Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Curly Locks

As part of simplifying and de-stressing my life, I've decided to work on accepting my hair in its natural state.

My hair is naturally wavy/curly/very poofy.  I've always felt I would have had awesome 80s pop music hair, but unfortunately, by the time I was worried about fashion, the 80s were over. 

For the longest time, all I wanted was smooth, flowing, shiny, straight hair. I've spent most of my life fighting the waves and curls. I blow dried and flat ironed my hair daily for years. I spent ridiculous amounts of money on straightening products. I looked into salon treatments to chemically straighten my hair. In junior high, I literally ironed my hair, with an actual clothes iron. (Doing that by yourself is actually incredibly difficult, and I highly don't recommend trying, for reasons other than the complete obvious of not using a regular iron on your hair.)

As I got busier and busier, I had less and less time to spend fighting my curls. Gone were the mornings I could spend, meticulously dividing my hair into segments and running the flat iron repeatedly over each one.  My solution was to just wear my hair up, which is what I did most of residency.

Recently, I decided that I'm done fighting my hair. I'm ready to embrace it for what it naturally wants to do.

A couple years ago, I found a hair stylist that I really like. At my last hair cut, I told her I was ready to embrace my hair in all its wild glory. So she did a cut that would allow my curls to shine.

(This is also the point where I should confess that I am awful at maintaining hair cuts. It is all I can do to get in about twice a year to get my hair cut. I wait until my bangs are covering my entire face and then reluctantly admit that I really should get it cut again.)

Now, my hair routine consists washing my hair at night, combing through it with my fingers, working in a little mousse, then going to bed with wet hair.

This is what I wake up to.

This is my hair in its (nearly) natural state. I call it my "I just don't give a crap anymore" hair style. There is no more hours spent attempting to tame my mane on a daily basis.

Although, with my current cut, it's fairly easy to wear it straight, should I feel like it. I save that for special occasions, like date night or Thursdays. 

I was so nervous about starting to wear my hair curly. I was worried it would look unkempt or unprofessional. And maybe it does. But the response has been very positive. Which is good, because with how easy it is to do my hair now, there is no way I can go back.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Favorite Child

On my way to work, I listened to a piece on NPR about how parental favoritism can affect children's health. Even the child's perception about the parents having a favorite child can have impacts. As it does with nearly anything related to parenting, my maternal guilt emerged and I instantly started questioning myself as to whether or not I had a favorite child.

Parents aren't supposed to have favorites. My parents always assured us that they didn't have favorites. But apparently, research shows 80% of children think their parents have a favorite child.

I love all my children, but I started examining myself to see if I was showing favoritism.

Is Bug my favorite?

He's my oldest, and we had 4 years where it was just us, no other children to distract me from him. He's the one that made me a mother. He's such a smart kid, always at the top of his classes. Just this week, as we reviewed his grades, he told me that he had done some extra credit to bring his Literacy grade up from a 92%. He's self motivated, never needing any reminders to get his homework done. His sarcastic side is starting to develop, so much so I occasionally remind him to bring the snark down a level. He loves to read and draw. I see so much of myself in him, and I love that.

Is Monkey my favorite?

I had a little more experience in parenting when Monkey came along. I wasn't as uptight and demanding and thoroughly enjoyed things more this time around. I had significantly more time at home with Monkey, both as a newborn and then a few years later. Monkey has always been more laid back, more all around happy. He's such a creative soul, with a delightful lack of self awareness that is beautiful. He's so kind and loving. Even at 8, he still enjoys hugs and piggy back rides and snuggles during story time. He's got such a big imagination and is constantly telling me stories about alien worlds and grand adventures. He's so different from me, and I love that.

Is Duck my favorite?

When Duck arrived, it had been quite awhile since there had been a baby in our house. With all the work it took to get Duck here, the emotions were a little different, maybe a little stronger. Also, the knowledge that he is our last baby has made everything a little more bitter sweet. With his toddler antics, he takes up the majority of my time and attention. His sweet baby smile melts my heart. I delight in each new word and milestone. I know I spoil him, maybe just a little too much. He's the baby of our family, and I love that.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I don't have a favorite child. I really do love each and every one of them fiercely.

They do each take it in turns to see who can chip away at my patience and sanity.

Bug has his days of pre-teen sullenness and times he is bossy and mean to his younger brothers. Monkey has moments where he straight out ignores everything I say and will get his feelings hurt when I ask if he's fed the cats. Duck has times where he deliberately colors on all the walls, bites my legs when I'm cooking dinner and stuffs all his toys under the couch.

But there isn't a child who bothers me more than the others, who frustrates me excessively, that I'm just done with.

So, I'm just going to continue to tell my children what my parents told me. I love them all the same amount. Which is with all of my heart, more than they can imagine, to the moon and back, to infinity and beyond, forever and ever. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Another Midwest Winter

At the beginning of January, it seemed like winter might just pass us by this year. I wasn't that upset by the lack of snow and unseasonably warm temperatures. I like snow and sledding and the excuse to sit by the fireplace and drink warm drinks as much as anyone. But after the last winter we had, a mild one would be just fine.

Winter, though, had not decided to bypass us. It had just decided to show up late. Right after Christmas break, we had snow and subzero temperatures, causing multiple school delays and cancellations. So far, February has brought even more snow and even colder days.

Just this morning, I had to scurry across the parking lot to catch the bus to work with the wind chills approaching 20 below zero.

This is the part of winter I don't like. I'm getting antsy for sunshine and warmth and green growing things. Every day I wake up and it's still cold, I just feel like giving up on the day and crawling back into bed.

My boys, however, delight in every wintry day. They cheer each time we get a phone call that school is cancelled. They play in the snow each chance they can (as long as the temperatures are safe.)

I'm trying to approach winter with their enthusiasm. We do our best to find activities that that only be done in the winter.

We make ice lanterns.

We sled (when the frost bite concerns are low enough.)

We take short walks along the river and watch the bald eagles that are so plentiful during this time of year.

We spent one evening out at the lake. The frozen surface was dotted with ice fisherman, either huddled around the holes in the ice or out of sight in little fishing huts.

My boys were anxious to go out on the ice as well. Despite my qualms about walking on ice and the potential of breaking through and perishing by frigid drowning, I let them run all over that lake. There were already people and huts on the ice, and those full grown men weighed significantly more than my scrawny boys. Asking some of the people fishing, the ice was 5-6 inches thick, so we knew it was safe.

After a short distance, I was too anxious to continue, but Hubster and the boys ran all over the frozen lake (probably to the consternation of those actually trying to catch fish.)

We spend most of our evenings next to our fire place, drinking cocoa and hot cider, things that are definitely more enjoyable when it's cold outside.

Just because we are stuck in the middle of another extreme Midwestern winter, doesn't mean that we can't continue to explore and make memories. Those memories are just make while wearing a lot of layers.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Iowa State Capitol

I'm a big fan of backyard tourism, or exploring local areas. I adore traveling, but our budget and schedule don't allow for fair flung exotic locales. We did do an amazing road trip last summer, but more often our adventures are all within a few hours of our home.

(Time for a confession: while I love traveling, I actually haven't been anywhere that requires a passport. I don't even have a passport. All the paperwork is filled out and ready to go. I just haven't been able to justify paying the fee when I know that the furthest I plan on going from home is the west coast.)

This last weekend, we made a trip to Des Moines, Iowa's capitol city. We've been to Des Moines quite a few times, and always enjoy our visits. We've been to the State Fair, the zoo, and the science center.

This trip, the weather was predicted to be cold and miserable, so any outdoor activities were automatically excluded. We liked the science center, but wanted to try something else. A friend suggested we tour the state capitol building. Apparently, many other people agree, because it is TripAdvisor's number one attaction in Des Moines.

Once we decided we were going to do this, I actually felt a little silly that we hadn't gone before. On our road trip, we made a concerted effort to stop at all the capitol buildings for each state we drove through (even Florida, which ended up being a big detour, because there isn't really a direct route from southern Florida to Tallahasee.) We'd seen the state capitol buildings of South Carolina and Kentucky, but not our own State.

On the outside, the Capitol Building is beautiful, with its gold-leafed dome and ornate architecture.

Inside, it's even more impressive. 

We decided to take a formal almost 2 hour tour so we could see all the rooms, even the ones that are normally locked during the weekend. I was a little nervous about how Duck would do. But securely on my back in his new mei tai wrap, he was actually happy nearly the entire time. The tour guide actually kept commenting about how he was the friendliest two year old she'd ever seen, since he kept peeking over my shoulder to say hi to her.

The tour was absolutley worth it, and if you ever find yourself in Des Moines with a couple of hours to spare, I cannot recommend this enough.  I initially worried the length of the tour might be too much for my children. No need to worry, it turns out. Bug and even Monkey were attentive the entire time and we all learned so much.

First, we started by standing in the rotunda underneath the main dome. All the lights and windows made for the most impressive view.

Down each hall way, we were surrounded by amazing carvings and impressive hand painted walls. 

Both the chamber for the senate and the house of representatives contained amazing chandeliers and stained glass windows. 

Being allowed to sit on 130 year old furniture scared me, especially with the swinging feet of my 8 year old son.

Beautiful mosaics lined the upper hall way. I loved seeing the amazement in my boys' faces when they realized that the huge pictures were actually all tiny pieces of tile.

Far and away my favorite place in the entire building was the library. It almost puts the library in Disney's Beauty and the Beast to shame. Because this one is real (although knowing that it is filled with law books and not amazing literature did slightly diminsh its appeal.) 

The spiraling staircases, the balconies, the smell of books. I could have stayed there all day. But the tour guide said I had to leave when she did. 

Hubster and the boys got to go up and walk around the highest walkway in the dome. Children under the age of 6 are not allowed up there. I stayed down below with Duck and took the opportunity to take even more pictures.

Touring a capitol building may not be what most people think of as a fun family adventure. However, when it's combined with history, impressive architecture, and a lot of winding staircases, it's the perfect afternoon spent being tourists in our own state.

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.



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.


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