Sunday, July 6, 2014

mom and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

I was reading journal entries from last September, and found one that was particularly exhausting. A detailed account of a stressful day with the kids: Genghis, 3, Xena, 18 months, Isis, 2 months. It read like "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day". So much so, that I spent an hour tonight re-writing it in Alexander's style.

So, for your enjoyment, here is "Mom and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day".


I went to sleep 2 hours ago, and now it’s time to wake up. And when I got out of bed this morning Genghis greeted me with a very stinky diaper and just when I got him changed and was ready for a quiet read on the couch Baby Isis woke up crying and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.


At breakfast Genghis had a hot meal served to him and Xena had a hot meal served to her but for my breakfast all I got was cold leftovers after nursing Isis.

I think I’ll send my kids to boarding school.


In the morning, Isis was content on her play mat. Genghis was happy building with Legos. Xena screamed about everything. She took Genghis’s toys and he took hers in revenge. I said, If you guys don’t stop it right now you’re going straight back to bed. No one even answered.

I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.


At morning naptime Isis slept much better than 18-month old Xena.

When I thought Xena had settled down I was about to play games with Genghis but then Xena started wailing nonstop. Who needs naptime? I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.


I could tell because just when I got everyone settled outside for fresh air (and some distance), someone started using a jackhammer next door. Xena protested loudly about the noise.

You’re going back to your nap, I said to Xena. This time you will stay there until I come and get you or until you fall out of bed and land in boarding school.


I drew 10 balloons with sidewalk chalk for Genghis and then I felt guilty about Xena and we went inside to get her. Guess who was almost asleep when I opened the door?

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.


That’s what it was because after lunch I tried to put Isis in a back carrier to make life easier but found it just made her cry. Try again next week and we’ll fix it, I told myself.

Next week, I replied, I’m sending my kids to boarding school.


By 1pm I put all 3 children to bed and was ready for a break but none of the children were asleep and Genghis and Xena screamed and laughed for an hour and dumped their water bottles all over their beds and on the floor and


when I came into their room and saw the mess I scolded them for being wet and awake and I sent Genghis to my bed for a nap, spending the rest of my nap time soothing Isis in her bouncy chair and listening to Xena cry.

I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I told everybody. No one even answered.


So then everyone got up from naps. Xena, Isis, and I watched part of Pride and Prejudice together during snack time. But Genghis was a whining disaster. Motherhood may make you love your kids but it can’t make you always like being with them.


When Abe came home he was very stressed out about dissertation revisions that were due Tuesday. Xena brought a dump truck full of sand into the house and was careful as could be except when she dumped it into the bathroom I had just cleaned. And while the kids got in more trouble, I think I called the boarding house.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.


We had frozen Chinese stir fry for dinner and I hate packaged food.

Isis fussed all evening and I hate fussing.


When I sent the kids to bed, they didn’t want to sleep and I found Genghis and Xena an hour later totally naked in Xena’s crib and then everyone cried for a long time.

It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

My mom says some days are like that.


Even at boarding school.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

my floors and rug are spotless ... and it only took 2 hours of awkward

I was in the middle of working out early yesterday evening when someone knocked on my door. Of course. Because this was the night I chose to wear just a sports bra on top for my work out. After scurrying to the bedroom to pull on the most convenient top (a fleece jacket of all things), I opened the door to 2 college-age guys holding a stack of promotional somethings.

The first thing one of them said was, "Have you been working out?"

I wanted to be offended, but realized I probably looked this harried before working out. and it would have been a lot worse to have the question put to me then.

Turns out they were from Kirby. The vacuums, not the game. I thought they were offering to clean my rug for free. 15 minutes.

Of course, I figured they'd have all the promotional, try-to-sell-you stuff piece at the end. But since Isis has spent the last 10 months spitting up profusely on our rug, I figured it was a good deal.

The 15 minutes actually meant that it would be 15 minutes before they came back to get started. This was good, because I still had 8 minutes left of my workout.

The Kirby duo knocked on my door as I was doing my cool down (read: washing the dishes). They brought in the most complicated vacuum I have ever seen and spent the next 2 hours vacuuming and shampooing my rug and my entire living room, kitchen, and dining room floor. (Don't get too excited - my whole house is only 950 square feet.)

While I sat there.


It was weird. They were demoing the vacuum, so I felt like I had to sort of participate. I mean, I wasn't paying them. I wasn't going to buy anything. At least I could ... pay attention ... ???

Plus, they were strangers. I didn't want to give them too much breathing room.

What does one do in this situation?

I picked 3 behaviors and rotated through them.

  1. Thoughtful attention. This meant watching the guy vacuum and change attachments while nodding and commenting on the superiority of the product. 
  2. Assistance.. You know, important things like lifting the rug corners, picking up loose papers and toys. and wiping all the spilled milk from the table before it dripped down onto the clean floor below. I also got the guy a glass of water.
  3. iPad cruising. Trying to find something interesting and useful to do on the ipad so I had the mobility to stay out of the way / keep an eye on things, but also feel productive.

You know, in many ways it felt like going to my first completely awkward first dance as a 14 year old.

But, man, does my rug look awesome.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

small wins in getting organized digitally

I love being organized. I've even taught my kids that, as we pick up the house each night, we should triumphantly shout "We are creating ORDER!"

And so, of course, I love it when I find a tech tool that actually sticks with me to make my life more organized.

Here are four.

(Disclaimer: I'm not really reviewing any of these, just raving about them and giving you more details than you want about how I use them.)
1. Evernote
It really is like having a digital notebook. I use Evernote to ...

  • Bookmark websites
  • Collect my ideas or do brainstorming
  • Take notes on my phone at events, meetings, etc. Because I use Evernote as a place to store ideas, I actually reference these notes again in the future.
  • Keep running meeting minutes for regularly scheduled meetings I have with various clients. It's so helpful to have meeting minutes in one running document.
  • As a replacement for creating a new Word document every time I want to write something down digitally. I have so many Word documents that turned out not to be important enough to be a full-fledged document (research on a topic, proposals that never went anywhere, lists of items to do or things to remember regarding a specific project). Now I can start a note in Evernote and if I need to eventually copy/paste it into Word I can.
  • Access my files anywhere. Evernote has a desktop app that syncs with the online version so I can access with or without internet.
  • Have an automatic backup for my notes.

2. Plan to Eat 

I already talked about Plan to Eat extensively, here. To recap, I use Plan to Eat to ...

  • Keep all of my recipes. (After about 2 hours of entering in my paper-copy recipes, I've never had to do it again. All my other recipes come through the web.)
  • Not have to decide what's for dinner every night. I plan 4-7 days of dinners at a time, shop for those days, and just look up my menu when it's time to cook.
  • Make grocery lists. And by "make grocery lists" I mean sit back and watch the program automatically populate my grocery list based on my meal plan and sort the list by section in the grocery store. As long as I remember to bring my phone, I never forget my list.

Basically, meal planning is something that never stresses me out anymore.

3. Trello

Trello is a fun interface for to-do lists that has worked extremely well for the following ...

  • Ongoing to do lists. Whenever I think of something I have to get done soon, or get done eventually, I make a note in Trello. When I'm ready to think about getting something done, I open it up and choose from all the notes I've collected through the day or week. It's a great way to put nagging tasks to rest - if not by actually doing them, by at least writing them down.
  • Group planning and execution. Abe and I have shared boards in Trello for projects we are in on together (like home improvement). It's a great way to quickly pick a project, list out the dependencies, and start checking them off.

4. Pinterest

Okay, everyone knows Pinterest. But here's how I find it especially useful ...

  • Visual brainstorming. We've been doing some major redecorating lately (read: painting our walls) and it is incredibly helpful to search for specific color schemes or rooms and get hundreds of beautiful photos showing different designs and ideas. Pinterest has helped me understand and extend my taste.
  • Project-based. I don't go on Pinterest without a specific project in mind. I want to paint an accent wall in my bedroom. I need ground cover in my backyard. I want quiet time projects for Genghis during the afternoon. I need to make a poster advertising an Easter Egg hunt.

Monday, April 7, 2014

how to survive hand, foot, and mouth disease

In the last 10 days, our entire family contracted Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. It's basically Chicken Pox meets Strep Throat. You get a fever for a day or two, and then you break out in a rash that is particularly bad on your (surprise!) hands, feet, and mouth. But it's the inside of your mouth and your throat, making it nearly impossible to eat or speak.

We are all almost better. And now that I have 10 days' and 5 people's worth of experience on the subject, I thought I should write a short how-to guide for surviving this disease. Partly, I'm hoping this is helpful to other parents who may have Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease in their future, because it was hard for me to find real, practical tips for dealing with this. And partly, this is just personal therapy to put the last week behind me.

1. Adults can get this disease.

I was under some strange illusion that adults do not get Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. Not true. When caring for a child with this disease, use caution and possibly surgical gloves and a face mask.

(I'm not kidding. You do not want to catch this sickness.)

2. Foods you can and cannot eat. 

If you contract this disease, this topic may become something of an obsession to you. In general, eating and drinking will feel like swallowing broken glass. But we found that the following general principles worked well:

Principle 1: Eat things made mostly from enriched white flour
Principle 2: Avoid acidic foods like citrus and sugary foods
Principle 3: A foods' softness or crunchiness doesn't always correlate with your ability to eat it

My favorite foods were soft white bread and butter (lots of butter), pita bread, pancakes, white cheddar Cheese-Its, chicken broth, vegetable broth, and smoothies from Jamba Juice. (These actually hurt a bit, but the cold help dull the pain and it was worth it)

3. Mouth sores aren't created equal.

We found high variance in level of discomfort in eating with our children. Xena (2 yrs) was totally unfazed. She spent one day with a fever and refusing any food, and the next day was pretty much better. Genghis (3 yrs) ate only popsicles for a few days (which were too painful for me to eat). And Isis (8 mos) seemed not too fussy about bottles but didn't want anything solid.

4. Warm baths feel great on the rash. 

Really, when is a warm bath not a good idea?

5. Don't try to get anything done while you are sick.

For me, this translated into watching Amazon Prime Instant Videos for hours on end after the kids went to bed. For Abe, this translated into wiring our living room with a web cam and Raspberry Pi to test out an idea he has in the realm of life hacking and quantified self.

To each his own.

For our children, this translated into about 10 feature length films while they were feverish, followed by days and days of boredom while we, the parents, took our turn being sick. I have no advice for how to get through this. Only the encouragement that you will survive. Really. You will. And the kids probably will too.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

5 things happening in my life

1. Stumps. 

We picked up a bunch of tree stumps a few weeks ago that were up for grabs in our church's parking lot. Okay, that makes it sound like we just popped the trunk and threw a few logs on our way home one Sunday afternoon.

Not true.

We geared up in old jeans, sturdy shoes, and work gloves, rented a truck on Abe's day off, and caravanned over with the truck and 3 kids in the car. While Abe and I hefted stumps into the pickup, the kids played on devices in their car seats. And by hefted I mean grunted, strained, and turned purple in the face moving these unbelievably dense pieces of wood. About 40 of them.

I have affectionately re-christened our backyard "stump land". We have big plans for play areas, sitting areas, and a wooden path. The only thing standing between us and those big plans is stump treatment and sealing, a circular saw, and some time.

They really are pretty stumps.

2. Crawling. 

Isis is quickly turning into a master crawler. She finally figured out how to go around the kitchen table to get from the living room to the kitchen, instead of just getting stuck under the dining room chairs. Her favorite backyard activity is to escape her blanket and bee line to either the garden mulch or the water hoses. Yum.

3. Little Herbals. 

Also on Isis. Several months ago Genghis started calling her Little Herbals. The name has stuck.

4. Pictures on the wall. 

After over 8 months of living in our new home, we finally hung pictures on the wall. I think I was unknowingly going through artwork withdrawal because I now find myself just sitting on the couch for long periods, staring at our decorated walls and thinking, that looks so good. no, like, so ridiculously good. It doesn't. It's nice, but nothing more.

I guess staring at yellow-neutral walls for 8 months can really get inside a person.

5. No whining policy. 

Hm. I don't really want to write about this because it is frustrating. Let's just say that a certain member of the family has really latched on to whining as a go-to tactic for attention, help, and general life strategy. We are trying to clamp down with a no whining policy. Bracing myself for another day.

I should go look at those pictures again.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

traveloguing part 3: chitwan

Last round of photos from our mega-trip over Christmas.

While staying in Nepal, we took a side trip to Chitwan National Park. We stayed in a cozy, rustic lodge. It was the perfect contrast to busy, loud, dusty Kathmandu. Greeted with a warm fire in the commons area, hot lemonade, and damp hand towels for washing up, we felt - perhaps a little too much - like Colonial English enjoying an afternoon tea. We had to embrace the feeling, really, because the place and people were so accommodating. Hand delivered hot water bottles at the foot of the bed each night. Unlimited hot chocolate. Local dancers as evening entertainment. Unlimited hot chocolate. Staff making up Eden's bottle multiple times a day. Oh, and the unlimited hot chocolate.

Highlights of Chitwan:

1. Elephant safari. We rambled through the jungle, and spotted peacocks, wild boar, many birds, and a rhinoceros. Our elephant took down trees with its trunk. Xena tried to leap from the elephants back only about 10 times. And Isis enjoyed a nice bottle about halfway through the ride. It was a bit bumpy but she managed well.

2. Building sand castles in the dirt walkways. Modest sand castles. This kept Genghis occupied for
much of the down time.

3. Walking through a local village. I was amazed at how clean and tidy the village was, especially coming out of the Kathmandu shock. Humble, but well-cared for home. It was a real reminder of the daily conveniences I take for granted, and the silly problems I worry too much about.

4. Swimming. The pool was unheated, but Abe's brother braved frigid water to the delight of Xena and Genghis. I made it in just past my ankles.

5. Ox cart and canoe ride. Riding on the ox cart through meadows while hearing the distant sounds of cow bells clinking and sheep braying was almost a parody of idyllic. But it was real! Next time I need to imagine a happy place, this will be it.

(note: 3 sleeping children. also idyllic.)

 And a few other random shots.

Xena cannot be contained!

Except with screens.

Too many airports.

Genghis meets the hammock.

Fire in the lodge.

Dining accommodations.

Play fort on the lodge grounds.

Grandma and Xena.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

traveloguing pt 2: kathmandu

If going to Hong Kong was a little difficult, going to Kathmandu may be considered downright crazy. We stayed here for about 5 days, sandwiching a 2-day trip to the Chitwan National Forest in Nepal which was a highlight of the trip and a post for another time.

I read before going to Nepal that the best recommendation for Kathmandu is to get out as soon as possible. I can see why. Urban. Crowded. Dusty. But I also found the city captivating, vibrant, and unique - I was glad for a chance to get to know the place a bit.

I'm actually having a hard time finding words to describe our experience there, although I have some vivid memories that I believe are very uniquely Kathmandu. And I'm afraid if I don't get this post out now, it will just never happen. So here are some photos - but for me I wish I had the thousand words instead.

 Driving through the city.

 Eating momos near the market on a night out from the hotel with bros-in-law. Poor Abe sick and on child duty.

Xena vs dragon at the hotel.

 Genghis vs. dragon. We spent a lot of time at the hotel.

I got a night out. Abe got to do an early morning flight over the Himalayas.

At the Pashupatinath Temple. Xena is saying Namaste.

The first two days in Kathmandu were spent doing a mural art project at a local school. The children helped to paint this 2-wall mural designed by Abe's brother.


More city pics.

And more. We sadly don't have any photos of the morning that Abe and I together took the 3 children out for a walk to the market. The street looked much like the one above. We were trekking through it, me with Isis on my back, Abe with Xena on his and Genghis riding his shoulders. Once we arrived at the market, which is a known tourist location, we had several shop-keepers ask to take a photo of us. Sadly, we forgot our own camera. Maybe try an image search for "crazy american family in nepal"?

Isis looking great in my scarf. Every Nepali wanted to squeeze her cheeks. I mean, how could you resist?