Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Day in the Life

I woke up today and I just needed to write, but I couldn't really think of a great theme to write about. The problem with me and writing is if I don't feel like I'm being super witty or poignant, I just can't do it. I am not great at keeping a journal because I really struggle with writing about mundane things. I find it kind of funny that I have a really high standard for myself when it comes to writing, but I give myself a free pass on basically everything else I do. Anyway, the point was just to write because it makes me happy and not because it would be good to read, so I challenged myself today to just write about my day. I knew that my day would probably not be super exciting because most of them aren't. But it was gratifying, in a way, to catalogue all of the things that I did because it was a good reminder that I actually do a lot, even on days when it kind of feels like I didn't. As a writer, it was good practice to write in a way that I usually am uncomfortable with, but I would guess it wouldn't be super fun to read. Spoiler alert-diaper changes.


6:15 I wake up as Jeff is getting dressed. Jeff gets up at 6:00, but I never really hear him till after he eats breakfast. He is so careful to be so sneaky. My first thought is how tired I am. I haven't been sleeping well since the election. It has been extra acrimonious and I've been upset, but that is actually something that happens to me every election cycle. 2012 was also super rough on me. I stayed up late reading about Trump's transition team last night. I had heard this before, but I was reminded that Trump's son-in-law's dad was prosecuted by Chris Christie when he was NJ's AG and that there have been a lot of tensions there. Last night I thought that almost sounded like a novel- having to work with the man who sent your dad to prison because your father-in-law randomly decided to be president and then trying (supposedly) to bring him down. Doesn't that sound like a book? Someone will write it someday. Not me, but I'd like credit if anyone who reads this runs with the idea. 


6:30 I say a prayer and then lay in bed, wondering why I am so tired and then I realize that Adam is laying next to me because he "had a bad dream." I put that in quotes because whenever he tells us what his bad dreams are, it's usually stuff like, "My shoe fell of when I was on the bus." or "I dreamt that this lady was mean in the store." Stuff like that. I feel like he's probably pretty untroubled, but he keeps coming to our bed. I also remember that Ben had been up because he had a wet diaper that leaked, but that Jeff took care of him and changed his crib sheet. Adam wakes up and Jeff goes. I always feel this moment of complete despondence when Jeff goes because life is just so much better when he's home. Adam woke up early and I still am not sure that I want to be up early, so I tell him he can watch one show. I read a few chapters of a 1980's romance novel. It sounds more scandalous than it actually is. It's probably cleaner than most mainstream lit these days, but the main reason I like to read it is because the author spent a really long time describing the heroine's clothes. "She looked like an enchanting ingenue, in her high-waisted cherry wool slacks, along with a a loose red blouse with gold bangles sewn into the sleeves. She completed her look with a jaunty yellow scarf and wind-blown hair." OK, that was a recreation, but a pretty accurate one. I know this sounds silly, but it feels like a direct link into the past and I enjoy reading the author's take on contemporary romance more than I expected. It's almost like anthropology and escapism at the same time.    

7:00 I feed Adam. This takes up an incredible amount of my energy every day, but alas, he remains alive. I pack his lunch, help direct him to getting dressed and brushing his teeth and send him to the bus stop. I'm one of the only parents who sends their kid alone, but I'm also apparently one of the only parents who looks like a hobo in the morning.  

7:30 I watch Adam get on the bus from our window and I hear Ben playing on the monitor. I come upstairs to get him and run into Avery on the stairs. She makes me say hello to Bear, as she does every single morning since she could talk. I open the door to grab Ben and find that he is covered in poop and it's on his sheets and pillow. It was truly gnarly, and I've seen things in my day. I tell Avery to go downstairs and watch one TV show because I had to disinfect everything. I throw his linens in the washing machine.

8:00 I give Ben a bath, which is really hard at this age, because he wants to stand up and he wants to drink the water and he wants to be super mad when I actually, you know, wash him.

8:20 I feed Ben and Avery breakfast. I notice that Ben is sleepy and I realize that he's probably sick. He confirms this by needing to be changed again. I feel bad for him because he has no clean bedding at all, so he has to stay up. I turn on the TV again (the third time today, eeshk) and pray that Ben will be entranced so that I can eat breakfast.

8:45 I eat breakfast and read the news. I check the news throughout the day, but I like to sit down and read something in-depth at breakfast. Today it was a human interest article in the NYT about how hard Thanksgiving is this year for people because basically everyone hates each other. It was sad. I get Ben and Avery dressed.

9:00 I've been wanting to give Avery a reading level assessment for a while because I've just been kind of curious where she stands. I have a hard time talking about it for some reason, but I realized that Avery is probably some level of intellectually gifted a few weeks ago after she told us about the gluteus maximus being the largest muscle in the body and showed us the anatomy book that she read it in. I don't like to talk about it because I worry that it sounds like I'm bragging or something and I know that many kids are bright in so many ways and I worry that people think that its just my love for her that causes me to think that. I think it is so strange because she seems like a normal 4 year old and I always pictured someone that is gifted just seeming like a little adult. But I kind of had a wake-up moment a few weeks ago because she's 4 and she's reading about anatomy and I never taught her to read at all and that's just not the norm. Anyway, I felt slightly validated because I've been having her evaluated to see if she qualifies for speech therapy (both she and Adam had articulation issues that basically just make them sound adorable) and the development specialists screened her for a lot of things and told me they thought she was gifted. I wanted to see exactly what she knows so that I could help her find things that challenge her if she needs that.

9:30 Printed out and did two different assessments, both said that she was reading at an end of 4th grade or beginning of 5th grade reading level. Avery requests that we print out and color pictures of flowers. She colors for literally 2 minutes and then decides to play in the basement with Ben and I. We play her favorite game, "Baby Daycare." It's pretty self-explanatory. 

9:45 Ben needs to be changed again. Avery doesn't want me to take him because he is a big part of her daycare. I encourage that she make little beds for her charges and I take the clean sheets out of the dryer.

10:00 I put Ben down, take out some trash and mildly clean out the fridge. Avery comes up and decides to cut out some paper pillows and blankets for the baby daycare. This ends up distracting her for about an hour.

10:15  I take shower and do my makeup even though I know I probably won't really get out today. It really helps with my mood. I almost always wear makeup and I know that there are connotations that come with that, but I actually just really like applying makeup. It's one of my favorite parts of the day.

11:00 I begin getting Avery ready for preschool, she is resistant. Avery loves school, but Avery is very frequently opposed to being told to do anything. I feed her a snack and brush her hair, but we seem to be fighting a lot. She hides. 

11:40 Avery  is showing increased resistance, I go and wake up Ben so that we aren't late.

11:50 Guess what, we're late. Ben needed to be changed again.

12:00 I sometimes wonder if I am not naturally inclined for being a stay at home mom because frankly, I get really sad if we stay at home all day. I feel restless if I don't leave the house, so I decide to drive around and get Wendy's. Ben and I sing in the car and the leaves are pretty.

12:30 We come home, I eat my chicken sandwich and try to feed Ben some healthier food, but he's not really into it. He needs to be changed again. This poop thing is getting ridiculous, poor thing. He is in really good spirits though and we play with blocks and read some books.

1:30 Ben suddenly gets really tired again and I decide that I need to put him down. Avery's preschool schedule has been so hard because Ben is almost always sleeping when I need to take her or pick her up. Luckily, she has several dear friends in her class and I ask my friend Bethanie if she'll take Avery till Ben wakes up. She lives close to the preschool and her daughter is in the class and also one of Avery's best friends. She agrees and I feel guilty. 

1:40-2:45 I realize that my guilt might have been augmented by being super tired because I go upstairs to straighten up and I accidentally fall on my bed and sleep for an hour. 

3:00 Adam comes home and I feed him a snack. He watches a TV show and builds with Legos. I clean up a little, eat a snack too, text a little and read another chapter of my 80's romance. Seems like the FBI agent seems also have a thing for the heroine. She apparently has eyes that look like crystals. Personally, I'm not sure why authors like to use gems to describe eyes so much.

4:00 Ben wakes up with another blowout. I clean him up. 

4:30 We pick up Avery. I have to almost physically drag her away.  The kids immediately start fighting because Adam hit Avery with a pez dispenser and she started screaming bloody murder and I almost drove off the road. I tell them that they are to play in their rooms when we get home.

5:00 I try to figure out something for dinner, but I used up a lot of ingredients yesterday when I made a lemon-ginger soup that turned out too sweet. We can either have quesadilas and grapes or pizza. I decide to order pizza and I ask Jeff to pick it up on his way home. It works out because he is almost there. Adam and Avery emerge from their rooms, less angry.

5:15 Ben keeps calling people on FaceTime, which is becoming an ever-growing problem. We eventually decide to actually talk to Grandma and Grandpa Carr for a few minutes. They are on vacation and man, I'd like one of those. Jeff brings the pizza home. Jeff hurt his ankle and he's not even sure how and so I worry that he has some rare disease. That's just where my mind likes to go to- the super depressing and implausible.

5:30 I eat fast and then Ben needs to be changed, again. I ask Jeff to put him in the tub. Poor Ben seems to be really uncomfortable. I empty all of the trash cans around the house because tomorrow is garbage day and Ben will play with unattended trash. Adam and Avery sit at the table and drink root beer as a special treat for finishing their pizza. That doesn't make a lot of sense, but just go with it. Avery needs to use the bathroom, but moves too slowly and has an accident. I put the load of her accident clothes in the laundry.

5:45 Ben is screaming because he's developing a terrible diaper rash and the tub was a bad decision. I put lotion around him and let him run around naked some more. He bonks his head, as he does basically every other day. I decide to boil their toothbrushes and disinfect their bathroom some more because I can't take any more pooping and I will find these germs and conquer them.

6:00 We all end up playing in the boys’ room and shoot each other with these barn animals that spit balls. I'm sure there is a better way to put that. Avery keeps trying to erase Adam's whiteboard calender and she keeps getting rebuked because he has been pretty meticulous about keeping it up to date. He has all of the dates of Saturdays listed with a heart because his dad is home on those days. He is such a good kid. 

6:15 Jeff reads to the older kids and I try to put Ben down, but fail. I give him a bottle and he blows out again and cries so hard when I change him. It was an exceptional day of diaper changes. Adam and Jeff take turns reading about the Revolutionary War and Avery goes and brushes some dolls' hair because she has a weird thing against George Washington.  


7:00 We put the kids down. The older two will stay up and read for a while, but I generally feel like we all do better if they go to bed early. Especially me. I tell Jeff that I'd really like to blog about my day because I just need to write something and he sits across from me while I blog. It takes about two minutes before I ask him to leave and let me blog in peace. I think he's reading Chess for Dummies. I don't really get the appeal of chess, so maybe I should read the book too. Or maybe I'll just read 1980 romance novels from the library because I guess I do want to see if he ever clears his name and can come back from South America or whatever. Also, the clothes.

This is the only picture I took today. Avery made me carry her paper pillows and blankets downstairs in the "moving bucket" she made.

Ben and I in healthier times (ok, yesterday.)

This was from a few days ago. We have had an amazingly lovely fall. And I don't even like fall, so you know it must be good.








Sunday, June 5, 2016

To My Last Baby, On His First Birthday

Benjamin,

 I went totally bananas on your birthday. I sat down in front of your dad (he was putting something together on the floor, being productive or something -- ugggggh) with bags of party supplies and tried to justify why I spent so much on decorations for a baby birthday party. And that's really a loose term -- birthday parties for our family are normally me calling someone up and being like, "Hey, you want a piece of cake?" But I went to get birthday balloons (say what you want about me, Ben, but I always keep my children well-ballooned) and I walked through the aisles of Party City and decided to get more things. I found an aisle completely dedicated to babies turning one. And I even had to pick a theme. Was Ben an animal kind of baby? Cars? Elmo? Mickey? (Truth be told, you totally do not care. I remember thinking that Adam and Avery sort of liked things, like balls or Elmo, but you don't seem to. You like: to be held, to smile at people, to put things in your mouth, to dance, and when we say "Soooouuup" in high voices. Put those things on banners, Party City.)

But I picked the car theme (not because of the last name thing -- I honestly forget that our last name is a noun most of the time), and bought banners and swirly things and some fan things and paper lanterns and a thing to put on your high chair and I had to sit down in front of your dad and explain why

Why.

Babies only turn one once.
He won't be a baby much longer.
I broke his leg and I feel bad. 
He won't be a baby forever.
He will never have a first birthday again. 
We will never have a baby have a first birthday again.
I will never have a baby have a first birthday again.
I will never have a baby again.

Ben, this is a little tonally inappropriate for baby-reading, so just skip the next few paragraphs and I'll just talk to the nice people on the internet.

If I could pick a perfect world, it'd be full of babies. I don't mind the sleep deprivation, I like that they don't talk, and I like the faces they make. I like chubby babies and skinny babies. I like the way diapers look when they're stacked up next to the crib. Poop doesn't really phase me. I'm really good and catching spit-up in my hands. I like to praise them for the mundane things that they do. Good job for looking over at the window! You're so smart! Good job eating that book! I like to make them dance. I like when they fall asleep and look tipsy. I like to pretend that newborn babies are singing opera and I like to hold them up over the shower door to scare Jeff when he's in there. I like to make up stupid songs for them (If you wanna be my favey, you gotta be more like Ben. Babies are my favies, babies are my frieeeends.) and I like to make up words for them and I kiss them about every 3 seconds.

I love babies. And honestly, I always have. I didn't have a lot of exposure to babies as a kid, but when I did, I'd feel a quake inside me and I'd honestly feel like that baby was the cutest thing I had ever seen and there was a small part of me that just wanted to start shouting for joy because that baby was so freaking cute. And I was always a little bit frightened by that feeling, that exultation that babies gave me. I never correctly diagnosed it as, "Oh yeah, maybe I should have kids." I always wanted kids, but more in a vague way. I wanted to wear dresses, read books and fall madly in love more. Kids were just something that came after the happy ending.

But then kids... well, kids were the happy ending. These little humans who take so much from me and maybe literally are driving me insane and stealing my brain power are also what I wanted most in the world. And we'd talk about what I'd do when they were older (write, maybe teach, more school) and it be this vague and fuzzy thing because it was something to think about later. It was something for after the happy ending.

And I've had this gathering dark feeling that keeps growing as Adam started school and as Avery learned to read and it spilled over on Ben's first birthday. That day is coming. I am exiting the days of "no pants because the baby peed on them and because pants are the worst." I'm going to have to figure out how to cut oranges up for soccer practice. We currently just kind of peel them and let the kids go to town, but I'm going to have to cut them and put them in coolers. DO WE EVEN HAVE A COOLER? We're going to start watching regular Disney Channel. That Jessie girl is too young to be a nanny, dang it! And I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm going to have to learn how to throw a frisbee. I think frisbees are really dumb and not at all fun to catch.

It's ending. I won't always be a mother to small children. I'm going to be a mom to just children. And they talk a lot. And they don't always like my songs. They're continent most of the time, but that just means I have to clean bathrooms.

And I feel like such a narcissist, making the idea of my kids getting older about me, but I just don't know if I can do it. I feel like having babies has brought out the best of me and I just don't want that gone. Can I muster the same wonder that I feel when a baby laughs even as I spend my evenings helping with math homework? Will it be gone? Will the unconditional love I can feel for a teething baby still be there for a kid who is talking back? How can I bear the heartache I'll feel when the babies who blew spit bubbles make bad decisions? Will I look at them and wonder what happened because I held them and they were perfect? Does the sun have to set on that emotion? Why are we given the human experience of feeling complete unconditional love and watching that love never leave you, but instead vacating your arms to take slow steps toward the bus stop?

I think I'm getting it. I hope I'm getting it. When Adam and I talked about this beggar we saw in Sarajevo and I had to explain to him that the world wasn't kind to everyone, but we could try to help and he got it -- he got it. And when I see Avery laugh with her friends at school. When I see Ben smile as he figures out how to stick magnets on the fridge. I think love might be a chemical reaction. My joy at a baby smiling will turn to joy at my child, who once was unable to even lift their own head, ride a bike and make friends and solve problems and give love to others. My love for Adam as he builds with Legos is made up of the same components of the love I felt when he looked up at me the first time. Maybe that love has been mixed with time and anxiety and different responsibilities and growing minds and Legos left on the floor, but the love isn't diluted. It wasn't wasted. It's there as he smiles at the bus driver and in the cards he writes his dad. It's there in the squeals he made when he heard the ice cream truck.  Or maybe we feel love in such a concentrated way in the beginning to get us through the disappointments and disobedience. I don't know. Maybe I don't get it yet.

But Ben, I accidentally made this about me and I accidentally tried to voice one of my many existential crises instead of express what I came here to say. I will probably do that a lot in your lifetime. But I just wanted to tell you that I cried the night before your birthday. And some of it was about me, but a lot of it was about you.

Ben, you are the last part of my happy ending of having children. You are the last little human that I will hold and look at and think "Oh, there you are." And yes, that makes me sad. But I also cried because you are such a beautiful ending. Really, you are the chubbiest, drooliest, most beautiful ending I could have ever imagined. I love a perfect ending.

Ben, I will teach you how to walk, I will teach you how to read, and I will teach you how throw a frisbee, once I get the knack of it. I will agonize over the wrongs you make and I will always give you balloons on your birthday. And yes, I will miss the years of holding babies in my arms.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that the next chapter of our lives will be amazing.









Monday, April 4, 2016

Little A is a Little Older.

I try to write a post about my kids on their birthdays, but it's always hard to do because the only thing to say is "This is how my child is right now." And maybe it's wrong, but it's hard for me to just write simple things about my kids, because I realized that it just sounds like dog show stats or something. Avery is 36 inches tall and has a glossy coat of hair. But this is a mom blog and I am a mom and I want to remember Avery at 3. Oh, how I will miss Avery at 3. There is something inside my heart that has a harder time with Avery getting older. I am always super excited for Adam to get older, for all of the things that he's learning, for the kid he is becoming. But Avery, to me, is still little. 3 is little. 4 is less little. I don't want Avery to grow up. She is so cute and so sweet and so good and I want her to stay this way forever. Minus the tantrums, of course.

Some points about Avery:

  • Avery is super intelligent. Hey, we all think that our kids are the smartest, I know, but sometimes Avery is so smart that it unnerves me. She reads very proficiently. Lately I play a game where I write notes to her to see if she can read them and she always can. Always. They're not incredibly difficult notes, but they're things like "Avery can read now, That is so crazy." and "Ben smells bad and Bear sat on a stinky shoe." I am always impressed by her. She can count past 100. She can do simple math problems (addition and subtraction). And I swear to you, I have never tried to teach her any of this. She just really likes to learn and kind of just figures it out.
  • Avery has an insane memory. I don't know if this is related to the above or not, but Avery has an incredible memory. Sometimes people will say that it's too bad that Avery won't remember our time abroad and I have to kind of laugh because I know logically that most people don't remember much from being 3, but she remembers everything. She always brings up the time that a bug stung her neck and she caught it in her hands and that happened when she was 1 1/2. She talks about specific details about things that happened months or years ago. I know that you'll have to take my word for it, so here is a recent example: Jeff called from work our first week here to give us his Bosnian work number and I repeated it aloud. A few days later, Avery asked to call Dad and she started repeating his phone number. She didn't get it all, but she knew the first 5 numbers of something that she had just heard once, several days beforehand. I was pretty freaked out, because I'm afraid that I'll scar her for life because she remembers everything I do. It's a lot of power!
  • Avery is spicy. That is the word that I usually use to describe her and I feel like its pretty accurate. She is generally very congenial, but she rebels in ways that surprise me and she gets angry over things that can be pretty insignificant. Like, for example, she is unwilling to eat breakfast, get dressed, and leave the house every single day. Without fail. But the weird thing about Avery is that if you force her to do something, she's absolutely fine and has a quick turnaround. For example, there are a lot of indoor playgrounds here in Bosnia and they are pretty nice and cheap. Adam loves them and wants to go frequently. Avery never wants to go. If I ask her nicely to go, she'll yell and yell. If I take off her shoes and put her down inside the playground, she will be completely happy in 2 minutes. Avery really likes having the power of dissent, but also seems to be fine when I make her do things. It always surprises me. 
  • Avery's favorite phrases are "I have some good news!" and "I have some bad news!" The usual line up is "I have some good news: it's your best friend, Bear!" and "I have some bad news: Mr. Tongue is here!" (That second one just means that she's about to stick out her tongue.) She also loves to tell us the good news whenever she uses the bathroom and we're like, "thanks".
  • Avery loves Ben. She is such a sweet big sister. I wish I could transfer the tone of voice she uses when she talks to Ben to the screen, so you could get it. She is just enamored with him. She also likes to pretend he is a chicken nugget and "eat" him. Lately, she pretends to dip him in sweet and sour sauce.
  • Avery loves Adam. She loves to let him boss her around, she's always giddy when he involves her in his schemes. I think Adam takes it for granted. Today he wanted to design a full-body costume and he made Avery stand still while he wrapped string and paper around her and she loooved it.
  • Avery is a rebel. A lot of people know this story, but Avery has a little rebel heart. She decided she doesn't want to be baptized when she turns 8 (she's not keen on the immersion part) and so she refused to acknowledge the number 8 for a few months. Like, she would purposefully skip the number while counting. She also found out that women don't get the priesthood in our church and she was so upset that she staged a silent protest on the floor in nursery. She also was furious a few weeks ago because there have been no prophets named Avery. She cried for an hour.
  • Avery is generous and considerate. She loves noticing things that people like and she thoughtfully considers gifts, She likes to do things that make specific people happy. If it's a special occasion for someone, I always ask Avery what she thinks we should give them because she honestly has insightful answers. She knows what colors, what foods, what shows so many people like. 
  • Avery is feminine. Everyday, I do my makeup and I tell Avery that I'm going to do my makeup and she immediately drops what she's doing and sits in a chair and just watches me, grinning. She loves makeup. She loves dresses. She loves the color pink. She asks me to paint her nails every single day.
  • Avery walks on her toes. She says she wants to be a ballerina. She also loves to do yoga and she really is surprisingly graceful.
  • Avery loves to compliment people. She will tell strangers if she likes something they're wearing. She loves to compliment my appearance, Jeff's jokes, Adam's pictures, Ben's cuteness, among other things.
  • Avery enjoys speaking Bosnian. Adam does not like to as much--he gets shy--but Avery really likes to say words in Bosnian. She tells so many people "Dobar dan! Hvala! Ciao!" every day. It is adorable. 
  • Avery is charming. Avery just wins people over. There are a lot of people who have a soft spot in their hearts for her and it's funny because she can be very hot and cold in a lot of ways, but she just gets people wrapped around her finger.  
  • Her favorite food is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or spaghetti sauce.
  • Her favorite movie is probably "Escape from Planet Earth," which yes, is very random.
  • Her favorite books are anything with nursery rhymes or fairy tales. She loves the Gingerbread Man and the 3 Little Pigs, especially.
  • She has a penchant for falling asleep on adventures, though she hasn't regularly taken a nap for 2 years.
  • Avery is photogenic. Whenever I take pictures she looks off to the side and I'll tell her to look and she'll just look up and have a perfect model smile. 


Ok, I'm having a hard time thinking of dog show stats, so I will end this. Avery, if you ever read this, you are so special to me. I am so glad to have you be my daughter. You are fierce and intelligent and kind and contrary and I feel like we could all learn something from you. You are never less than you are and I hope that you will never hide your emotions or downplay how smart you are or stop questioning or loving unconditionally. Don't be afraid to be what you are because you might be completely perfect. I hope you have a great birthday, and I hope that that cake we ordered is actually good because there definitely was a language barrier. Love, Mama.


Yelling at the pigeons in Pigeon Square.





We went hiking yesterday and she did a lot more of it than I would have expected.

Benjamin is only a few pounds lighter than Avery. :-/





Avery loved the view. I loved the view of her.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

That One Time When We Went to Bosnia (NOW.)

I do feel like everyone who reads my blog probably knows this one but... we are in Bosnia 'til May. I know that came as a surprise to almost everyone, but it really was sort of a whirlwind idea. First of all, to clarify: Jeff works on Bosnia. Everyone thinks he probably does something with Russia and that would be a completely reasonable assumption, but since 2013, Jeff has been doing foreign policy work on a few countries in the former Yugoslavia.

When you live in DC and you work in foreign affairs, you are immediately asked by everyone if you plan on living abroad. Usually, the answer is yes. That's basically the biggest benefit of doing this sort of work: the ability to live and work abroad in a comfortable and safe situation. But the idea never really appealed to me, because well, living in Bosnia with small children never appealed to me.

But...

I've always liked exploring. So has Jeff. Honestly if we had to fill out a couples' questionnaire about our marriage, that is probably our favorite thing to do together. We drive to the next towns over and drive around to just see what the neighborhoods are like. We walk the roundabout way to places for no reason at all. We visit all of the obscure branches of the country library and compare the selections. We just enjoy seeing new places, no matter how mundane. Maybe especially how mundane. I like to visit the small towns in Loudoun County and wonder what people do for a living. Do they commute to DC? How early do they get up? Do they take the toll road the whole way? I know that is basically the most boring thing you can think about, but I do. A lot. I just like to see how people live.

But...

That didn't mean I wanted to go to Bosnia. I guess I have to admit that I really didn't know very much about Bosnia. I knew that it insists on being called Bosnia AND Herzegovina and that there was a war there in the '90s and that some of the population was Muslim. I never really had any more interest in it.

But...

Jeff came home his first day of working on Bosnia and sat down and said, "That place is a mess." And the promise of something being a mess intrigued me, so I started learning more about Bosnia. And Jeff is right, it is kind of a political mess. (They have a tri-presidency! They have one president who represents the Serbs, one who represents the Bosniaks and one who represents the Croats and the three of them just BE PRESIDENT together.) But the more I learned about the people of Bosnia, the more they inspired me. They are rebuilding their country after a horrific (seriously, just terrible) war and they don't have the luxury of separating themselves from their enemies. I really don't think very many people would be able to move on as well as they have.  And I know that anyone who knows anything in-depth about the country would probably disagree with that statement, but the fact that they live and work together and don't kill each other gives me a lot of hope for the world in general.

And...

Admiring a place doesn't mean that you pack up your family and go spend a few months there. Obviously. But opportunities kept coming up for Jeff to do some short-term work in the region and he never took them because he didn't want to be apart from us for that long. And we never asked about the possibility of our whole family being accommodated because it wasn't something that I wanted.

But...

Suddenly I did want it. Actually it was probably gradually, but I realized it pretty suddenly. I wanted to spend some extended time in Bosnia (and for honest record-keeping, the opportunity to go to Serbia came up too) and I don't know what changed in me, but I wanted to go because we can. Does that make any sense? Probably not.

I just...

I don't know. Do you ever think about if you were to die tomorrow what you wish that you've made sure to teach your kids? I think about that a lot. I know that it sounds pretty corny when I type it up, but something that I want to make absolutely sure that I teach my children is that their reality is not everyone's reality. We live in the most affluent county in the country and we can go 30 miles east to DC or a little further west to West Virginia and find people, really good people, living in generational poverty. And we'll drive back home and go to Safeway or walk to the library and our lives will continue as they were before. I know that sounds heavy-handed and I don't know how to articulate it, but I hope that I can show them that there are good people living in very different circumstances all over the world. And yes, I do hope that develops into empathy, but mostly I just want to them to remember that there are people walking, working, laughing, skinning their knees all over the world. I guess that I just hope that maybe someday the kids will read the news and see something about Bosnia and picture all of the people who have helped lift the stroller, instead of just reading a headline.

And...

Yeah. Heavy-handed or not, we decided to come to Bosnia. I mean, that is simplifying a lot of components that caused me a lot of extreme angst and vacillation (like: how coming would impact Jeff's career, how it would impact Adam's schooling, the children's genuine desires to travel, Ben's easygoing nature, how it would impact our church responsibilities, the Paris attacks and the State Department's travel warning and the general office bureaucracy and flippancy on our specific dates). But eventually, we made the choice and we stuck with it. And then we finally got specific confirmation that we were leaving like three weeks before the actual day and everything was craaaazy. I can't remember, but I'm pretty sure I had a two-week-long mental breakdown.

Anyway...

We're here in Sarajevo and we're very much enjoying ourselves. They eat a lot of bread and meat here, so basically... Mama like. There's so much to say about what being here is like. It's actually probably a lot like if you put a completely picturesque city in a snow globe and then shook it up and everyone started smoking cigarettes. That's a pretty decent start. It's a mess, it's beautiful, and everyone smokes. Everrryone smokes. I saw a kid who was smoking and put out his cigarette by driving over it with his Razor scooter. (Oh yeah, he was about 10).

But...

Despite the fact that the toy stores smell like bars, the people are good and kind and every single day that I've been here someone has been exceptionally kind to me and my family and maybe that's worth going across the world for.

Also, for all of that bread and meat. That makes it worth it.

I always feel like I should put up pictures after posts, but I'm feeling really lazy. My Instagram is public right now, so you can see some pictrures on the right. I go back and forth between public and private based on whether someone has been creepy, so reign that in, Creeps of Instagram.This is Avery at a cafe today. Food is ridiculously cheap here and I don't have all of my cooking utensils, so we eat out more than we would in America.Also, I literally push the kids in the stroller a few miles a day (Adam is too big for the stroller, I know, but cars drive on sidewalks here and he likes to run ahead of me so I frequently make him get in the stroller because I'd like him to survive this trip) and I get ravenous after a while. Yes, I let Avery drink a Coke. She had like three sips and I finished it so I'm not feeling too bad about it, Actually, I'm feeling pretty good about it. 


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Maybe Next Blizzard

We've been snowed in for a few days. We knew it was coming -- I'm secretly very into meteorology, so I had been following the forecasts, waiting up to see the weather models, and the consensus was that the DC area was going to be hit by a blizzard.

And this is the part where I should have just bought chips and candy and built a blanket fort in front of the TV for the children, but instead of that, I googled and Pinterested.

I've always had kind of an issue with Pinterest. It probably all started because frankly, I think Pinterest is a super stupid name. I have a lot of issues with social media names. I don't even want to acknowledge Tumblr because VOWELS ARE IMPORTANT.

But anyways, yeah, I have a bit of a thing with Pinterest. It's not that I hate it, but I just feel weird when I use it. I feel like I do when I go clothes shopping and I try on new clothes. I look in the mirror in the changing room and when I'm wearing the new clothes, everything is ok, but as soon as I put my regular clothes back on, I look like garbage. I almost feel embarrassed to walk out of the store in my troll clothes. That's basically how Pinterest makes me feel: like I'm wearing troll clothes. I thought I was doing ok, but then I see these pins and oh crap, why am I not making biodegradable dish soap??? Why am I not doing freezer meals?? Why haven't I taught my kids math with spaghetti noodles and magnets and why doesn't my hair look angel-blessed because I saw that you can use tin foil to make your hair look angel-blessed?

I do use Pinterest occasionally, but usually only to find ways to over-celebrate mundane events. Pinterest is really good for that. Pinterest is probably behind the high amount of celebration that St. Patrick's Day gets now (Adam asks me to celebrate it and I always respond that we can start celebrating it when we start getting more Irish because sometimes I'm a jerk, but I do always make corned beef and cabbage but that's because I just really like cooked cabbage and not enough holidays allow me to embrace that and wow this sentence is super long and not at all flattering) and I did check and there are boards dedicated to Flag Day. So watch out for that, because it's coming and you heard it here first.

But I fell into a snow-day Pinterest trap. Sometimes I'm a jerk, but sometimes I'm a schmaltzy little gumball and I just wanted to make our blizzard magical. So I decided that we would: make igloos! Make colored igloos! Make snowmen! Make snowmen that make regular snowmen look like garbage! Sled! Drink hot cocoa! Do crafts! Eat comfort food! Bake! Do puzzles! More puzzles! My, what a quiet and calm time we're having doing all of these puzzles! Screen time need not apply! Magical memories, check!

The first little bit was nice. We loved watching the snow fall. We stayed in our pajamas. The kids and I painted hearts and decided to Mod Podge some tissue paper on a box because #memories and this may not be the place to admit it, but I'm still not 100% what Mod Podge is. I mean, I'm pretty sure it's just fancy glue, but I bought some because my stupid Pinterest crafts keep calling for it. Despite the fact that there is now just a random cardboard box decorated with tissue paper on the living room floor, the first little bit of being snowed in was very nice.

But the snow kept falling. And falling. And falling. It pressed high up against the patio door and when it got to three feet and Jeff couldn't find the shovel, even though it had been visible -- and leaning upright against the house -- a few hours ago and I started to feel disquieted. We weren't staying inside using fancy glue because we wanted to. It was because we couldn't leave. Honestly, it started to feel a lot like the scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where they're all just stomping around the mines and then they realize that everyone is dead and they read the journal with the "We cannot get out," and then the orcs come and Gandalf yells at them and falls down a hole with a hell-demon. That's how I started to feel.


And maybe you may be reading this and may remark on how messed-up it is that I compared having to spend time with my family with falling down a hole with a hell-demon, and that may be a fair criticism. I mean, Gandalf does miraculously survive the fall, if that makes it any better. And I do love my family tremendously. But our foibles do seem to become more pronounced when we haven't left the house for five days. I get grumpy, but not in a charming way. I say things like, "Eat your beans so you don't die" and "I ate all of the candy, suckers." I also frequently also go upstairs to "get something" and "fall down" on the bed and play Bejeweled.

Jeff chomps on ice and cleans up things that I'm currently using. Basically, if I need to open the fridge to get milk and eggs, I'll pull out the milk and he'll swoop in and shut the door as I put the milk on the counter. If I ever open the fridge AT ALL, Jeff is convinced that I will leave it open forever. And that's just really unlikely, because the fridge beeps at you if you leave it ajar for like 5 minutes. Not that I EVER WOULD.

Adam runs around a lot, and not in a figurative way. He literally just runs around in a circle. He says he needs his exercise.

Avery throws a tantrum whenever we ask her to eat. I can't really make any jokes about it. It's part of the reason I say stuff like "Eat our beans so you don't die." One of the only ways to get her to eat is to ask her a math problem she doesn't know and not tell her the answer until she takes a bite. The trick is to make the answer higher than ten so she can't use her fingers to figure it out. If eleven wasn't a number, Avery might never eat again.

Ben is just so cute, but he does sometimes start crying when I turn away from him. I don't even have to move, I just have to turn my head away from his adorable little face and he cries. I'm impressed by his devotion, but it really makes it hard to play Bejeweled.

I'm not sure what conclusions to draw from this experience. I'm always looking for conclusions and I almost never find them. We didn't go sledding, because Avery kept getting trapped in the snow. Turns out three feet of snow is actually pretty daunting when you're just over three feet tall. Adam eventually just curled up in a ball in the snow and looked like he was trying to survive a bear attack, and I realized that our magical memories would have to come from somewhere else until the children become hardier. I hope that they'll have magical memories of the things we did do.

We didn't build a snowman, but Adam collected bits of ice that had fallen from the roof and I kept looking up to make sure that there were no more shards coming down. There were, but we got lucky.

We didn't bake anything homemade, really, I bought some Pillsbury cut-out cookies and we burned them but ate them anyway because Pillsbury knows what's up.

We watched TV. A lot. And it was fun.

We didn't make snow ice cream. We probably could have, but I'm only so-so on eating snow. I used to judge kids who would do it in Alaska. I just felt like the chances of eating moose poop were higher than they would be if you didn't eat stuff off the ground.

We fought. Is it ok to admit that? Avery told me to go to time out by myself for the rest of the night and I was like, "THAT SOUNDS AMAZING."  

We loved each other. We spent time together. We squabbled. I did eat the last of the Reese's. We laughed as Ben did this flappy arm dance. Avery pretended to be a chicken. Adam built a very functional booby trap that kind of hurt my leg a little. Jeff and I took a nap on the couch together. We read books, cried, laughed, fought, changed diapers, looked out the window at snow falling and maybe it was magical a little. Maybe we don't need Pinterest-ready days.

Maybe.

But it is a bummer that we didn't build a multi-colored igloo.

Maybe next blizzard.




At the beginning

I wish I could say this was at the end.

The amount of shoveling that Jeff has had to do in the last few days is insane. Bravo, Jeff.
THANKS, FANCY GLUE

Sunday, November 8, 2015

No Man is an Island, Except for Me, Because I Don't Really Like Fall.


I was raking leaves the other day, and that's not as whimsical as I feel like I thought it was as a kid, and that's probably because there are a lot more trees out east. I haven't done the math, but if I had to guess I'd say there are one hundred gazillion trillion deciduous trees on the East Coast and maybe 10 in Utah. If you love trees, you should move here. If you love streets that make sense and friendly cashiers, you should stay in Utah.

Anyway, I was raking leaves and that took hours, so I didn't really have time to bag them up because I actually have other things I need to do besides raking leaves (despite what our tree thinks), but I couldn't leave my huge piles unattended because I knew -- I knew -- that some small child would come along, or some adorable little puppy or a teenager would come along and mess up my pile of leaves. So I strapped the baby onto me and sat down and put the leaves in one handful at a time (because it's actually quite hard to grab piles of leaves with a baby on you) because I knew -- I knew -- that if I didn't do it right away, someone was going to come along and Instagram my piles of wet leaves and mess them up. Darn kids.

And I was reminded, once again, that I'm quite the fall Scrooge.

It's not that I hate fall, I really don't. I like apple cider. The leaves sure look pretty as their chlorophyll breaks down and they slowly starve to death. We find giant gourds and give our kids knives to disfigure them and that's fun, I guess. And Halloween is the only time where you can see bloody zombies and pretty princesses unite together to grab a massive handful of candy out of my bowl, even after I asked them to take just one.

I really don't hate fall. Like I said, I'm quite fond of apple cider.

But despite how I feel about fall, I have to say, I'm pretty impressed by it. You see, fall has done a really good job at marketing itself. Think about the other seasons. Winter knows how to market itself, because winter is like "LOOK, I'M CHRISTMAS!!!" And while everyone is like, "Yay, winter is Christmas," winter quietly whispers the disclosure that nobody hears -- that Christmas is actually four days after winter starts and that there are three more months of darkness and frigid temperatures and they happen to be the farthest away from next Christmas that you can possibly be.

Spring doesn't do a great job at marketing. People are just like, "Oh, spring is so crazy. Make up your mind on the weather, Spring!" And I think spring just sits back and takes that, when really, it should be like, "I am vanquishing winter and bringing you Cadbury Eggs. I DO WHAT I WANT."

Summer doesn't spend any money on marketing because it knows it's awesome. Summer is like the cool kid in the school elections. It knows that people like it, so it doesn't really work hard on its campaign.

Fall, on the other hand, is a marketing genius. Fall really knows how to sell itself. Everyone likes fall, and if there are any other people like me who are rotten to the core and don't really like fall, they at least pretend to like fall. I pretended to like fall for years. I used to say it was my favorite season when I was little, which is ludicrous, because I was spent my early childhood in central Alaska and they don't have fall there.

But I wanted to love fall, I really did. Fall feels like the most intellectual season. The moment fall starts, social media is full of people posting literary quotes about fall's golden hues. Nobody does that for other seasons. No Walt Whitman quotes pop up in spring, no Robert Frost on dark, snowy evenings. I always feel the need to buy books in fall, because fall feels like book time. "Ah, take a walk in the crisp air and read a book because it's fall, and also, apple picking sounds like a great idea, right? We can talk about philosophy on the hay ride over." Give it a rest, Fall! We know you think you're smarter than us and maybe you are, but you need to just sit back and admit that hay is actually a weird combination of poky and itchy and not really suited for riding on at all.

And fall is golden. People always talk about how golden it is. I feel like they might be confused, because the sun is always shining directly in your eyes during fall, so that could just be the temporary effects of fall sun-blindness. The sun starts setting about about 11 AM, I swear, and just high-tails it out by 5, but fall conveniently forgets to mention that part.

Fall's weather gets a lot of praise, but I think there are some significant holes in that argument because fall is either freezing or too hot and search your feelings,  you know it to be true. (Somewhere, poor spring is nodding her head in agreement.) Fall makes me want to wear boots, but I actually look pretty bad in boots because they don't go well with giant t-shirts. Fall wants me to be higher maintenance and maybe that's why I resent it so. Also, fall keeps trying to tell me that I need to buy expensive English rain boots. ("Rain boots were supposed to be my thing!" cries poor spring.) And I totally would, but I'm not sure they'd look good with giant t-shirts either. I need a season that can respect my inner hobo and despite the impressive amount of flannel, I'm not sure that fall is the season who can fulfill that need.

And the way that you can really tell that fall knows what it is doing is that the minute fall gets slightly unappealing, when the leaves all fall and when the phrase "crisp" sounds stupid, fall starts shouting, "BY THE WAY, I'M CHRISTMAS TOO!" And we all just sit back and smile and say, "Fall, you little genius, you ARE Christmas. Well done." And fall just does a little victory lap and drops the mic because fall knows what's up. Everyone adores fall.

But fall, I'm onto you. We'll pass each other with narrowed eyes. Yeah, I'll carve the gourds and make the soups and drink the ciders, but I've got my eye on you. And it's a narrowed eye.

Because the fall sun is blinding it again.

FALL: 1, SARAH: 0

The tree in our backyard a few weeks ago. It's bright red now and really pretty, but I'm not going to post a picture because I don't want to disrespect the dead.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

At Least I'm Trying: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Holes in my Pants.

Jeff asked me what I wanted to write about and I told him the truth: that I wanted to write about how I'm a horrific mess of a mother and human being.

"You're not any more of a mess than anyone else is," he snorted.

He's wrong of course. He has this problem where he's always wrong when we have disagreeing opinions. I'm not calling him obtuse or anything, but he really needs to refer to past notable cases. THE DEATH PENALTY- Sarah right, Jeff wrong. PARTY IN THE USA, GREAT SONG OR ONLY OK- Sarah right, Jeff wrong. PUTTING YOUR SOCKS ON BEFORE YOUR PANTS IS WEIRD- Sarah right, Jeff wrong.

I am a mess right now, I am. I realized it as I was late for Adam's bus (again) and I had to abandon Avery on the sidewalk down the street and book it running to catch it, with Ben a bouncing ball of jello in the Ergo. "I'M HERE, ADAM! STOP! I'M HERE! I got there, finally, and one of the mothers that wait at the bus stop gave me her number if I ever need some extra help. I wanted to thank her, but I can't remember her name. All I know is that it is NOT Sabra, like the hummus and now I can't look at her without thinking about hummus and I really want to ask her name again, but I always have a fear that not being able to understand accents makes me racist somehow, like my ears have stopped listening on purpose or that I don't think knowing her name is important. I don't want to be racist, so I keep on pretending I know her name because knowing her name is important, and she's told me several times and all I know is that it is NOT Sabra. My current plan is to become good enough friends that I can text her and ask for the correct spelling to put her name into my phone. Then I will google the pronunciation of it all day long and maybe also google hummus. I really like hummus, which might be the culprit behind this whole racist fiasco.

I'm a mess every single day that I drop Adam off for school. I'm always the last mom there, pulling up right as they are about to close the doors. "GOOOOOO, ADAM, RUN!" Whenever I rush over to help him out, papers fall out of my car door. One time, a partially-eaten APPLE FELL OUT. Please don't call CPS. It was from the day before, I'm almost mostly certain. And it was his apple, so at least I'm feeding him fruits. Food pyramid, y'all. 

I'm that mom at Kindergarten drop-off. I tried to pass the bus when the lights were flashing and then I remembered and got flustered and parked illegally. Adam's teacher left the kids to come and tell me I couldn't do that and I just nodded my head, partially parked on the curb and all. All of the other drop-off moms come early, They park their cars and wait by the door. If they have other kids, they're sitting nicely in strollers. I come late, park illegally, and leave my car idling and my other kids screaming. The other moms intimidate me.

There's one mom that really intimidates me. I know logically that she's done nothing wrong, that she's probably a nice person, but she scares me. She has a little girl, with the name of an ex-president, Madison, McKinley, Buchanan, something like that. She always has a gaggle of other moms standing with her and she's always discussing school policy with the teachers and aides. She's always very cool and collected and she's almost always wearing yoga pants. Don't get me wrong, I wear yoga pants too, but we wear them really differently. She wears them because she probably actually did yoga while little Grover Cleveland quietly played in the corner. I wear them because I didn't have the strength of character to face pants with buttons that morning and because I'm trying to not wear my trash-bag pants in public so much since they got a hole in an undesirable place, I'm trying, She wears them coupled with those puffy vests and a Starbucks cup and I wear them with my husband's novelty t-shirts since I'm trying not to wear my Ninja Turtles shirt in public so much since it got a hole in an undesirable place.

There are times I really wish I could be like her.

But there are times that I remember that I don't drink coffee, I don't wear puffy vests because my arms get cold and don't arms deserve some quilted goodness too? I mean, are you really that much warmer? And yes, Ben and Adam do hypothetically share parts of their names with former presidents (and Avery shares her with a character on Dog with a Blog), but it's ok that we're a different type of family. It's ok that I'm that mom.

There is freedom in failure as long as you keep trying and I know that sounds like something that Gatorade would say, but I believe it. I'm going to keep trying. I wore jeans to drop off Adam today, then I changed back into my snowflake pajama pants. I keep meaning to wash those, but then I keep wearing them instead. I changed back into jeans because I was expecting company and yes, they are THAT dirty and I'd much rather be that person, you know? I'd rather be comfortable in pajamas than sad in real pants and I'd rather let my flaws show through like the holes in my trash bag pants (why do I keep talking about pants?? I hate pants!) because my victories feel sweeter that way. I made a healthy dinner tonight, despite being a complete disaster. I yelled less, despite the piles of laundry. Isn't that neat? I kept going even when Ben peed on my shirt and laughed. I laughed back, I forgot to change my shirt for a long time, but I washed my hands. I taught the kids a little, even if I let them watch TV more. There's something that kind of smells in the basement, but I put an air freshener down there and I'll figure it out. I'll get there.

And maybe, just maybe -- don't get ahead of yourselves or anything -- maybe Jeff was a little right. I am a wreck, (the astonishing number of unanswered texts and emails testify of that), but maybe Drop-Off Mom is one too. Maybe she hates real pants too. Maybe her arms really don't get cold. Maybe she drinks her morning coffee because she's exhausted. Maybe she wears her nice sunglasses to avoid wearing make-up. That's very hypothetically clever of her, maybe we should be friends. Maybe I don't know her at all and I shouldn't project my insecurities on her or her sweet daughter. Maybe that's wrong of me to judge her, when I am certainly in a great position to be judged by others.

I will take my judgments and I will add them to the piles of pants, apples falling out of cars, flustered mornings and frustrated afternoons and I will label it "Not quite there yet, keep on trying" pile and I'll do that.

I'll keep on trying a little harder to be a little better.

In my snowflake pajamas.

WHAT'S UP