Sunday, February 28, 2010

because every girl is crazy about a sharp dressed man

... especially if he is in touch with his feminine side.

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And isn't afraid to sport red toenails.

William, who has the most vivid imagination of all the children, found a two-piece suit in his closet one day last week. He's worn the suit, which is at least two sizes too small, every day since it's magnificent discovery. Whenever he puts the suit on, he declares himself "king."

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Here's the "king" flocked by his two princesses.

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Since I've been out of town, Charlie told me that these clothes are what the children have begged to wear whenever they go out. Because we recognize that each stage is so fleeting, we generally oblige to their crazy wardrobe requests. But if this ensemble doesn't get enough looks, having a little five-year-old declare, "Here comes the King! MAKE WAY FOR THE KING!" certainly turns a few heads.

Can you see how these children are a constant source of entertainment for me AND a constant source of entertainment for each other?

They really are so much fun.

(Most of the time.)

taking on the green run

Tomorrow concludes the 2010 winter Olympics.

We're all feeling a little sad because these past two weeks have been so much fun at our house.

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Every day, we've tuned in to whatever is on and have gazed in amazement at the incredible athleticism of people from around the world who have devoted their lives to their sport. We've watched figure skating and speed skating, bobsleigh, luge, skeleton, hockey and Nordic combined. Taking only small breaks to bawl at the P&G commercials...

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We've also watched the Super G, Grand Slalom, moguls, freestyle aerial and snowboarding.

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We've even watched curling.

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But nothing has held our children's rapt attention like downhill.

I've probably mentioned it before, but have no recollection, that once upon a time, Charlie and I both loved to ski. The first year that we were dating, we went skiing at Lake Tahoe in northern California. My future-husband asked if I was a competent skier, and me being the humble delicate flower that I am, bragged confessed that I had never once fallen on the skis I was using - which were a gift I had received several years prior.

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I felt "fairly" confident on whatever slope the mountain had to offer.

So our first run was a black diamond.

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And on that very first run, I caught an edge and did a triple salchow flip di doo down the mountain. When I finally came to a stop, I was on my stomach, my free skis were bouncing over moguls far, far away from me ... and my body was contorted in such a way that my right leg was over my left shoulder.

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A week later, when I met my future in-laws for the first time, I was walking with the assistance of crutches and wearing a full length leg brace.

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The last time Charlie and I went skiing was in February of 2001. At Whistler, nonetheless. And we had a wonderful time until the last run on the last day, when I once again did a triple salchow flip di doo and slid down the Blackcomb glacier on my face. Lucky for me, the exchange rate was in our favor and beer was cheap.

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This week when Charlie was cleaning out the garage and found his old gear, William wasted no time suiting up. Our little dude is so pumped to go. He stood practicing on our front lawn for the better part of an hour, while our neighbors drove by and honked their horns.

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Our children can't wait to learn how to ski. And so long as I've got a sufficient supply of painkillers with me, I can't wait to teach them. Although on second thought...

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Maybe I'll just spare my body the punishment and sign them up for lessons. Sitting in the lodge next to a roaring fire with a hot toddy and my knitting certainly has a nice ring to it.

Ah yes, spoken like one who is gracefully surrendering the things of youth. While fully cognizant that recoveries take a lot longer, the more frail you become.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

a few things i've noticed lately

I've got callouses on the bottom of my feet. I've never had calloused feet. My feet have always been as soft and as supple as a baby's bum.

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A year before we had children, I had Lasik surgery on my eyes and my vision was corrected from 20/blind-as-a-bat to 20/20. But within the past few months, I've noticed that when I floss the children's teeth at night, I have to lean way back in order to see them clearly. And if the light isn't turned up brightly enough, it feels like I'm trying to focus on a tiny pine needle in a wavy pool.

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My hair is turning gray. Or is it grey? Or is it just white? Whatever it is, the whole crown of my head and temples are turning a color that isn't the blond it was 30 years ago. Or the brown it was 10 years ago.

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There are these odd brown and white spots on my hands, arms and face. Whenever I look really closely in a magnified mirror, my skin reminds me of salami and I get an inexplicable craving for an Italian submarine sandwich.

My chest once looked like it was comprised of two firm sandcastles. Now, it looks like a big wave came in and the sand that was once perfectly formed has heaved and is collapsing.

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There are clearly visible veins on my legs and on my feet. I've got wrinkles around my eyes and across my forehead. My earlobes are getting flabby (!) and I found a two-inch hair sprouting out of my cheek the other day.

Hello fella! How long have YOU been there?


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I'm not even 39 yet, but I can see that this body of mine is cha- cha- cha- changing. Still, I'm trying to embrace the philosophy of "growing old gracefully" not just because I think that plastic surgery comes with considerable risk, but because I'd pick new kitchen cabinets over a $10K boob job any day of the week.

Nah. It's not my aging body that's got me worried. It's my mind. Because for the life of me, I cannot remember the simplest things anymore. It's like my brain has turned in to one giant sieve and various details of things that are truly important have been lost.

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Perhaps I'm much too reliant on computers. Because what I'd really like is to back up my memory (the real one) on an external hard drive that I carry around and can access by pushing "Ctrl O" and typing "search" in to some field.

Search: "What are the last four digits of my social security number? Is it possible to recite just those last four digits without rattling the WHOLE thing off?"

Thinking. Thinking. THINKING HARD.


Yeah. No.

It's embarrassing when people ask me questions about things that I should easily know the answer to. Although I'm not at the point of total panic regarding the onset of dementia, because my memory almost always returns in vivid color. Usually when I'm on the commode for the 10th time in a morning. Funny. I'm not drinking THAT much water.

Or am I?

I totally forget.

(Let me go to the bathroom and think about it.)

Sometimes at night, after working a full day - when I sit down to update my blog - I just stare at the computer and wonder what the heck I'm doing here? Did I have something that I wanted to write, or is it just gibberish? Maybe I should just turn the computer off and go play BINGO?

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It's already happening. I'm starting to turn in to one of those characters that tells the same story over and over again. I'll start to tell someone a story and then stop myself. Did I tell them this already? Did I write this story on my blog? Whoa. Wait a second. Who IS this person that I'm talking to? Should I even be telling them this?

Most days at around 10 AM when I'm most apt to be firing on all mental cylinders, I think of something important that I want to write about. Sometimes, I'll even jot myself a note. But when I sit down a few hours later, I cannot recall what I had in mind. The thoughts and feelings that I had surrounding a particular subject have completely vanished. POOF!

My hard drive is full.

One of my consultants told me the other day that Albert Einstein purportedly carried his address around on a small piece of paper in his wallet, because he didn't want to waste precious brain space with something so trivial. I think my consultant was just trying to make me feel better when I couldn't remember his name.

Tonight, I'm uploading some photos I took a few weeks ago and I had a really great story to share about this particular picture:

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But now I'm just scratching my head. I think it had something to do with my daughter wanting to be a clothes designer when she grows up. Or maybe I just had an afternoon of rip roaring fun with clothes pins and string?

Friday, February 26, 2010

soul food: truly, madly, deeply stuck (conflict)

OK, it's time again for me to recite what I heard in church.

But before you just click off this post and think, "Oh no! Here she goes getting all preachy again!" Just remember this: MY CHILD WAS KICKED OUT OF THE NURSERY so I could record this message and bring it to you, mighty internet. So read it and then, PLEASE, if you must ... boldly lie and tell me that these posts have had a profound positive impact on the health of your marriage. Because if all I get is crickets on this, I will feel even worse than I already do about not sitting in with Henry four weeks ago.

Alrighty then! After that nice little segue...

I thought that the service I went to two weeks ago was the last in this marriage series, but I was wrong. In my opinion, the two services that came after the chemistry service were by far, the BEST of all. These last two services have to do with resolving conflict. Which is a very important topic to cover, because what relationship doesn't have a healthy dose of conflict every so often?

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Why is it, that the most fierce anger and resentment and hurtful words that we have, are usually directed at those that we love the most?

Why is it, that those that we care so deeply for, usually get the worst of us?

It is because, our guard is up when we interface with the outside world. For our mental health, we need to put up filters and watch what we say and whom we say what to. But when we are home, we are within our comfort zone and our guard comes down. And out comes the little (or big) devil within us.
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you...? Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you? (James 4.1 NLT)
The real conflict is within US.

(Us, as in, YOU and ME.)

(Not US as in the United States. Although some could argue that the real conflict is in the US but that's a topic for a different post. On a different day. Maybe this weekend. I've got a really good story to tell you.)

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Learning 1: The reason we have EXTERNAL conflict is because we have INTERNAL conflict.
You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them... (James 4:2 NLT)
There are fights within our relationships because WE are not getting what WE want.

Learning 2: The basis for our internal conflict is because we're not getting our own way.
... Yet you don't get what you want because you don't ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong -- you want only what will give you pleasure. (James 4:2-3 NLT)
(Check me out quoting scripture like a pro. Yo!)

When we don't get what WE want, we will go to extremes to change someone else's behavior. We yell louder. We intimidate. We give the silent treatment. We might even go so far as to withhold intimate relations <- sex. DSC_0225

No one but you, can live up to YOUR expectations. So don't even waste your time nor energy by putting them on someone else.

Here are some HEALTHY ways to handle conflict as a couple:

Principle #1: Understand many conflicts are PERPETUAL.

Action #1:
Identify what YOUR issues are. (Better known as: what ticks you off?)

Action #2:
Learn what you can live with. (Better known as: find some grace and get over it.)

It is estimated that 70% of conflicts in every relationship are perpetual and only 30% of couples are able to move towards resolution through forgiveness. The #1 cause of divorce is a hard heart toward the opposite spouse. There is no communication and no resolution of conflict. Instead, there is hurt and bitterness and resentment that continue to perpetuate and when people finally realize it's time to repair the relationship, a lot of damage has been done and people might believe that it is too late.

What separates a GOOD marriage from a BAD marriage is not the absence of conflict: it's the way that spouses deal with conflict in a HEALTHY way.

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Principle #2: Resolve conflict through FORGIVENESS.

Action #1:
Be TRUTHFUL. Communicate. Do not hide issues. If it's been too long and there has been too much neglect and you do not feel like you can communicate truthfully, seek help.

Action #2: Be LOVING. Touch, forgive, extend gentleness.

In serving our spouse = we are served.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)
Our minister indicated that when he officiates weddings, he will tell the newlyweds that they are NOT compatible. They each have their own expectations and they don't even know yet just how different they really are. They come from two different families with two different histories. One family might be on the east coast. One might be on the west. One might be a morning person, one might not. One may be an introvert, the other an extrovert. One likes romantic comedies. One thinks that romantic comedies bite.

No relationship is perfectly compatible on every level. But in the beginning, in the early days of marriage, you might be so BLINDED by love that you don't even realize that rough waters or 200 foot drops may lie ahead. If you go in to a marriage realizing full well that there may be times of turbulence, but as a couple, you possess the ability to navigate through those difficult spots successfully, you will ultimately be stronger for it.

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There should be some rules of engagement, or ground rules in your relationship:

1) No swearing. (Unless my lips were sewn together I might have a problem here. I'm just being truthful. Refer to Principle #2, Action Item #1, above.)

2) No hitting.

3) No breaking things. (Like Blackberries. We all have our weaknesses. I curse like a sailor.)

4) No "threatening" divorce.

5) Name some more... surely you can think of at least one?

If you break a ground rule, you have crossed the line and you need to resolve the conflict and ask for forgiveness.

Remember this:


A healthy marriage demands a fair amount of neglect. You have to learn to overlook certain things. Do not make corrections every time you see things done in a way you don't approve.

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You should be able to have a weekly conference with your spouse where you allow each other an opportunity to speak. Not sure where you should start? Well, here are some questions you might consider:

1) What are you concerned about?

2) What do you wish for?

3) What are you going to do to make things happen?

If you are not able to resolve conflict, your relationship will dissolve.

And if you cannot have a civil discussion with your spouse, get help.

Now, what is the purpose of backgammon pictures scattered throughout this post?

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Well, the reason is two fold.

1) I typically like to include pictures that are somewhat applicable to a post. And since I couldn't find any good pictures of us scowling at each other, I opted for these photos of backgammon, instead.

Because...

2) The first year that we were married, Charlie's father gave us a backgammon set that had once belonged to him and Jeanne (Charlie's mom). I didn't know the first thing about backgammon, but my husband taught me. And almost every night, we had the ritual of playing a game of backgammon to help us unwind. Sitting around our small kitchen table with a backgammon board between us, is one of the most wonderful memories I have of our first year of marriage.

As the tradition goes, we'll usually pour ourselves a glass of wine (or cup of hot tea) and we'll sit down and play for an hour. Or more. And we connect. We talk about stuff. We sort through issues. We discuss what's on our mind. If we've been having a particularly difficult day and we don't feel much like talking, backgammon brings us together and helps us to connect. At least until Charlie rolls a few double sixes and bumps all of my pieces on to the center board as he scurries his pieces home while laughing, "Ha, ha, ha, ha, HA! I'm going to win, you're going to LOSE!!"

And then I get mad. And I consider sleeping on the couch. Until I remember that I hate to sleep alone. So I forgive him, on the condition that he lets me win next time.

Which he never does.


But this is a perpetual problem that I have learned to live with.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

what's in you wednesday

Before I returned to work, way back when I was home on maternity leave, Charlie would often tell me how he struggled with guilt.

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He felt guilty when he left for the office each day, and he felt guilty whenever he would take off for an outing to the store - the gym - or the strip club.

Just kidding!

(Are you paying attention?!)

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I never really understood what he was talking about in regards to all of this "guilt" until very recently. Now that I've returned to work full time and Charlie is home, I feel really guilty whenever I'm not around to lend my support.

Like those times when I have to leave early for an all day meeting.

Or those times when I have to leave town for several days for a meeting.

Or those times when I'm busy working at home and cannot be disturbed. Like those occasions when I've got an important conference call and I sequester Charlie and the children to the garage or shoo them off to a park because there isn't a SINGLE room in our house that is fully sound proof when I absolutely need it to be. Take it from me when I say there's just something very unprofessional about an important call being interrupted by a small voice yelling out in the background:

"MOMMY! COME WIPE MEEEEEEE!!!!"


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Just yesterday, I was participating in a very important conference call with a team of lawyers and senior management while the children, I thought, were playing outdoors. Charlie had stepped in to the garage for a moment and in the span of 15 seconds, Henry ambushed me.

At the time, I was totally distracted by my conference call and I was studying a document that was opened on my lap. When something caught my eye, I looked up to see that Henry had stealthily climbed on top of my desk and was standing directly over me whilst holding a wooden spoon AND pot that he started CLANGING together as loudly as you could imagine.

It was like something from a cartoon.

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I didn't even have time to hit mute on the phone. All I did was shout, "ARGHHH! HOLY CRAP HENRY HOW THE HECK DID YOU GET THERE!" before hastily hanging up on my call. Then, I dragged my toddler off my desk before hunting searching down my husband and kicking everyone out of the house for the next half hour.

When I called back in to my conference line a few minutes later, Charlie and the children were driving circles around the block and the attendees on the line were highly amused. Which was a good thing. Because they all know that I work from the same exact home where my husband and I are raising four small children.

Anyway.


Even though I know I can't take care of any one until I take care of myself, I feel like I'm ridden with guilt.

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Because my husband is with the children the majority of each and every day. And whenever I get a break, it causes me great angst to imagine leaving Charlie alone with the kids so I can take care of me. Me. ME.

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Instead, whenever I do get a break, I'm pushing Charlie out the door to go play softball - or tennis - or mountain bike - or run - or swim - or do pretty much anything that will bring joy to his soul and make him happy because it ain't easy being the primary caregiver of four small children. (And husband of me.)

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So it's no wonder that my level of physical activity severely plummeted once I started to work full time. I've got less free hours in the day and during those free hours I do have, there's a tug to be at home and to give my husband a much needed break, while I spend time with the children.

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Charlie certainly encourages me to take some time for myself. But I feel badly leaving when I'm at least "mentally" gone so much as it is. Hence the reason it's such a great thing that I invested in that small trampoline because now, I can be at home, while getting in family time and a side of exercise.

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I've also been trying to get some physical activity, with the family, on the weekend.

Typically, this comes in the form of a hike.

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Which is a lot more aerobic than you might think.

Because usually midway through the hike, the children can't walk any more and we end up carrying them back to the car. We don't have a picture of that. But just imagine Charlie with two kids in his arms and me with two kids in mine. And everyone is moaning.

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Charlie and I the loudest of all, because our car is on the other side of that hill.

*****

My question of the day is: do you struggle with guilt when you take time for yourself?

And if so, how do you manage it?

(FYI: Getting up really early isn't an option. I tried once and almost died.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

unconditional love

For as long as I can remember, Elizabeth has had her lovey bunny. She absolutely adores this bunny. It is never more than a few feet from her and although she will take it with us in the car on outings, she never takes it out of the car, because she's so afraid that she'll lose it. And to lose something as precious - and irreplaceable - as bunny is unfathomable.

Bunny really is irreplaceable.

In 2006 thanks to the sleuth investigative skills of some awesome blog readers, we were able to track down a duplicate bunny. But since that time, the company that made Bunny Squeakles stopped making them. And although we once owned two bunnies, we lost our duplicate on a trip to Palm Springs in 2008. So now we're down to one. The original bunny that is, without a doubt, the most beloved possession in my little daughter's life.

As you might imagine, something as beloved as a small stuffed animal can get MIGHTY stinky and unfortunately, Elizabeth has a real hang up about bunny going in to the washing machine. So unless I can remember to pry bunny out of her tightly clutched hands when she's in bed sleeping {which I never do} the only time bunny gets washed is when I can convince Elizabeth to give him? her? it a bath.

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Thankfully, Elizabeth loves playing with water so it doesn't take too much convincing.

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Let's add a little soap...

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And scrub behind those awesome ears.

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Oh yeah. That's the ticket!

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As we well know, bath time is a lot more fun with a friend.

Welcome to the party ducky!

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Let's take a moment and review some ground rules of bathing with a buddy.

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First and foremost, there must be a sufficient quantity of bubbles.

Preferably, up to at least the neckline.

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Although we run a tight ship around here and if we catch your eyes wandering...

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You might be forced to drink soapy water...

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And get an ice cold rinse.

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Bunny, you're an endangered species.

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As far as we know, you are the last of your kind.

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And because you bring so much joy to my daughter, I sure do like you a whole heckuva lot. Especially when you don't smell like an old moldy sock that has been soaked in sauerkraut before being dragged by a skunk through a pigpen and abandoned in a gym locker next to a chunk of Vieux Boulogne.

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Funny enough, Elizabeth could really care less how you smell. Whether you have the scent of pungent french cheese or floral french soap, she has loved you with her entire heart her entire life. In fact, she feels the same way about you - that I feel about her.

And that's just about the sweetest thing I've ever witnessed.