Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sending them out into the big wide world.

Nothing tests your success as a parent like sending your kid out into the world.  Or, in my case, the big wide world known as pre-school. 

Supervised play dates are one thing, as you can instantly correct inappropriate behavior like hitting, pushing or not sharing.  Well, as instantly as your slow pregnant ass can fly across the room when your 19 month old is using the xylophone mallet to whack his girlfriend on the head over and over.  (sorry Olivia!)  But what happens when you turn 18 3-4year olds loose in a room with two teachers?  Will Pete remember to take turns?  How will he react when someone else grabs the toy he's playing with?  What if he's the one grabbing a toy someone else is playing with?  Oh the shame!  Will he be gentle and kind?

During pre-school open house/orientation today, I watched him interact with some other children, and didn't see any egregious social errors.  But that was just one hour, and tomorrow it's three hours without Mommy.  Will he remember to say please and thank you?  Did we practice Miss Angela's name enough?  Will he remember how we practiced "Hi, I'm Pete, what's your name?  Want to play trucks together?"  How many times do I have to make him repeat "yes ma'am" before it's automatic?  And does he have a firm grasp on the difference between sir and ma'am?   Will he say "bye bye and thank you" when it's time to leave?

Will he start to cry if she tells him it's time to go pee in the potty (instead of playing with a truck?)  What happens tomorrow if he has to poop?  We've practiced wiping.  But does Miss Angela plan to stand there and help him fold up the toilet paper before reminding him to wipe until it comes back clean?  And will she wait patiently while he sings his ABCs and scrubs hand, back (of one hand), back (of the other hand), fingers?  And why didn't I know there was an actual hand-washing song we should have been using instead of just the ABCs?  Please Lord, don't let Pete call Miss Angela to the bathroom like he called me in this afternoon, to tell me his penis was getting big and pointing up.   

Will he whine and cry when it's time to leave the playground?  How would she know to prompt him to say "bye bye slides, see you soon slides" so he'll happily walk back inside?  Will all the other three year olds play so intently they forget to stop, and end up peeing their pants?  Will any other kids notice, and will they make fun of him?  If they play with playdough, will he remember not to eat it?  When it's snack time, will he say "me have a cookie too please" or will he remember "MAY I have a cookie too please".  Not that they serve cookies for snacks, but I do sometimes!  Did I do the right thing selecting white milk instead of chocolate milk, or will that cause a tantrum every day at snack? 
I swear to you, we've practiced these things over and over.  We've talked about going to school, and what is expected.  I know other 3 1/2 year olds not nearly as potty-sufficient as Pete (including a child in a pull-up at orientation today!) so I feel he has to be ahead of the game there but I don't really have a frame of reference for his social skills or speech and grammar, since he's my oldest and we know so few other 3 year olds.  Have we practiced enough?  Should I have waited to send him until 4 year old pre-school?  Would another year of me prompting "is that how you ask for a cup?" get him to actually ask politely the first time?

Oh please Lord, let my Baby do a good job tomorrow! 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's me or the dog.

You've seen that show, right?  It's on Animal Planet, if you have that channel. 

This week, it became me (and my sanity) or the dog.  Specifically, my dog.  My little furball, Hudson.

Hudson joined our family right after we bought our home in 2006.  He's half-Yorkie and half-Silky, so he doesn't shed, and needs regular haircuts.  He was so little when we brought him home, but now he's about 20 pounds.  He is named after my hometown of Hudson, Ohio or if you're old enough to remember, Mark Price also named his son Hudson while he played for the Cavs in the early 90s. 

Hudson started out stubborn.  I walked him before leaving in the morning, and Ryan walked him when he returned after work.  We tried every collar/harness/trick to get him to walk appropriately on a leash, and he continued pulling to the point of being splayed out like Super Dog at the end of the leash.  He also refused to poop in front of us.  One morning, after three days of refusing to poop, he escaped his crate while I was in the shower and left a pile of poop roughly the size of himself on my bathmat.  We worked through the issues, and Hudson became a sweet snuggle puppy who slept under our covers, nose tucked up against your armpit.

When we moved to Virginia, with Ryan's hours and my hours at work, we felt it best to get a doggie door for our fenced backyard.  Hudson thanked us by sneaking up the stairs to our little-used loft and leaving piles of poop.  Clearly he was not pleased at being left alone so much, even though he had his little playmate Killer.  

After moving back to Boston, the dogs had a difficult time adjusting to "asking" to going outside again.  Instead of going out only for potty breaks, they were accustomed to going out for any whim, and would scratch and whine at the door.  I never figured out how to break them of this habit, and ended up letting them out at every request, because the consequences of ignoring the request was often  peeing on the leg of the table.  There was no reliable way to tell the difference between potty request and play time!

While pregnant with my second baby, the dogs really began to get on my nerves.  Though Hudson didn't snore like Killer, he would be snuggled in bed next to me and it was so uncomfortable to move him and move me to roll over and re-adjust to get comfortable.  After weeks of debate, I threw the dogs out of bed, and sent them to sleep on dog beds in the kitchen.  Which they promptly ate.  I found an old couch cushion that proved indestructible, and gated them in the kitchen.

And so the downhill spiral started!  The poor dog just wanted attention, and decided that peeing on my things was good punishment.  Though they were locked in the kitchen whenever we left the house, they started sneaking around while we were home.  I found pee on the toys in the playroom, so they were banned from the playroom.  We got new furniture and in an effort to keep it clean from the dog fur and smell, they were banned from the furniture.  I found pee on the kids' bedposts and blankets and then the rocking chair and my bedpost and bedspread, so the dogs started spending their days and nights in the kitchen.  Still, they managed to sneak into bedrooms while my back was turned, and I was doing 2-3 extra loads of laundry a week (on top of my already unmanageable laundry rotation).   

Now pregnant, sick, exhausted and barely able to keep my kids occupied, I finally caught Hudson in the act, or at least soon after the act.  With Killer outside, I saw Hudson slink out of my room, to find my bedspread soaked and piddle all over the floor next to my bedpost.  It was no longer debatable, MY dog was the culprit.  After weeks/months of threatening the pound, it dawned on me that a Yorkie is a much-desired breed and I could find a rescue to help re-home him instead of playing doggie-roulette at the pound.

Right before I contacted a Yorkie rescue, a friend in Maine said she'd take the dog.  They have children a little older than ours, ready to love and squeeze and entertain the dog until he can't take it anymore.  I gave her a low-down on the dog's history and behavior problems (and the fact that through it all, he's still super gentle and loving with the kids, he just wants someone to love him too).  They're prepared, and Hudson heads to his new home this weekend.       

Some of you will cheer with me when he trots off to his new home, some of you will vilify me for failing my first fur-child, but it took a long time to come to this conclusion and I'm comfortable with it, no matter what you think of me.  I kept the explanation simple for the kids, but I know they'll be sad and confused too.  KH has promised updates on how he's doing, and even offered visits, but I don't think I can do that.  Hudson deserves a fresh clean start.  I just wish I could explain to him how much happier he's going to be, and spare him the confusion when we drive away without him. 

Good bye my little fur-baby, I know you're going to be so loved and happy with your new family. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

A lot of preparation, hopefully for nothing.

Yesterday, played the scare tactic card.  And I will admit it worked on me!  Forecasts for Hurricane Irene to strike North Carolina as a category 5 storm, and then pound New England as a category 3 storm prompted me to pack up my children and hit the grocery store for supplies.  I still feel it's more likely that we'll get a tropical storm instead, and not even lose power, but I'm not about to risk days without power and a way to cook food for my children. 

With Ryan on a mission to connect the hurricane-ravaged areas with a mesh-node network, it will be me and the boys to ride out the storm.  We stocked up on pre-packaged granola bars, shelf-stable yogurts and fruit treats (um, yuck, what's in that so it doesn't need refrigeration?), snack crackers and cereals.  We have bottled water and juices for drinking, and empty milk gallons I recycled to hold water for hand washing and toilet flushing.  This morning I'm baking cookies (not for the storm, just because I'm pregnant and I want cookies) and zucchini bread, banana bread and blueberry muffins.  My boys probably wont even notice the storm because they will be thrilled to have so many "treats" that they normally don't get to eat!  We're stocked up on propane to run the grill, with lots of chicken and ground beef to defrost and make burgers and sandwiches. 

We're good on batteries and flashlights, and now duct tape for the windows if the storm does prove to be serious.  We have a small tree in the yard that wouldn't damage the house much even if it fell, though the playset with slides and swings may not survive being crushed by the tree.  I feel secure that our basement will not flood.  We've had 10+ inches of rain from a weekend nor'easter storm before, and though the city streets flooded, the pond down the hill from us washed over the bridge and most houses in the area showed a tell-tale pump hose coming out of their basement, we remained dry.  I feel less secure that our roof will hold.  It's been on the list of things to upgrade on this house for a while.  There's technically nothing wrong with the roof, but it's old and we were starting to price out replacement options.  Tonight I'll move our formal clothing and out-of season clothing out of the upstairs closets, just to be safe.  There's no reason to discover that the roof is leaking, or blown off and all my formal gowns and Ryan's dress uniforms ruined or blown away with the roof. 

Though we should always be prepared (how about that earthquake this week?) to fend for ourselves for a few days, I don't usually keep all these supplies in the house.  Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, flu epidemics, blizzards, etc. can all require "hunkering down" and though I was never a Girl Scout, I do know it's best to Be Prepared.  As a Coast Guard spouse, our unofficial motto is Semper Gumby (Always Flexible) but this weekend I'm choosing the official Coast Guard motto of Semper Paratus (Always Ready).  Now that I've officially stocked up, I feel much more Paratus for all those winter storms that are likely this winter!

Next time I'll include wine and hurricane cocktails...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Further evidence that my children are out to get me.

We spend a lot of time playing in the backyard on the adorable little playset that Ryan built for the boys.  I snagged a great deal on a slide ($6 at Children's Drop and Shop last fall- the same slide retails for $125!) and some swings ($2 each at the same sale, retails is $40 each) and Ryan re-purposed some of our old fence posts and extra lumber to set up the playset. 

Chester prefers the normal swing, while Pete loves to fly high "like the birdies and the planes" in the baby swing with safety straps.  I'm pretty sure he fell off the big-boy swing once and has decided it's safer to swing high on the baby swing. 

Pete has mastered the slide, and loves to send balls, trains, trucks and any other toy he can get his hands on down the slide too.  I've had to stop him from riding a tricycle down the slide too.  Sigh.  I swear, my boys will give me a heart attack one of these days.  I've stopped him from sliding down on his belly, backwards, face first, and on his feet.  Chester can climb up the stairs to the slide, and more often than not, he goes down the slide just fine too.  Sometimes, he'll stand at the top of the slide and yell "Elp!" so that I'll come hold his hand while he goes down the slide. 

So last night as I prepared dinner, Ryan played outside with the boys.  I heard Ryan tell Pete to slide down the slide, and the following ensues:

Pete (slides down slide backwards)
Daddy:  Pete, what would Mommy say?
Pete:  Daddy, listen, when Mommy's outside I don't do that.  When Mommy's inside I can try it.

Where did he learn that????  I swear, my children are out to get me. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

A little note from my friend Kristy

The true financial costs of military service

by Kristy McGinnis on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 7:25pm
So many articles, blog entries and editorials have focused on the physical, emotional, and mental toll a 20+ yr military career can take - and why the current 20 yr pay out retirement system is a necessary result of that toll. I'd like to focus on another aspect, in this military-civilian comparison game. The financial toll this career takes on a family.

While my civilian counterparts have been busy working hard and establishing their careers- enjoying the long term savings and job security that comes with tenure in any field, I find myself (once again) pounding hoof to the pavement. I apply to jobs I went to school for (actually 3 schools, in 3 states and 6 yrs, to get that associates degree.) Paralegal, legal assistant, legal secretary, even clerk positions. When I can get my foot in the door for an interview, I find myself grasping to explain the inevitable employment gaps all military spouses experiment. Why no, I don't have any local legal contacts. I didn't go that that great local college with the job partnership opportunity this firm participates in. I don't meet all of this states special certification requirements (yet.)

I look to retail jobs ("Yes, it's true my application reflects a varied job background but there's a reason for that..."), entry level office jobs ("What brings me to Hawaii? Well... err.... my husbands job...."), usually at some point I find myself looking to food and beverage positions (jobs I'm frankly getting a little too old and too arthritic to do for long!)

While my friends from "back home" have established careers, and socked away nice little nest eggs in their own 401K type plans, I have found work when and where I could- and have simply waited with faith that one day my husband's military pension along with the modest TSP we pay into would support us in our old age. My friends and their spouses will both enjoy retirement plans eventually, that they certainly earned- in our family though, I will have to be content to simply share my husbands.

The financial hits don't stop there. You see, as my civilian counterparts were working so hard at establishing their careers (and their own retirement plans) they are also enjoying another perk of stability and long-term residency. They are home owners. They started with a patient starter home and every 7 or 8 yrs they steadily upgraded, earning equity and increased credit worthiness with each upgrade. My family on the other hand, transfers every 2 to 4 years on average, and those transfers are never local. We have no owned home, no equity to enjoy. Many military families find themselves home owners eventually- only to get orders out and find they actually lose money on trying to unload said home in time to transfer out on their required military orders. We know we will not have 30 years of home ownership, to set us up in an already well financed house when we are ready to retire. Here is the thing- most of us don't resent that, we accept it as part of this life style. It's a financial price to pay, but one that is mitigated- at year 20, when finally said service member is eligible for retirement. Don't have a home 3/4 paid off by then? Not the end of the world- that retirement check will help pay for that house, as you take on a second (hopefully less punishing to the body) career.

There are incalculable financial losses over a career- setting up a new home every 2-4 yrs is not cheap even with moving allowances. New curtains, new appliances if need be, replacing broken items from the less than careful household goods movers. There are the pricey but necessary special tutors for the child who left one school district to find the new one had very different expectations. The tens of thousands of dollars spent over a career just to get home once every few years to visit Grandma. "The life" isn't always cheap- but on most days it is worth it. Always, with the knowledge in the back of your mind the financial hits will be reimbursed someday- "someday" being at around year 20.

The proposed 401K nonsense isn't just an insult because of the physical and mental stresses service members face- but because it fails to compensate those members and their families for the financial hits a "military career" exacts.

-Kristy McGinnis

So I have a little to add:  I did everything "in order" in my life.  I went to college and grad school, started a demanding but lucrative career, met and married a great guy, passed my CPA exam and then had children.  I started a nest egg for my retirement.  So I didn't face as many of the challenges that Kristy and other wives face as they struggle to finish a degree and start a career while moving every 18-36 months. 

However, compared to my other friends who moved near home after college, I have certainly had additional challenges and costs.  I left two jobs just before an important and lucrative promotion.  I paid daycare, full-time, when my friends had Grandma or a sister to help watch the kids for much less than full-time daycare.  I hired an extra nanny to pick up my baby and give me an extra few hours at work when it became impossible to have both dropoff and pick-up responsibilities with a husband out to sea and 50+ hours a week in the office.  I signed up for these extra expenses when marrying a man in military service, so I don't begrudge the Coast Guard, but we did our math to accept them based on the current contract he signed.

My husband has been offered jobs two and three times his current salary to leave the Coast Guard.  We discuss the offers,and each time, turn them down because the stability of his current paycheck, and the PROMISE of a comfortable retirement make up for our current sacrifices.  He has ten years in, just ten more years to go before we can settle into our forever home, begin building equity, send the boys to high school all four years in one school, and allow me to re-join my career as a CPA, without explaining to my clients that I'll probably have to  move again in two years.

The pension makes many of our sacrifices worth the costs of our current lifestyle.  I don't disagree with changes for future recruits, but he idea of changing the contract that Ryan and thousands of others signed 10 years ago is ridiculous.  Anything but a grandfather clause for current members is a sick joke.  Talk of transition plans with a payout for current members into their "new 401K" plan cannot possibly come up with an appropriate amount to compensate what I've lost financilly in my career due to our choice for Ryan to stay in the Coast Guard.  He's served 10 years at sea with 10 more to go and based on the current retirement plan, and though we'll never be rich, we planned a simple, modest retirement.  If they change the plan, he'll get out and we'll begin the process of mitigating the damage done to our long-term plans.  But we'll be 10 years behind.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ridiculously Early

I have some advice for my single female friends out there:  Don't just marry someone with whom you fall in love, and want to spend the rest of your life.  Don't just consider how handsome and respectful and persistent and talented he is.  Don't just marry someone who makes you laugh and holds your hand when you cry. 

Marry someone who likes to sleep in. 

Though we met and got married fairly quickly in the grand scheme of things, I thought I had worked through all the important questions in choosing a mate.  Sure, my darling husband has a few quirks, like leaving his pants on the floor right next to the laundry basket, but I have many of my own quirks that he forgives/ignores, and really he's pretty much the perfect husband for me.  I'll spare you the long list of reasons why, but suffice it to say he's amazing and I love him and consider myself extremely lucky to have gone out to the bar that cold night in January 2004.  After having children, it was even more apparent that I'd chosen an excellent man to be a father as well.  Not only does he love his children, he plays with them, and cares for them, and can even be left alone with them (unless you leave him alone in the toy section of a store).  He's a better father than I am a mother, hands down.

But he's a morning person.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a morning person too.  I love my sleep, and with an appropriate 8 hours of sleep, I can happily schedule myself for a 7am yoga class and 8am college classes all week long.  If I'm up late, however, I still need those 8 hours of sleep, so going to the bars until midnight means I'm not a happy camper at 6am.  When I trained for marathons through the summer, necessitating 5am long runs on Saturday mornings to avoid heat, I just scaled back my Friday nights to be in bed at 8:30pm and awake and out the door with shoes laced up by 4:30am. 

Then came children.  You expect sleepless nights when they're newborns.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that my babies slept 4-5 hours at night pretty much from the start.  They quickly stretched to six hours at a time followed by another 3-4 hours.  I was in heaven.  I could handle this!  Both of my boys then hit a sleep regression wall around five months.  They were up every hour for food, but still "night" didn't end until 7am or later, so I survived.  I was a zombie some days, and it seemed unmanageable at times, but I survived.  And finally, when we settled into a once-a-night wake-up routine, the sweet little boys start waking up for the day at 5am. 

I spent an entire summer hanging laundry in the backyard before 6am.  My neighbor, leaving for a 7am shift would smile and wave as I hung another diaper on the line.  I just got used to it and worked around it.  We arranged coffee dates and playdates for 8am, as early as our friends could manage.  I went to the YMCA for early morning aerobics classes while the boys played in playcare before any other children arrived.  We scheduled doctor appointments for 8am or went jogging with friends at 7am.  I had no qualms about signing Pete up for school, even though we must leave the house by 7:45am to get there.  Then, they miraculously started sleeping a little later.  6:30am was a pretty standard wake-up, and I counted myself lucky if we made it to the Today Show at 7am before hearing the wails indicating that someone was awake.

I must admit, now that I'm pregnant, I could use a little more than eight hours of sleep, but even eight hours is unattainable these days.  The boys are clearly a mix of Ryan (up at the ass crack of dawn) and me (once I'm up, I'm up, there's no rolling over and going back to sleep).  So now that they've reverted back to pre-5am wake-ups I'm at my wit's end trying to find a routine that works.  I've spent the last few mornings from 5am-7am trying to cajole them back into sleeping, telling them it's still sleeping time, nursing Chester in an attempt to lull him back to sleep, letting them sleep in my bed, even yelling at them that it's still nighttime.  Nothing works.  Nothing. 

I know of children who routinely have to be WOKEN to go to school, or get to a playdate on time.  My nephew is one who can sleep 8pm-9am and he's the same age as Chester!  Our time to venture out of the house is 8am-noon and they're just getting rolling for 11am playdates at the pool!  These children, who can be just as frustrating to a mom needing to schedule morning appointments, or make it to work on time, just have a different sleep cycle than mine.  There are pros and cons to both early birds and late sleepers. 

The moral of this sad, sleep-muddled and probably baffling and poorly written story is to consider your partner's natural circadian rhythms before saying I do and consenting to years of sleep deprivation when your children take after your partner's sleeping habits.  I don't care how smart, funny and handsome he is, you need to ask some important questions before you take him home from the bar.    

Monday, August 15, 2011

Easter in August or I've sunk to a new low.

Pete:  Me have Easter baskets?
Me: It's not Easter.
Pete:  Please, you can go get the bunny and he brings candy.
Me:  Easter happens in the spring, this is summer.  Easter isn't for a long, long time.
Pete:  And eat Easter bunny candy.
Me:  We don't have any Easter bunny candy, it's August.
Pete:  Please, Mommy, Please?

Sigh.  No amount of explaining can convince Pete that it's not Easter and there's no Easter candy.  And for good cause.  He pointed out that on the top of the fridge sat two Easter baskets, filled with plastic eggs.  To my surprise, there was still candy in half of the eggs.  Shocking, since candy doesn't last long around our house.  It's most often used as a bribe for eating vegetables.  So we've all enjoyed some pastel twizzlers for a few days.  Easter candy in August.  I've been bested by the pre-schooler again.

What's even worse?  Tonight after dinner I was in the mood for some budge-like brownies.  I searched a little online for a recipe using cocoa (that I have) instead of baking chocolate (which I don't have), but then discovered we only had whole wheat flour.  Totally defeated, I considered doing the dishes that my husband had promised to do and bribing him to go to the store for flour, but decided to settle for marshmallows from the baking/treat cupboard.  What do you think I found in the treat cupboard?  A candy-cane filled with M&Ms.  And I ate the Christmas M&Ms in August.  With the marshmallows.  You should try it sometime. 

At least I shared.      

Friday, August 12, 2011

Look! There's a lion! Or: heeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Chester has quite the list of words at 18 months compared to Pete at about the same age (20 months).

Roar ( (Dr. says animal noises count! That's roar like a dinosaur, by the way)
Ease (please)
Hi-yo (hello)

Pete (around 20 months)
Hi-you (hello)
Ni-ni (Binky)
Bee-bee (baby)
Woo-woo (ambulance or firetruck)

I'd forgotten how exciting this stage is, all the new things Chester says, adding new words and pronouncing them more clearly every day.  However, I'd also forgotten the terrible noises that come with the frustration of not being able to communicate his every whim and desire.  It's a terrible guttural noise that just grates on my nerves and drives me nuts.  Heeeeeeeeee-heeeeeeeeeee.  He can't be the only 18 month old that makes that sound, so I think some of you probably know what I'm describing. 

Even with his relatively vast vocabulary, he more often than not reverts to the heeeeeee-heeeeeeeee.  As far as I can discern at any given time it means one of the following:  All done/more/no thank you/faster/slower/wait for me/over there/up/down/my butt hurts/I don't want you wiping my butt/I want that/I don't want that/where is it/this is fun/this is not fun.  With that range of expression, I'm sure he's wondering why Mommy just doesn't understand. 

Though I'm a huge fan of the concept of baby sign language, I'll be the first to admit that I'm just not that good of a Mom.  I've got some strengths and some weaknesses as a parent and one of my limits is the ability and patience to teach a toddler sign language.  (If you want further details of my failings as a Mother, just stick around, you'll be sure to see many of them in this blog.)  My sister-in-law teaches my nephew baby sign language, and while I'm thoroughly impressed with T's ability to point out and sign the name for a Lion or Rooster, I just don't see how that is going to help avoid this stage where Chester makes noises like he's possessed by the devil.  Of course if I'm ever in danger of being attacked by a rogue lion while in Africa, I want T with me on the safari. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Paranoia (a.k.a Well, you're screwed)

I have two fears in life that are fairly (or totally) unfounded and unlikely.  Thankfully, I've been able to keep them reasonably in check and go on through life mostly without letting them change my daily habits.  

First, I fear driving off of bridges.  I am convinced someone will sideswipe me or somehow knock me off the bridge, over those dinky little railings that the engineers deem sufficient.  I am no engineer (a semester of calc convinced me accounting and business were going to be far more successful for me than an engineering degree) but I just don't understand how those little tiny railings on the side of the bridge will help when my car rockets towards them and flips right over.  Before you laugh, there was a car that flipped off the 93 connector bridge just after we moved to Boston, and while living in Virginia there was at least one car off the HRBT or Monitor/Merrimac bridge.  So this fear is not totally unfounded, though I admit it is unlikely.  I prefer to drive in the center lane of the Tobin, but I still drive over it.  And when we drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, I will admit that while Ryan drove, I had Pete unbuckled and ready to pull out of his car seat should we flip into the Chesapeake Bay, but I didn't insist we take another route!   

My second fear is being injured while home with the boys for days at a time.  Somehow I survived 7 years of Ryan serving on ships for weeks and months at a time without slipping on the stairs and falling to my death, and I'm thrilled he starts a land job soon.  However, my fears haven't subsided even with that new found stability in our life, and now that I'm pregnant again I'm even more prone to panic over what would happen in an emergency at home, even while Ryan is just at work for the day.  Besides the standard "I might fall and need help" fears, I'm also now afraid what might happen if I suddenly go into labor while home alone with the boys.  With my previous delivery experience (wow, that's a birth story for another day) I know getting to the birth center in time is going to be a challenge, and I fear my poor innocent three and one year olds will get an early and quite scary lesson in the facts of life.

At least at this point, my boys would only be alone for a maximum of 8-10 hours on any given day if I fell, choked or otherwise died.  Pete is capable of getting food and milk out of the fridge, so no one would starve (and I hope he would share with Chester), though it is likely there would be a terrible mess to clean up.  Chester would have a bit of a rash, because I'm sure Pete wouldn't change his diaper, and I'm also cringing at the image of the aftermath of an entire day with Chester free-ranging after he figured out how to remove his own diaper.  Though inconvenient, neither of them would starve, or be trapped in a soiled crib for days or weeks at a time. (I saw a recent news story about a local mother dead in her home for several days with her infant alone in the crib and this further fueled my fears).  I'm sure as they grow I'll be more confident that one of them could seek appropriate assistance and care for the younger ones, which leads us to my recent conversations with Pete. 

When Chester was born, Pete was far too young to be of any assistance.  He couldn't even talk, let alone call for help.  Now as a three year old, he is able to converse on the phone and make his point understood for the most part.  He's able to unlock the door and leave the house (which is also a scary thought, but I told him it's only if Mommy is hurt and needs help, to go to Miss Meghan's house.  We've had the discussion of firemen and policemen being helpers.  We've talked about 911.  We've pointed out ambulances and how they take people who are sick or are hurt to the doctor's office.  We've even tried to link all three of these concepts.  And that is where we fail.   

Me:  Pete, what would you do if Mommy was hurt?
Pete:  Call the fireman and tell them we need  three firetrucks.  A red firetruck, a white firetruck (ambulance) and a car firetruck (not sure???).
Me:  That white firetruck is called an ambulance, can you say ambulance?
Pete:  Am-boo-lance.  (Close enough)
Me: And what number do you call to get the firetrucks to come help Mommy?
Pete: 1-1-1.
Me:  Close, try again.
Pete: 9-9-1-1.
Me:  Close, it's 9-1-1.
Pete: Ohhh, 9-1-1.
Me:  And what would you tell them?
Pete:  Bring a red firetruck and a white firetruck and a car firetruck. (At least he's consistent, but God help the dispatcher who fields this call!)
Me: Close, let's practice.  My mommy is hurt and needs help.  Bring an ambulance.
Pete:  Silence.
Me:  Can you practice with me?  My Mommy is hurt and needs help.
Pete:  But you're not hurt. 
Me:   Okay, we'll try again another day.

Ryan:  Well, you're screwed. 

Thanks for the vote of confidence, darling husband!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

In early February 2006, we bought a cute little house on the Salem/Lynn line, 11 miles North of Boston.  It is a mile from the commuter rail for an easy commute to downtown.  There's an express bus stop 100 yards from our front door, also an easy commute to downtown.  It's just over a mile to the beach and boardwalk.  It was a two bedroom/1.5 bath with an unfinished attic and a full basement.  There's a relatively large (for the area) fenced backyard and a small garage and four spots to park in the driveway.  It was in desperate need of updating, and the unfinished attic was the perfect canvas for Ryan to design and build our dream master bedroom and bathroom suite with a large walk in closet and plenty of built-in storage.  The only draw-back was the school system and the busy street, but since we'd be flipping the house when Ryan transferred, we'd never have children in the house.  Our friends were flipping houses left and right, making tens of thousands of dollars every time they transferred and we were ready to get in the game.

Of course you're cringing by now.  Because you know what happened during the housing crash of 2007/2008.  We moved to Virginia and our sale fell through at the last minute so we decided to rent it out.  After two terrible sets of renters who didn't pay and caused thousands of dollars in damage to the house (and stole our fire-poker set, lawn mower and weed-whacker) and a property manager whom I'm convinced was in cahoots with the renters (advising them not to pay, not to leave, how long it would take for an eviction, etc)  we were lucky enough for Ryan to get stationed back in Massachusetts.  We spent two years hoping the market would rebound, but in the end, Ryan was stationed yet again in Boston, and we'll have another three years to wait (and pay for private schools!). Being an accountant, I ran the numbers: It would take almost exactly three years for us to pay down the mortgage under the "value" of the house and even adding commission we looked to break even by 2014.  We were thrilled.  Even a tiny rebound would allow us to leave without a short sale, and even walk away with a little cash in our pockets. 

Then Congress played a little game of brinkmanship with the nation's debt limit.  The economy is already in the tank, but everyone wanted to solve it their way.  I don't care what your political affiliation, I think they all acted like self-centered idiots.  Between waiting until the last minute and refusing to budge on their pet issues they managed to ignore the needs of the country and in the end, even though they reached a deal at the last minute, confidence in the financial stability of the American government is gone.  S&P downgraded the credit rating from AAA to AA+ and stock markets around the world responded quickly and severely.

Now we've been warned that interest rates will rise, and home prices will tank again.  So much for breaking even.  But someone is going to get an unbelievable bargain on our home when we leave.  We're out of ideas, and out of options.  There's really nothing left to do, so I've quit worrying about it.  Oh well, it seemed like  good idea at the time. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

How I REALLY feel about having a third boy.

Of course we're thrilled to have a healthy baby baking away, but I know you are all wondering just how I feel about having a third boy.  And will we go for four? 

I'm relieved.  No, really.  The funny thing is, we started into this journey and I was not-so-secretly hoping for a girl.  I love my two boys and I'm thrilled they are so close and have so much fun together, but I was ready for a sweet little pink bundle to pamper. 

Then I thought some more.  The trials and tribulations of raising a girl in this over-sexualized world, where pre-teens can't find modest attractive clothes, and the pressures to disrespect yourself are overwhelming just seemed too much to handle.  I know I was a "handful" for my parents and while I contend that I'd be thrilled to have a daughter just like me or my HS girlfriends (we partied and pushed boundaries, but ended up as a CPA, PhD, event planner and a social worker) I know that things are even harder today than they were 20 years ago.

And I thought even more.  We already own everything we could possibly need for a boy.  I have boxes full of clothes for every season in every size (Thanks Alicia and Tami!).  The toy room is stuffed full of dinosaurs and trains and tractors.  Even the cloth diapers are in shades of blue, green, yellow and white with no pink or purple to be found.  I would want to buy bows and cute shoes, and adorable bloomers to go under her sweet frilly dresses, and there would be dolls and princesses and babies to add to the playroom.  We'd redecorate the nursery from blue nautical to pink nautical (Can't get me away from anchors and lighthouses!).  All of these things cost $$$ just when we're trying to focus on being a more financially responsible family.

Even Pete told me on the way to the ultrasound that he wanted another Baby Brother, just like Chester.  He wants LOTS of baby brothers.  Yeah, kid, I'm not sure I can survive another pregnancy, so I think you're just getting this one last baby brother.  The boys have so much fun together, wrestling and playing with balls and dogs and trains and cars.  I love to see them interact, and I hope they remain as close as they are today.  Though, Chester can't even talk yet, so I'm sure he'll have a few choice words for Pete as they get older.

So, what am I going to miss?  I'll miss braiding hair, tying ribbons in pigtails, ballet lessons, Easter dresses,  prom dress shopping, handing down my Alpha Phi legacy, first love, true love, wedding planning and seeing her give birth to her first child.  What won't I miss?  Ratty hair that she won't let me comb, failed ballet lessons traded for lacrosse and field hockey (nothing wrong with those, just things I know nothing about!), skinned knees in those adorable little dresses, disappointment when she chooses a different sorority or forgoes rush entirely, broken hearts that I can't heal, bridezilla, heartache over losses and general pregnancy misery that I can't solve for her. 

I'll keep my boys, thank you very much, with a list like that, I'll just borrow my friends' little girls and be Auntie Sue.  We'll go to lunch and I'll hold your hands while your daughters select outrageous dresses that you have to veto.  I'll bring over the cocktails and listen while you bemoan the hormonal crabby teenager your sweet little princess has become.  Then I'll show you pictures of the latest 4-wheeler or hockey injury and you can giggle.  I promise my sons I'll try my best to be a warm and inviting, but not overbearing mother in law.  I already have a good role-model, let's just see if I can remember how to be like Karen 25 years from now.  Maybe my future daughter-in-laws will let me come dress shopping and put together wedding flowers and favors and come to help with the older toddlers while she snuggles the newborn.  Or maybe I'll pass on all the drama and put in my only request: Our Mother/Son dance to Lynyrd Skynyrd's Simple Man.   

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Two important Don'ts to start your Sunday morning:

Don't feed your toddler pineapple on his pizza.  He'll be up all night complaining his tummy hurts. 
Don't try to sleep in.  It's just not worth it. 

Since we were up for hours last night with a fussy 18 month old, I decided to implement "stay in your room until 7am" this morning.  It worked very well a few months ago, just send them back to their bedroom at 5:30am when they woke up and who cares if they go back to sleep or stay awake and play together, just stay in your room.  Their room is babyproofed, and contains such entertainment as books, a few toys and a window to watch the birds and dogs in the backyard.  This morning I thought to myself, as I rolled over to get another hour of sleep, this is brilliant, why don't I do this every time they get up wicked early?

Ryan was the unfortunate one to discover why I don't do this every morning.  I awoke at 7:23am to the sound of a shower.  I was still blissfully unaware, and assumed that he was taking a shower to start the day.  When he returned to our room with a toddler wrapped in a towel, he clued me in on the details.  Chester had poo-sploded his diaper (courtesy of the pineapple) and it soaked through his pajamas, on his bed and blankets,and then on to Pete's bed and blankets.  Awesome.  At least he didn't play in it and wipe it on the walls. 

One quick shower and one load of laundry on hot and we've escaped this morning catastrophe.  I probably won't sleep past 5am again for another three or four years though!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Minor inconveniences

There are some discomforts of pregnancy that I deem intolerable.  Okay, there's the weeks of nausea, vomiting, gas, constipation and bloating in the first trimester (or longer, if you're unlucky like me).  Then at the end there's insomnia which, during your first pregnancy is a minor inconvenience, but when you're the only one in charge of a toddler all day becomes truly unbearable and sometimes dangerous!  Opinions differ, but after a certain number of days with little to no sleep, I believe you become clinically insane. 

But aside from those two, the rest are relatively minor, mere inconveniences, and sometimes downright amusing. 

Beer/wine:  I miss it.  There have been many warm summer evenings that I really craved an ice cold Bud Light.  Or a beautiful romantic dinner date to celebrate a birthday/anniversary where I just sniffed the wine, or enjoyed a sip or two.  Yes, I understand that even my midwife has approved an occasional glass of wine, but sometimes I miss a good drunken evening.  I miss a full on beer-tastic, wine-a-holic rowdy night with girlfriends or my husband.  It's only 9 months, plus a few while we're adjusting to breastfeeding, so I deem this a minor inconvenience, and the cute little blonde baby boy is worth it.

Nosebleeds:  These are no fun, but also not a big deal!  Just a reminder to carry tissues with you at all times, and a spare change of clothes, for that matter.  It's important to feel the blood start, just seconds before it begins gushing out of your nose.  If you get good at it, you can avoid blood actually ever leaving your nose.  Let's just say, at the grocery store this morning, I conquered the bloody nose.  Though I'm sure my cashier wondered why I suddenly stopped talking to her, grabbed my tissues and covered my nose.  I probably look like I have a cocaine habit.

SPD:  This was nearly part of the serious misery of pregnancy, but thanks to a helpful midwife who suggested chiropractic care, it's been downgraded to a minor inconvenience.  You can google the details if you want them, but basically my pubic bones separate, leaving my pelvis unstable.  It can develop during pregnancy, or as a complication of delivery.  Your legs fee detached from your body.  It makes walking difficult, stairs painful, and crawling on all fours or rolling over in bed nearly impossible.  A stability belt did nothing for me, but my chiropractor was very helpful putting my back/pelvis/hips back into alignment twice a week.  I felt so great with my pubic bones in alignment that I was able to continue my trips to the gym for zumba class. 

Everyone experiences pregnancy differently,  so you may be lucky and avoid some of these entirely, or you may have some extras that never even made my list.  But for now, I'm thrilled to report that I am in between the first 15 or so weeks of constant nausea and vomiting (a bad day here or there is no big deal in the second trimester) and the insomnia of the last trimester, so I'm actually feeling quite well. 

On a side note, we had the big ultrasound this morning, and I'm THRILLED to report that they moved my due date up to January 4 (my estimate was January 6 and there's was January 12 but who am I to judge, I was just the one there...) and that we're having another boy.  Maybe this time he'll have a name before he's born....  Stanislaus Optimus Prime has a nice ring to it, right Ryan?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Baby ThreePete? Baby Dinosaur? How about a Guinea pig?!

First there was Baby Pete, then Baby RePete, and finally Baby ThreePete.  While others may call their baby Nugget, Peanut, Jellybean, Twinkle-toad, Beebee, Wiggles or Princess, I'm just not that creative.  Though I've said this every time, I think I'm done, this being pregnant is far too stressful, and besides, I'm out of names.  I can't use Baby FourPete.  As the Patriots noted a few years back, I think four makes it a dynasty, and I know five makes a hockey line, but I'm pretty satisfied with three.  Remind me of that when he/she turns one and I start missing the smell of Johnson's baby shampoo on a sweet innocent little baby head.   

From the first visit to the midwife, this baby has been known as the Baby Dinosaur around our house.  After Pete saw the ultrasound, he was convinced that the baby in my belly is a dinosaur.  I figured it's not worth fighting about so I went with it.  Ask Chester what a dinosaur says, and he'll "Rawr" for you.  In fact, Chester has a new and overwhelming love of dinosaur books and dinosaur toys (Pete was always trucks and trains!) so perhaps Chester is telling me he's okay with adding a baby dinosaur to the family. 

As most anyone who's been pregnant will tell you, the dreams can be quite odd and quite vivid.  Recently, I dreamed that rather than a baby, or a dinosaur for that matter, I gave birth to a guinea pig.  But the fun didn't end there, I put the guinea pig on the piggy show circuit.  I trained the piggy in multiple events, including the guinea pig agility contest and jumping.  I washed and dried the piggy with a blow dryer and put bows in (her?) hair for the show events.  Who shows guinea pigs?  And do they even have an agility contest for them?  Where do I get this stuff?

Tomorrow is the big day, we'll find out if this is a Pink Dinosaur or a Blue Dinosaur, but the general public will have to wait until Ryan comes home on Friday.  He's going to be served a cake with vanilla frosting, and when he cuts into the cake, it will be pink or blue inside.  But let's be honest, I think we all know this is another little boy.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Oh small child, how your world is changing!

My Dear Sweet Chester,
Your world is going to be turned upside down in a few months.  Some of these changes will be my fault, and some will just be your own natural progression, but all of the are part of growing up.  Watching you grown and change has been a real pleasure so far. 
The first major change is driven by my needs.  Chester has always had an odd obsession with my belly.  At first, I figured his attachment to my belly was purely a mistake.  It was soft and squishy, just like my breasts and so his contentment snuggled up next to my belly must be related to the food and comfort he expected from my breasts.  But months later he would snuggle up to nurse and then lay his hands down on my belly and pat.  He also loves to straddle my belly and jump or oddly enough, lift my shirt and lick my belly then put the shirt down and run away giggling.  Perhaps the most annoying habit during the middle of he night is to drape himself over my belly sideways and use me as a pillow.  Pete never had any of these belly-habits, so I just chalk it up to Chester's cute little quirk.  I guess this pregnancy is going to wean him slowly off the bouncing, licking, patting and sleeping on my belly.  He'll have to find some other launching pad, salt-lick, comforting pillow!  I do feel bad, but my body is a wreck right now and Chester will just have to sacrifice his special relationship with my belly.

The other big change, and one that I'm not pushing (but I'm not fighting it either!), is Chester's sudden overwhelming love of Ryan.  I mean, of course Chester has always loved Daddy, but recently if Ryan is in the room, Mommy doesn't exist.  Mommy used to be #1 in Chester's eyes, while Pete was the Daddy's boy.  Over the course of the summer, Chester has changed his mind, and now Daddy has two little buddies. Ryan used to tease that I get our boys for a year, and then when they can walk and ride four-wheelers and "tear shit up" then he gets the boys. Perfect timing as far as I'm concerned!  Pete will start school this fall two mornings a week, leaving me alone with Chester so that we can have our own special time together before the new baby arrives, and I'm home with Chester 24/7 so I know we'll still have our bond, but it's great to see Chester growing up and becoming a big boy.  And I'm hoping that when new baby arrives, it won't be as devastating for Chester to get more of his needs met by Daddy for a little while. 

These won't be the last changes for Chester, and probably not the most drastic either, but it's the beginning of the end for him.  My baby won't be the baby much longer.