Saturday, January 31, 2015

Day in the Life: Winter 2015

Today is Wednesday, January 28.

5:00 a.m. I hear an alarm, a very pleasant-sounding chimey melody, and I realize it's Tim's, not mine.  Good.  I see the time and think, have fun!  I nod back off and he gets ready and heads to the gym.

6:00 a.m. My turn to get up.  At the sound of my alarm, I reach over and turn it off.  The promise of taking my first sips of coffee in solitude compels me to swing by legs over the side of the bed instead of falling right back asleep.  I've managed to keep up this habit for several months and it is one of the best things I do for myself.  I totally understand not doing it if you're not getting a full night's rest, as I know many of my peers do not.  Getting a head start on these kids in the morning is very advantageous.
I brush my teeth, make my bed, and head out to the living room with my coffee and phone for morning devotion.

6:40 a.m. Timmy comes out and asks if he can wake up the girls.  I usually wake them up at 6:45, but I tell him to go ahead.  We've got a laid-back Wednesday in store.  This is the hardest part of the day right here between 6:45 and 7:35, just getting everybody up and going and out the door.  Sometimes that part goes okay, sometimes great, and sometimes very, very badly.  I never know what kind of a morning it's going to be.
The top sign says, "No trespassing, pirates' property."  The bottom one says, "No boys aloud exept Daddy.  Secret code 'frozen' (written backwards and upside down)."  Annie also penciled in "Mama is not aloud" one time when she was mad at me.
7:15 a.m. Tim is back from the gym and starts making his usual breakfast of oats with peanut butter, honey and bananas.  He enlists the help of Delaney to stir the oats while he gets dressed.  She's already completed her tasks for this morning, eaten breakfast and I've already fixed her hair, so things are going well today.  Annie's eating breakfast at this point and she's not in a mood to have her picture taken.  So I back off with the camera with the caveat that one day when she's reading back through these kind of posts, she might wonder why she isn't in them.  Just a thought.
A few minutes before it's time to leave, I check the forecast on my phone.  It's a chilly day in the Lowcountry.  34 right now and only 47 for the high.  I tell the girls they'll need jackets and hats.  They both wear gloves too, but Annie doesn't want to wear her hat.  I decide that's OK.
My reminder must have made a difference to Annie because she agrees to pose for a picture with Delaney a little while later.  It's Delaney's idea for them to take a picture with their little tubes of Chap-Stick.  They've got to have that today!  I notice for the hundredth time that these girls have outgrown these jackets and it really is time for new ones.  Especially poor Annie.  
7:35 a.m. This has been an easy morning.  This is what every morning ought to be like.  Kids have done what they're supposed to do when they're supposed to do it, and I am not frustrated and barking at everybody.  Why can't it be this way all the time?  We part ways, Tim to work and the kids and I to school.  Timmy is in his pajamas still, because we're going to be coming straight back here after we drop the girls off.
8:30 to 10 a.m. Timmy and I get back to the house.  On the agenda this morning is yoga at 10:30 and nothing else.  I let Timmy watch TV after he gets dressed.  I have my customary breakfast of three eggs and a banana.  After I clean up the breakfast mess I spend some time perusing the local buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook.  I'm getting to be a little addicted to tell the truth.  It's that, what did we call it in psychology.. intermittent reinforcement.  You never know when you're going to see a great deal pop up.  Usually it's little things.  A week ago I swung by someone's house on the way back from school and picked up a couple pairs of 4T jeans for Timmy, $3 each.  A couple weeks before that I scooped up a pair of little Sperrys, excellent condition, for $5.  People leave the things on their front step and you just grab and go.  I've had all kinds of luck finding things for Timmy, not as much for the girls.  No luck at all finding stuff for my bare empty house.  Then what do I see in my feed this morning?  This beauty.
I nearly swoon.  This is my dream table.  This table was hand-built in North Carolina, most likely by that same guy who advertises in Craigslist but never returned Tim's emails while we were still living there.  It's 8 feet long and 3 feet wide, so definitely adequate even if it's a little narrower than we'd prefer.  And it's only $300 for everything!  Amazing deal.  It sells within seconds and I'm disappointed and relieved at the same time.  I have no business looking for a new table and chairs.  We just bought a set used a few months ago and it's nice enough even though the upholstered chairs are driving me crazy.  No, we don't need a new dining table.  Why can't I be content with what I have?  What we could really use is furniture and decor for the still bare and unfurnished areas of our house that embarrass me and keep me from inviting anyone over.

I have also been selling things.  Since I wrote this, I have been finding it easier to let things go.  A couple weeks ago I sold the pack 'n play and our infant carseat and base.  That was a no-brainer for me when I looked at the sticker and saw that it expires in August 2017.  Yesterday I posted our double jogger for sale, finally got Tim's blessing on that because he didn't want it to go even though we have not used it in the longest time.  I've gotten a lot of interest in it and this evening I have someone coming to look at it.  Selling is fun too, and a great way to clear the clutter.

Just what I needed, another reason to be attached to Facebook.

I get an email from Tim Sr.  It's a photo and the message, "Who do these kids look like?"  I already have this picture and love it.  It's Timmy Jr at the age of 3 with his sisters Sam and Kathy, who were 7 and 5 at the time.  Just like our trio.  Baby Karen was not in the picture, probably because as the fourth kid there are no pictures of her, as the family joke goes.
10 a.m. We leave for yoga at the Y.  This is the first time in about three weeks that I've been able to make both the Monday and the Wednesday classes.  There's always something interfering, like the 24-hour bugs that were circulating a couple weeks ago, or an appointment somewhere.  I first started going to yoga when we moved here just because it was at a time that worked for me at a place that has on-site childcare included, and I knew from past experience that I've had positive results come from it (like more flexibility and no aches and pains).  But I wasn't really excited about it because I remembered how antsy I used to feel in a yoga class, with all that dim lighting and deep breathing and holding poses and stretches for a long time.  But now, a few months later I find all of it invigorating and not boring at all.  It's challenging too.  I was sore for a day after Monday's class, but a good kind of sore like muscles had been working.  I didn't think I would like anything as much as I liked Piyo, but if I had the choice now, I would pick yoga over Piyo.  I also don't think it's an accident that my running has improved as long as I've been going to yoga regularly.
I have a big man wrinkle right between my eyes that appeared right before I turned 35.  It doesn't make me feel old at all.
This gorgeous little tree makes my day every time I come home.  I cheated and used a picture I took a few days ago on the right because the one on the left doesn't really do it justice.  What a lovely surprise, this flowering tree in the middle of January.
12:00 p.m. We get back from yoga and I get lunch for Timmy and me.  For him, it's the usual: fruit pouch, cheese stick, PB&J.  I reheat some of yesterday's chicken tortilla soup.  I made it in the crockpot yesterday.  It is phenomenal, and it's the only recipe I've found that meets my three requirements for a good crockpot meal, which are: 

1) It is a complete one-dish meal (If it's a crockpot "meal" that still requires sides to be made separately, that's no good to me, and that would include something like pulled pork that needs to be served on a bun and with a salad.)
2) It is ONE step - dump things in the pot and turn it on.  No pre-cooking of anything, no dirtying of any other dishes.  I'm OK with draining and rinsing beans, though.
3) It is delicious and at least three of the five of us will eat it on any given night.  

It is unbelievably hard to find a crockpot meal that fulfills my requirements.  An obvious idea would be beef stew, but we discovered that beef has a very unpleasant taste after being in the crockpot all day.  A friend told me that you prevent that nasty taste by searing the meat first on the stove, but that's a violation of rule #2.  (That nasty taste actually prompted Tim to make our old crockpot disappear years ago because he thought we had a bad crockpot but I was still trying to make it work.)  I am always on the lookout for new crockpot recipes and would welcome any suggestions.  I've been making the tortilla soup once a week lately, and I don't want everybody to get burned out on it.

After I take my soup out of the microwave, I put a few drops of lime juice, a few slices of avocado, and some crumbled tortilla chips on top.  Yum.
12:20 p.m. Tim gets back from work and we talk about our day so far.  He asks what's for dinner and I tell him that stir-fry is on the menu and we're going to use the shrimp we already have in the freezer.  I tell him I thought about buying beef yesterday for stir-fry, but I couldn't justify it when we already had perfectly good shrimp.  It's the shrimp that I picked that's not the kind I was supposed to get.  I find shrimp to be confusing.  Tim says, "Yeah, but it needs to be thawed, peeled and de-veined.."  "You'll show me how to do that!"  I say brightly.  But what I really mean is that he's going to be there and he's going to do it.  He changes and goes for a run, and I wrap up lunch with Timmy and get him down for a nap.

12:45 to 2:30 p.m. Tim is home for the rest of the day because we have a conference with Annie's teacher this afternoon.  I opt to make tea and hang out with him instead of taking a little nap the way I usually do.  He makes his lunch which consists of a lot of eggs and maybe some fruit.  He decides we should go out to eat tonight.  He says, "Look up that place in Bluffton that everybody liked."  Hmm, OK.  I am surprised.  First of all, we hardly ever go out to dinner, like only a handful of times each year.  Also, it's the end of January, which is a spending freeze month.  But he's the budget master so if he wants to go out, we'll go out.  

20 minutes before it's time to leave I realize that I'm still wearing my yoga pants and Cape Cod hoodie.  I jump up saying, "What am I doing?  We're going to talk with Annie's teacher and out to eat and I'm still dressed like a slob!"  Tim says, "How set are you on the idea of going out to eat?"  Now he's backpedaling .. the man can't make up his mind.  
In a jiffy I've thrown myself together.  I fail to notice how dirty the mirror is when I take this picture.  I promise that's not snot coming out of my nose, it's a smudge on the glass.

2:55 p.m. We leave for school.  How nice for all us all to be going together today to drive the maze of downtown Beaufort streets together.  We pick Annie up quickly and easily, cut over five blocks to get in Delaney's line, but it is really long.  Tim has to turn and try to get to the end of the line.  No cuts, no buts, at least in theory...  I don't know why the line is so long today.  I start to worry that we won't be back to Annie's building for our 3:45 appointment.  Meanwhile, Timmy has been telling me every two minutes since we left home that his belly hurts.

3:45 p.m. We've got the girls and are now arriving back at the K-1 building for the conference with Annie's teacher.  Timmy says, "I gotta poop!" Impeccable timing as usual.  Tim takes him to the bathroom and we are a few minutes late for our meeting, but oh well.  The kids wander around the classroom while we sit down with Mrs. C.

She tells us that Annie is a great student, and if she could clone her and maybe a few others, she'd have the easiest class in the world.  She says that she has already met her math goal for the year, and she is already reading as well as a first grader at the end of first grade.  She says socially she is coming out of her shell and interacting more.  It's hard for me to imagine since I've seen her go out of her way to not even look at teachers or other students, but there is a whole chunk of the day that we don't see.  She shows us samples of Annie's writing.  Recently she wrote a little fairy tale that goes, "Once upon a time there was a princess.  She ate an apple, then she ate another apple and then she died."  Oh, Annie.:)  We once again marvel at the difference between the way Annie wrote her name at the beginning of the school year (so shaky) and the way she writes it now with so much more confidence.

Mrs. C remarks after prefacing that she knows we move a lot since we're military, that Annie would also do really well in a more traditional, structured classroom setting.  In her classroom there are several stations set up and students enjoy being allowed to move freely from one to another, but Annie will just get a math worksheet from her and sit down and work quietly on it.  "I think Annie would honestly be happiest sitting at a desk with a stack of worksheets."  We all agree that Annie does seem to enjoy busy work and that structure and order really suit her best.  She doesn't really know what to do with options.  The point Mrs. C makes about Annie in a traditional classroom is helpful to me and I tuck it away.  

We chat for a little while longer, and Tim makes a point of letting her know that we appreciate what a great job she's doing, and that we have noticed how much Annie's learning in just a short few months.  

4:00 p.m. or thereabouts, we take the kids and go.  Tim stops by the seafood market for some fresh local shrimp already peeled and de-veined, for our stir-fry.  The shrimp we already have will stay in the freezer another night.  By now I am so hungry.  When we get home Tim tells me to get everything "prepped" and then he'll come cook.  He collapses in the la-z-boy where he'll probably take a cat nap.  Can't blame him for needing a break when his day starts at 5.  I set the timer for Delaney to do Khan Academy (math games) on the computer for a half hour.  Timmy keeps me company while I start the rice and cut up the veggies.  I feel myself becoming clumsy and short-tempered as 'Hungry Rachael" begins to take over.  I have to concentrate really hard on NOT cutting my fingers with that big sharp knife.

Timmy wants to help me by first by organizing the container cabinet -- even he's noticed that it could definitely use some help -- and then by taking a few pictures.  He has a hard time getting his little finger to reach the shutter button but he doesn't do too badly.
5:15 p.m. Delaney's turn at the computer is over and now Annie is allowed to log on to Reading Eggs for a half hour or until dinner is ready, whichever comes first.  She is very tolerant of having her brother and sister right at her elbows the whole time.
I let Tim know it's time for him to take over and I go out to check the mail.  When I come back in I tell Delaney, "It's your lucky day, girly!"  She's got two letters today -- one from her cousin Alexa in Massachusetts and the other from her Auntie Grace in Ohio.  She is so excited.  She opens them both and reads them in about two minutes flat.  Isn't snail mail fun?  Delaney has three pen pals now -- Alexa, her friend Lily from NC, and now Auntie Grace.  We're trying to get her to follow through with the the writing and mailing process because too many times she starts a letter, maybe finishes it, but then it will never find its way into an envelope.  Or it does and then sits around for a long time until we remind her to address it and put it in the mailbox.  Or it gets lost, but as far as she's concerned she's done her part and now she's waiting for a letter back.  The only reason she gets a letter from Grace is that Tim snapped a picture of a sweet note Delaney had written to her and then left on her bed.  She can't seem to get it through her head that her good intentions alone do not result in someone receiving a letter from her.  We'll keep working on that.:)
5:45 p.m. We sit down to eat at last.  I am starvin' like Marvin!  I also know that at any minute I have my person coming to see the double jogger.  So I eat fast.

About 15 minutes into the meal, Tim tells me he sees someone driving up so I go out to meet her.  She ends up passing on the stroller because her car seat adapter will not work on on an older BOB model.  I feel bad that she's gone to the trouble of coming out here for nothing.  She was even kept for a minute at the gate while the Marine called me to verify that I was expecting someone.

6:30 p.m. With dinner done we tell the kids to start getting ready for bed -- pajamas, teeth, and picking up their rooms.  Delaney's in charge of their bathroom sink today so she has to wipe it off.  I need to supervise Timmy because we are still unable to tell him to change into his pajamas and pick up his room, and then expect to see it done.  I've tried the reverse psychology thing, i.e., "I don't know if you're a big enough boy to change into your pajamas," but he hasn't taken the bait so far.  He will do it himself if I stay and watch and coax him through it.  
6:50 p.m. Annie assists as I make the girls' lunches for the next day.  We are getting low on everything.  Not many snack foods left.  I do the commissary shopping on Friday, and I never seem to get enough to last all week.  The cupboards are getting bare.
7:05 p.m. Off to bed!
Before lights out I read them a chapter of Rush Revere and the American Revolution.  My mom gave it to Delaney for Christmas and it's a fun book.  It's like a Magic School Bus for American history and Delaney eats it up.  Annie has the camera now, and she takes selfies and shots of Timmy's feet. 
He still has cute little baby feet.
7:30 p.m. Prayers are said, kids are in bed.  I check my email and I have one from Carolyn, Tim's mom, with pictures from the blizzard.  She says, "You show a flowered tree and this is what we have.  Good old New England."  Here is my favorite picture of the bunch:
One of my kids would be the one to open that door.  Eek!
They might be jealous of us this time of year, but come summer I am jealous of them because they don't have the kind of heat and humidity that forces you to stay in the air-conditioning from 9 in the morning until 9 at night.  And their pools don't feel like bathwater.  Plus, there is so much more to do in New England.  Here, if you don't want to fish or swim, your only option is to drive to Charleston.  Every place has its pros and cons.

I get on Facebook and message the next person interested in the stroller and we arrange for them to come over tomorrow.  I think this thing's going to sell quickly.  I do my bible study reading.  I finally found a bible study!  Or rather it found me because the mom of the other Delaney and Timmy who live down the street invited all of us in the Officer Spouses Club a few weeks ago.  I jumped at the opportunity.  I'm so glad to have this.  I was sad to leave my bible study group in NC and hoped I'd find another here. 
9:45 p.m. We both head back to bed.  I make fun of Tim like I always do for wearing a hoodie to bed.  He takes it off before he goes to sleep, but this is his pre-sleep ritual: hoodie, iPad and earbuds.  And coffee -- he drinks coffee as he winds down for sleep.  Who does that?
My hands are so dry and cracked just from walking outside this morning without gloves and then washing my hands a hundred times since.  He laughs at me as I put gloves on over my lotioned hands before calling it a night.  I guess we both have some strange ways.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Timmy Says

This little guy delights and amuses me so much.  I love seeing the world through his eyes, listening to his commentary, and answering his questions -- although sometimes I think my answers disappoint him.  There are times when I'm like, "I don't know, Bud."  And there are times I try a little harder.  But I just enjoy our time together so much.

On the way home for lunch today he was pointing out things he saw along the way, and one of the things was, "Look, Mama, a monster truck!"

I said, "Oh, I didn't see it."

"It's back there, you missed it," he said.  "Mama, how do you drive a monster truck?"

"I guess you drive a monster truck like you drive anything else: you start it up, put it in gear and then go, right?"

"No, I mean, how do you get inside the monster truck because it's so high?"

"Maybe there's a step you can use to climb," I offered.

"No, there's no step.."  (After a pause) "I just don't know how you get up there.."

"I bet there's a ladder that comes down or maybe some steps that come down when you open the door," I said.

"Mama, can we go in a monster truck sometime?"

"But I don't know anyone who has a monster truck, Buddy, who I could ask.."

"We can go on that one, we can just use it," he said.

"But we can't just go into somebody's truck without their permission."

"You can just ask her."  He was getting exasperated.  Why couldn't I see how simple of a matter this really was?

"Do you remember the time when there was someone waiting outside CCD in a Jeep Wrangler that had no roof, and she saw you looking and offered to let you sit in it?"


"Well, maybe something like that will happen sometime with a monster truck."

That seemed to settle the matter for him, and he moved on to something else after that.  We talked all the way home about this or that, and my heart swelled with appreciation for the fun little person he is and for being able to share all these little moments with him.  He's growing up so fast.  I hope he always wants to talk to me about all kinds of things.

On a sidenote, does anyone have a monster truck he can get in?  It would really make his day.

Monday, January 12, 2015

When you're 'done'

I remember asking the question, during a prenatal exam with my midwife Sherry almost four years ago, "How do you know when you're done having kids?"  I was staring at the ceiling while I asked the question, so it wasn't immediately apparent whom the question was directed at.  "You're not asking me, are you?" asked Sherry's assistant Debbie, with a guffaw.  "You know you're done when it doesn't work anymore!"  I smiled, not surprised by this answer.

Sherry seemed deep in thought as she probed my swollen belly with her hands.  "Well.." she started, and then began describing the timing and circumstances surrounding the conceptions of each of her four children.  I was only half-listening, I have to confess, so I only caught bits and pieces of her thorough answer.  "Then we talked about having another, and oops, I was already pregnant... Then we were finished having kids and we made that decision final when our youngest was three.."

I know what motivated me to ask the question.  It's the same question I've heard echoed by many other women who have an easy time conceiving and bearing children, and are worried that they might not only not be able to stop -- they also might not want to.  At the time I was expecting my third kid in four years and I was overwhelmed for multiple reasons, but at the same time so full of joy and anticipation.  I knew that I had a pretty challenging time ahead of me with my husband being deployed until the baby was six months old, and I did wish that maybe our timing could have been better with this one.  I'd also fielded some well-meaning but somewhat rude comments from some people in regard to our apparent fecundity.  At the commissary recently, I'd run into a master gunnery sergeant that Tim and I had gone to Iraq with years ago before Tim and I were together.  He'd taken in the sight of me with my big belly and my shopping cart with a one-year-old and a three-year-old inside and said, "Does he ever leave you alone?"  "He's leaving me alone for a whole ten months while he's on a MEU!" I'd replied cheerfully. "But he'll be back," he'd said, his voice low and his eyes wide.

So as I lay on Sherry's exam table mulling all of this over, it seemed very likely that if we didn't come up with a better family planning method besides sending Tim away on deployments, I could easily end up with at least two or three more kids, as I was 31 at the time.  That scared me.  On the other hand I was sad at the thought of ever being done with having babies. I hoped that when the time came to be done that I would have a clear sign that it was time, and that I'd be happy and at peace with that. (And that hopefully I wouldn't have 10 babies like Debbie by then.  I was pretty sure I couldn't handle that.)

Time went by.  Timmy was born.  My husband came back as the master gunny had warned.  We learned a method of NFP together and practiced it, as opposed to saying we were using NFP when we were really just winging it.  We successfully avoided having a baby during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2013.  (This was a huge relief as I had been petrified of the idea of having another baby by myself.)  Then we continued to avoid pregnancy for several months after he got back, and just enjoyed a kind of carefree time.  I needed lots of time to recover after those few years of having our three and then dealing with the back-to-back deployments.  And lots of time I got.

After awhile we began to be lax about the NFP.  Without talking about it we knew we were both drawn toward having another baby.  I had never believed that Timmy would be the last even though I had declared that he was immediately following his birth.  Now it seemed like another baby would be a good thing.  When we got orders to Parris Island I felt sure that we'd be having baby number four here.

Well, after 12 months of trying .. nothing.  I think that makes me (us) officially infertile.  Secondary infertility is what it's called.  My chances will only continue to dwindle from here on out as I get older.  I'm starting to accept that another baby is not to be.  I am in a MUCH better place emotionally about this now than I was even a few weeks ago, and that's why I found myself wanting to write about it here.  When I was still feeling anxious and sad I just wanted to keep it all to myself and it was hard even talking to Tim about it.

I realize now what miracles the three kids we have really are.  I definitely didn't appreciate that in the past.  I took my fertility for granted, and saw it even as a burden.  But I am so very grateful that we had them one after another while we could.  And now when I look back at the timing of Timmy, I realize that that it was perfect.  I used to think that we had made a mistake conceiving him when we did, but now I wouldn't go back and change a thing.  I realize that God's plans are better than mine and they always were.  And the fact this inability to conceive comes AFTER three easy pregnancies and three kids .. I know I shouldn't even complain.  There are so many others who have it far worse with multiple miscarriages or never being able to get pregnant.

The hardest time of the past year was when the window came and went for having a summer 2015 baby.  The other three were born in summer or close to it, and I thought it would be the perfect time, especially since they wouldn't be in school.  Then fall passed and with it that opportunity, and that was a tough time because at that point we'd been waiting and hoping for eight to ten months.  We were able to make some fun plans for summer that we would not be able to do if we were having a baby, and that helped me to feel better about that.

When Debbie said, "You know you're done when it doesn't work anymore," I just assumed that meant menopause.  (In her case, I'm pretty sure it did.  Her kids ranged in age from in her 20s and just-married all the way down to four and just weaned.  She'd have kept right on going if she could have.  I thought she might be a little crazy.;))  Now I know that for mysterious reasons nobody can understand, not everyone who wants a baby, or has had one in the past, can have one.  I guess I always knew that but never knew it applied to me.

I read a blog post that I loved right in the middle of this year-long quest.  It is written by a Catholic mom of a lot of kids, but I think no matter what your faith is, or where you stand regarding contraception, it is such an enlightening and refreshing perspective (and there are great pictures too!).  Everybody worries that they'll have too many children, and they never stop to consider they might not have any.  Or they might only be able to have one or two.  I thought it especially interesting how low birthrates were in 1930 to 1939, a time before birth control was widely in use.  She concluded by saying that if you find yourself having an unplanned pregnancy, it could be the best thing that ever happened to you (I couldn't agree more!); and if you find yourself unable to have children, or more children, it could be the biggest cross of your life.  She also reminded us that a lot of this is not in our control anyway, so we should all just stop worrying about it so much.  Reading this again months after the first time, I think this last part is the most important thing to take away.  We always think it's up to us to be in control of our lives and when things don't go according to plan we become anxious and worried.  I know that's been the case for me, someone who has been on both sides of wanting a baby and not wanting one.

Having my pregnancy and baby years behind me at 35 is not what I envisioned, but I know that it's not a bad thing.  Those years were amazing and life-transforming, and I will always cherish the memories and pictures.  But if I'm being honest with myself, those were some tough times too.  Even though I had easy labors and births, I took a long time physically and emotionally to feel like myself again afterward.  I have also never handled lack of sleep very well, and the kids I have are keeping me on my toes enough as it is.  Add a few more years of age to all of this, and I'm sure it only becomes more taxing.  This isn't the time to be using up all my reserves and going back to survival mode.

I think it's time to grow and change in other ways.  I want to push myself to do the things I'd never try if I thought I was having a baby anytime soon.  I could run another half-marathon or even another full marathon.  I want to teach a CCD class next year, and that is so outside my comfort zone which is all the more reason I should.  That's something that I would excuse myself from even thinking about if there was a baby on the way.  Some people do it all with babies but I was never one of those people.  Once Timmy's in school five mornings a week next year, I can volunteer more at school.  I can continue taking care of the family that I have and look for ways to do it even better.  It isn't like they don't need me enough!  And we have so many good times ahead as the kids get older.  One day in just a few years, we'll go to an amusement park and every one of us will be tall enough to ride all the rollercoasters.  I've already gotten used to having no kids in diapers.  It's only been six months but it feels like forever.

I've gotten rid of most of my baby stuff that I know I could find a dime a dozen on Craigslist -- bouncers, high chairs, play mats, and nearly all the clothes.  I could get rid of the pack 'n play too, and the one remaining crib mattress.  The things that I can't let go of, and that Tim thinks I shouldn't get rid of either are the Ergo (that thing cost $100 and they're not cheap on the used market either), the really nice glider and ottoman, and the infant carseat with bases that doesn't expire until I think 2018 (the Chicco one I got brand new after our accident in 2012).  I am conflicted about keeping all these things.  It goes against my anti-clutter philosophy.  I know someone else could be using these things right now while we continue to hoard them.  That seems selfish.  Also, the fact that we keep these things means we haven't quite let go of the dream, right?  Now we could save the glider and ottoman to give to one of our kids.  The Ergo too, if they want it, but I doubt they will unless they like baby gear that's out of style.  Maybe one of my girls will wear it proudly -- her vintage Ergo.  The car seat will have long ago lost its usefulness.  We really should sell that soon.  We only used it for Timmy a few months before he switched to a convertible.  It would be a great deal for somebody, and it wouldn't be the end of the world if we ever needed a new one.  (Please God, don't let that happen when I'm 42!  There I go again, worrying about things I can't control..)

That's enough rambling.  As I said before, I feel better about all this than I have in a long time.  Writing about it has helped me even more.  Four years ago when I asked the question, "How do you know when you're done?"  I thought I still had all the time in the world, and my biggest worry was ending up like Debbie or my grandma or that picture of poor Mrs. Cottontail in Kendra's post.  It's so funny how things work out sometimes.

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year Girls' Room Redo

It was back to reality for us this morning, after the nice, relaxing long break during which I slept in every day until usually 8:30.  Tim was home with us from the day before Christmas Eve all the way until today.  In the mornings the kids would get him up without me being aware, they would eat breakfast, and I would come out as he was getting ready to go running or to the gym.  I had some leisurely mornings, that's for sure.  I wasn't even staying up late at night either.  I was just catching up on sleep, to the tune of nine or ten hours a night!

When I wasn't being a sloth, I felt so rested and energized.  I ran every other day, at whatever time I felt like it, almost always the same four-mile loop around base.  I did some organizing projects that I'd been putting off forever.  I went through the storage closet, the one that has everything from extra kitchen chairs to kids' art supplies, to books to appliance boxes and basically everything.  While our current house is very spacious, what it lacks is storage.  This one closet, along with a much smaller closet in the hallway, are the only storage we have now.  In our house in NC, we filled up a huge attic with stuff.  But when you have less space to put things, it's amazing how many things you can find that can either be sold, donated or tossed in the trash.  So I did that yet again, finding used up art supplies and weeding out the broken crayons, purging and organizing.  We'll see how long it stays nice and neat this time.  I did the same thing with my side of our walk-in closet.  There's something about this spring-like weather, when the windows are all open and the breeze is coming in, that inspires me to get things like this done.  That AND the 10 hours of sleep.:)  

The real highlight was finally getting around to fixing up the girls' bedroom.  I'd been waiting forever and ever, it felt like, to do that.  But life is busy and Tim wanted to wait until we had a "real plan", which we never did come up with.  I threw together a list of things one night and we -- mostly he -- went on a few shopping trips to get everything we needed.  I don't like shopping but he doesn't mind, so he'd go to a store, text me pictures and I'd say yay or nay.  For example, he wanted to get fabric bins for the toys and I said "baskets!"  It was kind of thrown together with a mix of new and old things, and I am so pleased with how it turned out.

At first I tried to fight the pink and purple, but eventually I gave in.  Why fight it?  This room is all-out girly and proud of it.  They only get to be this little once, and they've got the whole rest of their lives to use sophisticated and grown-up color palettes in their decorating.  Maybe they'll be able to help me with grown-up colors since I am inept.

My biggest priority in their room, maybe even more important than making it pretty, was establishing a place for everything that they could easily find and remember.  I wanted to give them easily accessible storage, and take away any excuse they ever had for not picking up after themselves.  This was always necessary, but even more so after all the new toys they got for Christmas.  It's also a good time, with the start of a new year, to really focus our efforts on teaching them good habits like picking up after themselves.  Toward the end of last year I found myself very sloppily enforcing clean-up, and then getting frustrated when they kept leaving messes every time I turned around.  So this room redo also served to hit a reset button, with everything neat and organized, and me being consistent about making sure that they're putting things where they belong.

This room is like a fresh start.  It makes me really happy.  I have no before pictures, but it was just a blank slate.  Nothing on the walls, nothing on the windows.  The bedding from TJ Maxx provided the only color the room had.  The windows have the base housing standard-issue, ugly, I-didn't-even-know-there-was-a-such-thing-so-cheap-and-flimsy vertical blinds, but they long ago lost their functionality because they come out too easily at the hands of kids who don't know how to be gentle.  When closed they look like a smile that's missing teeth, so we've been forced to keep them open, thereby letting our neighbors see our entire life through these windows.  But again, we didn't want to get curtains until we knew what we were going to do with the rest of the room.  We debated curtain color right up until Tim showed these ones to me at Target, but now I think they're perfect.

I am still not completely done in here.  I'd like an actual area rug to go between the beds and the bookshelf, probably something white and fuzzy but we'll see.  I'd also like a different french bulletin board.  The old pink gingham one that we've had since Delaney's nursery in MA is pretty dingy, and I think they could use a bigger size.  I'm also not overly attached to the bedding, although I love the green ruffly pillows.
It was Tim's idea to move the bookshelf he built into the closet, and then I took out this little cube storage thing that used to sit in the closet and hold shoes, and put books in it.  That big bookshelf Tim built with the really deep shelves is better storage for other things besides books, as you will see.  The shelf is also from Delaney's old nursery, and I finally had a place to display one of their Precious Moments birthday trains from Auntie Gayla. 
The bulletin board is at their level so they can update it with pictures and notes as time goes on.  I rescued most of these pictures from my mom's 2014 Shutterfly calendar which I'd already tossed in the recycling bin.
The hands-down best thing about this room, and it was MY idea, is this closet.  
I really wish I'd taken a before picture, but it all happened so fast once I got Tim come around to my vision.  Picture a couple of gigantic heavy sliding doors that were now dangling from the top of the doorframe because they'd come detached from the floor.  Ugh.  Their school clothes were on the left, their dresses were on the right, the shoes were in the middle, and we had to keep sliding the big dangling doors back and forth, back and forth..  But it never would have occurred to me that those doors needed to go were it not for this blog post by Deme, who is actually a former coworker of Tim's -- small world.  

The first couple of times I told Tim, "I read this blog, and I really think those closet doors need to go," he tried to put me off.  "They don't come out," is what he first told me.  Then it was, "Where will we put them?"  Probably a better question.  But eventually he gave in to my nagging perseverance, and he popped them right out and put them in Timmy's closet.  Timmy doesn't need his closet the way the girls do.  When I saw that closet without those big, unwieldy doors I was like, 'Finally I can get to work!'

Tim found the crushed white sheer panels at Big Lots and they are hung on a pressure-mounted shower curtain rod.  We have warned all three kids repeatedly how easily they can tear it all down, and so far we've had no incidents.  The vinyl quote above is from Target.  (It gave me a chuckle when it finally came to me where I'd heard those words before -- in an Aerosmith song! -- not where I would think to go for inspiration for a  little girls' room.  I'm revealing my age with that one, huh?)  

Inside we have the baskets for their American Girl doll stuff, Lego Friends, and other toys.  The chevron bin on the bottom right is for stuffed animals, and I've told them they get to have as many as will fit in there.  Any more and something has to go.  Top shelf on the right, hidden by the curtain is where we keep games, puzzles and Rainbow Loom.  They have to ask for one of us to get them down because until they can prove themselves consistent at picking up when they're done, they have restricted access to those things.  On the top left are my keepsake boxes of their baby stuff, and birthday train boxes.  The basket at the top middle is where I will toss clothes as they outgrow them, another idea from Deme.

Delaney picked out the "Your are My Sunshine" canvas to the right of the closet at Home Goods.

For over their beds, we had tossed around a few ideas.  One was another vinyl tree decal like they had in NC, but I'm glad we didn't do that because these textured walls make it kind of difficult as Tim found out with the little quote over the closet.  Another thing I thought would be nice was some kind of framed initial over the beds, maybe one of their old wooden letters with a frame around it.  Another thing I'd seen in a search of shared girls' bedrooms were starburst/sunburst mirrors over the beds.  I had a Pinterest board full of these ideas.  Tim found this mirror at Lowe's and actually brought home two of them so we could see which way we liked better.  We decided the mirror was big enough that we only needed the one to go in the middle.  I was really happy with that purchase.  That mirror is a good thing to have in our repertoire.
That wine holder in lieu of nightstand is also from Delaney's old nursery.  At some point a real nightstand would be nice, and a little lamp too, but not a priority right now.

Even their new robes and slippers have a designated spot.
We got everything done in just two days, and all that remained were curtain holdbacks, which we really needed.  These curtains are wide and blackout-lined, and they didn't want to want to stay open and let any light in during the day.  But to my surprise, holdbacks were not easy to find at all.  Tim went out and came back two different times saying he couldn't find them, and I was like, 'What do you mean you can't find some holdbacks, they're the only thing this room needs to be done!'  I looked online and found some I liked on Bed, Bath & Beyond's website, but they were $20 apiece.  Then we went to Walmart to see what they had, and theirs were hideous.  We thought that surely we could make something this simple ourselves, even if only as a temporary measure.  I found some stretchy ribbon (used for making headbands?), cut it into 12-inch lengths and tried to reinforce the edges so they wouldn't unravel.  Tim put hooks in the walls, and there you go.  
Time will tell how long they last but they will do for now.  I found another great idea for DIY tie-backs on Pinterest that maybe I'll try when these are done.  Minus the Command Hook of course.  Tim looks down on Command Hooks being used in decor (he can be kind of a snob about certain things).  I can't find the source for this photo, but looking at that textured wall that's the same color as ours and the curtains identical to ours, I wonder if it's another base housing dweller.

And that's it!  I think that, short of painting, we did a great job transforming this room into something functional, pretty and suitable for a pair of five- and seven-year-old sisters.