Friday, October 26, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Attention deficit

--- 1 ---
This is my first time participating in 7 Quick Takes. My mind right now is all over the place- and I expect my writing is, too- so doing this is somewhat self-indulgent. I had lunch with a new friend today and was acutely aware of my increasing inability to focus on anything- it seems to go hand in hand with being the mother of infant multiples and a preschooler.

Dear new friend (and anyone else who ever hangs out with me), I'm not trying to be rude by never making eye contact with you or finishing a coherent thought. It's just that Baby A is stuffing chicken nugget into her ear and Baby B is choking on her cracker and SuperSam just spilled his whole fruit cup onto the floor under the table (and is crawling after it under the bench, yelling "5 second rule!"). I don't even know where to look, but I promise I do care about you and what you just said.

--- 2 ---
I'm noting the abundance of portmanteaus these days as everyone tries to come up with a new name for the biggest storm we have ever seen in our lives that is about to probably most likely crush us in its path whatever path it takes and make us live in the dark eating toilet paper or something equally horrible until Election Day. My favorite so far is Snor'eastercane.

--- 3 ---
Assuming we can dig our way out of the snowicane to go trick or treating, Halloween costumes are still up in the air here. SuperSam is now saying he will go as a dinosaur (a much simpler, albeit less interesting plan than his original request to be the solar system). It looks like I'm taking the easy way out with the Sisters and using the two hand-me-down store bought costumes we already have...a ladybug and a butterfly. They'll be cute no matter what they wear- they are twin baby girls. I'm planning to go as a frazzled, slightly insane-looking mother of multiples and a preschooler. I think I can be convincing.

--- 4 ---
We cooked at home every night this week. I write our meal plan up on the dry erase calendar every week, and we only buy the things that are on the list to make those meals. This is a one-income household now, after all, so we have to be pretty stingy about takeout and restaurants. Most weeks, though, there's still a hiccup (at least one) in the plan, and we have to rearrange things. This week, everything went according to plan. We even have leftover curry. Why is this so gratifying? It's as if my personal self-satisfaction has climbed several points just from following a menu plan that I created myself. Today the menu...tomorrow, the world (or maybe just the laundry). Anyway, it felt good.

--- 5 ---
My last long run is tomorrow (well, hopefully not my last one ever, but my last one before this race). After tomorrow's 10 miler, I'll officially be in taper, which I officially dislike. It's unreasonable how grumpy it makes me to not be able to run (especially considering how little I've been running during training this time around). I'm getting antsy just thinking about it.

--- 6 ---
The Snor'eastercane could make taper more bearable. If we get a bunch of flooding and/or snow here, I'll be more likely to want to stay inside and not run. And bake things. And eat them. Wait, that sounds like a bad combination.

--- 7 ---
I got a package full of CDs from my wonderful sister this week - all kinds of new music! Cat Power, Bruce Springsteen, Fiona Apple, First Aid Kit, Abigail Washburn, Jack White, and a bunch of other stuff all mixed up. How lovely. Oh, and Andrew Bird's new album is streaming free on The Guardian here. This would be a good week to stay inside and listen to music and knit stuff for Christmas. Hey, maybe we'll get a really big storm, and I'll be able to do just that.

If you made it all the way to the end, this is the last stop on tonight's attention deficit stream of consciousness tour. Thanks for joining me. 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pumpkin Painting Party

At our house, we don't entertain. We can't really do it. There's too much mess and too much crazy, too many babies and too much laundry sitting around in baskets. Two of our chairs have high chairs strapped to them, so there isn't ever quite enough to sit on. I hardly ever have time to vacuum, and there are often dishes in the sink. The floor in the kitchen is always in need of mopping. My napkins don't match, and four of our dinner forks are mysteriously missing. Entertaining is a little beyond our capabilities right now.

Instead of entertaining, we just have people come over. It's much less stressful. We still get to see our friends, and (having seen our house in its normal imperfect state) they usually have pretty low expectations. It's a perfect scenario - this way, anything I do to make it feel like a party (like turn on music or serve food) is a big deal!

We had so much fun decorating our family pumpkins last week that we decided to have some friends over to paint pumpkins. It seems simple enough- some snacks, some paint, some pumpkins, some willing kids and parents.

And guess what? It was actually simple! No crisis moments. No pets in peril. No babies eating paint. It went very smoothly. So smoothly, in fact, that I think everyone should try it.

Yes, you still have time. Halloween is still a week away. And it doesn't have to be fancy. If you have people outside, you don't even have to vacuum. (Or, you may adopt my low-stress approach and just skip vacuuming even if the people are coming inside.)

Here are some tips on how to keep things easy so you can enjoy your time with friends:

Paint in shifts. Some kids were hungry right away, and some gravitated toward the paint immediately. No big deal - it works better this way! We served simple snacks - apple slices with pumpkin dip and air-popped popcorn. The making of the popcorn was part of the fun for a few kids.

Here's the pumpkin dip recipe, if you'd like to try it (adapted from Simply in Season):

Put 12 oz of softened cream cheese and 3/4 cup of brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix well. Then, add 1 cup of pureed pumpkin (the canned kind works just fine), 2 teaspoons of maple syrup, and 1 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Mix until well blended.

It pairs well with pretzels or gingersnaps as well as apples. This recipe makes a lot, which is good, because it is one of the yummiest things in the world.

Put each color of paint in a separate container.
When it was just our family painting pumpkins, we put the paint in ice cube trays. Each person had a brush, and we rinsed them in cups of water between colors.

With even this small crowd of children, though, I decided to put the paint in baby food jars and assign one brush to each water, no need to bother with rinsing brushes. I left out empty jars for the kids who need to mix colors. My son, SuperSam, is usually one of those kids.  Why fight it? Mixing colors is good for them. It helps them learn something.

Use real paint. Don't be afraid. If you are worried about the mess, try painting outside or covering the table with plastic. If you use water-based acrylics (which you can get in the craft section at Wal-mart), they will be bright and vibrant and will stick to the pumpkins. Tempera paint will not adhere as well, although you can use it, too. Our experience was that the tempera paint colors were runnier and fainter than the acrylics.

All of this paint will wash off, in case you want to cook with the pumpkins later. It also comes off skin and clothing pretty easily.

Invite people to bring their own pumpkins if they want, and provide some extras.
One family brought butternut squash to our gathering - how cool is that?

We just put a pile of little pumpkins on the table and let people choose their favorite.

We also put out wet washcloths for cleaning the pumpkins before painting them (and for wiping paint-covered hands on their way to the sink).

The paint started out on baking sheets in the center of the round table. The artists chose chairs around the table, and we put newsprint down under the pumpkins.

Eventually, the artists started taking the colors they wanted to their seats...which meant they had to ask each other for colors when they needed them. Bonus: positive social interaction! (Resist the temptation to give everyone his or her own set of all the colors, or they will miss out on this chance to talk nicely to each other.)

When you leave the pumpkins to dry, the newsprint works well for putting the artist's name with his or her pumpkin - this makes it easier to claim their work when it's time to go home.

Consider having an alternate activity for those who finish early. We had some fast painters (and one child who chose not to paint at all). Fortunately, we had cooperative weather, so we took a group of kids outside.

Highlight of the party for these boys: the garbage truck came by to collect our trash. He blew the horn and waved to the guys. They jumped up and down and screamed with excitement.

Mr. Sanitation Worker, you are a rock star.  Thank you for making their day!

Whatever you do, have fun. It doesn't have to be perfect. The point is to get people together to enjoy each other's company...and to eat pumpkin dip. (Really. Because it's just that good.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

The "Yes" of least resistance

I just did that thing where you stand in front of the open freezer with a carton of ice cream and a spoon, intending to just get one spoonful, but you either get greedy or the spoon is smaller than you thought and you scoop out too much and before you can grab it with your tongue some of it falls off and hits the kitchen floor.

And then you feel silly, because now the floor is sticky, and really, you're a grownup, and why didn't you just get a bowl?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Just go run already.

Are you a runner? What happens if you don't run?

If I miss my run, or two, or a week's worth, it makes me grumpy and irritable. I start to doubt myself. Then, little negative voices start chipping away at my confidence. Maybe I won't be able to do the race now that I've messed up my training plan. I'm not going to be ready for it, anyway. I should have picked something easier, or something further out so I'd have more time to train.

Then, it gets worse. I go beyond self-doubt to plain old fear.

I'm not really even a runner any longer. Maybe I never really was. Maybe running isn't compatible with being a mom to three little people. Maybe I should just quit altogether.

Yeah, quit. That's a good idea. Then I wouldn't have to feel guilty every time I walk past my running shoes, which are sitting in the middle of the floor so that I have to step over them when I walk into the room (a little trick that is supposed to make me decide to put them on and go for a run when I've been avoiding it, but usually just makes me trip over them).

My attitude and my negative thoughts spiral down and get darker and deeper and sadder and more self-defeating. I don't want to run anywhere (except possibly away from me!) I don't go out and run...and that makes me want to run even less.

The only cure?

Stop stepping over my shoes and actually put them on. Go out the front door and start running. Put one foot in front of the other until the negative voices go away.

All last week, the thought of my upcoming 8.5 mile long run loomed over me like a dark shadow. Anytime I thought of it, the knot of dread in the pit of my stomach tightened with the certainty that I was unprepared and doomed to fail. The little negative voices were deflating me, their hissing persistence defeating me before I even started: Your training is inadequate. You only ran once last week. Your IT band is really hurting. You didn't sleep well last night. The weather is too cold for shorts and too warm for tights, and whichever one you choose is going to be wrong. Your favorite socks aren't clean. It will be too hard. You just don't want to. No, more than can't do it. 

I can't do it.

We had hired a babysitter, though, and George was coming with me. I had to do it.

The thing is, I don't need to quit. I just need to go run.

There's something about lacing up running shoes and leaving the house that tells those ugly, negative voices where they can go and how to get there. Every quarter mile, every half mile, every mile that ticks by, they are further and further behind me, fainter and fainter. I can go further than they can follow me.

On Saturday, I talked back to them. I told them, "SHUT UP. I AM DOING THIS." I said it over and over. Eventually, they got weaker, and I dropped the "shut up" because it was making me tired. Then I ran until I couldn't hear those voices at all.

By the time we were done, I had a new voice in my head...and it was saying, "I did it, and I can do it again."

I ran the 8.5 miles. It was slow, but I finished it all. It was tough, but I finished it all. I was worn out by the end, but I finished it all.

I only have one more long run before my half-marathon. It's a ten miler, scheduled a week from Saturday. The funny thing is, I'm not worried about it at all now. If I can do 8.5, I can definitely do ten. No problem.

I'm leaving my shoes out where I can see them, though...just in case.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Why you (still) need a "Moment List" this fall


Fall is here: the crisp air, the hot afternoon sun warming piles of leaves that are begging to be jumped in...the single, perfect golden leaf resting on the windshield...the crunch of dried leaves under running shoes...the chilly evenings marked by early-falling darkness.

In fact, fall is already a couple of weeks old. All your super-crafty, creative and organized friends have been planning their fall "bucket lists" since late July. They are knee-deep in all the fun things to do this season. Bonfires. Football games and tailgating. Camping out under the stars in the backyard. S'mores. Hot apple cider and pumpkin spice coffee and pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pie and...okay, pretty much pumpkin-flavored everything.

This post is for you, friend.
Maybe you got behind this year?
Maybe the start of school was incredibly hectic and you didn't get around to planning every detail of how you'd spend your time this fall?
Maybe you've been dealing with some major, life-altering things and you haven't had time to visit an apple orchard yet?

I'm here to tell you that it's not too late to make your list and do your stuff.

By now, nearly everyone has heard of the Bucket List. Made popular by a movie of the same name, it was originally a list of things two people wanted to do before they "kicked the bucket" and their time on earth ended. A Bucket List has become a way to keep track of what we'd like to accomplish during a given period of time.

I love the idea of Bucket Lists.

I just don't like the name.

Who wants to think about "kicking the bucket" all the time? 

More than Bucket Lists, I think we need Moment Lists. These lists are not about checking off what we want to accomplish. They are about shared moments we want to create, doing things that matter with people that matter.

This simple act of list-making is a powerful one. About five years ago, our family tried making a list of experiences we'd like to have during the weeks leading up to Christmas. It changed the way we experienced the holiday that year. Now, we begin every season this way.  Putting our intentions down as written words on paper gives them weight and makes them more likely to happen.

Making a list is making a commitment. By writing down our intentions, we choose the kinds of memories we want to create together. We make each other (and ourselves) a priority. We take charge of the important task of connecting with the people who matter most.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things we could do with our time during this season. There is a temptation to make the list include every possible thing we might want to do, even if we know there won't be time to do it all.

Don't do this to yourself. Your Moment List is supposed to help you enjoy life, not stress you out! You have to manage expectations a bit and take your situation into account as you build the list. That means the list is shorter some years than others. Last year, when our twin girls were born, for example, we knew not to aim for the same level of busy activity we had in previous years.

Here are some tips on how to make your own Moment List...not a perfect one, but one that will work for you right now.

  • Focus less on what you want to accomplish and more on how you want to feel. If baking always makes you tense, consider skipping your usual pumpkin bread making session and pick up a loaf at the bakery instead. Use that time to journal or hike or collect leaves with your kids. It's okay to let something go if it isn't working for you anymore.
  • Mix it up- go ahead and include some "big" activities that require advance planning (hiking and picnicking at your favorite trail with friends) if you want to. Just be sure to include some little things (sitting on the porch with a cup of tea, having dinner by candlelight, watching a sunset) that can more easily fit into your schedule at the spur of the moment. Many times, it's these ordinary moments that soothe our souls and help us feel connected.
  • Give everyone a voice. Have your child tell you one thing she really wants to do this fall. Find out what your spouse loved most about fall as a child. Ask your best friend to help you brainstorm ways to experience the season together. 
  • Use a calendar and set dates for some things up front to be sure there's room for what is most important to you, whether that is baking apple muffins, doing leaf rubbings or visiting the pumpkin patch.
  • Enjoy the great selection of new ideas out there. Look up a new recipe or craft idea and experiment a bit. Try searching Pinterest, Etsy, Craftsy, or favorite blogs for ideas. The new contributors on burlap and blue are a great source for inspiration.
  • Take comfort in your old favorites. You don't have to do it someone else's way, and it doesn't have to be new or trendy to be meaningful. Part of the joy of traditions is that they can be the same year after year.
  • No matter what, save that list. Keep it somehow - take a picture of it, or put it in a binder to revisit next year. Just looking at it together and talking about the things you did will help everyone remember how much fun you had. You don't have to scrapbook the pictures. In fact, you don't even have to take pictures to make memories...sometimes experiencing the moments fully together is even better than experiencing them from behind the camera. 

Your list can be as intricate and creatively displayed as you have time and energy to make it.
Here are some ideas:

Mantel list from Twelve Months of Fun 

Framed dry-erasable list from Come Together Kids

Printable list from Funky Polkadot Giraffe

Remember, though: a piece of notebook paper on your refrigerator door will work just as well. The important thing is not what the list looks like. The important thing is that you take the time to think about what you need to include in order to feel connected, refreshed, and rejuvenated during this time of year.

Even if you make a list now, it's possible you won't get to do it all. Things happen. Life happens. We can't ever control it as much as we'd like.

Make a list anyway. Today. Even though the season is already underway.
Maybe you can't do it all...but you can do something. Your list becomes part of the life you're living. Be intentional about what you include. Then, in the midst of all your doing and going, take some time to breathe in, look around you, focus on what's happening, and realize you are creating moments that matter.

It's never too late to do that, you know.

So what are you waiting for? Go make your list.

Why you (still) need a "Moment List" this fall

I am guest posting today over at burlap + blue about the popular "bucket lists" everyone's talking about and why you should definitely go to the trouble of making one (even if you, like me, would rather call it something else).  With October already half over, if making a list of things to do this fall sounds like too much pressure, this post is definitely for you...take a deep breath and click on over to read it!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

When you don't want to.

I am about to run further than I have run in two years.

This morning, my legs will carry me over eight miles.

It's not that far, not for people who run distances. Not for the old me. For the me who woke up this morning, though, it seems nearly impossible.

To be perfectly honest with you, I just don't feel like doing it. I'm tired. I didn't get enough sleep. My back is hurting and my left IT band has flared up a bit this week.

More importantly, the little voice in my head is hissing at me.

"You're not ready."
"You haven't trained enough."

Last night, we sat in stopped traffic behind a line of cars waiting for a serious car accident to be cleared. As we sat, irritated by our three screeching, overtired children, we grumbled about having to wait so long.

Then we learned there was a fatality.

Suddenly, sitting safely alive in our car, together, even if over half of us were melting down, didn't seem so bad.

And so this morning, even though I really don't want to run, I will. I will, because some cannot. I will, because I can.

I will. I choose to. I'm going to do it, now.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The start of a new normal

What is the sound of no keys typing?
It has been a silent couple of weeks for this blog.

Apparently, the way I handle stress is to curl in, get quiet and take stock. I gather myself up, consider my options, assess my resources. I test things out with a close friend or two.

I've done all of those things in the last two weeks. Now, it's time to share with you all.

On his fourth birthday, my son requested that we call him SuperSam all day. We did. (That's also how he will be known henceforth on the blog.)

On his fourth birthday, he had cake, a balloon, a few presents, and a trip to the pediatric neurologist. He now has a diagnosis of complex partial seizures caused by focal epilepsy.

This is something a lot of kids outgrow. We hope for that to be the outcome for him. Until he's six, he'll be on medication to control the seizures. We are all adjusting to that.

Other than this one piece of huge-feeling news, things are normal...which, as you know, means loud, chaotic, and someplace between hilarious and maddening.

And since I have come out of my stress-processing cocoon, you can expect to hear from me a bit more regularly.

I'll get some birthday party pictures up for you as quickly as I can, along with some updates about what the children are doing these days.

As always, we covet your prayers for our family and treasure your friendship and support. Thanks for journeying with us.