Friday, March 10, 2017

Go Carrie! It's your birthday!

Today is my birthday! I’m now 37, and I’m pretty excited about this year. I think 37 is a very auspicious number. And it’s a prime number. And the digits add up to 10, which is my birthday numeral. It is going to be a GREAT year!
So I mentioned in January that I’m sort of doing a Happiness Project this year and trying to work on/evaluate a different part of my life each month. January was about organizing the house, February was about trying to be more proactive in my marriage, and for March, I thought I’d try to be more proactive about being a better parent.
But then I changed my mind. In light of March being my birthday month, I wanted to do something, well, more fun. And one of the fundamental rules that underlies the Happiness Project is really knowing who you are and what you truly enjoy (versus what you think you should enjoy). I think in my younger years I definitely went through a lot of time of trying to enjoy certain things that I thought I should enjoy. But with the wisdom of my 30s, I’ve let go of most of those things. Like 95 percent of music! And 99 percent of fiction! I don’t enjoy these things, and there’s no need to pretend I do.
Still, I’m someone who gets so focused on doing the stuff that just needs to get done, so I wondered if there were things I really do enjoy that I’ve let slip because of, well, just being too busy. I’m also someone who enjoys trying new things (new things that involve no risk, that is, so “yes” to making homemade marshmallows but “no” to skydiving), so sometimes I learn something, or try something, and then move on and never do it again. Such as these French-beaded flowers:

I taught myself how to make these from a book
when our company made us take unpaid leave.
But there’s something to be said about having true hobbies that you enjoy and can fall back on when you need some down time and don’t want to just totally tune out with media.
So in my journey to revisit “what do I really like?” and “what makes Carrie so Carrie?” I reached out to some old friends, especially people I don’t see on a regular basis or haven’t seen in years, and asked them these questions. It was quite an interesting experiment, and I recommend everyone do it; it is fascinating to see how others perceive you compared to how you perceive yourself.
So what did people say? The good news is no one seemed to think I’ve changed that much, at least through what they can see from my social media and blog posts. So that was good to hear. But then when I asked about something they will always remember me for, that’s where the more interesting answers came in.
One of my favorite answers is from my college friend Jordan, who I probably ate a dozen meals a week with during the two years we lived in the high rises because we both had future spouses at other colleges and we could enjoy each other’s company without any danger of romantic messiness.
Jordan said, “I recall that when you felt wronged about some kind of absurdity, you had a pointed way of venting that mixed anger, snark, and mirth. Not quite 'combustible' or really a temper, but a take-no-crap kind of attitude. Hopefully that hasn't mellowed!”
I have no idea what kind of situations he’s thinking of that cemented that perception of me in his head, but it makes me laugh. I feel like high school and college Carrie was pretty sassy, and with maturity that has, well, let’s just say it has been tempered. I feel like I take my fair share of crap these days, but then I have other friends who get walked on all the time, and I realize I probably do avoid a heck of a lot of crap coming my way, perhaps because I project that I’m not going to take it. If that makes sense.

I was really excited to hear what my brother Dan would have to say too, because he’s 7 years younger than me and quotes things back to me that I’ve said and have no recollection of, but are hilarious. (“If Dippin’ Dots is the ‘ice cream of the future,’ the future sucks.”) I think both my brother and my mom take everything I say as gospel when I unintentionally speak in proclamations. I once asked my mom why she never put cucumber in salads anymore, and she said it was because I had declared that “winter cucumbers aren’t worth a crap.” To which I responded, “yeah, but I still want some cucumber.”
Anyway, this is one thing Dan had to say about me: “Another thing that you have done is just slide into places where you don't necessarily belong, but you act so confidently that no one questions it. For instance, I remember you came to my 8th grade dance to pick me up and you just walked in even though they weren't supposed to let older kids in. You just came in and blended. In retrospect, I guess it's not that surprising. Middle school dances are not really known for tight security. For whatever reason though, this memory always stands out to me.”
I have no memory of this. But if my brother was in the eighth grade, I would have been 21, and being 5’0” I probably did blend in. Heck, I might have been one of the shortest people there, the way kids are growing these days. I do remember once going to a Halloween party to pick Dan up and he was just getting ready to go on a hayride, so I joined in, and one of the fellow party-goers started hitting on me and I had to tell him I was in college and just there to pick up my brother. Awkward. Because of my height, people always thought Dan and I were just a couple of years apart, which is kind of ridiculous, and wonderfully flattering.
But back to slipping into places I don’t belong and doing it confidently—that kind of describes what a journalist has to do. Go under that yellow caution tape and find the person in charge? Yup, part of the job. I wouldn’t have thought I was good at that when I was younger, because I remember I really had to develop my “Reporter Carrie” persona during my internships and then my early years as a journalist because I really am quite a shy person.
But on the other hand, I generally always was pretty confident in myself too. Which apparently showed! As my high school friend Morgan wrote me back: “I remember feeling like you were always doing what was best for you and not what everyone else wanted to do. You introduced new people and ideas to all of us and you were true to yourself. I don't want it to feel like you didn't care about what people thought, because I think you did…You had the skill of being true to yourself and respectful of others.”
I think Morgan really hit it on the head, because sometimes I think I might come across as someone who doesn’t care at all what others think, but what I’m really doing is trying to evaluate things objectively and then not let other people’s opinions carry more weight than my own, especially when they probably have less information on the subject (if the subject is me) than I do. I feel like I’m getting preachy—I hope this isn’t coming across that way.
My friend Pat has been a friend since high school, then we went to the same college and work in the same field, and have continued to get together every few months through adulthood. Pat, I think you are my longest-running, never-on-hold friendship! My favorite comment from Pat: “Carrie is that laugh. That great, glorious, genuine, beautiful, comforting, totally-in-on-the-joke laugh.” I know that laugh he’s talking about, and it doesn’t come out every time, or every day, but if you know what he’s talking about, then you really have seen a quintessential part of Carrie.
Pat also thought a trademark part of me was how I painted my car’s interior in high school. I had my mom’s 12-year-old Civic and I spray painted the carpet green and painted the ceiling light blue, I believe with clouds. An essential part of Carrie as a mom: “An acknowledged willingness to redistribute her kid's Kit Kats and Milky Ways at Halloween into her own candy stash.” True. Rye does not need that much chocolate. I do.
Pat also remembered how I used to go to the race track and bet on horseracing with my father, and said he would be sad if I didn’t do that anymore. I don’t do it every year, but the spirit of that is still in me. In many ways, I am my father’s daughter.
And then the most common answer that came from multiple friends—a quintessential part of Carrie is my mad rapping skills and passion for old school hip hop. This facet of me has been surprising people since I was young. I remember going to college and people being shocked that I knew all the words to “Jump Around” or “Intergalactic” or “Bust a Move” — and they didn’t even know I grew up in rural Harford County. My rapping skills only seem to make an appearance when alcoholic beverages have been imbibed, which is a bit of a shame because I’ve realized I can’t always keep up with the tempo in those circumstances, but I suppose chances to rap along with “Shoop” generally only come up in party-like atmosphere.
When I turned 30, I came up with an epic mix cd called “Don’t Be a Menace to Society…Unless Carrie Is” to commemorate the occasion, and this year, in trying to celebrate “being true to Carrie,” I’ve created this playlist, “DJ Cat Spins it Old School,” on Spotify so you can take part in also celebrating classic hip hop with me this year. (Classic means 2002 and earlier, in my opinion.) I try to keep it mostly clean, but that’s kind of hard, so just know I tried my best. If you’re wondering where some of the more standard classics are, like the aforementioned hits or “Baby Got Back”, “Ice, Ice Baby” or "Let me Clear My Throat," it’s because this is not my first hip hop mix cd, okay? Those are all on Volumes I, II and II 1/2.
Other parts of Carrie that I plan to celebrate/revive after thinking about “what makes Carrie so Carrie:” watching less TV and reading more nonfiction, specifically travel writing; continuing to cook new recipes every week; crocheting more; spending time outdoors!; celebrating color; wearing elaborate and ridiculous accessories (feathers, anyone?); and trying to get together with more friends face-to-face instead of settling for correspondence friendships.
Thanks for reading, and thanks to everyone who messaged me back about what’s quintessential Carrie but that I didn’t get to name! You all are great!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Proof that mid-30s is middle-aged

No one has asked me about the premise of my blog name lately — that if you’re over 25 you’re middle-aged. I’m not sure when most people consider “middle-aged” to begin, but I’m guessing not until the late 40s or early 50s. Go ahead, you dreamers. Your optimistic attitude toward age won’t keep your body (or your mind, but let’s not go there) from falling apart. Me, I’d rather face aging with realism and push myself to stay at the high point of the bell curve for what my body and mind can reasonably be expected to handle at my age.
Speaking of which, I’m quite proud of myself for hitting my middle-aged weight goal this month. I use an ap called “Lose It” that lets you estimate your BMI, set your goal, choose what rate you would like to lose weight by (sadly, “instantly” is not an option) and then it determines a daily calorie budget to help you achieve that weight. You then log your food and exercise daily, with bar charts and pie charts and line graphs showing your progress (this is the most math I’ve done, or rather observed, since Econ 101 in college) and if you stick with the actions required to meet these mathematical equations, you will lose the weight. So two Fridays ago, when I finally entered my weight knowing that I had reached my goal, I was kind of excited to see what the ap would do. I pictured some kind of animated scene similar to when you get a strike at a bowling alley, like a picture of a scale blowing up or shrinking or bowing down to me. And sure enough, a window popped up with a message that read:
“Congratulations! You have lost .6 pounds in 37 months and 26 days!”
I laughed out loud. Because that is the most pathetic (but true) message I have ever received. I couldn’t even remember when I had started using the ap, but apparently it was Feb. 4, 2014, when Rye was almost a year old and I was getting frustrated with losing weight on my own, just trying to lose the last little bit for my 31-year-old self’s “ideal weight.” That number was determined by a fitness guy on a cruise ship who had me stand on one of those scales that sends electricity through your body and determines your percentages of muscle, fat and water and then determines the exact size and weight you should hope (or work, or as he was pushing, take fat-burning seaweed capsules) to be. Apparently I had been pretty close to that number when I started the ap, but not wanting to wait for the gradual change of half a pound a week progress that the ap recommends, I had gone for the pound a week rate, which led to a calorie budget of less than 1,300 calories per day that was nearly impossible to meet, neither daily nor as an average over the week. (At some point I had decided that I was no longer 31 and so I gave myself permission to up my goal weight by 3 pounds, which also led to this very low bar of weight loss achievement.) Also in those 37 months and 26 days, I had two more pregnancies. My line graph has 2 mountains and some minor hills (though I didn’t track myself during the pregnancies, just when they were over). But post-Christmas this year, I decided it was time to get serious and just finish those last pesky 3 pounds. I changed the weight loss rate to half a pound per week, and accomplished the final weight loss in just 3 weeks instead of 6 weeks anyway. Sigh. The lessons learned: weight loss is incredibly hard when you’re middle-aged, and take the ap’s advice and do it the slow and easy way.
Weight loss is not my only story about middle-agedness this week. During the same week that I achieved my weight loss goal, several days earlier, I was at the gym, getting my cardio in, and decided to really push myself on the treadmill. I normally do walking and running intervals because I LOATHE running, but I don’t have time to walk enough calories off, so I gotta make up time somewhere and hence do some running. This day I decided to up my speed on the running portion by .7 miles per hour. And I could do it! This is the upside of weight loss—physical activity kind of just gets easier on its own. I was so proud of myself, that I even did an extra 10 minutes of running. When I got off the treadmill I felt a little more tired, but no more sore or out of breath. I went home, showered, and forgot about it.
The next morning, I was still fine. My legs are muscly Miller legs, and they weren’t hurting. I went about my day, which for that day, included taking Rye to preschool and then going to book club at a friend’s house. Toward the end of book club, I started feeling a little off in my stomach, but I thought maybe I had had too much caffeine. (Knox stopped nursing and I’m back on the juice, baby!). I picked Rye up from school and went home, and started to wonder if maybe I was getting the stomach bug that pretty much every friends’ family had already been taken out by but we had escaped. When I laid down on the floor with the kids, I felt better, but as soon as I got up, you know, doing stuff, I could feel it again. Every time I went to the bathroom, I wondered if this was the time that I was going to lose my shit, as they say, but it never happened. At dinner time I texted Josh that he better leave work on time because I thought I was coming down with the stomach bug and might need immediate back up, any minute now. He came home, but I had already gotten the kids in bed and was just lying on the couch pathetically, though with all internal contents still in place.
The next morning, the feeling was still there. In fact, 30 hours after it began, it was still there, and I’m pretty sure that’s not how the stomach bug works. You usually only feel it coming on about 30 seconds before you make it to the toilet. Every time I lied down to rest, I felt better, but up and doing things, I felt weak. So I called my mom to describe my symptoms and see what she thought it could be. She told me that last winter, while painting her bathroom, she had done a lot of unfamiliar body motions, using muscles she doesn’t normally use, which led to her pulling a muscle in her stomach. It was so bad that when she described it to her doctor, he wondered if she had somehow broken a rib. She recommended I try a heating pad on it and see if that made a difference.
Which, of course, it did. I felt like an idiot. While my legs, and shockingly, my lungs, could handle 30 minutes of interval running at a 5.2 pace (don’t judge me), my stomach muscles could not. Knowing that there was nothing internally wrong with my stomach, I also started taking ibuprofen and was back to full mobility in a day or two.
And my final, and most shameful episode of middle-agery: my alcohol tolerance. Knox was sleeping a good six hours through the night from quite early on, so I was soon enjoying the occasional Jack and Coke (Zero) which is my signature drink these days. Last Friday, after seeing about a million gin references in Amazon Prime’s “Z: The Beginning of Everything” about Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, I decided to have some gin and tonic (except with Sprite Zero). After all, Knox was done nursing and had been sleeping 11-hour nights for about 5 out of 7 nights per week. I had one and a half drinks, pouring the same amount of gin as I sometimes do with whiskey, but with about three-quarters of it consumed, I realized gin is not equivalent to whiskey. No problem, I thought, I’ll sleep it off.
Except Knox didn’t sleep through the night. Around 2:30 a.m., he started bawling, and after Josh tried consoling him for about 20 minutes, realized the source of trouble was a breached diaper, getting his pajamas, snuggle suit and even sheets wet. Josh turned on the light and changed his diaper, clothes and sheets. Meanwhile Knox continued to wail, and I got up to see what the commotion was. One look in Knox’s eyes and I knew he wasn’t going back to sleep. So at 3:15 a.m., I took him downstairs to give him a mini bottle and let him play. He drank the bottle, but then whined on his play mat, while climbing on me, while I tried to get him to sleep with me on the couch, every way except for me holding him. After 45 minutes I decided he must be tired enough to go to sleep, so I took him back upstairs, held him while swaying to his crib music box for a few minutes, and put him down and got in my bed. So I got about two more hours of sleep before Rye was up, waking Knox up, hearing Josh get up with both of them, hearing Rye run all over the downstairs and shaking the house, so that at 7:30 I gave up and got up. No headache, no dry-mouth, no queasy stomach, just that dizzy feeling. I tried drinking water and going about my day, but it didn’t work. When we got to my parents’ house at 10:30 after an hour drive, I puked. For the first time from alcohol in over a decade. From 1 ½ drinks. Post puking, I was over the queasiness and even the dizziness and had only the tiredness to contend with, but it was enough that it ruined my day. When Josh and I got back home, I napped for an hour, then we still went to bed at 9:30.
I’m old.
And if you’re 36, you are too. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

With resolve, I hereafter do plan...

Happy 2017! I know, it’s a little late for that, but that’s just because I’ve been busy. And procrastinating.
I’m not one to normally make a resolutions, but this year, I decided to go big. For a while I’ve been thinking about doing a Happiness Project, a la Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” book that I read a few years ago. 

   I really enjoyed it, though the exact format of her process has somewhat escaped me. But thanks to her website—here are the basics.
First, you need to know yourself well. What makes you happy (in those unexpected, maybe even unsexy ways, like for me it is reading in bed for 10 minutes before facing the day)? What makes you feel bad? (So you can get less of that in your life.) What makes you feel right/what values do you want your life to reflect? How can you build an atmosphere of growth?
The next step is to make resolutions for specific ways in which your life would be happier. Instead of “get more sleep,” I should strive for “lights out by 10:30.” And then you track your progress with a chart, because without monitoring a habit, you won’t know if a) you’re actually doing it and b) if it’s making a difference.
Her book also divided up the year into 12 months, each dedicated to different themes of resolutions, like having an orderly home, developing hobbies, etc. And that is something that I really wanted to do, but when it came to actually coming up with 12 areas of life all at one time, I found it overwhelming. So then I decided I don’t need to have the full plan ahead of time. No one is grading me, this is just for myself. And since I had three immediate areas I wanted to work on, I’m sticking with those for now.
For January, my goal is decluttering. And more specifically, following the old Benjamin Franklin axiom, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” My goal is to go through the house and get rid of everything I don’t love that we haven’t used in more than a year, and to find a specific place for all our stuff we are keeping so things don’t just linger around in awkward places for months, cluttering up the house.
I got off to a great start on this during the last week of December when I somehow effortlessly convinced Rye that we needed to organize his toys better and make room for Knox to use this drawer in our entertainment center where he will be able to access his own toys in the next few months when he starts crawling, standing and walking. Rye loved the idea (yay, he’s genetically-predisposed to organize!) and we got it done in less than an hour, and he even volunteered a few toys to get rid of that he knows he never plays with.
Then I started tackling the wet bar cabinets in our dining room, clearing out about two DOZEN wine glasses we do not need to keep, and bottles of liquor I’m done with but don’t want to finish (doesn’t that sound so grown up of me?). I moved onto the kitchen and got rid of coffee mugs we never use, expired food items and gigantic awkward party platters that take up so much space, are rarely used and do not reflect my personal style. It felt so good that I was amped up to do more.
I wasn't kidding about the wine glasses.
The biggest problem area in the house is our “study” (see previous post about that room and my quest for the perfect rug here), but it had gotten so out of control, what with Christmas stuff waiting in there to go up to the attic, maternity clothes being weeded out of my closet and being held there until they could be sorted to be given back to friends and/or stored in the attic, ridiculous amounts of paperwork on Josh’s desk and assorted “problems” on my desk (such as two broken picture frames that we are debating whether to fix or toss). So I decided to tackle the other stuff first. The easiest areas that I already have accomplished include the dining room table, my bathroom dresser, my bathroom shelves, my closet, the coat closet, the baking cabinet in the kitchen, and this tiny junk area to the left of our fridge. Still remaining on the list are Rye’s room, Knox’s room (which I’m halfway finished with), the entertainment drawer in the living room, the back porch room, and three separate areas in the study. There’s still a week left in January, but Josh already asked for leniency on the study two weeks ago because he’s got a lot of free time coming up in February during which he would like to tackle it. I want his help too so I’ve decided that a self-imposed deadline is not that big of a deal.
As for my other two life areas that I plan to tackle for February and March, these were easy. In honor of February and Valentine’s Day, I’d like to work on growth in our marriage. Josh and I are going through a pretty good stretch right now, minus the lack of date nights to get out of the house sans kids (because Knox wasn’t taking a bottle but now he is!), but marriages rarely get even better without effort. I wasn’t sure what specifically I wanted to do for this month, and since having SPECIFIC goals are the only way you can measure actions and progress, I thought maybe reading a book on marriage might be a good idea and then making a pointed date night with Josh to discuss it. But then I heard a podcast about Shaunti Feldhahn’s “The Kindness Challenge,” and how she and Focus on the Family were sponsoring a 30-Day Kindness Challenge that you can sign up for and be sent daily emails about how to be proactively kind to someone, and how there were specific emails you could sign up for as a wife for a husband, as a husband for a wife, or as a parent to a child. So I signed up! Because this is an area of our relationship I’ve been wanting to work on but hadn’t done much about. I had read somewhere about the concept of how we don’t treat our spouses as well as our friends, particularly when it comes to the appreciation we show them or the language we use toward them. And I felt totally convicted about that. Not that I’m a monster (I asked, and Josh said no,) but sometimes I’ll say something and then cringe thinking “I would never talk to ______ (insert female friend’s name in here) that way.” So I’m looking forward to the Kindness Challenge. If you are interested, you can sign up here (and you can start the emails with whatever date you want, I’m waiting for Feb. 1).
My March goal is to be a more intentional parent. Again, I don’t have my specific resolutions worked out for this yet, but I’m tired of being reactive to Rye’s behaviors and feeling like I’m constantly disciplining him for stupid stuff that makes me want to pull my hair out. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts on different parenting strategies, and I’ve got a few books in mind to get out and try, so we’ll see how that goes. I’ve got plenty of time before I need to worry about this one. And I can always bump it to April.
And is if that weren’t enough, I’m also still thinking about choosing a “word of the year.” I had heard about this before, but it somewhat oddly really caught my attention after hearing a Fresh Air podcast with Francis Ford Coppola and how he said he always picked one word to focus on with the making of every film, because whenever he came to a point where he wasn’t sure where to go with things, the one word brought him back to focus. And then on Gretchen Rubin’s podcast Happier, she recommended picking a word of the year because it can help you make choices and also make that year particularly memorable for something. So in the future, you could say something like, “oh yeah, we did that in 2017 because that was the year we were focusing on ‘outside.’” My book club is looking into this, because a member’s mother did it with her group and they found a way to help you choose your word, which I kind of need, because the endless possibilities of words are daunting. And I’m kind of a word person; a big vocabulary leads to too many choices.
Did you make any goals/resolutions for this year? I’d love to hear about them! And any success stories from previous resolutions?
I’m hoping to write about my Happiness Project/resolutions throughout the year. And I’m making a resolution to write a blog at least once a month, which seems quite possible as I’ve been able to ramp up more each year. If you write a secret blog I don’t know about, please feel free to send me a link too, I love reading other people’s blogs too!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Before moving onto Christmas, one more look at Thanksgiving

On November 1, I had the thought that I’ve never done one of those “30 Days of Thanks” things for November on Facebook, and I wanted to. But for the first year that I remember, no one else was doing it. Plus I don’t like it when gratitude comes across as bragging, so I decided that instead of publicly posting each day, I’d keep it to myself and post it as a blog. So here it goes:

Day 1: I’m thankful for my husband, who is persistent beyond belief. Our radiators upstairs have only been heating half the floor since we tested them out about a month ago, and he has gone at this problem time after time after time. And while I would have given up and called a repairman after the second try, he knew that they would not do any magic trick to fix them or use any special tools, but that this is something he could fix himself. And he did!
Day 2: I’m thankful for getting together with friends weekly in my book club. We discuss books, and even more importantly, our lives. This is a weekly life raft that I always look forward to.
Day 3: I’m thankful for naps. I’m thankful when Rye naps, when Rye and Knox nap, and the trifecta—when I get a nap in there too. Oh sweet, blessed sleep.
Day 4: I’m thankful for friends who come to visit me, even though I only visit them every 5 years or so, and who bring chocolate J
Day 5: I’m thankful for good friends that we can talk openly and honestly with, have differing opinions, challenge each other to see things in new ways, and walk away feeling enriched by the experience.
Day 6: I’m thankful for declaring Sundays during football season as a day of rest—dedicated to watching the Ravens. And while they had me doubtful during the first quarter, they were clearly better than the Steelers today and didn’t blow it. Thank you, Ravens, for earning me my free Dunkin Donuts coffee tomorrow!
Day 7: I’m thankful for my son Rye. We’ve been going through a tough time, what with him being a 3-year-old dictator, and he’s been sick for the past two weeks and been just miserable. While sometimes he gets subdued and affectionate when he’s sick, this cold has led to extra whininess and general malaise. But today, though he hasn’t quite lost his congestion, his attitude and energy level greatly improved, and I remembered that he actually can be fun to spend time, and not just a snot-nosed punk (literally) who is always bossing me around. Love you, Rye!
Day 8: I’m thankful to live in a country where you can go and vote and people smile at you and you don’t have to worry about people with machine guns threatening you to prevent you from voting.
Day 9: I’m thankful that no matter what happens politically, God is God and he is in control, and I can cast my anxieties on him and share his light yoke. Because the thought of what’s going to happen politically makes me really sad…
Day 10: I’m thankful for weeks when Josh doesn’t have to work so much and we get to see more of each other than the quick “have a good day” and “goodnight” routines that control some days.
Day 11: I’m thankful for companies like Panera, which can transform the sad taste of lettuce into a delicious salad that I look forward to eating.
Day 12: I’m thankful for a slow start-up to the Christmas season. I used to eschew anything Christmas-related before Thanksgiving, but if the Christmas season is the “most wonderful time of the year,” then why not make it last for two months instead of one?
Day 13: I’m thankful for a day with absolutely nothing on the schedule and no obligations. Just sitting around the house, catching up on the newspaper and little things around the house, and taking time to exhale.
Day 14: I’m thankful for discovering high-waisted jeggings, which make it look like I’m wearing skinny jeans and yet they keep me from displaying embarrassing muffin-top. And I’m thankful that they are not labeled as “Mom Jeans of the 21st Century.”
Day 15: I’m thankful for grandparents who come visit and watch my kids not just because they want to help me but because they love seeing these little ones grow up.
Day 16: I’m thankful for British period dramas. I’m glad I don’t live during those times, but it’s fun to watch.
Day 17: I’m thankful for when you get the nudge to contact someone, out of the blue, and when you do, you find out you have something to offer that was just what the other person needed.
Day 18: I’m thankful for Knox, who turned four months old today! He is so sweet, and generally easy going, and has started sleeping at night again (bless you, Knox!), and smiles every time he sees me in a way that melts my heart. He is such a sweetie pie.
Day 19: I’m thankful for my dad, whose birthday is today. He has such great stories and such a generous spirit, and is just fun to be around. Glad I’ll get to see him tomorrow.
Day 20: I’m thankful for our church family, who we got to share our baby dedication ceremony with today. These people showed such compassion and I’m thankful for our church family, who prayed for this sweet child throughout my pregnancy and will be there to pray for him as he grows up.
Day 21: I’m thankful for those opportunities to view Rye in a new light. Today was his preschool Thanksgiving program for all the parents to come and watch, and it was great to see him in a different setting and with a fresh set of eyes. So cute!

Day 22: I’m thankful for unexpected changes in the day that make it go better. Today our pediatrician’s office called to call an 8:30 a.m. appointment for tomorrow, but then told me I could come at 12:15 p.m. today if I wanted to. Yes, please!
Day 23: I’m thankful for opportunities to cook for fun. For Thanksgiving, I made a chocolate pumpkin tart, which I would never make for just Josh and I, and I no longer have a work place to take baked goods to, so to have a family event to go a little “extra” for really makes me happy.
Day 24: I’m thankful for getting to see my parents, my brother and his wife, their new baby (who is just 3 months younger than Knox), my sister-in-law’s mother, and my mother-in-law for Thanksgiving at my parents’ house. It was just a very relaxing day with delicious, creative food (and plenty of leftovers to take home!) and there was no political talk and three desserts. #winning
Day 25: I’m thankful for having a husband who loves selecting a live Christmas tree as much as I do. This has always been my favorite part of Christmas, since I was a child, and Josh shows as much enthusiasm for it as I do. This year we spent about an hour and a half at the tree farm, and ended up getting the first tree I liked. The current tally for picking Christmas trees: Carrie-13, Josh-1.
Day 26: I’m thankful for my in-laws. Josh’s family and my family are very different, personality-wise, and it took me a few years to get used to them, but I wouldn’t trade my mother-in-law and brothers- and sisters-in law for anything! I feel so blessed that we have no tension within our family, and genuinely like spending time together!
Day 27: I’m thankful for online shopping. I’ve never been a hardcore shopper, so doing this from my phone or computer—what could be better!
Day 28: I’m thankful for living in such a great little city. I love Westminster, and appreciate all that its people put on for the rest of the community, sharing their passions and time and resources generously.
Day 29: I’m thankful for the nursery staff at our gym, who take the kiddos in, give them activities and snacks and make it a place where the kids are excited (usually) to go and so I can have an hour of time to myself trying to get my pre-baby body back.
Day 30: I’m thankful for a warm, dry house on icky, rainy days. I love that we’ve lived in this house for seven years and it is filled with our personal touches and memories and the sounds of our family. I love my view from sitting on the couch, holding Knox, and watching Josh and Rye build a wooden train track town together. I wonder what it will be like when Knox is old enough to play with Rye and Josh and I can sit on the couch again together.

So there you have it, my 30 days of gratitude. It wasn’t hard to be thankful each day, but extremely hard to remember to write them down each day. I usually ended up doing it every three to five days, so I wish I had been a little bit better about taking a moment to express and record the gratitude each day. There’s always next year!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Day in the life

Ever wonder what a stay-at-home mom does all day? Or even what you have done with your whole day? People are always whining about Mondays, and yes, even I am prone to some weekend hangover-ness, but yesterday, I was on a roll, and decided to record my actions because such a productive day may never happen again. Or maybe one day in the future when the kids are older I’ll try to remember what it was like with two littles and a freelance writing career, and if I don’t write it down, I won’t remember. So here it goes, starting at 2 a.m., Monday Nov. 21, 2016.

2 a.m.: Feed Knox, change his diaper, go back into a deep sleep.
5:45 a.m.: Hear Knox, but he sounds happy, so go back to sleep.
6:08 a.m.: Hear Knox, realize that while he’s happy, he’s not going to fall back asleep unless I give him the binky. Go in his room to discover he’s majorly wet the bed. Strip him and the bed, change his diaper, wrap him back up and put him back to bed. Hear Rye saying he has to pee, so go take him to the bathroom and put him back to bed. Get in bed myself, but don’t fall back to sleep.
6:45 a.m.: Get up, retrieve Knox who did not fall back to sleep either, feed him.
7 a.m.: Remind Josh that his alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. and he need to get up.
7:10 a.m.: Greet Rye at his allowable wake time, change Knox’s diaper, and put him back to bed.
7:15 a.m.: Fold the kids’ laundry that I washed last night.
7:30 a.m.: Empty the dishwasher, make myself a cup of decaffeinated Earl Grey.
7:40 a.m.: Pack up Josh’s lunch, say goodbye.
7:45 a.m.: Breakfast with Rye—oatmeal, granola bar, and one cookie for him (that I made last night to take to his school’s special Thanksgiving program today); peanut butter-infused Greek yogurt dipped up with apple slices for me.
8:10 a.m.: Start a load of lights to wash Knox’s wet bed dressings.
8:15 a.m.: Play with Rye.
8:25 a.m.: Knox is fussing, go up and soothe him, get myself dressed, bring down Rye’s clothes and get him dressed, both brush our teeth.
8:35 a.m.: Try to soothe Knox again, realize he’s not going to settle, bring him downstairs.
8:45 a.m.: Help Rye do a puzzle while holding Knox.
8:57 a.m.: Realize I might as well feed Knox now to get a head start on the next cycle.
9:10 a.m.: Tell Rye to put on his shoes and start grabbing everything we need to take to school and the gym for me and Knox.
9:22 a.m.: In the car and driving to school.
9:35 a.m.: Leave Rye at school, with the homemade cookies and baby carrots I had signed up to bring, drive to the gym.  
9:45 a.m.: Arrive at gym, put Knox in the nursery, and attempt to master the elliptical for 40 minutes.
10:03 a.m.: Interrupted by nursery staff, need to go change Knox’s poopy diaper.
10:15 a.m.: Decide Knox seemed really fussy and probably just needs a nap, give up elliptical early after just 25 minutes and head home.
10:30 a.m.: Get Knox in his room, change his clothes wet from drool. Realize he’s not going to fall asleep on his own so swaddle him, sing to him and sway for 3 minutes, until he falls asleep, then put him in his crib.
10:37 a.m.: Time to get a shower. While in the shower, realize that if Knox is really asleep, I have time to start another load of laundry, blow dry my hair and still make it back to preschool in time for Rye’s program. Start to realize this may be the most productive day ever and that I should start taking notes.
11 a.m.: Dress and head downstairs with load of darks, get them going, then blow dry my hair for five minutes. It’s still mostly wet, but I shouldn’t get icicles in my hair anymore.
11:15 a.m.: Wake up Knox, remember to grab a bib, then head downstairs, wrap him in my coat then head out with the diaper bag to go to Rye’s school.
11:27 a.m.: Arrive early. Must wait in the hallway. Ugh.
11:34 a.m.: We are let in and file into the larger part of the classroom, I stand in the back with Knox in the Baby Bjorn, wave to Rye, and get my phone camera ready. Take one picture then switch to video, and video all 10 minutes of their songs. Rye doesn’t sing, but mostly does the motions to the Turkey Wobble song.
11:45 a.m.: Snack time. Get some disapproving looks from other parents for letting Rye have 4 cookies, but he had 4 pieces of lunch meat and 3 chunks of cheese, so I’m happy that I won’t have to give him lunch when we get home. I’m a little discouraged that parents are giving kids these 2 ½-inch diameter store-bought M&M cookies over my homemade 1-inch diameter honey coins (a shortbread covered in powdered sugar), but one dad starts taking them by the handful, and one child with perfect hair and a model-like mother chooses my cookie over the M&M cookie. The 9 p.m. cookie making last night was worth it!
12:20 p.m.: Convince Rye it’s time to go home, as Knox can’t wait to eat and sleep.
12:30 p.m.: Home, see that the mail has not come and remember to put out a Netflix movie we need to send back. Feed Knox, then change his diaper. Help Rye spell out signs to write on his magnet doodler. Put Knox on his play mat and then help Rye put together another puzzle he had started this morning and abandoned.
1:05 p.m.: Nap time. Cajole Rye to come upstairs, change from his jeans to flannel pajama pants, take him to the bathroom to pee. While he’s washing his hands, swaddle Knox and put him down, go read Rye a book and put him in his bed, then go back to Knox’s room to re-swaddle him and hold his arms still until he falls asleep 20 seconds later.
1:30 p.m.: My lunch time, warm up leftover chili and sit down at computer to eat.
1:37 p.m.: Mid-lunch, Rye calls over the monitor that he has to pee again. Really tempted to call B.S. but go up anyway, take him to the bathroom where he dribbles out an ounce, then put him back in bed.
1:47 p.m.: Finish lunch. Remember I need to finish my food column, so open the document, edit the pre-selected recipes I found last night, then write my intro.
2:07 p.m.: Remember that if I plan to cook next, I should make sure the meat in the fridge is thawed. But I find the meat is not in the fridge, but the freezer. First fail of the day! Get it out and put it in a bowl of water, hoping that will get it mostly thawed in the next hour.
2:11 p.m.: Knox is crying and sounds in pain. Go up and give him gas drops, put my hand on his chest until he falls asleep, and go back down to finish writing.
2:24 p.m.: Finish food column and email it to my editors. Since meat is still frozen, decide to fold whites.
2:44 p.m.: Start cooking. I make a homemade Hamburger Helper-like casserole for a family from church on the Mercy Meals list, and start roasting a spaghetti squash for our dinner, to serve with leftover Italian sausage I cooked Friday.
3:34 p.m.: Casserole is done and put back in the fridge to cool, squash is still roasting. Time to sit down! But Rye wakes up and wants water. I give him some but let him know he has to stay in bed til 4. Go downstairs and start Project Runway with a little snack of leftover Mexican corn.
3:50 p.m.: Knox wakes up, bring him down to feed him while continuing Project Runway. Ugh, Dexter is so annoying!
4:10 p.m.: Go upstairs to get Rye, change Knox’s diaper, then let Rye know we have to take the food to the family. He agrees by asking if we can bring 3 of his toy road signs instead of just the standard 2 we allow (one for each hand—can’t argue with that logic). I agree to the compromise. I take the spaghetti squash out of the oven and let it cool, let the family know we’re on the way, then get the kids in the car.
5:00 p.m.: Back home. Put a very fussy Knox in his bouncer, then talk to Rye about some road signs he admires but doesn’t have, then convert two of his signs into two from his wishlist: two lanes ahead and squiggly road ahead.
5:15 p.m.: Back to cooking our dinner. Shred the spaghetti squash and put in pan, add marinara and cooked Italian sausage, start cooking pasta for Rye. Take Knox out of bouncer and put him in Bumbo in kitchen with me while Rye watches Truck Tunes, then a little of Busytown.
5:40 p.m.: Take Knox upstairs for his nap. Come back down and scoop out our food, wait for Rye to finish his video then we sit down to eat.
6:05 p.m.: I’m done dinner, but Rye isn’t, though he suddenly realizes he has to poop and leaves the dinner table. I use this opportunity to get a head start on dishes.
6:15 p.m.: Pooping is done, Rye declares he will not finish his dinner, which was about two-thirds consumed so I don’t really care, and he goes to the living room to play while I finish dishes.
6:30 p.m.: Having finished the dishes, I am free to play with Rye. We play 10 minutes of Signtown, where cars drive around and remark on the signs in the town, then I convince him to clean up all his signs so we can play with the magnet doodler for the last 5 minutes before bath time.
6:50 p.m.: Upstairs for bath time.
7:02 p.m.: Rye’s yell about getting soap in his eye wakes up Knox. Go into his room, give him his binky, stay for a minute then back to the bathroom for Rye.
7:10 p.m.: Bath time is over. Dry Rye up and take him to his room to get dressed. Then downstairs for his milk, upstairs to read a book, then count as he brushes his teeth. Then we both put some cocoa butter lotion on our hands, go back to his room, say a prayer, talk about three special things that happened today and talk about what’s going to happen tomorrow.
7:35 p.m.: Back downstairs. Give the cats their treats and night time food. Bring up the last load of laundry from the basement, go into the living room to fold it while continuing to watch Project Runway (same episode) and wait for Knox to wake up for his final feeding of this Monday.
8:00 p.m.: Done cleaning up and can finally sit down!
8:07 p.m.: Rye tells me over the monitor that his door opened by itself, and can I come and please close it?
8:12 p.m.: After I am back downstairs, Rye says he has to pee. I take him to the bathroom again, and tell him this will be the last time I come in tonight. We blow his nose one more time for good measure.
8:30 p.m.: Josh texts that he’s on his way home. I wake up Knox to feed him again.
8:50 p.m.: Project Runway is over—Dexter went home! Josh gets home, Knox is done feeding. We talk while Josh unloads for the day and giggle with Knox.
9:10 p.m.: Take Knox upstairs, tag team putting him to bed.
9:20 p.m.: Feeling good that Knox won’t need a feeding until at least 2 a.m. (or 3 a.m. if I’m lucky), and I create a new skinny cocktail: almond cashew milk with pumpkin spice Kahlua. Delicious! Consumed in a very small quantity.
9:28 p.m.: Sit down to view the latest episode of PBS’s “Poldark.”
10:03 p.m.: Check to see how much show is left, which is 18 minutes, so decide to go for it.
10:21 p.m.: Show finished, take all glasses and plates to kitchen, then show Josh the video I shot of Rye’s Thanksgiving parade. Marvel at how grown-up Rye looks, and how tall, standing next to his peers.
10:34 p.m.: Upstairs, brush teeth, get in bed to read a little more of “The Glass Castle” before sleeping.
10:53 p.m.: Lights out. Dead to the world. Day over.

So there you have it, if you made it this far—a full day. It was a good day. This must have been how Ice Cube felt when he wrote “It Was a Good Day”…

Monday, October 24, 2016

Giving my best

Rye is a good kid, but he gets on my nerves so much more than he should.
The things he’s doing are pretty innocent—like asking “Why?” after every single thing I tell him, including the answer to every question. (Rye: “Why are we going this way?” Me: “Because we’re parked over here.” Rye: “Why?”) Or insisting we have the same conversation over and over, throughout the day, every day. (Rye: “Which of these road signs is your favorite?” Me: “The yield sign, because it means you only have to stop if another car is coming the other way.” Rye: “Why?” Me: “I just told you why.” Rye: “Why can’t the Speed Limit 55 be your favorite?”) He’s also SO SLOW. At everything, whether from disobedience or dilly-dallying. I’d take walks more often, but it takes him 10 minutes to go two blocks, and you guessed it, he asks the same questions while walking these two blocks every time. (“Why is that stop sign twisted? Why are those two houses together? Why is that sidewalk whiter than the other sidewalk?”)
His words are like an ocean, and each repetition is a wave that keeps knocking into me, pulling the sands of patience out below my feet. This instability leads to me snapping at times, and internal cursing (“get your ass out of the car” is a common internal refrain as he gets out of the car seat and just stands on the edge of the inside of the car, staring into space, as I lug Knox’s car seat around, with the diaper bag, and whatever stuff Rye brought home from preschool while Rye seems to be studying the air like a sea captain trying to determine which direction the non-existent wind is coming from). Sometimes I feel justified in my minor outbursts, but then when Josh is home and parenting while I’m doing dishes or some other housework nearby, I see how much better he handles all these three-year-old behaviors. He returns a question with another question. (Josh: “Well why do you think we closed the windows?” Rye: “Because it’s getting cold?” Josh: “Exactly.”) He diffuses Rye’s stubbornness with silliness. And he encourages Rye to move along at a faster pace by challenging him in fun ways.
And I am reminded that I am NOT the fun parent in this family. More often than not, I’m the grouchy, overly-tired, busy mom who is counting down the hours until Rye’s bedtime. I wonder when Rye will grow out of this phase, and I don’t feel bad about wanting him to grow up faster. (When he's four he can slow down again.)
Still, there’s a tinge of guilt about feeling like I’m a mean mom. (Though considering he lives in a house full of toys, with a stay-at-home mom at his beck and call, making awesome meals that he won’t eat and then letting him eat apple and peanut butter instead, with very little chores expected of him and no physical abuse, I know I’m not REALLY a mean mom, just not as fun of a mom as I wish I could be.)
But in one night of exhaustion I had this golden nugget of a thought: “It’s hard to give your best when you’re giving your all.”
On most days, we’re together for all 12 hours of his wake time. Subtract three hours from that on days he has preschool, and an hour for days when I go to the gym. Otherwise, it’s the “Rye and Carrie Show, now featuring Knox.” Josh has been working 12 hour shifts lately, so on the days he works he sees Rye for about half an hour before leaving. On his off days, he always tries to schedule some Rye and Daddy time, but for the most part, I’m still the primary parent. As Rye once asked as I was getting ready to leave the house for a doctor’s appointment, “Is Daddy going to babysit me?”
I am giving Rye (and Knox) my all, and unfortunately for them, that means the good and the bad. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” as the saying goes, but with Rye there is no absence, merely respites. My heart still grows fonder, but the growth rate of my impatience and exhaustion are giving my heart a run for its money.
The questions, the attitude, the rudeness, the potty talk, the screaming temper tantrums — hopefully these are all just a phase that will be gone or at least decreased in the next few months. I can withstand this.
I’m all in. 

I have no back-up plan.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

What has two thumbs, two kids, and a new (used) SUV? This gal!

So Knox is 10 weeks old, and I haven’t written a post yet about life with our newest addition. He is awesome! I’m going to do some quick baby bragging—so if this is not your thing, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. Here are some of the ways in which Knox is awesome: he was holding up his own head at a week old. He GAINED weight before leaving the hospital and so impressed his pediatrician at his 1-week appointment that he told us we could skip the 1-month appointment and just bring him for a 2-month appointment. He was only waking twice through the night from 2 weeks old, and cut that down to one feeding at night around 4 a.m. at 8 weeks old. At his 2-month appointment, the doctor put him on his tummy to see what he would do, and he held himself propped up on his arms, head up, for about 10 seconds before he started to lower down to his tummy. The doctor said that’s a 4-month-old’s trait. Oh, and he has the CUTEST smiles, which he happily shares after making eye contact with you when you’re smiling at him. He also just started giggling, but he makes you work for it, which I respect. And while some babies scream during diaper changes, he loves them. He’s a keeper.
But back to me. Just like you never know what life will be like when you go from no kids to 1 kid, it’s really impossible to know what going from 1 to 2 will be like. Thankfully, our transition has been really smooth. Rye is a great older brother, he hasn’t been showing any jealousy or regression, but he does get a little more demanding about trying to get Josh’s and my attention. But for the most part, I feel like our challenges with him are typical 3-year-old issues, not related to sudden big-brotherism. Personally, I had to adjust to sleeping in 3-hour stretches, now 5-hour stretches, but it was way easier this time than when I went through it with Rye. Running errands with the two is still difficult, but now that Rye is in preschool three days a week, I try to plan ahead and take just one child at a time, or go shopping by myself when Josh is off and can keep both of them. There’s even less “me time” than there was before, but once you realize this is just for a season, you don’t mourn the loss of that time as much.
As I had been hoping to do since the spring, we bought an SUV! I really wanted a Honda Pilot, since we wanted the third row of seating available and I’m a Honda loyalist (I have owned three Civics). Josh wanted us to try out Toyota’s Highlander, but after just doing a side-by-side comparison of the Highlander and Pilot while at a dealership, it was obvious that the Pilot is bigger and by my standards, has a more commonsense dashboard and better cup holders (yes, these are the things I care about in a vehicle). While Josh was angling for the Toyota for its “decreased road noise” and more comfortable seats, he agreed that the Pilots seemed nicer and we focused our search specifically on used Pilots, from 2008 and up, under $22,000. We test drove two, almost test drove two more, and were about to make an offer on one listed for $18,000 when Josh had dinner with his old boss and told him we were about to buy a 2010 Pilot. His boss asked if we would be interested in seeing his 2007 Highlander Hybrid with less than 100,000 miles before we made the purchase, and Josh said, “sure, why not?”
Josh went to check it out the next day, and I got a chance to test drive it by myself for about an hour the day after that. My first impression was that it was so much smaller than the Pilot. The 2007 was still part of the former design, and was even smaller than the modern Highlanders, feeling more like a slightly bigger Subaru Outback than like the beast that the Pilot is. But I liked the way it drove — the steering was loose, it had nice bounce to it, and even though it was all-wheel drive, it eagerly coasted, something that Josh’s all-wheel drive BMW did not do. The downsides: It was nearly a decade old already, it looked like it had been someone else’s “family car” for a decade (think gum wrappers and spilled soda stains), the dashboard was poorly designed and it had a tape deck (yes, in 2007, Toyota was still using tape decks!) but no auxiliary port for iPods, and no back-up camera. The Pilot we were looking at didn’t have a back-up camera either, and since we only have on-street parking at our house, requiring me to constantly parallel park, we had already looked into the cost of getting a camera installed and would have had to do that anyway.
Oh, and it was a hybrid, which I was pretty excited about because I’ve always been an anti-big-car person, and having a hybrid relieved some of the guilt involved in making the leap to an SUV. Josh was kind of anti-hybrids, saying the gas savings would never justify the increased cost for a hybrid, plus he was worried about the cost of a replacement battery, but since this was his boss’s old vehicle, he felt better about it.
With all those factors in mind, the biggest selling point, and what tipped the scales of favor from the Pilot to the Highlander, is that we got it for about half the price of the Pilot. Yeah. The only caveat was that I had to wait a month for the former owner’s daughter to go away to college since she was still driving the vehicle, but since that was going to happen before our family vacation in September, it was no big deal.
The former owners even got it detailed for me! As I sat in the driver’s seat for the first time as the new primary driver, the inside was gorgeous, with only a few traces of its former family’s history left behind. There are a couple of big scuffs on the inside, a couple of dents on the outside, but that really doesn’t bother me; if anything, it takes the pressure off of me to keep it pristine, and considering we now have two kids and it’s now our “family car,” evidence of our family adventures are sure to leave their marks in the future.

I forgot to suck in my stomach.
One of the things I think about a lot these days is how much my life has changed in the past 10 years. At 26, I don’t want to say I was a “career woman” because I think that has a strong connotation of ambition, whereas to me, my job was just about doing something that I loved doing without any hopes of escalating any higher, and I wasn’t even thinking about having kids. Five years ago, I was tormented by infertility and wondering if we’d ever have a child added to our family. A year ago, I was wrecked by a miscarriage and questions of whether we should ever even try again. And today, by God’s grace, I’m a mother of two, driving around town in yoga pants in my mom-mobile, holding doors open for other moms out on the town running errands with their littles, just trying to make it through our routine of daily life, even if each week feels the same, day in and day out. Compared to all the complications and adult interactions I had back when I was working full time, everything I’m dealing with these days feels very small, but it’s still precious.
Just like our little Knox. 

Birth announcement, with photo by Jessica Lyric Photography