Thursday, June 30, 2011

The pendulum swings

Note to future self:

Life is not static. Kids have easy stages and hard stages. They obey in spurts, and they challenge in spurts. Social activity comes and goes, too. Sometimes friends seem a distant memory, and sometimes there aren't enough nights in a week to get together with everyone we want to.

When in a hard season, I despair that my life will always be this way. Kids will always exhaust me, Ryan and I will always argue, I will aways feel isolated. We will never be able to go on dates, take a vacation, have a real conversation before 8:30 at night.

When in a particularly fulfilling stage, I pat myself on the back for creating such a good life for our family. I become prideful that my kids obey and are easy to manage, that Ryan and I have a good marriage, and that I have an abundance of women to spend quality time with.

I am a lunatic. I am surprised every. time. the. pendulum. swings. So, Future Kathryn, don't despair in the hard times, and don't become lazy in the easy times. Always, ALWAYS, work on relationships within and without the family. Be grateful when life feels especially wonderful, and remember what that feels like so that when life feels especially awful, you can remind yourself of what is coming. And it is coming.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Backseat Mama

There is a Very Important Tool in our house: the microwave timer.

If we can't convince Coralie it's time for bed, the timer can!

If we can't convince her it's time to go potty, the timer can!

If we can't convince her that it's not, in fact, time for her to get up from her nap, the timer can! (This is a sneaky trick we use-- When she is very sure that she is done trying to nap, we say, "Just lay down-- the timer hasn't gone off yet. When it does, then you can get up." This usually gets her to fall asleep and then when she wakes up, we say, "Did you hear the timer go off?" And she says "yep" and climbs out of bed.)

I can look at this in several ways. 1) I am being a poor parent by not making her mind me at my word alone. 2) I am just doing whatever it takes to get her to do what she needs to be doing; the method is not as important as the end result. 3) Some children need to have their dignity preserved and not always be told what to do by Mommy. If this is the case with Coralie (and I think it is, for she gets humiliated any time she is reprimanded, and not because she disappointed us but because she was reminded she is not in a position of power), the very best thing I can do for my long-term relationship with her is to choose my battles.

You know how the Bible tells fathers not to exasperate their children? I can see how frequent bossing and reprimanding kills their little spirits, embitters them towards their parents, and builds up resentment towards authority that could play out for decades.

Maybe Coralie will be a runner, challenged by the timer ticking away as she pounds the pavement. Maybe she will be a salesperson, working towards the quota that will earn her the maximum quarterly bonus. Maybe she will be determined to earn whatever grade, whatever test score, whatever award is required for her to apply for the school or the job she wants. One thing I do know is that she can't be trained to only obey Mommy.

As with so much in life, we must walk a fine line. We must teach, train, discipline, and reprimand. We must also empower, encourage, and embolden our children so that they know their potential, their strengths, their abilities. That means I need to study my children, for effective parenting is not one-size-fits-all. Madeline may never need the timer. But Coralie does, so I will swallow my pride that she more happily obeys a third party than her mother.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Honest to goodness conversations

Like I said, I've got a lack of social grace and am always trying to gain some. Mainly because I really, really, really want others to feel good about themselves but also because settling for being mediocre at something is not in my blood.

Anyway, to me, social grace is not about charm or charisma (though those things would be wonderful to have); it is about being REAL and being able to connect in a meaningful way. All of us are human (duh) with insecurities, accomplishments, struggles, humor, and strengths worth sharing. The major obstacle to being real with someone else is that it is hard to communicate exactly who we are and what we have experienced because we are so concerned with how we are perceived and how we make the other person feel.  So we often portray ourselves as plastic-- or as abrasive steel.

Let me give an example. My sister and her husband are bravely and selflessly taking care of a 4-month-old baby boy for a few weeks while his mother recovers from heart surgery. We talked on Sunday, and my sister shared how hard the past few days have been for her. . . taking care of a baby is a full-time job yet she has a full-time career. . . she is tired. . . he needs constant movement to be happy. . . he snacks throughout the day instead of eating good meals. . . he still gets up in the middle of the night and doesn't nap well. . .is this what parenthood is? Is all this work worth it?

While I told her that yes, parenthood can be exhausting and depressing and isolating, it can also be really great. And that while the baby stage seems long while you're in it, it seems short in retrospect. You know, all the cliches (that also happen to be true).

Then she commented that it is hard to find a mom who will be honest and say, "Oh, I'm really struggling with this." Or, "I can't figure out how to [get my kid to use the potty/speak respectfully/sleep through the night/etc]." Most moms simply say, "Taking care of children can be hard, but it's the best job in the world" or something else cliche (yet true).

So here is my sister, trying to separate out the truthful- from the save-face-and-time-conversations, wondering if all the moms she has talked to lie about enjoying what they do or if they are better at the mom-thing than she is.

It struck me that if we were all just honest and real with each other, we could probably make others feel a lot better about themselves.

I wondered how I missed the boat on being honest with her during the hard, hard days when Coralie was a baby. I think I was probably trying to be sensitive to her, knowing that since she didn't have a baby she probably didn't want to hear me whine and moan about what a hard time I was having. But what ended up happening was that I didn't convey real life, real Kathryn. I realized that in trying to be so "considerate" of my audience and what she may or may not be interested in hearing, I was being dishonest.

For many casual relationships, I do think this filtering is appropriate: the preschool teacher does not care that I snapped when one of my kids did something (minor and) annoying or that I cried when I felt left out of a friendship. But in the meaningful relationships (whether that means lifetime friendships or getting-each-other-through-this-hard-season friendships), we need to be less concerned with whether or not we are being relevant to our audience and more concerned with being real, sharing what we really feel deep-down, the fears we have, the paranoias we experience, the victories we earn.

I do think sensitivity to an audience is important, like if someone just lost a pregnancy, it may not be a great time to complain that you are yet again pregnant and that you can get pregnant just by looking at your husband. Or if someone is out of work and really struggling financially, it may not be a great time to share all about your recent European vacation. But being sensitive is very different than not being real.

I don't think that writing about this has really firmed up any of my thoughts, unfortunately. I just know that to make an audience feel his worth is not an easy task. It requires a dance between sensitivity and honesty, between filters and an unapologetic portrayal of life. I have a feeling that balance probably takes a lifetime to achieve. I do believe it's a goal worth pursuing.

If you are reading this, then know that these are my goals when talking to you. I am trying to be real and honest with you in a way that validates who you are because I value you and your wisdom and experiences.

So to my sister: taking care of a baby is exhausting. It makes you question your competencies, your capacities, and your character. It is a full-time, all-consuming job. I have NO IDEA why God made it so hard, but I know that His job as a "parent" is even harder than ours.  When I feel like a totally crappy and miserable mother, I know two things: 1) I am not the only one to have felt this way, and 2) God doesn't ask us to keep the baby from crying or to feed the baby on the perfect schedule. . . our job is to try our very best. Try for this minute to be a loving mom, then try for the next minute. When we mess up, the baby won't remember. And God doesn't hold it against us, either. Yes, children are hard work, and yes, they are worth it. They are the truest picture of how much God loves us, and in return we get the chance to raise up little people who can acknowledge who God is and what He has done.

Sleep be damned. (And I love you.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dear Delta

The following is an actual letter I wrote to Delta Airlines.

To whom it may concern:

Like many, I am quick to complain and slow to compliment. But our experience on a recent Delta flight was so outstanding that I feel compelled to write and formally thank the crew of June 19th's Delta Flight 1215 BDL-MSP.

Upon our arrival at the gate's waiting area in Hartford, CT, pilot [I am omitting his name on the blog for his privacy] pulled us aside and asked us if we would like to take our three year-old daughter into the cockpit for some pictures during the pre-flight check. We had never been offered this before, and since this was our daughter's first plane trip, we jumped at the chance. We pre-boarded at his suggestion and made our way to the cockpit. Both pilots were so kind and offered to let Coralie touch anything she wanted. [Mr. Pilot] offered his seat to her and adjusted it so she could see out the windows and then offered his hat to her to wear for a picture. He handed her an informational card about our plane with a handwritten note on it and a set of wings.

We were so impressed with their kindness and were still in amazement over it all when the stewards saw us coming out of the cockpit. They, [insert names], are the friendliest stewards I have ever met! They doted on Coralie and snuck special treats back to us from first class. They gave us everything we could have asked for; their attentiveness was remarkable.

All in all, we were on four Delta flights during our vacation. The vast majority of Delta employees we encountered were knowledgeable, helpful, and kind, but the pilots and crew on Delta 1215 on June 19th surpassed them all. Congratulations on assembling such a fine team, and rest assured that their efforts on that short flight will have a ripple effect of goodwill towards Delta.


Friday, June 24, 2011

What we learned on our summer vacation

We learned that we can be in the ER on Thursday and out of town on Tuesday.
(Madeline couldn't breathe, so we took her to the ER. Everyone assured us she would be just fine on our trip, and she was.)

We learned that flying on a plane is still magical.
No matter how degrading flying commercially can feel, you still defy gravity and spend time in the clouds. You still look down and see the tiny houses and trees and roads. And sometimes you get invited into the cockpit to see where the magic happens. (If you're Coralie, you couldn't care less about that honor and instead ask if tiny people live in those tiny houses and could we please bring some home?)

We learned that our children are more flexible than we give them credit for being.
Kids care a lot less about schedules than we do, and as long as they have time to sleep and food to eat, they're happy.

We learned that we are not afraid to let our kids self-destruct if it is in their best interest to do so.
Madeline lived. That's all I'll say about that on this post.

We learned that all the planning in the world is worth it for one minute of wonder in our children's eyes.
I happen to enjoy the planning, but I enjoy far more watching Coralie dig in the sand, "swim" in the ocean, and dance at a wedding reception.

We learned that being with your children, away from home, deepens bonds.
I respect my children more as I learn about them more, and I am thankful to have broadened Coralie's sense of the world. I can't wait to expand Madeline's world, too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


It occured to me tonight how often God has rescued us:
-a job loss became a paycut
-a potential family fallout became the strengthening of relationships
-two serious car accidents were injury-less
-major medical worries became minor medical worries

These were real rescues. I mean, begging God on my knees for interference rescues. This morning, I was facing decisions regarding Madeline's care that truly scared me. Diagnostic tests with formidable risks. Surgery. Or the alternative: a debilitating heart condition. I sobbed my way through the day, imagining my sweet little baby being poked, prodded, sedated. I called, emailed, and texted my support group, my friends and family that I knew would spend the day in prayer for us.  At 5:30, I got a call that in essence negated the initial suspicion of a heart defect. One phone call seemed to take away testing, surgery, recovery. 

But I know it was God. I know He rescues us.

To say we have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies is an understatement. We have experienced scares, heartaches, and humiliation, but we have also experienced mercy.

God has rescued us from the brink many times, yes, but He has also kept us so far away from the brink that we don't even know where or what the brink is. We have two beautiful, smart, sweet, mostly healthy girls. We have a strong, supportive extended family. We are committed to each other. 

My prayer this evening was one of thanksgiving, one of acknowledgment of what He has done for us. I am very grateful to God, for I know He is under no obligation to rescue us from earthly misfortune.

I don't believe it is any accident that I came across this quote today: "We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open. . . . We always have this choice." (Pema Chodron)

It's not from the Bible, I know, but I think it jibes with biblical principles. When we face anything uncomfortable, regardless of whether we are eventually rescued, we need to expand our realms of empathy and understanding and extend it to others who are in those uncomfortable situations. For we all need rescuing, every one of us.

So help us, God

Well, we were out of town for a week and just got back in last night. Did you miss us? I tell you what, I missed this house! Sharing one room and two suitcases for a week certainly wasn't unpleasant, but it is nice to have drawers, closets, and separate bedrooms!

Coralie did so well on the trip. She went to Connecticut with Ryan and me for a family wedding, and we all had a really great time. (I am sure I will post more about our time in CT later.) It made me realize how much easier it is to have one kid! My patience grew exponentially, and my enjoyment of our three-year-old intensified. It makes me question yet again whether or not we should have more kids as I so dearly love my two children. I don't want to miss anything they do, and the more kids we have, the less time I get with each of them!

Madeline, however, did not do as well on the trip. It's funny how our girls are so different (Coralie is stubborn, a little hard-edged, precocious, energetic, and very smart, and Madeline is sweet, charming, and easy-going) but are SO SIMILAR. For instance, both our girls have iron wills. Coralie's is pretty obvious, but Madeline's is sneaky. She was pouting (that seems too mild a word!) that we left her behind and refused-- REFUSED-- to drink anything for my parents. For two days, she screamed and cried and tantrumed if they tried to feed her a bottle. They used every trick they could think of to keep her hydrated enough to survive until we returned (I am not joking when I say their motto was "I think she'll live until Sunday. I think she'll live until Sunday."): spoons, cups, sippy cups, ice chips (hahahahahahahaha my baby needed ice chips ohmygosh), and droppers. You guys, they tried to feed her like a HUMMINGBIRD. If it weren't so important for her to be hydrated, this would have been hilarious to watch!

Long and stressful story short, all three of them lived. They figured out that instead of taking four bottles a day, Madeline would sip throughout the day IF they handed over the bottle and let her feed herself. (Mom says she washed bottles all. day. long.) She didn't sleep as long for her naps, either, but Mom swears she wasn't cranky unless they were trying to feed her.

Oy, my children.

How is it that my girls are so strong-willed? Seriously!

Heaven help us when the girls hit pre-teen age. We'll need it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bringing out the best

Before I begin, I would like to start with a side note: This blog is feeling very narcissistic, but since this is not a profession-related blog, you get me. I once fancied that I would try to write an entire week of posts without using the personal pronouns I/me/my/mine/we/our/ours, but I (haha) decided that would be impossible.

Back to the point of this post:

I have a wise mother. In my post about changing the way I treat others, she commented that people who bring out the worst in us probably have issues of their own.

This got me thinking. Since I have issues of my own, I must bring out the worst in some people, right?

We should all be able to bring out the very best in people; it's what they deserve of us.

Thinking about this is akin to dangling a carrot in front of a race horse (though I am not pretending to be comparable to a race horse in any other situation)-- I want emotional health for me, yes, but I also want it for others. Others should know they are important and made in God's image. If I have issues of my own, I cannot communicate that truth to others.

So here's to mom, and here's to you. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I will admit it: I like the most popular teeny-bopper songs right now.

These are the songs I hope play on the radio as I am running. (Yes, I run with a RADIO. Maybe one day I will join this century and run with an MP-3 player?)

Please note: I have not watched these videos, so they may not be nice. I just thought if you wanted to know what the songs sounded like, you could save some time and follow these links. But I take no responsibility for what you see or hear-- remember, I hear the RADIO version. :)

-Grenade (Bruno Mars)
-Perfect (P!ink) . . . I am not linking this one because even the title has a bad word. Do they make videos of the radio versions?
-DJ's Got Us Falling in Love Again (Usher)
-Dynamite (Tiao Cruz)
-Just a Dream (Nelly)
-ET (Katy Perry) . . . this is the one I am most ashamed of
-Forget You (Cee Lo) . . . again, I am not linking this one because of the language in the title

I  am also loving these::
-Glitter in the Air (P!nk)
-The Lazy Song (Bruno Mars)
-Jar of Hearts (Christina Perry) . . . I know it's OLD now, but I still like it!

Are there any songs you hate that you love? Come on, confessing poor taste in music is cathartic!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Madeline update

Just a quick update on Madeline--

I took her to our pediatrician Monday morning to recap what happened during the ER event last Thursday night. I feel inundated with information, which is great, but I am still processing through all of the things the doctor said. I am sure I will leave out some facts and what-not, but since I am trying to be brief anyway (as if I could be!), I guess it works out. :)

Basically, at 9 months, she is too young for a solid diagnosis, but the doctor thinks she could have asthma that is triggered by viruses. That would make sense, since every. time. she gets a runny nose, she gets all kinds of dramatic coughs and chest rattles.

She is now going to be on a daily nebulizer regimen (so sad to watch, but the mask that fits on her face is a little fish!) with an option to also offer her a bronchodilator if she can't breathe. The preventative therapy is intended to prevent (duh) a cold from turning into a scary can't-breathe situation, so hopefully we will never have another wheezing event.

We don't like that Madeline is sick so often, but we also don't like her being pumped full of medicine, so we are trying to weigh all of our options to see what we feel like would be the very best for her. If you would, please pray for us to make wise decisions as we navigate what could be a long road (and then again, we may look back on this in one month and wonder why we thought there was anything wrong with her!).

But don't worry. She still laughs at anything, loves to cuddle and grab noses, and gets excited about her sippy cup and her Cheerios. You really never would know she was any kind of sick (and she's not seriously sick at that) unless you heard her cough. She crawls all over the house after her big sister and sleeps like a champ. In short, she's great.

We do have a few more decisions to make regarding her preventative treatment and exploratory tests, but we are related to three doctors, so I think we'll be able to get some good advice.  :)

Thanks to all of you who texted, emailed, and called to see how Mads was doing. We appreciate that so many people care about us and our little girls. (I feel that a smiley face is appropriate here, but I have already hit my personal posting-limit of two, so just know that I am smiling even if that sentence is not.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reinforcing the glass ceiling

Scene: a business summit at the dining room table, complete with espresso cups full of milk

Ryan: Coralie, you can do anything you want to do in business.

Coralie: Yes, but I don't know how to do that.

Ryan: Are you going to get a job?

Coralie: But I am not qualified!

Ryan: You are too qualified!

Coralie: (slams fist on table) Are. you. CRAZY?

Ryan: (hangs head)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Friends friending friends

We like introducing people to other people.

I am not too crazy about our friends becoming better friends with our other friends than they are with us, though. It's petty, I know, and I'm not bragging about it, but it strikes at my insecurities.

I, however, do not mind making friends with some of our friends' friends. It seems hypocritical, though.

These situations are all quite sticky, and I try to be respectful of our friends who make the introductions so they do not feel left out or abandoned.

Do you have any tips on this? Have you experienced either side of this situation? I would like to navigate all of these relational possibilities with grace, but yeah, it's not coming to me. So, comment away, you readers with doubtlessly more social grace than I.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I am not qualified for days like this

So. Yesterday was an interesting day.

It kind of all started early in the morning, around 2 am to be exact, when I finally fell asleep. I have no idea why I couldn't sleep, but my mind was racing about Ryan's 30th birthday next month and other things I could do nothing about at that time of night. My thoughts were punctuated by Madeline's incessant coughing.

Anyway, I got up early so I could get everything together for our trip to the zoo that morning. We were meeting another mom and her two daughters who are about C's and M's ages.  While there, I discovered I have laaaaaame animal-teaching skills. I'll illustrate it to you by recounting an actual conversation yesterday.

Tia was all, "Mom! Look! There are those blind fish!" Her mom was all, "Yes, Tia. Those fish can't see anything. They use a special sense to tell where they are going. Good job, Tia!" And Coralie was all, "Mom, can I go see the monkeys that work?"

I need to be better about giving the girls experiences like that, because Coralie loved it and obviously needs the education. Madeline just likes being outside and in her stroller. I tried to get some good pics of Madeline during her first zoo experience, but who knew that the pictures would turn out like every other walk we go on since she was in her stroller in all of them?

This is taking a long time to write.

Well, Madeline's cough persisted all day. I know it was annoying to her, and it was so frustrating to me because there was nothing I could do for her. I suctioned her nose and kept her hydrated, but that was the extent of my medical offerings.

When I got back from the gym that night, Ryan and the girls were playing in our room, watching the Serious Weather Event unfold on TV. About an hour later, as we were getting Madeline ready for bed, I noticed she was wheezing. I fed her a bottle while the Serious Weather Event turned into a Very Serious Weather Event.

I asked Ryan about Madeline's breathing, and he noticed that she was also breathing very shallow breaths. He told me to page our doctor, who told us to take her to the ER as soon as the tornado threat passed.

I couldn't wait, so after about thirty minutes of hand-wringing and snapping at each other, Ryan took Mads to the ER. They extracted a half cup of mucus from her chest-- A HALF CUP-- and did an x-ray to rule out pneumonia. Bottom line: they think she has asthma and a potential blockage in the vasculature in her lungs. The ER doc recommended a full upper-GI work-up to be done sometime in the near (but not immediate) future. We also have a prescription to visit the hospital's bronchiolitis clinic to have her suctioned out again any time in the next week.

I feel so bad for Madeline. Poor kid can't catch a break medical-wise. I think I checked on her every hour during the night. . . if you're a mom, you know why. If you're a dad, you think I'm crazy.

She seems to be better today, thankfully, but you can bet I am going to watch her like a hawk (or a monkey that works) all day.
So. How was your day yesterday? Please tell me you had a good one.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Don't wanna break the streak

So.  I have surprised myself with the frequency of my posting. Granted, I read waaaay fewer pages in a day now that I am blogging, but for some reason I find myself coming back to this corner of the internet.

Two things for you lovely people today.


Aren't they gorgeous?

2. Tell me your thoughts on this: It don't matter if you're black or white. . . only if you're black AND white.  (Best lead-in I could think of. Sorry.) Seems to me there is discrimination in each of those three categories. What say you? (About the third category. I am pretty sure it has been established that there is racial discrimination in this country.) (And the third category, black AND white is in reference to one's outlook on life, not one's racial composition.) (I know, I'm confusing.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


In many ways, I would like to be like Laura Bush or Henrietta Lacks (WHAT? YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT HENRIETTA?! Then you must go buy the book about her, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It's fascinating.). No one can say an unkind word about them. These women are welcoming, warm, and kind, and they think the best of people.

I, however, cannot be described that way. I want to be welcoming, warm, kind, etc., and I am -- to some people. Was it Jesus who said that even "bad people" (I am paraphrasing-- don't sic Wycliff on me!) love their friends and that we need to love all people?

I am at my worst around some people, even people I might call my friends. They make me feel awkward, and so I act awkward, stiff, and strange. I might say things that I myself don't even agree with, and I might pronounce judgements just to have something to add to the conversation. I almost always walk away from interacting with them, shaking my head and wondering why the heck I even engage them in the first place. I know I come across as arrogant, judgmental, and unkind. This is all they know of me.

I can't blame my awkwardness on them, and I can't blame them if they don't think the best of me. I do have all those negative qualities. It's not that I think I don't; it's more that I don't exclusively have them.

One of my former-students-turned-friend came over on Sunday. We had a great time talking, and she shared with me how she has really worked (and succeeded) at ridding herself of the vices she thinks she has inherited from her dad. She credits Jesus with the transformation, but she acknowledges how much work it was on her part as well. The downside to these changes is that her friends from high school don't know the new her. They still see her as their caustic high school friend, and that frustrates her. Just like it took time for her to change, she knows it will take time for her friends to see that change.

After talking with her, I realized my problem was three-fold:
1. No, I am not kind to all people.
2. Yes, I put forth an especially bad (and mis-representative) vibe to some people I know.
3. Even as I try to become less judgmental and more accepting in my relationships, not everyone will buy it.

But I am still going to try. Most of the time, my vices do not hinder relationships. But I am going to re-make character training a priority, so that my faults cannot claim any sort of hold on dealings with other people. I am, this week, working on disciplining my thoughts so that eventually my words will follow.

I may never be like Laura or Henrietta, but I will not let myself get in the way of loving others.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kids these days. . .

. . . have no respect! I just spent my morning taping about a hundred torn Curious George pages back together.

I am talking about my own kid, of course. And it's not so much that she doesn't have respect, it's that she doesn't have an obsession with being careful with her things. So, no, I don't hate her for the way I spent my morning. I am just glad she loves reading so much.

What have you repaired this morning?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Twitter etiquette

So, as I mentioned, I am new to Twitter. I am not one to intentionally disregard social rules, but since I have no idea what the rules are, I may have already acted disgracefully on Twitter.

Here are three questions I hope you can answer for me:

1. If you follow someone who is kind of a cyber-celebrity, can you reply to her tweets, knowing she doesn't follow you and has no idea who you are? Does one make friends or enemies this way?

2. Is there a "narcissism limit"? In other words, do people tire of hearing one-liners about the twit's life, or is this the purpose of Twitter?

3. Is it possible to tweet too many times in one day? For instance, say one is a stay-at-home mom and is looking for adult interaction. Can she tweet five times? A dozen times? Please don't say the limit is two. Because then I might start mass texting everyone in my phone, and no one wants that.

Your help would be greatly appreciated as I would prefer not to make a fool of myself in yet another venue.

I thank you, and my (three) followers thank you.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Presidential marriages

I just finished reading Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History, which I highly recommend. I never really enjoyed history class in school and thus have such a shaky working knowledge of our country's past that I am not qualified to engage even a three-year-old in discussion.

But this book is not really about history anyway. It is about the men who became president and the women who were along for the ride (or, as in some cases, who DROVE) and how their relationships worked. A side effect of reading about these marriages is that I have a much greater understanding of all of the important decisions that were made in the last one hundred years or so. (I never knew what went down in the Iran Contra scandal, and now I do. A little. I believe there was a rogue aid who sold weapons to the enemy who came back and said that he was Luke's father or something of that sort.)

But far more interesting to me were the analyses of how these marriages worked. Most of these women put up with unfaithful husbands, whether that meant they had affairs (like FDR, LBJ, and JFK. . . Wait a hot minute-- if Ryan ever wants to go by his intials, I should suspect that he is up to no good as it seems there is a trend here.) or forsook their marriage for their careers (like Nixon). There were some marriages that seemed to work well, perhaps even better once the men became president (like the Fords and the Carters) and some that were close no matter what (like the Reagans).

I wonder what people would say of our marriage. I like to think we have a really good marriage, that there is a bond of loyalty, a give-and-take approach to each other as individuals, and a genuine enjoyment of each other. But it is often easier to acknowledge the good than the bad. So today, I am going to spend some time reflecting, pretending that Ryan is president. (He already likes me to treat him like he is POTUS anyway, so it won't be much of a stretch.) What would a book on presidential marriages say about us? About me as his wife?

Heavens, I may not want to know.

What about you? Have you ever wondered what your biography would read like? Or a book on your marriage?

Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks about stuff like this, because then this post will just dangle awkwardly in cyber-space, and no one wants an awkward dangler.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Capacity (this is a long one, baby)

FACT: I am good at managing a house and a schedule, but . . .
FACT: kids are neither a house nor a schedule.
FACT: I do not like this.

When we are home, I do pretty well with the ebb and flow of little ones. I can handle an illness, teething, and off-days. I can keep a clean home, cook fairly healthful meals, and even host others for playdates and dinner parties. But I do not do well when I have several things to do in a day or when something is out of routine, like in traveling.

(And by not doing well, I mean I have a short fuse which ends up burning those closest to me.)

Tuesday, for instance, what should have been music to my ears was a total annoyance. Coralie said my name ("Mom", not even "Mommy"-- when did this switch happen?) at least ten dozen times. I should have been able to smile at this and have the way her little voice sounds imprint on my memory, but instead I did enough (irritated) sighing to inflate a blimp. She wanted a snack, wondered if she could watch a video, needed assistance on dressing one of her dolls, wanted a drink, wondered what Madeline was doing, wondered what our schedule for the rest of the day was, wanted to wear pants instead, wanted me to watch her jump, and on and on and on. I wanted to re-orient myself to being home, work on my to-do list for the week, catch up on my blogs, upload photos, and write a few posts.

Last weekend at the lake, we had a very rushed Sunday morning trying to get all of us dressed and out the door by 9:45. We were going to be gone until after lunch, so I had to make sure I had not only church activities for the girls but also lunch accessories for the girls. I was doing just great until Mads wouldn't stop screaming in the van on the way to church. No one sitting near her could calm her down (not their fault), so Ryan had to pull over so we could do what amounted to a Chinese fire drill so I could sit next to her and calm her down. Done. Then, only slightly frazzled, we headed into church. Madeline wouldn't sit quietly for very long (she wanted to tear the song book instead, and we wouldn't let her), so Ryan took her out to the nursery. That left me to manage a curious three-year-old. In a tiny country church. In the second row. She was crawling under the pews, standing up, digging through my purse, asking why the preacher got so loud all of a sudden, and generally causing me anxiety because she wasn't sleeping like Grandpa was.

After church, everyone said how well Coralie behaved during the service. I was relieved they thought so, but this made me think I was taking crazy pills. Was my expectation for her to sit still way out of line? Can I not handle normal kid behaviors?

Then all eight of us piled in the van again to go to Grandpa's restaurant of choice. Thirty minutes away. Madeline was exhausted and unhappy still. Then we learned that after arriving at the restaurant and eating (and feeding Madeline solids and managing Coralie's burger-to-fry ratio and drink spillage and and and), we would have to go to Walmart to pick up a bottle of eyeglass cleaner (random, I KNOW). After all that, we would finally be able to make the thirty-minute drive home (while trying to bottle-feed Madeline, which is never a pleasant task) to put the girls down for a nap (which also involves potty-ing and diaper changing) an hour and a half late.

I was so wound up about all of this! Kids just further reduce my normally paltry go-with-the-flow attitude. Ryan and I both became snippy, which I am not proud about. (In our defense, this would not have sent us into a tizzy at home. The combination of Coralie's shortened naps and night-time sleep and Mads' skipping of her morning nap made all four of us extra cranky and inflexible.)

*VERY IMPORTANT NOTE* We were not at all frustrated by the people we were with or the places they wanted to go. The mature part of us was actually so, so happy to oblige Grandma and Grandpa and go to church with them, eat at their restaurant of choice, and help them run errands. This anecdote is not meant to be a complaint-- it is just an illustration of how frazzled I can become for the most ridiculous reasons.

I don't really ever hear of other young parents feeling like this, stressed out because kids are being kids. And most people our parent's age only say how precious having small children is. They never talk about the stress of daily life or the short fuse or the insane amount of times a day one hears one's own name called.

I guess what I am trying to learn is whether or not I am normal? I'm not trying to fix this about myself (yet, anyway). . . I just want to know if this is unique to me or not. Is there something about me so totally un-suited to having small children, or does everyone feel like this most days?

I do love my children, and I love being with them and playing with them, but managing them? Not my fav thing to do.

Thoughts, anyone?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fishing with Daddy

By far, the highlight of our Memorial Day weekend was fishing with Daddy. For the week leading up to the trip, Ryan wouldn't stop talking about taking Coralie fishing. I have to admit that I didn't think it would be a big deal to Coralie, but. . . I was wrong.

Maybe the way the fishing adventure started is what made me think it would all be a . . .  flop. Ryan had to hunt all over the lake house to find the fishing poles and tackle boxes, and then he had to spend an hour doing who-knows-what readying the poles. (Actually, I am pretty sure this involved throwing hooks around on the ground for Madeline to find later.) Then Ryan took Coralie to buy a box of worms, which she promptly DUMPED all over the store's floor, sending nasty little worms SCATTERING.

After scooping up the mess with his hands, Ryan paid for the abused worms and then brought them home. He wrangled Coralie into her life jacket (which seems like a ridiculous safety precaution considering the lake had gigantic swells from all the boats that were out) and set up a tiny folding chair for her.

Looooong story short, they caught 14 fish! Coralie enjoyed reeling in her line and even learned to wait a bit after casting before doing so. She loved to check to see if the worm was still on the hook but didn't have much expectation that a fish would also be on the hook.

I don't know how to turn the photo; sorry!
Needless to say, Ryan is the one who caught all the fish. At first, Coralie was terrified and would back away from the fish (which terrified me that she would back right off the dock) without taking her eyes off it. By the end of the weekend, though, Coralie had warmed up to the fish and started having conversations with them

"Why, hello, Mr. Fish! . . . How was your day? . . . Were you at work? . . . What were you doing? "

Then, "Ok, Daddy kick him back in the lake now!"

Ryan never did get Coralie to touch the fish (WHEW), but as soon as one fish had been dismissed, she was demanding another one.

I am actually glad Ryan went to all the effort to take our little girl fishing. I really think they made great memories this weekend, and now Coralie can say that she has in fact been fishing. It seems like everyone has to go fishing at some point to say he has Lived, and you know how I love checking things off a to-do list!