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September 2010

I will probably disagree with this entire post tomorrow, but for now I'm reveling in the self-confidence, okay? GIVE ME A NIGHT OF SELF-CONFIDENCE!

Last fall, pretty much on a whim, a friend asked if I wanted to be on a volleyball team and as you remember I was all HECK YEAH! and I've been pretty much been playing ever since. We joined another league in the winter and when that was over we started going to this open gym night where everyone from teeny little girls to burly fifty-year-old men divide into groups of six and lay the smackdown on each other. It's kind of awesome. 

So I went tonight and it was super fun, as usual, and I didn't even get nailed in the face - bonus! And I kept wishing I had some single girlfriends to invite to volleyball because there were not one but TWO adorable boys on my team - adorable AND NICE - and oh, what a pity I have no use for them. 

Anyway, the friend I usually go with had to leave early and then it was just me with one guy from my Sunday night volleyball team and four other people I barely knew. I was thinking about how if this was ten years ago, maybe even five years ago, I would have been super insecure the whole time, super nervous about what everyone was thinking of me, what if I sucked, what if I wasn't friendly enough (which is always my problem because I can't ever think of anything to SAY) and blah blah blah. But not now. Even though my friend is heaps more social and friendly than me, which is why I know these people in the first place, I wasn't scared for her to go. Well, I WAS scared at first, when I got to the gym before she and my other teammate showed up, panic panic panic, and maybe it was only okay that she left because I still knew someone? I don't know. But by that time you've filtered yourself onto a team and you at least know everyone's name and I didn't suck THAT much...

I just LIKE being older. I am not half as shy and nervous as I used to be. I just don't CARE as much. I am a total dork on the volleyball court you guys, running around flapping my hands, yelling, ducking, completely spacing out at inopportune moments, but I feel like I can just be ME and they'll either get me or they don't. It's so much EASIER to deal with other people when you have this perspective. All these years spent worrying about my inability to make small talk, and for what? Earlier this week when a sort of random someone asked me how my weekend was I ended up telling them all this intense stuff about my couples retreat and you know what? She wasn't weirded out! It was fine! I might be better friends with her now than I was before! I know I shouldn't do that ALL the time, but that's me, completely horrible at normal people conversation, and it was still okay. And in a month I am headed to Chicago, where I have never really been, to meet up with almost twenty ladies I have either met exactly once, or never met before in my life. And! I am not nervous! THIS IS IMPROVEMENT!

Well, not VERY nervous. You're bound to have SOME anxiety when you're planning to meet up with your Internet Heroes and also everyone keeps emailing you about what they're going to WEAR. GAK.

So anyway. See how I can turn anything into a nice little revelation about my own fascinating self? 

Phillip starts school tomorrow. I decided I am not up for it and am hauling myself and the children down to my parents' house where we will stay the night - THAT is how much I am not up for it. But they want us! So why not! Plus my little weather app says it's going to be seventy freaking six tomorrow. Oh Seattle. You tease us so. 

But I think I packed up all the summery clothes. Oops. 

What are you doing this weekend? After we drive home we're headed to a four-year-old's birthday party and we are NOT open housing on Sunday. We are showing restraint! Yay us! Oh, and then I have a game that night. I sure hope my court burn and strained forearm muscle get themselves into shape by then. My thirties are doing wonders for my self-esteem, but not so much on the agility front. Sigh. 

In which you realize I am too boring to be friends with in real life. BUBBLE BURST.

For a few weeks this summer (a month? maybe even longer?) Molly was waking up multiple times a night, sobbing, demanding to be held, refusing to be put down, needing music or books or dolls or trains or just one more thing and OH there was much discussion over what to do. I don't know why we have these "discussions" - we always end up doing Nothing, because Nothing is the only thing that works, and then eventually whichever kid is giving us grief gets it out of his/her system and life goes on. 

So last night when Molly woke up we were all, "REALLY?" because it'd been at least a FEW weeks since her last all nighter and when she spent the night at my parents' house this weekend she went to bed at eight thirty and SLEPT TILL EIGHT THIRTY and why won't she do that here? WHYYYY? 

I still have the extra crib mattress (don't YOU have an extra crib mattress?) on the floor by my bed, so after the third time Phillip ventured into her room he just brought her back to ours and put her down. And then he fell asleep. 

Molly and me - not so much. Molly wasn't unhappy or angry last night so much as just AWAKE. Her noises last night were more talking and singing to herself than crying. She stays quiet when she's in our room (and we tried putting her in bed with us, but no one sleeps that way) except for sucking on her pacifier in an obnoxious way. Or she needs books, and she'll tap the spines. Or drag her foot along the wall. OR SOMETHING ELSE ANNOYING. So Phillip is asleep and eventually Molly will fall asleep and I will fall asleep long after both of them are conked out. SUCH a bummer to be me. 

So anyway, this morning we were all a bit zombie-like. Even Jack. We piled on the couch with our respective blankies and watched a DVRed episode of Sesame Street. Then we had some breakfast. Then we played with puzzles. Then I contemplated baths, but no, how about we eat some more breakfast. Eventually we had baths and got dressed and it was, oh, eleven? And we were STILL zombie-like. 

It made for extra-long naps this afternoon, which was nice. I got a bit of writing done and figured out dinner and watched The Good Wife premiere (damn you, Eli Gold!), but then I was wandering around the house not knowing what to do with myself. And it was sunny! And I was bored! And tired! And wishing for a giant pan of brownies!

So I decided, brilliant mother that I am, that after these monster naps we would just go pick up Daddy at work. Fun for everyone! Something to do other than fighting in the playroom! Exciting downtown commuter life! I packed them into the car and took off into... traffic. 

OH THE TRAFFIC. There are two major downers about our rental house. The first is the claustrophobic shower downstairs, the second is the traffic. We love the neighborhood and all the things we can walk to, but it can be kind of nightmarish to GET anywhere. There's a giant university and a big lake preventing us from getting anywhere fast, not to mention the other big lakes and bridges and zoos and parks and GET OUT OF MY WAY EVERYONE!

I guess it wasn't too bad. Maybe I just haven't done it in a while. It used to take five minutes to pick up Phillip at work, now it takes about twenty. (And nearly an hour on the bus!) And it was sunny and it was the first day of classes so there were plenty of college students to stare at and it was just nice to be OUT. And after we got Phillip we walked to Macrina and ruined our dinners and all the downtown worker people gave us nice "aren't they so cute" smiles and did I say it was nice to be out? It was nice to be OUT. 

Anyway, I thought I would tell you that 1) I am now the wife of the year because of that stupid Starcraft game except 2) tonight when he tried to show it to me (WHY) (LIKE I CARE) the computer crashed (HA!) which means 3) whichever one of you predicted that he would start up the "I need a better computer!" whine was 4) TOTALLY RIGHT but 5) I don't care because 6) he did the dishes tonight and that puts me in a rather charitable mood. 

The children having been suitably doped with extra-strength sleeping potion, my day shall now conclude with a carb-friendly ice cream bar and Sunday night's Mad Men. It is not always such a bummer to be me.

One year down, one year to go

I feel like all I did today was cook and clean and put away and it's eight o'clock and Phillip is reading to the kids and I'm dead tired and I STILL have stuff to clean and put away. At least the cooking is over with, I suppose. 

But really, all I want to do is sit in front of my television (or Hulu on the laptop, either one will do at this point) and I can't. Because there are dishes in the sink and I haven't put away all the clean clothes (though they are folded!) and there are toys all over the playroom which means sitting there to watch a TV show would give me the shakes anyway. Oh, and I totally intended to change all the sheets today and obviously that's not happening. 

Phillip starts school again on Friday night and I'm worried because I'm already beginning to feel bogged down. This quarter he'll be in class Tuesday and Friday afternoons/evenings, and while I suppose that's better than Friday nights and all day class on Saturday, it means I am alone from wake up to bedtime two days out of the week, which feels like a lot. Plus the random Thursday that he spends hanging out with the other IT Dudes in the server room once a month. Plus all the other un-plannable un-knowable school obligations that popped up all year long. And it's fine, it's okay, we signed up for this, but why am I so tired before it's even started?

I met up with a friend this morning and we were talking about how much easier our lives are now that the kids are walking and talking and eating people food and going to preschool and are basically Not Babies anymore. And the truth of this is really astounding. Even for me, whose babies did not give her a ton of grief, life feels easier. You can leave the house almost any time you want. You don't have to pack a suitcase full of diapers and milk when you do. You feel less guilt or fear around leaving them, you can sit on the bench while they go down the slide, they can eat a grilled cheese sandwich all by themselves. 

So I tell myself I shouldn't be so tired. I have all the same laundry and meals and dishes and toys I had before. The kids are older and going to preschool and playing by themselves and are perfectly happy to leave me oblivious to the fact that they are building a fort inside my closet. (Which, if it buys me 10 minutes with Twitter, is totally fine by me.) I'm still sitting here avoiding the grease trap that is my kitchen. Maybe the difference is that this time I know what I'm getting into, and while I'm not pessimistic, I'm not terribly optimistic either. The next nine months sit before me like a massive sink full of yesterday's dinner dishes, and no one else is going to do them for me. 

My attempt at gift giving redemption

Preschool is working: today Jack joyfully skipped into the grocery store playroom, all by himself since his temperamental sister refused to let go of my jacket. Fine. And after a teary ten minutes in which I explained why she couldn't sit in the BIG part of the cart about nineteen times, Molly was content to sniffle in the seat and hold the can of tomato paste. 

And that was the highlight of our day. Well, now that I think of it, the highlight was probably when Phillip's parents showed up and 1) the kids sat back and allowed themselves to be spoiled and 2) I escaped to the mall. 

I am all out of fun money for the month, so the mall was a dangerous destination, but it was the only place I could think of that would sell the item I wanted to buy Phillip for his birthday. Now, if you are playing along at home, Phillip's birthday was several weeks ago and perhaps I should have purchased a present THEN. And, surprise to everyone, I DID. Except it was a LAME present. A back ordered coat. Who wants that?! (The story of the back ordered coat is somewhat amusing: when I asked for gift suggestions, the Bubba informed me that what Phillip REALLY wanted was to see a Seahawks game with the Bubba, an experience I was all in favor of providing until I saw how much Seahawks tickets cost. Good Lord. We can watch them lose for free at home, you know? So that was out, and then the Bubba, being somewhat of a fashionista, suggested a Military Style Jacket (and this is before I knew this was a THING, like A Trend, even though I saw 'military' on a Project Runway episode, how come I don't remember anything, this is why it is not ME who is the fashionista) and because I reeeeeeally didn't want to buy Phillip the one thing I could think of that he would want, I bought a back ordered coat. I printed out a picture and stuck it in a card. WIFE OF THE YEAR!) 

So Phillip was about as excited as you can be about a back ordered coat, which is: not a lot. Ho hum. And I felt a little bit bad because I am a terrible gift giver. Actually, that's not completely true, I am a terrible giver of gifts to PHILLIP. However. It is his fault. BECAUSE. The man is PICKY. Picky, with expensive taste. I often try to buy him clothes from other places than his Preferred Retailers and they are almost always met with a Look of Skepticism and then, when he tries them on, a Barely Disguised Look of Distaste. SO WHATEVER. I don't buy him clothes as gifts anymore, because I always FAIL. And the only other stuff he's remotely interested in usually involve cables and wires and Apple stores and gah, that's even more expensive than the clothes. AND! I cannot be relied upon to choose the right BRAND or the right VERSION or the right SETTING or WHATEVER IT IS THAT MAKES IT THE BEST. Because my husband, he likes THE BEST. 

It puts me in a difficult position, yes? 

But this time I knew. I knew what he would like. And I just couldn't bring myself to buy it. Because you know what it is? A COMPUTER GAME. 

Perhaps you have heard of this Starcraft 2 nonsense? Just me? Well, what I've heard is that it's a giant time suck. And (I think) you can play it with other people, you know, like VIRTUALLY. And Phillip starts school on Friday and he's got a ton of stuff going on at work and I would think about buying him this stupid computer game and think to myself, "Self? Is this really in his best interest?" By which I mean, of course, was it in MY best interest. 

So I didn't buy it. SUE ME. 

Fast forward to this weekend, which was our yearly weekend with friends (one day I will not feel like a dork calling it a couples retreat, but that day is not today) and one of the husbands is a Game Nerd and he and Phillip fell into this rather passionate Game Nerd discussion and OH THE GUILT. Because Phillip got so excited about stupid STARCRAFT TWO but he didn't HAVE it and maybe he should go BUY it but he just didn't KNOW and blah blah blah and I was just walking along stewing in my hot secret crappy gift giver SHAME. 

So when my in-laws showed up today I drove to the mall. Where there is a Game Stop. Do you know what Game Stop is? It's the video game store, staffed by the kind of folks who staffed Empire Records, except instead of Music Nerds they are Game Nerds and they know - THEY KNOW - that the chick who just walked into their store is not one of their kind. The dude behind the counter eyed me with Lofty Amusement and you know I didn't even bother looking on the shelves. I just walked straight up to him and said, "Do you have that crafty star game?"

And he said, "Starcraft TWO?"

And I said, "Sure, whatever."

And he said, "It's in the back, let me get it" and I stood around wondering why Starcraft Two is in the back if it's THAT AWESOME, I mean, is it so awesome the other Game Nerds try to steal it? And I had to stand there listening to some guy whine about how his Halo game is broken because he always dies in this one spot and then the game turns off and he can't get to the next level or whatever and I'm all, "I think your guy is dying because you suck, not because your GAME is BROKEN, ARE YOU SERIOUS?" But then the Head Game Nerd came back and let me buy Starcraft Two, even though he could tell I probably wasn't going to buy the strategy guide and I had no idea what the game is even about and that I probably make fun of it on my blog. So that was nice of him. 

Then I took it home and wrapped it up and put it in a little gift bag and propped it up on Phillip's pillow. I even told him I have a little present for him - right now he's putting the kids to bed - but not to get TOO excited because it's just a LITTLE present, surely not STARCRAFT TWO, like maybe it's a bag of chips. (One year, in college, my roommate and I talked everyone we knew into leaving a bag of chips in Phillip's dorm room in honor of his birthday. So many chips! He is STILL embarrassed about that.) 

So I am sort of hoping this redeems my bombing of the birthday several weeks ago, including how I made him stay at a bed and breakfast and eat strawberry smothered waffles with Dobson families. We'll see. And I will most likely live to regret it, once all the nights I've planned things like dates and dinner with friends and going out with the kids turn into opportunities to play Starcraft. 

Further proof that I am beyond ridiculous with this Redfin stuff

It was another pointless afternoon of Open Housing and I've decided to share my confusing, non-linear, nonsensical, possibly idiotic Thoughts On Finding Our New Place To Live. What else is a blog for if not to bore your readers to death with talk of square footage and updated bathrooms!

We are not looking to actively buy a house right this second. That's not to say that if we found The House, we would not move heaven and earth to make it ours. It's just that I am beginning to understand that The House probably doesn't exist, and we are now in the position of figuring out the next best option. Which is incredibly confusing.

First I should say that The House does too exist, we just can't afford it. Not even with all the price drops. It used to be a Galaxy away from our price range, now it's more like a Solar System. And my best way of describing The House is: a completely gutted and overhauled early 1900s Seattle craftsman, in one of a handful of neighborhoods that are close to our church, close to our friends, close to a handful of schools I'm told are half decent, within walking distance of libraries and parks and coffee shops, and - here's the kicker - with four bedrooms. ALAS. The House exists, but not in our price range. The price range buys us a NOT totally remodeled house, but we are not Fixer Uppers and lack the funds to hire contractors, buy a new Ikea kitchen, finish the basement, etc. The price range gets us a two bedroom house with a finished basement or a den or a teeny tiny third bedroom, but I'm terrified of buying a house that will feel too small six months after we move in. And the price range gets us a ginormous house WAY FAR AWAY, which, despite my growing love of browsing floor plans, I am not ready to do either. 

So we are looking at the options. We are looking everywhere, and I do mean EVERYWHERE. Holla West Seattle! Shoreline! Seward Park! Places I originally vetoed, but now think: but maybe it could work? We looked at new construction far away but near a main artery. We looked at old old old and in the middle of town. We looked at houses in parts of town we've only seen on maps. The research we're doing now isn't pointless, if only to cement the fact that we're not going to get it all, and we'll have to figure out what the deal breakers are. 

Today, for example, we saw two old houses, the kind that I love. The style, the charm, the character, the porches and trim and hardwoods and SIGH, ADORABLE. Except that MAN are those suckers creaky and dusty and the built in drawers stick and the bathrooms are cramped and there's wood paneling in unfortunate places and the basement ceilings are low and that fourth bedroom is only a sorry excuse for a fourth bedroom. So today I feel like, unless prices drop considerably lower, we are not going to swing the Old Seattle Craftsman I love so much. Today I feel like Space and Not Fixing Anything Up are much bigger priorities. 

But then we also saw an affordable, brand new gigando house. Not necessarily in the suburbs and actually a decent ways away from the city, but in a neighborhood that was SO subdivisiony and not within walking distance of anything fun and I couldn't see us doing that either. Not right now. 

Somewhere in the middle is a mid-century house in one of my not-as-favorite neighborhoods. It's got the space, the yard, the close to the city. It's within walking distance of some things, but not anything really awesome, and the neighborhood isn't very cute and the house itself is kind of ugly and yeah it's at a price where we could spend a little more to update some things, but it'd still be The House I Don't Particularly Love. And because I'm not in any rush and I don't have to settle, I'm not willing to go there. Not yet. 

So I don't know. It's so hard to figure out what we want. All these realtors see us traipse into their houses and then want to know who we're working with and what we're looking for and the answers to those questions are 1) not you and 2) WE HAVE NO IDEA. We are researching researching researching. That's all. 

Sometimes all I want is four bedrooms upstairs with an office for Phillip and a formal dining room and a breakfast nook and a huge backyard and a fancy bathroom and a play area and an excellent school district and those days I totally don't care about the stupid city, who wants to live in the CITY, who wants a Thai restaurant on the corner?! 

Sometimes all I want is to live in Such and Such Neighborhood and have kids who know the bus system and walk to the Catholic school because the public school is so terrible and go on dates with my husband to the Thai restaurant on the corner and decide how to finish the ancient basement and enjoy my peekaboo view of downtown and those days I cannot imagine driving more than two minutes to get to a grocery store or a half hour to visit a friend. 

Sometimes I look at school ratings online and panic, because the public schools don't seem so awesome and Catholic schools seem too expensive when we're also paying a city-house mortgage and we HAVE to move out. Sometimes I think that's what's obviously best for our kids, so what am I even doing entertaining living in The School District Everyone Knows Is Rotten? 

Sometimes I think about how our priest says they have yet to turn away anyone who can't pay for school and there are ways to work around it and I'd like to send them to Catholic school no matter WHAT, I mean if we're talking IDEALLY, and everyone has nice things to say about nearly ALL the Catholic schools and maybe it's NOT the worst thing to stay in the city. 

Then I think about holidays and I want the huge house again. No wait, I want the huge house in the great neighborhood and yes we'll have to update the kitchen and the plumbing, but we'll be there FOREVER so we can wait on that and it'll be WORTH it and ---

OMG MAKE IT STOP. This is getting ridiculous. I have to go to a volleyball game. Pray for my knees. BYE.

My nightstand

Give a girl a Kindle and she reads nine thousand percent more books. Theories?

In no particular order...

The London Eye Mystery. I bought this one because it was "recommended for me" by Amazon and was in the "cheap enough to buy" Kindle zone and, luckily enough, I loved it. It's your typical middle grades kids-saving-the-world-as-they-know-it book, except the narrator has Asperger's and the characters were SO well written and it was about so much more than the initial mystery. I like middle grades almost more than I like YA, though I hardly read it anymore since my dad is retired and no longer recommending them to me, which: LAME. I'm not sure what this says about ME, a 31-year-old grown up who prefers books about 11-year-olds, but whatever. Oh, and I thought this blog post about knowing the difference, as writers, between middle grades and YA was super awesome. 

How I Live Now. I read this one for the same reasons I read The London Eye Mystery and YAY AMAZON. I loved this one too. Definitely in the YA camp where (if you read the blog post) you know that the character is saving a much narrower, tightly-defined world. The main character, who I adored, lives sometime in the future where some crazy next-generation war is going on, but the war is mainly a setting and the plot is a thin wire hanger for character development and I really really liked this character. 

The Loser Letters. EH. I really wanted to love this, as the reviews were rave and I thought the premise - a newly 'converted' atheist writes a series of letters to established atheists (like Dawkins and Hitchens) recommending they drop/pursue certain strategies in their own recruitment efforts - was interesting. But it totally fell flat. For me. Other people really liked this, but I just didn't get it. For one thing, you're reading letter after letter about how the Christians do one thing or another better than the atheists, and the whole time you're all THEN WHY ARE YOU AN ATHEIST? You find out, eventually, and that's where I finally got interested, but that's the very end. I seem to recall that this book actually started out in essay form and was eventually collected into a book? I think? And maybe that's why I take issue with it, because as a narrative it bombed. FOR ME. Also, I am totally the choir for this book and I have no idea what an Actual Atheist would think (although I don't have my hopes up about that either.) Sorry team!

Mockingjay. This one has been good and kicked around in the blogosphere so I'll be quick. I wasn't a huge fan of the Hunger Games series, I just wanted to know what happened. Aaaand, hmm. It was a realistic and believable ending, I didn't mind the Message, I didn't mind how dark and gloomy it was, but when you spend three books setting your main character up to make A Choice, do not cop out on the choice. Boo to that. (Also, can I just say: what is up with the competing love interests discussing their chances with each other? I'm looking at YOU Edward/Gale and Jacob/Peeta!)

I read another big handful of Italian murder mysteries. I decided that Uniform Justice is my favorite Donna Leon/Commissario Brunetti mystery. 

The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass. I just finished the last book today, and then seriously contemplated the liquor cabinet at two in the afternoon. I have to say that I really loved the first book. After wanting to put Bella and Katniss in permanent Time Outs and bemoaning the Strong Yet LIKABLE Female Character, I loved - LOVED - Lyra. (Also, she is eleven. Coincidence?) It was also the first book I've read in a long time where I wanted to underline sentences because they were so pretty. It was exciting and fast and fascinating and full of interesting people. So were the second and third books, but the second and third books were exponentially darker and drearier. I had to force myself through certain sections of the third book, not because they were dull or slow, but because they were SO HOPELESS. Also, in case you didn't know, the Bad Guy is the Church (specifically Catholic, though most of that doesn't become apparent until the second book) and I was a little nervous about what I'd be expected to swallow. However! I found it incredibly easy to separate Philip Pullman's view of religion with my view of religion because his is so unbelievably... FALSE. (It's my blog! I get to make the rules!) I mean, some of the stuff he put out there was just ridiculous, although he was a little bit Dan Brownish about it and using real names and on more than one occasion I had to google something to see what the real story was. Anyway, I worried I would find all of that irritating, but mostly I found it curious and/or without any basis or reference to MY views. I could say a million more things about this one facet of three truly creative stories, but this is supposed to be one paragraph so...

Oh, I almost forgot I Am The Messenger. I was dying to read another book by the guy who wrote The Book Thief (which I've seen criticized here and there, and my dad couldn't even get through the beginning, but I don't care, I LOVED IT) and EH. Talk about messagey. Again, I loved the characters, you can always get me with some good characters, but the only word I have for the ending is "arrogant". Shrug. 

What do I read next?

If you can figure out what this is about you get a pony

In one and a half weeks of 75% Throttle Potty Training, Molly has informed me that she needs to go potty BEFORE she actually GOES potty exactly, oh, NONE TIMES. If I am taking her to sit on the potty, by which I mean bribing her to sit on the potty, every fifteen to twenty minutes, all is well. She goes. No one has to do any laundry or Resolve a carpet. Everyone is happy. And she'll go anywhere, even if you don't have a sticker or a cookie in your purse. But if I have to make dinner? Or I forget? Or it just doesn't cross my mind in time? Yeah. Laundry. Moaning and groaning. A cheery little girl with wet pants chirping, "I go POTTY Mommy!" 

So my question to you is: do I keep going? Or do I go back to diapers and try again later? If you suggest I go 100% Full Speed Potty Training Ahead, then I will suggest that you haven't been reading that long and have yet to understand the true depths of my laziness. In other words: 100% for longer than, say, an afternoon, is unlikely to happen. I'M JUST BEING HONEST. We have to leave the house on occasion! And I often get sucked into the internet and forget where I AM!

Okay. Whatever. That's out of my system. Now I will tell you about how we drove to The Suburbs tonight to check out a Ginormous House that costs the same as a two bedroom hovel in my current neighborhood AND IT WASN'T THERE. Either the address is wrong or it hasn't been built yet or SOMETHING. But it was annoying. If I'm going to Hem and Haw over Ginormous Brand New House vs. Living In The City And Being My Most Authentic Self, I need tangible evidence for both realities. BAH. 

And you are saying to yourselves: wait, her lease isn't up till APRIL! And they were going to wait until Phillip was done with school! And decide on a neighborhood THEN! But I say to you: YOU try not refreshing Redfin every hour when you are in the position of Picking Anywhere You Want For Your New Place To Live. 

Oh, let's not go there either, that is one enormous post, no, a SERIES of enormous posts that I am disinclined to write at the moment. Most of my energies are currently being tasked with Not Microwaving The Microwave Popcorn because (EYE ROLL) I reverted back to the South Beach Diet at the beginning of the week and mini bag 100 calorie popcorn, which is only one Weight Watcher point, is not allowed if you are low carbing it. LAME. But you know what? I've already lost two pounds this week and Weight Watchers points can suck it. 

No, let's divert my energies to explaining what I think is My Weight Loss Rule of Thumb, which is: Stop Cramming So Much In Your Mouth For The Love of Grilled Cheese. Because DUDE. Just because the brownies were made with whole wheat flour and applesauce does not mean you are allowed to eat the entire pan. (WHICH I DID. THAT ONE TIME. FOR SERIOUS.)

SO ANYWAY. TECHNICALLY I've been doing Weight Watchers in my attempts to Maintain, but whatever, I am just breezing over those point values and paying for features I never use and blah blah blah. So I cancelled my account and dug out my South Beach book and TWO POUNDS, people. But it's not because Weight Watchers = doesn't work and South Beach = works, it's because 1) you gain weight when you eat too much and 2) the only things I really eat too much of are BREAD and COOKIES. I did my best with the cookies, but you may have heard my endeavors with baking bread this summer. YEEEEEEEAH. (Oh, also pasta. Pasta is low fat! Eat a lot! Wait! Not THAT much! Hey! Slow down! Aaaaauuuggghhh!)

I have a feeling this post would be a lot more interesting and coherent if I'd actually seen the house I was interested in tonight. LAME.

No really. Would you still love me if I moved to the suburbs? Mom? Anyone? SIGH.

Our missing piece

Molly and I aren't quite sure what to do with ourselves on Preschool Mornings. Today we went grocery shopping and wandered around the Gap and every five minutes Molly looked at me worriedly and said, "Where Gakun?"

He jumped out of the car today, turned back to give me a kiss and scooted inside for school. So there is that. That and two and a half hours of having only one kid, which is... WEIRD. 

I mean, I remember what it was like to have one kid up to the point where I got pregnant with Molly and fell face forward into nine months of anxiety with a side helping of extreme discomfort. I don't trust anything I remember while pregnant, on account of General Drama Queeniness. And then Molly arrived and Jack wasn't even sixteen months old and boom! Two kids. Life forever changed. 

But I have to say, this morning was really kind of fun. I LIKE having one kid! We parked at the outdoor mall and I didn't have to worry about Single Stroller: Will They Fight Over It or Double Stroller: Do I Want To Maneuver It - I just didn't deal with the stroller at all because I only had one (one!) kid and I felt confident about wrangling her without a strap-her-down option. 

I bought her a little treat at the bakery which was fun, because Molly's appetite is rarely disrupted by treats and I knew she'd still eat lunch. I followed her all around the little playground which was fun because I didn't have to keep an eye out for another kid hurling himself from the top of the play structure. I took her into stores which was fun because I NEVER take my kids into clothing stores if I can help it, and, even more fun, she'd pick things out. "Dis one Mommy? Dis one?" 

We held hands, but sometimes I carried her. Which I could do, and which was fun, because there was only one of her. Whenever she wanted to stop and look, we stopped and looked.

Then we went grocery shopping, which was fun because, as you know, I loooove to grocery shop AND I didn't have to stop the cart every ten seconds to referee an argument. There were no arguments! There was no crying! There was ALSO no singing and shouting and maneuvering a car cart around tiny bakery displays and OH what a joy my shopping trip was this morning! 

But then we drove home and I put the groceries away and Molly was quite literally clinging to my legs and we both began to wonder when Jack was coming home. One of us was wondering where our entertainment was. One of us was wondering where our Plays With The Puzzles So I Don't Have To was. 

Eventually she played with her doll house while I folded clothes. She pushed her stroller around while I unloaded the dishwasher. I looked at the clock. She would find me and say, "Where Gakun?"

And then, at 11:25, we put our shoes on and climbed into the car, which was sort of fun because Molly got to open the gate all by herself and shut the gate all by herself and pick up her own rock and listen to her own music and I only had to buckle one kid, and then we drove two minutes away to the preschool. 

Gakun climbed into the car, his teacher buckled him in, he proudly showed off his frillionth art project (obvs there will be no end to art projects from here on out) and our missing piece was back. While the water boiled for macaroni and cheese, they fought over the rocking chair and the left over birthday balloons and the Daddy from the doll house. They both demanded apple with their macaroni and cheese and refused to eat a single slice. And they both went to bed early because this preschool stuff, this new little routine, it totally wears us out. 

Something Else

Friday morning I was sitting at the kitchen table in my pajamas blearily watching my kids eat breakfast and wondering when the babysitter was going to show up. No really. This was an actual thought in my head even though 1) there was no babysitter and 2) WHAT? For serious? Come on now! And yet, there I sat, telling myself that surely there was a babysitter arriving at any moment - or an aunt, or a set of grandparents, or a friend, or SOMEONE - because SURELY I could not be expected to function that day. 

I am going to bed too late, that's part of the problem. At nap time, when I used to exercise or write, I pass out on the couch, my Kindle flat on my stomach. And for whatever reason, last week was just difficult. Long, tiring, cranky. Oh, and potty training, which is going splendidly when I am on the girl's case every fifteen minutes, and dreadfully if I need to go make dinner and forget a certain small someone is wearing Ni Hao Kai Lan underpants and not a diaper. Ah well. 

But then Saturday I went to this conference thing. I left my house at 8:30 and didn't get home till 6. And today we went to church, but we put the kids in the nursery, which we haven't tried in over a year, and then right when it was time for them to eat dinner I left for a volleyball game. I didn't get back until they were both in bed. Phillip was the stay at home parent this weekend and it really did feel that way on Saturday, where I yelled, "Honey, I'm home!" when I walked in the door at dinnertime and the kids ran to see me and smother me with kisses. Kind of nice, I have to admit. 

Nice for Phillip too, as it appears the kids were nothing but sweetness and light while he was holding down the fort. I haven't decided if this is due to the fact that they really WERE being nothing but sweetness and light, or if Phillip's personality just has different standards for an acceptable day. (Quite likely.) 

Anyway, I spent a lot of time this weekend discussing Stay At Home Mom-Ness with my one other friend who doesn't work at all, not even part time, just like me. It was good. It's always good to know you're not the only one thinking or feeling something. 

Which reminds me of a story I heard at the conference, which was mostly about what we comfortable American women can do to combat things like women in poverty, malnutrition, trafficking, illiteracy, all sorts of very desperate things. I attended a talk given by a woman who lived in teeny tiny villages in Nepal for thirteen years (can you even IMAGINE) and according to her, the biggest oppressor of women in Nepal is mothers-in-law. As a woman you are basically slave labor for your husband's family until your sons, if you are lucky enough to have them, are old enough to take their own wives. Then YOU become a mother-in-law and it's YOUR turn to wield some power. 

Part of what the Western woman was doing in Nepal was helping to form "women's groups" - get the women of the villages together to work on projects, like drinking water or reforestation or animal husbandry or something. But another thing that happened is that they started to talk to each other, to get to know each other and they slowly began to realize that OTHER people were unhappy. It wasn't just them! It wasn't just THEIR mother-in-law! It wasn't just THEIR drunk husband! 

And I just loved this story and I had tears in my eyes when the speaker talked about how the mothers-in-law heard the stories of the daughters-in-law and realized they were perpetuating this truly vicious cycle and OH. How powerful. 

What was good to hear from my SAHM friend wasn't the usual blather about the grind and sameness of childcare, but the feeling of Not Being Anything Else. You know what I'm talking about. You tell people you stay home with your kids and to a man they say, "Oh, that's so WONDERFUL!" and it is, it really is, but there's always a part of me that thinks they're saying it because that's what you're SUPPOSED to say. Because "man, how do you DO that day after day?" isn't really polite. 

So that's the phase I've been in lately, and it was nice to hear that someone else was feeling it too, if not nice that we are FEELING it. You know.

And yet, I am something else. My friend has a heart for serving the poor, which is why she wanted to go to this conference. I wanted to encourage my friend, which is why I went. My heart is elsewhere, probably in the pantry with the chocolate chips. So maybe I wasn't inspired to fund raise for missions or write the stories of these Nepalese women (which was encouraged - I attended a panel that was pretty much Journalism 101: pretty awesome) but I DID get to meet some women who are Something Else. Some of them wore suits and pretty jewelry and had been to public speaking school, some of them were softer, quieter, less polished, just as impactful. I connect a lot more with the second group. They make me hopeful. 

Perhaps the best thing about the conference, for me, was finally getting a tiny glimpse of understanding that I don't have to wait. There are things I can do right now, even if it's just reading a book or writing about it on my blog or continuing with the neverending struggle to be a better parent. Staying home with the kids is not a big fat Pause on life. It's not a waiting room. It's not a detour. It's totally what I want to be doing, I'm grateful to have the choice, and it's a huge chunk of what will form me into the person I'll be twenty, thirty years from now, when maybe I am a softer, quieter, not as polished woman who still has something important to say.

My babies

The kids slept really late today, a combination of Preschool and Wretched Weather, and when they were both awake Molly and I crawled into Jack's bed and we all hid under the covers, giggling. I thought: sometimes this gig ain't half bad. 

I get really frustrated about food - really, everything pertaining to food, from thinking of what to serve to cleaning it all up and those aren't even the worst parts - and I also get really frustrated about how long it takes to do anything. Especially now that Molly insists on doing everything herself - her shoes, her pants, her coat, her hair, her teeth, her pajamas, her car seat, EVERYTHING GAH. It takes us nine hundred years to leave the house and being a sort of efficient, impatient, spastic sort I get driven insane in a matter of minutes. I read a lot of Catholic mothers referring to this kind of situation as a great way to "learn patience" or "grow in humility" but man if that thought does not even OCCUR to me. I am too busy devising ways to catapult the children from their beds into the car. 

Oh, and I suppose the fighting. The fighting makes me lock myself in the bathroom with the laptop looking at year-long missions in Africa because SURELY that would be easier. 

But other than that, I am pretty chill with these kids, I really am, and I don't write about that part. I don't get too bent out of shape about things getting messy, including their little selves. I no longer make any attempts to manipulate the nap situation, because that ceased to have any effect many many months ago, and low nap expectations make for a more pleasant demeanor. In the same way I don't stress out about when or where we go anywhere because my kids are so reliable - Molly will always go back to sleep, Jack will never go back to sleep, so it doesn't matter. I can shop with two kids, in any store, though I'd rather not. I give them baths mostly in the mornings, but sometimes at night. Their rooms are decorated, but not with any style or ideas, just with stuff I happened to think looked cute, and now we're plastering preschool art all over Jack's room. The playroom is entirely theirs, though I let them own whatever room they're in. We play outside or inside, they're almost always awesome in restaurants, and when it's bleak and raining and boring and their dad won't get home till midnight I let them watch TV. Maybe a lot of TV, and I am totally okay with it. 

Jack is finicky, precise, careful. He has a certain way of doing almost everything, and sometime's it's crazy annoying, like having to go through the whole Goodbye Ritual, but sometimes it's sort of awesome, like watching him fold paper or draw letters or curl up in his bed. I let him play the computer during the first half hour or so of Molly's nap, and he's graduated to the real computer, with the real mouse and real online games and I don't have to help him at all, so much so that I had no idea how GOOD he was with the mouse until my mom mentioned it. There is still no one toy he plays with, no one kind of play he likes to do. You can interest him in almost anything except, say, eating. But puzzles, maybe. Train tracks. Legos. A fort made out of couch cushions and blankets and dining room chairs.

Sometimes I think I don't get him at all, sometimes I think he is SO much like me I'm worried for him. My little picky eater, incredibly stubborn, hates being ignored, hates being talked over, who can pick out the one thing that's slightly off - the blind that isn't open, the missing picture, the clothes that don't match, the shoes he wore last year. He STILL talks about the old house and asks me where it is. When we drive to the zoo he points out that this is also the way we go to church. He notices, he remembers, he stores it away, he mulls. There is always something going on in that little head, and that is something people often say about me. We don't say much, but we're thinking. 

Molly is even more stubborn than Jack - God help her Threes - but for some reason she's easy for me to figure out. Even when she's putting us through hell in the middle of the night, my certains are so much more certain with her. I don't think Phillip feels this way and I often wonder why I do. Is it because she's the youngest? A girl? The one who snuggled up to me immediately and could breastfeed all day long and therefore, according to all the internet literature, is more bonded to me and I to her? I have no idea, although most of my certains work in her favor, ie: I tend to be more lenient with her orneriness, which would lead us to the She's My Wittle Baby conclusion. Who knows. 

She's SO snuggly though. Jack never cuddled up to me like she did, like she does. She'll press her cheek against mine just for fun, she'll give you kisses all day long, she loves to be held, to have her hair stroked, to rub noses and I could do all of those things forever and ever. She's such a girl, throwing fits if I don't let her pick out her own hair clips or her own clothes. "Pink is for Mahmoo! Boo is for Gahksun!" 

She often wakes up when Phillip is just ready to leave the house. He gets her up, changes her diaper, and sticks her in bed with me and a handful of books and she's so content. So smiley. So happy to "read" while I "sleep". 

They're both doing so much, saying so much, BEING so much. They sing together, incessantly. In the car, in the house, in the stroller, in any public place, most notably the grocery store. They fight, but they also know how to play together - Jack defining the game, Molly willing to do whatever he instructs. Jack tells stories and Molly repeats them. They look for each other, wonder about each other, worry about each other. When Jack is at preschool Molly stands uncertainly in the playroom and asks me worriedly, "Where Gahksun?" When Molly is sleeping a long time, Jack will frown and say, "Where's Mollymoo?"

Third baby (NOT PREGNANT) will change things. Molly will no longer be the baby. And one of them will not be the only boy/girl. It won't be this JacknMolly world I have going on right now and part of me is just so sad about that, almost so sad that I don't want to add a third baby. I finally get the moms of one who freak out about their one baby not being their one baby anymore. I wanted a second so badly, and didn't have time to dwell on it, that I honestly never felt bad about not having Just Jack. But now I do feel protective of Just JacknMolly. They are so sweet, so cute right now. Yes, they could definitely improve in the food and independence and relating-to-one-another-with-kindness departments, but you can't have it all, right? I want to climb under the covers and pretend we're hiding and tickle and laugh and hit PAUSE for a good long while.