Saturday, November 30, 2013

In which it turns out that I am not, in fact, Superwoman

I've gotten the "Superwoman" or "Supermom" compliment from several people in the past few months, and of course, it is nice to hear.  But compliment me on it no longer, for I no longer can wear that mantle.
It's now been officially announced to those in the school community where I work that I am no longer teaching there. I voluntarily resigned this week, as I was no longer able to perform my duties to the high level to which I hold myself as a teacher.  I guess I couldn't hack it as a full-time teacher (although to be fair, being a teacher at my school means designing your own curriculum for all of your classes, not working from a purchased curriculum, and I had 4+ classes to create) AND a mom of a 3.5 year old, 1.5 year old, and 1 month old AND a wife AND a functional human being.
The last part is not a joke.  During my week back every day I came a little bit more unglued.  My forty minute commutes turned into cry sessions.  I could keep it together while the kids were in the room but when they left my eyes welled up.  I was avoiding my coworkers, not wanting them to see me in this state.  By Friday I couldn't even keep the tears back from the kids.  I started crying in front of my 8th graders, much to their confusion and (for some) distress.  I knew that I couldn't keep going, but I wanted to push myself to at least finish the calendar year.  I made my intentions known to my principal.  She suggested taking some more time off, but if I took any more unpaid leave (since all leave is unpaid besides one's allotted sick days) my paychecks would no longer be enough to pay for childcare...and if my husband has to work extra to support my job, there's something not right about that.  The only solutions were to stop or keep going.
I'm no stranger to pushing through the pain.  I endured a natural childbirth, for one thing.  I made it through a rather grueling--although ultimately rewarding and fruitful--two year teaching apprenticeship.  I have worked either full or part time for the past four years even though I've wanted to be a stay at home mom.  I've walked through some pretty dark places with some close to me as they wrestled with illness.  I know what it is to suck it up and "just do it."
So why did I, after only a few days, call it quits?  Isn't that kind of weak to throw in the towel so soon? Believe me, I've been wrestling with that fear.  I'd call it a nagging voice in the back of my head but it is far too strident to be a nag.  It's condemning me, shaming me, mocking me for even trying to work full time.  It's calling me a failure and a let-down.  It's telling me that everyone at my school is mad at me and hates me, even though I've been invited to still come to the annual Christmas party.  It wants me to isolate and be ashamed of myself.
But, just for today, I will choose not to listen to it.  I called it quits because I realized that I was NOT capable of doing all of the things I was trying to do.  I was plunging into despair and even having thoughts of harming myself.  My OB-GYN diagnosed postpartum depression.  Baby blues usually clear up after three weeks postpartum, and my big troubles were just starting at five and six weeks postpartum.  I am getting help.  I'm taking medication and have appointments made to see a psychiatrist and a counselor.  Part of me doesn't want to admit that, but you know what?  I need to admit that I am human and not Superwoman.  I am fallible, breakable, and can't always be impressively Teflon tough.  Humans get ill, even mentally.  It's not anyone's fault.  It is what it is.  My mother-in-law called to remind me today that my middle name is Grace and I need to give myself grace and mercy and take it a day a time, and that is true.  I need to accept God's grace.  I was prepared to spend months being miserable if that was what I was called to do (see my previous post).  But after seeing my own frailty in the days that followed that post made me realize that God was not calling me to bear that particular cross.  My cross to bear now is to accept that some people will not be happy with me for the decision I've made, and to live with that.  Not really a terrible cross to bear, all things considered, but for a people-pleaser like me it is rather tough.
Anyway, I wanted to get this all out in the open now that it is official.  Thanks to all who have been supportive so far.  It means so much to hear from people, especially some of my coworkers, that they believe I'm doing the right thing and wish me well.  Several moms have told me that they made the same decision when they had young ones and have never regretted it.  Teaching will not go away, nor will my ability to teach; I can always go back to it.  But I guess you can all find someone new to congratulate on being Superwoman now, because it is not me!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Answer to the Question is Yes.

"Was it hard to leave your baby this morning so you could come back to school?"


Yes, it was.

I've done it before; I've dropped three month old Ruby off at daycare early each morning and picked her up late in the afternoon.  When Max was six weeks old I left him and Ruby in Whitney's capable hands at the house we all shared.  And this morning I dropped Max and Ben off at their new babysitter's house.  Thankfully, Max was just fine with it all and went to go play without missing a beat and Ben is too small to think about it one way or another (that I know of).  But my heart, once again, felt bruised as I walked out the door and got into my car.

I prayed a repetitious rosary all the way to school.  I smiled bravely and thanked all who welcomed me back.  The day happened and I felt like I had been dumped into the deep end of an ice cold pool and was desperately trying to keep my head above water.

When a teacher takes some time off, be it a day or weeks or summer break, there is always that glimmer of hope at the back of his/her mind that perhaps "absence makes the heart grow fonder" will apply to their students feelings for them.  Aside from getting a group hug from the 7th graders, I am sorry to report I did not see that in action.  The kids weren't trying to be difficult or unpleasant on the whole, but there were some definite boundary pushing moments.  And at the end of the day, with about ten minutes to go, one of the sunny, chatty sixth grade girls posed the question which I'd been asked in several ways throughout the day, the question which begins this post.

I almost cried right then and there.  I maintained my calm and composure as best I could.  "Yes. Yes, it was hard.  Because, you know, I really do like you all.  But who do you think I might like to spend time with more: other people's children or my children?"
"Your children, of course!" a few of them chorused.
"Yes, I can't really help it.  I do like you all, but it is hard to be away from my own kids.  And it is especially hard when no one here is listening to me.  Why am I here?  Why am I paying other people to watch my kids and spending my time being ignored by other people's kids?  It's not worth my time.  I try to make every class worth your time.  I hope you will make it worth my time, too."

Perhaps that was an impolitic thing to say; don't worry, I doubt that it penetrated too many of their souls.  A few seemed to have a bit of a lightbulb go on but most just assumed the look they've gotten so used to wearing: a look of practiced and mostly pretend penitence for special lectures about their various flaws as a class.  But lasting behavior change isn't something I've seen much of from this group yet.  Maybe it's because it is early days still; that's what I hope.

On the way home, I felt numb.  Is this worth my time?  Is this worth the small remainder of a paycheck that I keep after deducting childcare expenses? What is in it for me?  Such self-centered questions as these flooded my mind as I drove in the rain and rapidly darkening afternoon. I picked up my sons from the babysitter.  Max did not want to leave; he was having too much fun eating Cheezits and enjoying running around a house whose living room was probably equivalent to the square footage of our apartment (which is still not saying that much, given that we live in 500 sq. ft.)  He groused about getting into the car, and what I really wanted was for him to be so happy to see me and come home with me.  I wanted a smile from Ben, that first sweet smile of recognition.  Not today.

Here's the thing: I enjoy the kids (usually).  I like my colleagues.  I like English and History, the subjects I teach.  I like to think that I'm making a difference in their lives. But if you add up all the pros and cons of the situation (and I have been, frequently), I think you find that most of the sacrifice is on my side of the equation.  What am I getting out of it?  Not as much as I'm putting in, that's for sure.

But "What am I getting out of it" is not really a Christian question.  It's the kind of question that I'm sure tortured Jesus when he was being tempted in the desert and when he was sweating blood in the garden of Gethsemane.  What is he getting out of loving me?  The Son of Man came as a servant of all; servants don't ask, "What's in it for me?"  God isn't primarily interested in me being happy and getting my way.  He wants to make me a saint, not self-satisfied.

I only get the grace sufficient for the day; give us our daily bread, as we are told to pray.  It must be time for bed, because I'm about out of grace to get through today.

P.S. Why did I take the time to write this; time which could be spent doing, oh, a million other things that need doing?  Because, as Graham Greene said, "Writing is a form of therapy."  And the same things all of these other writers said, too.   

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Puerto Rico, you lovely island...

Bonus points to the commenter who knows whence the title comes. 
As you may have guessed, the "country" for our date tonight was Puerto Rico.  Okay, so it isn't technically a country; more like a commonwealth/territory of the United States.  I learned a few fun facts about it, such as the fact that Puerto Rico shares our president but no one there gets a say in choosing said president.  They have their own congress which they elect themselves, yet historically the United States congress is the one calling the real shots in terms of major legislature.  Sounds a bit like when we were a colony of England, and we didn't much care for that "virtual representation." Also, the unofficial national animal is the coqui, a frog which is (and here I quote Wikipedia) "endemic to Puerto Rico."  Puerto Rico is Spanish for "rich port" and Columbus originally wanted to name the island San Juan Batista.  That name only stuck to its capital city and the island itself went by Puerto Rico, but the natives have another name for it derived from the Taino Amerindian word meaning "Land of the Noble Lord." (All of this information is paraphrased from Wikipedia so it may not be strikingly accurate, but this is a blog post and not a research paper, so there.  Students of mine, if you read this, know that you may not rely on Wikipedia for your research papers, but use it all you want in YOUR blogs.)
I was none too sure of the authenticity of the recipe I made for our dinner last week for China, but I'm quite sure of the authenticity of this week's meal, which was arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas).

I'm sure of it because it came from my grandma, who lived in Puerto Rico for a year and thus had time to become acquainted with the local cooking.  So, that is what I cooked up, along with a recipe for tostones (fried plantains). I've never eaten plantain before, and it looks like an overgrown banana, but when it is fried, I'd be hard pressed to tell it apart from oven baked french fries.  Needless to say, it was a hit (except with Ruby).  We listened to Putomayo's Puerto Rico CD as we ate for an extra festive touch. 

Max likes the plantain

After the kids were in bed, our options for the date-y part of the date night were either salsa dancing in our living/dining/kitcheny room (it's all one thing, really) or watching a movie.  Unfortunately, the "Salsa dancing for beginners" DVD I put on hold from the library did not come through in time.  There was, however, a promising looking link on YouTube to some salsa lessons.  But despite agreeing--after watching a few YouTube videos of some spicy Salsa dancing competition clips--that it was darned sexy and athletic and would be super fun to take up someday...that day was not this evening, so to speak.  Also, Ben had awoken from his long afternoon nap and was not interested in being put down so that we could dance, and Salsa dancing is just not the same with an almost 9 pound baby strapped to your chest.  So, the movie option won again.  The choices were "West Side Story" (c'mon, it may not be set IN Puerto Rico but Puerto Ricans are central to the plot) and "The Rum Diary."  I knew nothing about the latter film except that it came up in my library catalog search for DVDs related to Puerto Rico.  Since neither of us had seen it and since Allen had seen and disliked (the nerve!) "West Side Story,"  we went with "The Rum Diary." 
It was a well-made movie and had some great acting by a lot of lesser known actors.  But it's a rather dark story, at least if you consider it a bit of a dark lifestyle to drink excessively and take experimental narcotics that give you terrible hallucinations.  But then it is based on the life of Hunter S. Thompson, so I guess I should have expected as much.  Anyway, it was an interesting film and if you're not easily offended by coarse language, some sexytimes, and a LOT of drinking and some drug use, and you enjoy the scenery of Puerto Rico...then you might like it.  I would have liked it less if I had spent any money to rent it, but it came from the library so it was cheap as free.  In fact, this whole date did not cost anything (unless you count a few grocery purchases, which amounted to under $6).  We even had the very un-Puerto Rican treat of two free drinks from Dutch Bros. coffee thanks to our collections of half-filled out punch cards accrued over the years.  I know, I should have held out until we visit the Netherlands, but it seemed like a night for a warm drink. 

Grouchy mom day

 I was a cranky grouch today with my children and they responded accordingly.  It really is true, I have observed, that when Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  Granted, sometimes the kids are going to be grumpy and irascible even if I'm maintaining my good mood...but they are always worse if I get peeved with them.  Count on it.  It makes sense.  Moods are contagious, especially bad ones.  I catch the bad mood from them, and then it goes back to them even worse.  It's hard to maintain and model the kind of actions and attitude I want to see in them, and the same goes with teaching.
That is why it kind of sucks to be my husband right now.  Or more accurately, next week, when I go back to work.  I have to be at the top of my game, so to speak, with my middle schoolers all day.  I then want to be as "on" as I can be with my own children when I pick them up from preschool (in Ruby's case) and the babysitter's (in Max's and Ben's case) and use up the last of my reserves of niceness, calmness, and flexibility with them.  By the time they are in bed, I am running on niceness fumes, and guess who gets to deal with that?  My poor hubby, who in turn is not exactly fresh as a daisy himself, since he has a couple of rather trying coworkers at this job site.  In my fantasy world (where I am perfect), at the end of days like these I look deeply into my husband's eyes and say, "Thank God for friends like you.  I don't know what I'd do without you, my love."  Unfortunately, the reality is usually more like, "Did you start the dishwasher yet?  No?  (grumpy sigh) Okay, I'LL do it.  No, it's FINE," while I make it clear through body language, tone of voice, etc.  that it is NOT fine.  Way back in college the women of Christian fellowship did a book study on C.S. Lewis's book "The Four Loves" and I remember feeling quite convicted at a part in the book where Lewis discusses how we often treat our family worst of all because we feel that they have to love us no matter what, so why make the special effort we make for those who have a more conditional relationship to us (coworkers, friends, etc.)?  In reality, we ought to be at our most loving towards those closest to us, and I think back guiltily to the days when Allen and I were dating and then engaged.  We just couldn't make enough charming sacrifices for each other.  It was nothing for him to get up at the crack of dawn to walk to a Starbucks and then walk to my house, gather a bouquet of flowers along the way, and leave me a little gift on my car before I headed to work.  But a few years later it's a bit more of a struggle to wake up to make a bottle for the young offspring at said crack of dawn.  And it's the same for me.  What a joy it once was to surprise him by cleaning the disgusting kitchen he shared with slovenly roommates. Now I'M the slovenly roommate and can get downright sullen if he looks distastefully at the layer of detritus I've allowed to accumulate on the stove, countertop, etc. "Clean it yourself if you care so much," I think (but don't say, because that would be rude, and does it count if you only think it?  Hint: yes, it still counts.)
Well, well, we found out as all couples must that we are both selfish people who really just want things to go our way and easily.  What a shocker.  These are the trenches that I think most couples must go through at some point, and I have great faith that we are together for Good and for a reason and that God's got this on lockdown.  There's nothing as humbling as (1) being married and (2) having children.  Teaching middle school runs a close third, and next week I get to return to that. Please pray for me, if you're the praying type. While I do care greatly for the kids I teach and I do enjoy my colleagues and believe that my school is doing its very best and has helped a lot of kids...well, it's just hard to leave this little snuggle pie with someone else, no matter how capable and kind they are.  Right now Ben's curled up on me, sleeping peacefully, and in a few days he'll be doing that on someone else.  He hasn't smiled yet, and I would really love to be the recipient of that first smile and not the babysitter, wonderfully nice as she is. I've had a nice six weeks with Max, too, getting some one on one time with him as Ruby's been in school.  It's hard to say goodbye to them for 10 hours a day to go and work with other people's children.  But this seems to be the path God has me on for now, and I must walk it a day at a time and can only do so with the daily allotment of grace and strength He metes out.  "His mercies are new every morning," says a verse somewhere (sorry, too lazy to look it up now), and I'll be counting on that, because I know that I am not sufficient for this task.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Beginning the attempt to do my marriage a WORLD of good...

Remember this? I do...and I miss it!

It seems as though just about every relationship guru out there, whether religious or secular, is always promoting the idea of a couple having regular date nights to make sure the relationship is progressing along nicely.  I can tell you that while I wholeheartedly applaud the idea and believe in it in a theoretical way, in practice it has become quite hit or miss for us.  I guess that isn't surprising when you take into account our circumstances: three small children with the small budget to match and not a lot of free time.  Going out for dinner and a movie every weekend is plain out of the question; going ANYWHERE is difficult because it takes some arranging with someone to come and watch the kids.  So that pretty much leaves at home dates after the kids are in bed, and that usually boils down to watching a movie.  Strike usually boils down to something like this:

The Scene: our apartment, Friday or Saturday night, 7 PM.  
Jenny: (closing the door of the kids' room behind her)  Well, the kids are in bed...
Max: (inarticulate noises in agreement) 
Jenny acquiesces to the door request, then flops down on the couch--a fatal mistake. 
Jenny: Okay, so, they are in bed.  Do you want to do something fun?
Allen: (looking at on the computer) Like what?
Jenny: I don't know.  I guess we could watch a movie...of course, the library is already closed, so we'd have to pay to rent one.
Allen: Well, Redbox is only $1.29; let's see what they have.  (They commence to check the selection online.) What are you in the mood to watch?
Jenny: Nothing sad.
Allen: Okay, so no dramas.  What about action?
Jenny: Um, maybe, I guess it depends.
Allen: How about this one [insert action title here]?
Jenny: mmmm, no.
(This goes on for several minutes)
Allen: (somewhat frustrated) Okay, so obviously action is out. What about comedy?
Jenny: Maybe there will be something good.
But there is nothing good.  Or if there is, it is available in Blu-Ray only, which rules it out.
Jenny: There's never anything good on Redbox!
Allen: Never anything YOU like, you mean.
Jenny: Well, there are some things I like, but you wouldn't like them.  I wanted to watch [insert historical drama or period piece here], remember? But you didn't want to.
Allen: But you just said no dramas!
Jenny: No, I said nothing sad. Not all dramas are sad.
Allen: So do you want to watch that [historical drama or period piece]?
Jenny: (pause, considering)  Not tonight.  Actually, I'm kind of tired.  It's too late to be starting a movie anyway, even if there was anything good.
Allen: (incredulous and annoyed) It's just after 7 pm; it's not late.
Jenny: Yeah, but by the time we pick something to watch and go get it and stuff it will be late.
Allen: We live like two minutes away from a Redbox.  And the Redbox also happens to be located outside the place which sells my favorite sized can of cold, refreshing Mountain Dew.
Jenny: You can go get it if you want.
Allen: Maybe later.  We could watch Jon Stewart. Haven't seen that in a while.
Jenny: Meh, yeah, I guess. (long pause)  I think I just want to go to bed, actually. Going to bed by 7:30 PM sounds pretty awesome.
Allen: (sighing) Okay, whatever.
End scene.

Let me tell you, my friends, this is how our at home dates have gone more often than not...good intentions but one or both of us having a complete lack of motivation to do much of anything about it.  But I don't want to be relegated to a dateless existence for the next several years, either.  Something has to change about the way that we are pursuing our at home cheap-as-free date nights.  But what? And how?
Then, the other day, I was inspired. I really can't even remember what put the thought into my head, but the phrase, "Around the World in 80 Days" came to mind, and then the idea to change that to "80 Dates."  Yes, that would be it!  I would create a long series of themed at-home date nights of an international theme.  As a kid, I absolutely loved "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"  I loved the computer game (and its spinoffs, such as "Where in Time...", "Where in the USA...", and most challenging of all, "Where in America's past...").  I will have you know that I did catch Carmen Sandiego on the "Where in the World" game and it was a victorious moment. I also loved the TV quiz show and secretly longed to be a contestant on it.  I attribute any success I've ever had with geography and memorization of countries and capitals to that game, and wish that it were still around for my students (the Facebook version was, alas, a total disappointment to me).  So, why not incorporate a little bit of learning and quizzing to the date nights, too?  Leaving Allen clues during the week about what country we would be celebrating that weekend seemed like a fun way to get us excited about date night (and also keep me accountable so I wouldn't pull the "ready for bed at 7:30" stunt so much).
My goals for this challenge:
1. Try to keep the dates cheap (less than $10) or free.  Exception to the rule: if the groceries needed for a meal I'm preparing are going to feed the family, that does not have to fall under the $10 rule.
2. Do not always just do dinner and a movie from or about the country of the week; branch out with other ideas so this doesn't become a rut.
3.  Learn something new about the country.
4.  Find out if there are any people or people groups in the country needing prayer for a specific cause and pray for them.
5.  Involve the kids to some extent.
Last Friday night was our first international date.  I did not have all week to ready myself, since I came up with the idea on Thursday and wanted to put it into action right away, but I still found some clues thanks to a few quick internet searches and texted them to Allen on his breaks.  Our first country was China.
 I texted Allen some non-dead-giveaway clues (this country has the third largest area of any country in the world; this country is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world) and bundled Max and Ben into the car to go to the library to get some books on Chinese calligraphy and a couple of movies.  One was a documentary about China and the other was Mulan (Allen's a Disney fan, after all).  I found a yummy looking recipe on for Kung Pao chicken and got the ingredients for it which I lacked.  I also spent some time reading up at Voice of the Martyrs and about what it is like to be a Christian in China and getting some ideas for intercessory prayer requests.
Money Spent:
$25 in grocery money (had to restock on some staples like sesame oil and cooking wine but since we were eating the meal as a family I don't count this as an expense.)
How it went:
Well, not organized enough...I was just getting home from the grocery store when Allen was getting home; the kids were hungry and dinner was nowhere near ready.  But after I got dinner fixed it was a success.  The recipe turned out to be a little too spicy for the kids' tastebuds but Allen and I liked it a lot.  We prayed as a family for people in China, especially those who are in jail for their faith, and I made a mental note to find or make some kind of world map placemats or something for the kids so they can begin to see where the places are that we are talking about.
Then there was a pause in the date night as Allen cleaned up the kitchen and I put the kids to bed.  After they were in bed, we sat on the couch and I explained the options: we could use the calligraphy books I got and learn/practice making some Chinese characters (since I happened to have a jar of India ink left over from a cartooning class I took several years ago), or we could watch a movie.  Allen was glad for the artistic option but as both of us were feeling pretty worn out and not necessarily up for the brainpower of reading the books and trying the character painting.  So we decided to watch a movie...and yes, we went with Mulan (although the next morning Allen did watch the documentary with the kids).  So sue us.  It was fun and a throwback to our Disney-watching youth (plus, I was 15 when it came out and had never seen it in theaters and thus had only seen bits and pieces.)
Some of you may be thinking, "This date doesn't sound too romantic...sounds like something a modest LDS high schooler would do, not a young married couple." Hey, at least two people who read this blog (or used to, anyway) ARE modest and awesome LDS high schoolers, so bonus for them, free date night idea for when they turn 16 ;)  And secondly, while there was nothing inherently romantic about the activities  planned (besides the gentle rom-com nature of most Disney movies), it was a good friendship-rekindling date. I'm not going to lie, our friendship needs some rekindling.  When you have three kids in three years, having all those young'ns can do a number on friendship.  We are so busy managing the house, bringing up the babies, and doing our jobs that it makes for a very business-like arrangement: you do this, I'll do that.  Mark Driscoll, in this sermon that I actually saw live during a weekend visit to Seattle, calls it a shoulder to shoulder relationship, and there needs to be time made for face to face time.  The date achieved that purpose.
So, the inaugural date was a success.  Where to next?  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

This is 30 (with blast-from-the-past pictures!)

I turned 30 on Friday, November 1st (and Ben turned 4 weeks old that day as well).
When I was little, I used to expect to wake up on my birthday feeling somehow different because I was now a year older.  I especially expected it on my 10th birthday, because it signified that I was leaving the single digit ages forever and would likely be in the double digits for the rest of my life, unless I turned out to live very long indeed! Yet on that 10th birthday I felt much the same as I had felt the day before.  It was a bit disappointing.  Again on the eve of my 13th birthday, I expected (although more dubiously) to feel a bit different as I entered the new milestone of being a teenager, and again on my natal day I felt no sudden change.  The same sort of thing happened at 16 (now I can drive!)  and 18 (now I can vote!  and smoke! and buy shrink-wrapped magazines! Or not...) and even at 20 (a new decade!) and 21 (now I can finally have a glass of champagne at a waltz party...wait a minute, this stuff is nasty!).  And then after 21 things quieted down considerably, because there are no real milestone ages (unless you count 25 as the age of the quarter life crisis, which coincidentally--maybe--was when I got married).  After leaving college, moving out to a region of the country far, far away from all family, and being truly independent working and getting my MAT, I felt like I had entered the age of grown up, and everything from 23 to now felt about the same: grown up.  I got excited about things like having the money to pay all of my bills on time and ready to throw a party when I had enough extra to put some towards the principal amount of my student loans.  I asked for practical gifts (or money) when my parents and grandparents inquired as to my birthday and Christmas wishes.  Settling into a teaching career, getting married and having kids definitely cemented my identity as a grown up.
All the while, though, a new milestone was creeping up on me: 30. Apparently for many women, turning 30 is almost as traumatic an experience as turning 40. It signals the end of your youthful fun-loving twentysomething days (i.e. extended adolescence.)  I imagine that turning 30 was not nearly as big a deal half a century ago, when most women were married much younger than now and had already been wives and mothers for close to a decade by the time they turned 30.  My husband will have been married 8 years and been a father for 7 years when he turns 30.  But now, in our time of stretching out young adulthood well through the 20s, 30 for many people sounds like the year that it is time to have it together and be a real adult.
Even so, though I've felt like a real adult for some time now, there was still a little bitty remnant of me that expected something special about my 30th birthday.  On my 29th birthday, I started to think about how I wanted to celebrate 30.  I had big plans, which all came crashing down a few months later when I found out that I'd be having a baby only a few weeks before my 30th birthday.  The postpartum 30th is quite a different affair than I had anticipated.  In fact, my birthday came and went with perhaps the least amount of fanfare ever, except perhaps for my 23rd birthday, which was my first one here in Portland when I did not know very many people here yet).  The day was extremely ordinary: taking care of the kids, running errands, cleaning and doing laundry, making meals, putting the kids to bed, etc.  I got phone calls from my parents and all of my siblings and from my mother in law and grandparents in law, and a friend stopped by to visit and drop off a beautiful handmade card.  Allen bought me the dinner of my choice (Thai) and brought it home. I got a blender/food processor combo thingy from my parents which arrived in the mail that day and I put it to good use right away:
Homemade frappuccino! (no, it did not include the Gerber formula)
So, it was a quiet birthday. I was excited for the next day, however, because that's when my real celebration was scheduled.  My big present to myself (and Allen's present to me) was to go to a ball!  Through his grandparents' ministrations we have gotten involved in the German American Society of Portland.  We are certainly not very active members (we are more involved with his grandpa's sister club, Germans from Russia of Oregon and Washington), the Society hosts an annual German Heritage Ball in November.  We went two years ago and it was very fun: a nice dinner and a fantastic band which played not only polkas (one of my fav dances) but also a great assortment of music suitable for swing dancing. I had such a good time then that I wanted to repeat it. So we planned to go and invited Andy and Alishia to accompany us.  The event started at 6:30.  We snagged some free baby sitting from our neighbor and everything was looking good.  But that day Ben was just the fussiest he had ever been...discontent, fussy, almost acting colicky.  And as the day wore on, he got warmer and warmer.  When I took his temperature at 5 pm, he had a temperature of 99.8. After going on WebMD and seeing that a temperature in an infant under 1 month old was not to be trifled with, I called the advice nurse with his insurance, who advised us to go to the urgent care to get him checked out.  So much for getting to the ball on time.  We dropped Max and Ruby off at the neighbors, got dressed for the event (which took me forever to choose my outfit since my regular dressy clothes weren't fitting quite right with me being only 4 weeks postpartum), and headed off for the urgent care.  When we got to the address listed, it turned out not to be there.  So we went to the ER at our local hospital where Ben had been born and they checked him out.  Of course, by the time we got there it was about 8 pm and Ben wasn't running a temperature anymore and was looking downright cheerful.  We did, at least, get a doctor's recommendation for how to remedy Ben's absolutely atrocious diaper rash (antifungal cream).  With his clean bill of health, we sent Ben to the neighbor and headed out to the ball. Thankfully, Andy was able to make sure that our dinners were saved for us so even though we got there at about 9, we still got to eat and enjoy the music.  I got a few dances in, too.  We left just after 11, not wanting to burden our generous neighbor overmuch.  So, although it was not exactly the evening I had expected, it was still a good time.

Like the black and red theme? Allen even has a red tie but it doesn't fit well with that shirt

Okay, I almost never paint my fingernails because I hate how quickly they get chipped, but I decided to go all out (it being my birthday, after all) and painted them red AND did a little German flag design on my ring fingernails.  They turned out remarkably well given my extreme amateurishness with nail art.) 

Just for fun, here are some pix from my 20th birthday (which also featured dancing, since I believe the annual Halloween waltz fell on Saturday Nov. 1st that year):
The lovely Sarah Navarre and me...and I still have the skirt from that dress and was going to wear it to the Ball but it didn't fit well :(

The Ferrell Boyz (David and Jackson) bring some banana bread to my dorm room!

This one is (obviously) from my 21st birthday, hence the alcohol theme.  David Cantine, Geremy Coy, Erica Freeman, Jonathan Coppadge, and was a surprise party where they stormed my (really messy) dorm room after seminar.  Others were there but not in this picture (Eleanor Clark, Cat Pisha, Sarah Navarre, Sarah Wilson, maybe others I'm now forgetting).  I still have a photo of certain friend who humored me by wearing a "tragic reindeer sweater"  but I will not post that to preserve the innocence of the wearer!!

And here is one from my 22nd birthday (my senior year at St. John's):
I can't remember if it was a surprise party or just one that was entirely planned by friends, but it was a really sweet gathering.  
Well, it has been fun tripping down memory lane, but I hear a squawk emerging from the room where this cutie has been sleeping:
As of 11/4, Ben is one month old!  
This, my friends, is my 30, and I'm mighty thankful to all of you who have been there along the path.  And a special birthday shout out to Cat Pisha and Chris Lowe (not that they know each other), who both have birthdays today, 11/5!  Oh, and Annie Shellito too!  November 5th is quite the day, I guess.  Guy Fawkes and all that.

Halloween Round Up

This post will be pretty sparse because, alas, all of my pictures from Halloween got deleted accidentally by a family member who shall remain nameless.  Sad sad.  At least Ben was still in his "costume," which was an extremely last minute homage to the first words his uncle Andy said to him: "This one looks like a caterpillar. Max looked like an old man, but he's definitely a caterpillar.  Look at that little caterpillar nose!"
 So, I decided to make a homemade caterpillar outfit out of some of Ruby's socks, plastic grocery bags to stuff them, and a little union suit of Ben's.  It took all of about 15 minutes, as you can probably discern from the pictures, but I didn't have the wherewithal to buy a real caterpillar outfit.

I admit, he looks more like an octopus from this view...

Luckily for Allen, it is a benign caterpillar and not inclined to attack
The night before Halloween, Allen carved a pumpkin for the kids and took their requests for what designs to carve.  Of course, by "their requests" I really mean "Ruby's requests."  Max is too taciturn as yet for making requests.

1st and less successful attempt at the kitty


Ruby dressed as Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, but since yours truly is too much of a cheapskate to buy the actual trademarked Aurora dress and accessories, Ruby wore her purple dress up dress, one of my necklaces, and a sparkly plastic tiara (which has since been accidentally stepped on and broken).  She hasn't seen Sleeping Beauty in its entirety, but she enjoys watching a clip of the song "Once upon a dream" on YouTube, so I think that is where she got the idea to be Princess Aurora.
Max, as I said, is not ready to say what he wants to dress up as, so I still get to call the shots.  I decided he would make a cute farmer (especially since we already had all the clothes for that!)  He wore a red plain flannel shirt and jeans and a cowboy hat (although he removed the hat after about two seconds) and carried a little basket with toy wooden fruits and veggies in it and his toy trowel and spade and a packet of seeds.  It was pretty cute. 
This was the first year we took them trick or treating.  We just went to three or four houses in the neighborhood, mostly neighbors we knew.  Max did not get the concept at all, and Ruby kept trying to go into the houses when the doors were opened to her.  She definitely got the hang of taking candy, and a lot of people urged several pieces on her, "for your mommy and daddy."  I think it was partially because everyone was afraid of having too many leftovers.  We had zero trick or treaters.  Granted, our apartment is in the back of the house away from the street, but any enterprising young soul who walked down the gravel would have seen our porch light and pumpkin.  I don't think there were many people out, and I suspect this is a trend which will continue.  One family we saw told us that the real action was on Main Street in downtown Oregon City, which is lined with shops, and all of the shops are giving out candy to trick or treaters.  Then, too, there are the families who are going to harvest parties and the like instead of going around the neighborhood.  Oregon City is not a very sketchy place, especially the neighborhood we are in, but I think that the days of letting kids roam through neighborhoods at night are on their way out, and I can understand.  Too many scary things...and I don't mean people in ghoulish costume or pumpkin smashers.  When we returned from trick or treating (which we did before it got very dark) we had pizza with a jack o lantern face from pepperoni and allowed the kids to split a Reese's peanut butter cup (which neither of them finished).  I think Allen is going to be in charge of making sure their small haul gets eaten and I think we will continue to cherish as long as possible their lack of interest in candy.  
All in all, it was a pleasant Halloween, and made all the more so by the lack of rain!