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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Happy FIRST Birthday, Zachary James (the 28th)!!! It is un-stinkin-believable that we have a one-year-old. Really, somehow this year has been the longest and yet the shortest the best and yet the worst all at the same time. (I’m trying to avoid the “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” but it does fit quite well). It’s been full of ups and downs – the biggest up, of course, being our Zachy. (Perhaps the runner-up up being my new found love for professional Therapy and prescription-strength happy pills).

Zachary rang in the party day in true Martin style: with a bit of a trauma. Unbeknownst to me, Matthew opened the gate and was “helping” Zachy go downstairs (“He was going feet first”). But apparently, at some point, said-Zachy decided to no longer go feet first. I was on the phone and had to say, “Oh my God! Zach just fell down the stairs. OK. Bye.” (Yes, I did manage a fairly polite sign-off). Zach was lying at the bottom of the stairs, crying. Thankfully, he shook it off under a minute and was totally fine. Apparently celebrating the big oh-one with a mild concussion is all the rage.

Friday night, we had Zach’s big birthday bash. To celebrate, we invited my family and a few friends (the “few” somehow turned into about 25 people) for pizza and cake. Winnie Pooh was the theme and this cake seriously took the…cake. I’ve never in my life seen a cake so big. Yes, I did order – on purpose – the cake that feeds 50 people (we took the other half to our Engaged Encounter dinner Saturday night), but this thing was seriously freakishly large. It was ridiculously cute too. It had the standard writing, Happy 1st Birthday, Zachary! and was decorated all Pooh-style including a little plastic decoration of Roo being pushed on a tree swing by Tigger with Pooh looking on. Quite a touching scene, really.

Zachary wasn’t quite sure what to think of the piece of cake displayed before him. He was definitely a fan of the 10 little children surrounding his high chair, cheering him on though. Big Bro Matthew decided to help out by using frosting as face paint on his brother. However once Zach had a taste of it, he needed no help in doing his own facial-decorating and facial cake-stuffing. No surprise here: this boy wanted his cake and ate it too…and threw it and adorned with it and covered himself from head to toe in it. (Pictures to come soon). Poor kid – I think he woke up with a pretty severe frosting hangover.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

And the answer is:

Dear Customer:
Thank you for your email. We appreciate your letter expressing your feelings on the models we use in our catalogs. We do understand and we want you to know your complaint is not unique. In an effort to uphold customer satisfaction we welcome your feedback and will forward to the appropriate departments. We look forward to serving you in the near future.
We've Got it! Comfort, Fit & Value in Women's Apparel and Footwear.
April Flores
Woman Customer Support
Should you need to contact us again regarding this inquiry, please use the convenient link below. This will take you to our secure contact form and will ensure prior correspondence is connected to your follow-up inquiry. There is no need to paste prior correspondence into the "Additional Information" box. We look forward to serving you again soon.

While Zachary may no longer need my womanly goods for his food source, it’s nice to know that he’s still attached to me…literally…attached…to my hair. I’ve addressed this in my blogging days of Yore – that Zachary has this thing for my hair. If I have it pulled back in a pony tail, he gets all distraught and tries to pull it out. It’s his security thing – sure he’s got little blankies and soft animal cuddlies, but nothing works quite so well as Mommy’s hair. Yes, it’s weird, I know.

Would it be weird to ask the lady who cuts my hair if I could keep the clippings? I’ll find one of those crafty moms (you know the ones: they scrapbook, quilt all their child’s bedding, monogram their underwear, make their own organic baby food from fruit and vegetables they grow in their own garden, etc., etc.). Anyway, I’ll have this crafty mom fashion a special blankie for Zachary made entirely out of my hair.

Gross. That’s totally gross.

OK, on to a completely unrelated topic but one that I must address. We received a mini-catalogue in the mail today. It’s called Woman Within. I had to visit the website for further information. I learned that Woman Within is “the new name of Lane Bryant Catalogue.” They sell clothing of “comfort, fit & value for sizes 12W to 44W.” Now, my first question pertains to this name Woman Within. Are they saying that there is a woman buried deep within this plus-sized woman? What’s wrong with the woman on the outside? May I remind America, that size 12-14ish is the AVERAGE size of the modern American woman. But really, on further inspection, I’ve discovered that the woman within refers to the models for this clothes catalogue. They are carrotesque and I could eat one for lunch (slathered in Ranch dressing), therefore, I too, would have a woman within! It’s absurd that they have tiny women model clothes that are meant to appeal to larger gals. When they put these size 2-ish models in size 20W-ish clothes, it’s nearly impossible to see the woman within. The models are swallowed by the clothes and because of their slight measurements; the clothes appear ginormous (giantly enormous). Why? Why would they do this? I demand answers, and I’ve asked for them. I just sent an inquiring email to the customer service department of Woman Within. We’ll just see what they have to say for themselves. Doh! They’re telling me, “The websites for the Redcats USA family of brands are temporarily unavailable. We will be back shortly.” Apparently, they don’t want to receive my pro-larger ladies email. There are plenty of beautiful, bigger-boned, realistic role MODELS that they could employ. Ridiculous. OK, now I’ve successfully sent my email, so we’ll see what kind of response I get. I’ll keep you abreast. (Yes, pun intended by this no-longer-nursing Mama).

Monday, April 23, 2007

I worry that I might be scaring away my loyal readers. My blogs are getting longer – reading them is becoming more of a time commitment. Wordy? Moi? To those who know me, this won’t come as a shock. I was voted “Chattiest” in my book club – a title I accept with pride and plan to retain. Runner-up Kendra may give me a run for my money, but she’s really no match for my skills; I can totally take her down.

Liane, my dear friend and college roommate knows me really well. She once said, “Ask Jenny a yes or no question, and you’d better be ready for at least a paragraph answer.” This is the poor girl who ran a FIVE HOUR Marathon with me and got to listen to me talk the WHOLE TIME. Lucky Liane!

So, as I commit more time to my writing, you may need to commit more time to your reading, but fear not! I’m here to help you get through the ever increasing wordiness of my blog. My recommendation, nay my prescription is that you sit down for your regular blog-reading session with plenty of time, a cup of coffee, and –at minimum – one ounce of dark chocolate. I guarantee it will make your reading experience all the more enjoyable.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hooray! Mike was able to get pictures up at He’s using a new program now, so it’s much easier. Hopefully this means it won’t be months and months of waiting before our adoring fans can view us.

* * * * *

I presented Mom with her birthday gift on Friday. My ‘blog book’ Jenny’s Thoughts: Tales of a Terrorist Cervix and Beyond. Pretty catchy title, don’t ya think? She loved it. She was totally surprised (or at least appeared to be). And she cried! (So, therefore, I cried, and Dad even teared up a bit though he’d probably never admit it. Matthew was a bit confused with all the teary blubbering). It’s always a good sign when someone cries over a gift…well, usually a good sign anyway. I hadn’t changed any of my blog, just kept it to its true rambling and random form. But I did add a Foreword. (It was fun writing a dedication, I felt all official and author-y)! Here it is:


This story isn’t finished, and I don’t know when it will be.

What began as an on-line BLOG in the hospital while on pregnancy bed rest has developed into so much more. It has become a way to keep in touch with family and friends. A way to share cute anecdotes of our kids. A way for me to vent the sometimes – and often – frustrating existence of a stay-at-home Mom. A way for me to release and share the entertaining, the confused, and the true thoughts that run around in my head.

I hope you will enjoy my random, frequently pointless tidbits as much as

I’ve enjoyed writing them.

I have not made any corrections to my Blog entries. You will find the occasional grammar error, missing word and plenty of run-on sentences. Please bear in mind that for quite some time my Blogs were written while under the influence of:

drugs, weeks spent in a bed, extreme sleep deprivation, an addiction to caffeine,

the emotions of Post Partum Depression,

and an excess of antioxidants (in the form of dark chocolate).

* * * * *

I dedicate this work to my family.

I couldn’t have gotten through any of this without you.

Mom, Happy Birthday! You are wonderful, and I love you.

Dad, thank you for your never-ending support and help. I love you.

Zachary, you are worth every hour I spent in bed and more. I love you.

Matthew, you were the best surprise and are perfect the way you are. I love you.

MIKEY, you are my best friend and my everything. I love you SO much.

* * * * *

Yes, yes. Touching and mushy; I know. Speaking of mushy and – in this case, conflicting – emotions. I have news about our big boy Zachary – he weaned himself! He’s no longer my nursing little baby. It’s very bittersweet for me. I began to gradually give him bottles of whole milk, and holy moly – he took to them like a champ. So, before I knew it, we were down to just one nursing a day. Around 4am, I’d change his diaper, and then he’d have a snack before going back to sleep. I was thinking we’d keep this up until at least after his birthday (my plan was always to nurse him for a year, like I did Matthew). It was nice to no longer wear nursing bras or attempt to nurse a squirmy baby discretely in public, but I was really not feeling ready to be completely done with nursing.

What if Zachary is the last baby I ever get to nurse? We had such a hard time nursing in the beginning, I was going to do it for a while to make it worth all the pain. Nursing is the only time I can cut this mover and shaker’s finger nails. I get to have a few moments of peace and quiet when I’m nursing him, just the two of us – usually in his room away from distraction (named Matthew). Sometimes I’d even get to do a few minutes of reading! And in nursing, he’s taking some of my over-indulgent calories for the team!

Anyway, these were some of my thoughts going in to the whole weaning process. Obviously there are GREAT things about no longer nursing: no more nasty nursing bras (I’m thinking about burning them), in many ways bottle-feeding is easier, I get my body back (though I’ll miss him burning the extra calories for me), I can booze it up to my heart’s content should I choose to, Mike gets to do as much feeding (if not more!), I could go on an overnight without Zachary!, etc., etc. I’m trying to focus on these bonuses since two nights ago, Zach totally weaned himself.

4am, I wake up to the usual cries from the other room, change his diaper and go to nurse him, but wait! He’ll have none of it. He even cries and turns away, choosing instead to suck his thumb. I’ll totally admit that my heart broke a little bit. I tried again, but no. He’s done. My baby is growing up. He’s no longer dependant on Mommy. I was the only one that could do that, and now that he’s done, I can feed him in the same way as everyone else. Time to let go, let him grow up. He fell asleep sucking his thumb, with his head on my shoulder. I rocked him in the chair for a little bit just enjoying the moment before I put him back in his crib.

About 15 minutes later he woke back up crying. I laid there for a minute thinking, OK; I could go try to nurse him, but…”Honey? Mike. MIKE. Can you go give Zach a bottle? He won’t nurse.” Tag; you’re it! And I rolled over and went back to sleep. I could get used to this.

* * * * *

I don’t know if I’m the only one who does this, and maybe, it’s a little bit weird, but I name people – I give strangers that I frequently see a title. In middle school, we would give code names to the boys that we liked, that way we could talk about them and no one would know to whom we were referring. Man, we were so cool. Then, I remember doing this in high school when I took the public bus from our quaint little island suburb into the city. I had a bus driver who became the “Nazi Bus Driver.” He literally relished in his ability to make unsuspecting riders trip and fall into each other while walking down the aisle. Just as a business woman was about to gracefully sit down, he’d release the break, let the bus roll a few feet and then SLAM, making her fall into the old man reading the paper. And his favorite was to do this when the group of us girls would get up to exit for our short walk to Holy Names Academy. He’d wait until we were all standing gathering up our bags, and then SLAM – backpacks, my flute, our dress-code-clad bodies went sprawling. He wore a black beret with a small silver pin of a naked woman. I finally decided I would kill him with kindness and every morning would greet him with an overly huge grin and bright, cheesy “Good Morning.” He’d never even look at me. (Except of course, when he’d look up in the mirror to see us sprawled out on the floor of the bus).

Also on the bus was “Chicken Soup Lady.” We don’t know where she was going or what she was doing. But every morning she’d get on the bus at the same stop and get off at the same stop (I suppose that’s what most people do though, huh?). She always wore a South American-style Poncho and she always carried a fairly large cooler with her. And she always smelled like Chicken Soup. Obviously, chances are good that that’s what was in the cooler. She talked to herself nonstop, and she didn’t walk to the bus or away from the bus; she ran – a slow, low gait (looking a bit like a witch or something equally odd and scary) with the cooler swinging next to her.

I carried this title-giving habit into my college years. Unlike high school, in college you don’t know the names of everyone in your class, but you do end up usually sitting in the same place. (Isn’t that funny? Have you noticed that? We are such creatures of habit. You sit at one desk on the first day, and chances are really good that you’ll sit in that exact same spot for the rest of the semester. It’s like we subconsciously need – and miss – the comfort of “assigned seating” from the days of yore). In one History class, I remember the players well. There was: “Left Door Late Girl” (not very creative, I know): she always came in the left door and she was always...late, “Crusty Old Guy,” and “Sorority Bubble Gum Girl.” My friend Ingrid and I would even carry over the naming to people we knew. One of our French Professors, a rather large and overbearing woman, became “Madame Linebackerrrr” (complete with French r-in-throat accent). My parents knew of this habit and these people and would ask about them occasionally – the unsuspecting characters became a part of family dinnertime discussion.

It goes as no surprise, that I’ve carried this title-giving trend into the current aspects of my life: the mommy cliques at the park and my yoga or spin classes at the gym. At the gym we find “Short Hair Chic” – she is always working out. No matter what time of day I go, she’s there. There’s “Muscle Grunting Man” – there’s actually quite a few of these but one, in particular, stands out. He wears a long-sleeve, skin tight, bright yellow shirt; it has the added bonus of being see-through just in case you wanted to see his well-developed pecks and nipples. He grunts when lifting weights…louder than anyone else in the gym. Apparently the louder you grunt, the buffer you are. I’ve tried the grunting thing but it just doesn’t work for me – maybe you need to be lifting more than 15 pounds though.

Let’s move on to Yoga. First of all, have I told you that the Yoga instructor just happens to be my PE and Health teacher from middle school? Yes, I learned 7th grade Sex Ed from her too. And now hearing her voice explain what position to move into next brings back some odd memories, that’s for sure. Anyway, in Yoga I’d like to introduce you to “Crocheted-Cozy Yoga Mat Girl.” She’s one of my favorites. Not your typical, die-hard Yogi, this gal is quite overweight, and claims that she ‘loves Kathy’ – our instructor, ‘Sun Salutation and can really tell when she hasn’t been to Yoga in a few days.’ (I did actually speak with her once). At my first ever class, I occasionally watched, intrigued as Crocheted-Cozy Yoga Mat Girl didn’t really participate in any of the Sun Salutation that she loves so much. She pretty much just sat on her mat, leaning up against the wall and watched as the rest of us stick our butts in the air during Down-Dog. (Maybe she’s on to something though). And then my second or third trip to Yoga class, I overheard her berating ME to another class member because I (“that new girl” – complete with gesture so I knew that that was indeed my title) apparently was in her preferred Yoga mat spot. Again, just like in school, we self-assign an area and get all bijiggedy when someone takes it. Seeing your butt in the mirror from a different angle during Down-Dog is very disconcerting, it turns out.

Next, I’d like to introduce to “Way too Short Shorts Old Guy.” He’s stuck in the 80’s and does Yoga in REALLY, freakishly short track shorts. Not OK. Not acceptable. But I do actually like him, because he provides entertainment for after class (I try to avoid looking at him during Yoga for the obvious reasons). While I’m rolling up my mat and packing up, I enjoy discretely eavesdropping while he flirts with instructor Kathy. Once, he even made a move. She’d mentioned that she needed some new New Age music for class, and he surprised her with a burned New Age CD from his personal connection. (This is the modern day equivalent of making a Mix Tape for the girl you like). She thanked him with a hug. (I thought to myself, OK, loose the short shorts, buddy and maybe you’ll have a chance with her)!

Finally, we have “Jeans Bangle-Dangle Bracelets.” This gal is about sixty years old and chooses to come to class in tight-non-stretchy jeans. How can you attempt to be flexible and hold positions in jeans? It’s hard enough in stretchy yoga pants! And that’s just it, you can’t. She’ll attempt a balance move, say Tree or Eagle, and every two seconds tips over and has to put her foot down for support. I’m fine with that, the problem that I have is her arms are covered in bangly-dangly silver bracelets. So every almost-fall-over is accompanied by loud and distracting clinking. How am I to find a state of Zen with that going on? Maybe I should just follow the example of Crocheted-Cozy Yoga Mat Girl and give up all together and just watch everyone else. I mean, she does have a crocheted cozy for her yoga mat. She’s intense and really into it, so she must know what she’s doing.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Somehow I’d like to find the words that would summarize this past year. Tomorrow is my Mom’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!!), and I’m printing off my entire 92 pages of Blogging action for her. (I’ll be buying a new printer cartridge today). Zachary’s first birthday is the end of next week, so I feel it would be nice to have a little tidy verbose bow wrapped around this year of my life. I’m not done with my blog, but I am a closure kind of a girl (most specifically a happy ending girl), so let’s just see what I can do.

What began as a way to communicate to the world outside of a hospital room has continued to help me (attempt to) maintain sanity. The fact that a year has come and gone since I lived for seven weeks in a bed really blows my mind. It feels like a blur, and I’m glad I can at least look back and read about what’s gone on. I swear it was just yesterday that I was walking around on post-bed rest legs, and I can’t believe that I’ve already plowed through 12 weeks of therapy! (Am I better yet?!) But then again, it feels like forever ago that I suffered through the beginning of nursing Zach especially as I begin to wean him now. I’m not ready to let go of him being a baby. I’m not ready for him to start walking. I’m not ready to handle his abundance of energy and his spirited strong will. I am ready for life to get easier, but really, does it ever?

The unknown – that’s what I struggle with. For this planning, list-making, calendar-loving girl, the unknown is scary. Again and again in my life, I’ve had the subtle (and not so subtle) reminders that I’m not in control, and yet I still have a hard time handing over the steering wheel (well, the remote control would actually be a more appropriate analogy for me). I’m a work in progress, as we all are. We had friends over for dinner last night, and one asked me, “So how are you doing? Last time we talked you were just getting into the therapy thing and figuring yourself out.” Doh! Am I supposed to have answers then?

Balance. That’s one answer that I do have. Balance is the key to my existence and my mental well-being. Figuring out how to not wear myself down, how to have the right priorities in balance is a tricky dance. In an attempt to really take care of me the last few months I feel like I’ve put some other things aside. I was trying to fill myself up so I had something to give to my family and friends, so I could be a better wife and mother. And yet, in the process, some of the people that I love most have been bumped down my ladder of importance. Like I said, I’m a work in progress, and I will always have enough work to progress on!

There is definitely one constant theme when reading back over my blog – especially during the most trying times (hospital-life and post partum depression strife) – that would be our family and friends. We have been so incredibly blessed with our support system – our people; and I am so grateful. Even in my darkest moments of postpartum depression, when I’ve wallowed in the pit of self-pity, I’ve known that there were countless people that I could turn to. There just aren’t enough words, nor is there enough time, to ever adequately thank you for your love and support.

What’s really fun is as I write this I can immediately see about twenty names that I could address this to. From my nurses in the hospital, to my friends and family that live across the country who lift me up with emails, to my book club girls, our Engaged Encounter friends, my best friends of yester-year and tomorrow, Mike’s coworkers and wives, my Mom friends, Mike’s family, my family, our family...The mush-fest just goes on and on and on. I love you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Matthew is a total stud-muffin. Out of four boys to choose from, Isabella (one of the two girls in preschool class) has fallen head-over-heels in love with Matthew. I certainly can’t blame her; Matthew is as handsome as he is charming and as funny as he is intelligent. This girl knows how to pick ‘em. (We frequently go to the park after preschool with Isabella, so this could have something to do with why she singled him out too).

Since we had Spring Break last week, we’ve not seen Ms. Bella for two weeks. Apparently, she’s been talking to her mom Karrie, nonstop about Matthew. Mom Karrie reported to me that Isabella begs to have a play date with Matthew. Though Isabella doesn’t refer to him as just Matthew she calls him – lovey-dovey voice and all – “Matthew, My Heart.”

So, apparently all during preschool yesterday, Isabella followed her “Heart” around —touching Matthew, trying to hold his hand, and – venturing on a different tactic – asking him to chase her. Matthew would either have none of it or was playing hard-to-get. He was busy wearing a fireman’s hat, carrying another fireman’s hat and shoving tools down his pants (in a make-shift tool belt, you see).

Eventually, Isabella’s hard wooing-work paid off. During Circle Time, she sat down on the rug next to Matthew. Ms. Susan filled me in that she watched as Matthew – ever so discretely – scooted closer to Isabella and Isabella scooted all the nearer to him. By the end of Circle Time, the two lovebirds were right next to each other, practically cuddling. Ms. Susan told me that she usually doesn’t see young love develop in the Almost 3’s class…they usually wait until they’re at least four!

* * * * *

I know now why Matthew was so intent on carrying around the firemen hats. In the past, Matthew has always answered the question “What do you want to be when you grow-up” with the same response: “A man.” While this is an accurate answer that shows his level of intellectual depth, it’s not quite what we were looking for. But today, Matthew’s answer was “a fireman!”

After a moment, my three-year-old asked me, “What do you grow up?” Thinking at first that maybe my son was subtlety asking me WHEN will you grow up? I paused and then answered, “Well, technically, I already am a grown-up, but…I’d like to be a writer. I want to write stories and books.”

Matthew grinned broadly at me. “Stories about dinosaurs and trucks?!” he exclaimed. “Maybe,” I said, “Sure. I could write about that and other stuff too.”

A few minutes later I was writing a list (what else?) when I heard Matthew gasp. I quickly looked up and he said, “Look! Mommy you’re a writer!” Yes, yes I am.

* * * * *

I’m really confusing Zachary. Every time he climbs up the stairs, he goes straight for our “greenery” (fake, dusty Ficus tree). I shake my head and say, “No, no, Zachary. Don’t touch.” Then he points to it and pretends like he’s going to touch it. “No, no, no,” I repeat. He points again and then he shakes his head and says, “Nuh, nuh, nuh.” “That’s right,” I say, “No, no, no.” Do you see where this is going? Now, whenever we go by the plant, he points, shakes his head and says, “Nuh, nuh, nuh.” He thinks that’s what the tree is called, and why wouldn’t he?!

Another fun Zachy fact: the kid must think I’m on the phone all the time (which, I swear I’m not. I feel like I rarely get to have an actual phone conversation any more). He now frequently picks up whichever toy is nearby, holds it up to his ear like a phone and nodding, says, “Hiya. Hi. Hiya. Hiya. Hi.” The discussion seems to change a little bit but the conversation topic is always the same. He better come up with something new to talk about or people are going to get really bored with him!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It goes without saying that I’m a fan of food – chocolate most specifically, but all sweets in general. I like it. A year ago, it was my job to remain in bed and eat. I was perhaps one of the only bed rest moms to not complain about the twice-a-day chocolate protein calorie shakes (I thought they were quite tasty), and it certainly didn’t take much twisting (OK, it didn’t take ANY twisting) of my chubby arm to get me to eat any of the buffet of snacks provided by the nurses. So, yes, I’m a food fan, AND I have no will-power what-so-ever. So, why am I surprised that I’ve gained a few pounds? Easter, for me, proves to not only be a time of religious celebration but post-Easter-chocolate-sales celebration as well. I’m sorry, but chocolate? And chocolate ON SALE? And you expect me to say no?!?! Yeah right.

Also, to complicate issues, we were on an EE retreat this past weekend. When we call the engaged couples to go over a check-list with them of items to bring, we include the request for them to bring snacks or drinks to share with the group. I don’t know how long this has been a part of our program, but when Mike and I went on OUR EE weekend six years ago, we spent the entire time growing closer as a couple and eating…absolutely stuffing our faces.

This weekend, our retreat was held at a beautiful rural camp-like setting complete with farm animals below in the valley. Just like the cows, I grazed. I grazed ALL WEEKEND LONG. And what’s really sad, is I discretely manipulated the couples into bringing the foods that I wanted. When running through the check list, I’d say my spiel, “And we ask that, if you’re willing, you bring snacks or drinks to share with the group: like a six-pack of pop, some bottles of water, a bag of chips, brownies.” Yep, there it is: BROWNIES. After realizing, that I’d mentioned brownies to enough people, I figured I’d already gotten a taker; someone would take that suggestion and run with it. So, then to make up for it, I changed my spiel with the remaining couples, “…some bottles of water, six-pack of diet soda, maybe some fruit.” Yeah right. The damage had been done. The brownies showed up. I’d dug my own grave…too bad it’s now too small to fit in. That’s a bummer. Literally a BUMmer. Or in my case, more of a GUTter.

So, to counteract my foodly habits of late, I decided last night, it was time to get back into the Spin cycling class at the gym. Karin, the instructor, is so good – she’s like a little Drill Sergeant in spandex with a microphone attached to her head – people pay a buck in advance to reserve a bike in her class. Somehow, there was still room available. It was a sign! I had to get to the gym to get my name on the list so I could get my butt-kicked (and stomach-socked). I quickly whisked the boys out the door and we were on our way.

I told myself that I was not allowed to feel guilty for going to the gym. After a weekend away from Matthew, we’d spent all day doing really great quality activities together, and I figured I’d earned an hour of Me-Time. (Am I a terribly, selfish Mom?). Not to mention, the boys get to play at the Kids’ Club which has tons of toys, great movies, etc. (Read: Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.).

With bated breath, I approached the Spin class sign-up sheet. There was still room! I gleefully signed my name, looking forward to my hour of excruciating pain and what I like to call “fun torture.” I took the boys into the Kids’ Club. Matthew seemed excited to be there, it’d been a while since he’d played there, so he wasn’t opposed. Zachary, on the other hand? Not so much. Zach took one look at Julia and Shawna, the childcare attendants, and started to wail. Julia, calmly took him from me, and reassuringly said, “He’ll be fine in a couple minutes. Have a good class!” Right. OK. Not going to feel guilty. Not going to feel guilty. I’m not a terribly, self-absorbed mother, but I’m not going to feel guilty.

I looked down at Matthew who was starting to look a little distraught. “I don’t like it when Zachy’s sad,” he told me. “I know,” I said, “but I’m just going to do the quick [OK, hour-long] Spin class, and then we’ll pick up ‘Donalds on the way home for dinner tonight for a special treat.” (Read: Guilt. Guilt. Guilt). Yes, apparently I am that kind of mother. I spend the weekend away, and then try to make up for it in whatever way possible. (Read: Bribery to make up for my Guilt).

Matthew was happy then and Zach seemed to be settling down; Julia was doing a great job of distracting him with toys, so I quietly snuck out and headed to the locker room.

As I set up my bike in the Spin class, I was still amazed with my luck. It was just so meant to be that there had been an opening in class. I needed this hour of butt-kicking, nay gut-kicking, to get back on track with healthier habits. No guilt. No guilt. No guilt. Pretty soon, I was able to start peddling to the beat of my mantra. Thankfully, Karin cranked up the music and I no longer had to bike to my Mommy Shame.

Julia. Julia standing at the door to the Spin room. Julia gesturing for me. I’d gotten to bike for about…a minute. I’d maybe burned…mmm...ten calories. I left my water bottle and towel on the bike in wishful thinking: I’d get Zach settled back down and then I could slip right back into class, not giving up my bike and hardly breaking my cycling rhythm!

About five minutes later, I walked back into Spin…both boys in tow. Karin (into her mic) laughingly said, “Ahh, you’re getting the boot from the Kids’ Club, huh?” To which I replied, “Can’t I wear him [Zachary] in a backpack while I cycle? And do you have a tricycle for him [Matthew]?” Yes, I was joking (and the thought of a toddler-tricycle Spin class cracked me up on the inside), but it sure would’ve been nice to stay at class.

My boys helped. They made sure I didn’t feel any guilt about doing the class…since I didn’t get to do the class. I was a little disappointed, but after picking up our McDonald’s (for the record, I got a salad) and heading home, watching the boys play couldn’t help but lift the mood. And the dark chocolate M&M’s after dinner helped too. (I’m going to pay a buck to reserve a bike in Karin’s spin class for tonight when Mike can stay home with the boys. I gotta work those M&M’s off sometime).

Monday, April 16, 2007

Top of the mornin’ to ya.

Mike and I had a great weekend – we were a presenting couple on an Engaged Encounter retreat. Zachary came with us while Matthew spent the weekend with my parents. We informed the couples on Friday evening that Zachary was part of the rent-a-baby program provided as propaganda by the Catholic Church (you know, to spread the Baby Bug to all the soon-to-be married couples for the purpose of going out and making Catholic babies). Thankfully, he did live up to the standards of the rent-a-baby program and he was VERY Good, Very Cute, and Very Entertaining – as always.

Matthew had a fantastic weekend of quality time with my parental units and his Uncle Chris. We now get to go through Detox in the Martin Household. We need to bring Zachary down from his center-of-attention withdrawals (he thought that all 33 engaged couples were there for the sole purpose of admiring him), and Matthew will be going through Grandparent-Spoiling-and-Withdrawals Detox. Wish me luck. It should be interesting.

The boys were ridiculously cute in reuniting last night after a weekend apart. They were like two puppies just released from their crate – literally running (or crawling) in circles around each other. The joy lasted a few solid minutes before we started to hear, “No, Zachy. That’s MY toy.” And then we made it another couple of minutes before there was a bonked head and cry from the other room. Welcome home.

Now that Matthew has more verbal communication skills (and the fact that he has a mom going through therapy), he’s very open to discussing his emotions. This weekend, according to my Mom and Dad, he had one moment of sadness missing Mommy and Daddy and wanting to be at home, but that was quickly remedied with some cuddles and story-reading with Grandma. Then yesterday morning, around breakfast time, Matthew rested his head on his hand and heaved a great big sigh. My Dad inquired as to what was wrong, and Matthew replied, “I’m very frustrated ‘cuz I miss my Mom and Dad.”

In that case, I was frustrated too with missing my Matthew.

This morning I’m filled with gratitude. I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful to be home. I’m grateful that we were able to spend a weekend helping couples prepare for marriage. I’m grateful to not be spending this spring in the hospital. And I’m grateful for coffee and my daily antioxidant dose in the form of a Dark Chocolate Hershey Kiss.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I do believe that I have experienced my first (of many) unofficial – and yet, so official-feeling – rejection. I submitted a small article – more of a personal interest story – for our local newspaper publication, The Newcastle News. A few months ago, a local “free-lance writer” had written an article listing the reasons that she loved our little city. Not to be overly judgmental (and yet thoroughly judging), while I am a total and complete amateur to the writing world, I was not that impressed with her article. So, I decided: what the heck! Maybe this is a way to baby-step into the admittance of “I’m a writer.”

Just like with music, I hesitate when admitting any possibility of talent. Music has been a part of my life for nearly 17 years. I’ve taught lessons privately, taught in a school, teach on my own, I’ve had paid gigs, and yet I still don’t say, “I’m a musician.” Apparently I believe announcing that requires some sort of official documentation or something – proof that I lack. So my response to the “what do you do” question is: “I enjoy music….I play the flute and sing.” And so it’s not surprising that with writing, it’s not “I’m a writer,” it’s “I enjoy writing.”

And yet, here I was hoping for my first official rejection letter – something tangible that I could frame and hang on the wall next to where my Pulitzer will someday be. A big fat “Ah-ha!! You rejected me, wee little Newcastle News, but look at me now! Moooo-ahhh-ahh-ahhhhhhhhhh!” (Apparently being a writer also turns me into a mad scientist).

I know that rejection is the name of the game with writing…as it is often in life. You’ve gotta have a tough skin. I don’t know if my skin is quite there yet. When the latest edition of The Newcastle News arrived, I flipped through each page with bated breath. Maybe – just maybe – the editor didn’t respond to my email inquiry regarding my story. Of course he’d gotten it! And he loved it so much, it was so sensational, there was no point in taking the time to respond to me. Who would pass up on such a quaint personal story for our local publication?! So, maybe – just maybe – I’d find it on page 19. Oh. Nope. OK, glance over to 20. Nada. 21…22, here we go! Denied. 23. Rejected. 24. Zilch. 25 and we find ourselves at the “Police Blotter” – breaking news in our little corner of the world: car prowls are up. Bummer.

Oh well.

Here it is for you to read:

Ahh, Newcastle in the springtime. The tulips are up. The grass needs to be cut. The weeds are prolific in our flowerbed. And I love it all.

I missed the spring in Newcastle last year. I missed spring all together last year. From March 12th until April 30th, for seven weeks, for 49 full days, approximately 1176 hours, I hibernated – literally. I was stuck in a bed, in a room on the 6th floor of Overlake Hospital. Why? To be an incubator. At 28 weeks pregnant, I went into preterm labor. My job was to lie there and keep our little guy, Zachary, a-cookin’.

Our now 3 ½ year old, Matthew was a preemie – born at 35 weeks. So, going into pregnancy Round Deux, we knew that we’d be carefully monitored lest we have another preemie. Turns out that baby brother Zach was even more anxious than Matthew. Contractions started 12 weeks before my due date. I checked into Overlake and never left (it felt like the longest labor in history)! Together, Zach and I fought contractions and impending labor until 35 weeks when he was showing signs of distress. In the end, labor was induced. Zachary was – and is – a tough little guy. He spent only one week in the NICU before he came home to Newcastle.

After seven weeks in the same confined space, leaving the hospital was overwhelming. I’ll never forget that first drive home. Everything looked just a little bit brighter, a little bit clearer.

This spring, my goal is to not take anything for granted. I get to actually see the tulips come up (and yes, the weeds too). I can’t wait to start my weekly stroller trips down to the Produce Stand. And as the weather continues to grow warmer, the boys and I will get to spend more time enjoying Newcastle’s parks and trails.

Spring is sometimes referred to as “the season of growth.” While our boys continue growing like weeds, there’s no other place I’d rather see them thrive than in Newcastle.

Jenny Martin is a full-time Mom, a part-time Music teacher, and a budding freelance writer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

We survived our first long road trip with both boys. Things got off to a rocky start when we merged on to the 405 Freeway (less than a mile from our house), and Matthew asked, “Are we there?” I swear it was just yesterday that I would ask that of my dad while – smooshed in the middle of the backseat, sandwiched between my two brothers – we set out for an annual camping trip.

The Easter Bunny – knowing that our boys aren’t the most patient travelers – was kind enough to spot early at our house, leaving a new toy on each kid’s car seat: for Zach – a new chew toy and for Matthew – a MegaDoodle. The toys proved to be good boredom deterrents, and our drive to Spokane went perfectly well. It helps that Matthew is REALLY into trucks and in particular, tractors. How lucky are we that his obsession is something we see while driving and not something like, oh say…dinosaurs? At one exit, in search of the Starbucks (for a necessary pit stop, leg-stretching, and caffeine break) we got lost in a dinky town called Ritzville. Luckily our scenic route included driving by the John Deere Machinery Shoppe! Woah, was that ever exciting. I’ll be! We got ourselves a right ‘lil farmer boy! Matthew can tell you what every tractor and tractor attachment is called (harvester, plow attachment, baler, etc.). I’ve learned quite a bit from our John Deere expert.

Driving through Eastern Washington is intriguing to me. I’m fascinated by the thought of farming and rural life. How would I survive with the grocery store and Starbucks being more than a two minute drive away? I wouldn’t.

And the names of the towns! Ritzville, Washington (although to give them credit: they do have a McDonalds and Starbucks right next to the freeway in ritzy Ritzville). Washtucna, Washington. Chewelah, Washington. And my personal favorite: George. As in George, Washington.

We had a lovely Easter with Mike’s fam in Spokane. We were adequately spoiled: the Easter Bunny brought a toy ATV (Matthew can tell you that it is technically an “all terrain vehicle”) and a stuffed duck and froggie for Zachary. And we were, of course, well-fed: Aunt Dolores is an amazing cook and Uncle Harry loves to wine us and dine us. The weather was perfect for an outing to the park with Aunt Jamie (Mike’s sister) and Uncle Dan (her husband). And we even fit in a trip to the hotel swimming pool. Both boys loved it!

Our drive home on Sunday was not quite as peaceful as the drive over. While Zach never broke into a full-on cry, any brief fussing he did was met by Matthew immediately responding, “zz…yyaAACCCHHHHHHHH! STOP CRYING!!!” OR “zzyaaACCHH!! SUCK YOUR THUMB!!” The best part of the six hour drive home was the 30 minutes when all three of my boys (Mike included) fell asleep. It was a fleeting and welcome moment of quality me-time. I had no idea how nice a quiet car could be!

Friday, April 06, 2007

I ran into a couple of my former music class moms at an indoor toddler play gym this week. These weren’t just any moms and this wasn’t a typical class – these gals were members of the Music Class Mommy Mafia.

I’d been asked by a gal if I would teach a class just for herself and a few of her friends. I told her that as long as she did fill the class (about 7 kiddos with accompanying moms); I would put them on the schedule. How easy is that? It’s like business being handed to me on a silver platter.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

From day one, I tried; I tried really hard, not to judge these women. But from day one, they made it so easy and necessary to do so. These are the ladies that, with one look, you can see roaming the halls of a middle school. They were the “cool girls” that all the other young women worshipped and tried to emulate. In high school, they were the cheerleaders and the Prom Queens. In college, these ladies were the president of the social committee at their Sorority. They studied Communications, Marketing or Business. Some time after Graduation, they found suitable, marriable, handsome and wealthy (former Frat boys) to marry. Stereotypes? Totally. And yet, fight it as I might, these ladies – this Music Class Mommy Mafia – completely fulfilled every stereotype that I resisted. I had no choice in the matter. I totally judged these judgmental ladies.

They walked into my at-home music class as a united front, and I stood no chance against their power. I was treated like the hired help, expected to entertain their kids while they drank their lattes [yes, I recognize that I would’ve loved to be drinking a latte too], gossiped [who me? Talking about people?! Believe it or not, I do try not to]. They discussed which yuppy preschool their child was on the waiting list for, where they would be vacationing next, why they were on the prowl for a new nanny, where they bought their child’s designer outfit [the clothes of these toddlers most likely cost more than I’ve ever spent on clothes for our whole family…in a year], etc. etc. etc. You get the gist. All this discussion was going on, mind you, whilst I attempted to teach a music class to their completely out-of-control angels.

I did make the occasional comment – plea – for them to participate more fully in class. Or in the least to control their kids. But apparently there had been an understanding that I was not aware of – as a music teacher I was also to be the full-time personal slave to seven yuppy two-year-olds while their Moms had coffee tawlk. On the occasion that I did make a feeble, half-ass attempt to (subtlety and politely) remind them to please be more involved in class, the moment, I turned my back my pleas were met by nasty loud-enough-for-me-to-hear whispers.

At one point, the kids even shhhh-ed their moms because they couldn’t hear the story. At another time, when I stopped little Kate from running laps around the room (since her Mom, her Grandma and the nanny dared not tell this girl no – yes, she traveled with an entire entourage), my disciplining the child was met with the dirtiest looks and shocked and appalled silence.

In the end, after suffering through an entire six week session with the Mommy Mafia, the ladies asked if I would be willing to teach their class on a different day. My class was great, but Fridays didn’t work so well since they liked to travel, take long weekends, go to their husband’s business golf tournaments, etc. My response? “Uh…no. Sorry. Friday is the only day that I’m teaching right now.” So, with that, my Mommy Mafia Music Class was over. Phew. Thank God that was done. I’d suffered enough.

The whole experience was such a reminder of the clique-drama of seventh grade. While I recognized, all the while, that I have very little respect for these women, if anything I feel sorry for them, their seemingly cold lives and their confused priorities and principles, I still found myself trying to impress them. My inner seventh grader wanted to fit in to their “popular girls’ clique” and be thought of as cool. Lame. Totally lame.

* * *

7th grade. Does anyone love it? It’s a time of bad hair, bad clothes, growth spurts, the confusion of puberty, acne, general awkwardness. For me, seventh grade started off full of promise. I was in a clique. Not just any clique, mind you. We were Jenny, Jenni, Jenna, and Natalie. Like a seventh grade law firm of Cruelness or Coolness (or so we thought), we walked the walls arm-in-arm, sharing private jokes and laughing at lunch until milk shot out our noses.

Jenna and I had been best friends since first grade. While the years had been occasionally marked by drama – third grade: Jenna seemed to choose Sarah over me, fifth grade: Elizabeth came into the picture and temporarily stole my spot by Jenna’s side – I knew that we were totally BFF (Best Friends Forever). We adopted Jenni and Natalie, welcomed them into our fold. I knew all along though, that if I had to choose just one to save in a fire it would be Jenna. No question.

The four of us decided to play a quartet for a band competition: the Jennies on flute, Natalie and Jenna honking on the clarinet. The night before the competition we were all invited to spend the night at Jenna’s. My parents, being the wise-ones that they are, recognized that I wouldn’t get a good night’s sleep at Jenna’s house, and so I stayed home. (Totally like the lameness of the century, at the time)!

The morning of the competition, my life took a nasty turn for the worse. Unbeknownst to me, the other three girls had talked about me all night long during my absence. With Jenna as their leader, they decided I was not to be in their club any longer. I was chubby, had acne, wasn’t allowed to watch MTV, and didn’t shop at the Gap. My naturally curly hair, cut short, was just a big afro; I was too loud and laughed too much. The list went on. And on. And on. And I was out.

They proceeded to become masters in the cruelty that comes naturally to seventh grade girls. It’s a skill, and a gift, a force to be reckoned with. Jenni, Jenna, and Natalie went full-force on their campaign to ditch me, all-the-while belittling my very existence by constant harassment, using code names for me but talking about me right there in class, on the bus, in the halls. Mocking anything that they could come up with, they took my every inadequacy and used it for ammo. Like hyenas on a group kill, they totally took me out.

I spent days, weeks even, crying. My Mom took me to the guidance counselor at school (oh the agony). It does help to have your mom working at the school though. The girls were called into the counselor’s office. They were called into the principal’s office. Their parents were called. Harassment was against school policy and it needed to stop or there would be serious consequences.

Through all this, my other friends – the ones that I’d put on the back burner while I was fully committed to my much cooler friends – welcomed me back with open arms. To this day, my friend Rachel has always been there for me. She was a bridesmaid in our wedding, and we’ve run a half marathon together. She has provided endless support to me and my boys; she is Matthew’s favorite Auntie. Perhaps most important of all, she loves me unconditionally – even with my fluffy afro hair, whatever skin imperfections I may have, whatever size I may be, whatever emotional state I am in.

* * *

Seventh grade was rough, but I’ve gotten over it, right?

Back to my contemporary clique issues, when I saw these two ladies at the play gym this week, I realized that I was spending so much of my own energy judging them. I was back to being the completely insecure seventh grader again. These women, who I claim are so judgmental, probably don’t waste one thought on me. So, why did I feel all these bitter feelings towards them?

One of the ladies now has four-year-old Kate, an almost two-year-old, and a five week old. She was sitting there, drinking her latte, chatting with the other Mafia Mom while the nanny carried the infant and chased after the other kids. Am I jealous that she has a nanny? No, not really. While sure, help occasionally is great, I’d never trade my full-time hands-on Mommy job for the world. Was I jealous of her latte? Probably. Was I jealous of her obvious wealth? No. (Mike and I love the question: If you won the lottery, what would you do? How would you change your life? We wouldn’t change a thing.) So, what’s my deal?

And then I figured out what my beef was with this lady. At five weeks postpartum, she was out-and-about, nursing with no difficulty, walking with no signs of doing bed rest, she looked amazing, and she was already back in her size 4 designer jeans. It was at this point, that I looked down at my boys – Matthew riding on the John Deere tricycle, Zachary climbing on the baby slide – things may have been hard for me, may BE hard for me, my pregnancies and postpartum experiences have not been ideal or stress-free, but I would never, NEVER trade any of it. Not even for the money, the nanny, or the just-postpartum-size 4 designer jeans. The daily lattes would be nice, but I’m surviving nicely on my home-brewed coffee, and my weekly treat of a Starbucks. I’m in it for the kids, not the lattes.

What a busy week it’s been. Good busy, but busy.

Matthew made it to preschool on Tuesday. The theme for the month of April is Gardening/Flowers. So, to honor this, the kiddos got to “plant” Lima beans – they put them in a plastic cup in a wet paper towel. Now, that’s my kind of gardening! I told Ms. Susan not to expect our lima beans to make it. She reassured me that it’s pretty hard to mess them up, but I countered, “Ms. Susan, I think you doubt my black thumb skills. These Lima beans don’t stand a chance in the Martin house of doom.” The Martin home is where plants go to die. At one point, I’d asked Mike if we could get some flower pots out on the deck so that we could see them from the kitchen window. (I spend A LOT of time at that sink)! Mike reminded me that I don’t even water the plants that are RIGHT NEXT to the sink. It’s not like I need to go far to get them some H20. Good point.

The Lima beans haven’t done anything yet; I wonder if they’re already goners.

* * *

Zachary has a new trick. As you enter the room he says a quiet and polite, high-pitched “hi.” It’s sweet and oh-so civilized and then often followed by sticking out his tongue at you which he thinks is pretty darn funny every time. (We quite agree).

Monday, April 02, 2007

Easter Egg Hunting has taken on a whole new meaning for us. Matthew's first year as an egg hunter was a peaceful affair set up in the backyard of neighbors -- two toddlers, lots of eggs, not really hidden just placed around the yard. This year we had three big hunts to choose from -- one at Church, one at the neighborhood park, and one at the community center where Matthew attends preschool. My vote was that we either a.) call and find out what exactly the plastic eggs would contain and attend the hunt with the best booty or b.) figure out a way to hit up each one.
In the end, we did make it to two.

We arrived at St. Madeleine Sophie's Hunt about two seconds before the count-down to Egg Mania began. They had the foresight to group their hunters by age. I was pleased to see that Matthew towered over most of his competition in the 0-age 4 hunt. (How a 'zero-year-old' hunts for eggs is still a mystery to me. I suppose that means the pregnant women are elbowing each other out of the way to get at the eggs filled with the most chocolate. I'm sure that's what I would've done last Easter had I not been occupied by lying in bed eating chocolate-filled eggs). Anyway, looking over the raincoat-hooded heads, I felt something stir within me. I had to fight the urge to give Matthew a pep-talk: OK, Matthew. This is it. This is what we've been training for. Remember our practice Easter egg hunting in the living room last night? Ha! Mere child's play. So, focus. Keep your head in the game. See that little two-year-old? His shoe's untied -- no competition there. And that little girl over there? So, bundled up in her rain parka she can hardly move. Ooh, the twin boys on your right -- they look a little tough and they might have an advantage working as a team, but you can take 'em down. I know it...Maybe it's a good thing that Matthew (as of yet, anyway) doesn't seem too into competitive sports.

I'm happy to report that he did totally clean up though! His truck-basket (yes, of course he has a truck-shaped Easter basket!) was overflowing with his stash of brightly-colored goody-filled plastic eggs. So, after a quick stop in the Church hall to look through his treasure, eat a donut and replenish our egg-hunting reserves, we headed off to the local park Hunt.

Ooh, Matthew. There’s some stiff competition here. They don’t have the hunters grouped by age. We’ll be running against ten-year-olds, but we can totally take them out! I mean you can totally take them out. I’m just here for support.

The added bonus of the park Hunt was the mud factor. And technically it wasn’t really a ‘hunt’ just a ‘run onto the muddy field and find the eggs that are lying on the grass in plain view.’

Our training did pay off: Matthew was focused on the eggs, not at all distracted by the other kids slipping in the mud, and again, he came out a victor! A field of mud is no match for Matthew Martin, Egg Hunter Eggstraordinaire!