Monday, June 30, 2008

Then and Now

The top two pictures are of Ben and Chris. The bottom two are of Anna and Chris. I'm completely flabbergasted that they look so alike. They are so different to me. When someone says, "Wow, she looks a lot like Ben!" I think, "Wow, you are freaking crazy!" But I guess they have a point. I just can't see it because I'm too close. I know what a gentle jokester Ben was at this age, and what a spitfire Anna is, living so close to the edge of so many emotions.

Chris loves them the same. He nuzzled Ben just as much as he cuddles Anna. His little babies. His growing children. I know he's scared of disappointing them, of disappointing me, of them growing up too soon. He thrives on family time, and when he has to leave us (especially when we're all happy), he keens with longing. I can see it on his face as he reaches in for one more hug, one more kiss, one more tickle.

Looking at these pictures of Ben then as Anna is now is such a mind-mess. It reasserts the concept that Anna, in a blink, will be a toddler. A 2.5yo scrambling onto Mommy and Daddy's bed to watch a favorite movie, asking for cookies and chocolate milk, running up to my legs to hug me fiercely after an absence. I'm dizzy at the idea, but I'm so looking forward to it. *I wonder what she'll be like.*

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Universe is Heavy Tonight

It might be the dull layer of chest cold that is hovering over me. It might be the oppressive humidity that sticks to your skin like watermelon juice. It might be the melodramatic, beautiful music I'm listening to on iTunes (Damien Rice). The mania of a little boy discovering the sprinkler for the first time this summer has mellowed into a quiet heaviness.

Nothing is ever really easy. You know the saying that goes something like, "True love shouldn't be hard"? I've never bought that. If your relationship is so easy that it never feels like an effort, you are incredibly special. I've never had an "easy" relationship because of this dang monologue that is always going on in my head. This absolutely singular "me" that remains nestled under the mommy-ness and the wife-ness sometimes tries to briefly forget the happy commitments that make my life secure.

My life is not in turmoil. My marriage is solid. We appreciate each other every day, I express my gratitude for his awesomeness every day. I revel in his adoration like settling into a warm, cozy featherbed on a winter's night.

Still, the universe is heavy tonight.

Let's lift the mood a bit. We started Anna on a course of gentian violet last night. That awful purple/blue dye that stains everything. The nystatin is a pain in the butt. I'm a dedicated, attentive mother, but I have a hard time remembering to give her a dose four times a day for two weeks. So instead of going through another course of the sticky goo, I decided I'd rather deal with the Purple Monster for four days. It's cute.

Anna is doing well in her new sleeping area in the dining room. She seems comfortable in there, and she's been sleeping soundly. She still wakes every couple of hours, but she's able to fall back asleep with some butt pats from Chris. Last night, she had a harder time getting to sleep after our night feeding, but I think that was an anomoly in our new system and was probably due to the humidity.

I was playing laptop games in the dining room tonight after I put Anna down. She wasn't sound asleep yet, and it seemed to comfort her that she could see me nearby as she drifted off. Ben came into the room a couple of times to see me. On the third time, he noticed Anna sleeping in the crib.

"Shhhh," he whispered to me with wide eyes.

With a smile, he started pushing his little chair over to the crib so he could climb up and peek in at her. It was a charming idea, but very detrimental to the continuity of Anna's sleep, so I stopped him, but I was delighted. "Shhh." He's never said that before.

When the weather cools off this weekend, Chris and I are going for a marathon stroller walk. He borrowed some discman speakers from a friend, and we're going to listen to an audiobook as we walk. We're hoping it will be good incentive to walk longer than we normally do, and to walk more often to hear the story. Our first trek will be three miles.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Shush Little Girl

I guess I just kind of hoped that this would happen on its own. She'd just grow out of it, and we wouldn't have to do anything. She'd fall asleep on her own, and she'd sleep all night long. Because that's what Ben did, right? Funny thing. I don't remember. Didn't blog way back then.

Part of it may be that she was still in our room. We have a small two-bedroom house. Chris and I sleep in the first floor bedroom, and Ben sleeps upstairs, which is pretty much one big bedroom. For her early months, we were comfortable keeping her in our bedroom. Made it easier to nurse at night. The months ticked by. She's 8 months old now. And she's still in our room, almost always in our bed, nursing every 90 minutes.

And I'm tigered. Pronounced Tie-gurred. Family thing. Especially on the days when I'm working, of course, because not everyone there takes naps for two hours in the afternoon, though one young man is known to lay his head on his arms during the lunch hour and check out.

Chris had a tough time these past couple weeks, as we've tried a few different things. He'd stay up with her until midnight, rocking her, holding her while she slept, just so I could sleep undisturbed. But once he went to bed, I was on duty. If she woke up, I would go get her from the packnplay in the corner, and she'd latch on and fall asleep eventually. Sometimes, I could pull her off and put her back in her crib, othertimes, she'd wake up crying when I'd put her down, and we'd have to nurse again to get her to go back to sleep.

All night long. On good nights, I'd manage to sleep with her next to me. The past two nights, I've been sneaky. I'll nurse her to sleep on my side of the bed, then I'd pull her off, roll out of bed, put a pillow where I was, and go sleep on the living room couch. Of course I'd still have to go back in when she woke up again, but at least I could sleep on my own, in the position of my choice. She sleeps well on our bed, but we don't sleep well with her in it.

This morning, we pulled off the bandaid. Before work, Chris brought down her crib from Ben's room. The big behemoth now sits in the corner of our dining room where it will remain until she's a champion sleeper and won't disturb Ben.

Tonight, she will not be coming into bed with us. We're doing a modified Ferber method. When she wakes up, Chris will try to calm her down with pats and whispered sweet nothings. If that doesn't work, he will pick her up and sway. If she still doesn't put her fingers in her mouth to suck herself back to sleep, he'll rock her for a few minutes. Then down she goes again. Repeat. I don't imagine he'll sleep much tonight, and I wish I could feel sorry for him, but he hasn't had my sleep schedule for the Last Eight Freakin' Months. A week or so of sleep training won't kill him.

We'll let her cry for a while, but not for more than five or ten minutes. If her crying escalates, we'll go back in and comfort her. We're not focusing on her sleeping right now. We are focusing on eliminating all but one night feeding.

And it won't kill Anna. I hope. I'm typing this now in the dining room, where she fell asleep with me in the room, but not holding her. I have "Baby Mine" playing on repeat on iTunes. Shush, little love. Mommy and Daddy love you very much.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Scream

Curious note: Ben absolutely refuses to eat ice cream. Like many toddlers, he shakes his head no and turns his face away when we offer him something (unless he recognizes it as cheese). We have even, get this, tried to sneak it in his mouth when he's not looking. We figure once he gets a taste, he won't say no anymore. Nope. He wants nothing to do with it.

Hi. My name is Cheryl. I’m addicted to ice cream.

I don’t think I realized it until last Saturday when I talked myself out of cutting back. Earlier in the day, my husband and I had agreed that we will no longer have ice cream every evening. Instead, we will save the frosty treat for Wednesday afternoons when we walk to the ice cream parlor near work. We shook on it.

Yeah. That didn’t last long. Knowing that I wouldn’t have ice cream that day made me crave it all the more. I yearned. I ached. I needed. Within hours, I had devised a scheme to convince my husband that we should amend our previous resolution.

“It’s too hard to just quit cold turkey. We should start tapering off, say every other day for a couple weeks, then every third day, etc. We could have ice cream tonight, and then again on Monday, and then on our date on Wednesday.”

After a great deal of eye rolling, he acquiesced.

Our weight has stabilized at a forty-pound loss since January. We exercise occasionally, and overall, we eat better. I can only guess that the weight would keep dropping off if we would just stop eating the ice cream.

Chris loves chocolate, I favor simple vanilla. If it’s an option, we both love mint chocolate chip. What’s your favorite flavor? Where do you get your icy indulgences? If it’s not ice cream, what is your guilty pleasure?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

mamaHow: New Eyes

It's like a wikiHow, but from me. When I mentioned that I had learned how to forgive and move on from difficult incidents in my past, you said it might be valuable to share how I found forgiveness. I'll try to explain.

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." --Marcel Proust

That magical afternoon in college when I was able to lose the emotional connection to my past's traumas was also the day I was able to forgive those who harmed me.

For those who are still clinging to victimhood and those who are still caught up in the throes of anxiety and grief may not be able to understand. It really took those Proust "new eyes" to find a way to forgive.

When I realized, deeply realized, that what happened to me was just a moment in time, a piece of a puzzle, that it was forever in the past, that I didn't have to "honor" the memory of the trauma, that I didn't have to carry that with me anymore, I also discovered that my bitterness and anxiety towards those who harmed me wasn't necessary.

There is a special freedom in forgiveness, because being unable to forgive is a heavy chain tying you to the pain of your past. When I released the trauma-pain from my heart and body, the heavy chain had nothing to hold onto, and it dropped away.

What happened to me was done. Not just over — it was done. While I don't have to trust those bad people, I don't have to chain them to my heart anymore with unforgiveness, because that's exactly what happens when you don't let it go. You carry them around with you, everyday. Who wants that?

If there's someone or something you need to forgive, I recommend a ceremony. I remember a quiet afternoon when I wrote down the names of people and the situations I wanted to let go of on separate pieces of paper. Then I drove to a nearby river and went to work. I read the papers one last time, then I folded each into a paper boat. For every one, as I dropped them into the water, I repeated, "The past has no hold on me. It is done." Plop, plop. The boats floated away, out of sight.

Later on, when thoughts of bitterness and anger would encroach on my peaceful heart, I would remind myself that I let that go. They aren't with me anymore.

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."
--Marcel Proust

I am not a different person. I haven't moved away. I'm still here. I did not have a choice when bad things happened to me, but I absolutely have a choice on whether or not I'm going to carry that pain along with me for the rest of my life.

PS. Panic attacks are real. Experiencing trauma that nobody should ever have to live through has real effects. It fractures your psyche. I find that the greatest healers include the laughter and love of children, the acts of kindness and gracious servitude, and the acknowledgment of the durability of the soul. Some people find faith to be a necessary component to healing, others find anti-depressants to be helpful, still others use a combination of everything. I think I fall into that last category.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Scribbling: Happy Ending

I love happy endings. Who doesn't? When the happy ending arrives, you feel as if the circle is complete, the story was fulfilling. You aren't left with disappointments and regrets.

A little over a month after I married Chris, we got "the phone call" on the morning I turned 25. It was my mother calling as she explained that my father was being transferred from the walk-in clinic to the ICU. The next couple weeks were a roller coaster of emotions ranging from anger and frustration at my father's stubborn bullheaded-ness to grief and loss at his pending death.

I remember sitting in a little consultation room with my mother and Chris as we heard from a doctor that they found a large tumor in his colon. We saw the pictures, heard the diagnosis. We knew the next steps, and we suspended our hope in the air above our heads, that once we knew the problem, they could fix it, and my father could live.

We had a happy ending. After surgery and months of chemo, my father went into remission, where he's stayed since. He exercises every day, and I think he enjoys his grandbabies more. I am more easy to forgive him his cantankerous personality, because I know how much I'll miss him when he's gone – I had to face that possibility in a real way before, and I know how deep my grief will be, how strong my attachment is.

Some people don't get happy endings. Before I met Chris, before I became a proofreader, I was a nanny to a lovely little girl and her family. I had the privilege to get to know the whole family, and I regularly babysat Claire's cousins, Isabel and Felix, two very delightful children who amazed me every time and drew me to them with their sweet, funny personalities.

I especially remember Felix, who, before his fourth birthday, told me that he'd love some throw pillows for his bedroom as a present... and maybe an accent lamp. He was a charming little boy who loved dress-up and Batman, Barbie and Spider-man. He was free with his affections, and everyone in his life loved him desperately, including me.

Last summer, I received a mass email from Claire's father, letting people know that Felix was diagnosed with brain cancer. I hadn't seen him in three years, but his precocious smile and sparkling purity were immediately forefront in my mind. It wasn't fair. Not Felix. Please, not Felix. He's one of the special ones.

His mother has blogged their journey over the last year, and I've faithfully read along, my heart caught in my throat each time, loving to read of his bravery and strength, his courage and peace through everything. Like many pediatric cancer patients, he delights and cajoles the nurses and doctors, showing far more maturity than most adults would show in his situation. I've grieved silently with his family as the diagnoses became more dire, as the tumors that seemed to have been controlled in his brain spread to his abdomen, as he weakened.

Hopefully, he has one last summer. Last weekend, he and his mother were driven in a limo to the Milwaukee Brewers game, where he threw the first pitch and basked in the applause and joyous shouts of thousands of people. He continues to make beautiful paintings and other art projects, he loves his friends and his family, and he's doing what he's done since the day he was born – loving life with no apologies and no expectations.

Maybe we all have happy endings. Felix's happy ending is a legacy of peace and joy to everyone who knows him. My father's happy ending is a new understanding of how much we love him, how much he loves us. Happy endings may not always be full of life and sunshine, hugs and kisses; maybe all we can ask for from a happy ending is closure and peace.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bucking for Sainthood

I hereby nominate my mother for sainthood. I know we're not Catholic, and she's not dead, but the scope of her kindness should override those pesky issues.

After a late afternoon call to playfully ask if she was coming down here last night instead of this morning, she pulled in at 7 pm, rescuing me from a very tiring, upsetting day with the children. We went shopping for bedsheets (400 threadcount queen set for 30 bucks), and we were home by 8:15. Put Ben in bed, fed Anna. At 9, I handed Anna to my mother and went to bed.

Bleary eyed and half asleep, I stumbled to the bathroom at 10:30. I angrily asked Chris why Nana was sleeping with Anna on the couch. He should be the one tending her. Let Nana sleep! He calmly told me to go back to bed, that Nana was going to take Anna for the night.

I forgave him around 1 am. By 2 am, when Nana carried Anna in for her *only* night feeding, I was humbled with gratitude and relief. By 5:30 when the alarm went off? I was jubilant.

The past couple months have been so difficult. Since Anna started getting ear infections in April, she's been less willing to sleep on her own in the crib. Trying to claim any sleep I can, I just pulled her into bed with us. Instead of sleeping soundly nestled against mommy, she wanted to nurse all night long. I'd doze on and off throughout the night and wake up exhausted, counting the hours until I could nap with the kids.

Yesterday morning, I woke up so tired, I felt like vomiting. So to sleep in my own bed without having to accommodate a sprawled baby? HAPPINESS. JOY. BLISS.

Seriously. Give the woman a prize, something other than my undying love and affection. She should get a trophy.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Boy Becoming

Ben was running from play area to play area at the expansive Jefferson School playground last night. "Mama?! Mama!? Whee!" His excitement was too much for his body, and his heart ran faster than his feet.

I didn't see his injury at first as I held him on my lap, letting him weep into my shoulder. I examined his feet, his knees, the palms of his hands... nothing. He craned his head away from my kisses, and I saw the red blotch on his chin where the sidewalk had ferociously scraped the skin away. He had landed on his chin.

Poor thing. I asked him if he'd like to go home, and he jumped off my lap and ran to the slides. Ha. He wasn't going to let something like a bloody chin ruin his special time at the fancy playground!

As this year speeds by with baby giggles and choo-choos, I'm left breathless when I realize that my baby is 2.5 now. Has been for a couple weeks. He has his "moments" when he is the quintessential toddler, but others when he is totally "Ben," all roars and skips, incessant mamas and cries for juice. And the hugs. Oh, the hugs. And the big "mwah" kisses that I taught him. We'll never get this moment back; this life is fleeting. This babyhood, this kingdom of toddlers, will fade, and I'll be left with many grey hairs and even more warm memories.

I still think it's a miracle how he can bring me his hurts for a kiss, and the pain magically disappears. I am the miracle worker. I am his mother.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Essence

Last week I tried to explain my desire to be a mother to a friend who just buried her father who committed suicide. She was angry and grieving, and she reiterated her intent not to ever have children, because she didn't want to bring another life into her messed up family.

I don't think that motherhood is necessary to every woman, and I try to never attempt to talk someone out of saying they don't want children. I only know why I wanted to be a mother.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom for most of my childhood, but more importantly, her whole heart and being was wrapped up in her children. (For the record, I think that's still possible if a woman works outside the home. They aren't related.) I saw how she loved us and how she thrived off of our returned affection. Other than her faith, we were "it" for her. Her life. Her essence.

I guess part of me just assumed that was what life was about, giving your heart over to your children. I never expected or planned for any other life, so when K said she didn't want children, I couldn't understand, but at least I knew I couldn't understand.

I offered my perspective, and it was interesting for me to frankly think about what I've chosen for my life. Here it is:

My whole reason for being on this planet is to learn how to love better, to experience and live grace and kindness, to live wholly and honestly as much as I am able. By having children, I've brought more opportunities for growth and learning into my life. Through them and the experiences they will have, I'm exposing myself to more trials and tribulations, more joys and successes. I'll learn how to love them fully, and they'll bring people into my life who I will learn how to love as well. I will learn new facets of love through them and with them, and since that's what I imagine life is all about, they are critical to that purpose.

I know life can be lived and lived well without children. It just feels "right" that my path is one with kids. I have no way of knowing if K is meant for children as well, but I do know that it is well within her power to raise children without repeating the mistakes of her parents. Just like I am not fettered to the mistakes of my past, she is not bound to the mistakes of hers.

I bought and read The Shack by William Young yesterday. It was an intense, illuminating experience, and the message reinforced many of the conclusions I had come to on my own. One of them is about forgiveness and moving on.

Early in my life, I experienced some trauma that left me twisted and scarred. It distorted my views on sensuality and who my body belonged to. It fractured my thinking, and I was left incomplete and broken. One afternoon in college, I experienced a relief and healing from that inner hell.

What happened is mine, and I'm not sure I'll ever blog about the details, but I will describe the result. In my mind, I encapsulated all the hurt and violence and trauma I had lived through, and I pulled it from my body. I replaced the resulting emptiness with quiet and peace. Then I took the bottled up hurt and made it a bubble, and I let it float away from me. It popped, and the contents spilled into the atmosphere, instantly diluting and becoming insignificant and just another particle of life's experience, just another molecule in the air. It had no more importance for me than a remembered road trip or a parakeet's name.

The freedom was full and exhilarating, and it's lasted. I found forgiveness and understanding. Everything that came before is gone, and what matters is what I do with my life now.

What I do with my life now is love my children, my husband, and my family. I love my life and the possibilities it holds. I don't know what tomorrow will bring, but I know that I'll try to live it fully, with peace and joy and humility. I wasn't given a second chance and I wasn't reborn; I simply did what we all have the opportunity to do, begin the new day with acknowledged purpose and grace.

Monday, June 09, 2008

It's Like A Spinach Lasagna Toss

I threw together an awesome vegetarian skillet dish tonight called a spinach lasagna toss. Starting with finely chopped onions, adding in garlic, halved grape tomatoes, chopped mushrooms, frozen spinach, a little sauce, then strips of cooked lasagna noodles, folded all together, served with a dusting of parmesan cheese and a great big dollop of ricotta cheese.

It was heaven on my plate. We blended some up for Anna, and she thought it was awful.

My post for tonight is something like my lasagna toss. A whole bunch of stuff that would be kind of boring on its own, thrown together, maybe it might turn out okay.

The thing is, I don't feel like I have a lot to blog about nowadays. It's sad. I'm interacting more with the public more than ever, but I feel small and insignificant, and it's harder and harder for me to notice bloggable moments.

What I do have is a bunch of cute pictures of my kids. Instead of just giving you a post with just those, I figured I'd insert the pictures into random spots in this monologue.

Last week, I went to my first group meeting where we actually got stuff accomplished, and it didn't feel strained or awkward, like a bunch of people sitting around trying to brainstorm. It was synergy. It happened. It felt ... thrilling.

It was a Citizen Wausau editorial board meeting. In the course of an hour and fifteen minutes, we talked through several issues, came up with many new ideas, and we probably did what might have taken us months to accomplish. I am proud to have been a part of that meeting.

That's the thing. I don't feel like a lead weight with this group. I feel like I'm a part of it, like what I say matters, like it's natural. Walking away from the meetings, I feel taller, and my heart is quiet. My brain feels ordered and like a well-oiled gear set.

Another aspect of my life that I'm trying to figure out is Dino. He's one of the co-founders of Citizen Wausau, and he's a puzzle, at least in regards to how he fits. He's so open and honest and without filter. He calls it living out loud, feeling out loud, and it took a little to get used to. At first I thought he was just crazy, rather bipolar. Now? Eh. Who knows.

Honestly? I've spent more time than I'd care to admit chatting with him. Not because he's odd, but because I'm married. I'm not sure how this works, this friendship with a man who isn't my husband. The only reason I haven't put the old kibosh on it is that there isn't a lot of sexual tension, though heaven knows I'm stimulated by this man. Mentally.

He is so intensely interesting to talk to. Sometimes, he reminds me so much of Mitch, my brother. They have the same insanely curious minds, absorbing as much information, as many experiences as possible. He's fascinating, with the breadth of his wide-reaching world. A giant personality, a huge ego, tempered by self-deprecating humor and sometimes shy humility.

So this "puzzle." It's fun, though with all the interesting people he knows, I can't figure out why he's spent so much time talking to me. Me. ME. Happily, I seem to be confused enough by the presence of another man in my life, that I've been overcompensating with Chris, and our marriage is nicer. That's sweet; we needed the boost.

Working again, even part-time, changes things with us. The balance of chores has changed, and we fight often and hard about stupid things like whose turn it is to hold Anna in the evenings or why I haven't put the laundry away yet. Because I'm proofing again (and rating a paycheck), the other stuff I do, like blog and write and do stupid word games on Facebook, not to mention quilt, isn't worth as much anymore.

When can I do it? In the evenings when Chris is home to hold Anna and run interference with Ben. And then I'm neglecting the kids, regardless of whether I'd been working that day or at home. I know. Stupid stuff. We're figuring out ways to appreciate each other more, and finding little romantic ways to touch base every once in a while.

The thing I can't blog about? My recovery from rectocele surgery. It's been a few weeks since I was eight weeks post-op, when everything should be back to normal. It's not. Right now, I'm using the fact that I'm breastfeeding and not producing a lot of estrogen to explain our "problem." I'm investing a great deal of hope in the idea that when I eventually wean Anna, my body will work again, but right now, I seem to be falling into the sixty percent of surgery patients who have problems with painful "relations" after surgery because of scar tissue.

It's sad that when I'm daydreaming and nightmaring about being accosted by a group of dangerous men with nefarious intentions when I'm alone with the kids somewhere or alone in an abandoned cubicle farm with my red pens, I'm less frightened of the emotional scarring than I am of the physical pain that would happen. When I was younger, I used to wonder if I could talk a potential rapist out of assaulting me if I told him I had my period, if I had a tampon in. Why would he want to deal with that? Right? He'd just leave me alone. That's what this feels like, but the problem is less obvious to anyone else.

Anyway. We'll figure something out. We're hoping it's not a permanent situation.

Coming up in the Life of Cheryl will be the slow installation of more ceiling fans throughout the house. I used to hate ceiling fans because I felt they were horrible for chi and for the decor. Then I grew up and realized that they are incredibly smart little machines.

We have one in our living room, and it's brilliant. We'll be eventually buying one for our bedroom, our kitchen, Ben's room and probably even our dining room. I'm hoping it'll make a big difference in our lives this summer, especially in the rooms where we can't install a window A/C unit.

And that brings me to bedtime, folks. It's been lovely chatting with you about all this stuff. I hope you have a wonderful day.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Pensieve's 40 or Less: Twisted

You have me twisted
and turned and tweaked
into something I didn't know I could be.

I'm spinning in circles
around you, through you,
embracing you, encircling you until I collapse in sighs.

Little boy, little girl,
I forget what I was before you.
Thank you for the gift of a new beginning.

Another edition of Pensieve's 40 or less writing challenge. She takes a photo and urges her readers to write 40 something or less about the picture. Syllables? Words? It's up to us. Check out her site for more 40 or Less submissions.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Rethinking the Food We Eat

The transformation is slow and multifaceted, but we're leaning more towards vegetarianism.

In January, we realized how much calorie-dense crap we were eating. We stopped eating take-out so many times a week, doubling our grocery budget, but evening out in the end.

A month ago, Chris mentioned the new diet that his friend and his wife are on. As a way to control her severe diabetes, she's on the food pyramid diet with the exception of meat. They are able to eat fish once a week. They feel incredible and energized, and Chris was filled with envy.

Around the time of my surgery in April, we loosened the reins on our wellness plan. I couldn't work out, and I was feeling sorry for myself a lot, and we ate a lot of comfort food (mostly homemade *thanks nana*) and avoided the gym. We've maintained our weight loss, but we haven't dipped down again since then. I suppose if I would eliminate the recent scourge of ice cream cones, the many-mile walks I take every day would actually show up on the scale.

So starting from this middle ground, we bought a couple vegetarian cookbooks. We studied them in detail, marveled at how yummy everything sounded. And then we shopped. There's so much out there in the produce world, in the cheese world, that we hadn't tried much. Asiago cheese? Feta? Asparagus? Come on. We're not foreigners.

That's the whole point. We really want to branch out. There's so many foods out there that aren't part of our Wisconsin-standard diet. Our dependency on ground beef as a staple is crazy, not to mention not very good for us.

So far we've had the following: Three-Cheese Tortellini with summer squash and zucchini, Pasta Rosa Verde with fresh spinach and grape tomatoes, and Asparagus Stir Fry served over rice.

It's been fabulous and oh-so delicious. We aren't planning on abandoning our carnivore status any time soon; we just want to add some variety to our diet. Having a really good reason to visit the local Farmer's Market is also a definite plus. We'll be there bright and early on Saturday to be inspired for another week's menu.

Monday, June 02, 2008

A Bit of Random Kid Stuff

There's so many little things that have amused us lately, but I can't seem to figure out an entertaining way to weave them into a lovely post, so you'll have to live with a list of short descriptions.

** Anna is going nuts with the sweet potato puffs that we introduced into her life. She will eat them constantly if we let her. It's so adorable to watch her try to get one in her fingers, and then how she stuffs her whole hand in her mouth so she's sure to get it.

** Ben is really one of those "still waters run deep" kinds of kids. Sometimes I wonder about his speech delay. It makes him seem a lot dimmer than he actually is because he doesn't respond to people who ask him questions. This evening, though, when Chris asked him to help with some pieces of the train track, we saw a demonstration of his mental prowess. When we handed him four pieces that have specific homes on the track, he matched them up perfectly.

** Ben has been playing with the dolly the past couple days. He throws her against the floor and then bends down to ask her, "Kay? Baby? Kay?" He's tried putting Anna's sandals on his dolly, and he's tried to squeegy out her nose with the bulb syringe.

** Anna did not have a nice time at daycare today. Partly it was because she's not feeling that well (one heckuva sore throat that has given her laryngitis), and partly it was because she hasn't been away from me for that long at a strange house before. Amber did her best to keep her happy, and for that we are grateful.

** Anna's latest thing is to suck on Chris's chin. But really, it's just a ruse so that she can grab his glasses.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Blessing the Nana

I know I blog about my mom a lot. I can't help it. She's a big part of our lives, and she's my best friend.

This summer she's dedicated herself to coming down every single Wednesday for 10 weeks to watch BenAnna so I can go to work without having to pay for daycare. It's such a relief, and such a blessing.

That's on top of countless other ways she blesses us. She cooks meals for us, takes us grocery shopping, loves our children immeasurably. I'm left with an overwhelming drive to bless her back.

Last weekend, we went up north to spend Memorial Day with my parents. After the house survived a very close lightning strike, we found an easy opportunity to bless them. Chris was able to step right in and figure out the computer mess.

We woke up the next morning and, with their permission, cleaned out their garage, which hadn't been cleaned for over 10 years. It was hard, dirty labor, but we weren't upset about that. It just felt so good to help them. Okay. I'll be honest. It was VERY dirty work, and I swore a few times... like when I found a dead mouse.

This past week, Chris was busy getting their new Mac Mini set up and working. That's right. My parents have given in to the dark side and have purchased the beautiful, dual-boot Mac Mini. The best of both worlds. We're thrilled because it means that we can remote into their machine if it breaks.

We went up there again on Saturday to set it up. While Chris was putting together the finishing touches on their new system, my mom asked me to go through the piles of paper and things that had been stashed in the desk. It was enough to fill a laundry basket. Lots when into the burnables bag, but I organized the rest into a filing system.

If you were following me on Twitter, you'll have a hint at the other Bless Nana Project I've been working on. My mom is the area president for her Aglow women's group. It's a Christian organization for women that meets every month with various speakers. She recently found herself without a publicity person, and I offered to fill in, eventually taking on the job permanently.

I designed a logo and put together a couple templates for the monthly poster and the postcards. That was fun. The upsettedness (it's a word) happened when I tried to do a mail merge in Microsoft Word.

I've never been a fan of Word. I find the invisible, automatic formatting to be clumsy and counter-intuitive. That's fancy talk for: I can't use it. Chris finally saved the day, and the merge eventually happened. Over a hundred postcards later, she's set for June. The good news is, once the dang template is set up, I shouldn't have any problem next month.

So that's the fun that happens when I get to do stuff for my mom. Highs and lows. Compliments from my mom about my technical writing capabilities (that made my whole week, by the way). A new computer. An organized garage that's almost clean enough for Ben to play in. Heck yeah!