Monday, October 28, 2013

Marginal Notes

I've been working on my Christmas list for a few weeks now (because my mothers are THOSE people who are able to start, and finish, shopping early) and when I think about what I want, what I really, really want (besides world peace and all that jazz) is margin.


Seems to be the buzzword of this year.  And therefore doomed to follow in the ranks of "brilliant," "totes," and all variations of "mind = blown" as most overused terms of the decade.  So I think I'll get my turn in now before the novelty has completely worn off.


You know, that space along the sides of your printed document.  I don't know about you, but I'm a .5" kind of girl.  Unless I'm working on something official (i.e. not a Christmas list), I like to fit as many words as possible.


That area around the typed space that you can take notes in, doodle in, spill coffee on, or just leave blank and clean ... all without affecting the actual content.

So yes, for Christmas, I would like a nice portion of margin.  Room to think, room to breathe, room to plan, room to spill coffee, or even better room to turn the coffee splashes in to doodles!

Alas, that's probably not going to happen.  I am a mother of youngins' after all.  And margin is only something I can create for myself, and only by the grace of God.  So if you were hoping this was going to be a post about how to open up time in your own life, sorry about that.  How about some baby smugness to make up for my deficiencies?

And now, join me as I create some margin.  I walked away from the ironing board, mid-task.  I didn't even turn it off.  (Thank heavens for emergency shut-off.)  I put down the scissors (after moving them high and out of Lia's reach.)  That busy bag activity can remain un-cut a few days longer.  I'm closing the MOPS newsletter I'm working on.  I hit a wall late last night, I'll revisit it later this week after I find my sledgehammer.  A typing assignment just hit my inbox.  I'm ignoring it for now, even if it means a late one this evening.  Today I'm giving myself the gift of margin.

If I had a small space of time that I could count on every day, or even every other day, I think I would use it to write.  Writing's not for everyone, thank goodness.  But for me, that's how I process.

Some people prefer to talk.  I think of my mom.  And I think of the phone we used to have growing up.  A massive, beige colored rotary phone that hung on the wall.  With an eternally long coiled curled that was made eternally longer by my mother's ability to carry that handset into almost every room of the first floor.  I've gotten trapped in that cord before.  But looking back on those funny childhood memories, I now realize, that's how my mom processed her world.  She talked it out on the phone, she discussed it over tea and Scrabble with my grandma, she chatted about it with the ladies at church until we were the last ones to leave the parking lot on Sundays...

I think about my dad, how he'd turn on the Pirates game, sit cross-legged on the living room floor, and spread the newspaper out over the braided rug.  And then just sit and read.  I think about how that was the time you didn't try to talk to Dad.  Or, if you wanted something that you new might cause an issue, that was the time you DID talk to Dad. :)

I think about my husband now, and the long hours he puts into our yard.  The designer mowing patterns that line our grass in the summer.  The "no leaf left behind" policy he keeps while leaf-blowing in the fall.  He's out there, power-washing the deck, cleaning out the gutters, sweeping off the walk, but his mind is somewhere else.  He's processing.  I know it.

And then there's me.  I don't like to talk on the phone.  I'm not a TV person and I've always hated the awkwardness of holding a newspaper.  And I haven't the skill for precision lawn maintenance.  I much prefer writing.  Give me a quiet corner, a cup of hot tea, and perhaps a crackling fire and I can make sweet, beautiful sense of my world.

Of course, there's the other side to that.  When I don't get a chance to write, when I'm not able to process for days and days on end, things get a little murky.  I have a whole lot coming in right now.  I've got four amazing kids that I get to spend every waking minute with.  For most people, five minutes in my house would be information overload.  I feel the same way, I'm just used to it.  But when I've got all this stuff coming in, and hardly a trickle coming out, the water gets very, very muddied.  It stinks, there are plants growing in my creek bed, and mosquitoes are circling the waters.  Time to break this dam.

This girl.

Sleep issues are so last month.  Naps are the new norm. It takes us a little while to get there, and depending on how loud her siblings are, maybe even longer than necessary.  But once she's had her eyes closed for a good three minutes, and assuming I've put her to sleep while resting in my left arm, the slip-into-bed-without-waking transition usually goes off without a hitch.  If she curls up her legs, I'm done.  Count on another 10-20 minutes of snuggles.  But if she turns her head to the side with a sigh and that bottom lip goes absolutely limp?  I've just scored myself at least an hour, sometimes two or three, of hands-free time.

You'd think I'd be able to keep up with the blog.  But no.  Time that was previously spent holding my babes is now directed towards making dinner (meals from friends and the freezer are officially done) and trying to increase my typing workload.

And also, now that we have nap time under control, new problems have arisen.  Like breastfeeding.  I usually steer away from that word and use the safer (more broadly friendly) nomenclature of nursing.  But not this week.  Or this month for that matter.  We've got breastfeeding issues.  To be technical, I've always dealt with oversupply and forceful letdown, (but Joci seems to be handling it the worst.)  In non-lactating circles, this basically means my kid chokes, gags, throws up, refuses to nurse, screams when nursing, only sucks for a little while, is hungry again an hour later, and deals with a lot of gas.  For me, it means lots of stress and tears of frustration.  Not to mention the whole comfort aspect.  I've tried a few different methods and tricks (oh, and girlfriend doesn't take a bottle).  But at the end of the day, I think this is just something we'll have to grow out of.  Things have improved a tiny bit this week.  So I'm hopeful this whole natural process will actually work naturally in another week or so.

Outprocessing:  Cap'n Jude Sparrow.

We had a fun event at church the other night that the kids were more than thrilled about.  Costumes were a large part of it.  We're not big on Halloween around here but I do love me some dress-up.

Jack wanted to wear the ship captain costume he got for Christmas, um, three years ago?? We pinned one of Daddy's old name tags on his shirt and he was officially a Coastguardsman!  Julia was a mermaid.  A mermaid wearing a big winter coat and who didn't leave her stroller seat the whole night, so is it still a mermaid if nobody noticed?  Yes, because I made sure I took a picture.  And Jude was a pirate.  A pirate wearing too-small black skinny leg jeans and his brother's too-big shirt.  I try to be careful about favoring one kid over the other but c'mon, the mustache and gold hoop earring pushed me over the edge.

Outprocessing:  A toddler.

She's been two for three weeks now and, Marmie and Poppa, if you're reading this, we think she's ready for Grandy Camp.  Like, this month.  Please.  She's killed her plant for the last time.  She completely destroyed her (very expensive) video monitor.  Did I mention her Daddy's gold necklace that she melted in half?  She's  Jon hadn't even left for work yet the other morning when I had had just about enough of her terrible two-ness.  I looked at him and said, "Please, don't leave me with her!"  He ran out the door as fast as he could.

Outprocessing:  Soccer.

I never would have guessed it, but we're seeing some real improvement on the team these past few weeks.  Like even a little bit of skill every once in a while!  Jack's scored 5 goals in his past two games.  The grandparents haven't got a chance to see him play, so here are a few videos for your enjoyment.  Because 5 year olds playing soccer is incredibly enjoyable.  I wish I had caught the tall blonde girl going agro on my son at one point.  You don't know how wonderful it feels to discover that you're not the only mother of a "physical" child.

Outprocessing:  These four.

They fill my life completely.  As in, .0001 margin, lots and lots of text.  It's okay to be full.  Mama just needs an outlet every once in a while.  And Julia, if you were thinking that you'd keep me so busy I'd never tell about the time when I read you one book after another while you sat on the toilet allll morning long.  Then went to reheat my coffee for a hot second.  Then came back to find you really had pooped ... on the floor.  Well, there.  I just fit it in.  We won't forget it now.

I think I ran out of doodling room in the margin.  I'm just about processed out.  My world makes sense again.  Goodnight.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Birthday Duo

It’s October and you know what that means, half of our offspring celebrate a birthday this month!  During one of Joci’s many, many nursing sessions, I found a bunch of great birthday ideas on Pinterest – apple parties with cider and trips to the orchard.  Dinosaur cakes and treats for our dino-lover.  But that’s all the further it got.  And that’s life right now, a Pinterest dream.  We do have plans to go apple picking with MOPS soon.  And we also fit a trip to Reptiland in when we were in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago.  And when you combine that with Marmie’s birthday cake magic, well I guess we didn’t do too bad this year after all.

Three-quarters of my sweeties at Reptiland last month!
The tortoises are pretty much my favorite.

And the dinosaur exhibit was NOT her favorite.
 Personally, I’m a little exhausted by kid birthdays.  I like to go all-out with the first one, but after that I haven’t quite decided yet.  And with Joci’s big birthday a “mere” 9 months away, we kept Jack’s 5th and Julia’s 2nd a bit more low-key this year.  Well, as low-key as you can get with 2 sets of grandparents, 3 aunts, 4 uncles, and 6 cousins.  But regardless of what we do, or don’t do, family time is always a good time.

World's End State Park.

We wanted to give our kids a taste of Pennsylvania creeks, mountains, trees, and autumns.

You can take the girl out of the suburbs ...

And to top it all off, we had a good excuse to visit our favorite state during our favorite season.
Stop at Ards Farm.

They gave us a special hayride, even though it wasn't the weekend!

As Jack is always apt to point out "This is Joci's FIRST hayride!"

Pumpkins make me happy.

He was so pumpkin proud!

I knew before we even got off the wagon that he would go for the biggest, too-heavy-to-carry one he could find!

I got a Cinderella pumpkin... only because the white ones were all picked!

We’ve been back to Pennsylvania quite a few times in the past 6 months.  I’m so grateful for this time in our lives when we’re able to easily travel “home” to visit our families… and receive assistance in these days of heavy-duty childrearing.  But we’re also entering another season this month – PCS season.  That’s military speak for “permanent change of station.”  We won’t know for quite a few months where we’ll be headed next summer, but we’re praying (very hard) that we end up moving … nowhere.  It would be lovely to stay in this house, our house, for just a little bit longer. 

It's been five years since we locked eyes for the first time ... and five years of rich mamahood.
I vowed I’d never let myself get too attached, but you just can’t help making memories when you’re raising kids.  And after only two years, this house is chock full of special moments.  If these walls could talk … well, I don’t think they’d be able to say much without laughing.  Sometimes I think I almost see the shoulders of this home shaking as it tries to stifle a giggle.  I mean, we are raising a 5 year old now, and he comes up with some of the craziest things.
Marmie does it again!
 Or maybe I should say “perdiculous” things, because that’s a word we’ll hear Jack say a few times a day.  And of course, he reinterprets the things he hears us say.  This one time, a few weeks ago, I had to run out to the grocery store.  It was a quick trip, just for one or two things, and Jon was home with the kids.  Of course, they all wanted to come along, and Jack wanted to know why, WHYYYY he couldn't come.  So as I'm shaking littles off my ankles and trying to dart out the door as fast as possible, I answered unthinkingly, "Because Mommy just needs a break.  Sometimes I want some time alone!"  Naturally, this was completely beyond the understanding of my uber extrovert son.  But it stuck regardless, and now he regularly informs us he needs a "break from so-and-so" or "I'm glad Daddy is away, I needed a break from him."  Ugh.

He's been looking forward to this day for months!
Speaking of our little social bug, he talks to everyone.  I mean EVERYONE.  I think we're going to have to have the "stranger danger" discussion soon.  But for now he just monopolizes all of our conversations.  Like when we met with our friend Jolene and her kids, I had to send Jack off to the playground just so I could get a minute to speak with Jolene myself.  And then there's our poor neighbor, Mr. Tom (who absolutely adores Jack by the way).  Anytime the kids get a glimpse of him outside his house, they rush out the door to say hi.  Except Jack doesn't just stop with that.  He tells Mr. Tom ALL our business.  So now our neighbor knows all about Jack's bowel movements, altercations with classmates, and Daddy's decision that there will be "No more babies!"

Meanwhile, I stay in the house, peeking from behind the blinds, because I'm just a tad embarrassed by my child's shameless nature.  We're very opposite in this area.  Jack can't understand why I'm not chatting and hugging every person that walks by us in Target.  And I'm staring blankly at him sharing preschool news during lunch, nodding my head and saying mm-hm, for a full 10 minutes before I realize he's neither taken a breath nor a bite of food.  We'll figure each other out someday, but for now he gets his fuel from preschool and church and I get my breaks whenever we run out of coffee and I have to make a quick evening trip to the grocery store.

She loved her birthday mail!

Her birthday crown.
Moving on to the Little Miss.  She talks to strangers too.  Actually, at soccer practice last week she was rooting around in some lady's purse, and then carried it all over the field.  The fellow soccer mom didn't mind and thought it was cute, but REALLY?  Do I even have one shy kid in my bunch??  I mean, I guess there some things to be grateful about, like how easy it is to drop her off at Sunday School now.  We went through several months of separation anxiety, difficulty leaving mommy (with people she didn't know).  But something finally clicked, and do you know what I think it is?  Men.  This girl is a man's girl.  And whenever there's a husband/wife team working the nursery, she'll practically jump out of my arms to get to the guy.  Double bonus: the childcare worker in her MOPS class this year is also a male.  This may mean trouble in the future, but for now we'll accept it for the advantage it is.

Our little mermaid.

We got out the tiny tea set...

... and then I spent all tea time reminding the boys to be "gentle."

So yes, hello wonderful world of having a two-year old.  The kind that screams and throws herself on the floor when she doesn't get her own way.   The kind that throws her plateful of food at dinner.  And refuses to eat the food in front of her when you don't give her a plate.  Or refuses to swallow the food that you put in her mouth doing that silly airplane game.  Or spits the food out that was in her mouth the very first moment you turn your back.  Food fights are the worst.  My boys are at the point where they can be easily bribed.  I make no apologies, I give my kids a treat every night if they clean their plates.  Bonus points if they do it without whining or insulting the cook.  And you know what, they eat fairly well and all those weird kinds of food that I never even heard of until after I was married.  But try negotiating with a two-year old and you'll always get the same response - NO.

Another Marmie masterpiece!

Remember her sweet little nursery with the fabric-covered styrofoam circles hanging above the crib?  Remember when Jude used to sleep there and he figured out how to remove the blind slats and use them to knock down the lower circles?  Remember when Julia started standing in her crib and I totally predicted she'd so the same thing?  Remember when I never guessed that she'd eventually acquire the skills to knock down ALL the circles?  Remember when I had no clue she'd dismantle my handiwork and make herself a bed of crumbled styrofoam and staples?  Remember when I would have never imagined she'd pull out half her blind, and use the slats to reach three feet away from her bead to DIG in the flower pot in her room.  Nope, never saw that one coming.

She loves her new pet "gog" Periwinkle!
It's probably time to move her out of her crib.  She actually sleeps well in the toddler bed.  We even had her sleeping in the boys' room for a few nights way back when Joci was first born.  But our thirdborn is also the first up every morning, and she doesn't do it quietly.  So when you have to choose between your two-year old being free to climb out of bed at whatever hours she chooses to rise that day, and then start screaming for you, meanwhile waking up her two big brothers ... or a two-year old that is trapped in a crib in her own room... well, yeah, I just don't know either.  

Totally in to dress-up!
The funny thing is, the Lia that I see on a daily basis isn't the same little girl that shows up in pictures.  As soon as she sees the camera come out she either says "CHEESE" with a smile and eyes looking off to the side, or she gets that incredibly serious look on her face that makes you wonder if she's just woken up in a roomful of Stormtroopers.

Now don't get me wrong.  I love two-year olds.  They were my favorite age when I taught Sunday School.  But I think I appreciate them much more when they're not my own.  We love you Lia.  We love your sweetness, even if it means suffocating your baby sister while laying on her to give her a hug.  We love your perseverance, even if it means kicking the wall repeatedly for the entire duration of your nap.  We love your sense of justice, although it often translates to one of us being rammed by your head after a running start.  We love your peacemaking skills, although our idea of peace usually doesn't involved high-pitched screaming.  And we love your creativity, that whole yogurt hair conditioner idea is really quite fabulous.  We love you just the way you are ... and we look forward to you growing up a little bit more every day.
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