Monday, August 24, 2009

Due Dates Duly Noted

He's back! (Daddy, that is.) Our family is oh, so happy to finally be reunited. It's strange, but up until the very end, I kept waiting for that fall-apart moment where the world would come tumbling down while Jason was gone--you know, the locked the keys in the car, forgot the kids at the gas station, burned down the house sort of moment. Fortunately, this moment never came, and I feel so grateful that whatever happens now, we can tackle it together.

These last few days have been marked by the "knowing" glance. Everywhere I go, it seems like I get these friendly, "knowing" glances from strangers everywhere--the librarian, the maintenance worker, even the teenage grocery clerk. My huge size seems to evoke these familiar smiles, as if this stranger and I are both intimately acquainted with some big secret that will reveal itself soon.

And, of course, everyone wants to know when. The standard formulaic greeting of "Hi, how are you?" has been completely replaced by "When are you due?" or better yet, "How much longer?" I look down at my enormous stomach (can't even see my belly button now, let alone my toes), and think to myself, if only I knew...

So when am I due? I've been given so many dates--September 10th, September 12th, and most recently, September 11th. While I believe that all birthdates should be equally loved, respected, and valued, let's face it--who really wants to say, oh, my baby's coming on 9-11. Kind of an auspicious start... And so, I pick the date that I like best (September 10th, it's the soonest) and feel twinges of guilt for lying every time I answer someone.

Naturally, the entire concept of a due "date" is quite inaccurate. It merely targets a range of dates where statistically-speaking, it's most probable that your baby will arrive. Of course, the fact that both Brooklyn and Talia arrived almost exactly on their due dates (Talia actually hit the mark) probably makes it more likely that Baby Boy will be timely as well. And yet, with Brooklyn and Talia, there were very compelling reasons (such as final exams) why Baby needed to stay put until the very end. So the question is, did they cooperate because they wanted to, or because I wanted them to? Master orchestrator that I am, I wouldn't be surprised if I at least had some influence on their arrivals.

This time around, however, is different. Now that Jason is home, any moment would be great for me. I think it might be fun to have this boy on September 9th--09/09/09--say, at 9:09 at the morning. Or, we could have a baby on the 7th--quite a bit of good irony in laboring on Labor Day. Aunt Christy and Uncle Ben are coming to stay for a bit at the end of August/beginning of September. This little boy would uphold tradition by gracing us with his presence then--it just so happens that Ben and Christy have been at our house when both of our girls were born.

And then, of course, the pipe dream. This baby could arrive even sooner--say, tomorrow! He's been through a lot of abuse being toted across the world, then schlepped to each side of this nation. Maybe he will just decide he's had enough and decide to greet us early so that he can assert his opinion about the whole matter.

As for the final alternative--a baby who's late--well, I can't even allow my mind to drift there at the moment. While I suppose it is possible, I'm so ready to be done with pregnancy that I'll cross that hurdle if or when I get there.

In the meantime, feel free to venture your ideas as to when this little fellow will make his debut appearance. After all, your guess is as good as mine!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Top Ten Parenting Tricks

We’ve almost made it! One more day until Daddy comes home. (Okay, thirty-six hours to be exact, but who’s counting…

These past weeks of hanging on a single Mom have given me some down-and-dirty insight to my parenting skills, both good and bad. As a result, I’ve come up with a list of top ten parenting tricks that have proven useful with my girls.

The truth is that the name is a misnomer—there is no single “trick” to parenting, except for perhaps a whole lot of prayer and a whole lot of patience. Every child is different, and what works well with one child may not mesh with another child’s unique personality. I’m also slightly leery of even posting such a list because a) it’s not really original—just a hodge podge of ideas I’ve collected from different sources over the years, and b) it might appear like I’m some sort of expert that’s got this whole parenting thing down pat. Ha! This is a work in progress. These ideas remain aspirations, often imperfectly applied. But, when I do use them, it helps.

My hope is that you may find some tidbit useful in your own parenting endeavors, whether with your youngsters, grandkids, nieces, nephews, neighbors, friends, etc. After all, it takes a village to raise a child! (And having Dad helps…)

1. Get enough sleep. I can’t overstate the importance of this for me. An overtired parent is a grouchy parent, and grumpy parents create grumpy children. As much as I cherish my “alone” time after the kids have gone to bed, in the end, it’s more helpful to get the rest my body needs. It’s been more difficult lately given my pregnancy-induced insomnia (aka I’m-too-big-and-round-to-get-comfortable), but I’m still trying.

2. Basic needs first. Just like I can’t function when my basic needs (such as adequate sleep) aren’t met, my kids cease to act humanely when I haven’t met theirs. When they turn into monsters, I ask myself if they’ve had enough rest and good nutrition. If the answer is “no,” then the fault is mine. I become a little more lenient, overlooking and forgiving their bad behavior until these basic needs have been met. Once these have been taken care of, we can then move up Maslow’s hierarchy and focus on becoming happy, polite, and cooperative social beings.

3. Take advantage of imagination. One of the most fabulous things about parenting a four year-old pretend is that I can use her imagination to accomplish just about anything. A creative game of “let’s-pretend” can work wonders. At the end of a long day, trudging home from the park can last forever, but we get there zippy quick when Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson are racing.

4. Find more ways to say “yes.” As a parent, it’s easy to feel like all you ever do is say “no.” No, you may not have marshmallows for breakfast. No, you may not stand on the shed and pretend it’s a diving board. No, you can’t pour sugar down the vent to see what will happen. It’s easy to become so negative, saying “no” before you’ve even really listened to the question. Lately, I’ve made an effort to find more ways to say “yes,” particularly with the little things. So my daughter wants to wear a frilly pink tutu to the grocery store? While that might not be preference, my answer is: sure, why not. As long as you’re not hurting yourself, anyone, or anything else, yes, you may.

5. When you have to say "no", take the time to explain why. My girls are much more understanding of “no” when given a reasonable explanation. Instead of “No, you can’t have any ice cream,” try “You can’t have any ice cream because you already had some pudding and eating that much sugar isn’t healthy for your body.”

6. Be clear about expectations in advance. Before walking into a public place, I try to take time in the car to remind the girls about my expectations for their behavior: We’re going into the library now—let’s remember to walk, stay close to Mom, and use our quiet voices. The girls forget quickly, but it helps for at least a little while.

7. When making requests, be specific and break big tasks up. My kids aren’t to the point where I can tell them to “clean their room” with any degree of success. If I specifically ask them to pick up the blocks underneath the bed, however, they are usually pretty cooperative. It becomes a bit of a game where they go from one small specific task to the next until the whole job is done.

8. Don’t let yourself get sucked into negative power struggles. Maybe it’s just our family, but my daughters periodically test the limits of outright defiance with a sassy “NO!”, “I’m NOT going!”, “or “I WON’T!” I don’t know about you, but these moments drive me absolutely batty. My deepest inclination is to show them who’s boss with an “Oh, yes you WILL, missy! Now listen here…” The problem is that at least for me, this response doesn’t work. The defiance spirals out of control, escalating with the anger that I feed into the situation, until both my daughter and I deserve a sound spanking.

A better response, I’ve learned, is humor. Removing myself from the heat of the situation, I find it helps to step back, smile, and joke about how the grumpy monster has come to visit and needs to be tickled away. If humor fails, I try to calmly and quietly give a matter-of-fact analysis of the inappropriate behavior and the consequence: “When you tell Mom “no”, that’s being sassy. The consequence for being sassy is a time-out.”

9. Take a time-out. Speaking of time-outs, I’ve learned that it’s okay for grown-ups to take a time-out too. Sometimes I need a little space and time to figure out a parenting problem. I’ll tell my kids, “that was a poor choice and we need to figure out an appropriate consequence. Let’s give Mom some time to think about what we should do.” This lets the anger dissipate and models an appropriate method for dealing with a tough situation.

10. Listen, listen, listen. Why should our kids care what we have to say if we don’t listen to what they are telling us? When you have constant chatterboxes like mine, it’s really easy to filter them out, but a true sign of love is choosing to tune in.

Tummy Love

Talia's found a new excuse for getting out of bed at night--she insists that she has to "kiss Jasper," planting a big ol' smack on my enormous belly. Last night I told Talia that Jasper didn't want any more good night kisses, but much to my dismay, she climbed out of bed anyway. Instead of kissing me, she lifts up her sister's shirt and affectionately smooches her belly button, followed by the proud words "I kiss Brooklyn's Jasper!"

If your tummy's in need for some lovin', Talia's sure to volunteer!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I don't have many regrets in life, but I can think of one sad choice I made nearly a year ago involving this...

and this.

VoilĂ  my Dad's amazing gazpacho soup, made from our home-grown summer produce. If you're looking for a tasty way to use up your garden veggies, this cold Spanish soup is an fabulous route to go. My Dad made us a batch last year as we were packing up to move, but I was so obsessed with scrubbing counters that I didn't stop to eat when everyone else took a gazpacho break. Imagine my disappointment when I finally got around to eating hours later and discovered that the soup was all gone!

Well, my poor decision has haunted me ever since--while we ate gazpacho several times in Europe, I was unable to find any that I liked as much, even in Spain. Since we don't have any tomato plants this year, I thought this season would also pass without any of this tasty treat. Fortunately, some good friends gave us tomatoes from their garden, so I was able to make some after all--hooray! It turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself--almost as good as when Papa Kay makes it. Best of all, it is oh-so-good-for-you! So if you're not sure what to do with the bounty of your garden, I encourage you to give yourself a nutrient-packed energy lift and make some good ol' gazpacho, because if you don't, you just might regret it!

Papa Kay's Gazpacho
Note: This recipe creates a chunky, sink-your-teeth-into-veggies version of gazpacho that differs from most traditional, blended varieties.

In a large bowl, mix the following ingredients:

4 cups Clamato juice
1/2 cup minced onion
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup green pepper, finely chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Refrigerate the above mixture overnight, allowing the flavors to meld. The following day, add the following ingredients

8 tomatoes, finely diced
2 cucumbers, finely diced
2 avocados, finely diced

Refrigerate again until all the ingredients are nice and cold. Serve chilled with garlic croutons and grated parmesan cheese.

P.S. If you think that you would actually like to try this recipe and happen to know where I live, I have an extra four cups of Clamato juice that you are welcome to. I could only buy a large container, but I probably won't get around to making gazpacho again this season.

P.S.S. B&B, thanks again for the yummy tomatoes! You're welcome to sample the product anytime. But be warned, supplies are dwindling fast. Even my kids like it! :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

We'll Be So Glad When Daddy Comes Home

I miss this man!

Who else would spend his free time photographing his shoe...

Or building rock sculptures...

Or having more fun than his kids horsing around on the jungle gym?

It's now been more than ten days since we parted, with just less than a week left to go. While I'm really grateful for all of the hard work that Jason's doing (and trust me, he's working hard), I'll be even happier to have him back safe at home. Jason is such an involved Dad that life with him around is much easier. But the truth is that despite all he does around the house, that's not really what I miss. What I miss is him, a best friend to talk to, confide in, and beg to rub an achy back.

On the positive side, this past week with the girls has been wonderful. At first, I had serious fears and doubts as to whether or not I could handle parenting all by myself for this long. After all, I rely on Jason so much. In the end, however, it's been a wonderful experience to have nothing to focus on but the girls. They are growing up so much, and it's fun! Crafts, cooking, real conversations--we get to engage on a whole new level. The kids have thrived in a stable environment of positive attention, responding with positive cooperation that lets us do so many more fun things. Trips to the library, park, pool, even the grocery store, can be delightful when you aren't living in constant fear of a meltdown.

As much as I am enjoying life with my grown-up girls, I am simultaneously feeling nervous and hesitant about adding a newborn to the mix. At the moment, things feel manageable and in balance--dare I even say "easy?" I have two hands and two kids to hold them when crossing the street. But how will I manage a third? Will I lose the freedom to get out and "do things" with the girls once their brother arrives? Am I really ready to move back into the world of diaper blowouts, midnight feedings, and heavy car seat carriers?

The truth is that ready or not, here Baby comes. While I'm sure that there will be many challenging moments, I am also sure that Heavenly Father will make room in my heart for two men in my life. And whenever the panic strikes, I remind myself that with a little bit of luck, maybe he'll turn out just like his Dad. :)

Sibling Saga

In true two year-old style, Talia occasionally gets an impish grin on her face and intentionally sets about to do what two year-olds do best--torment their siblings. A few days ago, Talia was in the midst of one of her destroying angel phases when Brooklyn came to me with the following complaint:

Brooklyn: Mom, Talia's destroying my ... life!

Beware of Bad Breath

A true conversation that I thought I'd never hear:

Me: Do you girls want to go to the swimming pool?
Brooklyn: Sure! But first we have to go home and brush our teeth.

It's not every day that my girls are this enthusiastic about dental hygiene. However, ever since visiting some great friends in Buffalo, New York, they have coveted their children's spinning toothbrushes. Teeth cleaning has been twice the fun since acquiring battery-powered Hello Kitty and Dora brushes of our own.

After convincing Talia to stop using her toothbrush to clean the walls, table, and other furniture, I thought that the brush excitement was generally gone (the batteries may be, too). That is, until I crashed on the couch for a midday nap, and was startled out of my slumber by something attacking my mouth. Jolted awake, I unconsciously grabbed the offending object and chucked it across the room. When I finally figured out what was going on, Talia was standing inches from my face, holding my lips open after having decided that my teeth needed brushing too. In the future, I'd better be more careful about bad breath!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Prayers to a Parent

Lately the girls have become a bit manipulative in their prayers. After a lengthy silent period where she insisted that "Brooklyn say it," Talia finally reopened the lines of divine communication yesterday with the following words: "Bless Daddy, bless Jesus, bless family go swimming pool." At dinnertime, Brooklyn prayed that we would have Fruit Loops for breakfast, go to the library, have a playdate with her friends, and yes, swim at the pool.

While kind of cute, on a deeper level these prayers feel somewhat presumptuous. After all, I'm the parent: I know best about what's most appropriate for the day's agenda. I enjoy hearing what my girls dream of doing, but that doesn't mean they will get sugar cereal for breakfast every day.

In reflecting on my daughters' prayers, I suddenly realized that perhaps my own prayer habits aren't so different after all. When I pray, do I dictate to Heavenly Father my plan about how things "should" work out? Is praying for a specific job opportunity, admission to a particular school, or selection for a special scholarship really all that different from praying for Fruit Loops and a playdate?

I don't think that Heavenly Father minds these prayers: just as I like knowing what my children really want, he cares about the sincere desires of our hearts. Nevertheless, it's important to qualify our prayers with "Not my will, but thine be done." Let's remember that he is the ultimate parent, and as such, he really does know best. He will grant us our righteous desires when such is in our best interest, but sometimes the answer is simply "no." In such moments of frustration, let's trust that he can see farther than we can.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Definition of a Great Day

In the words of my darling daughter, "Today was a great day."

Despite a dramatic moment when Talia got her fingers jammed in some elevator doors, we really enjoyed our Girls Day Out, with nothing on the agenda but play. When Brooklyn asked me this evening what my favorite part of today was, I thought about our morning chat while weeding the yard, craft time at the library, snuggling together for a lazy afternoon nap, and swimming until the pool closed. Still, my very favorite part of the day happened at nightfall as we tumbled in the house, slightly chilled in our wet bathing suits from the evening air. Instead of serving ice cream for dessert, I broke out the hot chocolate with marshmallows. Even more significantly, we sipped it from real china.

You see, over six years ago, I received this beautiful little china tea set as an engagement gift. Delicately adorned with pretty pink flowers, these charming little dishes have collected dust for years, safe in their packaging as they awaited the "perfect" moment to use them. Well, today I decided that there would never be a more important occasion than drinking hot chocolate with my daughters in August.

After I shared my happy memory of the day, Brooklyn shared hers. She told me that her favorite part was eating macaroni and cheese for lunch. She said it was so good that she wished we could have it for breakfast and dinner too, because then it would be a really great day.

Happy Birthday, Calico!

August 12th is a special day for our family, as both my sister and grandfather share a birthday today. Since Grandpa already enjoyed the limelight in his special "75" post, I thought I'd dedicate this one to you, Calico.

In talking to Brooklyn about what we should get Callie for her birthday, she said, "Why don't you make her a baby?"

Sorry sis, can't help you out there, but happy birthday anyway! :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Breaking Out the Bikini

My wardrobe has a new acquisition--a bikini. This may not seem like a big deal, but those of you who know me well know that I am a one-piece kind of gal. The only bikini that I can remember owning comes from a photograph that I have of me as an infant where I am made decent in the kiddie pool by two festive strawberries tied together on top.

So what inspired the purchase? Waterbirth. Assuming that all goes well, we are planning to take advantage of our hospital's birthing tub when Baby Boy arrives. Of course, this also assumes that we actually make it to the hospital in time for them to fill it up... As for the new bikini, I'm hoping that it will keep me somewhat decent (at least on top) during the whole adventure.

In general, I'm not a huge advocate of complex birth plans: it seems like this idealized vision of a "perfect birth" can lead to disappointment if things don't work out exactly as hoped. Still, water has been my therapy for the last eight months (as evidenced by my lengthy soakings in the bathtub), and I look forward to continuing the trend if possible.

When envisioning this delivery, however, one element is non-negotiable--my husband. I admit that having him so far away right now makes me a bit nervous. As long as Jasper (a family name for all unborn babies) holds off for at least another two weeks, I'll be happy as can be.

In the meantime, the girls and I will continue to enjoy our summer playtime by relaxing in the pool here in Illinois. And just in case you are concerned, I promise to spare you the sight of my basketball belly in a bikini.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Next Stop: Niagara!

My feet are swollen. I look down at my pudgy toes and wonder, where did my ankles go? The good news is that despite my unattractive legs, our family has finally made it safely back to Illinois. Hooray!

When anticipating the long drive from Illinois to Utah, Vermont, and back, Jason and I contemplated flying me out so that I wouldn't have to spend so much time in the car while eight and a half months pregnant. I find it slightly ironic that in the end, I'm the only adult that actually drove the entire way. My mom drove out to Vermont with us, but stayed for a conference in Toronto. At the last minute, Jason decided to work in New York for a couple of weeks, so he also escaped the long drive home. Fortunately, I have a wonderful sister who drove back to Illinois with the girls and I, arranging for a flight back to Seattle out of Champaign instead of Albany.

Seeing as to how we are both slightly less than five feet tall, Callie and I have never been physical giants. Despite our small statures, we have always been drawn towards adventure. Driving home from Vermont, we were once again seduced by the siren call. Most people would consider the drive to Illinois with two young children and a pug adventure enough, but we decided to embellish the journey. Passports in hand, we took a detour at Buffalo to explore the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Here are a couple of pictures as proof:

My daughters can now boast about having been in eleven states and two countries since their return from France a month ago... My goodness, how will I ever impress them later?

All in all, it was a beautiful day, and I'm glad that we visited this amazing wonder. However, I also learned that there is no such thing as a "short" visit to Niagara. Simply getting from the parking lot to the Falls with two overtired girls required extreme patience and physical stamina.

In the end, we didn't stay long, nor venture very far. Still, I consider the visit successful since we didn't lose any children or pets over the ledge. It was really interesting for me to spend time among the crowds with Zoe, the pug. I used to think that people crooned over little kids, but I've since changed my opinion. If you want some attention, get a cute dog! Everybody ooohed and aaahed. The following conversation with a stranger seemed to encapsulate the situation.

Stranger: Oh, what a great pug! What's her name?
Callie: Zoe.
Stranger: We have a pug too.
Brooklyn (piping in): My name's Brooklyn. I'm four years old. This is my sister Talia.
Stranger (Dismissively): Oh, that's nice... So how old's the pug?

Good thing we love them all!

Celebrating Seventy-Five

Blog posts have been a bit scarce this past week. Here's why:

Our family has been extremely distracted by all of the swimming, tubing, water skiing, and general partying going on at my Grandpa Wells's lake house in Vermont. (Okay, okay, much to my chagrin, pregnancy kept me away from the tubing and water skiing, but I still loved swimming and the Settler game tournaments.)

Grandpa's generally quiet home certainly buzzed this past week with a plethora of visitors. Here are a few of the favorites:

Zoe, our favorite (and oh-so-patient) pug. You should see Talia put her in a headlock just to secure a puppy kiss.

Zoe was accompanied by her parents, Aunt Callie and Uncle Adam, who traveled all the way from Puyallup, Washington for the occasion.

Here's my cousin Kathryn LaFroscia playing with Talia. She deserves multiple trophies and medals for cheerfully (and constantly) entertaining my girls all week long.)

And here we have my cousin Alex deep in conversation with his Dad, Uncle Bob.

Of course we can't forget my hard-working Aunt Alison whose thoughtful planning helped bring the whole week together.

From the Wells side of the family, we have my cousin Alesia, showing off her class ring to Alex. A recent high school graduate, Alesia will be venturing off to college soon. Congratulations!

And here is Alesia's brother, Gregory, having a great time following a swim with Talia.

This cute picture includes the two Katy cousins, with the closest being Katelyn Wells. The last smile belongs to Jeanette.

Here's another snapshot of Jeanette pushing Brooklyn on the swing.

While the Wells parents, Uncle Jay and Aunt Janet, may have escaped Jason's candid shots, we were still thrilled to see them. In fact, we were so glad to see them that Jason actually followed them home--literally. Instead of coming back with me to Illinois, Jason went to Long Island to spend the next two weeks working on some construction projects with them. While I miss my honey, I'm glad he's with such a great family.

Of course we can't forget NomiAnn, who traveled out with us from Omaha, Nebraska. Here she is, happy as ever with her granddaughter:

Papa Kay (who met us in Vermont after a conference in DC) spent some bonding time with his grand-pug.

Last but not least, here's the cause for all the festivities--Grandpa John Wells, who celebrated his 75th birthday.

Here's the birthday boy with his wife Elaine, who worked for months to make the day a great success.

As part of the celebration, we enjoyed a catered dinner and Grandpa's famous (infamous?) fireworks. As you can see, the food was great. (My mother may never forgive me for posting this...)

NomiAnn made the girls adorable matching dresses for the occasion.

Too cute!

All too soon, it was time to part our separate ways. Of course, we couldn't leave without the obligatory family photo. This picture cracks me up--girls, dogs, leashes and balloons flying every which way. Then there's me with a ginormous belly wondering: how did I ever get myself into this mess, and why am I doing it again?

This shot's better, except, wait, where did Talia's head go?

Third time's a charm.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!