Thursday, April 28, 2005


Today my father turned 76. I openly and easily talk to others about my mother and the wonderful relationship I have with her, but find I rarely mention my dad. I am reminded of this occasionally when people ask me if my father is deceased. “I’m going to my mom’s.” “My mom called.” “My mom had me over for dinner.” “My mom sent me a card.” I rarely say “My parents…” I don’t do this on purpose; it’s just a natural occurrence. My mom and I have a closer relationship than me and my dad. That is changing, however. I am finally coming to appreciate him as a person, not just as a role model.

My dad is a very methodical, intelligent, classy individual. He loves to learn and strives to read as much as he can. His favorite reading is business literature and the Wall Street Journal. Often he will be found reading the paper with a pair of scissors next to him so that he can clip articles. Every few months I’ll receive an article from him in the mail. No note, just a date handwritten at the top so that I know it’s from him. I used to get so hurt that he didn’t include a personal note, but have finally come to realize that the love is in the thought, not the sentiment.

When we drove back to Minnesota for Christmas, I brought along a video camera I borrowed from Beth and Dave. My intention was to interview my mom on video. We had just received a lot of negative information about her cancer, and to be honest, I wanted to record her while she was still strong.

I asked her lots of questions about her past – upbringing, educational experiences, relationships she had, etc. – during the first couple of days I was there. My father was often in the room and would throw in stories from his past, also. I learned more that week about them that I had ever known. I’m sure all of these trips down Memory Lane helped make the Christmas trip even more special than the holiday usually does.

My father was born and raised in Chicago. He lived as an only child with his mom, who stayed home, and his dad who was a traveling coffee salesman. My grandfather worked for someone else, until he eventually set up a coffee roaster in their backyard. He would roast beans, grind them and then sell them door to door to housewives. As a child I can remember my dad recalling these childhood days. He lived on North Ave. in an ethnic neighborhood. His mom was Danish. His dad was Norwegian. The stories were few and far between, though, probably because he didn’t have siblings or parents to reminisce with when I was growing up. Movies for a dime was always one of my favorites. He was only about six years old and his parents would let him walk down the block to the theater. What a different time.

As my father aged, his intelligence carried him out of that neighborhood to a technical high school and then to college. He is a great writer, but extremely methodical. He will edit and edit until it’s perfect – no matter how long it takes. He tried Journalism, but was left in the dust. Much too fast for him. His final degree was in Business. After time in Germany during the Korean War, he came home, worked, lived with his mother and eventually met my mother. They got married and then he went back to graduate school. He was top in his class at Northwestern University in their MBA program. When most newlyweds spend every romantic minute together, my mother recalls very little time with my dad during this time. She said he wouldn’t even leave his study area to eat – she would bring him his meals. He finished this ambitious program in 12 months. I love telling people this because it shows how dedicated he can be.

His career took him into Marketing Research and New Product Development. He worked for others till he was 56 and then became a private consultant. Finally about six years ago, he decided that work was getting in the way of his golf and gardening and fully retired.

Growing up, my dad was not hands-on. He didn’t throw balls to us in the backyard or goof around with us. All I remember is his interest in my schooling. Was I doing well or did I need help with homework assignments? My mother was our main caretaker, disciplinarian and parent. I don’t recall resenting him too much for this as an elementary student. I didn’t know any other way. I assumed this was how fathers acted. As I became a teenager, I did notice that I couldn’t really talk to him about things, but desperately craved his approval. I even got a Business degree because he told me it was a good idea. I never liked it and wanted to so much. He wanted to get me a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, but I rejected it. I didn’t like it. I mistook, I think, his disassociation from my brother and I as rejection. Looking back, I think it was the only way he knew how to parent.

Since counseling is my profession, you can be sure I have analyzed my relationship with my dad thoroughly. I haven’t come to any real conclusions. I don’t hate him anymore for not being a more involved dad, but I still get sad at times for having to wait so long to have a deeper relationship with him. Two times in my life have been turning points for us. The first one occurred when I got a divorce 10 years ago. He hugged me and expressed unconditional support for my decision even though I had made many mistakes. He was non-judgemental and loyal through it all. My perspective changed completely that day. I saw him differently and truly felt he saw me as an adult.

Watching my mom suffer through cancer has been unbelievably taxing. My dad lives it day to day and it was only this past December that I truly started having empathy for what he is going through. Through our talks over Christmas, I learned that my father was living at home when his dad passed away from cancer when he was about 25. He had never told me that before. His recollections of his father’s final emotions brought me to tears as he compared them to my mom’s at times. His mother also died of cancer. After my dad graduated with his MBA, he accepted a job with Corning Glassworks in upstate New York. My grandma moved to California to live with her sister after my parents married. I was born during this time and was about 6 months old when my grandma became so sick that she came to live with us. My parents were her hospice care until she died from breast cancer. The second parent to lose their fight to cancer and the second close family member he watched die. Now he is caring for my mom. Watching cancer afflict a third person in his life. Since my mom found the tumors in her legs, she has been using a walker and cannot stand for more than about three minutes. This means that my dad does everything. He is learning to cook, clean and shop.

His attitude is amazing. He never complains and does everything he can to make my mom’s life as normal and consistent as possible. We have been talking much more than ever and this is the second milestone in our relationship. He knows I’m there as back up for him if he needs it. I don’t think he’ll ever call on me to help unless he’s really desperate, though. Just tonight, during his birthday call from us, he told me how proud he is of me. Our move away from Green Bay, he agrees, was a fantastic decision. He expressed this so eloquently and sincerely that I could feel the tears welling to the edge of my eyes. (I probably would have cried if the kids weren’t in the same room screaming and throwing popcorn all over the kitchen – kind of ruins the mood.)

I finally feel his acceptance. Of course it’s always been there, but I was unable to find it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


I’m pretty hard on myself. I never feel I’ve done enough or done it well enough. I think this is a female thing, but I seem to have been given an extra dose of it. Recently, someone listed all the things I’ve been doing lately and the list even impressed me: full-time job, running, Weight Watchers, photography class and mother of two preschoolers. She left off home owner, wife and real estate agent (who can forget the vacation home). Anyway, I think I’m giving myself permission to be overwhelmed at times.

Tonight, though, I’m feeling pretty guilty. I got up and ran before the kids woke up and then had to rush to get ready for work. When the kids woke up – mid my getting-ready routine – I wasn’t able to give them my full attention. I went to work all day and had more to do than hours to do them in. I work thirty minutes from home and have to leave at a certain time to get to them before their school closes. I had a project to finish and had to call Chris, who took them to school, to pick them up. I arrived home at 5:59 PM and had 16 minutes to change, eat and play with them before Beth was coming to pick me up for our photography class. Harrison quickly reminded me that I had promised to make him pudding for dessert tonight. It was instant pudding, so I managed to do that, too. I ran out the door and the kids didn’t really seem to mind. Bad sign?

Class was challenging as usual. Our instructor is a little right brained and scattered. He has so much to teach us and just spews and spews. I have to really concentrate to take it all in. It’s hard work. After class I asked Beth to drive me to my dealership to finally pick up the Passat. I got in and went to put my coffee cup in my cup holder and it was jammed shut. Ok, I thought, I’ll just call them later about that. I turned it on and while I was securing my cup, the engine died. It’s been raining a lot, so I gave it a second try thinking moisture might be an issue. As I was reversing it out of the spot, it died again. After the third stall, I pulled back into the spot and jumped back in with Beth. Saga continues.

I got home about 9:05 PM, and luckily for me, the kids were still awake well past their bedtime. I listened to two bedtime stories with them and then they fell right asleep.

My first priority is supposedly my family. Today I saw my kids for approximately 60 minutes. My husband – about the same. He fell into bed when the kids did because he’s been up since 3:30 AM this morning due to insomnia.

So here I sit on the couch wondering if this is okay. Will my kids appreciate that I tried to better myself through classes and time away occasionally? Will extra hours at my job bring me any kind of satisfaction? These are hard choices. I don’t think I could be a stay at home mom, but I’m not sure this full time working mom thing is always the best alternative. I know there are other ways – work from home, work part time, etc. We just can’t financially swing big changes right now. I know I’ve written about this before, but I don’t think introspective folk, like me, ever stop contemplating.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Gratitude, iron and dress up

My recent post about my weight was difficult to write. I don't enjoy appearing weak or pathetic and I think that post bordered on both. Whine, whine, pout, pout with a few excuses thrown in. I wish it were different, but it isn't and you came through. The many comments I received were wonderful. I was amazed by how many of you have gone through similar experiences. Thank you for your honesty and compassion.

Nine days down and I'm still feeling fatigued and weak from eliminating most of the calories from my life that I normally eat. I've tried many things - eating all the points, eating protein, eating more carbs, taking my multi-vitamin. Nothing seems to be working. I actually went down to the organic foods store tonight and purchased an iron supplement. Hopefully guaranteed to work!

On a fun and positive note, Ella surprised me this morning. She refused to put on the outfit I had laid out for her and instead asked for her Christmas dress. We put it on with little ruffle lace trimmed anklets and black dress shoes. She looked so cute. Tonight the neighborhood was out in swarms enjoying our one evening of warmth and sun. The above picture is of my two little guys running up and down the street with their popsicles. It was a nice evening. I cannot wait for summer.

Update: the iron supplement seems to be working - even if this is the placebo effect, I don't care!!!

This is Ella's solution to a problem she has in her life. Me and my camera. She is absolutely sick of me sticking a camera in front of her face almost every day. Nobody will ever say she's a dummy - she now will often look away, scream "NOOoooooo!!", or just look like this.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The conversation I've been avoiding

Yesterday was the Salt Lake City Marathon. Last Monday was the “first day of the rest of my life” (again). Both days represent important goals to me.

Monday, I started Weight Watchers. I enter into this adventure with experience. I am a Lifetime Member – which means that at one point in time I successfully lost weight by following the Weight Watchers mantra. Not only did I lose it, I kept it off for at least six weeks and then was crowned a Lifetime Member. I lost about 25 pounds. I started my diet - oh excuse me, my lifestyle change - almost two years ago to the week. It probably took me about 6 months to gain half the weight back and another year to gain the rest.

I’ve struggled with my weight since I was about 18. I can distinctly remember the first time I dieted. It was a few weeks before I started my freshman year at Iowa State University. I was planning to follow in my mother’s footsteps and go through the “rush” process to join a sorority. My mother bought me some new clothes and I wanted to lose about five pounds to look my best. I don’t remember thinking about my weight before this point. I think it’s because I entered puberty so late in my adolescence – not getting my first period until a month before I turned 18. Seriously. It was awesome. I vaguely remember lots of people freaking out about the fact that I wasn’t menstruating yet, but I had it all figured out. I didn’t have to deal with cramps, mood swings or pads. What was so wrong with that???

After I headed off to college out of state, I discovered a lot of things. Beer and junk food were my particular favorites. I grew up with Depression-era parents who were frugal and practical to the bone. Food was always served in appropriate portions. The cereal in the house was sans sugar. The “junk food” we had consisted of pretzels and an occasional cookie. Pop was almost non-existent. Once in awhile if we were traveling or picnicking, Mom would splurge on a couple cans of Shasta. My reaction to unlimited amounts of food available at my fingertips, after a lifetime of restraint, was probably normal; however as I look back it appears to be the beginning of my demise. The beginning of my love/hate affair with food.

My freshman year I started drinking alcohol for the first time. I also was able to have more than one glass of milk with a meal due to those large chrome machines right in the dining room on the first floor of my dorm. Nobody was monitoring my intake. I ate fried foods more frequently, drank every weekend, ate late-night pizza at least once a week, and had make-your-own-sundaes more than I should have. Needless to say, I gained some weight even though I grew about three inches. By my sophomore year I had moved into the sorority house and my best friend was a swimmer for ISU. We were the same height, and the same shoe size, but not the same weight. I tried swimming laps, but could never keep it up to the level of becoming routine.

I continued to gain weight well into my 20s. I distinctly remember a long period when I thought that I may have to start shopping at Lane Bryant – or some other store for large sized women. I was a size 14 verging on 16. Every time I entered a room, I would become more self-conscious – sure that everyone was staring at my fat butt, or my wide hips. When I was about 26, my parents gave me the money to join “Diet Center” – a weight loss place where the consultants wore white uniforms complete with nurses caps. They had me on a strict diet of 500 calories a day. I helped my weight loss along by exercising a lot. Swam laps most mornings and then rode my stationary bike at night. Of course I lost weight – 38 pounds in about two and a half months. Gained it back in six weeks. To the pound. That six week period was the closest I’ve ever felt to reaching a pure mental breakdown. I tried laxatives a couple of times after that which eventually my boyfriend to force me into a counselor’s office. He listened, calmed me and told me that I indeed had not gone crazy. I will never forget that moment and think it had something to do with my decision to become a counselor. About 6 months later I started grad school and took up running. My entire outlook on life changed. I felt energized and happy. My mind was enriched and my time was busy with things I truly loved. I lost about 18 pounds naturally.

That new weight stabilized and I’ve struggled to get lower over the last twelve years or so. When Ella turned one, I joined Weight Watchers for the first time. I was a model pupil for awhile. The system is really good. It teaches portion control, well balanced eating and how to incorporate exercise into your life. These are all good things, but it is also feeds neuroses. Mine in particular. I am all or nothing. Good or bad. I follow the Weight Watcher ways or I don’t. When I follow them I feel in control and more attractive. When I don’t follow them, I often feel out of control or somewhat unhappy. I don’t want to say that my happiness is completely tied to my appearance, but it definitely has somewhat of a connection. As I have matured, I have gained self confidence. I don’t loathe myself anymore. I find happiness through my family, my work and from continually learning. I just need to make that enough.

I’m aware that there are many serious problems in the world. I know I’m lucky to have an incredibly intelligent, thoughtful and fun husband. I also know how lucky I am to have two beautiful children who complete my life. However, unfortunately I have allowed my self esteem to become intertwined with my idea of happiness. Thinking about my weight, worrying about my body and planning around my self image have consumed most of my adult life. I have had periods where it has been less of an issue, but other times it’s as if I’m as insecure as a “pubescent” 21 year old.

I know that I am not obese, nor even overweight according to the insurance charts, but I don’t feel comfortable with how I look. That’s the bottom line. I would give anything not to feel this way. It feels like such a waste of time to consume myself with this, but I have yet to conquer this. My biggest concern is that I will give this obsession, for lack of a better word, to my little girl. I do not want her to grow up listening to me berate myself or counting calories.

Chris has offered to do Weight Watchers with me this time. He is learning more about healthy eating – something we were already doing, but just not well enough. Hopefully this will help me stay on track for the long haul. Or at least until I decide not to care about it so much.

Friday, April 22, 2005

I've started a post a few times, but am having trouble getting my thoughts down on paper correctly. I'm so tired. I'll try again in the morning.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Mystery Solved

New characters: Chip from the VW dealer. Some chick at VW Customer Service.

Two phone calls.

Finally a definitive diagnosis.

Bottom line: VW has agreed to pay the $1200 it will cost to replace my heater core.

This is a shot from this morning as Chris went off to work (he's a construction project manager). Harrison told his father that zebra hats aren't appropriate for work - only hard hats - but Dad wouldn't listen!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Odds and Ends

No word on Car Talk yet. Click and Clack, where are you? I’m holding my breath and crossing my fingers, but alas I am still at the mercy of Charlie. Day number five is tomorrow. The Passat is still undiagnosed. Two times we have brought it home “fixed”, so this third trip to drop it off, we insisted that it not be given back until it really was fixed. Charlie called and asked for another day this afternoon. Whatever you need, Chuck.

I realized that I haven’t mentioned anything about my mother lately. She is holding her own. Her health has increasingly improved since her pulmonary embolism in January. Her cancer marker numbers have significantly decreased which means the chemo is working. She is gaining strength in her legs and has been walking more – even a bit without her walker. She had a follow-up MRI and it shows that the Radiosurgery she had in December was also successful. The size of her brain tumor has shrunk in half. The doctors say it is at a manageable size. Fatigue is still a daily fact, but her attitude is amazing. Her “Bridge buddies”, as she calls them, are still in Florida when many of the snowbirds have already left for the season. This helps keep her busy. She says that she and Dad will head back to Minnesota “…when we feel like it!”

Harrison is still adapting to his new school. He has asked to go back to his old school a few times, but seems to truly enjoy the individual attention and compassion he is receiving at his new school. His teacher this morning had many words of praise for him. She thinks his behavior is typical of a four year old boy. He is mischievousness, but think it escalates when he is bored - usually during transition periods or late in the day. For example, he’ll do something silly like throwing puzzle pieces behind the bookcases. It’s not aggressive, or mean, but like many of his behaviors – it’s enough to make a person aggravated or annoyed. (Ella might have another descriptor for it!) Bottom line: his teacher thinks he’s smart and will mature with guidance. Can’t ask for more than that.

This morning I had a funny interaction with Ella. I hesitate to tell this story, but Beth quickly reminded me that if she was able to write about her TMI story, I could certainly write this down. So here goes. As I was getting dressed for work, Ella noticed my bra laying on the chair. She picked it up and asked me to put it on so that she could see how it worked. I finished pulling on my skirt and then took off my pajama top to put it on. I hesitated a bit because I’m not used to exposing myself to my kids, but flew caution to the wind and went with it. Ella quickly pointed to my breasts and said, “What are those?” “This is my chest, hon," I answered. “No,” she responded, “what are those red things?” Oh brother – this was more than I was ready for. Oh well, I just went for it. “Those are my nipples,” I calmly said. “OOOOoooooHHH,” she screamed with disgust. My motherly instincts were gone and I just punted. “Well, you have some, too.” “No I don’t!,” she answered. “Yes, you do…see?” I said as I grabbed the bottom of the front of her shirt and lifted it so she could see in the mirror on the back of my bedroom door. That was about all she could handle. She screamed. Loudly. And ran right out of the room. It was a priceless moment.

What a difference two days makes! Sunday it was warm enough for swimsuits and popsicles - today snow is threatening. YUCK!

Monday, April 18, 2005

We were outside all day yesterday enjoying unseasonably warm weather. Ella changed her outfit a couple of times. This time she must have noticed that there is still snow on the mountains and that she better be ready just in case!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

My Little Motivator

Yesterday morning I got up actually looking forward to an outdoor run. I’ve been dabbling on my treadmill for months, but have had a very hard time getting “into” it. I can’t find my rhythm or my stamina. People keep saying it’s the altitude – that it’s kicking my butt, but I’m not sure I buy that. I’m old and out of shape. It’s harder, as you age, to get back into shape. I stopped running regularly when I started my job last fall and started trying to get back into it some time in February. I keep waiting for something to change. My attitude, mainly.

Now that it’s warming up, I need to start running outside. I’m a procrastinator by nature. I need a goal to get something done. For example, if I know 28 people will be all over my house doing an indoor scavenger hunt – I’ll clean it top to bottom. If I know I’ll have to run the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Run on May 7th, I’ll start training more seriously. So that’s what I did. I signed up for a run that last year would’ve been a no brainer – a 5K. Three point one miles. Nothing. I’ve run 15 miles in a row while training for a marathon back in my day. I can run. Well, I used to be able to run. Now I run and walk. Walk and run. I have yet this spring been able to run for thirty minutes without stopping to walk. I’m hoping this upcoming "race" will get me going.

So, back to my run yesterday morning. As I was lacing up my shoes, Harry walked into the kitchen rubbing his eyes and squinting due to the light. He was barely awake as I asked him if he wanted to come running with me. To my surprise, he said, “Yes” without hesitation. It was so unlike him. This boy of mine who avoids getting dressed like most people avoid the dentist.

Nine out of ten weekday mornings, Harrison fights getting his clothes on. He will come up with excuses. He will run away. He will lay on his bed and have a tantrum, just to prolong the kiss of death – putting on his shirt, pants and socks. I will never understand what the problem is. Even as a toddler, he would run from us when it was time to put his shoes on to go out. To the park. To a friend's. To the ice cream store. Even when he knew that we were going to a really great place, he would figure out a way to avoid putting on his shoes. It made no sense. It still makes no sense, although I do have to admit that the shoe issue has diminished a bit.

Ok, I digressed again. So yesterday morning when he agreed to come with me, I didn’t really believe him. It would mean getting dressed. Quickly. Two things that he abhors. I played along, however. “OK Harrison, you can come with me, but I’m leaving right now. You’ll have to get dressed.” (Here’s the best part of the story) “OK Mom, but can I have some milk?” he asked as he trotted into his room and put on his clothes. I was absolutely dumbfounded. He got dressed, put on his jacket and then jumped right into the Burley for our run.

Not used to running outside (which is harder than on a treadmill) and then adding to that a 42 pound boy, I started working on my goal with a bit more difficulty. We ran through our neighborhood up to The Secret Forest – a little ravine between the houses with a stream running through it. Harry had to get out at the end of the ravine so that I could pull the Burley up a steep flight of stairs. He waited at the top for me, but refused to get back in. And then he gave me my second surprise of the morning. “I want to run, too.” And boy did he. He ran for about a mile with me. We had so much fun! Every time I thought he was slowing down, I’d look over and he would just smile or start skipping. It was a truly joyful ten minutes.

The rest of the weekend was nice. We had a lot of family time which means lots of sibling rivalry, lots of household duties, but lots of quality togetherness. Thank you Harry for our wonderful morning. You’ve helped me – I feel like running again.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Yes...this IS what I get to look at on my way home from the mall.

Thank goodness someone knew what they were doing before we moved in!

Signs of Spring

Back to the drawing board

Not to be redundantly boring, but...the car is still broken. (I promise a more interesting post, or at least something on a different topic, later in the day.)

It seemed fine after I picked it up last night, but I only drove it about 15 minutes. Chris took it this morning to work. He saw smoke, smelled smells AND the idle problem is back.

Mechanic #3 will look at it on Monday and if he can't decipher it they have promised calling in the big dogs - VW experts.

I may be crazy, but I'm also tenacious!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

What you can't see...

...might cause you to be stranded in the middle of the Salt Flats!

Update on the Passat: New mechanic - Dan. Dan can't find any smoke or smell either. He drove the car, but not too far in case it did really have a problem. He let it sit idling for 45 minutes.

Nothing. The oil level is fine. None of the warning lights came on. They found NOTHING.

So, what do you think Charlie and Dan think of me right now?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Smoke and Mirrors

Cast of Characters:

Charlie – helpful service rep at Nissan car dealership where we bought used VW Passat last Fall.

Carol – unsatisfied car owner due to fact that above mentioned VW Passat has idle problem, the Check Engine light is lit and smells and SMOKE emit from the vents.

Act I (phone call Monday evening ten minutes before closing)

Charlie: “May I help you?”
Carol: “I’m having a problem with my Passat. I brought it in a few months ago when the Check Engine light went on and it seemed to be fixed.”
Charlie: “What’s wrong now?”
Carol: “Where do I begin...(I list all problems)..So, do you think I could drop it off tonight?”
Charlie: (sympathetically) “Of course. We’ll get right on it.”

Act II (phone call this afternoon on way home from work)

Charlie: “Your car is done. You may pick it up any time.”
Carol: “What was wrong?”
Charlie: “A vacuum pump (blah, blah, blah). The Check Engine light is off and
you’ll be able to accelerate with no problem.”
Carol: “Great, but what about the smoke and the smell.”
Charlie: (hesitates) “We never found the source of the problem. We tested it …
(blah, blah, blah) but everything turned up negative. It’s not your heater
core or (blah, blah, blah). Again, we never saw any smoke and didn’t
smell anything until we were pulling it out of the garage and parking it.”
Carol: “So it’s not fixed.”
Charlie: “We didn’t find anything wrong.”
Carol: “But there was smoke.”
Charlie: “We couldn’t find anything wrong.”
Carol: “But there was a strong smell and you did finally smell it.”
Charlie: “Again, our machines were unable to diagnose any problems. Did you purchase our extended service contract?”
Carol: “No, I was told everything was covered for a year.”
Charlie: “Why don’t you drive it and see if the smoke comes back. If it does, bring it back and then we’ll probably have to send it over to the VW dealer.”
Carol: “But there was smoke.”
Charlie: “We couldn’t find anything wrong. The Check Engine light is off and there will be no charge.”

About two hours later I dropped off Ella and Chris at the dealership the car and headed with Harrison to his last soccer game. When Chris arrived, he informed me that the car had to go back in. About five minutes into his trip to the game, a new light came on. “Pull over immediately. Oil Pressure problem.” (I’m not sure what it exactly said, but that’s what he told me.)

So tonight we trekked back out with the kids to drop off the car and keys once again.

Carol: “Charlie – I think the smoke and smell are symptoms of a problem.”




Monday, April 11, 2005


News Flash: Parenting is hard work.

Our kids’ behaviors seem to cycle. Some weeks they behave pretty well, with slight misbehaviors thrown in here and there. During these times it is easy to love and accept them – to even consider staying at home full time. However, other times they behave as if it their sole purpose in life to frustrate and annoy us.

The last couple of weeks have been really busy for us: two visits from my in-laws, extra projects for Chris at work, three of us getting ill and Ella’s birthday and party. These types of things bring out the behaviors I don’t like as much. Ella’s completely backtracked on her potty training and Harrison is becoming more negative again. (He can have attitude changes in which he approaches everything from a negative angle.) Maybe it’s because we let things go when we think they’re sick, or recovering. Or maybe it’s because we let things go when we’re busy with work or cleaning for a party.

A friend of mine at work, Amanda, and I have been talking about this lately. Why does it seem that parenting is so much harder these days? People have been parenting for millions of years. Do you think they had problems with name calling and temper tantrums back in the Stone Age? Maybe, but they probably just stoned their children into submission.

As the cycles of behaviors change, so must our discipline responses. Time outs have been our most effective tool, as have reinforcement and redirection. My biggest problems can occur in the car. I can’t throw them into time outs, so I try to play “I Spy” or “Let’s count the pink flowering trees” game. When all else fails, I take pictures.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The party's over.

I broke the cardinal parenting rule - I put noise makers in the goody bags.

Everyone can use a little help once in awhile.

Who needs a bandana when you can use a faux fur hat instead?

What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger!

Fell into bed at 9:00 last night completely exhausted. Happy and content, but exhausted. The party was a complete success. Two people didn’t make it, so there were only 26 people in my house. Enough to give a novice party-giver a nervous breakdown, but not me! It went great. We had a craft. We had TWO party games. Enough pizza and cake to feed an army. And one happy girl.

The night before the party, Chris and I stayed up till 11:30 trying to plan every detail. To let you know how freaked out we were about this, I’ll quote my husband, “I can see why people hire party planners.” (Yes, we both stopped, grasped some reality and laughed at that point!) I couldn’t fall asleep until after midnight, and then was awake at 4:00 head spinning. I finally got up at 4:45 and headed downstairs to start laundry, iron Ella’s outfit and mine and reorganize the toy room. You should have seen me – I was a cleaning, organizing dynamo. I removed over half the toys and unnecessary furniture into our storage room and then rearranged the rest. I even managed to put together a basket with toys just for the one year old guest. By the time the rest of my family woke up, I was starting to slow down. Chris asked me if I had had any coffee and I surprised both of us by saying, “No.” It was pure adrenaline.

The rest of the day was a blur of cleaning, shopping and setting-up. Chris was absolutely amazing. He did most of the cleaning and even drew a large Eeyore for “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”. The indoor scavenger hunt almost sent him through the roof, though. Hiding the clues, in the right order, was a harder task than either of us expected.

As 4:00 came, Ella and Harrison were right by the door to greet all the guests. They were a little overwhelmed by it all, but handled it fairly well. Neither got upset about sharing their toys, and that was my biggest concern. All the kids had a ball with our toys (more so than the games, I’m sure!) and loved helping Ella open her gifts.

I think the only thing I didn’t expect was that I would need adult help besides Chris. Thank God I had many experienced parents at my beck and call. Everyone was great. It never would have gone as smoothly without their help.

Harrison slept in the longest this morning. As we spent some quiet moments together as he adjusted from sleep to awake, I asked him how he liked having so many friends in our house. “It was too much, Mama.” I had to smile. Harrison is not my social child. It was at that moment in time that I decided that his party, next month, will be much smaller.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Don't forget about me during this week-long birthday extravaganza!

25 hours and 6 minutes till all hell breaks loose

Originally uploaded by second half.

Due to most of the family getting sick in the last two weeks, I postponed Ella’s birthday party till tomorrow. Ok, who am I kidding, I’m a total procrastinator. I had, and still have, no clear idea of what we will all be doing at this shindig. I believed that if I thought about it long enough I would come up with some grand idea for “Party of the Year.” (Before you tell me that she’s only three, and not to worry about it, I am well aware of that.)

I delivered the invites on Tuesday with the secret hope that some of guests might not be able to make it due to the short notice. The invite list became a little longer than I wanted, but we have a pretty tight knit neighborhood and you can’t invite one without the other. A couple people have said they aren’t coming, but of course they’re childless. Count of potential guests at this moment: 13 adults, 11 children – plus an infant (he doesn’t really count). Add in me and mine and that brings the grand total to 15 adults and 13 ½ kids. In my house. Which is tiny. Cold and rain/snow predicted. I’ll be fine once it’s over.

Susie and Beth have been a great help. “Don’t worry” seems to be their overwhelming advice. I think they must not know me very well. Give me an adolescent who has threatened suicide and I’m in my comfort zone, but some of life’s simplest tasks can completely floor me. For example, being assigned to bring snacks to Harrison’s soccer team practically gave me hives. Or preparing a dinner, in which the meat and the vegetables are ready and hot at the same time, is virtually impossible for me. Are you grasping an inkling of how I might be feeling right now anticipating 28 people in my home tomorrow?

Tonight we will go to Costco for veggies, snacks and cake. Tomorrow we will clean, go to the Dollar Store for goodie bag treats and generally freak out.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

We're slow, but we usually figure it out in the end

I am having writer’s block today. Thought for awhile about addressing the body image issues I have. I do read my comments and apparently a few of you think that I over estimate my weight. It’s a complex issue that I will address soon, but don’t feel like it today. So, in keeping with the theme of this blog – “a record of our life” – here’s the latest on our boy.

Both kids went back to school on Monday. We went back to working a full week. And it feels good to be back on a regular schedule. Usually, this is all Harrison needs to stay happy and calm, but we have noticed that he is still off kilter. Just like when he would cry as an infant, and we would try to decipher what was wrong, (digestive issues? not enough sleep? just plain irritability?) lately we have been trying to figure out where his latest sensitivity issues stem from.

At first I thought it might be left over from last week’s illness. He has been so tired lately thus causing his current irritability (I can’t call my son a pain in the ass, can I?). Because of the amount of time he’s been sleeping lately, I started thinking it might be mono. Can a 4-year-old get mono? Last weekend, for example, he fell asleep in the mid-afternoon both days and slept till morning. Also, mid-scream, last night, he fell asleep at 7:30 about an hour and fifteen minutes before he usually goes to bed. He was so angry with me, for taking him out of the bath tub before he was ready, that he just started screaming. He kept it up while I dried him off, put on his pajamas and pulled back his covers. I told him I would be right back as I went to get Ella ready for her bath. Harrison just kept screaming for about two more minutes and then it mysteriously stopped. I went in to check on him and he was out cold.

Tonight I started a Digital Photography class with Beth. Chris was on his own with the kids, and after I got home, told me that Harrison had another rough night. We finally had time to talk it through and decided that maybe he needs more sleep...hmmm, YOU THINK?!! (Hey, we’re no dummies, it just takes us awhile.) So new sleep schedule starting tomorrow – in bed by 8:00 pm – and here’s our latest theory – he’s having a growth spurt. He’s been in about the same size clothing for over a year and a half, so I think he’s due.

So..there you have it. The newest, up-to-the-minute information to hit the parenting world in decades: children grow and it wears them out. I really should be writing for a parenting magazine or website. Don’t you think?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Harrison - my technology wiz

I've done it! I figured out how to post from Flickr...and i retrieved my archives and profile back up to the top of my site. Thanks Harris

Make a wish

Monday, April 04, 2005

It's official - the children are healthy!

Still no ability to post pictures. I have a request for help in! unless one of you has any idea!

No more fevers, the coughing has lessoned and there is even some Kleenex left.
It’s so good to hear them laugh again. For example, tonight at dinner:

Harrison: rubs eyes and puts head down next to his plate still a little worn out from his mysterious illness.

Chris: “Harry, are you tired?”

Ella: “He’s not Tired, he’s Harry!”

And in the bathtub tonight, Ella called me in to see what she spelled with her letters, and there it was – her first word: “HI”

I went back into the hall full of motherly pride when she starting singing a tune – here’s a snippet:

“Jy-na, Jyyyy-na, Jyyyy-na. Ella has a jyyyna. Harry has a pee-nis. La la la la.”

Sunday, April 03, 2005

"I'm the Buhth-day Guh-rl!"

I am giving up. Tried to post pictures through Picasa for over an hour now. Stay tuned: I'll try again in the morning.

Boredom Alert: this post is long, detailed (so I won’t forget as she ages) and sentimental. It will probably only be found interesting by those I am related to or those who have recently had a baby.

Three years ago today, I arrived at a hospital two blocks from our house at about 6:30 AM to prepare for my baby’s birth. I had a C-section scheduled for 8:00 AM having carefully planned the April 3rd birth-day around my OB’s Easter vacation to Florida and my work Spring Break (trying to maximize my paid time off!) I had even consulted with my anesthesiologist about the date. He, in my mind, was the absolute most important person to be included in the surgery. Saied happened to live right across the street from us, and was one of the best in the city. His motto, when I first met him two years prior at 7 ½ months pregnant with Harrison, was “There is no need to be in pain during childbirth.” Now that’s a man after my own heart. I also heard plenty of testimonies from other neighbors about the wonderful benefit’s of Saied’s pain-free epidurals thereby solidifying his role in both of my children’s births.

We had an ultrasound earlier in my pregnancy and knew she was going to be a girl. We were thrilled. One of each seemed too perfect. Harrison spent the night at Chris’ parent’s, so we were able to fully concentrate on the big moments ahead. The surgery was uneventful except for a bout of dry heaves caused by a drug reaction. Ella came out pretty effortlessly despite her large size – 8 lbs. 7 oz., 21 ½ inches long. She looked wonderful, skinny and so long – especially her fingers.

I don’t remember particularly enjoying my aftercare that first day. Saied, a man whose main purpose in life is to control pain, was right on top of alleviating any discomforts I might be having. I casually mentioned that I was feeling a bit nauseous, so he prescribed two different doses of an anti-nausea drug. It completely knocked me out. I distinctly remember one friend in particular who came to meet our new daughter that first day. She stood at the end of my bed and started making small talk. I quickly told her that I had to close my eyes, but that she could go ahead and talk away. I just listened as I was too drugged up to function. The funniest part of the whole thing is that she didn’t miss a beat. She just kept talking, and I think, stayed quite awhile!

We named our little girl her first day of life. We didn’t have a name picked out, but had narrowed down a few. We liked the name “Ellie” after watching a little girl on Ben’s soccer team a few years prior. This little Ellie was about 6 years old and such a tomboy. Her parents would scream and yell her name and we both loved it. When thinking of girl names, that memory stayed with us. Chris felt that “Ellie” alone wouldn’t suit her as an adult. I suggested “Elinor” and “Stella”, but was voted down. “Ella” was a beautiful compromise. For a middle name, I was dead set on incorporating my mother’s name, Trudy, into her name in some way. After mentioning this to my mom, she quickly set down the ground rules. “No grandchild of mine will have the name “Gertrude”, “Gertie”, “Trudy” or any derivative there of.” That pretty much halted my plans. When all else fails look into middle names. My mom was named after two of my grandfather’s sisters and therefore has two middle names – “Anna” and “Lina”. When I put the two names together and slapped them up next to our baby’s first name, it became pretty bouncy: Ella Annalina. (It needs to be said out loud to get the full effect.) Since I have replaced my middle name, Marie, with my maiden name, I decided to attach “Marie” to “Anna” thus creating “Annamarie”. So, Ella Annamarie she became. Still a little bouncy, but representative of three generations.

Harrison, age 22 months at her birth, did not take too kindly to a competitive force for attention in the household. We brought Ella home after four days. I knew better after my second caesarean to take full advantage of as much hospital time as possible. Unfortunately though, those four long days away were significant to the head toddler in our household. Not only did his mother leave him for eternity, when she came home she brought a baby back with her. My biggest memory from this time, that most represents Harrison’s feelings during these early days of Ella’s life, is standing in Ella’s room near her crib when she was about 6 days old. I couldn’t lift Harrison - doctor’s orders – so instead knelt down to hug and cuddle with him. He screamed and cried, “NO!!” while clinging to his Daddy’s leg. It was definitely one of the lowest points of my life. The pure rejection I felt was so deep and painful. Today, I can honestly say that he has recovered (as have I) and truly loves his little sister as a best friend.

Ella is a beautiful human being. Her soul is pure and kind. She has a smile for everyone and everything, although recently her shyness has started showing. She needs to be coaxed into playing with new children she meets, but is friendly and easy going once she is comfortable.

Another trait that has newly shown itself in the last six months is stubbornness. She has discovered the power of passive aggressiveness. Unlike her brother, Ella is sly in her misbehavior. Her weapon of choice is ignoring.

Ella: “Milk. Milk.”
Me: “Ella, please use manners. ‘May I have some milk, please?’”
Ella: “No.”
Ella: “Milk. Milk. MILK!”
Me: “You need to ask politely.”
Ella: “No.”

This kind of conversation usually ends quickly, but two can play at that game. We have had power struggles similar to this that have lasted over an hour. No reference to the milk subject, for example, can come up for quite awhile and then all of a sudden she’ll ask me politely for some milk. I see this as a sign of strength and tenacity – at least that’s what I say to stay calm through it all.

Another area that has tested both Chris and I is potty training. About three weeks ago I was convinced that she was 95% trained, but THE girl has spoken: “…diapers, no pull-ups!” And to think I was worried that I had over 50 diapers left a couple of weeks ago. I had even planned to pass them along to my newly pregnant sister-in-law.

Favorite things this first day of her fourth year are: her “babies” – a collection of baby dolls and all the accessories that accompany them, puzzles – which she can complete and disassemble over and over again with full concentration and determination, and books – favorite collections currently include the Berenstein Bears and anything with fire trucks or teddy bears. Most nights she will take one of her favorite things to bed with her. I can understand snuggling with a favorite baby, but cuddling up with a paperback? My favorite moments are when she first wakes up and pads into our room to let us know she’s awake. Sometimes she’ll be holding what she went to bed with and when it’s a book – it always makes me smile.

Ella has become someone I am so proud to know. She is incredibly verbal and very smart. Combine this with her off-the-charts height and many think she is much older than just three. She’s got this uncanny way of expressing herself that makes even me believe that at times, too. Her facial expressions are also amazing. She can tell you everything with a look.

We love you, my dear three-year-old Ellie Bellie.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

out on the town

Well, I must be over my guilt because not only did I work a full day yesterday (away from my two sick children who stayed home AGAIN), but I even went out last night without them.

Last weekend, on a whim, Chris bought us two tickets to see Kenny Wayne Shepherd. It was a completely thoughtful act on my husband’s part because he knows how much I love to go watch live blue’s performers and I haven’t seen anyone in over a year. I’m not sure why, but I am terrible at planning ahead when it comes to getting babysitters. I forgot about the tickets and didn’t start looking for anyone until late Thursday. Long story short – I never found a sitter. Chris has been feeling pretty crappy the last couple of days, so he suggested I take someone else and that he would stay home.

Me: “Beth, are you ok?” (She had quite a scare with her breathing earlier in the day so went to the doctor yesterday afternoon.)
Beth: “Yes, it wasn’t a heart attack – it’s bronchitis.”
Me: “Cool – so do you wanna go downtown and see a band?”
Beth: “Sure.”

So there we were, last night, naively searching for an open table at a restaurant on a Friday night. The weather was beautiful yesterday and that pulled people out of their houses or some event was going on downtown. It was mobbed. Lines outside of restaurants, lines outside of clubs, and people walking all over. We never did figure out what was going on, but I asked Beth if General Conference (a semi-annual big-deal meeting held at the Mormon Temple downtown this weekend) might be pulling people downtown. My wonderful fence-sitting Mormon friend turned to her lovely still-searching semi-agnostic non-Mormon friend and said, “General Conference? This weekend?” It was a precious moment!

After a couple attempts, we happened upon a great Italian restaurant that was kind of fancy-dancy, but Beth insisted we were dressed up enough. Beth was in IRONED non-denim pants and I had lipstick on, so I guess she was right. The maitre‘d was a little hesitant to seat us without a reservation, but quickly found us a “romantic” little table in the back, back corner. Actually, it was just right. We had a great meal and then drove over to the bar.

As soon as I walked in, I felt like I had stepped back ten or fifteen years into my past. I have spent many an evening in dive bars watching blues bands. The smoke, which I’m no longer tolerant of, was thick and the clientele was familiar – mainly middle-aged “earthy” types with no less than 25 black Harley-Davidson T-shirts in the joint. It was Nirvana for me. The warm-up singer was great and the smile on my face didn’t disappear until about two hours later when my age (or the fact that I had been up since 4 am with a sick child) suddenly caught up to me and I became absolutely exhausted. Kenny Wayne was great. He looked much older than the last time I saw him at an open air festival in Central Wisconsin about 10 years ago, but was again very impressive. (He’s still only about 30!) Beth and I stood in a great spot near the stage, but it was also near the speakers. The bass went through my chest and I liked it at first, but after we left I couldn’t really hear for about 30 minutes. I have to admit I don’t remember experiencing that before. Like everything else that is probably due to my older status, but I’ll blame the high altitude here in Salt Lake, instead, for my muffled-ear-reaction.

This morning life is back to normal. Ella is still asleep and only had one coughing attack last night. Harrison’s cough is getting worse, but hasn’t had much a fever for almost 24 hours and Chris has been up for hours because his throat is so sore it kept him awake. I am back in my casual clothes with the only reminders of my big night out being the smell of smoke in my hair and the stamp from the bar on the back of my right hand. How quickly the roles of a mother can change.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Uncle Brian just gave us another CD full of pictures from last summer. I love this one - the feet of all three kids.