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Taking it easy on yourself January 3, 2012

Filed under: Brain Chatter,Children & Insanity — gleefulbarbarians @ 12:12 am

AL, I thought I was going to be so brilliant and kick the year off by posting after what seems like eons, years, months since I’ve written. I just looked at our site and saw 2 posts that I missed! How did that happen? I’ll tell you–it’s a lack of sleep going on 5 years now. I saw a journal entry, in my little notebook that I only seem to write in on vacations and major holidays, from November 2009. Brenna was 2 months old and I had slept 7 hours the previous night. So why does she wake 3-6 times now? Because I’ve allowed it. Because I’ve been too tired to make the change and cut out the night nursing. It’s time. She and I have been talking about it. It’s the new year and people make changes, right? Sometimes when I tell her no nursing she just rolls over, I sing her a sleepy version of Twinkle Little Star. Other times, she says “no tinkle ittle star!” and goes to sleep. My girl is growing up.

I didn’t reflect on 2011 very much. I reflected more on how I felt at the end of it, which is thankful. I don’t know whether it’s good or bad, but if people are alive, I’m pretty much happy now. Anything else is just sprinkles. At midnight the other night (yes, I was awake for new years), David said it’s going to be an interesting year–we’ve got a lot of travel planned, Ainsley starts Kindergarten in the fall (which makes me want to cry when I think of it, namely because I think of Dave Barry’s article every time. I read the last few sentences and get teary.) and lots of other adventures on the horizon. Ainsley will be a big girl as she walks in the school doors for the first time and I will cry.

Can I add that even though I’ve lived in Colorado for 12 years, New Year’s to me is still at 10 pm because that’s when the ball drops in NY? I mean, I’m from New York, how is new year’s at any other time? I was finishing a puzzle at 10 pm this year and missed the ball drop (for reasons why, see paragraph 1).

Looking forward to this “interesting” year ahead, I’m scared my grandmother won’t be there at the end. She’s 90 and feisty, but I began to cry as I kissed and hugged her goodbye last week. Her voice broke too. You just never know. I am not sure my dog and canine companion of 11+ years won’t make it through the year. I’m scared Inja will continue to live in a sub-optimal place or bad things will happen to the good people I know. I’m also hopeful–that I’ll actually be able to lose 8 lbs, that our travels will be exciting and not as exhausting as they currently promise. I’m hopeful I’ll make some money to afford what I spend and that I’ll sleep more. I would settle for life and sleeping more.

Did I tell you to read The Night Circus? If not, go read it. I’ve read it 3 times in the past month or so and would start it again tonight. Truly.

My friend Kate gave Brenna a little doll–stupidly named Belly Brites by the marketing person for a toy company–her belly lights up, changes color and plays a large portion of Clair de Lune. It’s very sweet. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve heard Clair de Lune over the past few weeks. One night she played it 16 times before going to bed. First thing in the morning, Ainsley came in the room and turned it on. I might have thrown up in my mouth a little.

I’m heading downstairs to make dinner. Tacos with chicken breast or ground beef, beans, avocado, cheese, lettuce, salsa. It’s incredibly exciting. I’m going for Americana tonight. I might even use paper plates and not compost afterward (not really).

Hugs to you and happy 2012. How do you think it will be an interesting year?


Happy 4th of July! July 5, 2011

Filed under: Brain Chatter,Children & Insanity — gleefulbarbarians @ 5:38 am
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Ah, Independence Day. Time to celebrate. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt free and independent. You know when I feel most independent? When I’m in my car, turning on the lights because I’ve actually stayed out until it’s dark outside. (it doesn’t happen very often). It’s like I suddenly realize that I’m by myself. At night. Like…alone…of course, I have this pull to be home and with the girls for bed time, and I get very impatient to just be home. Some day, I won’t need to nurse before bed, read stories, brush teeth or give hugs. For now, I’m okay with this kind of dependence. I cherish it, actually, even when I sometimes feel like I’ve sat in this chair for way too many hours.

Mommy Independence is not just about freedom of time or from demands, but also from worry. I worry a lot. I guess it’s what moms do when they are trying to protect what they love.  Still, I wish I worried less. Stupid creative mind.

Your last letter sounded really exhausting. I’m pretty tired right now, so I recognize exhaustion. 🙂 Really though, neither of my children slept as babies. Ainsley started to sleep around two years–namely because I was pregnant and couldn’t take it much more. I think she knew. I’m coming to that point with Brenna. I just can’t take how tired and cranky I feel every day. Sometimes I worry that I will never feel less tired. That it will always be this way.

I also sometimes worry that I’ll never slow down. I know everyone, every parent is busy. That it goes fast. But I just want to not feel like every moment of my day is rush, rush, rush, do, do, you ever slow down?

I think I’m a little sad today because it was last year today that I last saw Inja before her aneurysm. Our daughters were in a parade on bikes and then cooked out and swam. I’ve thought of her a lot today.

I’m not being funny, am I? It’s almost midnight, so I gotta go to sleep. Sometimes I’m funny before sleep. Evidently not now. But I had to write and you know, depress you.

I hope you had a great day. The 4th is so lovely because everyone just takes time to be together and enjoy. It’s like the whole country is that way. I love that. Night!



Time flies when you are completely bewildered June 7, 2011

Filed under: Brain Chatter,Children & Insanity — gleefulbarbarians @ 11:00 pm

Dear Amey,

Why do I keep going to sleep after midnight? WHY?!? I know I will be exhausted in the morning. I am literally running on fumes. And each week, I think “wow, I could not get more tired.” And you know what happens a week later? I am more tired. I know the mommy reserves are mighty and seemingly never-ending, but sometimes I am concerned I will run out of fumes. And being that tired does not bode well for anything else. I’m crankier. I can think, but it takes more effort. I eat worse. I work out less. Seriously, if I could just get in bed before 9 pm each night, it’s possible I could solve all the world’s problems. I’m fabulous when I’ve slept.

You mentioned cookies in your last post and the recipe on the package. I’m fairly certain that over the centuries, your average mama did not have access to tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of cookie recipes. She grew up, learned how to make a couple kinds of cookies that her family passed down to her and that was it. Maybe she tweaked it, maybe she added some more cinnamon or lemon peel, but basically, she mastered a cookie. It was probably divine to master that cookie, not that she would have given the alternative a thought. You know what happens when I want to make a lemon cookie? I search Google. Lemon cookie=19.2 million results. Try to master that! It gives you the idea that your cookie is not good enough, that you could always do better. When all you really want is a lemon cookie to satisfy your lemon cookie urge.

Great. Now I want a lemon cookie.

I started another book 2 nights ago–Jane Green, The Beach House. I like British chick lit. It’s witty.

David & I started writing a book a couple years ago. It’s a great idea. I’ll explain it someday. I still might do it, so I can’t talk about it. Someday, someday, someday…while cleaning out the garage and all my childhood belongings, I found two stories I’d written about Inja. One was about our endless adventures and how we have done so much together–enough to fill a lifetime–or so I thought as a teenager. And now all I do is crave more adventures with her. I also had written another story based on our friendship, probably 20 years ago, where her character was killed in a car accident. It’s fairly haunting and brought tears to my eyes, as it does now. It’s not fair.

Have I mentioned that Inja wrote me so many cards, so many letters over the course of our 35 year friendship that when I read them, it’s like she knew the tragedy her future would hold? Which of course, she didn’t, but she left so many beautiful thoughts about being with me no matter what, being friends through good times and bad…I’ve never grieved her brain aneurysm. She’s alive. It’s hard to grieve for someone who lives an hour away. She still loves me, still feels the same about me. She can’t cook, drive a car, or be a fully present mother to her children (this is the part that kills me), but she is there and she still loves. I really, really miss her though. I really do. (yes, I am crying now.)

On a funnier, lighter note: my 4 year old is a fashion diva. She isn’t super princess or frilly, but she is very artistic and driven in her need to select, match and create her own outfits. I have no idea how this will translate into adulthood. Sometimes it scares me, but it could be interesting. Ainsley is her own person, as is Brenna, and I have to support them and the people they are. I realized after looking at my elementary school report cards this past weekend that I am this way, I have been this way for a long time and nothing will change that. I feel that way about my children too–they are the way they are. I just need to support them with love and compassion to help them become the best version of the people they are. I can’t wait to see who they grow up to be (well, I can wait. I’m just excited to see it.)

We are about to buy a crazy, expensive, large, life-time-guarantee-carrying wooden play structure with swings, slide & little house at the top. I would argue that it’s an unnecessary expense, but this is what I realized–my children will use it all the time. Every day when the weather permits. They will use it until they are teenagers and if you look at it that way, per use, it’s pennies. And the excitement and happiness a swing set brings is pretty substantial. Inja and I practically lived on the swing set and jungle gym as children. I know that kind of happiness.

What makes your boys happy?

Yours in writing and campsongs,


The washing up June 1, 2011

Filed under: Brain Chatter,Children & Insanity,she's crafty — gleefulbarbarians @ 6:05 am

It’s bathing night here, so I’m currently sitting at the top of the stairs with one kid in each shower (one in mine, one in theirs), while I periodically inquire, “What are you doing in there?  Are you nearly done?”.  It’s great that they can bathe themselves, but it’s still a process.  Nicholas has a running commentary going in his.  I think he’s talking about NHL 11 (video game for the playstation) or just the playoffs because I swear I heard something like “that’s a bad word in sign language [??], and you should get fined for using that, but nothing happens if the ref doesn’t see it…” and now he’s talking about how people should pass the puck, and playing positions.  Of course, with all this talking and the water running he can’t hear my periodic shouts.

We’re on day 2 of “do the dishes before going to bed.”  This is a task I dislike, and yet I like the end result.  Night Gal hates doing the dishes.  Morning Gal likes waking up to a tidy kitchen.  Of course, Morning Gal gets up after the 3 other people in the house have already had breakfast many mornings, so it’s no longer exactly “tidy,” but at least it’s not littered with roasting pans and kitchen knives.  It was rough going over the weekend (“it’s a holiday – I don’t want to do dishes!”), particular since I made (not terribly good) cookies which made extra dishes.

I’ve been wanting oatmeal cookies and I’d had good results before with the recipe on the Quaker Oats can.  It is only now that I remember I have at least one canister of instant oats (from when my grandmother was here) plus the industrial sized box from Costco (regular rolled, not instant or quick), and that one or both of those probably has the recipe.  I’ll go see how that compares with the one I found on the Quaker website.  The end result was a mostly alright cookie, but kind of dense.  It’s a sad testimony to how rarely I make cookies that the boys were thrilled, even with mediocre cookies.

I noticed on the Quaker site that in the “recipes” tab, there’s a link to “oatmeal topping ideas.”  Score!  I thought.  I could use some new ideas.  Oatmeal does hold me longer than some other breakfast choices we have (one of my other favorites is a fried egg on a piece of toast – simple, but delicious).  I clicked and the page didn’t load.  I immediately thought, “If the Quaker people can’t come up with new things to do with oatmeal, what hope is there for me?!”  And then I hit “reload” and all kinds of things loaded. The other day I did chopped roasted almonds (take away my hippie card – my nuts aren’t raw), dried cranberries and some cranberry apple butter Trader Joe’s had over the winter.  It’s been living in my fridge, but wasn’t moldy and hadn’t expired.  Super.

[Showers done, teeth brushed, jammies on.  Soundtrack featured “Are you done yet?” and “What are you doing in there?”  and “Leave your brother alone!”  and the ever popular “Stop reading and finish up already.”  Now they’re returning from saying goodnight to Dan who was last spotted making no-carb chocolate mousse for himself for dessert]

Tell me more about the brain candy you’re reading.   I read brain candy nearly exclusively, and my audiobooks (my background noise while I do housework) have to be.  The fact that I’m doing this “Game of Thrones” book as an audiobook is a big switch for me – I have to pay more attention than I normally do with an audiobook, but I could get this faster (it’s a library download) than waiting for an actual print copy of the book.  One of my first audiobooks?  The entire (oh yes, all 10+ books) Princess Diaries series.  I also end up reading books that are related to television series or movies because I can’t think of things to read on my own.  It’s how I found Charlaine Harris (she writes the Sookie Stackhouse books that are behind the “True Blood” series on HBO).  Also, my library subscribes to this database called NoveList which has this great “author read-alike” feature.  I read the “Confessions of a Shopaholic” series and then found a whole mess of Irish/UK chick lit to read.   Janet Evanovich is another fun read.  In the “not exactly brain candy” category, I’m still a huge Stephen King fan.

You asked about books I would write.   For fiction, maybe something with a mermaid as a the main character.  WIth all the vampire hype, people might be ready.  Also, I thought MaryJanice Davidson’s 3 book series about a mermaid named Fred was good.  I’d have to not copy her.    For non-fiction I have no idea.  Probably the best I could do would be a collection of essays.  You know – like this thing.  I don’t know enough about any one thing to want to write a book about it.  Things I’m sort of involved with (like breastfeeding or knitting) are already done so well that I don’t feel drawn to try to invade that yet.  Plus, with the knitting?  By the time I thought about writing essays on that (because it surely won’t be a pattern book), the bloom will be off that literary rose.  I might have better luck going right to e-publishing, but I’m not that interested.    I would like Thomas Hale to release his Medications and Mother’s Milk book in a better format. CD-ROM would be nice, wider pages would be nice.  That book has like 1500 pages or something, but it’s only 4″ wide.    OKay.  I thought I might be exaggerating, but I looked on amazon.  It’s 1262 pages, and 8.4 x 4.4 x 2.2 inches.  Basically?  A brick.  It’s a pain in the neck to copy from it or scan it, I’m not certain the margins are wide enough so that I could get it 3 hole drilled….  ARGH!  And it’s such a good reference.  Oh, and you definitely need to read The Wind in the Willows.  I read it two summers ago – it was on that 100 books everyone should read from the BBC.

I often have a hard time just letting the boys make a mess of stuff.  Sometimes it’s balanced by the level of laziness I’m feeling: let them make a mess making their own breakfast and I get an extra 30 minutes in bed OR get up and make them breakfast.   I try to manage the science experiments mostly so there isn’t fighting over who does what and so that we actually do the experiment (rather than spilling a jar full of cabbage juice all over the kitchen floor).   The outside dirt is easier for me to manage.  I generally don’t care too much about how dirty they get outside.  Our backyard is one big dust pile because the boys have killed the grass via hockey playing and bike riding.

I’m nearly done with the sleeves for my sweater.  The other day I showed Dan the sleeve progress and he shot back, “I’m no longer impressed unless you’re doing two at a time.”  At which point I showed him that I was, in fact, doing both.  HA!  His public statement is that knitting is “witchcraft” because “there’s no way you can turn one piece of string into a sweater without tying any knots.  At any point the whole thing could unravel!  It’s witchcraft.”

Remember when we had mashed potatoes with m&ms in them?







Camping Out May 29, 2011

Filed under: Brain Chatter,Children & Insanity,Culinary Creativity,Uncategorized — gleefulbarbarians @ 5:29 am

Dear AL,

Right now, Ainsley is outside in our backyard in our enormous 6+2 person tent for her first night “camping.” I’m not sure why they call it 6+2 instead of 8, but this tent is certainly large enough for a family of 6 to go camping and happily pick up a couple of strays along the way to sleep in the other room (yes, our tent has TWO rooms. We are a long way from backpacking.) But I digress. Ainsley is comfy in her new sleeping bag, in our new tent beside David. I call him David and not Daddy because that’s what she calls him. I’ll say, “Ainsley, call Daddy.” She’ll yell “DAVID!!!” I’ve also heard “Hon.” She’s been doing this for years and it still makes me laugh each time. I would love for it to be a Mommy & Ainsley camping night, but then it would become a Mommy & Ainsley & Brenna camping night. Though I do love to be sandwiched in between my two little girls, I need some sleep, so I will admire them from inside.

It must be lovely to knit. You must love the sense of accomplishment it gives you. It’s time-consuming and difficult enough so that you gain satisfaction from completing something you created, but not so involved that it takes all your time, money and sanity for years. I love that.

Let’s get to your questions:

What am I reading: I am obsessed with reading by flashlight. And my 2011 version of this activity is reading my ipad “kindle.” I’d love to tell you I’m reading something like Mark Twain or another intellectual challenge (though I love myself some Jane Austen. Hello, Mr. Darcy!) I’m obsessed with reading cheap books at the moment–mostly escapist chick lit about finding a man and a job that are worthy of some women whose fictional parents evidently found it necessary to name their made-up child after colors or some other absurdity. In one book I read, the main character was named Mandalay Florentino. My last book, our “heroine” was Bluebell Byrne. That alone should stop me from reading them. It’s mindless, has nothing to do with my life, and I like to see how many typos I can find. I do have The Power of Now queued up. Our pediatrician recommended it after I told her I was struggling with the question “what if something bad happens?” after Inja’s brain aneurysm. I could use the inspiration.

What am I making: Hopefully a mess. I am working on a project with a group of educators and others who were inspired by David Hawkins–a professor, scientist, philosopher, educator and father who coined the phrase “Messing about in Science.” He took the idea from The Wind in the Willows, which I have never read, but there’s a line “”There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” His belief was that children learned best when they had ample time and “space” (as in we adults should just stand back and let children figure it out) to Mess About. The project has led to some introspection about my ability to embrace the messes and dirt my daughters create and our society’s shunning of working with our hands (political side note: immigrants work on farms for a reason and we should value this). My job description in all of this: I make things happen. I’m trying to raise money for and excite people about an exhibit to captivate the natural scientist in every child–with a explorative, play-based approach inspired and influenced by David Hawkins. I’ve got a lot of people jumping on board–it’s how to take those people to a train made of cash that is keeping me up at night. There’s a line from a movie about train tracks in the alps that were built before a train existed that could make it there. If they made those tracks, they knew a train would come. That’s what I feel like I’m making.

What I am doing: entirely too much (see above). I keep “attempting” to get rid of things in my life to create some space, but other things just fill that space in. I’m beginning to see that I am just that person and that is just my life.

What I am eating: eggs. Seriously, I eat them every day. If I try to eat cereal in the morning instead of eggs, by 10 am, my stomach is like, “ha, ha. Nice try. Go get yourself something with a yolk.” And I endlessly drink Bhakti Chai, the best chai in the whole world that brings other chais to their knees. I’m also trying to get a lot of greens. They make me feel good about myself. I’m aiming for a summer of salad. I want to make really amazing and fantastic salad this summer. The kind that could challenge one of those salads you get at a fancy restaurant where there are like 3 ingredients on the plate, but they are delightful and evoke joy. yum.

I love that you signed peacefully. I sometimes think there is almost nothing peaceful about me. But I’ve got a sleeping baby next to me and I created that, so I’m feeling pretty serene at the moment.

Most go take a gander at the tent. If you could write two books–one fiction, one non-fiction–what would they be about?



Jumping in May 27, 2011

Filed under: Children & Insanity,she's crafty — gleefulbarbarians @ 6:13 am

Dear iGEL,

I had mentally started a note to you Tuesday night because we’d had two relatively smooth days.  YAY!  And then Wednesday broke with “Thing 1 elbowed me in the head” and a steady bout of mid-level skirmishes.  Why is it that children lull you into that false sense of “well alright!  things are moving along nicely” only to broadside you into “why did we think that ‘childfree’ was a bad option?”  It’s really been going on since Day 1.  Nursing going well?  Time to go on strike, or nurse every 3 minutes for 24 hours.   3 days of toddler eating new foods?  Time to live on nothing but 2 cheerios and carpet lint for a while.  Preschooler sharing toys?  Time to start biting anyone who comes in the room.  Ugh.

We’ve been schooling slackers this week for various reasons.  Monday was okay.  Tuesday we had a meeting in the morning and normally we’d go to the Homeschool Park Day in the afternoon, but Thing 1 ended up with an upset stomach, so we came home.  Of course he was cured by the time we got home, but I’d already planned an abbreviated day of stuff they could get done during the meeting (because we were scheduled to be out of the house from 10-6), so instead it was play hockey and go swimming for the bulk of the day.  Wednesday morning was rough (what with the elbowing and continued skirmishes) and then the afternoon was spent at art class, the library and the grocery store.  Today is Thursday and I was hoping to get back on schedule, and then a friend called.  She had just picked up her daughters from their last day of school.  Could they come over and play?  We’ve missed seeing them, so sure.   Tomorrow will either be a busy day, or we’ll end up moving things to next week.  Sigh.

Normally I wouldn’t care too much, but it’s the end.of.May and I kind of want to be done.   So, bleh.

On the plus side, tonight was stitch and bitch.  I had a lovely evening.  I’ve been working on making this sweater for myself: – mine will be blue and (shh!)  100% acrylic.  Yeah, I know.  We could talk about how artificial it is, and yet how wonderfully machine washable and dryable, but at the end of the day, I think acrylic comes from oil which comes from dinosaurs or something, so really, it’s all good.  Maybe not vegan (what with being from dinosaurs), but as someone who had turkey AND bacon on my sandwich tonight, this is clearly not a problem for me.

Holy cow.  Oil doesn’t come from dinosaurs!

I neglected to mention – that sweater from a couple of paragraphs back?  I have a goal (it’s a geeky thing and I can explain if you’re interested, but it involves a message board and a popular children’s book series) of finishing it by the end of July.  I’m not done with the sleeves yet, and I still have the back, the fronts, the hood and all the sewing up.  I started earlier this month.  Guess who’s behind?  This guy.    At the same time, I want to knit these next month: and have them done in time for the season premiere of True Blood.   At the beginning of the month I said that I wanted to have them done in time for the release of the newest Sookie Stackhouse book, but that was the 8th or something so that goal was quickly abandoned.   I don’t remember being this geeky in high school or college.   I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons.  I swear.

Just because I’m feeling rambly and this post is all about me (and because I’m always interested in what other people are reading), my currently active books are:

  • The Land of Painted Caves by Jane Auel – i started this out of a sense of obligation.  i’ve read the rest of the series, so i’m reading this too.
  • The Gift by James Patterson – this is young adult fiction about a witch and wizard sibling pair and the New Order regime that’s hunting them down.  James Patterson and his 2 page chapters make for very quick reading.
  • Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich – an audiobook that’s nearly finished.   I’ve read it as a paper book, but I like audiobooks for background “noise” sometimes.   My “on deck” audiobook is A Game of Thrones: Song of Fire and Ice by RR Martin (I think).  We’ve started watching the series on HBO, so I downloaded the book.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to follow it as an audiobook, but we’ll see.
  • I’m considering read The Warlizard Chronicles.  The author is a friend, and we have the Kindle version of the book to read on the computer or my ipod, but I’m not sure I want to know that much about him.

What are you reading, making, doing, eating?