I Refuse to Put My Phone Down

Maybe that’s a bit extreme.  Maybe instead of “I refuse to put my phone down” it should say “I’m not going to stop capturing memories as often as I can.”

Because, I’m forgetting.  I hate to admit it, but there it is.

I’m forgetting.

I’m forgetting the way Cabin Girl looked as a baby.  Cabin Boy and Mr. Monkey, too.  I see their sweet baby faces every time I look at The Kraken, but when I try to remember their faces specifically… it’s slipping.

The toothy grins.  The little teeth.  The funny looks.

The phases of their precious babyhoods flew by so fast.  Their toddlerhoods and childhoods, everything sweeping by us in what feels like eternity but passes in a blink.  The days drag by but the weeks, months, and years are speeding past, too quickly to keep hold of.

And so I take my pictures.  I step out of one moment for 10 seconds so that I can capture it, savor it, and have it forever when I will no longer remember clearly.  I refuse to put my phone down, to be bullied by phrases like “You’re missing out on the here and now!”

I am enjoying the moment, stepping back from it, then jumping right back in.  No regrets that night, kicking myself for not capturing the way The Kraken gazed at her big brothers while they sang sweet songs to her.  They aren’t just moments for me, they’re moments for my kids, too.  Some day, my kids will hear me tell stories about the things they did together, the little, everyday things, and I’ll have to struggle to remember what they looked like.  Or, heavens forbid, I won’t remember some of the best, simple things they did.

So I refuse to put my phone down.

Because that day of not remembering is coming sooner than I’d hoped.

Husbands are a different type of Best Friend

Do you guys know Robin O’Bryant?  She’s hilarious.  Insightful.  A published author.  I adore her.

She wrote a piece that was published on the Huffington Post about how she’s not married to her best friend.  It’s really, like most everything she does, a great post.

Robin brings up some great points about her relationship with her husband, Zeb, vs the relationship she wants/has with her best gal-pal.

In my eyes, though, everything she describes about her relationship with her husband, does, indeed, make him her best friend.

I just think that husbands are a different type of best friend.

Now, I don’t know about your friends, but mine are all so different.

I have my best friend since childhood.  The one who I’ve been friends with for so long, it would just feel wrong to not call her my best friend.  She’s artistic, geeky, and loyal to a fault.  In the 18 (!!!) years that we’ve been friends, I think we have only had 1 argument, and that was very early in our friendship.  I can tell her most anything, but she’s not particularly girly, and we’ve always had a few differing interests.

My best friend since middle school, she’s my troublemaker friend.  Passing notes in class, introducing me to what being a teen living in the city was like.  The one who got to hangout with whoever she liked, whenever she liked.  Hacky sack, smoking dope, and listening to her friends play in their garage band.  An awesome dancer, so cute that everyone loved her, and quick to make friends.  We barely knew each other and then one day we started hanging out and have loved each other since.  We fell out of touch for a while, but when she had her first baby we found each other again and it was like we’d never stopped talking.

Another friend was Captain’s best friend’s girlfriend.  The more we’d all hang out, the more we came to enjoy each others’ company until she and I became great friends, despite being in completely different phases in our lives.  We became shopping buddies.  She, and another friend, filled the need I had for feminine past times.  Shoes became Cabin Girl’s first word because of the amount of time we’d spend shopping and having lunch dates together.

When Captain and I moved across the state with Cabin Girl, I made my first real, ‘from scratch’ adult friendship.  Our firstborns were born a few weeks apart and we were both looking for a friend in a new town.  She’s cautious and an introvert, but, surprisingly, I didn’t scare her away.  A bit nerdy and an insanely talented crafter, once she opened up, there was no going back.  The bond that began as commiserating mothers became a fast friendship of shared experiences and thoughtful conversations.

I consider all of these women, still, to be my best friends.

They each provide me with something the others don’t but it doesn’t make any of them less of a bestie.

The same way that what Captain provides me doesn’t make him any less of my best friend, either.

Robin said, “I want best friend who will tell me I need one more pair of shoes and a man who will remind me to save for my retirement account. I want to call my best friend when I feel I’ve been wronged and hear her say, “What a b*tch! I can’t believe she said that to you!” I want to be married to a man who says, “Who gives a sh*t what she thinks?””

My best friends offer me counsel just as often as they get mad on my behalf.

They gently remind me of what’s important after listening to me rant and rave about stupid things that upset me.

We commiserate on the frustrations of everything from diet to kids to societal issues and then bask in each others triumphs.

They are my shoulders to cry on and hands to hold.  My support system and my sounding boards.  My biggest champions and some of my most cherished people.

All of these things can be said about Captain, too.

Captain just gets the added bonus of seeing me naked almost every day.

So, yes, my husband is my best friend.

I don’t know what else I should call someone who has held me while crying, puking, and giving birth (on many separate occasions), knows all of my hopes and fears, has cared for me and those I love when we’re sick, can make me laugh until I hyperventilate with a well-timed look, infuriates and excites me simultaneously, and has made me feel complete these past 8 years.

Happy Anniversary, Captain.

bestfriendpost

I am proud to call you my Best Friend.

 

Accept that aging doesn’t diminish spousal attraction

Does age change the attraction you feel for your spouse?  Do you worry about your spouse wishing you looked different?

Even though I’m not yet out of my twenties, being a mother of 4 is taking its toll on me.  Mentally, emotionally, and, most notably, physically.  Captain will be 30 this year, and the tolls of hard work and stress are showing on him, too.

Tell-tale signs of self-neglect lay the foundation for insecurities that I’d hoped to be past by this point of my life; Dry skin, yesterday’s makeup still smeared beneath my eyes, crows feet, frown lines, and frizzy hair, to name a few.  Add onto those the major changes having babies puts you through; Wider hips, stretch marks, extra weight, and changed breasts.

So many things that I look at and think: Ugh.

Enough things to make me wonder why Captain still takes an interest in me, as I’m clearly not the 17 year old girl he encountered when we first met anymore.

Things that make me consider expensive treatments to fix.

Until the other night, when I was cutting Captain’s hair and noticed that his hair is thinning.  If, as they say, men should look to their mother’s side of the family to find out what their predispositions for hairloss will be are true, then he’s on the road to becoming completely bald before he’s 40.

I looked at him, really looked, later that night, and saw what I’ve always known was there: stretchmarks over his muscular thighs, laugh lines and crows feet of his own, moles, and his receding hairline.  Things that really aren’t attractive at all. spousalattract

I really absorbed the way Captain has started to age, and you know what?

It didn’t change the way I feel about him one bit.

His extra weight doesn’t make me want him less.  His complexion doesn’t make me less attracted to him.  His silvering, thinning hair doesn’t make me want to go out and find a younger man to romp around with.

Why would I assume that the faults I see in myself would make him love or desire me less?

So, the next time he calls me beautiful, I’ll accept it with a smile.

When he says he finds me sexy, I’ll put my self-depreciating doubt behind me.

Because I love more than his body.

He deserves me to be accepting of his loving more than mine.

I Just Want to Be Alone book review

Plus my very own tale of embarrassment.

When I told Captain that I had been given the opportunity to read and review a book called I Just Want to Be Alone, he raised his eyebrows in a look that clearly said, “Oh, REALLY?”

So I had to quickly explain that I didn’t want to be alone (totally a lie), but the premise of the book was a collection of stories from some fabulous lady bloggers about the favorite men in their lives.bealone

He may have muttered something about Man-bashing at this point.

Which is, honestly, sort of what I expected.

There was one piece that explained why never having a spouse sounded like a pretty sweet deal, and really, who doesn’t long to have the bed all to themselves on occasion?

The rest, however, were wonderful, honest, open stories that really highlighted the challenges different couples face and embody.

On the few occasions I was gut-rolling laughing out loud (I’m looking at you Kristen (Life on Peanut Layne) and Bethany (I Love Them the Most When They’re Sleeping)) Captain would look over, realize I was reading my man-bashing book, and turn away, shaking his head, curiosity unfulfilled.

There were stories of engagement, pre-wedding jitters, and DIY projects gone wrong, and they all did such an incredible job of showcasing the unique bond each of these couples had, that it inspired me to share a story of Captain and I.

Mostly, it’s a story of how Captain should have run away screaming.  He must really believe it when he says I’m awesome though…

We had been dating for a whole two weeks.  I had freshly moved out of my parent’s house, giving me the freedom to stay the night wherever I wanted, and Captain was still staying with his mom, taking over the entire basement as his bedroom/media room.  Captain and I weren’t having sex at this point (I know, be in awe of our willpower for another week) so overnight stays were filled with sickly sweet cuddling and smooches, instead of sweat and heavy petting.

We stayed up late, cuddling in his bed, watching Harry Potter movies until we passed out.

I’m going to drop a little foreshadowing on you now… Have you ever had a dream that was so vivid that you just knew it was really happening?  For instance, you need to pee NOW, so you hunt down a toilet, and the feeling of relief is so real…

Oh yes.  THAT.

2 weeks into our relationship, no sex, and binge watching Harry Potter, and Captain had me awkwardly shaking him awake saying, “Um… I think I drank too much water before we went to sleep.”

Instead of doing what I would expect from any guy of his hotness status, i.e. Laughing, telling me to GTFO, then mocking me through any avenue he could find to publicly announce my bed-wetting status, he sleepily said, “Oh.”

We got up, stripped the sheets, and threw them in the wash with my pants and underwear.  He lent me a pair of sleeping shorts and we snuggled up on the couch for the rest of the night.

So, dear Mother-In-Law of mine, now you know why the bed was stripped and we were sleeping on the couch when you peeked in to announce you were heading off to work the next morning.

Lucky for Captain (and me, let’s face it), it was a fluke occurrence, and the only bed-wetters we deal with now are our kids.

Mine isn’t the only bedwetting tale to come out as a result of this anthology, but you’ll just have to read the book yourself to experience the other, and much more hilarious, one! And, while my husband is not effortlessly thin (he’s a sympathy weight gainer), doesn’t take on major DIY projects (without a considerable amount of nagging reminding), and will pop his own zits, there was something in each story these amazing ladies told that I could relate to and empathize with.

Though some stories were tinged with sadness (my heart still aches for Courtney (Our Small Moments) and Kathy (Kissing the Frog)), they all have the humorous bent I have come to know and love from those associated with Jen of People I Want to Punch in the Throat.  I recommend that anyone with a spouse, serious boyfriend, room mate, or companion pet that fills in for any of the latter get their hands on this anthology.

And, lucky for you, it’s available on Amazon!

How to Avoid Common Food Allergens in the Drive Thru

How do you avoid common food allergens when you dine out?

I’m on a pretty hardcore elimination diet to try and pinpoint what is causing The Kraken to break out in a massive rash. No dairy, soy, nuts, eggs, or fish. I’m also trying to avoid corn, as that’s a pretty big allergen, and watching my gluten intake (because it makes me feel better).

Being on this diet makes it difficult to plan ahead. Everything needs to be made fresh, for the most part. I’ve found a few quick snacks that tide me over (sunflower seed butter and jam on a brown rice cake, for instance), but, in general, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen cutting up fruits and veggies.

Which brings me to my dilemma.

I want to take the kids on a roadtrip over spring break.

Yeah.

Aside from being insane, it is going to be next to impossible for me to prepare and have Elimination Diet friendly food handy.

So, I started perusing the sites of various fast food establishments on our road trip route to come up with a list of things I can eat should we need to hit the drive thru. I thought I’d share that list with anyone else who may be needing a few pointers on what they can have, as opposed to what they can’t.

All of this information can be found simply by Googling the restaurant name + allergy menu.

Like I said, I’m avoiding Dairy (milk), Soy, Nuts, Eggs, and Fish. This is what I pulled together to help me avoid all of those things simultaneously.

roadtripmenu

Papa Johns (I know, technically not a drive thru, but I had to include a pizza option for our Family Friday pizza and movie night)

Original Hand Tossed Dough- Wheat
Pizza sauce
BBQ sauce
All toppings (except chicken (which contains soy!) and anchovies (because fish, duh))
Breadsticks
Pizza dipping sauce
BBQ dipping sauce
Buffalo dipping sauce
I had a Papa’s Works with no cheese and it was BOMB.

Burger King

Apple slices
French fries
Hash browns
BBQ Roasted Jalapeno sauce
BBQ dipping sauce
Sweet and Sour dipping sauce
Chicken nuggets
Artisan Style Bun
Whopper and Hamburger patties
Crispy chicken patty
If you feel like building your own sandwich, ask for an Artisan bun, no cheese, with ketchup and mustard. Just avoid the pickles; they have soy!

McDonald’s

Beef patties
Artisan roll
Bakery style bun
Chipotle bbq sauce
Grilled chicken fillet
Sweet chili sauce
Chicken nuggets/Mighty wings/Mcchicken (use your best judgement: all breaded chickens here are prepared in veg oil blend that may include soy)
English Muffin
Oatmeal (w or w/o brown sugar)
Sausage patty
Bacon
Salads (no cheese; grilled chicken)
If eggs are no problem for you, AVOID getting them from McD’s, as they are prepared with soy!

Wendy’s

Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Italian Vinaigrette
Light Honey French Dressing
Garden Side Salad
Apple Slices
Plain Baked Potato
Rich and Meaty Chili
Regular Chicken Nuggets (may be cooked in oil with fish and eggs, so use your best judgement)
Fries (again, the oil)
BBQ Sauce
Sweet and Sour Sauce
Jr. Hamburger
Jr. Patty
¼ lb. Patty
Ultimate Chicken Grill Fillet
Homestyle Chicken Fillet (oil)
Applewood Smoked Bacon
Oatmeal with Summer Berries
Plain Oatmeal (w/ or w/o brown sugar)
Homestyle potatoes (oil)
Plain toasted bagel
Sausage patty
As far as options go, Wendy’s ranked the best IMO. Potato + Chili; Garden Side Salad + Grilled Chicken Fillet; a Jr. Hamburger + Apples; Bagel with bacon and sausage; or Oatmeal with berries.

Taco Bell and Taco Time disappointed me something fierce. Nearly everything had soy. If you’d be satisfied with a side of black beans topped with guacamole, then go ahead… otherwise, steer clear.

Never fear, though, for there is a place you CAN have a tasty burrito!

Taco Del Mar

Black/Pinto/Refried beans
Shredded beef
Black bean and corn salsa
Chicken
Pork Carnitas
Seasoned rice
Taco shell 7”
Tortilla chips/strips
Tortilla shells
This is about the only choice for gluten free options, too. Plus, they’re used to everyone customizing their food, so they won’t look at you like you’re nutso!!

and lastly…

Subway

Every bread on Subway’s menu may contain soy. I’d spring for a salad, but, if you’re dying for a sandwich…
Italian
9 grain wheat
Sourdough
Oven roasted chicken (also may contain soy)
Cold cut combo meats
Black forest ham
Italian BMT meats
Roast beef (the only meat not containing something!!)
Turkey breast (again, potential soy)
Buffalo sauce
Mustard
Sweet Onion Sauce
Although, if eating yoga mat material isn’t your thing, I’d avoid Subway’s breads altogether.

There you have it!  I’m looking forward to being able to make informed decisions on our road-trip.

Is there something in particular you take pains to avoid while on the road, for you or your family?

I am my own worst critic.

I’m struggling.

I thought I was over it, but I’m not.

Is it because I’m a Gemini?  I truly feel like there are two parts of me.

My ‘bad’ twin is Elsa.  My ‘good’ twin is Anna.

Over and over in my brain I hear them singing in reprise:

Anna: It’s okay, you can just unfreeze it!

Elsa: No, I can’t.
I — I don’t know how!

Anna: Sure you can! I know you can!
`Cause for the first time in forever,
Elsa: Oh
I’m such a fool!
I can’t be free!

Anna: You don’t have to be afraid…
Elsa: No escape from the storm inside of me!

Anna: We can work this out together!
Elsa: I can’t control the curse!

Anna: We’ll reverse the storm you’ve made
Elsa: Anna, please, you’ll only make it worse!

Anna: Don’t panic!
Elsa: There’s so much fear!

Anna: We’ll make the sun shine bright!
Elsa: You’re not safe here!

Anna: We can face this thing together!
Elsa: No!

Anna: We can change this winter weather!
Elsa: AHHHHH…

Anna: And everything will be all right…
Elsa: I CAN’T!

I can’t.

I’m pulled so many different ways by this storm.  This damn depression that has me feeling like every day is eternal winter.

In attempting to find help in the things I enjoy, writing and, recently, using oil pastels, I am left dissatisfied.

Nothing lives up to my expectations anymore.

I am my own biggest critic… I can’t control the curse…

I am struggling to hear the good twin’s voice… there’s so much fear

I am looking for ways to take the good in my life to heart… you’re not safe here…

And I’m failing… I can’t…

I feel like I need to put some of my goals on the back-burner, but that reeks of failure.

I don’t want to be okay.  I want to be great.  Instead of trying and failing at being great, I do nothing.

Yet, I’m stretched so thin with hopes and dreams that every minuscule detail is magnified, and I can not look past the parts that need fixing to see a whole.

But how to appreciate the whole, without ignoring the things that do need to be fixed..?

I’m working on it.

But not well enough.

Coffeeless Animal Conversation Hallucinations

I was standing at the end of the driveway, watching Cabin Girl walk the block to school, and the small dogs of two separate neighbors happened to be out in their yards.

The one across the street saw me, and started barking.

The other, tucked safely behind its wooden fence, barked back.

Bark.  Bark bark.  Bark. Bark. Bark bark bark.

My sleep deprived and not completely caffeinated brain, heard this:

Hey!  Person!  There’s a person outside!

Where?!

Image © Damomz | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Image © Damomz | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Here!  Here’s the person!

I can’t see!  Is it still there?!

Yep!  Person!  Person right here!

Where?!

Right here!

I can’t see the person, I want to see the person, is the person still there, OMGAPERSON!

Hey!

What? 

Person’s leaving.

Good grief, I need to sleep more.

 

Cutting Ties

My alarm goes off at an ungodly hour.  With a nursing baby, all sleep is precious.  It seems asinine to willingly wake up before the sun.

I gently wake Captain, then quietly walk out to the kitchen to get the coffee brewing for him.  None for me, though.  Not today.

I return to the bedroom, pull on my yoga pants and change into a relatively clean shirt.  I’m not winning any awards for best-dressed patient.

My cousin arrives to take care of the 3 older kids for an undetermined amount of hours.  We settle the baby in her car seat while relaying the basic information; feed them, let them watch tv, Cabin Girl needs to be ready for school and out the door by 8:30.  Nothing complicated.  Keep it easy for everyone.

It’s time to go, and I’m not ready.  But, I have to be.

Captain, the baby, and I get into the car.  The sun is taking its time making an appearance.  It is still bitingly cold and dark.

We make some small talk during the drive; how I’m grateful my surgery is first thing, what I packed for the baby to make Captain’s alone time with her easier, wondering if the kids have woke up yet to discover us gone.  Mostly, though, we are silent.

Captain reaches for my hand, knowing, if not understanding, that my heart and brain are enduring a whirlwind of emotions.  His hand is warm and strong, like he always is.  Those are two of the reasons why I love him.

It is too early for valet parking, so we find a spot and pick our way through the dimly lit parking lot.  The wind blows fierce and bitterly cold, like the pang of uncertainty that keeps surfacing whenever I actually think about what I am heading towards.

I get checked in and the nurse is blunt, not yet awake enough for the long day ahead of her.  She warms slightly when she notices Captain holding our baby, and she gives me a small, understanding smile.

We find a place to sit in a waiting room of anxious patients and their soon-to-be caregivers.  I take the baby in my arms and lose myself in her smiles and wondering eyes until a different nurse comes through the double doors and calls my name.

I put on a smile and give the baby back to Captain, then I stand and follow the nurse.  My steps are confident.  Eager, even.  No need to share the terror gripping my heart with anyone.

Through minutes that feel like hours, I am undressed, cleaned, poked, and prodded to the surgical prep nurse’s satisfaction.  I answer what seem like the million and one questions I have already answered dozens of times before.

Captain brings the baby to me to nurse one more time.  They are a good distraction.

My Doctor comes to make sure I’m all set, cooing as he always does over the baby, and reassuring me that it will be quick and easy.  I smile and nod, but, when the anesthesiologist comes in to discuss what is going to happen to me, I can feel the tears prick my eyes.

I have been through similar surgeries before, I’m not too worried, I hear myself say.  If he knew I was lying, would he have proceeded?

The nurse returns, and it’s time.  Swift kisses are exchanged with Captain and the baby, and I am pushed down a corridor full of masked faces bustling about their morning and through another set of double doors into a room as cold as a refrigerator.

The anesthesiologist directs me onto the operating table and proceeds to put ekg stickers on my head, chest, and ribcage.  I remind myself to breathe…

…and then I wake up.

I am warm, and groggy, and there is an obnoxious beeping near my head.

I close my eyes and drift in a fog for seconds that feel like days.

A recovery nurse comes to my bedside and asks gentle questions.  Questions which I forget instantly, but I answer, and the answers are good enough that I am moved to another recovery area where Captain and the baby could come sit with me.

Captain smiles.  He tells me that the Doctor said everything went perfectly.

Even through the fog of drugs, my heartache is acute.

It went perfectly.

I am sterile.

I will never bear children again.

And, though I wish to cry, I smile.

This was the best choice for our family.

I have five reasons not to have another baby.  One is the man I love; He does not want more children.  The other 4 reasons are the beautiful children we already have; They deserve me in a quality I could not offer if we were to have another baby.

There are other reasons, yes, but these are the ones that matter the most.

I don’t regret having the surgery.

But I have not yet come to terms with cutting the ties of the most defining part of my life.

Maybe… maybe I never will.

Teachers Should Adopt THIS Kind of Valentine’s Day Celebration

I have never made it secret that I was a weird kid.

I spent a lot of after-school time in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades crying because I felt like I didn’t have any friends.  One of the friends I did have, used to punch me in the gut.  Looking back now, I understand that a lot of us just didn’t know how to express ourselves.  Dare I hang out with this person, or will someone make fun of me?  I KNOW!  Pretend I don’t like them, but hang out with them anyway! 

Others would pretend they liked me and then ridicule me amongst their real friends.  No, don’t make fun of Jessica, she’s one of us COOL KIDS. *snickering laughter*

Yeah.  Confusing much?

Valentine’s Day was always the worst.

My box decorations were never as good as the popular girls’.  My Valentine’s cards, while I thought they were cute, were generally the least trendy around.  And, even though the rule “Bring everyone in your class a Valentine card” was there, you knew people liked you if you got candy in your box, or even multiple Valentine cards from the same person.  Even better were the super-special Valentines from secret admirers.

Every year, I would get my hopes up.  Maybe this will be the year that someone secretly admires me.  Maybe I’ll get a piece of candy from someone.  Maybe my box will be the prettiest.

Off I would go, tummy fluttering, palms sweaty.  Hopeful that this year, THIS year would be it… yet, as the Valentine’s Day party wore on, the fluttering would turn sour, and I would go home with a bunch of meaningless, store-bought paper images with general “To: My Friend” sentiments.  Rarely did anyone take the time to write my name.

The past few years I have watched Cabin Girl blossom, making friendships with any and everyone.  It is, honestly, a relief to know that she will never want for friends to make her feel special.

Now though, I worry about the other kids in her class.  The ones who are like I was.  The ones who may look at my daughter and think, Why don’t people treat me the way they treat her?

In all the hype leading up to Valentine’s Day this year, I received a note from Cabin Girl’s teacher:

“Please send $2 to school for our Valentine’s Day celebration.  The 2nd grade classes will be decorating cookies in lieu of exchanging cards.”

I was overwhelmed by the sense of gratitude I feel for these teachers.

Part of it, yes, is because I was really not looking forward to spending money/time on cards that, really, kids will be disappointed in if there isn’t sugar attached.

hpantival

But mostly, it gives me relief to know that one of biggest potentially disappointing situations a kid can face through the school year is being removed.

Today, I hope that everyone enjoys the camaraderie that is experienced when doing something new and special together.

I am eagerly awaiting Cabin Girl’s return home, so I can hear about her day made special, not from receiving, but from doing.

I hope she saves her cookie so I can see it.  And, for $2, it better be a big freaking cookie.

 

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