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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I’ve always enjoyed the fact that my birthday is on or around a three-day-weekend. Actually most of the Martins (Mike – Martin Luther King, Matthew – Labor Day) have this theme of holiday birthdays. Zachary’s due date, originally, was 06-06-06 which would’ve been pretty nutty. Then we thought, well, maybe he’d make it to Cinco de Mayo. In the end, he carved his own holiday on April 28th. I’m fairly certain that Congress is looking into making it a National holiday as well.

We spent Memorial Day weekend with my parental units and brother Chris at their condo at Port Ludlow. Matthew is obsessed with Port Ludlow – he loves the place. It’s a beautiful woodsy setting above the bay. There’s always the opportunity for boat-watching and occasional wild life sightings as well. This weekend, however, the wildlife was found mostly inside. Matthew spent all of his energy human-barricading Zach from his toys, and Zach spent all of his energy screaming like a howler monkey due to the injustice of it all. I’m sure the neighbors thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

I like to refer to the Port Ludlow condos as “Dorms for Old People” or even “Summer Camp for the Elderly” (although year-round). There’s always a function going on – a rummage sale to attend, walks to be taken, water aerobics to do (floral swim caps optional), potlucks to enjoy, card games and dominoes to play, and naps…lots and lots of naps. And cliques – just like seventh grade! There are cliques. One couple might feel left out if not invited to the cool kids’ condo for a night of games and drinking. The parties can’t get too out-of-hand, however, as there are Quiet Hours (just like in the dorm). From 10pm until 8am, you need to keep it down so as to not disturb your neighbors. My parents are so good about the quiet hours that they don’t even run the dishwasher after 10. I’m surprised that there isn’t an RA to uphold these laws. Sometimes those Port Ludlow parties can get a little rowdy – there really should be someone around to maintain order! You can’t just expect the fogies to keep it under control.

In other huge, ginormous, momentous, incredibly big news: I HAVE AN AGENT INTERESTED IN MY CHILDREN’S STORY: A DAY AT THE DIGGER PARK. It’s an in-depth, truly moving story of two brother diggers and two brother trucks who take societal segregation head-on. (Yeah, that’s the hidden message, but really it’s just a cute story that will hopefully become a picture book classic)! The next step, in this multi-cut process, will be to send my story on to an editor for a professional critique. Then, once we get the thumb’s up, my agent will pitch the story to publishers that they think might be interested and would be a good fit. I believe that, then, the publisher will select an illustrator. (I’m still trying to learn all the ins and outs of this business). SO…we’re just at the beginning of a very long process, but it’s ridiculously exciting!! I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for the support. When I become a world-renowned, famous-shmamous, Pulitzer and Newberry-award winning author, I’ll remember all the little people who helped me get here. :)

Friday, May 25, 2007

It's official: I'm in my late twenties. As of yesterday, I'm now 27 -- you round up; no more mid-twenties for me. The day started off very promising when Mike brought me breakfast in bed. It was excellent except for one thing -- he forgot my dark chocolate Hershey Kiss. 5 1/2 years of marriage!! Does he know me at all? (Oh, don't worry, I didn't suffer for long -- I thanked him for the meal, sang its praises and requested my chocolate. We both realize that it was good for our marriage that I was locked in the hospital last spring and didn't do my bed rest at home). Shortly after breakfast, Matthew came groggily out of his room and sang happy "berfday" to mommy. I got a HUGE stack of illustrations done by my first born -- he has become quite the artist. Most of the pictures were truck-themed. Some included a snake (a straight line) under the truck and a few had tweezers in the picture (huh! go figure). One picture was of a sword and "thunder." The kid is a genius that he can capture a visual for a "loud, explosive, resounding noise produced by the explosive expansion of air heated by a lightning discharge." (Thank you, Way to think outside the box! My personal favorite was a picture of a "bug eating nector" from a very detailed flower. He really has gotten quite good.

I then got to open my present from the Martin Boys -- a cute, sleek and very sassy...LAPTOP! Yes, I'm an official writer-wanna-be now, with my very own on-the-go computer. Of course, my first question to Mike was, "Can I decorate it...put stickers on it and make it a little more girlie?" I'm very excited about it. A laptop to me means that I'm all the more committed to my dream of being a writer when I grow up! And I have happy [delusional] thoughts of sitting in cafes in Paris, sipping strong coffee out of tiny, little cups and writing award-winning after award-winning works of literature masterpieces. Would it be masterpiec-i? Masterpi?

Mike went to work (in order that he can bring home the bacon; I bring home the bacon bits) while the boys and I went to a lovely birthday lunch at my parents' house. They picked up on my clear and blatant hints for some flowers for my garden. They got me a few of my very favorites: a hydrangea bush and a few blue Lithadora groundcovers. Whenever I'm planting things in my yard I secretly hear the poor flowers crying out in fear, "No! Please...anywhere but here! Help. I need attention. Love. Water. Someone to actually care properly for me!" (Look, I said that I hear them, I never admitted to being crazy enough to talking back to my plants; it might help calm their spirits though).

Not only is our yard turning into a place of botanical extravagance, it is also slowly becoming a freakin' wildlife preserve. I made mention a while back about our resident bunny. Yes, as we all know with rabbits, rarely will we find just one. They mate like...bunnies. We've been seeing Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit and various offspring bunnies more and more frequently on the Martin Homestead. And, let's face it, I realize that rabbits may not qualify for real "wildlife" but for this suburban-dwelling, city-girl, it's very exciting. But the excitement is definitely picking up.

Yesterday, after dinner, Mike was heading out to the grocery store. He'd been gone all of 30 seconds when he called to tell me to look outside. There were three ducks right by the family room window. These weren’t just any three ducks, and they weren’t just leisurely lounging on our lawn. Please allow me to expound. There was a bizarre mallard love-triangle unfolding in our front yard. I immediately did what any mature 27 year-old woman would do in this situation; I ran and got the camera, the phone, and climbed up onto the coffee table to have a better view. Then, I called the first people I think of when I need advice; my parents.
I gave them an overview of the situation. (Three ducks going crazy in our front yard: two males and one female. I don’t know who’s to blame. And I don’t know who is most deserving of her attention, but they’re really fighting over her). Dad made a comment that chances are good that her actual mate wasn’t even involved in the scandal – he was at home watching the ducklings while she was out gallivanting around. (So, it’s her fault, huh? She can’t help that she’s a hot chick and can really shake her tail feather?)! Occasionally I had to interrupt my parents’ views on duck-mating rituals to yell things out the window at the two bickering boy ducks like, “Hey! That’s not very nice…Why must you be so aggressive?...Use your words…Why can’t we all just get along?”

Pretty quickly things turned from bad to worse, one of the males tried to mount the female and then the other male was trying to mount the first dude duck. I heard myself shout, “Ahh! He’s mounting her! Wait! He’s mounting him!” Mom suggested I go outside and attempt to scare them away since my yells were obviously not working. Then I proclaimed, “They’re having a threesome in my front yard!” I can say with about 99.9% certainty that this is the first (and dear God, help me; hopefully the last) time I’ve ever said anything like that...ever…especially to my parents. This was just too much wildlife-nature show for this Catholic girl.
I headed out the front door with camera in hand, but as soon as I walked out, the startled lovers took off. “That’s right!” I shouted something like, “Take your sick duck-lust elsewhere!”
This afternoon, as I worked out in the yard, planting my birthday hydrangea bush, I heard quacking overhead. I looked up and saw three ducks fly by. They’re still going strong.

In conclusion, my 27th birthday was just ducky.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Zach is a blankie boy. Still not convinced that walking is his preferred form of transportation, I watched, yesterday, as Zach quickly crawled down the hall towards me. He suddenly stopped, did an about face and returned to his room. Wondering what was up; I peeked around the corner into his room. It appeared that Zach had been in need of a blankie hit. He was lying on the floor sucking his thumb and holding his blankie up to his noise. He soon ditched Mr. Blankie and set-out again, only to stop once more. I think he realized, “Wait – actually, yeah, I’m not done. I need some more of that great blankie action.” The next thing I saw was Zach crawling out of his room with the blanket held in his mouth for transportation purposes. Like a puppy with a much-prized bone, Zachary made his way down the hall. He’d trip over the blanket occasionally and would stop for a quick sniff and thumb-sucking session before continuing on his journey. I’ve signed him up for Blankie Addicts Anonymous.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Yesterday was a mega-huge day in the Martin household – definitely super-sized. Zachary took his first steps!!! And they were the cutest little first steps that I’ve ever seen. Instead of a confident stride, Zach’s walk was a bit like a quick little jig. He took fast, small steps that looked as if they might turn him in a circle. Then, when we all clapped and cheered for him, he – Mr. Loves Attention – dropped his head, embarrassed, like “ahhh, shucks.” Perhaps the best part was that Mike and my mom were also here to witness the historical event. “Why were they here in the middle of the day on a Monday?” You ask. Let me tell you.

Mike and I made our radio debut yesterday afternoon. It was exciting and stressful and nerve-wracking and fun all at the same time. We first met Lori – the Program Manager. We’ve spoken with her on the phone a number of times to share our pre-interview info. Lori is great; she and I hit it off right away. She’s been married for nearly 20 years and has two sons too. We were both obviously excited to meet face to face, although one of her first statements confused me a little bit. “I thought you would be blond,” she said. “From our phone conversations…I really expected you to be a blond.” Hmmm….apparently I sound like a blond. Huh! Go figure.

We met with Father Bob – a super nice guy and the host of “Conversations with Father Bob” – for about 30 minutes before recording. He gave us an overview of the questions that he would ask and got to know us better. There was another guest for the first half hour (a local State Representative) talking about the mobile home crisis in the area. Then, it was our turn.

There was a lot of joking before the recording session began, that I’d have to put duct tape on my mouth (or maybe they’d just turn off my mic), so that Mike would have a chance to say something, to actually get a word in. Ironically (or probably because of this), Fr. Bob started the interview asking Mike many questions about Engaged Encounter. “What is it?....What can the engaged couples attending expect to experience on the weekend?....What was our EE experience like?....What did we get out of it?” etc. Mike did great. I could tell that he was a little nervous (as was I). So, he started a tad slow, but loosened up in no time. I was very proud of him.

It didn’t take long for the interview to get more personal – as we knew that it would. The motto of EE is “The wedding is a day, the marriage is a lifetime.” Most people spend months preparing for their wedding but the thought of spending an entire weekend focusing on their relationship, is a foreign one. One of the reasons that we got involved with EE is because of our wedding experience – it wasn’t ideal. We’ve been through more in the 5 ½ years that we’ve been married than some couples face in 15 years.

We told Father Bob about Mike going through Cancer in the first year that we were married and spending our wedding night in the ER. (“As we tell the couples on the retreat weekends, we don’t recommend booking the ER for your wedding night – it is not the most romantic setting to begin your marriage.”) We certainly didn’t get to enjoy life as newlyweds nor was there a “Honeymoon phase.” We kick-started our marriage with the “in times of SICKNESS” and “for worse.” If Mike and I didn’t have the support system that we have – from our incredible family and friends – and the belief system that we have (relying on not only each other but God), then we may not have gotten through all that.

At any rate, we shared this stuff with Fr. Bob (as we do with the couples when we’re presenting on an EE weekend). I think we did a good job – the people in the room (OK, Lori – who thinks I sound blond, Fr. Bob and the sound engineer – it wasn’t like we had a big audience) seemed to enjoy my attempts at humor and nodded agreement and ‘good jobs’ in all the right places. It was all fine and good and went pretty well until the last couple of questions. Let me provide you with a little history first:

Mike and I have the saying that “we don’t have arguments, we have discussions. We don’t argue about disagreements, we discuss them.” Rarely have we yelled (and we can pretty much blame my post partum depression for that). But our discussions can be occasionally LONG. Oh, the irony. We spent ALL weekend DISCUSSING (leading up to this radio interview where we talk about marriage and the importance of healthy communication, etc.). So, I guess you could say, while we’d resolved the conflict that we’d had over the weekend and we were perfectly great and back to “normal” (whatever that may be), I was still a little emotionally rattled from it all.

So, Father Bob asked me the question, “Jenny, where do you see God’s grace in your life?” (Basically where do you experience the deepest love possible?). Right away, I knew it was all over. I was going to cry. I had to answer (because it IS my answer) that I experience God’s grace through Mike, through our marriage and the awesomeness that is my husband. I managed my response without completely letting on that I was tearing up, but Father Bob totally blew my cover! (‘Cuz come on, it makes for great drama to have a guest tear up during an interview)! He said, “Jenny, why the tears? I mean, Mike looks like an ordinary guy. What’s so great about him?” All the while, Father Bob’s got this big goofy grin on his face like “yeah! This is GREAT stuff.”

Unfortunately I think I got into the Oprah-ugly-cry – a BIG no-no. Granted it was on the radio and not TV so the estimated 200,000+ people who will hear me, won’t see me, but they…will…HEAR me. They’ll hear me attempt to squeak out my answer. Thankfully, I looked over and saw that Lori was totally crying sympathy-ahhh-this-is-so-touching tears, so that made me feel a little better. We’ll definitely be pulling on the heartstrings of the listeners. But I’m still completely horrified that I cried on the radio. This show will be broadcast three times on the local radio station; it will then be sent on to sister stations in Texas, Louisiana and also Toronto. Yes, I cried on not only national radio, but International radio.

Mike, trying to reassure me afterwards that it was totally OK that I became a heepy-weepy mess during my radio debut said, “Actually, I’m surprised that you didn’t cry earlier. I was expecting you to break down talking about my Cancer or the kids or your hospitalized bed rest. You held out for quite a while. Good job.” Great.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mike and I are WAY behind on writing up a Will. We should’ve done it yesterday or more like years ago. At any rate, we’ve set the goal to get it done in the next couple of months. So, now we get to think about all the fun stuff like, “When we die, who should get our ghetto-slipcovered ghetto sofa?” (You know it’s bad when the slipcover looks worse than the furniture underneath). We also need to figure out who we’d leave our two kiddos with. Any takers? They’re pretty great kids. That’s a really tough one because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings (then again, we’d be dead so we wouldn’t really have to deal with it), but the guardians you choose may not be the guardians that other people think you should choose, etc. It’s tough. Anyway, we’ve been thinking about all of this inevitable stuff. As one radio DJ said (Kendra told us this at book club), It’s not IF we die, but WHEN we die. We’re all terminal. So true.

Perhaps you’ve already bought yours, but if not, here’s a sale tip for you: Costco sells coffins. I don’t know if they’re buy one, get one free or if you buy them in bulk like most Costco products. Maybe they come in a family four pack – stacked on top of each other all wrapped in plastic. (I’ve not actually done much research into the coffin-selling/purchasing market…yet). But I do believe that once you purchase your coffin, you have to store it yourself. You take it home with you. Now, where does one keep a coffin, prey-tell? Let’s say, you don’t have the room in your house for this large body-box to be hidden away. You could use it as a coffee table. A coffin table! (ba-dump-bump-CHHHH!). “Honey, why don’t you climb in and see if it’s comfortable enough for you?” Or “Hmmm, you look like you’ve put on some weight, we should see if you can still fit….wait! If I sit on it, I can get the lid closed.”

OK, who am I kidding? I couldn’t help but actually check these out online since I’m thinking about them. According to the Costco website, casket options come in, Wood, Copper, and 18 Gauge Steel. Steel! That must be if you’re pretty hard core about not letting your loved one, somehow escape. Nothing’s breaking in or out of that bad boy. I also don’t see a size specification any where. Is it “one size fits all?” It is nice that they come with a pillow for your neck support and head comfort., what a thoughtful touch.

Look, I know these thoughts may be morbid and not very respectful, but death is inevitable. You might as well make light of it, and it’s nice to know that when you’re ready, you can buy your coffin at Costco with your bulk toilet paper, frozen chicken patties, your dream TV, tube socks and even a diamond ring! That would be one heck of a receipt.

* * * * *

On a COMPLETELY different topic all together: Zachary is a spirited little fellow; that’s just all there is to it. He gets so excited when I walk into his room in the morning that he jumps up and down in his crib. Sometimes he’ll drop to his knees and do some crawling laps before I lift him out. Then, when I do pick him up and am holding him, he bounces for a while and then slaps me in the face. Yes, you read that right: he shows his love, affection and excitement with a smack on the cheek. I’m trying to teach him that that’s not really a PC greeting for someone that you’re happy to see. (And really, you probably shouldn’t be in the habit of slapping someone on the face when you first greet them, even if you don’t like them much). So, I’ll take his hand (ideally pre-smack), and gently rub my cheek saying, “gentle, gentle” (yeah, it sounds weird, but these are the things “they” say to do). He usually thinks that this is so great, that he starts bouncing again and concludes with another smack.

Zachary – Mr. Mover and Shaker – is still anti-walking. He’ll walk ‘cruising’ along the furniture, but if we try to get him to walk holding our fingers, he’ll just gently lower himself to the ground and start crawling. And hot dang! He’s a fast crawler. No wonder he doesn’t want to waste time tottering about. He’s not going to walk on his own until he’s proficient enough to SPRINT.

We’re afraid. We’re very afraid.

As a Mother’s Day gift to me, our one-year-old figured out climbing. Oh joy. He can scurry up on to the furniture, no problem. He understand that moving toy boxes and whatever objects he can find, will allow him to better climb to his desired destination, up on to the coffee table, say. Since he's now a scaling master, we had to rearrange the furniture in the living room, so that he wouldn’t go head first over the back of the couch on to the fireplace hearth. And since we’ve got a split-level house with the standard railing above the stairs, we have very limited furniture arrangement options. There’s no way we can put any furniture by the railing or Zach will scale up and propel himself over.

Thinking that we’d finally come up with the safest option, we moved the furniture around and called it good. My mom watched in horror (and yes, shocked amusement), as Zachary proved his aptitude and dedication to outsmarting the system. “Ahhh, so you don’t want me going OVER the railing. How ‘bout I just squeeze and wiggle my skinny little self UNDER the railing. That way, I can dangle above the stairs and then make the six foot drop to the landing below. Mooo-ahhh, ahhh, ahhhhh!” Obviously my Mom stopped him before his plan came to fruition, but holy moly, we need to fatten this kid up fast. (That way he’ll just get wedged under the railing and not be able to move instead of dropping off the side of the cliff).

Matthew didn’t climb until he was about 2 ½ and then he/we had the communication skills to decide that it wasn’t a very good idea. For years, Mike has followed Matthew around (especially at the park) saying, “careful…ooh, careful.” So, Matthew is now our cautious and safe little boy. HE follows Zach around saying, “Careful, Zachy. Feet first down the stairs. You don’t want to fall. FEET first. Careful! Good job. Careful!” Zach just giggles at him, bounces and tries to slap him in the face.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

It has been said (by me) that I am a “Birthday Snob.” While I’m somehow very bad at remembering other people’s birthdays and making a big deal about them, I expect everyone to remember mine and honor me and generally spoil me from start to finish. It’s fairly standard for young children to expect the world to revolve around them for their birthdays, but I’ve not outgrown this. I carried it into college and into adulthood.

I attended an all girls’ Catholic high school. It wasn’t a tiny school, but everyone knew everyone and for the most part, we were all pretty chummy. Birthdays (at least mine ‘cuz like I said, I’m focused on me here and no one else) were pretty great. Friends brought you flowers, decorated your locker, brought gifts, you went out after school or on the weekend to celebrate, etc. In general: people knew that it was your birthday and made an adequately big deal about it.

For some reason, I assumed that in college – in my 30,000+ students University – my birthday would achieve the same amount of respect and honor. Freshmen year birthday was rapidly approaching. In one of my French classes – it was a smaller class, not a huge lecture so I actually had a name, a face, an identity – the Professor announced that we would be having a test on May 24th. I had somehow already made it known that that day was my birthday. I was appalled that he would knowingly schedule “un examen” for the anniversary of the day of my birth. Being quite proficient as a Freshman in a class full of upper classmen, I considered myself a bit of a teacher’s pet. I had completely convinced myself that the Professeur, as a birthday gift to his favorite pupil, would not actually give ME a test on my birthday. I didn’t study. I think I did OK, but it was wake-up call for the Birthday Snob #1.

#2 came when Matthew was a baby. It was my first birthday as a stay-at-home Mom. I really didn’t know how I’d handle a day of being home, by myself on MY day. Of course, the day was full of phone calls and marvelous tidings of joy from friends and family. It’s not like people tend to forget my birthday; I don’t let them. I had just decided (in a bit of self-pity) that maybe I would lie down and take a nap. It was the middle of the afternoon, Matthew was napping, I might as well sleep away my quiet birthday. All of a sudden, I heard the garage door opening.

“Oh great!” I thought. “Just what I need. Someone is going to break into my house on my birthday.” I prepared to defend myself against this armed robber. My plan? SELF-PITY. You can’t rob me. It’s my birthday!

I was surprised – and yet, not – when Mike walked in announcing that I had a massage to get to in the next 15 minutes. What can I say? I have him trained. He knows how important my birthdays are. Then, when I got home after an hour of marvelous massaging, about 15 people were sitting in our living room – friends and family had arrived for a bit of a surprise party. The man is good.

Last year, just four weeks postpartum, all I wanted for my birthday was a nap. I got that. (I’d also received my kick-butt double jogging stroller earlier). I also had a cold on my birthday, which was definitely reason to wallow a bit.

This year, I’m ecstatic for three reasons: I’ve taken special care to already plan out events throughout my big day. First, the boys and I are heading to lunch at Mom and Dad’s. Second, I get to go have therapy on my birthday. (Yes, I’m in a place in my life where I can think of nothing better than to go talk about myself and cry for an hour of therapy)! Lastly, my favorite Reality TV show is premiering that night. So, you think you can dance? Thank you, Producer, Simon Lythgoe! What a great gift. Mike will be bringing home thai food and once the boys are in bed we’ll be camping out in front of the TV. Hmmm, doesn’t sound all that different from many other nights, but it sounds oh-so good.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Zachary had his 12 month check-up a couple of days ago. Matthew, who has been suffering this week from a visit from the Snot Fairy, made sure that every nurse and doctor we saw knew of his condition. “I have a bad cold….I have lots of snot.”

Matthew has also learned the definition of “cool dude.” Look it up in Webster’s and there you will find a picture of Mr. Matthew Martin. He won’t leave the house without wearing his John Deere baseball cap – usually turned around backwards, and he’s got a couple of pairs of cool shades. (One pair is more of the sporty sunglasses look – they have blue lenses with athletic shaped silver rims and have a little picture of a baseball on the side. The other pair is just super slick with a picture of the Sheriff from the movie “Cars.” In either one, he’s a stud). At Zach’s doctor’s appointment, Matthew kept both the sunglasses and the hat on. Dr. Benda said, “Hey, Matthew. Look at you, big brother. You’re one cool dude.” To which he replied, “Yeah, I am.” Such confidence!

Zachary weighed in at 20lbs.3oz. He’s now in the 10th percentile for weight, so we did succeed in fattening him up a bit. He’s in the 50-75th percentile for height. He apparently focused the last few months on growing out instead of up. That must be what I did too.

* * * * *

I find myself saying those “mom things;” whatever it takes to get the job done. Our boys are ridiculously picky eaters. Both are, for the most part, self-proclaimed vegetarians and would eat macaroni and cheese for every meal of every day for the rest of their lives if we let them. Last night was Attempt to get them to eat meat Night. It wasn’t even normal meat – it was breaded chicken patty. “The other white meat.”

I serve them their imitation chicken nuggets product, Matthew takes one look at it and says, “Buuuutt I waaaaannnnntttt macaroni!”

Me: “You had macaroni and cheese last night. We’re having chicken tonight.”

Matthew: “I don’t waaant chicken. I waaaaannnt macaroni.”

My immediate, pre-programmed mommy response kicks in, “Matthew, there are millions of children in the world who don’t have any food to eat for dinner tonight. They would love to have something yummy and protein-filled like chicken. You need to eat it and be thankful for the food that you have.”

After a brief pause, Matthew responds, “But I don’t want the food that I have; I want macaroni.” I think the point was lost on him.

Meanwhile Zach sits in his high chair, dropping chicken off the side of the tray on to our already-way-nasty carpet. (“Uh-oh” every time). Eventually he starts signing for “milk” which has become his international sign for anything – food, attention, probably macaroni and cheese.

* * * * *

My other truly magical Mommy Moment yesterday was figuring out a fantastic way to get Matthew to pick up his toys.

Thursday is vacuum day at the Martin household. (It’s the day before music class here, you see). Matthew, a sensitive lad, is still a bit nervous of our mighty and powerful Hoover Upright. (Meanwhile, Zach crawls over the vacuum while I’m running it).

So, yesterday as I started up the Hoover, I told Matthew an awful, terrible (and yet so ingenious) thing. “If you don’t pick your toys up off the floor, then the vacuum might eat them.”

Matthew’s eyes got huge as he stared at the Vacuum Beast. “It’ll EAT them?”

“Well, yeah, basically.” Was my mumbled response. It’s not technically a lie. I mean, the vacuum could run over the toys and seriously injure them. I watched with a tiny bit of Mommy Guilt but mostly lots of Mommy Pride while Matthew scurried around picking up his toys. Maybe I’ll end up vacuuming every night to get Matthew to clean up his stuff. It certainly wouldn’t hurt. (The floor, I mean. It wouldn’t hurt the floor, though it may scar Matthew for life and make him forever fearful of vacuum cleaners. It’s a risk I’m willing to take).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Zach is sporting a little somethin’ somethin’ we’ll call “The Bullet” – The Baby Mullet. Since day one he has lacked a full head of hair. In utero, we were told “Wow! This baby’s got tons of hair!” Fancy ultrasounds (and plenty of them) confirmed that Zachary would arrive with a flowing main. Wrong. Totally wrong. We’re still not sure what the doctors were seeing, but it wasn’t a full head of hair.

For a while we called it the “monk look.” He was baldish on top – well, had a receding hairline, really – and then had more hair ringed along the back and sides. My Mom had her heart set on a true “Jenny-Junior;” when his hair finally came in, it would be thick, dark and curly. Sorry, Grandma. We’re still not sure what color his hair is – at times it looks like he’s going blond and then in some lights it looks like it will be brown like Matthew’s.

Speaking of Matthew: as an infant he had what we call “The Faux-Hawk” – The Fake Mohawk. He pretty much had the opposite of Zach – lots of hair down the middle but not much around the sides or back. To this day, he tends to have a lot more thick hair that grows in a strip on the top of his noggin. If he weren’t so terrified of getting his hair cut, I’d attempt to make the most of this natural tendency – maybe shave the rest and go for a full-on Mohawk. I’m sure that would go over well with the grandparents!

So, yes, Zachary is really embracing his Bullet – all business up front and a party in the back. His hair is getting long enough along the back and sides, that I can actually push it up and it does curl a little (this helps with lessoning the Bullet effect). But, like with Matthew, perhaps we should just accept Zach’s style. We need to embrace his‘80’s-themed hair growth and dress him in baby stonewashed jeans or perhaps Hammer parachute pants, a Hawaiian shirt and jean jacket would really pull the look together for him. The ‘80’s are back, baby! And our baby is ‘80’s!

Monday, May 14, 2007

With the help of therapy for my Post Partum Depression, I’ve been focusing a lot these days on the question of “Who is Jenny?” And “What do I need to be the happiest, healthiest version of me?” All very deep stuff, you see. I’ve tried to make “Me time” a bit of a priority and have been constantly aware of how I view myself and how others view me as well.

WELL, with it being Mother’s Day yesterday, I got to see how Matthew views me. Mike had Matthew draw me a picture – a family portrait. It’s phenomenal – all of a sudden (it feels like overnight), Matthew draws really well. His people look like people (all the appropriate body parts in the approximately correct locations), his trucks look like trucks, his soccer balls are circles, etc. So, I got this adorable picture yesterday of the Martin Family – complete with a flower, several soccer balls, Grandma and Matthew’s pal Jack. On closer inspection, I noticed that the personage representing “Mommy Jenny” was about four times as wide as everyone else – literally. This little stick figure Me was not so stickish! It’s a good thing that part of my Mother’s Day was getting to go to the gym for the killer Spin class (and then having a delicious brunch made by Mike later…I’m fairly certain that he removed all the calories for me though).

So, Matthew views me as a big circle on skinny legs. OK, I can accept that. How I view myself is also an interesting question. I’ve never felt my age – ever. As long as I can remember I have felt older (more mature) than my actual age. My parents will tell you that as a toddler I was 3-going-on-13. I’ve often hung out with a more mature crowd. Many of my friends are older than me – some by 10+ years, and I’m definitely ahead of most of my peers (got married young, bought a house young, made babies young, etc.). I’ve always enjoyed the game of people guessing my age – especially fellow moms (they tend to assume that I’m in my thirties already). I knew that there would come a time when this game wouldn’t be quite so amusing to me and when my age would catch up to me. I think we may have reached that day.

Next Thursday, I will be turning 27. By no means do I think of 27 as “old.” But I do think I’m getting closer to the age that I’ve always felt. My “plan” was to get married at 25 and start having kids around 27. Huh! Funny that at 27, I find myself with a husband of nearly six years and two ankle-biters. I’ve been a very busy lady!

I’ve done all this by the ripe old age of 26 (I can only say that for another week or so), and I’m pretty pooped. On Saturday, after getting up early for a run and experiencing the joys of garage saling, I was ready for a nap by 2pm. So, once the boys were down, I laid down too. When I got up, I was doing the whole inspect-yourself-in-the-mirror thing – checking for obvious signs of nap hangover or weird sheet creases, etc. – suddenly, I noticed a line on my forehead. It was pretty high up and close to my hair line. I thought at first that it was a smudge – some make-up that had traveled north during my slumber. I rubbed at it for a moment and then realized, Oh! Silly me. It’s not a smudge, it’s a sheet crease from my pillow. So, I rubbed at it a bit more, trying to get it to disappear. (Yes, at this point, you’re asking yourself: How slow is she?!). All in all, I maybe only rubbed this mystery line for a few seconds before the truth hit me like a semi-truck (an 18-wheeler big rig, to be exact). HOLY DOODILY! It’s a wrinkle! An honest and true, I’m-getting-older wrinkle! No matter how hard I rub it, it won’t go away. This guy is sticking around for the long haul. Me and Wrinkle. Wrinkle and Me. We’re inseparable. ‘Til death do us part, we’ll go through life as a package detail. You want Jenny? Well, you get her little high, forehead wrinkle too.

So, approaching 27 is not scary for me, but it is a wake-up call. I may not feel my age – I actually feel older. I may not look my age – with two kids already under my belt. I’ve literally got the proof under my belt. I carry around my “Mommy Pooch” like a sandwich billboard. And of course, one mustn't forget the road map of stretch marks on every inch of my stomach. [Reader discretion advised] And then having nursed two kids, I’ve got the post-nursing breasts: the saggy, old lady, pizza slice boobs that you need to roll up to fit into your bra. And don’t forget to adjust things, or you’ll have one pointing North-East while the other is indicating a more South-Westerly direction.

I’ve made my choices and I wouldn’t change them for the world. It doesn’t mean that I can’t fantasize about a tummy tuck, boob lift, and wrinkle-removal by the time I hit 30. Or, as a birthday gift to myself, I can just accept me – all of me: every wobbly-jiggly, saggy, wrinkly part of me. I think that’s a much healthier option and one that therapist Louise would definitely approve of, don’t you?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Garage sales – I just don’t get them. You go see the Stuff that people are trying to get rid of. You buy their Stuff and add it to your Stuff. Then shortly there after you realize you have way too much Stuff, and so you have a garage sale to sell your Stuff and maybe some other peoples’ Stuff. My first major garage sale experience was a showcase of my garage sale INexperience – I had a sale here to sell some of our Stuff. And what did I do with the earnings from my garage sale? I drove around the block to another house having a garage sale and bought some of their Stuff.

My Stuff-selling experience taught me a bit about the art that is garage sale-ing. And look out! Those professional garage salers are intense! If your signs say “GARAGE SALE 9-4,” you better be ready for the early birds at 8:45. At our sale, I was swamped with people from shortly before 9 until 10 and then it was pretty slow-going from there on out. They show up with their map of garage sales carefully plotted out for the day. The G-salers bring their own food so they can eat in the car (no time to waste – there are bargains to be found, Stuff to be bought). Of course, the garage sale sellers are getting smarter – providing coolers of pop, ice cold lemonade, maybe even hot coffee, home baked goods or Girl Scout cookies (all for sale of course), to keep their potential buyers happy. Maybe if they’re on enough of a sugar high, they’ll be more likely to spend, spend, spend! Then, there are the really good salers (not to be confused with the sellers, mind you) who know to never give you your asking price. They’re ready to push your bartering skills to the test even as early as 9:15!

The neighborhood next to ours (where the big, nice, new houses are – you know, the ones with no weeds in their flowerbeds) was having a Garage Sale Day – the sign advertised “50+ homes with sales!” Oh, the joy. I was so excited about it (despite my inexperience and general lack of comprehension behind it all) that this morning on our run, I asked Andrea if we could route our jog through the streets of sales. That way, I could scout out in advance (at 7:30) where the best sales would be. Who was out setting up early? Who was really focused on the goal? Who would have the best Stuff? Who was most deserving of my $1.50 for a crappy old board game?

Around 9:45, I started to get antsy. “Come on people. Pull it together. Hustle, hustle. We gotta get there before all the good…Stuff…is gone!” We loaded the boys in the car – snacks packed, wallet stuffed with cash ready to buy Stuff. Off we went.

Our garage sale experience consisted of a few main themes:

- The parking and traffic: Apparently normal rules of the road and general safety do not apply on neighborhood-wide Garage Sales Saturdays. You park wherever the heck you want – especially if you can stay in your car to peruse the Stuff proudly displayed on the driveway…it doesn’t matter if you’re parked in the middle of the road. If you’re obtaining a good bargain on that dream Stuff that you want, other garage salers respect your need to ditch your car and run. It’s a rule.

- The anti-husband: Mike was bored and feeling car sick from all the stop and go, stop and go. He was definitely anti-Garage Sale-ing. I asked him, “Don’t you think it’s kind of fun to see other peoples’ Stuff?” His response was, “Uh…no…What do we need to buy anyway? Are you going to buy Stuff just ‘cuz it’s at a Garage Sale?” My answer: “Uh…no.”

- The cranky kids in the backseat: “Why do we keep stopping? Where are you going, Mommy?” Then after the concept of garage sales was explained it was, “Are you getting me a toy? Get me a toy! Did they have any toys at that one? How ‘bout you check the next house for a toy? Ooh, I think I see some toys…Why didn’t you get a toy?” We replied to this nicely in the beginning, “Yeah, if we see a really good toy, MAYBE we’ll get it.” Then our response was, “Matthew, we said MAYBE.” Eventually it turned into: “If we hear you ask for a toy one more time, you are SO not getting a toy.” Matthew’s response to this was: “Buuut I whhhaaaannnnaa tooooyeeee.”

Yeah, we were done – SO done – with our garage sale-ing. After maybe 15-20 houses in about an hour we’d gone through: two bags of crackers, a bag of sliced apple, one water bottle, a baby bottle dropped about three times (“Uh oh!” every time), about 72 phrases with the word “toy” and our patience….we’d gone through all of our patience. I did come home with a pretty and large $4.00 ceramic flower pot though. So, it was all worth it.

* * * * *

Zach – poor kiddo – has some kind of freaky viral infection and body rash all over his tummy, back and neck. He doesn’t have a fever but he doesn’t feel well. He’s a total crank-monster. No wonder he didn’t enjoy his first garage sale-ing experience. Next time. He’ll LOVE it next time.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Somehow we ended up celebrating Cinco de Mayo at a Mardi Gras-themed party with a bunch of Canadians. I’ve learned a lot from Linda and Curt – our Canadian neighbors and good friends – on the ways of our neighbors to the North: Yes, they do say “eh” and “aboot”. They have a horribly frustrating and antiquated health care system up there. They love to shop here in the good ‘ol USofA. They say, “X, Y, Zed.” And they’re a really fun, friendly bunch of people. I’m thinking of becoming a Canuck – I do love ice hockey after all (a little known fact about me). So, despite all this knowledge I’m still unclear as to why they had a Mardi Gras party – complete with plastic beads (minus the nudity), Zydeco playing on the stereo and 60 POUNDS of Crawfish flown in for the occasion! We, the Martins, felt honored to be the American representatives at the Canadian Mardi Gras Cinco de Mayo festivities!

Pre-crawfish-cracking, we took Matthew to get his haircut on Saturday afternoon. We thought that maybe sitting on Daddy’s lap, watching in the mirror would be a therapeutic way to go through this – his least favorite – of activities. Wrong. So very wrong. Despite being pleasant, quick, and gentle, Matthew still acted as if the woman cutting his hair was slowly torturing him with a rusty chainsaw. We got about half a haircut (well, a trim) and had to give up. Matthew is terrified that his ears will get cut. After some analyzing, Mike and I have pinpointed the reason for this phobia and we believe we’ve come up with a good cure.

So, Matthew suffers from a little – or big – something called, “The Martin Ears.” He’s well-endowed in the aural category. We don’t think that he’s ever actually suffered any ear trauma or pain but he lives in fear that they will be somehow mutilated during a haircut. They are largish targets, so the idea we came up with is some form of ear protective gear: i.e. fold his ears up into two Dixie cups and then just cut around the cup. So, instead of a Bowl Cut, I suppose it would be a Cup Cut. We’ll have to give it a try otherwise we’re looking at a very shaggy, long-haired boy, a seriously emotionally scarred boy or we’ll just have to cut his hair when he’s asleep. We may go for option three and book the therapists in advance.

Zachary is a genius. It’s the truth. At only 12 months, one week, and two days old, he’s fluent in Baby Sign Language. OK, so we may not understand all of his gestures, but he’s definitely trying to tell us something. He’s very good at signing for ‘milk’ now and does the sign for ‘more’ (which is really basically him clapping), and he’ll blow you a kiss (usually a juicy one – he practically pulls his tongue out of his mouth in the process). But lately, he’s gotten so into trying to communicate that he looks like a little baseball coach throwing signs and gestures on baby super-speed. It’s hard to keep up with this child. He’s just so advanced!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Matthew woke up on the right side of the bed yesterday. I was putting away clean clothes in his room (yes, a miracle in and of itself) while he woke up. The first thing he said to me was, “Thanks Mom, for doing my laundry. You should get a sticker for that. Good job!” Man, if only all days started out that well. (It is a little sad though that my three-year-old recognizes what an accomplishment it is for me to actually get the clean clothes put away). Then a little bit later, I braced myself for a battle. Getting Matthew to go potty before breakfast is often a fight. When I asked him to go use the potty, he went right away with no complaints. I told him that he did a great job, and we’d have to put a sticker on his chart, to which he replied, “Nah, I don’t need a sticker. Going potty is a stinky job.” I laughed and said, “Matthew! You’re so funny!” And he said, “Yeah, I am, huh?” Love that kid.

I’ve not done quite as much writing this week since I’ve been getting ready for music class. Our new theme is “Silly Songs” which I’m really excited about. “Silly” is quite a broad concept and open for interpretation, so there’s no end to the songs and ideas. It’s great that I have a built in test-audience. I sing the stuff to Matthew or show him the books that I’m thinking about using, and he’s very honest about what’s good and what’s gotta go. His personal favorite is an extremely silly song sung to the tune of “God Bless America.” It goes a little something like this, “God Bless my Underwear. My only pair.
Stand beside them, And guide them, As they sit in a heap by the chair. From the washer,
To the clothesline, To my dresser drawer, To my rear! God, bless my underwear, My only pair. God, bless my underwear, Or I'll be bare.”
It’s a truly moving hymn. The moms will surely appreciate the quality music that I’m teaching to their children.

When I haven’t been researching songs about underwear, I’ve spent some of my “me time” researching and reading on the world of writing. A friend loaned me about eight books on the subject of writing for kids (titles like: So, you want to be a children’s author? and The Everything Book to Publishing Kids Books, How to write for Kids, Why would you be a writer?, Are you a crazy person?, How to make no money, You want to be an author? Don’t do it unless you LOVE rejection). OK, I may be making up some of those titles up, but you get the point. I never said that I was going to become a writer in order to get published and make money (I shan’t deny, however, that this is a part of the dream though). And it’s not like I’m going to “quit my day job” to start in on my prestigious writing career. If anything, these books painted a picture of how hard it is to actually get published and they totally discouraged me. So, what did I do? I got writer’s panic and writer’s block before I even started writing.

Instead of writing, I’ve spent my time reading about writing and how hard it is. I’ve asked myself, “OK. I want to write. I think I’m a pretty decent writer, but what should I write? There are so many possibilities: Childrens’ literature, chic lit, mommy lit, my memoirs, spiritually-moving-change-peoples’-lives lit, soft porn-grocery-store romance lit…” Now this last one is an intriguing thought. I know that I don’t have it in me to write things like “heaving bosom” and “burning loins” while keeping a straight face. And I’d never be able to look my parents (or many people) in the face again. I’d have to come up with a pen name – something sassy like Genevieve Martinez.

Not that I’m serious about writing for the Harlequin market, but it’s a funny thought. Mike and I are going to be interviewed on the local Catholic radio station (Sacred Heart Radio) on May 21st. We’ll be talking about Engaged Encounter on a program called, “Conversations with Father Bob.” Yep, we’ll have 28 minutes of radio fame. During this interview with a priest, I’ll have to somehow restrain myself from hogging the mic from Mike, remember that we’re there to discuss Engaged Encounter and not me, myself and I – though I would make for a fascinating radio show topic – and I have to REALLY fight the urge to use the opportunity to launch my singing career…or my budding career as a writer. I can just see it now, Father Bob, “So, Jenny, what do you do?” Me: “I’m an award winning author.” “Oh, that’s great! Have you written anything I might have read?” “Uh, well, have you read Naughty Nights in Newcastle? Or The Mommy Mistress?”

Yeah, supermarket romance? Definitely out.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy May Day! The countdown is on. That’s right, only 23 days until I turn the big 2-7. I’m registered at every store you can think of that sells cute things, so I’ve got you covered on the gift ideas. (Just kidding)!!

We had a great day today. It was dinosaur day at preschool – very exciting. Zachary and I dropped the dino-fan and headed to the gym. This was kind of a trial. He hasn’t done so well in the Kids’ Club lately (gets all ‘I miss Mom’ and stuff), so it’s been a while since I’ve taken him. He did OK with the drop-off. He went straight to Lisa, was happy for a moment, and then realized, “What the h-e-double-hockey-sticks?! You’re going to LEAVE me here?! With HER? And all these kids?? And all these cool toys?! I don’t THINK SO!” My response to him sobbing and trying to leap out of Lisa’s arms was, “OK. Have fun! Bye.” I was outta there. (Don’t worry, the Mommy-Guilt still lurks deep within me and I snuck a peak before getting on the stairclimber; he was fine).

I had a great cardio workout. I need every cardio workout I can get right now. Apparently I think that I’m still nursing and can eat for two. Maybe I’ll become a wet nurse or just pump for the rest of my life so that I can continue with all the extra calories. Or maybe I should stop all the extra calories. Huh! There’s an idea. Anyway, after my stairs and run I thought, ‘Hey! I could pop into the yoga class for about 30 minutes before we need to leave to pick up Matthew. I’ll just walk by the Kids Club on my way.’ Idiot. Total dummy. Like I didn’t spend 10 years babysitting before having offspring of MY own. I KNOW that children have Mommy-radar like it ain’t no thang. I literally just stuck my head around the corner, Zach immediately saw me and burst into tears. The jig was up. There went yoga. There went a shower. There went changing clothes before picking up my eldest. There was Zachary sniffling on my hip – pulling my hair, sucking his thumb, ripping at my heart strings.

He was ready for a nap anyway, so I figured it wasn’t the end of the world if we got back in the car and headed back to preschool early. The problem was that for some reason, I became completely, unbelievably desperate to get out of my raunchy workout clothes. Yeah, they were kind of gross, but it wasn’t that bad. I had a jacket I could throw on, but for some reason I became totally obsessed with changing my clothes. I just could not handle them. I didn’t want to wear them. I did not want to pick Matthew up from preschool in my nastiness. I came up with a plan – I needed to stop for gas anyway. We would be stopped, Zach could keep sleeping, we’ve got tinted windows in the backseat – I could just change clothes back there. WHAT WAS I THINKING?! I got the gas pumping, grabbed my clean clothes from the trunk and wedged myself between the passenger seat and Matthew’s booster seat. In an attempt to stay modest (lest someone walk by the front of the car and peak in), I was crouched as low as I could go doing the whole girl take-one-top-thingy-off-while-simultaneously-putting-the-other-on move, and I literally got tangled in my garments…nearly strangled as a matter of fact, and I’m NOT exaggerating! In the end, modesty remained somewhat in tact, and I did manage to exit the car fully clothed with no body parts exposed (except for my pretty toes, of course).

My toes did have to be covered up for a bit this afternoon. Matthew and I worked out in the yard for about an hour and a half (while Zachary napped). My flowerbeds are starting to look so pretty! (You can see a picture of the front one at our website. That’s our neighbor’s house that you see in the background). I told Matthew that I was excited because my “blue flowers” (Lithadora ground cover) are really filling out the bed. Now nearly every time we leave the garage and drive by the flowers, he’ll say, “There’s your blue flowers. Are you excited, Mommy?” I totally am.

I’m also excited about our resident bunny. So far, we think that there’s just a Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit that have made there home somewhere on or near our property, but we know it’s only a matter of time ‘til there’s like a million of them. Matthew and I chucked some baby carrots at one that was nibbling on our grass. Mr. Bunny looked a little thin and we figured – he’s a bunny. He’d like some carrots. So, this is the thanks I get?! Today, we looked out the window and saw him (or her, I suppose) nibbling on my flowers!! (Not the blue ones, but still)! Matthew and I yelled out the window at him, “Hey, Bunny! Stop eating our flowers!” That didn’t work, so we decided that instead of yelling, I should go ask the bunny nicely. (“Use your words.”) I approached Mr. Bunny – Mr. BRAVE Bunny and politely asked him to not chew on our flowers. I really wonder what the neighbor across the street thinks of us.

I realize that they are just toenails. Do they even really serve a purpose? And yet, as of Sunday, I’m obsessed with them. Not toenails, in general, but my oh-so pretty, girly, floraled and bedazzled toenails. Normally, I’m not such a huge fan of even my toes – they’re a bit oddly shaped. I’ve had the honor of inheriting my dad’s, we’ll call them unique, curvy toes. But if my toenails are pretty, it’s hard not to love the whole foot package.

My good friend Rebecca decided that instead of celebrating Zachary’s first birthday with a gift for him (really what did he do anyway?); I was the one that deserved a little spoiling. So she and I got pedicures. Heavenly. We both went all out and received not only the standard paint job, but we also ended up with flowers hand-painted on our big toe nails…our big toenails…our big toe toenails…whatever. It’s all quite strange when you think about it, but SO CUTE when you see it. I came home so obsessed with my own toenails that I immediately took a picture (for your viewing pleasure at ) and vowed to never wear socks or normal shoes again. It’s sandals, only sandals, for me. Come freak spring snowstorm or standard Seattle rain, it would be a crime to cover up these cute toes!

We had a play date scheduled for this morning, so with eager anticipation I got ready for the big outing. I planned my entire outfit around my bright pink, floralized nails. Both boys were in the car, ready to go, when I realized I was without my sunglasses. (Thankfully it was a relatively warm and sunny, sandal-appropriate day). I thought that perhaps I’d left them in the running stroller. After a quick check, I turned up sunglassless; they weren’t there. As I stepped over the lawnmower back to the car, I somehow caught my foot – yes, my pretty-pretty princess foot!on the top of the lawnmower. A cry escaped my lips as I tripped and caught myself on the side of the car.

Matthew said, “Mommy? Are you OK? What happened?” I think I managed to successfully keep all profanities inside my head and what came out was a stream of, “Owie. Ow. OW!” I sat down in the driver’s seat to survey the damage. That’s when I saw it, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Part of my right big toe flower prettiness had completely broken off. I was in pain – physically and emotionally; I hurt. Complete devastation. Matthew reassured me, “It’s OK. It’s just your toe.” Yes, but it was my pretty-pretty flower toe. Thankfully, all was not lost, most of the floral design remains, but part of my nail – and my soul – was shattered in that brief moment.