Brain Dump

This brain dump is brought to you by an empty house on a Saturday morning.

IMG_1005.JPGReally enjoying the UVA marching band practice, a couple of weeks ago.

My in-laws came yesterday and picked the kids up for a day in Richmond with their cousins. I took the kids’ Halloween pictures on the front step then loaded them in the car and then…silence.

1. Luxuries that I have enjoyed lately: waking up in my own house, sans kids. My dear husband is running 14 miles this morning, so I am quite solo. Something about being home alone feels awesome.

More luxuries: dinner this week, delivered to my door. A friend emailed me and asked if she could provide dinner for us one evening. Yes. You may. And thank you. A million times over.

One more: a gym membership with 2.5 hours of childcare. I go most Friday mornings. The baby (who is not really a baby anymore. I know.) loves it and so do I. Some time working out, then a shower, then time in the lounge to work or not work by the fireplace. Who am I and how did I end up at such a legit fancy gym?

2. My inbox is tamed. I read the article that my friend Steve linked to in the comments last month and my biggest takeaway was to process my email. Don’t just “check” it, which I was doing throughout the day. Wait until I am at my ipad (which has a keyboard) and read with the intention of dealing with it. Respond, archive, delete, move to folders. Deal with it.

I am a new smartphone owner and had gotten waaaaay sucked into checking my email on the go all the time. But I don’t like replying with my thumbs, so the emails would sit, read but unprocessed, until I pulled them up on my ipad later and could stare dumbly at the mass.

Process. Don’t “check”.

3. One of my kids woke me up at 3:00 the other night for help with a brief potty break. He went right back to sleep, but the last time I remember looking at the clock it was 4:30. I couldn’t shut my brain off and fixated on the logistics of four kids.

Where will everyone sleep at night?
Where will everyone nap or have room time?
How will I retrieve the first grader from school?
How can I protect some pockets in the day to recharge for myself?
When should we move the baby (okay, toddler) out of his crib?
Should we get back on the potty training bandwagon before the baby comes? (Hopped off that one a few weeks’ in, when the baby/toddler clearly wasn’t taking much initiative to get himself to the potty. It wasn’t making life easier for any of us, so I put him back in diapers.)

During those middle of the night hours, I kept reminding myself that things that feel overwhelming at 3:30 a.m. don’t feel the same way at 3:30 p.m. And, sure enough, by the next afternoon I knew we would figure things out and it would be fine.

To help in that figuring out, I emailed a friend who has four kids and asked if we can get together in the coming weeks. I might bring a white board and ask her to just figure my life out for me. I am a “systems” person- I like to get things in order and then let certain things go on autopilot so I don’t have to think about them. I need some systems in place for when the baby comes. Some parts of the day on autopilot. And I have a few more weeks to figure some of that stuff out!

4. Goal for November: Christmas shopping! I did this last year, in preparation for our big surgery, and it was pretty great. How enjoyable- to have all gifts purchased and ready with a few weeks’ to spare. I’m a big fan of simplifying and creating white space on my calendar and in my brain, and getting gifts in order ahead of time provides that. Anyone else want to join me?

Brain Dump

1. My goal of keeping my inbox clean (less than 20 emails) is going so-so. I have been more diligent in responding and then archiving or deleting. Lingering emails and a massive inbox make me feel like I’m missing important things (which I usually am). So I like just moving through emails and dumping them.

Some of the emails serve as reminders, like the Zappos shipping confirmation that reminds me to return the three pairs of shoes that I am not keeping. (I also have a huge box sitting in our bedroom. Some might consider that enough of a reminder. Meh.) It would probably feel better to just add “return shoes to Zappos” to my to-do list and archive the email. Too many “reminders” in too many different places and I, again, feel like I’m missing important things.

Huh. Now that I type all of that out, I realize I have a to-do list on the fridge, in my purse, and in my email inbox. That feels potentially ineffective. Must stop using email as a to-do list, stat. I don’t like lingering in email-land any longer than necessary so why make my inbox do double duty?

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2. I took the boys to the playground today because- GLORY- the sun came out for a few hours. I met a mom who is 39 weeks pregnant and she informed me she is having her membranes stripped tomorrow. When I say “met”, I mean I handed her a picnic bag she had packed and we exchanged “how far along are you”s. Then she told me about the imminent stripping.

I am not squeamish or proper about these things; rather, it just struck me as funny. Hi! I don’t know your name! But good luck with those membranes! Welp… See ya later!

3. A few Mondays ago I woke up early, as is my custom, to clean our bathrooms. My husband and I have come to an understanding that he should either a) get out of the house and go running during this time or b) get out of bed and busy himself with some sort of general cleaning task. Staying in bed is not a great option, though I should be a grown-up and just be okay with the fact that we don’t all have to suffer at the same time. Just because I think grumpy thoughts over the toilet bowl at 6:30 a.m. doesn’t mean everyone should, right?

Anyway.

Long story short is that he informed me that he will be in charge of bathrooms from here on out because I am in my third trimester, for crying out loud. He has tackled them by himself and then, also, floated the idea hiring someone to come clean every few weeks. For bathrooms, floors, baseboards- whatever. Well, twist my arm andOKAYLET’SDOIT!

This is a long way of saying that we have someone coming to clean tomorrow and I realize that I should probably do some pre-cleaning cleaning. Right? Clear surfaces? Put laundry away? I don’t know what else. Tips appreciated.

How to Sabotage the Father of Your Children

I have really fun memories of my Dad coming to eat lunch with me at Lincoln Elementary. He would sit with me and my little girl friends and make us laugh for the whole lunch hour.

One day we were talking about what kind of car we all wanted when we grew up and my friend Sheri said she wanted a porsche. He pretended to misunderstand and made at least 15 minutes of jokes about driving a porch. “How do you drive a front porch? Does it go fast??”. “NO! A porsche!!!!” [cackles of little girl laughter]. Corny dad jokes- we loved them.

These are some of my best memories of elementary school- my dad, making jokes as he sat in his suit and tie in the slightly too-small chairs. All of my friends and me, eating it up.

Yesterday my husband took Monkey fishing all day. He has a few vacation days accumulated and decided to cash one in. They fished, played “Paper, Rock, Scissors”, waded in the creek, and finished with Cicis pizza buffet for dinner. They were gone from 7:30-6:30. Dad of the Year, everyone. Not kidding.

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There is no doubt that I struck gold when I married my husband. He is a great spouse and the incredible icing on the cake is that he’s a stellar father. He does the fishing days, the hiking/creek days, the movie-at-his-office days. He takes all three kids out to Chick-Fil-A when I talk to him at 5:00 and tell him I’ve had a shitty day. Gold.

Would he be like this if he were, say, a single parent? Probably, for the most part. But do I take some credit for how great of a dad he is? Yes. Yes I do.

Want to ensure, conversely, that your husband never pulls equal duty in parenting? Want to make sure that he stays timid with the kids? Here are a few ways:

1. Starting at the very beginning, make sure you watch carefully as he diapers that new baby. Offer feedback about the number of wipes he uses. If you can, subtly communicate how you are able to clean that poop using less wipes.

2. When the baby fusses and doesn’t immediately calm down, take the baby back and calm it quickly with a technique you have perfected. Try to non-verbally communicate his incompetence for not knowing this technique. Don’t acknowledge that, possibly, you’ve had 40 additional hours per week to master this technique. Not relevant.

3. Pack the diaper bag yourself, every time. Rest assured that it will be done the “right way” because you did it.

4. Continue in this vein week after week and year after year, adapting your approach to your childs’ developmental stage.

Let me be very, very clear. I have tried all of these techniques. I have rolled my eyes at how he STILL doesn’t know what to bring when we drop the baby at the nursery, even though it has been the same thing for 6 months. I have thrown up my hands as he leaves the house without a single snack or diaper. I have laughed at the outfits he has chosen for our kids.

In spite of that- in spite of those times when I have COMPLETELY undermined him- he is a great dad. And our kids have managed to grow and thrive and eat and have clean butts, most of the time. Even when he doesn’t pack the bag the way I do, or calm the baby with the same technique, or remember to put coats on the kids for the 15 foot walk to the car in the dead of winter.

I know the tone of this post is all over the place. I start out with loving memories of my own dad, then I’m extolling my husband, then switch to snark and sarcasm. It is confusing.

So here is my bottom line: Moms play a big role in how competent or incompetent Dads feel with their kids. Some husbands come in with vast niece/nephew/neighborhood kid experience and can roll with the punches pretty quickly. Some have no comfort with babies/kids and feel waaaaay out of their league from the get-go.

Whatever the case, for you or your husband, recognize that you both strengthen or tear each other down as parents. My husband enjoys taking our four year old out fishing for the day because 1) our four year old is awesome and very enjoyable and 2) he has taken the parenting reins bazillions of times before and I HAVE LET HIM. Sink or swim. Diapers/snacks/coats or not.

(The same way I learned to be a parent. Doing it. Messing up. Forgetting stuff. Figuring it out.)

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I was driving to the preschool today and thinking about this post, which I actually wrote a couple of weeks ago. It is very preachy/”I know how you should live your life”ish, so I have sat on it for a little while. But anyway, I was thinking about this post and remembered last December, when we were at Johns Hopkins for Monkey’s surgery. It was the day after surgery and we had waited all day for his follow-up MRI to ensure that all was well.

A 3:00 MRI time turned into 4, then 6, then 7:00. We got wheeled downstairs and through the maze of hallways at about 10:00 pm. My three year old was tired and overwhelmed. He had been told all day that “this shot won’t hurt” (it did) and “this medicine tastes good” (it did not), and been woken up at any given time to be moved, poked, or prodded by various nurses, residents and doctors. He was scared and here we were, at 10:00, trying to sell him on yet another thing that he has to go along with.

The tech told us that one of us could go into the MRI with him. Like, actually lie down on the bed next to him and get put halfway into the machine, and be with him through the MRI. My first instinct was to say I would do it. I wanted to do it. And the MRI tech sort of looked at me- the mom- as the assumed parent to do this.

But we decided that his Papa should do it instead. Can’t remember what went into that decision, but I remember it was both scary and freeing to hand this over to him.

So my husband took his wedding ring and belt off [metal], signed a release, and lied down with him on the bed. Monkey was still crying and fearful and nononononono I don’t want to do it! My husband talked him through a few deep breathes that didn’t stop the crying and I bit my lip to not interject too much. They got wheeled away a few minutes later.

I can’t remember how long the MRI lasted. Maybe 45 minutes? Longer/shorter- I don’t know. When they came out, Monkey was sound asleep. He had fallen asleep in the big beeping machine, with his thumb and his bear and his dad all right there for him. Tired but, finally, unafraid.

Now, I am not saying there is a formula. If you do x and y, then your husband will know the exact ways to comfort your child after brain surgery and will want to take him fishing/hiking/camping for days on end. It is not that simple. But- hey- he and I are in this together. And we’re in it for the long haul. So I might as well roll out the red carpet for him, whenever I can, to be the father I know he might be. And then get out of the way whenever I can.

Because- honestly- the memory of my entirely capable husband, together with our three year old on the hospital bed, is so very very worth stepping out of the way for.

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