Thursday, December 31, 2009

Traveling with kids, Part 2: The Airplane Bathroom and New Year's Resolutions


We have finally made it home, despite the amazing lengths we had to take to get here. It actually took us approximately 26 hours, 30 minutes and 2 seconds to get home once we left my sister-in-law's house. I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say we actually had more stuff than we did when we traveled to Las Vegas.

After traveling in car, bus and train, we boarded the airplane and had a relatively uneventful plane ride.

Until Charlotte needed to use the bathroom.

To say the term "airplane bathroom" is a misnomer is an understatement. "Bath closet" or "toilet niche" would be more accurate. I know of bathrooms that consist entirely of holes in the floor in Hong Kong that are bigger. I don't know about you, but even on a good day, after weeks of working out and dieting, things are extremely tight in the airplane bathroom. And I can guarantee you, no working out and dieting have been accomplished by me since the autumn solstice. Add to that all the amazing treats we partook of on holiday, and I almost asked the stewardess to spread some Crisco on my thighs so I could squeeze in.

So, here I am, almost too wide to fit in the bathroom, and I still have a little girl to get in there. A little girl who really needs to pee. Bad. Because of course, we had had to wait for one of those bathrooms to become available, while the nice first class toilets were all free. Grrrrr.....

I finally get the door closed behind us and get Charlotte on the toilet and I am practically sitting in her lap. She looks up at me and says, "Mommy, give me some privacy!" I can't turn around, so I end up just closing my eyes so my modest girl (who, by the way, has no problem running around in the buff for everyone in town to see) can pee privately.

Next comes my turn to use the facilities. As I am finishing up, I actually zip Charlotte's hair up in my pants, that's how tight the quarters are.

And as soon as I am able to return to my seat, Bil informs me that Tommy needs to be changed. In the airplane bathrooom.

I tried to convince Bil it would be easier for him to do it, as he is thinner than I am, but he didn't bite. Yes, Tommy is pretty small, but it is no small feat to change a wiggly baby's diaper in such cramped quarters. Tommy was kicking so much I actually lost the load from his diaper, if you know what I mean. Yes, I had to go hunting for the poop that spilled out while he kicked and thrashed. And then, while ensuring Tommy doesn't fall off the changing table, I have to clean up the mess. I should have been a gymnast.

So, my New Year's Resolution this year? Well, you may be thinking it would be wise to set a diet and exercise goal. I've tried that before, but it doesn't really seem to work. I mean, sure, dieting and exercise would probably help me lose weight, but then I would actually have to get off the couch and keep the food out of my mouth. That would most certainly take Herculean effort. Besides, how fun would that be?

Instead, I have decided on a solution to the humiliating airplane bathroom dilemma. My resolution is to not fly in an airplane until Charlotte no longer needs assistance in the bathroom and Tommy is out of diapers. That will solve everything!

Check out the Spin Cycle for more New Year's Resolutions.



Sunday, December 27, 2009

traveling with kids

I am taking a rare Internet break now that the kids are in bed to do a bit of blogging. We are still in Nevada visiting family. I probably shouldn't be broadcasting this on the Internet in case anyone out there is casing my house trying to decide if we are home or not. If you are, in fact, thieves interested in breaking and entering the Pancake home, just know there is absolutely nothing worth stealing. Seriously. I am wearing my engagement ring, so that rules out jewelry, and our TV is so small you will probably pity us when you see it. Don't waste your energy. We don't even own cell phones. What kind of people don't own cell phones? Think about it.

And I doubt anyone but me and a few die-hard Jane Austen fans and admirers of Colin Firth (and really, aren't most red-blooded American women, and come to think of it, most homosexual men, Colin Firth admirers?) would think my A&E version of Pride and Prejudice is really worth that much..... And dudes, don't even think about touching my new August Wilson Century Cycle. That was a birthday present, which I haven't even had a chance to read.

But if you do happen to decide to break in, would you mind taking the turkey out of the freezer and sticking it in the fridge? And how about unloading the dishwasher? Thanks. That will make cooking much easier when I get back.

Sorry for the digression.

So. We are in Nevada, which means we traveled thousands of miles from Illinois all the way to the western part of the country. With three kids. During the busiest travel season of the year. And we flew out of O'Hare, one of the biggest airports in the country. It was insane. We actually took 4 modes of transportation just on Saturday in our journey to Las Vegas. First, we drove to Chicago, some three hours from home. The next day, we drove to O'Hare. Once we got to the parking lot, we had to take a shuttle bus which dropped us off at the train, which we took to the airport.

With three kids. And a stroller. And three backpacks, two booster seats, one carseat and a big purse. And three carry-on duffle bags. Oh, and did I mention three kids?

Yeah, you can imagine how horrible it was to be behind our little army at security, right? Where they had to use some instrument to make sure it was actually formula in Tommy's bottle instead of explosives.

I can tell FAA security officials this much: I don't care how crazy some terrorist might be, how fanatical and suicidal and determined to participate in a jihad they might be, I don't think ANYONE would be crazy enough to bring along three kids, a stroller, three backpacks, two booster seats, a car seat and three duffel bags to do it. Though I suppose dragging that load all over the country could theoretically drive someone to do something crazy. Especially if that someone happened to be PMSing and slightly sleep-deprived.

Ahem. I'm just saying.

Actually, though the trip was hectic and quite stressful, it went rather smoothly. And the kids? Well, the kids were downright hysterical at points. On the bus, they had the cool-looking twenty-something bus driver laughing at their enthusiasm. Danny kept squealing, "Whoohooo!!! We are going faster now!" and "This is Super-dee-duper!" while Charlotte talked about the upcoming airplane ride, which would go "way high up in the sky!"

On the train, Charlotte exclaimed loudly enough for everyone to hear her, "This ride is really fun!" I foolishly mentioned to the kids that by journey's end, we would have taken every form of transportation except boats. Which is when Danny pointed out that we had yet to fly in a rocket ship or a helicopter. Nor had we ridden an elephant, a giraffe or a cow.

And let's not forget baby Tommy here. In the hours we spent in the airport, he charmed no less than a dozen people, including an elderly Asian couple who he kept crawling over to at our terminal. He repeatedly pulled himself up on their pant legs and babbled to them. Then, there was the U.S. Air employee who spent a good ten minutes making him laugh and smile.


When we finally got close to Las Vegas, the kids enjoyed looking at all the lights. Danny pointed to the Stratosphere Hotel and declared, "Look! It's the North Pole! We are going to the North Pole where Santa lives!" And nothing has yet convinced him that Vegas is probably the antithesis of Santa's winter wonderland home. Danny is still possessed of the certainty that Santa resides somewhere in the Nevada mountains, which only made it that much easier for him to deliver our gifts.



Viva Las Vegas!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spin Cycle--Holiday Baking

It's time for the Spin Cycle again and this week the assignment is to share our favorite holiday recipes. This is right up my alley, as I love to bake. I had a really difficult time narrowing it down to just one recipe. I wanted to share my kringle recipe (that is one recipe people request often, so check it out if you want a delicious, buttery, cinnamony treat), but since I have already done that, I thought I would share two new recipes that I have recently discovered and fallen in love with.

This first recipe (and picture) comes from the McCormick spice website and it is divine. Not only are these tarts easy to make, but they look so pretty and impressive. And they taste wonderful. I had run out of peppermint extract, so I used coconut extract instead and the combination of dark chocolate and coconut was addictive.


Chocolate
Peppermint Tarts


Ingredients:
2 packages (15 shells each) frozen mini phyllo shells

1/3 cup plus 3/4 cup heavy cream

4 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet baking chocolate, cut into chunks

2 ounces (1/4 package) cream cheese, softened

4 tablespoons sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon Peppermint Extract

1. Prepare phyllo shells as directed on package for crisp unfilled tarts. Cool completely.

2. Microwave 1/3 cup of the cream and chocolate in microwavable bowl on HIGH 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Cool 5 minutes or until chocolate ganache starts to thicken. Spoon a heaping teaspoon ganache into each tart shell. Cool completely.

3. Beat cream cheese and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat remaining 3/4 cup cream, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and extract in medium bowl with electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Add 1/2 of the whipped cream to cream cheese mixture; stir until well blended. Gently stir in remaining whipped cream.

4. Spoon about 1 tablespoon Peppermint Crème into each tart. Garnish with chocolate shavings, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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This next recipe comes from the Penzey's spice website and is also very easy to make. I was intrigued with the combination of cranberries and a butter sauce, and it was delicious. Easy to make and really comforting, it is perfect for cold weather. The recipe advises eating it warm, and that is a good idea, in my opinion.

Cranberry Duff


Ingredients:
2 Cups flour

1 Cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. PENZEYS CINNAMON

2 Cups whole raw cranberries

1 Cup milk

1/4 Cup melted butter (1/2 stick)

1 tsp. PURE VANILLA EXTRACT

Butter Sauce:

1/2 Cup butter (1 stick)

1 Cup sugar

3/4 Cup cream (half & half or whipping cream)

1 tsp. PURE VANILLA EXTRACT

1/2 tsp. PENZEYS CINNAMON

Preheat oven to 350°. Sift together the dry ingredients. Add the cranberries, milk, melted butter and PURE VANILLA EXTRACT. Mix well. Pour into an 8-inch square buttered baking dish. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes. After the duff has been in the oven for 25 minutes, make the butter sauce by combining the butter, sugar and cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Stir in the VANILLA and CINNAMON and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve the duff warm drizzled with sauce, with extra sauce on the side


Monday, December 14, 2009

second opinion, here I come

You may or may not remember my dilemma earlier in the year regarding whether I should have Danny reevaluated. I debated whether it was necessary to get a label for what Danny was dealing with. He is such a difficult case, I think, because in some situations he practically screams, "I HAVE AUTISM!!!!" and in many, many others, he acts like a "typical" child.

After much thought and internal debate, I got a referral to a developmental pediatrician. I would have preferred to take my friend Sarah's advice, which was to take Danny to a clinic that does a total evaluation. He would meet with several different professionals over a 5-day period, which I think would give such a good picture of what is really going on. Unfortunately, we have no such clinic nearby, so I thought I would start first with the pediatrician that is only 90 minutes away and go from there.

I have heard many good things about this doctor. Danny's private speech therapist, who I trust implicitly, says that Dr. M does not hand out autism diagnoses without being completely sure it is accurate. If he is unsure in any way, he meets with the child multiple times and also looks into nutrition and other factors that might help and/or hamper a child's development. He has a holistic approach; he even had us get Danny's iron tested before our appointment. Apparently, he has seen that kids with iron deficiencies often have focus and behavior issues.

Which brings me to the point of this rambling post: we have an appointment for Danny in January, right after the holidays. I feel like I should be preparing for this appointment in some way, coming up with questions or concerns, etc. but I just can't seem to get my mind around it.

What would you do to prepare? I have already sent the doctor copies of many of Danny's evaluations from OTs, STs, teachers and psychologists, along with some doctor's evaluations. I have filled out a 10-page questionnaire about Danny's development and I have lined up babysitting for Tommy and Charlotte. Bil will be unable to attend the appointment with me, as he just started a new job, and maybe that is adding to my nervousness. I like having him there with me, because he thinks of things I don't and vice versa.

I am just interested in any advice you might have. What sorts of things should I be paying attention to in the coming weeks? What should I bring up in the short 45 minutes I have with this doctor? Or am I overthinking it?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas wishes

It's that time of year again. The time where we can make wishes and hope they will come true. I have been pondering the question of what I want for Christmas yet again, since Bil asked me to give him a list of requests. After all, he has to not just take care of my Christmas presents, but my birthday ones as well. Not easy to have a wife whose birthday is three days before Christmas.

I mentally flipped through some things I want: a fit and healthy body, an end to emotional eating, a house that stays clean, kids who never fight. Sure, I would love any and all of these precious and magical gifts. But, still none of them are at the very top of my Christmas list.

I thought of peace on earth, an end to the suffering of children everywhere, enough food for countries where people are starving. All very noble and worthy wishes, and definitely all things I want to see happen; yet again, I have a particular wish that is not among those stated above.

My wish, while definitely more selfish than world peace, has the potential to help all those around me. It is a life-changing gift, one that will make me a better wife, mother, and person in general. It will bring more peace to my home, help my children be happier and better behaved. This precious of gifts would make everything better.

Sleep.

Yes, sleep is what I want for Christmas. But, not just any kind of sleep. I want 100% uninterrupted sleep. And not just for one night or even one week. I want months of it. Years would be great. Sleep in which once my head hits the pillow, nothing at all wakes me until 6:45 am when the sun gently warms my face and wakes me fully refreshed and energetic and ready to take on the world, instead of what actually happens, which isn't pretty, folks. Believe me. It includes much groaning, limping, inwardly cursing and scowling. Let's just leave it at that.

In order for this to happen I need an end to being awakened by a 4 year old's cries at 3 am and stumbling out of bed to tuck her in or give her a glass of water. No more waking to snores loud enough to raise the dead. And no more letting a baby cry it out at 2 am. I want him to sleep. I want them all to sleep without making any noise besides quiet, peaceful breathing, and perhaps a cute tiny little snuffle or two.

Is that really so much to ask for?

Because if you could see the havoc this sleeplessness is wreaking on me, I know you would agree that this is an important issue with enormous implications. Seriously. I don't do well with little sleep. I need a good 9 hours to be pleasant and at least 8 hours to be just functional.

As it is,5-6 hours with interruptions results in me misplacing everything. Lotion in the fridge? Check. Remote on the kitchen bookshelf? Check.

And then there is the inability to complete coherent sentences using correct words. I am pretty sure Bil is sick to death of me saying things like, "Could you please get me the....the...you know, that thing? The thingy with the stuff? C'mon, you know what I mean! Just GET IT FOR ME!"

And the kids have been perplexed on an almost daily basis when I tell them to come eat breakfast at 5pm or I tell them to get their chicken nuggets out of the dishwasher (instead of the microwave). I swear I see the look in Danny's eye that says it won't be long before it's time to lock me away.

And he's right. He is. Unless I get me some sleep. STAT.

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Check out Sprite's Keeper and her Spin Cycle for more ideas on Christmas wishes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Random thoughts--Walmart, diets and kids

***The WM folks must have some sort of vendetta against me. What else could explain how they have organized their paper goods? I am in charge of a dinner for the women at church on Saturday, so I had many things to buy today, including paper plates, napkins and cups. I happened to have my two youngest with me, because, as Bil continues to remind me, it is against the law to leave them home unattended.

Tommy was tired; I only have between 8 and 9:30 to get to the store and get all the shopping done before Tommy's nap time. This is not because I am super anal about naps. Rather, if I don't get home on time, I have a whimpering, crying little baby on my hands, which does not make for easy shopping, especially since Charlotte thinks it's funny to run off and hide on me. It's just a matter of time before we have a Code Adam on our hands (or is it Code Eve for little girls?)

Anyway, back to Walmart's vendetta. OK, so I am in the paper goods aisle looking for red dessert plates, but they are nowhere to be found. So, I head over to the Christmas room (which is all the way on the opposite side of the store) where it looks like Santa exploded. There they have an assortment of holiday paper goods, but no red plates. (Again, let me assert here that I am NOT anal. It's just that the napkins and all the other paper goods had already been bought and these women like things to match. Me? I don't really care as long as I get enough dessert on my plate to anesthetize an elephant and put me into a sugar coma.)

So, now that Tommy is getting tired, I have to hike to the other side of the store, which is seriously like a half mile away, back to the paper goods aisle. Why, why, I ask you, can the Walmart people not just put all the paper plates together? Is that really so much to ask?

***On the bright side, I started breaking out into a sweat as I half ran back to the paper plates aisle, because I was in a big hurry to get out of Walmart (or as I like to refer to it, the third circle of Hell). Surely, this should count as my exercise for the day, right? Or perhaps, I was only sweating because, like Hell, they keep the heat on high in Walmart.

***Which brings me to another topic I have been considering a lot lately: why I should be losing weight with ease. Consider this, if you will:
I carry around a 20+ pound baby in one arm while completing all kinds of tasks, including conducting a song at church, tending to children's wounds and setting the table. Surely, that added weight would burn some extra calories.

And then anytime I stop and bend over, I have either Danny or Charlotte jumping on my back, or sometimes just for grins, both of them. If I stop moving, one of them is inevitably climbing on me. It reminds me of those killer ants who attack whatever is standing in place for too long. In the spirit of self-preservation, I rarely sit down for fear of what will inevitably attack me. As soon as I do, someone is screaming for me or the phone is ringing or the doorbell chiming. By the end of the day, I am plumb tuckered out.

Again, you would think I would be burning thousands of calories an hour, at least.

**** Probable reasons for my lack of weight loss:
Mini Mint Three Musketeer Bars--Need I say more? My addiction is alive and well.

Unfortuntately, standing over a stove does not count as moderate exercise no matter how much I sweat.

Nor does sweating while eating a really spicy bowl of chili. I know. Totally unfair, right?

Christmas treats are everywhere, and I tend to eat for emotional reasons. You know, like when I am sad or happy or bored or tired or lonely or depressed....you get the idea.

***I have no idea why, but Charlotte and Danny have recently taken to saying the words "Hamster's guinea pig!" in various contexts. Mostly, they seem to use it as an interjection, like "Hamster's guinea pig! This room is a mess!" I suppose it is a lot better than some things they could be saying.

***Lately, a fun little game I have been playing with the kids is I warm up my frigid hands on their warm little backs and bellies. They love it. They scream and squirm and run away. And I just keep coming back for more body warmth. Such a heartwarming game, no?

A few minutes ago, Charlotte approached me and put her icy hands down my shirt, almost giving me a heart attack.

You know what they say about payback, right? Yeah, it's totally true.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving and birthdays and sprinkles, oh my!


***Thanksgiving weekend was a whirlwind of activity. There was, of course, the typical Thanksgiving dinner at my sister's house where way too much food was consumed by me and the kids. Charlotte devoured THREE fudgy chocolate brownies before I happened to take a bite of one. And what mysterious ingredient did I taste? COFFEE.

We happen to be Mormon and therefore eschew the consumption of coffee, alcohol and tobacco. Religion notwithstanding, I think if I had my preference of which of those three substances someone were to give my kid, it definitely would not be coffee. No, I would prefer alcohol, because if they are anything like their mom, it would put them right to sleep. Coffee, on the other hand, especially coffee combined with intense chocolate and loads of sugar? Yeah, you can just imagine the results.

***Yesterday was Charlotte's birthday and we had a little party in Chicago at my mom's house on Saturday. Well, I say "little" but there were actually 25 people there, including 8 kids, all under the age of 8. My mom's house is on the small size and the kids were rambunctious, so it got rather noisy at times.

At one point, Danny started yelling, "Everyone, be quiet! Please! Stop yelling!" But it was so noisy, no on actually heard him. Then, he turned to me and demanded that I make everyone stop talking. My heart sank as I prepared myself for a sensory meltdown.

What happened instead was nothing short of miraculous. I explained to Danny that people were just having fun, but that if the noise got to be too much for him, he could go upstairs where it was quieter. And that is exactly what he did. Periodically, he would join in the fun in the basement and play with the kids, but he would return to the upstairs bedroom whenever it got to be too much for him. And the result was that at the end of the night, Danny was relatively calm and had not pushed, jumped on, or kicked anyone. I really think this was a major breakthrough.

***After the big birthday bash, I took Danny and Charlotte for a walk in my mom's neighborhood. It was after 8:00, but I had promised the kids, and I am so glad I kept my word. My mom's neighbors do an excellent job with the decorating, sparing no expense or twinkling light. There were all kinds of giant blow-up figures, including Santa riding a bear (which perplexed Danny. "Santa doesn't ride a polar bear! He has a sleigh!"), a snowman that pops out of a train car, and--the kids' personal favorite--a snowman roasting marshmallows over a fire (I really had to restrain myself from pointing out that Frosty was way too close to that fire if he wanted to survive until Christmas, but I managed to bite my tongue.)

That walk was my favorite part of the entire weekend. The kids were full of delight at each new wonderfully decorated house. They exclaimed over every light, tree and Nativity set. They even talked excitedly about the beautiful shining moon. Danny kept saying, "We are on a Christmas hunt, mommy!"

It was a quiet, peaceful respite after the party and we enjoyed ourselves completely. After our walk, Bil had hot chocolate waiting for each of us, and the kids slurped it up while detailing our adventures to dad and grandma.

***Last night, we celebrated Charlotte's fourth birthday. She has been excited about her birthday for months and hasn't stopped talking about the butterfly cake that she wanted. I decided to let the kids help me decorate the butterfly and this was the result:

Would you like some cake with your sprinkles and frosting?




Saturday, November 21, 2009

Christmas miracles


My kids have been looking forward to Christmas since Halloween. More specifically, they have been on tenterhooks waiting for the day when we can finally decorate the Christmas tree. I don't know exactly why, but the prospect of tree trimming holds almost as much excitement and magic as presents do. And that is saying a lot.

I know I have mentioned this before, but decorating the tree is one of my favorite Christmas traditions. I am not entirely sure why. I am not typically very into the decoration of anything, let alone a tree that will be taken down in a month (ok, when I say "a month" I mean more like two months, but let's not get all picky here). Yet decorating the tree has always, since I was a kid, been one of my favorite parts of Christmas. Even when I was older and the tradition no longer held any interest for my siblings, I still looked forward to it

And doing it now with my kids? Makes it so much more fun for me. Because they are the only two humans on this earth who get as excited as I do at the prospect. They never tire of hanging yet one more snowman on the tree and they get a real kick out of some of the stories behind the ornaments.

Still, I was worried that there would be conflict this year, as it is the first time Charlotte has been interested in helping us decorate. That means that Danny would have to share some of the more coveted decorations, including the piece de resistance: our golden sparkly star. The kids have been debating all week who would receive the honor of placing the star in its place. (When I say "debating" I really mean screaming at each other endlessly).

I may have mentioned before that Danny and Charlotte have, on occasion, bickered and argued. (When I say "on occasion" I mean they spend about 85% of their waking hours fighting over something.) They fight over the dumbest things, too. It drives me nuts, but I am sure it is a bit of karma biting me in the rear end for the endless fighting I did with my siblings as a kid, teenager and young adult.

So, I geared up for possible squabbling and bickering, and this is what I heard instead:
"Hey, Charlotte, here's an ornament for you."
"Thank you, Danny. You are a good sharer."
"Mommy, I love Christmas. I love our tree. It's so beautiful."
"Charlotte can have the star if she wants it."
"Here, mommy, you can have this one."

Yes, my kids decorated in peace and harmony. No one fought over a single ornament, not even the star.

Do I believe in Christmas miracles?

Yes, yes I do.

Monday, November 16, 2009

transcript of a stirring and intellectually stimulating conversation or welcome to my world

Here's what Charlotte's and my conversation sounded like today on the way to the grocery store.

Char: Look, mommy, I spy balloons.
Me: Yeah, and I spy some cows (we live in the country, people)
Char: I spy a tree.
Me: And I spy a pumpkin.
Char: I spy a Christmas tree.
Me: Yes, and I spy a flag.
Char: I spy a tree.
Char: I spy a pine tree.
Char: Mommy, I spy a brown tree.
Me: Uh huh.
Char: I spy a green tree!
Char: Look, there's another tree!
Me: You're right. But look at that dog.
Char: Mommy, mommy, look at the tree!
Char: I spy a naked tree.
Me: Yes and I spy a house.
Char: Look, I spy another brown tree.
Char: And there's another one! I spy a tree, mommy! There's a tree. And there's a yellow tree, mommy. Mommy, mommy, look at the TREES!

That's when I turned on the radio.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

our good news!

Two weeks ago, Bil got a job offer. A really good offer with a really good company. He will be working as a software engineer at a dental software company in town, so not only will he have a job he's always wanted to do, but he will have a ten-minute commute (as opposed to his roundtrip commute of almost 2 hours).

But the best part? He'll be working days. Days! Bil will be home by 5:30!! And even when he has to work late, he should be home well before 1 AM. Can you believe it? we have been so blessed, beyond our expectations.

I can't wait!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

random thoughts Tuesday: facebook, babies and flatulence

*** I took delight in watching Tommy, my eight-month-old baby, this evening after bath time. I let him hang out naked for a bit tonight because he seemed to be enjoying himself so much. (Just one more way he resembles his father.)

As he rolled around on the floor cooing and burbling, I noticed that all the incredibly cute things I was exclaiming over would be completely repulsive had Tommy been an adult. For example, I laughed at the way he drooled so much that long strings of spit dangled from his mouth all the way to the floor. I know. Totally adorable, right?

Then, he let loose a whole series of farts that were nothing less than charming. Even
when he spits up all over me, I usually just laugh it off in a "babies will be babies" kind of way. And when he burps? Yeah, we often praise and congratulate him. And don't even get me started on his rolls of fat and "cankles" (legs that are so fat the calves and ankles are basically indistinguishable). I love them.

But tonight the unfairness hit me. I mean, why is it that only babies are adorable when they have rolls of flesh all over their bodies? Why can't adults be fat, jolly and flatulent and still be super popular?

Because man, could I be popular....



*** Speaking of popularity, I find Facebook a really fascinating phenomenon. Not only is it a great way to reconnect with long lost friends, but it's also the place to get back in touch with every single acquaintance you have ever made and forgotten about in your entire life. I swear
my memory must be even worse than I think it is, because I keep getting friend requests from people I don't remember. I mean, I might remember their name, but cannot for the life of me remember much else about the friend of the guy I dated my sophomore year of high school.

Also, I must have a different memory of what happened years ago. That's the only way I can explain why I have gotten a friend request from a girl who was actually seriously mean to
me in junior high. While I don't think I harbor any grudges, I don't see why I would actually want
to be privy to S's daily ramblings after she made me cry every single day of the 7th grade.

Unless of course, her daily ramblings reveal that she has gained 300 pounds, works at a toll booth, and has no love in her life.

Kidding.
I am just kidding. Sheesh. Well, mostly kidding, anyway.


***Another thing I love about Facebook is the quizzes. I am constantly amazed at how many wacko quizzes there are out there. And I admit, I have taken a few of them myself, and have acquired some really interesting information.

For example, I have discovered that according to a Dr. Phil personality quiz, I am a narcissistic, selfish and insensitive person. And let's not forget that I was a gorilla in a past life.

Oh, and "The Office" character I am most like is Kevin Malone. You know, the big, fat, jolly guy who farts all the time. Hmmmm....maybe there is something to these quizzes, after all.

*** My friend Rebecca once commented that Facebook is much like high school. Lots of trying to sound cool and be popular. And I think she is right. I suspected that some people add anyone as friends whether they like the person or not. This was confirmed when Bil created a Facebook page for Dolly, a scary doll that my sister and I pass back and forth.

This doll, along with some much prettier dolls, were bequeathed to us after the death of my aunt. We divvied up the others, but neither of us wanted to claim Dolly as our own. Frankly, she scared the crap out of both of us, as we envisioned her coming to life and killing us in our sleep. What commenced was a game in which we try to pawn the doll off on each other. My sister has hidden Dolly in my underwear drawer, under my car seat, and has even had my mother mail it to me along with Christmas gifts. I, in turn, have stowed Dolly all over her house and have taken delight in the times my sister couldn't find her. The only rule of our game is we cannot hide Dolly in our kids's rooms. You know, just in case she finds herself in possession of a tiny doll knife and goes homicidal.

Because Bil and I are total nerds, and because this game of ours has at times driven my brother-in-law nuts, Bil had the idea to
create a Facebook page for Dolly. We uploaded pictures of her in various parts of my sister's house and posted them on FB for my brother-in-law to see. The funniest part of this rather pathetic story is that when Bil created the FB page for Dolly, he invited several people to add her as a friend. And though none of these people (save my brother-in-law) knew anything about Dolly, they accepted her bid for friendship. It baffles my mind. I mean, seriously. Tell me, after seeing her picture, would you add this scary doll as your friend on FB? I didn't think so.

But, if you are interested, her FB name is "Dolly K. Brown."
I hear she is pretty desperate for friends.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

dogs, nudity, and rotten chicken.....or why I love Meals on Wheels


Every couple of weeks, I deliver Meals on Wheels to people in town who are sick or homebound. A woman at church started the route and we all take turns delivering each Wed. It's a pretty easy gig and the people I deliver food to are really sweet.

Besides occasionally getting turned around when I first started, the delivery is pretty straightforward. Still, I have managed to have some dubious adventures in the couple years I have been delivering. A year or two ago, I got a surprising eyeful on what turned out to be an X-rated delivery. A totally naked man exited the bathroom as I handed the meals to his wife. Apparently, he hadn't heard me yelling, "Meals on Wheels" as I knocked on the door. Luckily, that family was not on our route very long, as it was really hard to look the couple in the eye after having seen the husband in all his naked glory.

A couple of weeks ago as I hurried to the apartment of a woman who is deaf, I totally wiped out, sending food packages flying and in the process, scraping up my knees, elbow and hand and tearing an enormous hole in my jeans. Thank goodness they package the food really well; luckily, none of it spilled, which was pretty amazing considering the distance it traveled through the air before landing on the pavement.

Of course, I had to fall right in front of this young guy, who happened to be outside today when I delivered, as well. I doubt he recognized me, though. Don't all soccer moms look the same?

Today was pretty eventful too. It started out when I arrived to deliver food at an apartment complex. I got up to the second floor and was overwhelmed by a terrifically rancid smell. I actually looked around expecting to see steaming piles of feces nearby. The woman I was delivering to was walking down the hall when she spotted me. She mentioned that there had been a really bad smell and it had taken her and the building's maintenance people all weekend to figure out the culprit: a bag of rotting chicken sitting on top of her refrigerator since Friday. As she opened her door, she said, "You can't really smell it anymore, though, can you?"

That's when the stench hit me like a giant nauseating wall of stink. I had great difficulty answering her, as I was trying to breathe through my mouth without gagging. Will I go to hell for lying to her and saying, "Well, maybe just a little"?

Is it a lie or just an under-exaggeration? When I got outside, I gulped down air greedily.

Yeah, it was a total bald-faced lie. Poor Ethel.

Just when I had finally cleared the smell from my nose, I got to a regular on the route. She rarely comes to the door, as she is extremely hard of hearing, so I normally leave the meal on the little table by the door. No matter how loudly I yell "Meals on Wheels," she never seems to hear me, even though her dog is barking up a storm. This time, there were two dogs, and I was worried one would get out as I entered the house. That's all I needed: to have to chase some dog through the neighborhood while the rest of the meals cooled in my car.

Escaping dogs was not what I should have been worried about, however. I should have been so lucky to have the dogs run away. No, instead, one of the pint-sized little canines bit me. Right on the shin bone. And while it didn't break the skin, that little dog did leave a blue bruise on my leg. The puny flea bag. He's lucky I was so surprised, I didn't have the wherewithal to react, because I think my first reaction would have been to drop kick yappy Fido across the room.

Never a dull moment.


**No animals were harmed in the writing of this post, though not for lack of trying on the part of the author.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

halloween, wall-e style















Here's a picture of Danny in his Wall-E costume, which I am proud to point out, is 100% recycled materials. No money was spent in the acquisition of this costume . We had so much fun making it, and Danny actually wore it the entire time we were out, which totally surprised me, as it isn't the most comfortable getup out there. Granted, we only trick or treated for 45 minutes, but it was pretty cold out, and everyone was getting tired.

I would share pics of Charlotte, too, but I don't have any in which her face is covered, and I just don't feel comfortable showing my kids' faces here, since I use their names.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

things I have learned from Danny and SPD

As October--SPD Awareness Month--is just about over, I thought I would write one more post about Sensory Processing Disorder. Lately, I have been looking at SPD in a more positive light, unlike in times past where I saw it more as a problem or a cross to bear. Though it has added a level of difficulty and challenge to parenting that I often feel unprepared for, I have realized that parenting a child with SPD has taught me many great lessons. Lessons which have made it easier to parent my other children and which have actually helped me enjoy life more. Here are a few of the major ones, in no particular order.

~~Slow down
We all know how frenetic life's pace can get, how full of activities, noise and commitments. I learned early on, though, that Danny cannot handle cramming a hundred and one activities in one day. I had to schedule my days so that we were only getting one or two errands done otherwise, he would have a really difficult time, which of course, made it very difficult, and thus not worth it, for me. He doesn't like to rush around from activity to activity, no matter how fun they might be. Instead, we need to plan for lots of down time.

And you know what? That has been an enormous blessing to my family, because I have realized that really, none of us in the Pancake house does very well when we are scheduled to the max. Also, we have had so many amazingly fun adventures just in the down time when we played together with nowhere else to be.

~~Think outside the box
Parenting a child with SPD is challenging in that your kid probably doesn't fit the mold of "regular kids." Before we knew what was going on with Danny, I scoured countless parenting books trying to figure out why my son would have meltdowns and what I could do about them. None of the books helped, because they were coming from the assumption that kids with meltdowns had discipline problems, whereas Danny's meltdowns were sensory related. Much of the advice given in the books actually exacerbated Danny's problems.

Once we understood SPD a bit more, we were able to help him, but even then we couldn't always find answers in SPD books, because each kid's SPD manifests itself in such unique ways. Instead, we had to get creative, wacky even. We would have regular wrestling matches with Danny and let him jump on our bed in order to get the deep pressure that he craved. We filled a sandbox with beans and kept it in our family room so Danny could get the tactile input he needed. I regularly let the kids roll around in funny foam (foam soap for kids) naked. And so often, a thought will come to me and we follow it, despite its seeming craziness, and it works. Both Bil and I are now much better at thinking outside the box in dealing with parenting issues that we are struggling with.

~~Power of prayer
I know not everyone reading this blog is religious, but I really feel like I need to say something here about prayer, because honestly, without it, I don't know how we would have survived the last few years. I won't detail every time prayer has helped me, because that would take way too much time. Suffice it to say, that there have been many, many times when, at my wits' end, I said a prayer. After the prayer, I would have an idea of how to handle the situation, and the idea was always something just a little bit out there, or something I wouldn't normally think to do in that situation. Whenever I follow that thought, though, it always works.

~~Trust my instincts
Trusting my instincts has never been my strong suit. I habitually second guess myself, especially in instances where my instincts oppose the popular opinion. I often defer to others and their opinion, thinking they must be right and I then must be wrong. Over the years, though, I have realized that my instincts are right. I know my kids. I know when something is wrong, and if I have a strong feeling as to how to help them, I should follow that feeling.

Time and again, this has been brought home to me, even by professionals. I will never forget an appointment with a developmental pediatrician in which she told me that not only was I right in not following some advice given to me by a caring friend, but that had I followed the advice, I probably would have done some damage--Danny most definitely would not have improved his speech, which was what my friend was trying to do, in fact, it probably would have backfired.

~~Honor our limits
Again, I am not so good with saying no to people. I am getting better, because being Danny's parent has helped me see that I need to respect his limits, as well as my own. This goes along with trusting my instincts, as well. Too often, I have said yes to an engagement despite feeling uneasy, and I have always regretted it. Others may think my rules are too strict or weird, but they work for us. For example, I will no longer let an activity or friends keep me from getting my kids to bed on time, and for us, on time is a very early 7:00 during the school year. I know most parents think I am crazy, but my kids fare so much better with lots of sleep (and frankly, so do I). We skip parties sometimes because I know it isn't worth it to get Danny all overstimulated.

~~Go with the flow
One Halloween we took Danny trick or treating at the mall. He was just over 2 years old and we thought he would really enjoy it. Well, Danny ran around the mall for a couple of minutes and then wanted to leave. For a brief moment, I wanted to try and convince him to stay. After all, we had come to the mall with friends and I thought it would be fun. Then, it occurred to me that the point was for Danny to have fun, not me. If being in an overcrowded, noisy mall was hard for him to deal with, then what was the point in staying? So, we left and had a great evening at home with a well-regulated, happy child.

This lesson has not been an easy one for me, but I have learned that it is so important to be flexible. Bil regularly outlines what he calls our "escape route" when we go to parties, which is our plan for how long we will stay and what we will do to make it easier for Danny. And if all else fails, we have a little signal which says that it is time to leave. Because parties are not much fun when you have an overstimulated little boy. Though I have had to miss some fun parties, it has been worth it when we honor Danny's needs. And now that he is older, we have a lot easier time in big groups.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I can't really say that I am grateful that Danny has SPD. It is hard for me to see him struggle. Still, I am so grateful Danny is my son. I love him so much and he has taught me a great deal, so many lessons that I need to learn and relearn in order to be a better parent, a better wife, and a better person. And I am so grateful that I have gotten to the point where I can see that SPD is not a curse so much as it is a challenge. A difficult one, but one that can teach us so many great lessons, if we let it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

SPD Awareness Month and a Message of Hope

The month is already half over and I have yet to write a post about SPD Awareness Month. I have tried to think of topics, but have come up dry. I just haven't felt that motivated to write about SPD. Perhaps I burnt myself out last year with all the SPD-related posts. I'm not sure.

This past month, I have been thinking of the progress Danny has made. For any of you who don't know our story, Danny was diagnosed with SPD 4 years ago when he was 2 years old. Since then, he has been receiving Occupational Therapy, along with other services like Speech Therapy.

A couple of weeks ago, I took Danny and Charlotte to a candy hunt at a nearby park. It was completely dark, with just the light of some flashlights to guide us. We had a great time, and as we traversed the park full of kids and their parents, I realized that a year or two ago, I would have never taken Danny on such an excursion. I would have been too unsure how he would handle it.

In the past, we have avoided so many social activities, especially those that involved big groups of people or lots of noise. In those settings, Danny has a tendency to get overstimulated, which often means he acts really hyper and sometimes aggressive. He used to sometimes even have seriously horrible sensory meltdowns, which nothing seemed to ease. Thankfully, those have completely disappeared.

So many situations that Danny found almost impossible to endure a couple of years ago are now completely manageable. He has no problem going on multiple errands with me and rarely gives me any grief when we have to leave a fun place. Years ago, I used to dread going to the park because I knew leaving would result in horrendous screaming and kicking and flailing of limbs. He no longer seems to need picture charts and countdowns of how many minutes before we leave, etc. Danny's speech has improved tremendously and continues to do so. He is doing really well at school and his music teacher just told us this week that Danny is one of her favorite children. He is excelling in her class, which is another miracle. In the past, music used to be a wild card; we never quite knew what effect it would have on him, but it was often a negative one. Now, not so much, though he still seems to have a limit as to how much music he can listen to in one sitting.

He still has SPD, of course. I don't actually think kids are cured of this disorder, but it is definitely getting under control, which is something I never really believed could happen. It just seemed so difficult and his challenges too insurmountable to fix.

So, this is my SPD Awareness Month message: there is hope. It does get better! It really does. Not overnight. No, definitely not overnight. It will take a lot of time, numberless prayers, and levels of patience that will probably qualify you for canonization. It will take so much work, so many appointments with therapists and professionals. It will take amazing amounts of creativity and research, but in the years to come, you will see results that will have made it all worth it. So, hang in there and keep working. You are not alone.



Friday, October 23, 2009

Reason number 101 to sweep the kitchen floor once in a while


So, when your son loses one of his front teeth, you don't have to spend 35 minutes combing through the debris and detritus that has accumulated on the floor since yesterday to find the tooth. It is amazing how difficult it is to distinguish a baby tooth from Rice Krispies, pieces of rice teething biscuits and popcorn kernels. Who knew?

If it weren't for the fact that although Danny has already lost four teeth, we have yet to place one under his pillow for the Tooth Fairy, I would have given up the search. Unfortunately, Danny swallowed the first two teeth he lost. Then, the third one, he placed under his rest time blanket at school thinking the Tooth Fairy would find it there. Yeah, he wasn't too pleased with her when she dropped that ball. And the fourth tooth? I lost that one.

What? They should so make those teeth bigger. I'm just saying. Way, way too easy to misplace.

So, we are batting four for four and I am hoping to make up for it tonight. Luckily, after many prayers and yelling at the kids to stay away from the dust pile, I was was able to find the dust-covered little tooth. The way we are going, the beloved Tooth Fairy probably owes Danny a fifty. What is the going rate for teeth nowadays anyway?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I hate when exercise is the answer

I recently saw a book with this title and laughed. I can so agree with that sentiment. It's absurd, actually, because it seems obvious that in order to lose weight, one needs to exercise and eat sensibly. That doesn't seem too difficult (in theory) yet it amazes me the lengths some of us will go to in order to lose weight without following that formula.

This was brought home to me this past week when I heard about the hCG diet. I was interested, because not only are you supposed to lose a pound a day, but it requires no exercise at all. What it does require is daily injections of the hCG hormone on top of ingesting only 500 calories a day. No wonder there is no exercising recommended, with that caloric intake you'd be lucky to have enough energy to sit up.

I never seriously considered this diet, but it did interest me. Who wouldn't want to be able to lose 5 pounds a week? Still, it seems ridiculous that I would even think about suffering through near starvation and daily injections, but don't feel like exercising daily and eating sensibly. What was I thinking? How could the hCG diet be any easier than just eating healthful foods and moving more? Why are we enticed by these quick fixes that are too good to be true?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

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

I grew up in Chicago, not the suburbs, but the actual city. As those of you who have spent much time with me know, I take pride in that fact, probably a disproportionate amount of pride, but most Chicagoans do. All my life I have considered myself a city girl, and when we relocated to the town in which I now reside, I didn't know what to think. I was used to more diversity, better restaurants, and lots more people. And I was used to a much, much different accent. Let's just say those Super Fans (you know, the "Da Bears" guys) on Saturday Night Live sound eerily like my twin brother. Seriously, he says the word "tree" when he means "three." And here? Yeah, they sound like we live in the south rather than the Midwest.

My family jokes that I moved to the country, even though our town has a population of about 20,000 people. I grew up thinking, after all, that Chicago was the only big city in the state of Illinois. Even our illustrious former governor (Rod Balgojevich) acted like Chicago was the state capitol.

Surprisingly, I have really come to love this smallish town. I love the people and even the laid-back attitude, though it is still one I find difficult to emulate, especially in traffic or while waiting for the cashier in Wal-Mart to quit talking to her 5th cousin twice removed so she can check me out already.

Ahem.

The other day, though, I noticed some signs that indicated that perhaps I was becoming more of a country girl than I thought.

Behold the view of my front yard, for example:
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You know you are no longer in the city if you have a large flatbed trailer sitting not just in front of your house, but on your actual front lawn. Doesn't get much more countrified than this, unless......













you happen to have a big, rusty tractor in your back yard, which we do, of course.
And it gets better.....













Our kids have taken to playing for hours on the flatbed trailer and the logs that are all over our yards.

Convinced yet that we are no longer city folk? If not, the following picture should cinch the deal.













Yes, yes, in fact, my kids often run outside barefoot to play on the trailer.

I won't even mention that Danny routinely pees outside, because that would just be showing off.

Friday, October 16, 2009

help

I need some advice here, people. Please help me!

Lately, when Danny has come home from school, he is so riled up and overstimulated I just don't know what to do with him. He has hurt Charlotte pretty badly at least twice this week and even hurt little Tommy when he decided it would be a good idea to pick Tom up, carry him down the hall and deposit him on the bed, which Tommy promptly rolled off of. It was an accident, but a direct cause of Danny being so riled up; he has even less impulse control when stimulated. I'm sure it has something to do with the incessant rain of the last couple of weeks. He hasn't been able to go out for recess and we haven't played outside after school, so he probably has a lot of pent-up energy.

Obviously, I need to figure out what to do with the kid as winter is fast approaching and I cannot handle the hyperactivity and intense sensory seeking for much longer. Do any of you have similar issues with your kids? What do you when you can't get them outside? Help, please!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Regret

Last night Bil called me from work with some terrible news. He had contacted his old friend from college and found out that Richard's wife had died. While Bil was in college he spent a great deal of time with Richard. They were in most classes together and collaborated on many projects, including their very ambitious senior project and their movie for film class. They really enjoyed working together and shared a similar sense of humor, which is pretty amazing since Bil's humor is pretty quirky.

Eventually, the two of us couples started hanging out. Every so often we would meet for dinner, and Juliana even spent some time trying to teach me how to knit. We had a lot of fun together, even though we never could find enough time to hang out as much as we would have liked. And that was before kids, so you can imagine what happened after Danny was born.

Then, we moved from Chicago to the town we live in, and I gradually lost touch with Juliana. The thing is, even after they moved to Scotland to be closer to her family in Germany, she tried to keep in touch, but I was so overwhelmed with motherhood and daily life, I never made the time to email her. I have been thinking about her and wanting to get back in touch for months now. I even have their change of address sitting on my desk waiting for me to get off my duff and do something about it.

Now it is too late and I will never again have the opportunity to talk to her. At least not in this lifetime.

I feel so bad for Richard and their one-year-old son. I cannot imagine losing a spouse at such a young age. I wish I could do something for them. But, most of all, I am consumed with a tremendous regret at my own inaction. I am so sorry that I let a friendship die out of laziness on my side. I just kept thinking that I had all the time in the world to reconnect. And I guess I am angry with myself that I didn't prioritize better. It would have taken just a couple of minutes to write a letter or email. I'm sure there were thousands of moments over the last few years which I squandered and could have put to better use.

I know there isn't much I can do now. Juliana is gone and I hope she understands that I am truly sorry for losing touch. I liked and admired her so much; I just didn't make the time to keep our friendship going.

I want to remember this, though. I want to start living my life differently, start focusing on the things that are most important to me: my relationships. In a church meeting last week, a leader said that we are the most at peace when our daily actions reflect our governing beliefs and values. I don't think mine do. Unless my governing values have much to do with laundry and cooking and cleaning. I know some of those things are important, but I want to make sure I really pay attention to the people I love and give them my time and focus. Because I do not want to feel this kind of regret again when I lose someone I care about.

I wonder if you have any suggestions on how you prioritize your relationships. What do you do to make sure you are focusing on important things rather than letting trivial things monopolize your time? I could use the suggestions.

Friday, October 2, 2009

someone pass me the chocolate cake--I just had an IEP Meeting

I hate IEP meetings. I really, really do. The night before, I get a little nervous and just a touch nauseated at the prospect of sitting at this big table with a whole squadron of professionals who are there to list all the ways my kid is different from "normal." I know it is a touch illogical. After all, every IEP meeting I have attended has gone well. I have never been surprised by anything any teacher or therapist or psychologist has told me. I see the same delays and "deficiencies" in Danny's development that they do. And I have never had to fight for services as I know many parents do.

Still, I find myself in tears in the car after each and every IEP meeting. No matter how encouraging the teachers are, no matter how thorough we are in developing accommodations to assist Danny in his learning, I still come away feeling depressed.

Today, I realized that part of me, on some level, must have thought that by kindergarten, Danny would have totally caught up. I think I assumed that at this point, Danny would no longer need special services. Obviously, I need to change the way I think on this matter. I need to accept that he may struggle with some of these issues for the rest of his life. And you know what? That just sucks. It really, really does.

I know that it isn't the end of the world. I know that none of these labels or challenges change who my son is. I know that everyone struggles with different issues. We all have challenges. I know that these challenges don't define who he is and that he might just be OK. But sometimes those rationalizations just don't help me feel better. They don't always allay my fears for his future--both academic and social. They don't make it any easier watching my kid struggle with things other kids pick up with no help at all.

And though I know that life is not fair, I still occasionally feel a deep sense of injustice that my kid has these problems at such a young age.

On the way home I thought about why I struggle with IEP meetings. I wondered what it would take for me to come away from one without crying. And I realized that it would take the staff telling me that Danny no longer needs services. The meeting in which they tell me I no longer have to attend IEP meetings will be the meeting I come away smiling. Because though Danny has progressed and come such a long way and made enormous strides, I think I will always feel just a bit sad over all that he has to overcome.

And frankly, I am sick to death of people (no matter how loving, good intentioned, and knowledgeable they may be) telling me how different Danny is or what he needs to work on. I am so tired of evals and recommendations and accommodations and special ed crap. I just am. And even writing this makes me feel guilty.

I'll get over it. Don't worry about me. I just need to vent. And maybe spend some good quality time with the kids tonight playing games and making pigs in a blanket. That should cure my foul mood.....

Oh, yeah, that and a giant piece of chocolate cake with tons of frosting.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

approaching balance

In recent weeks I have had at least three conversations with friends about knowing one's limits and not being ashamed of them. I think I am finally realizing that it is ok to protect one's sanity, family time and say no to some things. I have spent so much time comparing myself to other women. "Why can't I juggle more activities, like J?" "Why do I get so stressed when I multi-task? D can do it with ease." You get the picture.

I have a friend who is constantly taking on more and more. She, at one point, was working full-time at night, while taking college classes during the day and caring for her family, which at the time included 2 kids (now it includes 4). Sadly, but not surprisingly, the stress and schedule took its toll physically and mentally and she had a bit of a breakdown. The really scary part, at least to me, is that she didn't really come away from the experience any wiser about her limits. She still seems to be trying to prove that she can do it all.

Though I can clearly see how unhealthy her attitude is, when I talk to her for any length of time, her thinking starts to rub off on me a bit. I begin to wonder why I can't handle more. Why I can't put more on my plate and cope? Of course, I remind myself that she ISN'T really coping, but still, it bothers me that I have that tendency to measure myself by how much I can get done.

Just tonight, it was brought home to me once again that I need to trust my instincts and honor my limitations. Months ago a friend asked me to teach the teen girls some really simple jewelry-making. I initially said no, because the activity would take place on a Wed. night and I would have to bring my kids, since Bil is working nights now. This would not only be stressful for me, but it would push their bedtime back an hour. And my kids don't do all that well if they don't get adequate sleep.

Yet, still, I said ok. I decided it wouldn't be too big of a deal. I could handle it.

And I did, but in the end it didn't seem worth it. Tommy fussed for the better part of the evening. It was well past his bedtime and he was exhausted. Danny and Charlotte were ok, but I was worried the whole night, because Danny and another boy there don't always play that well together. They are very much alike and tend to get too rough with each other. The whole time I was showing the girls how to finish off their bracelets, I was trying to soothe Tommy, while also periodically peeking outside to make sure no one was dead. I was stressed. I was tired. I just wanted to get the kids home and in bed where they belonged so I could relax. Have some peace and quiet.

I know it wasn't something that would stress some other people out, but this is exactly the kind of activity that is hard for me. This is also the reason why I rarely have people over for dinner. It is too hard for me to juggle the kids, converse with the guests, make the food and actually have fun.

This was a bit of an epiphany tonight: I can do these things. I am perfectly capable of juggling multiple activities and chores, but the likelihood of me enjoying myself while doing so is practically nonexistent. I get overwhelmed and frustrated and then often take the stress out on my family.

And, you know? That's ok. This is who I am, and as much as I am trying to change and become a better person, I just don't think this part of me will change anytime soon. I don't think I will ever be the kind of person who thrives in a really hectic, noisy setting. I like peace and quiet and calm. I don't like chaos.

Obviously, as a mother, chaos is part of the job, and again, I can handle it, but it is definitely not my state of choice. I like to make plans and be prepared. I like to have down-time and days where I am not expected to be social. I like to be alone sometimes. I really like some semblance of order and work so much better in that type of environment.

While I used to think these attributes were signs of weakness, signs that I can't handle enough, I am beginning to recognize that a mature person knows her limits. A healthy woman can say no to things even when her reasons seem totally insignificant to other people. It doesn't matter that any other person at church could have dealt with tonight with ease. I get stressed at these things. I know this and I need to start acknowledging it.

I know a certain amount of stress comes with life. I am not recommending eliminating it completely. I guess what I am in favor of is really considering whether the stress is worth it. Is it worth it to my family or my sanity to do a particular activity? Sometimes the answer would be yes.

And other times, like tonight, the answer would be no. And, you know? That is OK.