Category Archives: Family Life

Curing My Beach Envy

I see you.

I see you posting photos of your manicured toenails in the sand with the surf in the background, your sleeping toddler curled up on her towel, your family wearing matching shirts while sitting on an abandoned lifeguard chair. I look at your pictures and I can smell the sea air and taste the crab cakes. Envy wells up inside me as I imagine planting my lounge chair at the shoreline and letting the water wash over my un-manicured toes. I lament that we have neither the time nor the extra money this summer for a beach vacation.

Then, one of my children tattles on another while running down the hall and I remember: I am no longer a beach person.

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I’ve been on quite a few beach vacations, and I love the idea of going to the beach, but since becoming a mom I find a day at the beach to be exhausting. Maybe the rest of you have mastered the art of family beaching, but as a mother with small children I do very little actual relaxing on the beach because I’m too busy keeping our offspring from washing away with the tide. If they’re not in the water, they’re covered from head to toe like a donut that has been glazed with sunscreen and sweat then rolled in sand sprinkles. Heaven forbid they rub their eyes. Also, reapplying sunscreen over sand without causing brush burns is about is difficult as it sounds.

When I finally get back to my hotel or rental house, much of the beach has come back with me in my car. Before I can bathe the kids, I have to find a discrete spot where I can strip them down and cover them in powder to get the sand off their bodies before I stick them in the shower. Then, I have to vacuum up the sand AND the powder. Inevitably, there is still sand remaining on their bodies and only half of it rinses down the shower drain. They all go to bed with sand still stuck to their scalps, but we’ve paid so much money to be here we do it all again the next day.

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Yeah, I know. Memories are being made, my kids will appreciate the trip when they’re older, blah, blah, blah. I’m not saying I’d turn down a free trip to the beach or that we’ll never go again. But, as I’m pining over beach pictures on my Facebook and Instagram feeds, it helps to remember that the cute baby in the photo probably has heat rash and sand stuck is his fat rolls. The smiling toddler is probably crying now because her Dollar-Store sand toys washed away in the surf, and neither of their parents can drink away the whining with a cool beer because they have to keep their little ones from wandering down the beach and going home with another family.

Who knows, maybe we’ll go to the beach next year. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy my glass of wine on my porch while my kids don’t drown in our grass.

Our New Puppy: Because, why not?

We live a full life: three kids, three jobs, and a dog. Many nights we collapse into bed and (what seems like seconds later) it’s morning. Even with the help of our parents, it’s crazy. I’ve often wished I had a way to stop time so I could get more accomplished in a day. It makes absolutely no sense for us to add to the chaos and responsibility in our lives. So, what did we do last weekend? We brought home a puppy.

We already have a 12-year-old Shetland sheepdog named Sophie. She’s the best dog we could ask for, and yet there have been times over the years (particularly when caring for newborns) that I could barely handle caring for her. For a few weeks after our third child was born, Sophie went to live with my in-laws because I just couldn’t manage it all. Now that the kids are older, I find myself spending more time playing with Sophie and I’ve begun to realize how much I’ll miss her when she’s gone. After all, she was our first “baby.”

Jim’s always wanted another dog and I’ve always been the one holding out. Much like baby fever, the desire for a dog came out of nowhere. I found myself scanning Facebook pages of local animal rescue organizations and checking the newspaper for litters.  I looked at so many dogs, but none of them were right for our family. I wanted a member of the sheepdog family, but something bigger than a Sheltie. I had hoped to find one to rescue but I couldn’t find any sheepdogs in my searching. We don’t have the yard for a border collie and I don’t have the patience for the hair of a full-sized collie. When a friend of mine showed me some pictures of Australian shepherd pups available near her house, I know I had found our breed.

Deciding whether or not to add a dog to our already chaotic lives was a daunting task. There were two pups left in the litter, so Jim and I decided to mull it over for a week. If there was still a pup left by the following weekend, we’d go meet her. If they sold during the week, we would consider it a sign and wait for the next litter. By Friday afternoon, there was still one pup left. On Saturday morning, our practical sides did their best to keep us from adding to the chaos, but in our hearts we already knew we were going to bring home a puppy. After a very long discussion, we called the breeder and packed the kids into the car.

As soon as the pup ran out of the barn to meet us, she began circling the kids and chasing 5yo. They fell to the ground and playfully wrestled and I could see on Jim’s face that this dog was coming home with us. We paid for her and got in the car to take her home. As we drove away, we began mulling over names. The kids threw out some names that were quickly crossed off the list. I began reading suggestions from the internet on my phone. Halfway home, Jim pulled the car into a Unimart parking lot and jumped out of the car to head inside. A few minutes later, he came out and jumped in the car yelling, “Shandy!” Of course, being an avid beer brewer and drinker, he had gone inside to find beer names. It was perfect.17038742_1542062032478201_8951221052950027568_o (1)

Shandy has been with us for a week now and it’s been an adjustment. Because she’s so young, she requires constant supervision. Sophie is slowly adjusting to not being the only dog. The kids are getting pretty good at cleaning up the messes as we try to house-train her. Despite all the work she requires, I don’t think any of us has regretted adding Shandy to our family. It’s almost like she was the last of the litter because she was waiting for us to make up our minds.

Here’s to puppies and families and adding a little more craziness to our lives!

Summer Project: The Deck!

Jim has been extremely busy working on our home remodel, pretty much since the fall of 2014.  It’s a second job we’re paying for him to have. He works all day then comes home and works all evening. Fortunately, the results have been worth it. He completed the work on our bedroom remodel last year and it looks heavenly.

Unfortunately, just outside the double doors of the bedroom is the world’s ugliest deck.

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This deck was slapped up by the original builders. It’s small and the spindles are so far apart we can’t even let our kids hang out on it for fear of them falling through and plummeting to the ground 15 feet below. I decided something needed to be done about it, but I didn’t want to add to the never-ending list of projects Jim is trying to tackle. Painting a deck does not require any special skills, so I decided to take it on.

The prep work wasn’t too difficult. After helping me carry the heavy things off the deck, Jim did pressure wash it for me — not because I couldn’t but because he really loves pressure washing and I have no emotional attachment to spraying things with water. Then, I scrubbed it down with an acid cleaner the paint specialist at Home Depot recommended. Two days later we were ready to begin. I sent 1yo to my mother-in-law’s house because there was no way I could get this project done with her around. I grabbed enough brushes and rollers for 9yo and 4yo to help me out and we got started. decka1

I won’t go through all the details, but painting a deck is long and tedious. 9yo was really helpful throughout the entire day. 4yo lasted 45 minutes, which is to be expected. In the end, I had enough deck stain to finish the deck, but not the steps.  They need to be repaired anyway, so we’ll save that for another day.

Because we’ve spent gobs of money (at least that’s how it feels) on the rest of the remodel, I tried to do this as cheaply as I could. Deck stain costs what it cost, so I couldn’t do much about that. For furniture, I reused our old patio table and chairs. Despite the rusty, old appearance of the table, I was able to make it look nice with a beachy vinyl table cloth I found at the grocery store for $5. We also lucked out with the deck chairs. My parents had purchased them for their pool, then decided they were too low to the ground. Instead of returning them, they generously gave them to us to use for our deck. Score! I bought cushions for them from the garden section of the Walmart. One of my biggest worries was splinters from the old deck boards. I had two Amazon gift cards I’d been saving from Christmas, so I used them to purchase a 9 x 12 patio rug. Our deck is 10 X 13 so it was perfect! I love the color and design and it goes really well with the gray we used for the stain. The umbrella is a beach umbrella we already had.

The only task remaining is making the railing safer. Our plan is to purchase lattice to attach to the spindles to close up the gaps. I’m hoping to get that done this week so we can start enjoying our evening meals on our deck.

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Overall, I’m extremely pleased with how it looks, how much we spent, and the fact that I did the work myself.

Summer is Here!

We made it to summer!

After the craziness of the last month of school, today marks the kick-off of summer vacation here. Despite the calls for rain, it’s sunny and beautiful outside.

Our plans for the summer include lots of swimming, a couple day trips, and tons of camping trips (provided Jim can get off work). I’m hoping to get in lots more blogging now that I have the time to do it. Watch for chronicles of our summer adventures!

My Third One is My “Only Child”

Every parent I know who has multiple children has said the same thing to me at one point: it is amazing how different they are.

For several years following the birth of our first child, Jim and I dealt with infertility issues. Since we now have three children, we obviously solved our problem.  In the meantime, we suffered through the barrage of unwelcomed comments all parents of only children endure. These comments are usually intrusive and unfair. More importantly, they are dead wrong.

“If you only have one, she’ll end up spoiled.”

“Only children don’t know how to share.”

“How will she learn to get along with others if she doesn’t have any siblings?”

Despite being our only offspring for over 5 years, our oldest daughter is the opposite of all of these things. She’s selfless, kind, helpful, and many other qualities parents wish their children to be.  She is patient and caring with her younger siblings and helpful to adults. She didn’t learn these traits from having siblings. She developed them long before the other two came along.

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Ironically, the third one (1yo) is everything the first one (9yo) was “supposed” to be. Heaven forbid 4yo wants to sit in my lap and snuggle. 1yo will climb over him, screaming, attempting to pry him off. If that doesn’t work, she hits him and ends up screaming in time-out. She loves chopped strawberries until she sees a sibling eating a whole one.  Then, suddenly, chopped strawberries are inadequate and only a whole one will do. If she is the first child to arrive in the nursery at church, her anger mounts as more children arrive to play with the toys or receive attention from the nursery teacher. If there is a communal bowl of snacks, she scrambles to it like a puppy who is one of several in the litter and shoves the food into her mouth as though she will starve if she does not get her fair share of goldfish crackers.

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My 9yo, who spent over half of her life not having to compete with anyone for attention or possessions, is hardly competitive at all. My 1yo, who has always been one of three, has learned very early that there will always be someone else who will take what you want if you don’t get it first. 9yo was never the stereotypical only child (even when she was one), and 1yo is about as spoiled for attention as a toddler can get – despite having two siblings.

That these two completely opposite girls are exactly who they were meant to be has been a big lesson to learn. I cannot light a fire in 9yo’s belly any more than I can extinguish the one in 1yo.  All I can do is guide them, support them and discipline them; and, of course, love them and their brother exactly as they are.

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They Look So Real

Now that the baby is mobile, she’s really enjoying playing with her toys. She loves things with knobs and buttons and she likes to drum on flat objects with anything slightly resembling a stick.  She has also tasted all of the tools in 3yo’s tool bench.  Interestingly, she has two favorite toys: a green plastic car that she drives everywhere and an army of giant plastic insects that originally belonged to her brother.

The car thing is cute.  She pushes it along the floor, the fireplace mantel, and the coffee table.  The bugs are not cute.  In fact, they’re kind of terrifying.Spiders2

I like to think of myself as a pretty brave person. I’m not cancer-fighting brave, or join-the-armed-forces brave, but when it comes to common fears (the dark, heights, snakes) I don’t have many. Insects, however, are my one unreasonable fear. Our house has often echoed with the sounds of my shrieks, brought on by giant hairy spiders or miles-long house centipedes that don’t understand they are not allowed inside. I’ll admit that they often don’t survive our encounters. Yes, I know that they’re more scared of me, they eat other bugs, blah, blah, blah. In the moment, as they crawl out from under the wet towel I just picked up off the laundry room floor, all I can see is a descendant of Shelob ready to wrap me in its web and drain me of my blood. If Jim sees a plastic cup upside down on the floor, he knows there’s a good chance I left a spider under there for him to handle.  Spiders1

So what does the baby do? She leaves these giant, plastic, very realistic-looking bugs ALL OVER my house.  I turn the corner, and there’s the spider of my nightmares.  I bend down to pick up another toy, and beneath it is a scorpion, ready to attack.  More than I’d like to admit, I have screamed in surprise at these small plastic objects.  I’ve freaked out after stepping on them in a sleepy daze as I wander to the end of the house for a midnight nursing session. Today, there was one in the refrigerator.Spiders3

I kind of love that her favorite toys are so gross and not traditionally “girly.” I just wish they didn’t look like my worst nightmares.

(9yo suggested I title this post “Bug Baby.”)

This is my heaven.

Life is short. What happens after you die? I wouldn’t know. Whatever it is it probably isn’t this, and I love this.

I love the sound of my baby’s breath as she sleeps.  I love the strength in my husband’s rough hand as he grabs mine. I love the giggles that echo down the hallway. I love the taste of a ripe peach, the smell of an approaching storm, and the way it feels to drift off to sleep. I love the beauty of music. I love the company of good friends.  I love the feel of sand between my toes, a cool breeze on my neck, and the soft skin of my son’s cheek on mine as we snuggle.

What comes after this is unknown to me. Maybe it is better. Maybe it is not. But it is not this, and I love this.

This is my heaven. 

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Love and Loss at the Fair

I don’t like fish as pets.  I don’t really like fish as food for that matter.

Despite my lack of fish fondness, I couldn’t help but be excited the other night when I watched our dented Ping-Pong balls bounce into the tiny fish-bowls of colored water at the fair.  I had purchased a plastic hat of balls for 2yo because he loves nothing more than to throw things at other things.  I figured, even if he doesn’t win a fish, he still gets to throw things and keep the hat, so it’s a win-win situation. fishgame

Halfway through his 20-something batch of balls, he loudly declared, “I not wanna pay dis game anymore!”  Smart parents would have handed over the remaining balls and walked away.  Not us, of course. After all, we spent $5 on that hat of balls and they were going to get thrown.  Jim’s first ball sailed through the air and bounced squarely into a bowl of red water – because of course it did.  We went through the rest of the balls until there was one left.  I offered it to 2yo who insisted that I throw it, so I nonchalantly tossed it at the table.  It plopped into another bowl and we were now two fish richer and $5 poorer than we had been just 15 minutes earlier.

At that point, 8yo returned from her sky ride excursion with her grandfather and wanted to play as well.  Already burdened with fish, we gave her $2 for a small bowl.  She’s usually terrible at this game, but three balls into her turn she also won a fish.  It was a shiny gold color (not the typical orange) and she named it Bubbles.  2yo named my fish after himself and Jim refused to name his.  So, with our stroller cup holders full of fish, we moved on.

For the remainder of the evening, I reminded both kids (especially 8yo) that carnival-game fish generally don’t survive very long and it’s possible that some or all of them could be dead by morning.

“I know” she said. “Besides, I already have a fish.” This is true, because she has a beta fish in her bedroom that absolutely refuses to die.  I’m sending it to college with her.fishcups

By morning, one fish (Jim’s unnamed one that 8yo had lovingly monikered “no-name”) had already kicked the bucket, but Bubbles and 2yo’s namesake were still kicking.  We ran some errands and returned home a short while later.  8yo was first in the house and ran back outside with tears in the corners of her eyes.

“Bubbles is dead!”

Ironically, we had just picked up a cheap fishbowl starter kit at the store for our remaining fish.  Since 2yo’s fish was still kicking, I scooped out the two dead fish from the jar they had been in overnight and prepped the bowl for our survivor.  Once the still-living fish was settled in his new home, we took the two dead fish in a cup to the bathroom for a quick funeral.

The entire time, 8yo had remained stoic despite her disappointment.  She knew the deal – fish die all the time.  Unfortunately, the funeral ended up being more drawn out than anticipated when we got to the bathroom and realized the last person in there had forgotten to flush.  I didn’t want to insult the dead fish by flushing them in someone’s pee, so I flushed the toilet before dropping them in.  What I hadn’t expected was how long it would take for the bowl to refill before being able to flush it again.  Those two dead fish swirled around in the slowly-filling bowl while 2yo jumped around yelling “tan I fush dem now?!” I watched as 8yo stared at the dead fish and I saw a clear understanding of mortality wash over her face.  Tears began falling and, just as 2yo pulled the lever and the fish slipped away, the sobs came.

It was immediately apparent that this was about more than dead fish – it was about life and that moment in childhood we’ve all had when one realizes how finite it is.  It brought back memories of lying in my darkened bedroom as a child sobbing over that fact that everyone I knew was going to die someday.  “Oh honey…” I said as she ran out of the room.

I found her like this on the living room floor:crying

Sometimes, it just hurts.  Most of the time we can protect ourselves from thinking about how small we are and how short our time is, but every now and then it surfaces.  8yo has been fortunate in her short life to not have lost anyone close, but she knows it’s coming one day.  We snuggled on the couch and she cried it out.  She recovered eventually and the rest of her day was fine.

We returned to that fair that night, but stayed far away from the fish game.  As of this moment, 2yo’s new fishy friend is still alive and swimming high on a shelf in his bedroom: fishsurvivor

Seeing things in a different light

I’m feeling pretty crappy about my day.  Nothing extreme happened, but it was just one of those days. I had a disheartening day at work, my Dentist discovered three cavities that I have to have filled, and our two-year-old was poorly behaved at dinner.  I’ve been in a sour mood for hours, even though I know I truly have very little to be unhappy about.  I don’t enjoy feeling this way, so I’m going to attempt to look at the day from a different perspective.

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This morning, I woke up in my large bed in my bedroom that is bigger than some houses in other parts of the world.  I used warm running water and electricity as I showered and dressed myself for the day in one of the many lightly-used maternity outfits I was fortunate enough to have received from other generous moms.  Once I was ready, I got to spend 30 minutes with my children as I readied them for school.  Our pantry and refrigerator were full of breakfast options – so many that we’ll probably end up throwing some out before we get a chance to eat them.  My coffee, brewed instantly in our single-cup brewer, was hot and comforting. When we were all dressed and fed the kids grabbed their Lands End backpacks, I grabbed my iPhone, and we piled into the large SUV we purchased brand new last year.

I hugged my children as I dropped them off at a school full of people who will care for them, encourage them and educate them.  A few minutes later, I arrived at my own workplace where I am employed full-time and well compensated.  I spent the day singing, playing guitar, and interacting with children and adults.  I spent 30 minutes enjoying lunch with some of my favorite ladies.  When I did experience conflict today, I was able to express myself without fear of reprimand or retaliation with like-minded adults who, like me, just want the best for everyone.  Before leaving, a friend helped me load into my car a lightly-used crib mattress that was given to me by another work friend who no longer needs it, eliminating another cost associated with bringing a new person into the world.

After picking my children up from school, we stopped at home for a short while before leaving again to pick up my husband at his steady job and head to the dentist.  Fortunately, my insurance covered most of the visit, and it will also cover the filling of the three small cavities the Dentist was skilled enough to find before they became more serious.  While I reclined in the dentist’s chair and had someone else clean my otherwise very healthy teeth, I could feel the kicking and rolling of our third child who, despite not yet being born, has also benefitted from some of the best healthcare available.

Following our appointment, we headed to a local restaurant where we ordered from the menu without having to consider the price, enjoyed a nice meal, and paid for everything by handing over a card to an account that we know has enough money to cover everything.  When our two-year-old wouldn’t stop wiggling and kicking, I would reprimand him and he would respond with hugs and an “I’m sorry, Mommy” and sit still for a good 30 seconds before starting up again.  He never got up from his seat and he didn’t bother any of the other diners or staff.  We even had enough food to bring some home to eat at another time.

Once home, we again used amenities that we take for granted to make sure everyone was washed and dressed in one of their many sets of pajamas.  Homework was completed, books were read, and goodnight kisses and hugs were plenty.  Tired, but healthy, financially stable, and blessed with countless loved ones, we crawled into bed, soon to fall asleep with little worry.

Wow! That’s much better.  I had a really great day today after all!