Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Another Baby?

When I was pregnant with Lil Ma, I often walked to a local diner for salted caramel milkshakes. During one of my trips, I ran into a man who I'd seen from time to time in my office building.

"Wow! You're just like my parents," he said.

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"You're having babies like stair steps, one right after the other."

"What?" My neck started to roll.

He gulped. "Don't you have three or four kids?"

"No." My eyes narrowed.

I wanted to throw my shake at him, but that would have been a waste of a perfectly good beverage.

When Lil Ma's was born, Hubby was out of town for work. My mom, who can no longer drive, had to hitch a ride with a friend. Until it was time to push, I watched TV and read magazines. (Epidurals are wonderful!) Mom held my hand while her friend gave Hubby the play by play via phone. It took less than five minutes.

"I've never seen a birth go so smoothly," her friend said. "You could probably do this again. Don't you want to try for a boy?"

I had to stop myself from cursing.

If I had a dollar for every conversation like these that I've had, I could buy Bentley.

The decision to have a baby is deeply personal, and only the parties involved know the factors that weigh in to the final decision. When you ask someone about family planning, you could be hitting a nerve.

I doubt that most people mean to be intrusive. I think they get swept up in the excitement that baby talk can bring. Before I had kids, I was guilty of that. And if you are reading this, please accept my apology.

The questions died down for a while, but now that Lil Ma is a year old, they're starting to pick up again. I want to address the queries gracefully, so I've refined my response:

If the girls wanted another little brother or sister, they would have brought one with them.

What do you say when asked about having kids?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, July 29, 2013

Separation Anxiety

Mini Me is back from her week-long trip with Grandma. They've headed south to the family farm every year since she was four. When she's a few years older, Lil Ma will go too.

I'm really looking forward to that moment, even though it's years away. This week is one of the high points of the summer.

The first time Grandma asked if Mini Me could go, I was hesitant. She hadn't been away from me for more than a few days, and this time, we'd be hundreds of miles apart. I ran through the gamut of possibilities. What if she fell and skinned her knee? What if she fell and broke her knee? What if she fell and lost her knee?

My mind has the ability to move from the rational to the ridiculous in a short amount of time. So, I had to force myself to focus on what was really bothering me:

What if she didn't miss me at all?

Back then, part of me believed that a kid didn't love you unless they were begging to come home the second the parents were out of sight. I agreed for her to go, packed her bags, and waited for the phone ring.

I didn't hear a peep from her all week. She came home with legs covered in mosquito bumps and a sack full of okra from Great-Grandma's garden. Then she spent the next seven days giving me a blow-by-blow of her adventure. 

"Did you miss mommy?" I asked. 

"Sure," my big girl said. "That's why I'm telling you about all the fun I had."

I now know that separation is necessary. It's actually a good sign if your kiddo is confident enough to try things in her own. It means that Mini Me is on her way to being a self-sufficient young woman, and I don't have to worry about fixing up the basement for our adult daughter who's never leaving home.

It also means that Hubby and I are treated to a well deserved break. We didn't get as much rest this year with Lil Ma still about, but past vacations included massages, movies, dinners and sleeping in. 

Every year when Mini Me leaves, I have a miniscule moment of guilt about enjoying our time apart. It passes quickly once I remember some wise words from my aunt.

"Kids can't be with their parents all the time," she said. "Besides, you can get on a kids nerves just as much as they can get on yours."

Yes, indeed. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Today's Selfie: Stripes!

Monday's post on my personal style has me more aware of my outfits this week. Fortunately the awareness has been good, because I like who I see. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, it also has made we want to take more selfies.

I am in a constant love affair with black/white patterned shirts. That love becomes near close to obsession if the pattern is a stripe. Horizontal stripes used to be a no-no for me, but the more flattering cut of t-shirts these days make them work. I'm also trying pattern mixing, which I find that I like very much. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fabulous Me: My Personal Style

Lil Ma's daycare teacher, Miss M, recently commented on an outfit I was wearing.

"That's really cute," she said. "I love the way you dress."

I smiled and thanked her for the compliment. Miss M is in her early 20s. During the past six months, she's had at least five hair styles and a variety of outfits.  I'm easily a decade older, and I remember going through a similar phase. Back then, getting dressed felt like an Olympic event. I'm happy, I thought, to be done with that.

That's when I realized something. At long last, I love the way I dress too.

It's taken me 30-something years, two kids and a slew of fashion faux pas to find a style that works for me. The bulk of the journey was spent adjusting my frame of mind. Here are the lessons I learned.

Know (and love) your body. I've got a small rack, a narrow waist and a backside that is one-two sizes bigger than everything else. I wasted years in college longing for a narrower hips, and from time to time, I pull out a Barely-B bra and wish it were a C. Most days, though, I get a peek of myself as I'm stepping out of the shower, and I think I look just fine.

Work the positive. Accepting my curves allowed me to focus on finding clothes that flatter. Bright color, sparkle (cool jewelry), and structure are my best friends.

Admire and adapt. Steering clear of trends entirely can result in a fashion rut. Pinterest, blogs and people watching help me keep my wardrobe up to date, but I have to be selective to make sure new pieces work with what's in my closet. It gets easier over time.

Know your limits. There are some things that just will not work in my case. If overalls or parachute pants ever make a comeback, I guarantee you that I will not be wearing them.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the word I would use to describe my style. I went through all of the fashion buzzwords. Classic, chic, et cetera. None of these seemed right. My style is simply me, and I'm good with that.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Five Minutes for Chores

My house is a wreck. This is nothing new, and I should be used to it by now. Barbie dolls, rubber ducks, and cloth blocks are scattered from room to room. The kitchen table is covered with mail, cups and empty plastic bags.  Puff cereal, stuck to Lil Ma's clothes from her last meal, falls to the floor as she walks.

The neat freak in me will not let it go. Clutter makes me restless. Before I can settle down for the night, I walk through the house, trying to get it into a tolerable state. Sometimes, it takes longer than I'd like.

As I watched Mini Me push a pile of toys to one side of the floor, I had an epiphany. She is old enough for chores!

So, instead of running around like a mad person with a garbage bag tied to her waistband (yes, this is how I clean), I spent five minutes writing up a list of quick chores that my eight-year-old daughter can accomplish.

1. Picking up toys. It only takes my daughter a couple of minutes to pick up the toys from our family room floor and toss them into nearby bins. As soon as Lil Ma understands the phrase "clean up time," I'm going to have her join in.

2. Emptying the trash. It's up to Dad to get the garbage to the curb, but Mini Me can empty the bins in our bedrooms and bathrooms once a week.

3. Loading and unloading the dishwasher. We have a good system of placing a dish in the washer immediately after use, but that system falls apart when the washer is full of clean dishes. Mini Me knows better than Hubby on where things go, so there's no reason she can't lend a hand.

4. Sweeping/vacuuming. She's tall enough now!

5. Putting away laundry. This is one of my least favorite chores, so I'm more than happy to pass this along.

6. Really cleaning her room.  For too long, I've let her get away with cramming papers and toys under her bed. She is old enough now to decide what stays and what goes.

Now that we have the list, Hubby and I have to be consistent and patient. I'll admit, I occasionally have to stop myself from fussing or redoing her work. The surprise for me was that my daughter wanted extra responsibility. I think it makes her feel more grown up. And, with the exception of putting away laundry, she seems to like it. I'm not sure how long that part of it will last, but I'll enjoy it while it does.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Best Laid Plans

I had my weekend all planned out. It was full of rather dull but necessary things that I had put on the back burner. Laundry. Dusting. Grocery shopping. Watering the plants.

Saturday started out as scheduled. I readied the girls and headed out for errands. Lil Ma made it through two stores with no semblance of a meltdown.

She saved it for when we got home. That, an unexpected work project, and a call from my dad, who had taken a tumble down a flight of stairs, closed out the rest of the day. Thankfully, my father is fine. He has a few minor aches and pains that will heal in a few days.

As I was lying in bed Saturday night, reviewing my list of undone chores, I decided that a lovely summer weekend should not be wasted on vacuuming.

"Let's go to the zoo tomorrow," I announced to hubby. He agreed.

I wanted to get there early so we could be on our way home by noon. Because none of us could get out of bed, we got there at 12:30, during the zenith of hot weather. Mini Me loved showing baby sis her favorite exhibits. The butterfly house was a highlight for them both.

A late lunch led to me not cooking dinner. An epiphany on how to improve my last-minute work project sent me back to my office. Mini Me kept me company by reading aloud excerpts of old Barbie magazines I saved from my childhood.

I still have laundry to do. Everything is dusty, and I forgot to buy ground turkey. The overly anxious me would be having a fit, but she seems to be on vacation. And that's fine with me.

I was, however, able to squeeze in a few minutes to water the plants.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Good Mama

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, my mother said something to me that I didn't quite understand at the time.

"Don't get all caught up in what makes a good mama or a bad mama. Just love your baby and have faith."

I nodded and rubbed my itching belly.

After Mini Me was born, I spent a year in New Mom Haze. Diapers, breastfeeding, and sleepless nights defined my existence. I read articles that said my baby should be doing one thing or another by a certain age, and I blamed myself when she didn't hit said milestone.

I compared myself to other moms, the ones who talked about using cloth diapers and had perfect babies who slept all night and walked at 8 months.

What a crock.

I wish I had known then what I know now. Sure, those babies slept all night, but they probably had to be in bed with their parents, which was often wet because the diapers leaked. Or, those parents ate Ramen Noodles out of paper cups because they couldn't find time to wash dishes.

In other words, nobody's perfect.

I see things more realistically the second time around. Lil Ma is a sweet girl. She giggles when you pretend to sneeze, and she is fascinated by socks. She also is quite stubborn. When Lil Ma doesn't get her way, she cries at a glass-shattering frequency. I have yet to figure out how to deal with that.

And that's ok. As my girls grow up, I will no doubt make mistakes. Instead of getting caught up in the "Good Mama, Bad Mama Drama," I will continue to love them and have faith that I'm doing what's best.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

A Few Words on Wednesday: Five Minutes for Daddy

This isn't the best photo, but I love it because it shows my favorite family moment. After dinner, Hubby gets on the floor, and the girls climb all over him. Little toes and knobby knees poke him in the eye, but he doesn't seem to mind.

They took it easy on him this time. Mini Me asked for his help designing a dress with her handheld video game, and Lil Ma joined in.

I doubt that I say it as often as I should, but I married a great guy. I couldn't ask for a better husband or father for my girls.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, July 08, 2013

Five Minutes for Meal Planning

Is there such a thing a a five-minute meal? Probably, but I have no idea how to cook one. I am learning, though, that investing five minutes in planning keeps me from puttering aimlessly in the kitchen.

Pepperplate.com: Pepperplate has a cool site and app that allows you to store recipes and build meal plans. You can import recipes from popular sites like Real Simple and Cooking Light, or you can manually add your own.  It does take some time to assemble your stash, but once you have it, you can create a plan and generate a shopping list in no time.

Reading the Plan: When I first got the app, I spent two hours inputting recipes and creating meal plans. That was all well and good, but they were of no use because I didn't look at them until I was ready to cook. Taco night quickly fell apart because I forgot to defrost the main ingredient. Spending a minute or two the night before allows me to make sure I have all the everything and that the ground turkey is defrosting overnight in the fridge.

Breakfast for Dinner: Every Wednesday, our family has breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, waffles, biscuits, eggs -- any breakfast item is eligible. The cooking time for most items, especially if you use premade mixes and batters, isn't all that long. I prefer to make breakfast from scratch, so I take a few minutes Tuesday night to measure out dry ingredients.

Crock Pot Meals: One thing I love about winter is the chance to pull out my crock pot and make a bunch of tasty soups and stews. Five minutes of opening, chopping and dumping turns into dinner 8 - 10 hours later. There are probably some summer meals that are crock-pot friendly, I just have yet to meet them. And, if you aren't familiar with crock pot liners, get involved. It makes clean-up super easy.

If you have a tip for getting dinner to the table in a snap, please let me know!

Friday, July 05, 2013

Five Minutes with Mini Me

Last night, my daughter picked up a magazine, got in bed next to me, and started reading. I put down my own magazine and watched her. Here was my baby, with legs crossed and ankles twirling, reading an article about birds.

When did she get so big?

The past 11 months have been a blur. Working a new person into our family has been an all-consuming whirlwind, made especially challenging by the fact that said new person's super power is the ability to cry for two hours straight.

No doubt, there have been times when Mini Me has felt a little neglected. I can think of several moments when I have been covered in spit-up, poo, tears, or a combination thereof, and I delivered this response to my questioning eldest:

"Not now. Maybe later."

Most times, my big girl seemed to take it in stride. Other times, though, she did or asked for something that she knew would grab my undivided attention. Like the time she said she was considering a return to thumb sucking.  (I replied than anyone who could rationalize thumb sucking did not need to practice it, and then I prayed that she would agree. Thank goodness she did.)

I've been kicking myself for not spending more one-on-one time with her, so when she asked if she could stay up a few minutes and read with me, I quickly agreed. It started as five minutes, but morphed into 15 as we discussed birds and butterfly gardens. We also talked about camp and her upcoming trip to Arkansas with her grandmother.

It was the best discussion I've had with her in a long time. I saw how much Mini Me has matured in the past year. She's funny, smart, extremely tenderhearted, and WAY to grown up to be eight. But I'm sure that's just the mom in me talking.

Of all the things I've tried to invest five minutes in, this is by far the most important.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Just Ask

I met my Hubby in 2002, and I almost let him get away. I had just wrapped a spin of dating that was both comical and sad. I needed a break. That, though, is a tale for another day.

At some point during our dating phase, my future hubby told me he was no stranger to housework. I fell in love shortly thereafter.

Two years later, we were living together with a baby on the way. Future Hubby didn't want me taking the stairs to the basement to do laundry, so he washed load after load complaint free.

What he did not do, however, was fold it. He routinely delivered me approximately five loads of laundry crammed into two baskets. I would thank him quietly, then spend the next two hours rolling my eyes while ironing wrinkled clothes.

This song and dance has continued occasionally throughout the years. After our second daughter arrived, Hubby stepped up his efforts to help around the house. Now he brings me eight loads of laundry in three baskets.

As I smoothed out a pile of Onesies, I wondered why I never asked Hubby to fold. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but the frosty reception I gave him whenever he dropped balled up laundry at my feet wasn't any better.

So I decided to give it a try. "Hey babe. Thanks for doing the laundry."

"You're welcome."

"Can I ask you something?"


"Would you mind folding the laundry after you wash it? If it sits too long unfolded, then I have to go back and iron it."


I couldn't believe it was that simple. I had wasted so much time grumbling, and all I had to do was ask. I wonder how many other things I've let bother me when it wasn't necessary.