Thursday, January 29, 2015

Today is a New Day

Yesterday was not one of my shining moments. In fact, it was an all around awful day.

When I left for work at 6:30 am, two out of the three children were crying and refusing breakfast. The other one was loudly complaining about the other two crying. Hubster was looking overwhelmed at trying manage the crying and the rest of getting things ready by himself.

Each morning, when I leave for work and Hubster is left to finish dressing and feeding and herding all three boys, I feel guilty. Yesterday, when there were tears and yells, I felt even worse.

My work day was already scheduled to be long, but then some urgent issues came up and I didn't get to leave until an hour and a half after I was originally scheduled to leave. When I left the hospital at 6:30 pm, I was feeling so grateful that I had thought to do a crock pot meal, so that at least dinner would already be done when I got home.

When I walked through the door at a quarter to seven, dinner being done was about the only good thing going on. Bug and Monkey were quarreling something fierce. Hubster was repeated asking Monkey to get back on his homework. Duck was crying. Hubster looked as tired as I felt.

It just spiralled out of control from there. Duck refused to eat any dinner and kept climbing on the table. Monkey refused to eat with the rest of us and to do his homework. Bug kept sneaking away from his chores to play computer games and got grounded from all electronics for the rest of the week. During the chaos, the cat got on the table and ate part of the dinner. 

That crock pot dinner didn't do a thing to make the day better.

By the time the kids were tucked in to bed, there was no one who hadn't yelled and/or cried during the evening.

Like I said, not my proudest moment.

Most days, Hubster and I are pretty laid back and can just roll with what comes. Over the last dozen years of being parents, our patience has grown. Our perspective about what matter and what is a big deal has evolved; we know what battles to fight (teeth brushing and respect) and which are not battles at all (red socks. Red socks are never worth fighting about.) 

Almost every day is a little crazy at our house. That's just status quo for a family with two full time working parents, three boys, two cats, and a fish. At baseline, there is always noise and mess.

For some reason, our ability to cope with it yesterday was at an all time low. The long day, the late meal, the disruption of our house with the bathroom renovation, too many nights of not enough sleep, winter. It all came together in a perfect storm of a major parenting fail.

As the parent, my attitude sets the mood for the family. When I'm calm and happy and remember to respond with a smile and encouragement, things go great (for the most part.) When I'm tired and nursing a developing migraine and irritable, responding to my children in frustration and a raised voice, it's a guaranteed disaster.

Last night, I was well aware that I was not helping anything. I kept trying to give myself a mental pep talk. "Just be calm, don't get frustrated, it will only make it worse." That didn't help.

Normally, after an awful day where I wasn't the best mom, I just feel like a huge failure. Last night, I was almost too exhausted to even muster that feeling. As I kissed my boys' blond heads good night, I just felt relief that the day was over.

I always want to be the best parent possible. I always want to be patient and pulled together and the perfect example that they can look up to.

Sometimes, I just have bad days.

But today is a new day.

This morning, I took each of my kids and my husband aside. I gave them big hugs and apologized for the rough day before. I kissed them and told them that today is a new day.

I'll take yesterday, do my best to learn from it, and then tuck it away, where I won't continue to dwell on all my failures. I already know what went wrong. I don't need to keep beating myself up about it.

Today is a new day. Another day to be the parent I want to be. Another day to get back to how we want our family to be. 



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bathroom Redo

Right after I made my New Years Resolutions to run more and be more present, Hubster and I decided to start tackling some much needed home projects. Those home projects, like every project we decide to do ourselves, took much longer and became more involved than we initially anticipated. All of that meant that I didn't run and I definitely wasn't present, because in order to keep my boys out of buckets of paint and grout, they were allowed to watch as many movies as they wanted.

When we first moved into our home, we did so many projects. We redid all the floors, replaced all the light fixtures, painted every surface. Each project made our home prettier and more our home. But after several months of constant renovation, we burnt out. I was also in my intern year and exhausted from that.

Since then, we've done a couple small little projects. We refinished our deck, replaced our shed roof, did some very minor landscaping.

But some projects we always meant to do just never got started.  Mainly our bathrooms.  Both our bathrooms are rather sad, with old tile and worn vinyl flooring. We painted them and called it a day. The main hall bathroom was especially awful. Mostly because of one main, very large thing.

The blue bath tub. 

 


It's very blue. It's very old, with some lovely chipped, rusted spots.  It's very embarrassing. Every time I want to share cute pictures of my babies in the bath tub, I always change them to black and white, because of the blue tub. Every time we had over night company and they used the bathroom, I cringed.

Three weeks ago, Hubster and I decided that it was time. It was time to say goodbye to the blue tub and the matchy-matchy blue tile and the gray-blue linoleum.  It was time, finally, to redo the bathroom.

Here was our hall bathroom before we started, in all it's bright green walls and blue tub and tile glory.  (I painted to walls that color 5 years ago, trying to make the bathroom a little cheerier and distract from the blue monstrosity.)



Tearing out the floor was kind of exciting. So exciting that I didn't think to take the before picture until I had already started pulling up the linoleum.

After the floors came up, it was time to rip out the tile. Behind the tile had been regular old, non-bathroom-approved sheet rock. Luckily, there no mold or water damage, but this just gave us another opportunity to shake our heads at those 1970s building codes.



There were a couple of times during this project I wondered what on earth we had gotten ourselves into. That maybe this was actually all a terrible idea and we should just nix the whole thing.  One of those times was when all the time was out and the walls were torn down to the studs. 



It was panic-inducing. But at that point, there was no going back.

After the walls were down, it was time, finally for the tub to come out. I had been waiting years for this moment. Carrying that tub out of the bathroom and out of our house was one of the best feelings of any home project we've ever done. Granted, now the tub is sitting in our backyard, awaiting a trip to the dump. But at least it's no longer in our bathroom.



In place of the old, yucky tub, we put in a beautiful, clean-lined, deep white tub. 

I love that tub (even though in most of these pictures, it's still blue, because of a protective liner that we left on until every last thing was done.  The look on our kids' faces when they saw our new "blue" tub was priceless.)



For the floors, we chose a neutral tile in a large rectangle, to play off the subway tile we had planned for the tub surround. I didn't hate the tile when we picked it out; for our budget it was pretty much the only one I liked. In the bathroom, I love the tile. I love the color and pattern. 



We went with a classic subway tile around the tub, something I'm hoping will be in style longer than the blue patterned tile that was there. Although I'm not sure that old tile ever was in style.



To replace the old vanity, we found this lovely vanity with two faucets at IKEA. It gives the bathroom more storage. The dual faucets mean that my duelling older boys no longer have to share. 



I had been hoping to finish the whole project in two weekends, because I'm crazy.  Of course, there were all sorts of hiccups along the way, like when we found out our water shut off valves to the toilet and sink were broken and had to be replaced. It ended up taking us three weekends to finish. Considering we did all the work ourselves and learned a lot of new skills along the way, I think it's pretty good.

Now, our bathroom is so pretty and shiny. No more being embarrassed. No more changing the color of my photos to hide the color of the bath tub.

BEFORE:



AFTER:




When every thing was finished this weekend, I claimed the first bath in the new tub (before it was dirtied up by three boys using it.)  It was wonderful!

Now, we're giving ourselves one weekend to recover, and then we are on to redo the master bathroom.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dear Seventeen Year Old Me

Hey there, 17 year old me.  

I was getting the kids out of the minivan in the Target parking lot, and I suddenly thought about you. All three boys were yelling and running around.I was holding on very tightly to the arm of the two year old to keep him from jumping in front of a passing car. He then looked up at me with a big smile and asked in his little baby voice for a swing. Hubster and I held him by the arm pits and swung him. As he squealed in happiness, we looked at each other and smiled.

And then I thought of you, all those years ago. You, never even imagining that this is where you will eventually end up. Slightly overweight, driving a minivan full of boys, living in Iowa. None of those things are on your radar.

I know that you think you will have girls. I remember that little box filled with baby dresses (where did you get those from again?) and color schemes for a fairy-themed nursery and a couple of girl names all picked out. I know that your future plans for your children include tea parties and ballet lessons and picking out prom dresses.

You're not going to do any of those things. You will never shop in the pink aisle of the toy store. You will never go to a dance recital. You will paint rooms blue and red and green, but not pink or purple. Because you are going to have all boys, and they will love Legos and Ninja Turtles and Nerf Guns and all sorts of things you never even thought about. 

You will love those boys more than you can imagine.

I know that you think you are never going to drive a minivan. I remember you saying that on multiple occasions. You are sure that you will buy a stylish SUV, or a Suburban. They fit just as many people as a minivan, but don't have the same frumpy soccer mom stereotype associated with them.

You're not going to buy any SUV. You are going to have a third baby and have the idea of a minivan sound like the solution to everything. You will test drive a minivan and instantly want to buy it.

You will enjoy that minivan more that you can imagine.

I know that you think you will live by the ocean. The ocean calls to your young soul. Even now, I still here that call. You want to leave behind cold winters and dry places and live with the sand between your toes and the sound of the surf in your ears.

You're not going to live by the ocean. You are going to interview for residency at a lot of places by the ocean, but realize that none of them feel right. Then you are going to interview at a little city in Iowa. It will just feel right. It will be the best thing for you, the right thing for your family, and you will have hopes of being able to live there the rest of your life, frigid winters and lack of beaches and all.

You will love Iowa more than you can imagine.

I know that you think you'll be skinny forever. After all, you're really skinny right now. I know you don't believe that - no teenage girl believes they are skinny. But you are. You are amazingly beautiful, and sadly it will take you 15 years to realize that. But you've got great genes and you're healthy and you're active, so of course you're going to be skinny forever. After all, if you got fat, you'd rather die.

You're not going to stay skinny. You are going to have three children and gain a lot of weight with each pregnancy and not be able to loose it all. You will run and bike and diet and cry and buy bigger pants and cry some more. But you're still not super skinny any more. You'll still always want to lose the weight. That feeling never goes away. But at some point, you're going to stop and just think about your body. About how it carried three beautiful babies and how it can run 5 miles and how you let it get sleep deprived and out of shape and fed it a terrible diet of hospital cafeteria food and it still did all those amazing things. You're going to be overweight. I'll be honest - I cringe when I think too long about what size my jeans are and how I had to give away all those cute clothes you have. But still, you're going to be able to run all over the park with your loud boys and hike and do a 10K and carry that really heavy piece of furniture up the stairs with Hubster.

You are going to accept your body more than you can imagine.

I know that none of this is how you saw things going.

But you are going to be happier that you can imagine.

Love,

Your future self.

Oh, P.S. That guy that you're really good friends with right now, the one who thinks it's awesome that you read British novels and compete in the science club and get good grades? Give him a chance. I know that you're still madly crushing on that one other guy with the really nice hair. But that would be a mistake. Because that guy that you're "just friends with" right now?

You're going to love him more that you can imagine.

12X30 Challenge January: The Love Yourself Challenge

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Currently (Or at least Recently)

Sometimes, when my brain is so very tired and I still feel the need to write something, it's nice to do one of these posts and check in with myself (and also you) about what is going on in my life.

Current Book

I feel that every time I do one of these posts, I'm not actually reading anything. I just finished Adulting, which is hilarious and very justifying about some things I do. Maybe I'm actually an adult after all.

 

 I tried to read The Gold Finch, but that book was exhausting. I'm planning on reading The Ocean at the End of the Road and The Hangman's Daughter.  Any other suggestions?

Current Drink

Water with lime, coffee, and a daily green smoothie.

Current Song

Anything by Florence and the Machine
Contagious by Night Riot
The Funeral by Band of Horses

Hubster has decided that all the music I like is weird.

Current Wish List

To finish our home improvement project list, which mainly involved getting our main bathroom back up and running.

Current Needs

An uninterrupted night's sleep.

Current Movie/TV shows

I'm loving that Downton Abbey started back up. But other than that, I'm not sure what else to watch. We started House of Lies and Mad Men, but really didn't like that characters, which made it hard to keep going back to watch more. I'm open to any Netflix suggestions.

I haven't seen a movie in a while. I'm not even sure what's playing in theaters.

Current Indulgence

Blogging. I'm sure there is some laundry to do, toilets to clean, medical journal to read, or wall to paint. But right now, I'm writing.

Current Outfit

Jeans, boots, and gray hoodie. I'm not fancy at all. Although I am wearing Little Mermaid socks, and those make me pretty happy.

Current Mood

Exhausted. Three days of painting, tiling, and plumbing wears one out.

Current Excitement

It looks like Hubster and I both have real, permanent jobs. This is beyond exciting and warrants a full post later.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ice Lanterns

When I posted a picture of the ice lanterns we made last winter, I got so many questions about how we made them. 


Apparently, just freeze water in balloons isn't quite a complete enough description. I decided when we made them again, I would do a complete step by step guide. 


One of the main components is cold weather. Really cold weather. Our mild December weather has been replaced with bitterly cold January weather, so conditions are perfect for ice lantern making. When I arrived home yesterday, having braved the -25 degree wind chills, I announced that today was the day for ice lantern making. Bug and Monkey were both very excited. Duck was excited because everyone else was.

Ice Lantern Instructions (Or a Tutorial on Making The Most of Ridiculously Cold Days)

(Bug was very into the idea of a tutorial on the lanterns, so he took most of the photos. Making sure I give credit where credit is due.)

Step 1: Gather your components: You'll need balloons, food coloring, a sink, and subzero temperatures.



Step 2 (Optional): Add food coloring to balloon. I love the colored ice, but if you have objections to color, food coloring, or ending up with blue and green fingertips, this can be skipped. If you do want color, add the food coloring first, before filling the balloon with water. It's almost impossible to do this the other way around. 


Add a lot more food coloring that you think you need; we added two large squeezes from the bottle. As the ice forms, it tends to exclude most of the food coloring, so it will not be as deeply colored as the initial water, which is why you need so much.

Step 3: Fill balloon with cold water. Hook balloon over the end of the faucet and fill, supporting the balloon with one hand to avoid potential disaster. 


Inform your children that indoor water balloon fights in January are not acceptable. Fill until the balloon is the size you want your lantern (but not so large that the balloon bursts). This will be limited to what size of balloons you use. I like somewhat larger lanterns, so I use large balloons and add water until the balloon is somewhat bigger than a huge grapefruit. Disconnect the balloon from the faucet, remove all the air, and then carefully tie the balloon closed.


Step 4: Freeze balloon. This is where those frigid temperatures come into play. I'm sure this could be done in a freezer, but you want plenty of room around the balloon so it retains its nice round shape and freezes evenly. Do not place the balloon in snow to freeze. 

(Again, this is a photo of what not to do. Even though the snow seems to perfect to hold the balloons upright and nice and still, do not do it!)

Turns out, there is a reason they make igloos out of snow. It's an excellent insulator; the bottom of balloon that was sitting in the snow didn't freeze, so we had to move the balloons onto an open area of our deck to even out the freezing.

This part needs to be timed carefully. The goal with freezing is just to get an outer shell of ice, but have the inside still liquid. Don't forget about your balloons and leave them out all night, otherwise you will have giant ice marbles. These are also very pretty, but they are most definitely not lanterns. With our temperatures of -10 and windchill of -25, it took a little less than 3 hours for the balloons to freeze the appropriate amount. If the balloons are smaller, or if it's colder, it will take less time. And vise versa. I recommend making a couple extra to experiment with.

Step 5: Remove the balloon. Working one at a time, we brought the frozen balloons inside, set them in the sink, and cut off the balloon. 



Now, we have a lovely ice sphere.  



From here on out, I usually handle things with a paper towel, because ice is slippery and so very cold.

Step 6: Cut off one side. This is my kids favorite part. Holding the ice ball very carefully (or leaving the sink to do the holding), use a knife to cut off one side. 

I usually cut off the side that was on the bottom of the balloon, since it tends to freeze in a funny shape anyways. It's more of a gentle hacking motion than a cutting motion. 

Dump out all the unfrozen contents, leaving a beautiful ice shell. Prepare for your hands to be very, very cold.

 
Step 7:  Add a candle and display the lovely ice lantern.



We place our lanterns on our front porch. We tried leaving a few inside last year, but apparently they do better in their native environment of arctic air.





I love seeing the candles flicker inside their beautiful crystalline spheres. I feel that this family activity and the shine of colored light helps do just a little to dispel the sometimes oppressive winter darkness.



Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2015 Word of the Year

Lately, I'm frequently finding myself distracted, anxious, and stressed. We just finished up a two week school break, and on the last evening, I found myself wondering where all that time had gone. I worried that I had squandered it on meaningless little errands, internet cat videos, and generalized busyness. 
 
Reflecting on that feeling led me to my 2015 word of the year.
 
Present

12X30 Challenge January: The Love Yourself Challenge


Present.

That is how I want to live this next year. 



I want to be present with my children. I want to turn off the phone, the television, the radio and fully focus on them. I want to actually listen to all their stories. I want to take the time to read with them, play games with them. I want to marvel in how they grow and change each day. I want to sit on the floor, at their level, and really be there for them.


I want to be present in the now. I want to let go of the anxiety I have for the future. Some stress is inevitable.  I don't need to make it worse by focusing all my energy on it. I want to plan for what I'm able to and just deal with what else arrives when I have to. I want to look forward to the future and what it holds without spending my today worrying about potential troubles.


I want to be present with myself. I want to fully enjoy what it is I'm doing, and stop feeling guilty about the things I think I should be doing. I want to just read my book without thinking about how I should be dusting. I want to enjoy my run without thinking about how far I wish I could go or how many calories I'd like to burn. I want to

I want to be present in my life. I want to remember to realize how wonderful my life is right now. I don't have to wait to be happy until Hubster is done with school, or until our student loans are paid off, or until we find the perfect job or the perfect house, or until I'm the perfect weight. I want to enjoy the present, the right now, just as things are.


This is my life.

And I will be present in it.

 
(All images taken from Pinterest  and are not my own.)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Resolutions

It seems that New Year Resolutions are falling out of vogue. Apparently, they are just another way for us to feel disappointed by ourselves. Resolutions are being replaced by promises and words of the year.

I love words of the year. In fact, I've chosen one for myself. And I love promises. I've made a couple to myself. I'll share those later. Because today is about resolutions.

I love resolutions. I may be the last person that does, but I really do. Making a list, checking items off, for the whole year. Love it. I don't always complete all of them. I'm perfectly okay with that. I don't need to. But I love having a couple overall goals for the year. I like to look back at what I've accomplished and create a plan for what I want to accomplish this year.

January 1 is an arbitrary date. There is should be nothing that magical about going from Wednesday to Thursday, or about changing to a brand new wall calendar. But there is.  There is something about a new year that feels like a huge, fresh, blank page with endless potential.

My 2014 resolutions:

1. Run 3 5Ks and a 10K: I ended up running one 5K and one 10K. The other two 5Ks? We'll say I ran them on the treadmill, at home, untimed.
2. Pass my oral boards: Done!
3. Finish the basement: We met with contractors and had plans drawn up and got quotes and everything. And then found out that we may be moving. So this project was put on hold because we didn't feel like taking on a huge construction job while trying to sell a house.
4. Start decreasing my screen time: This is still a struggle, but I think I'm getting better. If anything, I'm recognizing how much time I'm spending on my phone and doing a better job turning it off and walking away.
5. Start a bullet journal: I did this and loved it. But Hubster surprised me with an Erin Condren planner for Christmas, so I've moved way beyond a simple bullet journal.
 
Even though 2014 was overall a stressful, rather discouraging year, it's nice to look back at this list and feel like I accomplished something. Which is why I'm going to go right ahead with my resolutions for 2015.
 
My 2015 resolutions:
 
1. Run 365 miles in 365 days. I'm committing to averaging a mile a day. I know I won't run every day and some weeks I'll probably skimp on distance. But with a whole year to average things over, I think I can do this.
 
2. Find a job. I'm in the middle of my job search, with another interview lined up. This isn't really a negotiable part of the year, but it will still feel good to cross this one off.
 
3. Move. Survive the move. Along with this comes all the other parts: find and buy another house. Sell our current house. Settle the kids into new schools. I know this is going to be extremely painful, but I'm hoping to weather this with as much calmness as possible.
 
4. Road trip. After our trip over the summer, I fell in love with road tripping. This year, I want to do at least one more. Even if it's just an extended weekend.
 
5. Organize. I have 1000s of pictures that need to be in photo books. I have boxes of papers that need to go into my empty file cabinet. I have a garage and a basement filled with things I may or may not need any more. I have blogs that I want to read but no good way to stay on top of it. I have posts I want to write, but no clear schedule on how to do so. I'm going to get on top of at least a couple of these. I have my shiny new Erin Condren planner. I just signed up for Bloglovin. I'm in the process of uploading my photos to photo book website. I'm all over this resolution.
 
Here at the beginning of the year, I have my road map for this year. During the year, I'll look back on this list and refocus if needs be. At the end of the year, I'll cross of what I did, evaluate why other things did not get done, and not feel terrible one way or the other.