Friday, August 29, 2008

Europe is Out of Raisins

“Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.”

Folks, something has happened. I have achieved a level of calmness, particularly regarding the many things that usually annoy me, that is quite unfamiliar to me. As a good friend said to me quite recently, it is very strange NOT to be able to summon up the feelings of anxiety and worry that we are so used to having fill our days. Now there is a strange space where all that stress used to be.

Case in point. I went to the "campus" the other day to run a bunch of errands. (This is the place where many of my husband's co-workers and their families live while overseas.) At every turn, typical annoyances cropped up. For example, when I went to renew my daughter's registration for the on-campus daycare services, I was greeted by a sign that said the office was closed for training and to come back later. No sweat! When I did come back later, I learned that drop-ins were no longer welcome and that everything--even just renewals--had to be done by appointment. Again, no sweat. Can't fit me for a whole nother week? No biggie! I suppose I've just become immune. I EXPECT simple procedures on the campus to be rather unsimple. Situations just like this occurred at all five agencies I visited on the campus. And me? I was Teflon.

The icing on the cake, however, the sign that I knew something had really changed within me, happened at the Subway sandwich shop. I was getting Jillson a "kid's pack" which usually consists of a tiny sandwich, a box of raisins, and a juice box. The sandwich was all set to go, and then the conversation went like this:

"What kind of cookie would your daughter like?"
"Oh, no cookie, thank you. Raisins, please."
"We are out of raisins."
"Can she have some baked chips instead?"
"No, those are only for full-sized meals." (Never mind that the cookies and the chips are interchangeable on the full-sized meals.)
"How about apple slices, then?"
"No. We never have apple slices, and Europe is out of raisins."

'Kay. Got it. The guy really wanted to charge me for the meal deal, but since he wouldn't let me do it in a healthy way, I just got the plain old sandwich and went on my merry way. I think I laughed a long time on the drive home thinking about the phrase "Europe is out of raisins." Except that we can buy them at all the grocery stores, on-campus or off.

I realize most people are equipped with the strength to just let these things slide on a regular basis, but so many of us over here enduring the RLBT are not adequately equipped. I think this is because our base-level anxiety is usually so high that any little mishap can send us over the edge. But not any more.

I am fine. It is so weird, but I am fine.

And, if YOU are not feeling fine today, maybe this picture of Jillson with some of her cousins will make you feel better. I love all those butts lined up.And if that doesn't do it for you, check out this series. Jillson, in Maine, hitting the jackpot. Bonus points go to anyone (not present at the event) who can correctly identify the brand and flavor of what is being consumed.

And that's your hodge-podge for today from the Gutsy Mom.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Xtra Bad

Really? Was there NO ONE in this woman's life to encourage her to reconsider? This is from a woman's signature block from a message forum I sometimes read:

Proud [My Husband's Employer] Wife of 18 years! Mom to FIVE eXcellent kids: DeXter, BraXton, MaXlin, JaXson and NiXon!

I'm all for funky names. In certain circumstances I can even be semi-tolerant of funky spellings. But this just seems all wrong to me.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sweatin' the Bump

Some of you may have been wondering (okay, nobody probably has been wondering, but for the sake of writing a blog, I have to pretend somebody has been wondering) what happened to all of my lofty exercise and weight loss goals once I became pregnant.

Well. Pregnancy is a funny thing. It simultaneously makes me feel awesome about my body and totally awful about my body. Growing a baby is an incredible feat, and I think pregnant people look stunningly gorgeous. I am proud of what my body can do, and so, in many regards, I feel more confident about myself when I am sporting the bump. On the other hand, if you are a person who has suffered with terrible body image issues almost her entire life, watching your body--whatever shape it was in before--morph into a giant THING, no matter how psyched you are to be pregnant, can be somewhat traumatizing.

So, I vowed to myself that this time around I would do a better job staying healthy while pregnant. That means eating better and exercising more than I did last time. Because I worked full time up until two weeks before Jillsie was born, and because my job was kinda stressful for me, I found myself with NO energy for intentional exercise. It was all I could do to walk the dogs around the block after work, if that.

This time around, I am not working, so I can be more flexible with how I use my time. I kept with my running schedule until I was six weeks along. I had been running three times (4, 5, and 8 miles) every week and lifting weights twice a week. Then, when the nausea struck, everything fell away and I did NOTHING. For ten whole weeks. Yucko. So, for the past two weeks I have been getting back into it.

I've been doing the dogwalk at least four times a week. This ain't no ordinary dogwalk. There are hills and dirt roads involved, and, of course, I'm pushing a 32-pound child in a stroller the whole time. Once this feels comfortable again (or, probably, once Jills starts her daycare,) I will try to add in more vigorous walks without the dogs, where I can focus on exercise, and maybe even sprinkle some running back in.

I have also been doing T-Tapp three times a week. This has been making me feel awesome. T-Tapp is a hybrid exercise program. It is all no-impact, kinda like yoga, kinda like Pilates, kinda like calisthenics, kinda impossible to describe. You'll have to Google it. Anyway, the back stretching portion alone is a pregnant woman's best friend. I am hoping the T-Tapp will keep me flexible and relatively free of those aches and pains that are so prevalent in the third trimester. And, I am hoping the walking/running will enable me to return to running relatively soon post-partum.

I know one thing for sure. IT WILL NOT TAKE ME TWO YEARS TO LOSE THE PREGNANCY WEIGHT THIS TIME AROUND. That is not an option. I got down to my pre-pregnancy weight about three days before conceiving Baby #2. I am glad I got back down there, but that was cutting it a bit close.

The Gutsy Mom is gonna be a Fit Mama this time around.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I Made These

A two-page spread (12x12 each side), celebrating my daughter's two-ness. (I believe you can click on the photo to check out the details.)

Four greeting cards, all from the new card kit from Close to My Heart. I love this new red color, called Tulip, combined with good old Cocoa. Also loving the stamp set that comes in the kit. And yes, there's some bling on the cards. (Click to see.)

We Survived "Binky Week"

It's kinda like finals week... you dread it, it's hard, it seems interminable, but when it's over, PAR-TAY!

Jillson has been without her binky for a whole week. Those first few days were rough, as you have read. But "they" were right: after the first three days it was not a problem. Jills now goes down for every nap and every night-night without any crying or complaints. And--the best part--naps seem to be getting a bit longer, i.e. back to their old, binky-induced length. We are averaging about two and a half to three hours. Go, Jills, go! You are amazing. Mommy loves you. Thank you for trusting me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

There's A Land That I See

It is time.

At the store the other day, Jillsie said this: "Oh, look! Vap-yumes! For Mommy!" She was pointing to an aisle filled with Hoovers and Eurekas and looking at me for approval that she had located one of Mommy's favorite things. "Vap-yumes." Just for me. Great. I'd think it was a fluke, but she also pointed out the vacuum at my friend's house and said "That's for Mommy!"

And so, it is time.

It is time for "Free To Be." Any of you who were raised on this music, as I was, will concur that Carol Channing's "Housework" may be my best ally in de-programming Jillsie's brain. Say it with me, all ye that remember:

"Your mommy hates housework,
Your daddy hates housework..."

Okay, so, granted Jillson has only ever seen me and other moms vacuuming, but it is a bit horrifying to me that her first reaction to seeing a vacuum is a sense of total glee that she has located Mommy's special, coveted item. (Okay, so I do actually adore my vacuum because it kicks some serious butt, and I would feel disloyal not admitting that, but...) My point is: Vacuum = Mommy is a depressing equation.

There's a land that I see...

So Close

[Alas, I have had to remove my cute husband from the above photo because he was wearing his fancy "work clothes" for our wedding.]

I have been thinking about my husband a lot lately. That probably sounds like a no-brainer to most of you, but it's not. I think it's normal to go through phases during a Ridiculously Long Business Trip (RLBT) when you don't think of your spouse as often as you should. And then there are phases when you think of him all the time. Every song on the radio seems to be about him. Every little chore you undertake around the house reminds you of him. And then an anniversary comes, and you think of that wonderful day and all the reasons you got married, and, well, you can't stop thinking about that wonderful man.

My husband puts at least 1/4 cup of sugar in his morning tea. He drives with A/C on in the car even in the dead of winter and he is addicted to his GPS collection. He is a pro at washing dishes, but he can't hold a tune to save his life. I love each of these things about him.

My husband is much quieter than I am, and more shy, but he is also more kind and more caring. He is intensely patient. He is gentle and thoughtful and he always--I mean ALWAYS--does the right thing. He is devoted to his wife, his daughter, and his dogs. He does not make friends quickly, but once he does, you have a friend for life. He is the epitome of loyal.

I am deeply grateful that he puts up with me.

All of a sudden, although we still have a ways to go, the excitement of reunion seems to be in the air. Perhaps it's because we've finally passed that critical One Year Down benchmark (a moment I have failed to properly acknowledge or celebrate on the blog). My husband's emails are filled with a sense of "see you soon!" I feel happily motivated to get my act together and get through some of the things that were on my RLBT To Do List.

We are close, babe. We are so close. We just need to hold on.

Monday, August 18, 2008

20 Weeks!

Well folks, we've made it half way! Here I am, on the top, 20 weeks pregnant with Baby #2, and on the bottom, 20 weeks along with Jillson. I'll have more to say later, I'm sure, but that's it for now. Today's "to do" list is calling my name in a rather annoying tone.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dear Gutsy Dad

Six years ago today we said "I do"--again. And I would say it again and again and again and again if I had to in order to stay married to you. What a lucky (and smart!) girl I am to have married you twice. I love you. I miss you. You stay safe over there.

Happy Anniversary!

The Gutsy Mom

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Today was Day Four ohne binky. For the first time, Jills settled right down into her nap without crying. And for the third time, she settled right down at bedtime. The only drawback today was that naptime--usually 3 hours long--was only an hour and a half.

A few gems from today:

When we were leaving the house this morning to go to the store, Jillsie, who was headed out the door first (wearing a patchwork sundress, crocs, her backpack--a must for every outing these days--and her ballcap on backwards), turned around and tossed this comment over her shoulder as I was shuffling out the door with my shades and my bag: "Your purse is BYOOOO-d'fall, Mommy!" Then she turned around and sauntered down the driveway.

At bedtime, we were rocking and chatting and she put her hands on my belly. This ensued:

"What's in dere, Mommy?"
"That's the baby in Mommy's belly."
"Is it K-Kerala?"
"No, Kerala was in--"
"--in Vicki's belly!"
"Yes, that's right."
Very pleased with herself. She pats my belly again. "Can I see it?"
"No, you can't see the baby until it comes out of Mommy's belly."
Nodding vigorously. "After Vicki comes home?"
"Yes, after Vicki comes home, and also after Papa comes home. In a long time."
She ponders. I continue.
"In fact, before the baby comes out, Meme and Kiki are coming to visit, too."
Immediate elation. "Yeah! Meme and Kiki! MEME AND KIKI!" She loves them dearly, she can barely contain the anticipation. "AND, AND, WE WILL SHOW THEM MOMMY'S BOOBIES! ABSO-WOOT-LY"

Um. Not quite.

And that's life with a two year old. From the sublime, precious moments to the ridiculous, thanks-for-not-saying-it-in-public ones.

A final thought from me before signing off for the night. I am very proud of myself for having cleaned my kitchen (i.e. done the dishes) every night before bed for almost two weeks. In pondering my before-bed routine and how happy it makes me, I wonder: Is it wrong if my before-bed routine includes remembering to bring my wallet upstairs in case, in the middle of the night, when I am surfing the net thanks to pregnancy insomnia, I need to buy something without getting my preggo a$$ out of bed?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Better Now

Jillson went to sleep last night without making a peep. Obviously, God answered my prayer of desperation. (It went something like this: "Give me a f%$^ing break!" He did.)

Prayers were also answered in the form of a friend (Hi, Darcy!) who called last evening when I was at the end of my rope. She needed out of her house, too. So we made a date. Today, she came over with her lovely daughter Lillian, and we had a grand old time. The girls played, and the moms chatted until lunch. Then, once the girls were napping, we got down to business and scrapped and dished the dirt. A post-nap dogwalk in the rain rounded out our day.

Naptime was a little rough at the start (about 10 minutes of crying), but Jillsie went down for night-night tonight without a peep again. YEEHAW!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

One of Those Days

Let's see if I can accomplish this succinctly.

1) Shortly after breakfast I developed a seriously bad headache. Jillsie was NOT PLEASED that Mommy had to rest. Never mind that it has been weeks since my nausea was bad enough that I've had to rest in front of her. The Tylenol I took was useless. Jillson whining and pulling on my shirt and climbing on me and yelling "No, Mommy! No, resting!" was not helping either.

2) Eventually we loaded into the car to go feed Mike's fish. He lives a few towns away. Got halfway there and realized I'd forgotten his keys. Still battling the headache. Went home, got the keys, got half way back to Mike's and there was a detour, routing us all the way out to a neighboring town and back into Mike's town. Finally made it to Mike's house and back home, but the whole ordeal took over an hour. The entire ride home Jillson was whining "I don't wanna go home, I don't wanna go home."

3) Note: Those of you who are not yet parents may wish to skip this paragraph. Naptime wasn't happy. Jillsie cried for about 35 minutes, then was quiet for a while, then started up again. Normally, she sleeps from 1-4pm. This time she wsn't quiet until 2:15 or so and then "slept" only until 3:30. When I went in to her, the entire room reeked of poo because--surprise, surprise--there was poo everywhere. She was standing in her crib without her diaper on. She had thrown all of the items that were in her crib out of the crib because they were covered with poo. She had also thrown her diaper (clean) and several pieces of poo out of the crib. Her crib sheet, bumper, most of the crib slats, and some sections of the wall were coated in poo. TELL ME THIS ISN'T SOME SORT OF PAYBACK FOR TAKING BINKY AWAY.

4) After the poo triage, Jillsie and I headed off to the pool. She has been asking to go swimming every day. It was finally nice enough to try to go. (Okay, the weather was barely nice at all, but I needed OUT of the house.) Thankfully, we had a nice hour and a half at the pool. Then, all of that nice pool chill out 'tude we'd both acquired was completely erased by the hysterical car ride home. "I want to go in the water! I want to go in the water! Mommy, stop driving! No! No! No!" All at the top of her lungs.

Aunt Heather thought that 3 was harder with her son than 2 was, but I'll tell you what. Two is kicking my butt.

Binky & Odor Update

Bed time last night was a mixed bag. Jillson did not mention binky to me even once, which was surprising. The whole bedtime routine went smoothly, adorably. I put her in her crib and she was happy and normal. Then I left the room. Not 30 seconds after I had left the room the crying began. She cried for about 45 minutes. I know some of you are thinking "45 minutes? That's not bad!" But this was hard on me. She was calling out plaintively for binky. The crying was very mournful, not hysterical or tragic, just full of grief. She is missing her good friend, Binky. She was singing a little elegy: "Oh, Binka-Binka-Binka! Biiiiiin-keeee...." According to my fastidious google research, we should have 3 or 4 days with this crying and then she should be totally fine. This better be true. In the meantime, I am reminding myself why I am doing this and I am trying to be strong (gutsy). Two major reasons:

1) Binky is messing with Jillson's teeth.
2) There are other big changes coming Jillson's way, and I'd rather separate the changes. In September she starts German preschool. In November Papa comes home. In January a sibling arrives (who will likely have his/her own binky). At some point in the next 6 months, I'd like to start potty training (pediatrician says she is not quite ready yet).

The best news is that Jillsie slept through the night without a peep. I know this because I did not sleep through the night (pregnancy insomnia). If she did wake up she found other ways to soothe herself back to sleep.

Next. The odor. Yes, it is gone. Although, shortly after eradicating it, Zephie had a pee-pee accident in the house, and both dogs rolled in manure on our dogwalk. Awesome. While these are both easily managed (and the associated odors have also now been eliminated) it was rather annoying in a Murphy's Law sort of way. Or, frankly, the odors could still be here but I've grown immune. My Bavarian allergies are back, so I can't really smell a darn thing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bye Bye, Binky

No, binky did not fall overboard. This picture, taken upon our arrival in Maine on July 12 in what was literally the middle of the night for us, is the last photographic evidence of Jillson's binky use.

I'd always said that the binky would be gone when she turned two, and now that she is two years and one month old, AND the pediatrician has commented on her overbite, the binky's got to go.

Yesterday was binky's last day. Jillsie and I talked about it a bit, as in "tomorrow binky goes bye-bye" but she seemed unaffected by the thought that binky was leaving. This morning she woke up in a great mood, so while changing her diaper I reminded her that today is the day to put all the binkies away. She said, excitedly, "We'll put binky in a special box!" So, I found a special box, and we put all the binkies in it, and I told her we'd put it on the shelf (out of reach). I reminded Jills that she is a little girl now and that only babies use binkies. She said, "We give binky to Marion." I asked her if she was sure (since Marion is about 18 months old and not really a baby, either). "Don't you want to give them to Kerala?" I asked. "No, we give binky to Marion." She was delighted by this idea. So far, so good.

Fast forward to naptime. I didn't do myself any favors by starting nap later than usual, but Jillsie was excited for the other elements of her naptime ritual: diaper changing, reading books, rocking in the chair, snuggling assorted lovies. While reading stories she asked for binky. "Oh! Remember?" I said, "Binky went bye-bye. We put all the binkies away." She smiled and said "To give to Marion!" We rocked and read and all was good.

She was not happy when I put her in her crib. She wasn't asking for binky, though. She wanted me to read another book. No deal, kiddo, sorry. (We'd already reached our quota.) She seemed to pull it together a bit, but when I left the room, she cried out for the book. She cried for the book for 20 minutes. I had forgotten how slowly those minutes tick by when your child is crying for something and you are just sitting downstairs trying to watch Law & Order and pretending you don't hear your child suffering upstairs... I went back in to her, and she was devastated.

"I want another, Mommy."
"You want me to read another book?"
"I want another biiiiiin-keeeeee!"
"I'm sorry honey, binky went bye-bye."
"I want another one, then."
"Honey, all the binkies went bye-bye. They are all gone."
Long pause while Jillson looked at me tragically. She understood me. This was true grief. Silence. Then, quietly, wistfully:
I couldn't take it any longer.
"How about Mommy reads you another book?"
"I'm a duck!" Half a smile...
"Yes, Mommy will read you I'm a Duck."

We went to the rocking chair and read the book. Two pages from the end she was bargaining again.

"Another book?"
"No, honey, after this book it is time to get back in your crib."
"I don't want binky in the special box anymore."
"I am sorry, honey, there's no more binky."
"I just want to hooooold it."
"I am sorry, honey."

I rocked her for a bit more, and then put her back in her crib. When I left the room she began crying and cried tragically (not quite hysterically) for about 30 minutes. Then, as far as I can tell, she sang softly to Pasta (her baby doll) for a few minutes. There is now silence. Hallelujah. Thank the Lord.

I'll let you know how bedtime goes.

The Meany Mom

Update: The bad news is she woke up half an hour later. I think she slept, at most, for 45 minutes. The good news is she woke up in a great mood.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Battling the Odor

Sometimes, the best part about vacation can be coming home. This is especially true if you leave your house in a state of cleanliness and order. I am pleased to report that I actually managed to leave my house in great shape when I left for the States. Everything was in its place, every piece of laundry had been cleaned, folded and put away, every dish had been done and put away, and the whole house was vacuumed, dusted, and generally cleaned. My humble abode was spic and span, top to bottom. (Those of you who know me will understand what a rarity this all is.)

So imagine my dismay when I returned from vacation to a home not glowing with Martha-like domestic beauty, but one that was dirty, reeking, and hotter than hades. How does this happen? At least everything was still orderly, and the dishes and laundry hadn't magically dirtied themselves. But where did the dirt come from? The dogs were at the kennel the whole time, so I cannot blame them. Perhaps the dust and dirt in the air reached some sort of critical mass--much like water droplets becoming rain--and the dirt just sprinkled down from out of nowhere.

The heat can be explained. Anyone who has visited can attest to the fact that air flow is a serious problem in these houses even under the best of circumstances. In this case the doors and windows were sealed up tight for three weeks. So it's a no-brainer that everything in my home's apparently dirt-laden air just stagnated.

But the worst, the absolute worst, my friends, was the odor. I opened my front door and was bombarded by a stench so horrific it practically defies explanation. Nevertheless I will try. It was as if half a dozen two-pack-a-day smokers had been shacking up in my home, but now imagine that these smokers were not humans but dogs. You know when you book a smoke-free hotel room and you enter it and you can tell that it recently has made the switch from smoke-friendly to non-smoking status? You can tell the staff did their best to try to rid the air of the odor, but to no avail. Add in the mysterious kennel odor (which must have wafted up from my carpets as, I have said, the dogs were not at home to create this part of the odor), the absurd heat, the complete lack of air circulation, and my sensitive pregnant nose, and you've got the perfect storm of stinkiness. PEE YEW. (To clarify, there was not actually cigarette smoke in my house...this is only the closest odor I can come up with to relate to my home's stench: pervasive, thick, musty, offensive.)

So the battle against the odor has begun.

Step One: Open all windows and doors to rooms which would otherwise bang shut, finding ingenious ways to prop them all open (I highly recommend the hanger chain, details available upon request).

Step Two: Bathe dogs, who smell a bit like kennel and a bit like farm thanks to their stay at the rural Kleintierresidenz. (This is the step I am currently executing. I am halfway done, but have taken a break to write this, as I find bathing the dogs in my current condition to be back-breaking work. Come to think of it, the whole process of bathing them should be a blog entry unto itself. Anyhoo, Zephie is clean. Tilly is not.)

Step Three: Vacuum, using Arm & Hammer Pet Fresh Powder, or whatever it is called (love this stuff).

Step Four: Evacuate home for several hours so as to eliminate sense memory.

Step Five: Re-enter home and give it the sniff test. If odor persists, light candles. (Current favorite is Glade's "Clean Linen.") Spray Febreze in the air (I like the summer scent, which is basically melon-scented).

Step Six: Pray.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Guess Who's Preggo?

If you guessed Aunt Heather (pictured on the left, with Charlie) then you are right! Charlie is going to be a big brother at the end of September.

But if you guessed the Gutsy Mom (pictured on the right, with Jillsie) then you are ALSO RIGHT! Yup, Jillson is going to be a big sister in early January!


Ah, Maine

Jills and I just got back from our three weeks on Heron Island. Here are a few of my favorite pics. Many more pictures and stories to follow.