Monday, July 29, 2013

I love reading home decor blogs. I'm attracted to spaces that are kid-friendly, practical, and pretty, which can be a difficult combination to achieve. Our dining room was repurposed a couple of years ago when we decided to make it work for us.

We opted for a couple of doors on our bookcases to hide kid clutter. One of those bookcases hides coloring books and all related accessories. However, the mess started to grow and the doors weren't
closing, not to mention I was tired of picking up half broken crayons.

Still working on my chalk finesse
I liked the idea of a see-through container for crayons and markers. I found two cookie jars at Target and filled them with new crayons and markers. Suddenly my girls were coloring for hours every day because they could see the colors and they weren't hidden from view.

Samantha suggested I do like we'd seen on Pinterest and paint a chalkboard label on the jars that said crayons and markers. (Smart kiddo.) My mom then suggested that we paint a mailing label with chalk paint and stick it on the jar so we could change our mind and color whenever. It worked really well.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

When we bought our house the instructions to the original fireplace were still hanging in the firebox. The house was about 10 years old and the fireplace untouched. We used that fireplace religiously until Samantha was a year old and she started to get bronchitis. The box was so small that the only way to get heat out was to first, buy walnut because it burned easier than oak, and to leave the doors open. (Not exactly child-safe.)

When neighbors were moving we bought a fireplace insert from them. It was still in the box--they never got around to installing it and weren't about to leave it with the new owners. We bought it for around $300 and thought it was a steal because the unit costs approx. $1500. It took us 4 years to get a contractor to install it because no one wanted to touch a unit that wasn't purchased from a dealer. Turns
out there was a reason for that. 

The contractor started in January and was done within a week, but the unit wouldn't stay lit. So we had to figure out what the issue was: flue venting, piping, etc. And we had to buy more parts because the unit came as itself. There was no remote to turn it on, there was no interior vent, the flue venting needed adjustment. And meanwhile we refused to pay the contractor because the fireplace didn't work properly. (The contractor wasn't at fault it was the wholesale unit!)

Finally, after forking out $800 more in parts and a three-month wait for the contractors to finish another job, it was installed. By then it was mid-April and the temperature was in the 70s! 

Three months later I'm still staring a drywall hoping that we get it tiled and finished before next April. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Earlier this week we saw the ENT and ruled out an adenoidectomy--I think. The doctor said Samantha's adenoids were a 2+ and surgery is typically at a 4. He does want her to use a nasal spray for one month to see if that reduces them further. I used that excuse to push out the endoscopy a bit longer.

I'm finding the entire thing a bit overwhelming because there are a lot of things to be checked off in the next few months. I need to mentally prepare for it so I can be the best advocate for Samantha. I don't want to be sitting in the hospital sobbing because I don't have control over my anxiety. These procedures are necessary and will likely change her life for the better.

But first I need some structure: normal dinner times, family time, and my own health managed so that I can care for her. Without structure everything in my head seems to fall apart. And then I resort to crazy things like moving around all the furniture in the house so I can control something.

I once read in a book about Feng Shui how changing 20-30 things can help clear the mind. And it's certainly been true for me for a number of years. I've already switched the kitchen and dining room tables and a handful of other small things that have helped me settle some of this internal anxiety.

I figure that I'll be ready for the endoscopy in a month and by then hopefully Samantha will be so occupied with school that she'll have forgotten she needs to have it done.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sometimes you find books at the thrift store that you wouldn't normally seek or that you didn't know existed on subjects you didn't know you wanted to read. Case in point--parenting books.

I have "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen," but it's a bit to philosophical for me. I haven't been able to stick with it for the five or so years I've had it so I doubt it will do me any good. But my mom handed me one that had me giggling in the first five minutes: "How to Behave so Your Children Will, Too!" (Hey, the kid peed in the fridge!)

I've been trying to change my own pattern of yelling at the kids and succeeded (once) for two weeks. Big feat! I can certainly do better.

Some days I'm so tired and I give the kids instructions like "Go put your pajamas on and brush your teeth." Ten minutes later they are giggling and half undressed and still haven't brushed their teeth. I don't want to get up to walk across the house to sternly tell them they should be doing X or Y. I just yell, "Hey, you aren't doing what you are told." It's a pattern and it's not pretty. I'm sure the neighbors get sick of hearing me. I don't yell anything cruel or mean or angry, it's just annoying. And if I'm annoying myself . . .

And then there is the discipline part that is challenging. We have the most behavior problems with Samantha because she pushes the limits with her little sister (as all kids do). We often resort to taking away technology, but that is starting to feel ineffective.

I thought about putting a consequence jar together so that the punishment would be that they'd have to pick a simple chore--sounds good.  But then I thought that maybe we should be reinforcing the good behavior with a reward jar instead. I already expect my kids to help with chores like cleaning the bathroom and folding laundry. Of course, I haven't implemented either.

I did notice, however, that when I was able to stop yelling for those two weeks, my kids were more gracious toward each other, they were more loving and helpful all around. So we'll see what this book has in store. If I get one simple, even minuscule, thing out of it and it works in my house then it will be worth the read.

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Coincidentally, I ran across this article just after writing this post . . . "Noticing the good in our kids"

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thrift stores can be awesome and my family sure loves them. We visit our local thrift stores at least once a month. We have two locally that we support: the hospital thrift store and our local community pantry thrift store. We donate and we buy (a lot).

My parents love to shop furniture because they like to refinish the pieces for resale. I have a small house so I buy what I will use. But we buy books mostly. And truthfully we have a lot unread; but when I ask my kids if they want to go to Pat's they get so exited. They don't care about anything else in that shop except for the books.
Our little library

If we're lucky we find old library books or an entire series. I picked up 32 Magic Treehouse books over two months and recently the library a county over gave up a series of Cynthia Rylant early readers: Poppleton and Mr. Putter and Tabby. I think I picked up about 15 of those.

Samantha tried reading the Magic Treehouse series, but it just didn't interest her. So when I found out that one of Samantha's classmates was having difficulty learning to read I gave his mother the entire series with the hope that it might interest him. One day he came up to me and told me how much he loved the books. At first his mother read them to him and slowly he started sharing in the reading until he was on his own. He couldn't wait to read through them all.

Alyssa is at the cusp of learning to read so early readers like Biscuit are becoming very important in our house. And reading an entire series of books that have a common character appear to be what will interest Alyssa the most.

My husband used to moan and groan about the constant influx of books, but he's finally given that up. He sees the excitement in the girls' eyes when they surround themselves with books. And when our interest has waned we bag them up and donate them right back to where they came from.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sometimes I don't say "no." I just don't say anything at all.

After our busy theatrical weekends and early Sunday shows, we get Sunday evenings to relax and enjoy dinner as a family. To say this hasn't taken a toll on Alyssa would be a lie. Kids, as we know, are resilient. Two weeks ago Alyssa sobbed in the middle in the of Mass wanting to go home to daddy. And this week, she wanted nothing more than a good 'ol wrestling match and time with her sissy.

We don't, as a general rule, let the kids play on our bed. All of our bedding is white simply out of necessity. (I change the color of anything cotton--I think I figured out that my body absorbs blue dye.) But we let the girls wrestle on our bed for an hour. We had all the sliding doors open so we could hear their giggling from the kitchen. They were so happy. I didn't want to say "no" to that. We eventually had to break it up for bed time, but those are the things I love to let go of for the simple reason that the kids are happy. They both needed that.

Someone else is also needing a little one-on-one with all the chaos. Ginger likes it when the kids are in bed and she can just cuddle next to me. She fell asleep, snoring while I wound down after our weekend. She's been misbehaving a lot to the point where I have to mute the phone or ask to put someone on hold while I work to deal with the mayhem in the house. Just like kids, cats need undivided attention too. ;)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

We saw Shrek the Musical again today with my parents and my brother and sister-in-law who came down from San Francisco to watch. (Thank you to my supportive family!). As were watching the show and laughing at my husband, my brother leaned over and said, "I don't think this is the last time Al will be on stage."

I'm sure it's not. And I've been struggling with it. It's been a lot for me to handle having both Al and Samantha in the musical. Monday through Thursday nights they were gone most of three months. Sure, I didn't know what to expect and I really stressed about keeping Samantha healthy, but some days it was so difficult for me. I'm not sure if it was my own health issues or just worry/stress, but I haven't had the easiest time.

For one, almost our entire summer went out the window. We haven't had a vacation day together all summer and school starts in less than 4 weeks. And right into Nutcracker and ballet and school fundraisers, and footballs season (Al coaches). That last sentence doesn't so much matter, but the no summer time off together has really bothered me this year.

I feel a shift, not with life in general, but within me. Maybe it's my health, maybe it's my girls growing up, maybe it has to be the mirror in front of me that I put there, but I've really been struggling this summer to reorient myself in my family. I feel like it's all moving too fast, like I'm not present enough in my girls' lives, like I want to be a better wife. And for those who know me well know that that the last bit about being "a better wife" is the key. It's not that my feminism is gone, but that it's shifting.

I want to watch my girls play mom without watching them focusing on mom-work. I'd rather watch them play as doting mothers and wives. Craziness, isn't it?!

And so today, when my brother said that Al wasn't finished with the stage, he was right. And after 11 years in this small town he's making life-long friends, meeting people, and finally feels like this town is his home. And I want him to feel that, I want him to be happy here with us and have a passion.

And maybe it's time for me to be the doting wife and mother. My job isn't going away, but it doesn't need to define me. I want to play silly with my girls, make an amazing dinner for my family, and spend more time alone with my husband.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Today was chaotic and stressful. I started my first dose of a two-week cycle of prednisone in the last ditch attempt to get rid of the swelling in my hands. I'm not sure I'll be able to sleep tonight and that just isn't good because my mind will wander and I'll worry . . .

We met with Samantha's pediatric gastroenterologist today to discuss her chronic reflux and issues related to aspirating. Since 2010 I have charted that every summer she winds up with a bacterial infection in her lungs just days after swim lessons. We give her a high dose of prednisone for a few days and then taper along with antibiotics and a concoction of inhalers. Last year it was the worst yet and the poor kid started second grade on 60 mg of prednisone. She was an emotional wreck.

But it happened again this year like clockwork. Although we got on top of it within hours of the second cough, it still took three weeks to stop. And this time we noticed the prednisone had no effect, which meant there was something else going on.

Today the doctor politely said that we should have done an endoscopy three years ago. We were all hoping that Samantha would outgrow this, however. So next week we see an ENT to check her adenoids. And depending on what the ENT sees we will have an endoscopy within a few weeks with or without an adenoidectomy.

The results of the endoscopy will then determine if Samantha has to do a PH pump study and/or if she'll need surgery to tighten her esophageal sphincter.

It's all so scary. I don't even want to have my child put under for the endoscopy. But then if we can fix all this we may be able to get rid of the cases of Pulmicort, Xoponex, containers of steroids, and the bottles of antibiotics she takes every year. It could change her life . . . I have to keep that in perspective.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Shrek the Musical went really well this weekend. Alyssa and I handed out programs on Saturday night and Sunday morning. We watched Saturday night, although I was surprised Alyssa managed to stay up until 10.

The show was a hoot. It was so energetic the entire 2.5 hours that it kept Alyssa engaged the whole time. The young lady who plays Donkey was so good that she out shined Shrek a bit.

Al was funny as Thelonius. He played two other parts as well, but I liked his Thelonius personality best. And Samantha was so cute as Little Bo Peep.

After the first show the director told Samantha that she was great and should keep it up and next time she'll get a bigger part. Samantha was a bit confused as to why the director told her that. She didn't think she was doing anything different. But I saw what the director saw . . . Samantha danced and sang her heart out during her ensemble parts. I think something changes in Samantha when there is an audience in front of her.

The ladies who sat in front of us on Saturday night noticed Samantha too. Out of all the kids in the ensemble cast she was a standout for her enthusiasm. And on Saturday night, after Alyssa and I had gone home, a lady came up to Samantha and said that she loved Samantha's enthusiasm. The lady gave her three flowers. She felt so special.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Right before the 4th of July Alyssa was complaining that her chest hurt. Thinking it was somehow related to "sympathy pains" since Samantha had bronchitis again, I brushed it off. But she didn't stop complaining. Then she said it hurt when she got out of bed. I figured I better get it taken care of.

Now, here is why all my high school back injuries help out--I felt her chest and it felt like a rib was out of place a bit. So I made an appointment to see the chiropractor. After the first visit to fix her twisted vertebrae (the cause of all the chest pain) she was remarkably well. She said it felt all better by the next morning.

I got to thinking about a lot of people who don't know about chiropractors, don't know that they can treat children, or think of them as quacks. The alternative would have taken a visit to the pediatrician, x-rays, and goodness knows what else, and it may not have been fixed. Think about all the money you'd have to spend on said doctor's visits, x-rays, etc.

There was no back cracking here, but a little trigger thingy (technical term) that the chiropractor used to help adjust her. It was gentle and there was no anxiety. Alyssa felt so well she asked when she could go back.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

When I grew up it was with my little brother and two cousins--we did a lot together. Then we became young adults and my cousins moved away. My brother hasn't had any kids and while my cousins did, they lived halfway across the country. So my girls haven't had the exposure to cousins.

One of my cousins has moved back to our small town with his wife and two boys. And we stopped by to meet the boys--it's been nearly 10 years since I've seen their dad. The kids were not at all shy and were fast friends. They're fairly close in age: 9, 8, 7, and 5, so it's a good match-up.

We stayed only for a few minutes since they were still unpacking their moving van, but the girls couldn't wait to go back and play.

I tried to explain how we were related, but at this age they don't get it. They can't imagine me or my cousin as kids. One thing they do understand, however, is family.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Alyssa and I decided to head out to the Gilroy library after dinner/dropping Samantha at theatre. Our poor Hollister library is lacking for recent books. It's sad. I paid the equivalent of Santa Clara taxes to join the Santa Clara County Library. It's a totally different world. There is an entire floor for kids! And we can borrow e-books too.

The girls are excited about it. Samantha is devouring The American Girl series and Alyssa is in love with Biscuit, an early reader series. When I asked Alyssa if she wanted to check out more Biscuit books she gushed, "Really, Mom!"

We ran a few more errands and then took our dessert at Starbucks. We sat outside while the sun set and she drank her hot chocolate and danced. She sat facing the window so she could see her reflection. And she squiggled in her seat until she was finished. Then she got up and danced to the Starbucks music track. 

In those moments I feel so at peace. There isn't anything else in the world but my little life, my children, dancing, music and all. I sat and watched Alyssa dance on the patio while people and cars bustled around us. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I've come to the point where my office is going to kill me with paper. I have so much work paper and home/school stuff that is piled all around my office. I've even run out of filing space in a large 4-drawer filing cabinet!

This weekend we gave my mom and dad a nightstand that we had in the office. And just taking that out, all of the crap ended up in piles on my floor. And where there is a pile there are spiders. It's probably because they go undisturbed for long stretches.

I started to clear a work drawer out of my file cabinet so that Al could take the stuff to shred at work  He was not happy as it produced 6 brown paper bags of files. Yup. I'm a work-pack-rat. But I need the space for personal files.

Part of this started with the nightstand and the other trigger was the bill I received from a radiologist for a procedure Samantha had in 2009. Yes, you read that correctly, 2009. Four years later I get a bill. I've got to go through mountains of medical bills in her folder to find any related information.

I have not been good about filing things in order. And for Samantha's file, I should. She's got enough medical history to fill two file folders in the cabinet.

So when I get a few minutes here or there I do something small, which is easier for me to manage. After four days, I was even able to eliminate the box of personal shredding stuff--it went back a year!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Confession of a telecommuter

I'm glad that Samantha is getting the theatre experience. She's been wanting to do this since she was five or six, but was never old enough to audition. And despite what Al tells you, he is really enjoying it too. He's met a lot of new people and, in some ways, finally feels like he's part of this community, which is hard to do when you work out of town.

And while I'm enjoying the break from having to rush Samantha here or there for rehearsals (ballet and the like), getting dinner ready immediately after I shut down my work computer is wearing. Not to mention that most days I don't get much, if any, adult interaction. It's one of those things about working from home/telecommuting that people don't talk about. I sit at a desk, type emails, have a few conference calls, and when the day is done, I shut the computer off and walk into the kitchen. We have a whole 30 minutes with each other to eat dinner and off they go to the theatre for the night.

When they get home they both go straight to bed and I'm left with a lot of voiceless conversation in my head.

Take tonight for instance, or is it morning? Samantha and Al came home at 11. Samantha changed, brushed her teeth, and climbed into bed. She was out within seconds. And Al did about the same. I lay next to him wide awake with a lot to say and no one to listen.

I'll be very happy when the musical is over. We'll have three weeks before schools starts and hopefully we can remain unscheduled and relaxed and maybe catch up on the three months of missed conversation.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

One of those days

Today was one of those crazy Mondays where everything goes wrong. Both kids had doctor's appointments an hour apart in the morning so there was that. We ran out of cereal and I spilled coffee down my freshly-dressed self, thankfully not before the first doctor's appointment.

I wasn't able to officially start working until after appt. 2, but there were no emergency meetings scheduled so I guess that was the bright spot.

After lunch things settled and the kids played and fought and then had alone time for a while.

(This week is "heck" week for Shrek, so Samantha and Al have to be at the theatre at 5 like a regular night and then rehearse from 7 to whenever/done. They'll do this until opening night, which is Friday at 7. )

Today it felt overwhelming because Al was tired and I was burnt out. I didn't think it necessary to stand around the theatre for an hour so I did their makeup at home. (It's so weird to put makeup on your husband.) I sent them off at 5:50. They didn't get home until 11. Boo!

While they were gone, after Alyssa was in bed, I thought I'd do my nails. They were almost dry when I heard a crash and went to explore. I had left the office closet open and the wire shelving exposed. I found Ginger mewing and hanging by her left paw from one of the wire shelves. She was in so much pain she was screaming and I had the hardest time getting her unstuck. I pried the wire back and got her out. My manicure was ruined--oh well.

Ginger lay on my lap for nearly an hour. I did make her walk a bit when she got up. She was ok, but still couldn't put to much weight on it. It was clearly swollen, however. Not sure what tomorrow will bring, but I have a hunch I'll be spending some more time at the doctor's.