31 December 2014

New Year's Resolutions

2014 was a good year for me. When I stand here and look back on it, I see a lot I like. A lot of good memories. Some things to work on, but many things for which to be thankful. We welcomed Eleanor. Abigail started preschool and we saw dramatic improvements in her abilities. I finished my book and submitted it to its first publisher. And got my first rejection letter. I finally read the whole Catechism for the first time in my life. I read the whole Bible for the second time in my life. I matured a lot this year as well, learning how to enjoy where I am right now - tone down my hopes for the future so they stop robbing today of its pleasures. 2014 was a good year.

I love making resolutions as much as any other goal-obsessed, perfectionistic, type-A -er out there, but I hate the pressure the commercial forces put on us to "make this your best year ever!" There is so much pressure that when we fall off the bandwagon by January 15th (or, let's be honest, January 5th), we feel too defeated to try again. "The year is ruined. I wanted it to be my best year yet and I failed." Every Monday is a chance to start fresh. Every Wednesday is a chance to crank out a good week. Every Friday is a chance to finish on a good note. As Jillian Michaels says, "If you get a flat tire, you don’t get out of the car and slash all three other tires."

In 2015 I wanna:
-read 24 books
-weigh a certain number I have in my head
-get my book published
-spend more time in prayer
-buy a house
-conceive another baby

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

30 December 2014

Cat Love

It's like it's in our genes or something.

PS: That's me. Circa 1989.

29 December 2014

Christmas 2014

There is a long-standing joke in our house that Matt is the Grinch. Throughout December, he's all: "No cookies, no decorations, no Christmas music!" Then on the 25th, he does a total 180 and starts passing out glasses of eggnog and presents while Garth Brooks croons "Baby Jesus is Born" at max volume. He claims that there is actually some sort of "theology" behind this pre-Christmas season called "Advent," but that doesn't stop me from whipping out the Mannheim Steamroller when he's at work.

I must admit that I find "what I got my kids for Christmas" posts particularly interesting. As a child ripping through piles of presents, it never crossed my mind that my parents might budget, set limit, not get me a Power Wheels on purpose; that such practices might encourage upstanding and virtuous children. It's my natural mama urge to want to provide my girls with everything that makes their eyes light up at the toy store, but we all know that the simplest toys are the top favs (I submit as evidence the cardboard box), that too many toys spewed across a floor is overwhelming, and that toys that break after the first day make the pocketbook cry. So I like to see what criteria other moms use and what toys make the cut in their families.

Our current system is to set a dollar amount per person, add up all those numbers, divide by 12, then save up that much per month. Then I spend a month or so brainstorming and researching ideas, then another few weeks searching for the best deal (I do all this casually, no hurry or pressure). I also try to patronize brick and mortar stores and small businesses when I can. This year's results:


Eleanor got a snowglobe with her name engraved on it and a board book. With all the hand-me-downs from Abigail combined with the toys and few new outfits coming from grandparents, she didn't need much. The snowglobe is something I did when Abigail was born and I decided to turn the heirloom-natured gift into a tradition for my girls. It's a bit on the expensive side, even on sale and using a coupon code, but I did have enough left to get a board book - a favorite when Abigail was a baby. Her old copy was rather literally loved to pieces.


Abigail's gifts from us included a few books, some Frozen stickers and tattoos from the dollar bin at Target, a personalized memory game (more on that in a minute), and an iPod Shuffle. Just kidding! I bought the shuffle with birthday money a few years ago, it's in the picture to represent the Frozen soundtrack, an mp3 download. She also already used an Elsa tattoo before I took the picture.

Anyway, the memory game. I saw it a year or two ago and absolutely loved the idea and was waiting anxiously until Abigail was old enough to get our own. Like I mentioned, it's personalized - as in, you pick the pictures.

You can use the tiles upright as a matching game, then face down as a traditional memory game. The familiar images are easier for Abigail to remember than generic cupcake or kitty cat memory games. Abigail absolutely loves her gift and wants to play with it constantly, so we're going to have the tiles laminated for extra durability.

My favorite Christmas present? My favorite perfume, a gift from my sister-in-law secret santa:

I'm not sure what Matt's is, but if I had to guess, I'd pick this trilogy:

I've spent the last few days being educated on the world of Ewoks and hyper drives. Word to the wise: Star Wars die hards don't think it's funny when you run around with a cat yelling "Kittybacca!"

* * * * *

Every year I hand make my eight nieces and nephews Christmas presents. One year I crocheted them all their own (kid-sized) blanket. The next year I sewed them all super-hero capes. This year, I painted them each a saint doll.

From the back corner: Our Lady of Fatima; St. Peter; Our Lady of Lourdes; The Immaculate Heart of Mary; St. Nick; St. Pope John Paul II; St. Padres Pio; Mary, Mother of God. 

I bought wooden dolls from an Etsy store, paint from a craft store, used brushes I already owned, and finished them off with a lacquer from a craft store. It was surprisingly easy and inexpensive. Each doll had it's name written on the bottom.

I crocheted them little bags using yarn I already owned:

I also wrote the saint's name on a little card and made gift tags, all out of scrapbook paper I already had (I dabble in lots of crafts, so my stash is pretty big). The bags saved on wrapping paper and provided a place to store the dolls when the kids aren't playing with them.

* * * * *
The holidays this wear were a perfect mix of festive partying and relaxing refueling. The parties were spread out enough so that we never felt rushed, the presents were perfect, the food delicious, the conversations lively. And yes, my husband did manage to whip out a religious topic for him and his loud, rowdy brothers to have a heated discussions over. Oh goodness.

Merry Christmas, my friends!

21 December 2014

Wonderful and Perfect

I am always playing "chicken" with Matt over the kids. I don't know if he's playing too, or if I'm just playing with his unaware body. Usually the winner is the one doing the more important task. Today I was trying to browse the grocery store flyer, read a periodical, drink some coffee, and do it all on the couch. It had been a long, frustrating battle of "Abigail, stop pulling your sister's hair, stop shoving her over, stop throwing your lunch on the floor, stop doing everything!" I kept waiting for Matt to get up and take care of the girls. But he was doing job stuff in preparation for a huge interview tomorrow (prayers, please, tomorrow at 10am!) and I want him to get this job too, so when Abigail finally smoked the coffee and Eleanor started speed crawling to the disaster zone, I lost the game of chicken. I admitted out loud the fact that I have small children and cannot have a post-Mass coffee and periodical moment to myself. Saying it out loud made it easier to bear. We read books, blew bubbles, took pictures. An attitude change turned the afternoon from frustrating to enjoyable.

Now both children are napping in their own cribs and the house is silent. The audible peace is wonderful, but the inside peace of knowing that I was fully present for my kids is even better.

One of Matt's cousins is engaged and she recently posted on Facebook about a show her and her fiance went to see: the happy couple, all dressed up with huge smiles. Her hair and makeup were done, he looked so proud to have his arms wrapped around her. They both emanated such a happy, excited, content feeling. I remember that feeling: like the whole world was so incredibly perfect. That sense that your place in the world is safe and loving and the future is bursting with great things. The exciting wait until the wedding day, that moment when you go home from the show together and open the front door together and snuggle up in bed together, is harder than when you were a little kid on Christmas morning, waiting at the top of the stairs for your parents to wake up. The waiting, the hope, the feeling that life is perfect and wonderful.

One of my friends is pregnant with her first child and she created a Facebook group where she can ask questions and post products to get reviews from her friends. She's having a girl, just like I did, and her excitement and the excitement of her husband are as contagious as that of Matt's cousin. Having a second child is exciting in all sorts of ways, but that first baby...that first excitement is different. Special in a way that you only get once. After so many years of working to heal, I look back with fond memories of my pregnancy with Abigail - I can see the good now, I can remember the excitement. When you feel so close to your husband and your love feels complete and wonderful. When the baby's movement - this first little baby whose life will change your whole world is some mysterious way you can't yet understand but desperately want - is so incredibly exciting. It's the same waiting, the same hope, the same feeling that life is perfect and wonderful.

When you move past these stages, it's easy too look back condescendingly on those about to embark on the journey: "What a silly little new mom, worrying about bottle sanitizers!" Bottle sanitizers, matching shoe and shall colors all seem so insignificant once you pass into the next stage of life, at least in my circle, I often feel like those who are ahead in their journey are prideful in their wisdom, eagerly dolling out one-liners about "new moms" or "young love." But what a terrible way to destroy someone's perfect and wonderful life!

Everyone's place on their life journey should be celebrated and appreciated! Instead of looking at one another with jealousy or annoyance, we should remember how joyful and excited we were at different stages of life. Be happy for one another. Love one another. Give thanks for other people's joy in hopes that one day, they'll give thanks for your joy. A wonderful, perfect life is an example that God is good and loving and merciful. Give thanks for other people's joy in order to thank God for His goodness, love, and mercy.

I'm remembering all the wonderful and exciting times in my life, finding joy in the memories. And I'm thankful for all the ways in which life is perfect and wonderful right now. These smiles and songs and crawls: the Blonde and the Brunette and the Man who is raising them with me.

18 December 2014

Breastfeeding Through Medical Procedures

Breastfeeding through various medical procedures is very important to me. When my first born was three weeks old, I sat on the floor in the middle of the night after a 20 minute pumping session and sobbed over two empty bottles that should have been full of breast milk. The hurt that followed over the next few months was something I vowed I would avoid in the future. With Eleanor, it became a top priority and I went to great lengths to set myself up for success before she was born and sought patience and resources in the first few weeks home. (Remember that time I got mastitis? Twice?) Since her birth, I've had a couple of medical procedures and some ongoing care (most, but not all, due to kidney issues), and I also have a seven-month-old, exclusively breastfed baby.

In my experience, doctors and nurses who fully support my desire to breastfeed are few and far between. "Just pump and dump!" is a favorite expression I heard as my desires are written off. The same people who eagerly offered pain meds for levels one and two pain, fetched ice chips refills after a breathing tube removal, and unhooked all my tubes and wires again so I could go to the bathroom, looked annoyed and advised pumping and dumping my precious breast milk when I asked follow-up questions about the drugs in the IV.

I'm very open with everyone I come into contact with from the moment something gets discussed: the nurse scheduling the appointment, the pre-op nurse: "Jacqueline ______, 10/06/86, kidney stone removal surgery, left side, I'm breastfeeding." Everyone who inputs data to my chart gets the rundown. More than half of these people advise that I'm going to have to "pump and dump for 24 hours!" I always follow up with, "Okay, what medications will I be receiving?" Most of these people don't even know. Whenever I can get a specific drug name (Some nurses are polite enough to ask the doctor and call me back or have anesthesia give me a call. Honestly, I get the most accurate specifics right before the procedure), I research the snot out of it. If I can't get a name, I'll Google what types of medications are typical and research those.

Whenever I'm headed into a procedure, it is my MO to breastfeed Eleanor about 30 minutes beforehand. Get her nice and full to hold her off until I get out of recovery. And I've never had to do more than ask. (At this stage, even the stodgiest White Coats are conducive to my requests.) As the OR nurses, doctor, and anesthesiologist report to the bedside for the standard pre-procedure interview, I get a list of what I'm likely to receive, and I jot them down. In my experience, there are times when you can request different meds to accommodate breastfeeding, but rarely is that the case during surgery. In my experience, anesthesiologists are the most open and willing to discuss drugs, side-effects, and breastfeeding. In my experience, anesthesiologists also offer the most conservative (and liability ass-covering) directions. It feels to me and Matt like they're working with studies from the 1950s that have never been updated. And lots of drugs have never really been tested, so I often get a "pump and dump" because it's "better to be safe than sorry."

Post-op is when I have the most flexibility in requesting new drugs. Whenever the nurse approaches my bedside with a little plastic cup of pills, an injection for the IV, or an Rx from the doctor, I a-l-w-a-y-s ask: "Can I take this while breastfeeding?" and if the answer is anything but "yes," I ask inquire about different options. Honest [paraphrased] summary of a conversation I've had with a nurse:
"Here's your medication?"
"Can I breastfeed through this?"
"Nope, pump and dump for the full 7 days you'll be on it."
"Can I take something else that I can breastfeed with?"
"I don't know."
Always permit the awkward silence to work on your behalf.
"I'll check." A few minutes later. "Here is something that's safe to take while breastfeeding."

Sometimes these conversations suck! I hate confronting authority - inside I'm always, "Oh my gosh, I totally don't want this!" But outside, I'm like, "Yes, sir, of course, sir." It's hard for me to stand up like that, but as hard as it is in the moment, it's always worth it when I'm back at home in bed nursing Eleanor at 3:00 in the morning. I also really helps that I have support: a husband by my side who doesn't mind questioning a doctor.

The BEST advice I can give anyone going through a medical procedure is to ALWAYS ask if there is another breastfeeding-friendly option. Sometimes there is not. When that is the case, the BEST advice I can give is to get a second opinion.

The doctor's advice that you can't breastfeed after general anesthesia is his opinion, based on studies and a desire to avoid malpractice law suits. Sometimes it means s/he'll sacrifice your breastfeeding. In my experience, most doctors do not keep up with the latest "drugs in breast milk" studies, and some of those studies show that drugs that previously required a 24-hour pump and dump is not necessary.

So when a doctor doesn't give me an answer I like, I get a second opinion. Often with an online search after the doctor has closed the curtain and walked away. I recommend finding websites with specific facts and researchable citations. I personally trust the La Leche League, Dr. Sears, and the website Drugs.com (They are huge fans of data and citations. Check out this example on fentanyl). I also give more weight to websites ending in ".gov" and board's websites (the American Academy of Pediatrics, for example). Matt usually reads those articles too and backs me in my decision, sometimes to the doctor's face, sometimes when we privately make a decision without informing the doctor.

And once you have all that data, you can make an informed decision. Sometimes I choose to breastfeed Eleanor when my doctor says, "nope," but the La Lecha League says, "yup." Sometimes the second opinion backs the doctor and I do pump and dump. After my kidney surgery, I pumped and dumped for 12 hours because I was on a lot of stuff and I felt all the little risks were adding up too fast. I'm confident of those decisions because they were made after much research and honest discussion. They're what we felt were best for us. And so far, they've proven to be: I have an exclusively breastfed seven-month-old who passes her wellness visits with the pediatrician with flying colors.

16 December 2014

Kidneys, Take Three

Today I had the lithotripsy on my dastardly kidney - where they blast the kidney stone with shockwaves; non-invasive. On the left kidney, by the way. They ask you about a thousand times before a procedure: the pre-op nurse on the phone, the receptionist, the pre-op nurse at the surgery center, the anesthesiologist. You'd think at some point they'd put a check-mark in the file: "Patient is aware of the procedure. Is even aware of which side the procedure will take place on." Sorry for the sarcasm, I'm a bit wore out.

The doctor told me that I would probably be back to normal by this evening, but that I might be a bit sore and bruised till tomorrow. And I might be passing the fragments for a week or so, which could, at times, be painful. But I tried to prepare to be off my feet for a few days - just in case, so the last few days have been rather busy: grocery store runs to be sure is enough milk, eggs, crackers; make another loaf of bread; do a few loads of laundry; put away the piles of stuff that have been accumulating in hard-for-toddlers-to-reach places. And, of course, the entire family just got over the flu at the end of last week. Like I said, I'm a bit wore out.

So the lithotripsy. Word to the wise: when they tell you not to drink before the procedure, don't drink before the procedure. Ugh. I abstained from food and water since dinner last night, but after nursing last night and this morning, I was so thirsty! I opted for 8oz of clear, hot tea. I thought it wouldn't be a big deal! I had nothing in my stomach and the tea ran right through me. But the anesthesiologist and urologist assured me that my stomach was still producing acid and if it got into my lungs, I'd be in the ICU for three days and never have normal lung capacity again. Ugh. So they pushed back the procedure until four hours after the Tea Debacle.

I just about cried. I didn't head back to the OR until two hours after I'd anticipated, so it threw off everything - the breastfeeding plan I'd anticipated on having and, since I was still fasting and I'm hypoglycemic, I ended up with a bad headache that is currently on track to become a migraine. Sometimes they give you these ridiculous policies to cover their asses in case of a lawsuit - like the "pump and dump" for 24-hours policy. It's like, Hello, the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks I can breastfeed as soon as I'm stable enough to hold the baby myself. I mean, come on, the same piece of paper that declares water after midnight a sin also says I can't wear jewelry or have my nails painted, both of which I did to no bad end. I'm trying to sort through their "standard procedures" and determine what is in my best interest, but trying to explain that to an anesthesiologist about to start his gazillianth case of the day and a urologist with a terrible bedside manner is about as hopeless as trying to convince Abigail that we don't need to watch Frozen twice in a row.

So exactly 4 hours after I drank the bloody tea, they took me back, knocked me out, and blasted away my kidney stone. I was not in a tub, they just put a water/gel thing under my back. About 10 minutes after I first opened my eyes, the nurse declared me sufficient to travel. A few lectures later (one nurse told me I couldn't breastfeed as long as I was on the pain meds that are the exact same pain meds as the ones they gave me after the kidney surgery so that I could keep breastfeeding; another nurse lectured me on the need to catch the kidney stones I pass even though these are fragments of the big stone that was already sent to the labs and tested), within one hour, I was in the car on the way home. Just like any profession, there are good and bad nurses. But damn, a bad nurse has a much bigger impact on an experience than a bad anything else.

So far I've had no pain, no bruising, and have passed no stones. In fact, from a physical pain perspective, it's as if nothing happened this morning. They prescribed me some norco (vicodin) to help with the pain, so I am anticipating something hurting, but so far, so good. I'll find out in mid-January if any stones survived and if I need to have another surgery or another lithotripsy.

I desperately hope the January test come back clear because I am so very ready to be done with my kidneys. Today was the third time in 14 months that I have had to go under general anesthesia to have my left kidney screwed with. And in that time? I gave birth to a baby.

Speaking of baby, in the last six days, Eleanor:
- has learned to clap
- can pull to stand
- started crawling
- started waving

She's seven months old. I'm going to need to have more kids just so I can spend a little more time in newborn world.

12 December 2014

8 Quick Takes with Awesome Pictures!

1. It has been exactly one week since the flu descended on our house. Matt ran into Abigail's preschool teacher at the grocery store the other day (yes, I live in that kind of a town), and she revealed that every single one of her students is either out sick or has that post-flu cough we've come to know and hate in our house. So it was the preschool that got us sick. I'd be lying if I said I didn't lay in bed at least twice a month and wonder if I should pull Abigail out of school just because we get sick all the time now. Oddly enough, I seem to have gotten the brunt of the flu, and while I'm glad it wasn't my kids, we all know that when mom gets sick the house stops. If I don't improve significantly over the weekend, I'm going to have to reschedule my kidney stone treatment (which is this coming Tuesday).

Cat wasn't sick, but she laid around the house napping all day anyway.

2. Sometimes, especially when sick or pregnant, I feel like energy is a measurable, quantifiable thing; like fuel in the tank of a car. There is no "digging deep" and "grinning and bearing it" when you're sick or pregnant - when you run out of energy, you're out. So if the kids are extra obnoxious and you have to expel extra energy to keep them from killing themselves? Sucks to be the dishes. If you were merely sleep deprived, had merely worked a 24-hour shift, you could suck it up, crank it out, git-r-done, but there is nothing like the complete and total exhaustion of being sick or pregnant to ensure that your husband comes home to a disaster of a house with children who haven't left their pajamas all day.

In my defense, they are really adorable in matching jammies. 

3. At first being stuck at home with the flu wasn't so bad - Matt was home and it was that cozy "misery loves company" feeling, when everyone goes to bed early together, we nap when the kids nap, and justify special treats at the grocery store when we venture out to make medicine-vitamin C-tea-Kleenex runs. But after a week of slumming it in pajamas, having eggs for dinner so we don't really have to cook, and watching wwwaaayyy to many movies, it goes from fun to depressing. Matt got over the flu the fastest, so as soon as I was okay enough, he went back to work, and which means I had to go back to work. But you know how working sick is: nothing gets your full attention, nothing gets your best effort. The house is a mess, no one is getting a bath or taking a shower, I can't remember if I even brushed my hair that morning, and I don't have the energy to fold laundry, let alone take a walk in the brisk air outside. I started feeling frustrated and depressed and I reverted back to my maladaptive habit of eating when I felt stressed. Combined with the complete lack of exercise, I gained a few pounds - and I was only a few pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight, which was even more depressing! At some multiple points during each day, I just wanted to hide in the closet and cry myself to sleep.

4. I'm feeling better enough that I decided to actually get dressed today (meaning jeans instead of sweat pants), opted to put on a little mascara so I might feel pretty, and we're going to take at least a brief stroll outside. Just long enough for me to get fresh air and Abigail to burn a little energy. The local middle school in our community opens its doors in the evening for people to walk laps, so Matt and I are going to take the stroller and the kids and do a little leg-stretching after dinner. Staying active when you're:
1. A stay-at-home mom
2. Of really young kids (as in, the oldest is three)
3. During winter in the midwest
4. When your husband takes the only car to work everyday
is really, really, really hard.

This weekend I'm going to make a list of things I can do to stay active despite all the above qualifiers so that I can reference it throughout the cold, lonely winter and hopefully stave off depression.

5. A few weeks ago, Abigail went to a birthday party for a friend from school. I was ridiculously excited about it. It was a Frozen themed party, and although it ran directly over nap time, I thought Abigail would have a ball. She got the invitation well before the party, and when I met the to-be birthday girl at the school Halloween party, I felt my excitement noticeably diminish. (Don't worry, no one from school knows me or knows that I have a blog). Abigail is a very energetic, touchy-feely kind of playmate and this girl? Well, she struck me as the quintessential only-child princess type.  I don't even know how to feel about how the party went down. It had its good moments and it had its bad moments. There were four kids (including Abigail) from preschool and the birthday girl and one of the other kids have no obvious reason for being in a special education classroom. Whatever their special need, it isn't socially observable.

For starters, I did discover where Abigail learned to shove other kids to engage in play. Two boys from school would pretend to have been shot, stabbed, or otherwise killed and dramatically fall over to the ground in an extended death scene when Abigail pushed them. Abigail finds this reaction hilarious, and continues to shove them and everyone around her, even when the boys get tired of the game. And so here we have a throng of mostly typically developing kids all sugared up on cookies and cake running around a church basement to the sound track of Frozen. And in the middle is little Abigail, still the shortest and skinniest one of the bunch, pushing the other kids as they near her and laughing hysterically about it. Some kids didn't notice her or didn't care, but inevitably some of the kids did notice and didn't like it and proceeded to shout above the noise of music and yelling kids to demand justice. And so every 60-90 seconds, I'm darting in and out of the mess, making Abigail apologize, pulling her to the side to de-stimulate her a bit, and yanking the party favors, party games, cake - all of which are on a table at kid height! - out of her hands and restore them to their proper place. My second-favorite moment is when Abigail hit "stop" on the radio (who leaves a radio on the floor at a party for a four-year-old?!) and the entire party froze like a giant game of "red light, green light" and looked around to see why the music stopped. I stood up in front of a crowd of complete strangers (I didn't know anyone at the party), walked to the front, pulled Abigail aside, and hit the "play" button.

My favorite moment? My top "best moment of the night"? So all the kids are getting in a big circle to play a party game, the adults are trying to shush everyone so they can explain the rules, and Abigail, little Abigail in her polka dot skirt with pink hair bow, walks right up to the birthday girl and pulls her hair.

I'm not justifying the pull - it was mean and inappropriate. But the birthday girl, in true princess form, started screaming and sobbing like pulling the hair set off the fire alarm. I saw the whole thing go down, I instantly yanked Abigail away, made her apologize, apologized myself, smoothed the girl's hair back down, and we slunk away to sit quietly in the circle. Holy shit, people. If you ever want to feel like the tiniest person in the world, just try explaining to the birthday girl's grandparents that your daughter made their precious, special, vulnerable little birthday girl cry. And of course, it's not like I can just explain it once and try to forget it. No, the humiliation continues as the mom, dad, aunt, random other adult, comes over one-at-a-time, everyone clamoring for an answer and no one listening.

"Wait, who's crying?"
I'm sorry, Abigail pulled [her] hair.
"Why is someone crying?"
I'm so sorry, Abigail pulled her hair.
"Oh my gosh, it's the birthday girl!"
I'm really sorry, Abigail pulled her hair.
"Why is the birthday girl crying?!"
I'm really very sorry, Abigail pulled her hair.
"Who made the birthday girl cry?!"

And then there is this awkwardness as everyone tries to transition back to the party. Should I make Abigail sit the game out? I mean, she pulled her hair, she didn't kill her kitten, it's not like we should have to leave the party. Everyone is staring at us, but looking away when I make eye-contact. We all know it wasn't a big deal, but come on, my kid made the birthday girl cry. It's like they wanted some kind of justice on behalf of the little princess who was still wiping away tears and shooting Abigail evil glares.

In the end, I let Abigail play the game - musical chairs, but with snowflakes - and she went out after the first round. Justice served.

6. I found a bottle of hot pink hair dye at Meijer on clearance for $2 (washes out in 2-3 showers), so I bought it because I always wanted to dye my hair hot pink.

And I decided I would dye Abigail's and my hair and I would do it over Thanksgiving. Why? So that when we walked into a party, the biggest thing that made Abigail different from everyone else was her hair color. So there.

Word to the wise? If you wait to dye your hair hot pink and paint your nails black sparkly until there are grandchildren involved, your uber-conservative in-laws can't reject you.

7. I am a huge fan of year-round schooling and I long ago decided that even if our kids go to public or private school, I will be homeschooling them during the summer. We can work on subjects with which they struggled during the year, subjects the school doesn't offer (especially religion classes if they go to public school), and, of course, English lit (because no matter how awesome the books they read, I promise it won't be good enough for this English lit major). I'd love to start with Abigail this summer. Mostly because she loves school and loves learning, but also because it'll give us something to keep us busy during the long summer days. I know it's way early and she's still going to learn a ton by the summer, but I was peaking in the preschool workbooks they sell at bookstores and grocery stores and getting myself all excited. I also envision buying or putting together some sort of religious lessons, at least get her to say or sign "Jesus" and "Church," something along those lines.

I think a little preschool summer school will also be a good way for me to test the waters a bit to see if I think I'm capable of doing Abigail justice if we go the homeschool route for Kindergarten.

Bonus 8. As I'm writing this, I hear Abigail dump a box of crackers in the kitchen. Then I overhear: "Oh no...it's okay. Let it go."

 She's come so far, eating yogurt (her favorite food) so nicely with a spoon.

Epic. Hair.

You can tell this picture is a few weeks old because I don't wear children when I have the flu. 

You can never have too many hair bows when you have two girls with epic hair.

07 December 2014

The Flu

We have the flu. The full-blown flu. I don't really remember ever having the proper flu before, which I am finding to be quite different that the common cold. But this year, despite our flu vaccines, some random strain found its way into our little apartment. My bets are on the preschool.

We have an ad hoc system where Matt gets the blonde and I get the brunette. It has its pros and cons (mine naps more, but his sits quietly and watches movies). Abigail was bad enough last night that Matt had to set up camp on the floor in her bedroom for the duration of the night. Eleanor's flu seems to be much milder, but she still sobs whenever she can't see me. That's one perk of living in a tiny place: she can pretty much always see me. The downside? There is no place to stash the trash everyone is too sick to take out.

And just because when it rains, it pours, I have to have another kidney treatment done, preferably before the holidays. I went in for a follow-up from the initial surgery in October and the doctor found a few fragments left over from the break-up of the first stone. Everything appeared to be cleared out, but the doctor said the tubes must have been hiding the contraband. This time it'll be a non-invasive procedure where they knock me out and then blast me with shockwaves. The nurse said I can expect to be back up and feeling like normal that evening, but online testimonies have me believing I'll be sore and bruised for a day or two. Hopefully this clears them out because I definitely want to be done with my kidneys for a while.

I think jobs should give employees bonus sick time for each additional child they have. Wouldn't that be nice? Matt gets 1/2 day each payday, I think, but I think he should get an additional 1/4 day for each child. At the rate we eat up vacation and sick time, we are never going to be able to take a vacation. If somehow, of course, we randomly had enough money for a vacation on top of the house and the second car we will one day buy.

I have a new camera with over 180 pictures on it, but I do not feel like downloading and trying to sort them all. So, until then, may you never encounter a flu virus not covered by the vaccine.

03 December 2014

Kicking Some Sleepy Tuchus

I love "talking shop" (ie, parenting) with other moms I know. Google searches for "MY BABY DOESN'T NAP!!!!" is a great way to get every single solution humanly possible, none of which you can verify. Sure, maybe MomofThreeCuties got her kids to sleep in three easy steps, but maybe MomofThreeCuties is also from the south side of Detroit and had five kids taken by the state and her relationship with all of them would make a great episode of Dr. Phil. You n-e-v-e-r know - as Dr. Phil would say: "The only thing you know about her is that she has a computer." Anyway, when I get advice from people in my community, I can feel more confident that I'm seeing the bigger picture. Dr. Sears insists that the cry-it-out method damages the mother-baby relationship, but when a mom of two really excellent girls tells me they cried it out and her relationship with the girls is still strong and I've seen the proof, I can safely conclude that Dr. Sears' advice isn't true of 100% of families. Another mom cited an article that claims that sometimes babies cry to relieve stress and I realized that sometimes Eleanor gets grouchy in the carrier in the moments before she looses the battle with sleep, so 2-3 minutes of grouch in the crib is pretty much the same thing. And when another mom offered that she nursed her kids to sleep for every nap for the first few years, I suddenly realized that there is no reason why I can't nurse Eleanor to sleep on the bed when Abigail is off at preschool. I have no idea why I didn't realize it earlier, but for whatever reason, her comment triggered that realization which has reaped incredible naps.

I often wonder: Do I just suck as a parent, or is it really this hard? And the best part of talking shop with other moms? When I hear a resounding, reassuring, "Yes, it really is just that hard!"

 What?! This face? Hard to parent? Nonsense!

So. I want to be specific in saying that we never let Eleanor cry for anything longer than the time it took to go to the bathroom until she was six-months-old (on Nov 10). At that point, I was getting desperate enough that I did a few cry-it-outs, then felt bad, then felt clueless, which led to the last post.

And these few early days of trying new methods: Progress!

I still wear Eleanor in the carrier (a back carry with the Ergo) for her morning nap. That's what I was doing before and it just works really well for us.

The afternoon nap is the one greatly improved by the "nurse to sleep" advice. When Abigail goes off to preschool, Eleanor is ready for her nap, but - I think because she use to refuse to sleep away from me when she was younger - I just nursed her to sleep on the Boppy pillow while sitting on the couch and crocheted. She'd sleep about 30 minutes. But I tried nursing her down on the bed, then tiptoeing away and she's since taken a two-hour long afternoon nap every day! She's such a different kid during the afternoon!

Same pose, new object to chew. Variety is the spice of life.

Bedtime. We were trying to get Eleanor down in her crib to start the night, so that when we snuck in a few hours later, we could score some baby-free Zzzzs, then I'd get her and keep her with us in bed when she got up around 11-1am for her first night feeding. I'd nurse or walk her down, but as soon as I tried to get her in the crib, she'd wake right up. Most nights it was taking me an hour and a half to nail the put-down, which has been so taxing that in the last few weeks, I'd set her down anyway and she'd wail until either she conked out or Matt or I caved and went in to get her (either way leaving me feel guilty).

So after pouring through the advice you guys offered, Matt and I decided that we would give Eleanor five minutes of crying before retrieving her and attempting bedtime again. In these last few days, I have learned that if Eleanor hasn't fallen asleep after 3 minutes, it's not going to happen on it's own. I have also started to learn based on her body language if the put down attempt will be a 30 second wail or if it will be hopeless. But so far there is no great improvement in actually getting her to sleep.

Clearing up the afternoon nap woe has really helped me see bedtime clearer, and I think two things are standing in our way.
- Eleanor is overly-tired by bedtime. She needs an evening cat nap.
- Bedtime is the only time we don't have a regular routine for Eleanor (Abigail does have one).

The cat nap. I've tried nursing Eleanor down and tried 5 minutes of crying it out for a third nap, but she refuses both ways. I'm going to try to wear her in a carrier today to see if it helps. If I could just get 20-30 minutes out of her, it would push bedtime back a bit, she wouldn't fight it so hard, and then maybe she'd stop getting up at 5:30 in the morning.

Also, we need a predictable routine to help prepare Eleanor mentally. I'm super awesome at keeping a routine in the morning and afternoon, but sometime between lunch and dinner, it all falls apart, and then the witching hour hits, and by bedtime it's like, "JUST GET THE KIDS IN PAJAMAS AND IN BED. I NEED TO BE DONE FOR THE DAY." I actually had to write Abigail's bedtime routine down step-by-step and hang it on her door until it became habit. I guess that's what I need to do with Eleanor.

That and start bundling up the kids and take a witching hour walk. Hey, maybe that'll put Eleanor to sleep.

Don't believe a word she says; all I do is sit her cutely with my crazy hairs and play nicely with this ball.

30 November 2014

Oh, Sleep.

Thank you for listening to me vent about housing. I felt a release in writing about it, getting it out of my head via my finger tips. And when I read back over it a few days later, it gave me the reminder/insight that I've return to that dark place I often retreat where I spend too much time obsessing and planning for the future and not enough time living in the moment. This is my life now, these are my girls now, this is my marriage now - and it is good. I'm hoping that therapy can transfer to the other giant problem in my life: Eleanor's relationship with sleep.

We are reaching critical mass over here - the maximum amount of pain I can tolerate before I explode. Around 6 months of age, Abigail would regularly sleep through the night and had a predictable nap schedule. Not that life was perfect, but it was usually stable enough. I kept pulling myself through the difficult days with Eleanor by telling myself, "Around six months, this will all mellow out." Well we're six months now, and it's not mellowing.

I could go on (and on and on and on) about the frustrating absurdities of her demands, but I'll just sum them up (without exaggeration) here:

1. Eleanor will not nap by herself during the day. She must be in my arms or a carrier or being pushed in a stroller. If I put her down or get home and wheel the stroller into the bedroom, she'll wake up within minutes.

2. Eleanor spends a majority of the night nursing. A majority. Comfort sucking. I wake up every morning in a decent amount of back pain from staying in a side-lying nursing position.

3. About half of the time, I can nurse Eleanor down around 7pm and she'll stay there until we go to bed around 10pm.

Because of her absurd specificity, Eleanor usually only gets about three 30 minute naps per day. She falls asleep for the night around 7pm and wakes up around 5:30-6am. She's constantly tired, cranky, and always very clingy. Those pictures you see of her smiling? Those are usually taken shortly after her nap and of course, I'm also right there. I've read the Dr. Sears Baby Sleep Book about a dozen times since Eleanor's birth and I've tried everything several times. And I took her to her doctor and she emerged with a clean bill of health and no allergies. I'm loosing it.

If Eleanor was an only child, it would be easier - I could just hold her throughout her naps, take as long as she needed nursing her down for a nap on the bed, but I can't - I also have a toddler who can't be left alone. And I can't wear Eleanor for all her naps. On the rare occasion that Eleanor takes a good, hour-long nap, the change in her personality is very noticeably improved.

Allow me to finish setting the scene before I get to the juicy confession part. Eleanor crying:

1. Pick her up? Tears done. Put her down? Screaming hysterics. Up? Silent. Down? Screaming. As comical as a commercial if it wasn't so deafening.

2. The screaming? About 75% off the time, Eleanor goes from 0 to 60 almost instantly. Imagine how loud your baby would scream if she totally smoked her head on the sharp edge of a table. Blood-curdling, ear-piercing, makes you want to run in the other direction shear screaming. That's Eleanor's I'm not getting my way cry. No joke.

What did I do? I set her down in her crib (which is in the master bedroom), turned on the music and lights, switched the laundry, got the camera, and took her picture. I was gone for all of 180 seconds. One time we were riding in the car with my mom when Eleanor started crying. It freaked her out so bad she pulled the car over and insisted that I check to make sure Eleanor hadn't some how pinched herself in the carseat or something.

So my confession? Sometimes I let her cry it out.

I have to whisper it because I'm totally ashamed of it. I'm part of team Attachment Parenting. We're like the crunchy granola hippies of parenting. Tenets of my parenting religion include nursing (or bottle feeding in the case of Abigail) on demand, co-sleeping, positive discipline, and baby wearing. We think the cry it out method is lazy parenting that results in cruelty to the baby.

And I do think it's cruel! I think I'm cruel! I think I'm a terrible parent and I feel incredible guilt and that's why I'm telling the whole world! *Sigh* Let me start from the beginning.

As even the most ridiculous among us can conclude: I can't possibly wear or hold Eleanor at all times. There are times every single day when I have to take care of Abigail. So one day, Abigail is particularly sick and I just have to give her some one-on-one attention. So I put Eleanor in her crib, closed the bedroom door, and attended to Abigail: A fresh diaper, a nose wipe, a face wash, some medicine, a hair brushing. Nothing excessive. And Eleanor screamed. Boy did she yell. For a whopping 4 minutes. Then silence. She fell asleep. I couldn't believe it! And I spent the luxurious hour-long nap reading books with my attention-deprived eldest.

Over the next few days, I stopped jumping the second Eleanor started crying and I realized that sometimes she just lets out one sole wail and goes back to what she's doing. Like she was about to psych up and then got distracted. And a few times, I repeated the crib + closed door experiment while I got Abigail on or off the school bus and I returned to a silent apartment. Not all the time, not even half the time, but sometimes. And sometimes felt great.

So I think to myself, This is great! It isn't really the cry it out method and she's actually sleeping alone! Maybe we can build on this! Maybe by next month, she'll totally be sleeping independently! 

And somehow from there, I ended up on this slippery slope where Eleanor is frustrating me with her refusal to sleep, so I end up plopping her in her crib and walking away. At the time I'm furious, fed up, feeling like I'm at my limit. But when I calm down, I always feel guilty. Like I said, it doesn't always work - more than half the time, I finish up with Abigail or listen to 10-15 minutes of screaming and then retrieve a sobbing Eleanor. I feel guilty when I soothe her red face and wipe her dripping eyelashes. I felt guilty when it does work - tonight, for example, I was fed up and left her to cry in her crib. Within 5 minutes, it was intermittent scream - silence - cry- silence - fuss - silence - cry. In 9 minutes, she was completely out. And once she was out, I had calmed back down and the guilt had crept in.

So why do I personally find the cry it out method so cruel? I have empathy for Eleanor: if I was sobbing in the other room and Matt ignored me so that I could "learn to self-soothe," our marriage would be in a bad way. That's not healthy! If you were watching a movie where one character overheard another sobbing and ignored it, you'd think to yourself, "That relationship is doomed," so on what planet does it make sense to let my infant sob alone in a dark room?! Babies aren't born with self-soothing skills that could flourish if only us smothering mothers would learn to give baby a little space. And my response to the argument that "my baby stopped crying and fell right asleep when I did the cry it out method" would be the Dr. Sears line:

"Baby loses trust in the signal value of his cry – and perhaps baby also loses trust in the responsiveness of his caregivers. Not only does something vital go 'out' of baby, an important ingredient in the parent-child relationship goes 'out' of parents: sensitivity."

After much, much thinking and discussing it over with Matt, he pointed out that there are such things as boundaries, even with babies. And I realized he was right. No one can be everywhere all the time. If I was sobbing in the bedroom while Matt was taking care of the girls, or, heck, even taking care of the cat if she was sick, that would be totally understandable! If you were watching a movie in which one character overheard another sobbing but was tied up and couldn't help at that moment, you'd think to yourself, "That's a sucky situation; man, I really feel for both characters." The difference? Boundaries. So while I think it's totally in keeping with my parenting beliefs that it's okay if Eleanor falls asleep crying in the few minutes it takes me to take care of Abigail, I still feel totally guilty and ashamed of the times she cries herself to sleep while I'm sitting in the living room.

And so I go back and forth - I do need to take a few minutes to cool down and I shouldn't feel guilty about that. But on the other hand, my children are constantly going to frustrate and annoy me and I can't just leave them whenever they do! But on the other hand, I'm not really leaving them, they are safe in their cribs! But I am emotionally leaving them! But I'm returning to help them sort out their feelings! But not if they do fall asleep - now we're going to bed angry!

How can I even be having this debate with myself?! How can I even have let her cry herself to sleep tonight?! I find the cry it out method to be lazy parenting, cruel to babies, and I feel it's my responsibility as a parent to teach my children how to handle their emotions! But, damn, Eleanor being constantly sleep deprived is cruel to babies and it's my responsibility as a parent to keep my child as healthy as I can! And nothing I do is working!

I know parenting is hard and I know babies are clingy. And I'm totally okay with co-sleeping and with Eleanor not sleeping through the night yet. I really am. I have two problems I'm struggling to resolve.

1. I need to get Eleanor taking longer naps.

2. I need to figure out when it's a healthy boundary to let her cry and when it's cruel.

If you are not yet sick of my constant pleadings for advice in my continued failures as a parent, I would again ask you for some. Amelia, Cammie, TB, Mrs. S? You guys are so wise and I always appreciate your advice as I can hear in it your experience and love for your children. Katherine - you had some great advice on my Littlest Bully post. Sleep has got to be the hardest issue when it comes to parenting and babies. And this coming from someone who saw an infant through open-heart surgery...

25 November 2014

I Wanna Buy a House

There is something about trying to raise two young kids in a tiny apartment that makes you want to rush out and buy a house, like, that weekend. There is no storage to put outgrown clothes, no garage to stash a chest freezer, and carpet in the dining room. Seriously, who puts carpet in a dining room?! I don't mind a tiny space, but if it's gonna be tiny, it's gotta be efficient. I am allllll about an efficient use of tiny space and an apartment is anything but. And I can't even do anything to make it more efficient! And Matt is probably sick to death of me talking non-stop about the issue, hence the blog post.

So why can't we buy a house? Because Matt's job can only last until August 2016 at the absolute most and there is no telling in which city the next job will be. So we don't want to own real estate in Lansing and have him get a job in Detroit (a 1.5-2 hour drive). So why don't we rent a house, then? Because I don't want to pay for boxes, packing tape, a uHaul, a new security deposit, and all the other random expenses of moving now and then again in August of 2016 when we either buy a house or move to the city of Matt's new job.

We've already had 7 different addresses and we've only been married 6.5 years - and we've only ever moved for school or a job. That's thousands of dollars in moving-related expenses.

And then there's the last bit, and I'm not sure if this makes it easier or harder to bear. There isn't even anything available right now that I want to buy. What we want in a house isn't for sale in the areas we want to live. If we did buy a house this weekend, we'd either have to downgrade our features or change our location.

Okay, since this is a gripe post, I'm going to vent just a bit more. This time about Chicago. Almost every single time Chicago comes up - even if it is someone else asking me if I want to go back someday - the conversation ends with the other person disdainfully looking down at me and making a rude comment, "I love to visit Chicago, but I can't ever imagine living there." Well, Other Person, excellent, because Chicago doesn't want you living in it either.

I d-e-s-p-e-r-a-t-e-l-y want to go back to Chicago. A few weeks ago, I came to a four-way stop about a mile from my apartment and there was a barn on one corner and cornfields on the other three. My gut reaction? A wave of depression. Thinking of that empty landscape as my home for the rest of my life is depressing. But Chicago? Ahhh, I think about my old routine in my dream land often. Our old 1920s apartment building had a wonderfully efficient use of space - ample built-in shelves and every unit was designed to have views in three directions. We didn't have a backyard, but there were five parks within a half mile of our front door. It didn't matter that we were a one-car family because there was enough public transportation that we only filled up the gas tank in the car - not joking - once a month. And the noise? It's loud, but it's constant, so you get used to it. There is always someone singing outside or clomping up the stairs, so it's not a jarring noise that wakes up the kids - it's just a steady stream of noise that becomes as soothing as white noise.

If we could buy a condo or townhouse in Chicago, I think I could make it practically perfect - redesign the bathroom a bit to allow for a stacking washer and dryer, switch up the cabinet situation in the kitchen to maximize storage, customize the closets with shelving systems to get the best use out of them (our closets in Chicago were huge, but awkward). What couldn't I fix? The school system. Abigail would definitely have to be a in a private, religious preschool. No doubt about that.

A return to Chicago hasn't been ruled out, Matt's next job could be located anywhere - so deep down, a part of me hates the idea of buying a house because I hate the idea of settling into rural country life. Sometimes I feel that same frustration I did as a kid: moving again, trying to find a new best friend again. A lifetime of instability that still keeps me from investing myself in any sort of community is not something I want for my children. More than anything else in this post of grip-y vent-y wants, I want to get the housing thing figured out before my girls are old enough to remember the turbulence.

I miss you, Chicago; and I wanna buy a house in you.

23 November 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Totally Worth It

If anyone is still out there reading my incredibly sporadic updates, I want to say "thank you." It hasn't been a case of intentional blog abuse, but rather, blog neglect. Maybe Matt and I have been talking shop too much lately? Both girls have been sick, sick, sick with a particularly bad common cold. I thought we were out of the woods until Saturday morning when both girls woke up with snot encrusted...everywhere. The cold keeps them up at night, wakes them up at 5am, and screws with the nap schedule, which keeps us up at night, wakes us up at 5am, and prevents me from sneaking a nap in during the afternoon.

Plus Matt's been under pressure at work to hit looming deadlines on reports that need about twice the amount of time he's given. The result? He's had to bring work home almost every evening. Busy days, busy evenings. And random car trouble.

You know how some people dress up their dog, put him on their Christmas cards, and call him their "baby"? That's how I feel about my car. I love my car. We have a serious thing going. And it's a 2011 model year, so it definitely is way too young to be dying at gas stations on Wednesday nights. Thankfully it happened 10 minutes from our apartment, so Matt could easily walk home, but we live in a tiny little rural town, so no shop was open at 5:37pm when Matt called around. Also thankfully, it turned out to just be a battery issue, but Matt had to take Thursday off, call a tow, work from the waiting room of a car-repair shop while the mechanic ran around town looking for the right part.

BUT it hasn't been all bad. Recent successes include: getting Eleanor to sleep around 7 or 8pm ALONE in HER crib (which is still in our room), granting me 2-3 hours to myself in the evenings. (She usually wakes between 11pm and 1am and migrates back to our bed.) But with those few hours, for the first time EVER in my life, I finished making all the homemade Christmas presents before Thanksgiving! I'm not one of those people who strives to finish all the holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, but I'm sick of the stress, late nights, and panic of scrambling to finish the crafted gifts.

More successes include the reading of a couple of good books (I've been shutting off the electronics 30-60 minutes before bed and doing some reading to help with the insomnia that still haunts me despite my sleep deprivation), and a kick-ass husband who took bedtime duty on Friday so I could go to a girls' night, both girls on Saturday so I could nap, and stayed home with the sickies again this morning so I could go to Mass. I'm very blessed that he's such an involved father and thoughtful husband.

Okay, now on to cute baby pictures.

She can army crawl, get into a proper crawling position, and plank. Yes, a planking six-month-old.

I also have a series of recommendations, based on the recent ups and downs of my week.

-The Lego Movie is hilarious and totally kid appropriate
-Gone Girl is a spectacular book
-Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan is hilarious book I'd totally recommend to parents of young-ish kids. Everytime I pick it up, I end up laughing until I have tears in my eyes.
-Jim Gaffigan's stand up is totally worth renting on Amazon or Netflix or whatever. Again, you'll laugh until you have tears and he's totally a clean comic (Catholic, even, with 5 kids, but he's hilarious even if you're not religious)

Here's to a good week. Thankfully, it's a short one.

19 November 2014

Coping without Resorting

My goodness, this has been a brutal week. Both girls are pretty sick. And by pretty I mean ugly. A river of snot running from each nostril, pooling on the upper lip; long nights where even a blanket under one side of the mattress can't help the congestion; medicine dolled out at the earliest possible opportunity; regular trips to the bathroom with a warm wash cloth to clean off dried snot; a bottle of spray-on hand sanitizer in my pocket for quick spritzes in between wiping this girl's nose and that girl's nose and grabbing a quick bite of a sandwich I made an hour ago, but still haven't eaten.

Even though I'm six months into this "two against one" thing, I still have times when it's tough to juggle; like when both girls are sick. The desire to let a movie run on repeat on the laptop and get pizza for dinner is overwhelming. I'm trying to build up the self control and learn to get through life without resorting to "hell is breaking loose" mode just because the day is hard. I used to want to beg Matt to stay home from work on days when both girls are sick, but I've fought through that temptation enough and now I know I can handle it. Progress, you know. Anyway. There are going to be 1,000 more days in my life when both girls are sick and I barely slept a wink and yet somehow I have to manage to keep the house together.

I'm not saying there aren't times when pizza and movies won't be the order of the day, but I don't want them to be the order of my day when we're just batting an intense common cold. Eight days ago I realized that we've been eating out way too much lately (always under the guise of "I'm so tired - what a tough day!") so I vowed that we wouldn't eat out no matter what until this weekend. It has meant eggs or pancakes for dinner and sometimes I don't even start them until Matt gets home, but it's better than wasting money and calories on take out. Plus making a goal and sticking to it does wonders for the self esteem.

One of the unforeseen benefits of sticking to my guns on movies and fast food during cold season is that success begets success. Somehow I've managed to keep the dishes and the laundry in check. Once the movie and take out temptations begin to fade, my next goal will be to reign in the chocolate face-stuffing that occurs when I get stressed.

But all bets are off when I get sick. Oh goodness, not much progress has been made in that department. One step at a time, I guess.

I'm not saying that things shouldn't slip a little when the girls are sick - I certainly lower my standards of household cleanliness, spend the entire day in pajamas, watch an embarrassingly large pile of trash-to-be-taken-out grow in the laundry room. And I'm not saying that I'm going to have these standards forever - maybe we will watch movies all day if/when we have four or five sick kids, and if I had twins? Oh goodness, I can't even imagine trying to cope with two sick infants on top of a sick toddler.

But I am saying that I personally feel like shit when I let Abigail spend the day on electronic devices and get take out twice a week when the girls have colds. And I don't like feeling like shit when I'm not even sick myself. So I'm doing what I can to spend less time stewing in regret and guilt.

I'm also saying that I'm about ready to pay my children to leave their socks on. Especially when they're sick. And then there's Cat. Poor Cat.