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.