick yesterday, on her birthday. I told her she could take a sparkly princess bath and filled the tub with bubbles and the yellow and pink sprinkles that had been on her birthday cake. This morning, seeing the sprinkles still on the counter, she said, "Mommy, 'ank you for my pink and yellow 'parkly princess bath. 'Ank you for buying dose 'prinkles." I feel like I should thank her for letting me be a part of it.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. Here's to finding joy and wonderment in the smallest of miracles.
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