Tuesday, January 31, 2012

get with the imaginary program, john!

when my brothers and sisters and i were much younger, and my parents decided to cut costs (since our family was a tiny catholic army), my sister cathy and i were sometimes left in charge of the brood. actually, this became the norm, rather than the exception when some baby-sitters would sit around doing nothing and cathy and i ended up taking care of the little ones, cooking food, changing diapers, soothing siblings who missed mom and dad, and breaking up fights. so, mom and dad decided that they would finally start taking advantage of having so many kids, and we'd be left in charge on saturdays while mom worked with dad at his office.

i say "we" because though i was the oldest, cathy and i were a team of babysitters. we were sort of like mallory and jessi from the babysitter's club. we were just junior babysitters, so we would team up to divide and conquer the children. cathy was more of the rule enforcer, as i recall, and i don't know exactly what i did. orchestrate elaborate games of court? in these games, i donned my dad's dental school graduation robe, grabbed a pair of my mom's more conservative heels and presided over the living room, seated at our coffee table with a meat hammer as my gavel. this game was less than satisfying because i routinely had to stop and feed lines to the "witnesses," and really, what fun is a game of court when you have to be the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the judge and mostly every witness too?

junior baby-sitters at work play.

when court got old, we played games of church. a very progressive catholic, i played the role of the female priest. cathy and i would painstakingly count out the correct number of graham crackers and the requisite amount of grape juice so we could celebrate the holy eucharist. if chris or marty got fidgety during a long-winded homily, may god have mercy on their souls! my lecture would take a new track, focusing on the members of the small congregation who couldn't even give up 10 minutes of their time to listen to god's word.

perhaps our all-time favorite make believe game was "babies." it did not need a more detailed description than that. in the land of "babies," dolls were real people, little siblings were our children and we were married to rich and accomplished imaginary husbands. cathy lived with her husband in an estate otherwise known as the front porch. i lived in the plush digs of the back deck. chris lived up near the apple tree. the game transcended many years, and we added players (cousins) depending on who was around and when. sometimes the locations of our homes moved, and once we even set up shop in the woods, where i enlisted the help of all our siblings in clearing a path to a circle of trees. after we had spent all day weeding the path and adding stones to make it look like a tiny driveway, i announced that i was too tired and was done with the game for the day. my heartbroken sister just wanted to actually play after going to all that trouble.

it's funny how games of make believe remain so etched in your memory, even now, 20 years later. how any one of us can answer the name of the doll who had diaper pins attaching his legs to his body (since they had fallen off after years of play)... ummm, his name was michael and he had hip dysplasia from the time he was an infant, duh. how we all recall fondly the elaborate baptism ceremony we conducted for our doll children, enlisting mom's help to make appetizers and cake and wrapping up real gifts to open during the after-party. how we all know that the beach is actually a creek on the southeastern portion of my parents property and "stephanie's house" is a foxhole under a circle of trees up in the woods. and how the single most successful way to get someone to admit to having done something wrong was the epic, "it's good if you did it, but did you?"
baby michael pictured in background, right. this picture was taken sometime post-hip operation.

i am not quite sure why judges and prosecutors haven't stumbled upon this age-old confession mechanism, but when the secret gets out, you better wait for it. cathy and i were skilled in the art of interrogating our younger siblings, and if one of them had done something wrong, we could expertly extract the confession with a simple series of questions designed to break the defenses of the offender. allow me to explain.

let's say that by chance or wayward broomsticks one of my brothers had managed to break one of the wildlife plates displayed on the shelf in the dining room. upon surveying the scene of broken wildlife pieces, cathy and i knew that we needed to get to the bottom of the catastrophe and, as good junior babysitters, report to my parents upon their return. and so we would descend upon the likely culprits and ask whether anyone knew anything about the broken plate. no one would 'fess up to the deed so easily, so sometimes we'd have to take the kids off, perhaps one-by-one, to question them more thoroughly. "yes, ummm, chris, you know that pheasant plate? yeah, that's the one. well, did you break it? it's okay if you did. actually, it's really good if you did it, but did you break it?"

always best to follow up an interrogation with ice cream.

after a few pointed questions, the guilty party would admit to what he or she had done, and it was one for the history books as we all got back to our regularly scheduled imaginary games. or maybe back to cathy's list of cleaning tasks to be completed before mom and dad returned home. or maybe we'd sneak in a fuzzy episode of rikki lake or the golden girls. or pretend we were gymnasts as we performed daring stunts on the balance beam picnic table.

i was thinking about this tactic the other day and wishing that it worked that well in present day. "john, did you leave all those stray nails on the floor of the basement? if you did, that's great. that's actually what i wanted you to do. that's good, but did you?" of course, john's defenses haven't been broken down by years and years of assaults by junior babysitters. he simply looks up at me with that bird-ate-the-canary type look and says "nope," as if anyone would believe that. infuriating, i tell you!

gone are the days when i had a whole army of little siblings to do my bidding. gone are the days when a captive audience fixated on my every word! gone are the days when my ideas were widely regarded as the bee's knees.

now every idea is met with a "that sounds like a complete waste of a saturday" or a "yes, dear, i'm listening," while he secretly watches ESPN highlights on the television behind me. well, husband i got some news for you! once upon a time, i was judge, a prosecutor, a defense attorney, a star witness, a priest, a mother to world famous model twins, a grandmother, a private investigator, an avid traveler, the owner of several palatial estates, a lifeguard, a talkshow host, an interior designer, a landscaper, a cashier, a swim lessons teacher, and a babysitter. i really do know best.

so anyway, that frame that got broken? you know the one. did you break it? i mean, it's good if you did... but did you?

Monday, January 30, 2012

miniature snowman.

above image from here.

this morning, i woke up annoyed. i don't know why. maybe it was because our room was incredibly hot. maybe i slept wrong. maybe the weird ass dreams i had all weekend finally got to me. regardless, i was in one of those early morning monday moods that translate into "stay the EFF out of my way." which was good, considering john and jack were both sleeping when i awoke and started getting ready for work.

i was looking to start a fight with someone and it just so happened to be my husband. so before i left for work, i started bringing up things that annoyed me. like why in god's name had he put away the stainless steel stock pot without washing it? and why, when i had asked him about this, had he said, "oh yeah, i intended to put away a dirty pot because i was going to use it to make popcorn soon enough so why clean it?" and why wasn't he completing the basement remodel in a more orderly, planned out fashion? and why did he leave his socks and shoes in front of the recliner again? and why hadn't he gone to bed earlier the night before because i always leave for work at the same time? rise and shine time can't be that much of a surprise.

he sat there looking at me, as i continued on this diatribe, not really saying anything, looking sleepy and looking confused.

which annoyed me more.

so i left.

i generally don't like leaving like that. because, as i always remind him and my brothers and sisters: what if something happened and this was the last time we ever saw each other? would i really want my last words to him to be "and why aren't you finishing the basement in a more orderly way?" if my dear friend whitney still worked at this office, i would have grabbed a cup of coffee, marched down to her office and bitched for twenty minutes. i would have stewed and rolled my eyes and gotten even more angry.

but instead, i tried to forget about it, drank some coffee and tried to accomplish stuff. when it came time for lunch, i headed home. i shared a sandwich with my son, cooked some felt food with him in his kitchen and read him a book while john shoveled part of our driveway. and when it was time for me to leave to return to work, i went outside to get into my car, and on the roof was a tiny snowman. a tiny snowman with very disproportionately sized male genitalia. i started laughing and crying, touched, yet again, by my husband's infinite patience and sense of humor when i'm being a heinous bitch.

i picked up the little snowman and moved him to the sidewalk, and then called john. "i love you," i said. "and i'm sorry."

all i can say is that i'm so grateful that my husband always remembers the importance and meaning of the words above, even when i don't.

Friday, January 27, 2012

a [brief] list.

things that annoy me, a thank-god-it's-almost-the-weekend-LIST!


(from here)

i am so sick of seeing all these "keep calm and _____" prints. keep calm and drink coffee. keep calm and call batman. keep calm and drink wine. keep calm and eat chocolate. do people actually hang these up in their homes? keep calm and chew xanax. i don't know about you, but anytime anyone tells me to "keep calm," i immediately kick it up a notch and begin feeling so annoyed and out of control that that person's safety is in peril.


photo from here, where you can read about his most offensive statements.

rick santorum. do i need to say any more? why is this creepy nut job running for president? why has anyone voted for him in the primary? why hasn't he seen the light and dropped out? the only thing more terrifying than this bigot campaigning for office in this country is the fact that he can't accept that he is not electable. time to hang up the sweater vest, rick.

[3] people who say things like, "you look so tired." "are you feeling ok today?" "you must be exhausted." "you poor thing, you look run down." SHUT THE EFFFFF UP. i'm EXHAUSTED from dealing with people with poor manners, ahem, you. i feel crappy when my day consists of run-ins with people who can't tactfully interact with others. i am tired of biting my tongue when people like you say stupid shit. dude, i am TIRED. i was tired before i had jack, i was tired when i was breastfeeding and i am tired now. because it is a busy life i lead, and you try fitting working, mothering, wife-ing, reality tv watching, sewing and basement renovations into 24 hours. i figure i'll be tired forever, so you can stop commenting on it. or i'm going to start commenting on how scrunchies are so 1990.

but it's not all bad around here, folks. i discovered some funny things this week, too.

[1] alibi cologne. it's not that i support cheating on one's spouse or going to strip club's behind your significant others' back. it's just that i think this is hilarious. my-car-broke-down cologne or i-was-working-late cologne? funny. i need to get some no-i-wasn't-wasting-time-on-facebook perfume, or maybe some john-i-did-not-spend-the-last-hour-watching-the-real-housewives-of-atlanta perfume.

[2] this twitter. apparently this person told their 82 year old dad that twitter was actually google. so old man types searches into twitter. it's pretty funny. equally funny: ghetto hikes twitter, where a man who leads inner city kids on nature hikes records things they say on their adventures on his twitter.

and, hands down, the funniest thing that happened to me this week: while out of the office, i called my friend greg's office extension, but couldn't reach him. when i got back, he didn't answer again, so i sent him an email, asking a question. he called me back at my extension to answer my question and confirm that i hadn't gotten through to him on his extension. and then he goes, "are you out of the office today?" to which i replied, "no, greg. you called my office extension." i laughed so hard i cried.

a relaxing weekend to all!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

the REST of the story.

i often say things that i later reflect upon and realize you should not have said that. sort of like my math skills. you should not have added that. but, to use a senseless phrase to sum it all up, it is what it is. whatever that means.

i was recently reminded, by my husband, of one such incident that occurred a few months ago. jack had been a little sick and had been taking some medicine for congestion, so he was all-around miserable. trying to ease his pain, i started filling up the bathtub for him because no matter what mood he's in, a good soak in the tub always cheers him up.

except this time it didn't. i set him in the tub and he started screaming bloody murder. he'd had a little bit of diaper rash from the medicine, and i figured maybe the bath was irritating it. i pulled him out of the tub to inspect the situation.

and not really sure about everything that was going on down there, i called to my husband, "JOHN! can you please google pictures of baby penises because i want to make sure this is fine."


"JOHN!?! DID YOU HEAR ME? i asked you to...."

suddenly john was at the door of the bathroom, and he stood looking at me very calmly and cooly. "stephanie, did you just ask me to google baby penises?" he asked.

"yes, i just need to..." my voice trailed off as he interrupted.

"yeah, i'm NOT going to do that." he replied.

and then i realized that it was probably for the best that my husband had refused to search for child pornography on our home computer. instead we reassured ourselves that everything was fine after a quick visit with our doctor.

and now, as paul harvey would say, you know the rest of the story.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

the principle of the thing.

this post is not going to be about how i don't get men. (even though, after being with john for 8 years, and being friends with him even longer than that... that's definitely true. case in point: this past saturday. between several moves, i somehow misplaced the cord that connects my sewing machine to the outlet. which hasn't really been an issue because my camera charger cord is interchangeable with the sewing machine one. well, as luck would have it, i left my camera charger at my brother-in-law's in florida. upon our return to snowy iowa, i began panicking. a week, maybe two or even three without my sewing machine? awwww, hell no. so i frantically began researching where i could get a cord overnighted to me. until i remembered the sewing machine store over by target. i placed a call and the kindly woman said that they had a variety of generic cords, so the best idea would be to bring my sewing machine in to check if any worked. i was about to take jack with me to the store when john announced that he had some errands to run. you know, guy errands. picking up deodorant, getting a six-pack, wandering through the electronics section at target. and because john decided he really wanted to get out of the house, he offered to take my sewing machine to the store and get me a cord. as he was about to leave the house, i remembered i needed to return a plain glass vase i had purchased that wasn't right for a project, and i asked him if he could do that, too. he looked at me with a face of disgust. "a vase?" he sneered. "that's girl stuff. you do that the next time you're out." and i just looked back at that masculine presence standing in front of the door, holding that white and teal sewing machine, and i just thought to myself, "awwwww, you can't expect him to do girl shit! there's only so much a MAN can take.")

but like i said, this isn't a post about how i don't always get men. because that much is true. this is more like a last lecture of sorts, a key to the mystical secrets that befuddle and bewilder the common man. or more specifically, my common man - my dear husband.

now when i was thinking about things to include in this diatribe, i was reminded of an incident with my friend, liz. years ago, a group of us girls had gone out on a friday night. after enjoying some drinks, we returned to liz's apartment, and somehow a little shelf got knocked off the wall. and it was late. and we may or may not have been drunk. but regardless, liz knew that shelf needed to be re-hung on the wall. 2 in the morning, 2+ drinks in, it didn't matter. (spoiler alert: the shelf did get back up on the wall after multiple exasperated attempts and an explanation for liz's then-boyfriend, now husband. "it's the principle of the thing!") ok, but so anyway, i think about this moment time and again, not just because it makes me smile, but because i totally would have done the same thing, i totally have done the same thing, and it totally illustrates this phenomenon of which i am about to speak. the whole dumbfounded guy standing there not "getting" what's so important about the crisis of the moment.

you know, they say crazy is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting to get different results. well, in my husband's world, apparently crazy means wringing dishrags out and cleaning the toilet bowl once a week. but it's like, COME ON, john. it's me we're talking about. you know me. you remember every word of songs you've heard once in the opening credits to movies from 5 years ago. you must know that the dishtowel hanging on the stove is not for actual use, right? it's just for show. because it's cute. and under no circumstances are the two decorative shams from the spare bedroom to be used to sleep on. because SOMEONE, and i am not mentioning any names, was laying on those shams while watching the stanley cup finals and that someone's aftershave or face soap or whatever stained those shams. and now they have to lay face down at all times. and in similar fashion, the towel in the bathroom next to the sink is for drying clean hands. it is not for wiping excess toothpaste. or cleaning the floor. or wiping jack's nose. (p.s. there are ghetto towels in the bathroom closet. you can use those for whatever purpose you wish.) and yes, john, it is absolutely necessary to take your cereal out of the box and pour it into the cute decorative containers i have purchased and placed in our cabinet. i understand you think this is an exercise in futility since we are the only people who see what the inside of that cabinet looks like, but a euphoric sense of calm washes over me when i open the doors of that cabinet and i see all the products arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way. which brings me to the bowls on the shelves above the fridge. i know they look curiously like ordinary bowls. and i know you want to grab them off there and throw some chips in, or maybe add some pistachios. but i need you to resist that urge because those bowls, my darling, are actually pieces of home decor that i have painstakingly placed there because they fill up that shelf space in a way that makes me happy. and i can't have you ruining my design project because you want to have a snack. (we have bowls you can use to your heart's content on the shelves below the china cabinet). and speaking of bowls to store things in, i have to remind you: tupperware comes from the store. when you purchase it, it is empty. it does not have sour cream in it. it does not have butter in it. those plastic receptacles are not tupperware, and when they are empty, we recycle them.

[this is where it gets kinda dicey because inevitably john takes these reminders as an affront to who he is. as if me explaining about towels and bowls and home organization is a refusal to accept differences between people. listen, my love, i'm not racist. i'm an OCD perfectionist. there's a total difference.]

john, all i'm trying to get at is that there are rules. and they have to be followed. or there are hormonal, emotional breakdowns. and there might be tears. and gnashing of teeth and eating of ice cream. but facts are facts. and some bowls are for decoration. and not all towels are meant to be used.

hopefully this has cleared up a few issues and explained some things because in the immortal words of my dear friend, liz: it's the principle of the thing.

but you already know all this, john. i know you do.

hugs n' kisses, your soul mate

p.s. next week, perhaps over a romantic dinner and wine, we're going to talk about how far i've come in letting things go and going with the flow. xoxo!

Monday, January 23, 2012

twelve [12] in twenty-twelve [2012].

if i could sum up the single most important thing i succeeded at in 2011, it would have been learning to let go and be. i am trying to savor each moment, ignore the things that are not ideal and be happy for all the good that comes my way. thankfully i have a beautiful 24 pound-ish son that helps me remember to do this when i forget.

"Awareness born of love is the only force that can bring healing and renewal. Out of our love for another person, we become more willing to let our old identities wither and fall away, and enter a dark night of the soul, so that we may stand naked once more in the presence of the great mystery that lies at the core of our being. This is how love ripens us -by warming us from within, inspiring us to break out of our shell, and lighting our way through the dark passage to new birth." -John Welwood

in the spirit of continuing to evolve and grow and change, i have been thinking (for the past three-ish) weeks about accomplishment, and specifically, those things i'd like to accomplish this year. i decided on twelve, got out a piece of paper and wrote them down with a red felt tipped marker because that felt more official. (sidenote: i also put them in the drawer next to my bed and somehow john found them and made his own revisions. this is why we can't have nice things!) i am re-creating the list here in the hopes for some accountability.

without further ado...

[1] take a trip with john. when we were on vacation, he mentioned that we should go away, just the two of us. and then he said it again. and then a third time. third time's a charm, mr. fueger. sometime over the course of the next 11 months and 1 week, we will embark on an adventure sans child. i promise.

[2] get family pictures taken.

[3] run a few 5k's. i didn't want to put something down like "go to the gym 4 times a week" or something. because i knew that i would have those weeks when it would be all i could do to walk up the stairs to my office. that's just how my life is. rather than beat myself up about it, i just want to be realistic. i want to get more exercise than i did in 2011. amen.

[4] plant an adventurous garden. we had our first garden last summer and we enjoyed some peppers, beans, peas and tomatoes. i'd like to try some interesting varieties this year... maybe eggplant? only time will tell.

[5] re-do the basement and make a playroom for jack. this is currently in progress as i type this, and please lord, let it be complete by december 31.

[6] save more money.

[7] visit my in-laws' new house in ohio. currently planned for memorial day weekend.

[8] read more for pleasure.

[9] cook one new recipe each month.

[10] build something for jack. when john and i made the workbench for jack (and yes, i'm aware that it was nothing mind-boggling, but it was our first attempt at using power tools to create a child's toy!), it was really rewarding to work together to create something... then watch him enjoying it. i'd like to do that again sometime this year... maybe with a refrigerator to go with his play kitchen? or maybe a child's sized picnic table?

[11] take a family vacation this summer. even if its just a long weekend trip somewhere, i want to go somewhere, just the three of us. i loved family vacations when i was a kid, and i treasure those times with my parents and siblings as some of my favorite memories. i want that for jack.

[12] go camping. because we have a really nice tent. and we haven't used it for a couple years. and that's a shame.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

jack's first shower.

alternate titles for this post included: "where did that poop come from?" (the discovery channel version) or "on my knees, sniffing around: the tale of a sunday morning gone wrong" (the nightline special title) or "poop: the untold story" (the mtv special title) or "he had to poop" (the lifetime title).

it being several weeks into 2012, i've been trying to put together a list of things (twelve things, in fact) that i'd like to accomplish this year. not resolutions per se, which is not to say that i think i'm above resolutions or that i don't need them... far from it... it's just that i wanted it to be a little bit more general than all that.

anyway, that's what this post was going to be about... my twelve things. and then one very interesting thing happened. so that's what this is about instead.

jack and i were doing our usual weekend "what should we make for breakfast" dance when i realized i didn't have the right ingredients on hand to make our go-to buttermilk pancake recipe. not to be deterred, i tebow'ed it at the last minute, and modified a french toast recipe, which jack seemed to really enjoy. so i gave myself a mom point, sat down with some coffee and was about to eat a piece of the toast i'd prepared while jack played on the floor. and then i smelled it.

the unmistakable odor of the bowel movement of a child who is no longer a baby, but approaching toddler-dom. talk about loss of appetite. i scooped jack up to head down to the laundry room to grab a clean diaper out of the dryer. he had been in a disposable since we have some to use up from vacation, and i had used the opportunity to strip my cloth diapers. as i took a few steps toward the basement door, i stepped in... a pile of poop.

except that i didn't realize it at first. between jack and the dogs, i have to be honest with you, there are often piles of unrecognizable substances on my kitchen floor. and i guess i assumed that i had stepped on a piece of jack's french toast that he had thrown to the dogs. except that i realized it was not quite the right consistency, and i looked down to inspect and realized: AHHHH the horror! poop in between my toes!

but i am carrying my son down the basement stairs, and i cannot very well drop him and clean my foot, and so i suck in my breath very hard and yell, "ewwwww, shit!" to which jack replied, "DIT!" "no, no, no, don't say that, mommy is bad," i'm mumbling as we reach the bottom of the stairs, and i set him down. i hobble to the bathroom to wash the poop off my foot, wondering how the hell poop got on the floor, and who is responsible for this? jack? kingsley? gracie? (the dogs?) meanwhile, jack has been carrying some tools from his workbench around, and he opens the toilet in the basement bathroom and triumphantly throws them all inside.

i pick up jack and survey the scene. the fit of the disposable diaper on jack is not as tight as i would like, and it appears that a load of poop escaped the side. i don't quite know how, but what i can see is that there is poop all over his legs and the inside of his pants. i then make the executive decision that jack is going to enjoy his first shower. i plop him in the basement shower stall and spray him off... and he laughs and giggles, loving the whole experience.

when he's all clean, we head back upstairs and i get down on my hands and knees to find the original source of the poop. i'm sniffing and crawling and trying to be thorough about the whole thing. jack thinks this is some kind of a game in which mom tries to be a dog/horse/pig, so he begins to crawl behind me and make exaggerated sniffing noises, too. he's laughing and giggling and you see, this is like my son's best. day. ever. he got to enjoy a romp in a sprinkler and gets to play the animal game with mommy.

i am thoroughly confused as i can't find the original place where the poop was dropped. i do have a jute rug in my kitchen, the color of which is eerily similar to that of the poop, so i carefully inspect every inch, squinting intently and sniffing as i go. jack is really loving it at this point, hysterically laughing and pretending to pet me as i crawl around. as i make my way to the other side of the kitchen, jack hugs me and mimics my sniffing. we both sit on the floor laughing... because what else can you do in such a shitty situation? hahaha, ohhh, the things john misses when he decides to sleep in on a sunday.

one of my twelve things? laugh at myself, especially in the midst of moments like this one!

Friday, January 20, 2012

eye of the storm.

i don't truthfully understand why everyone is making such a big deal about this impending 4-6 inch snowstorm. i mean, there's a veritable shitstorm in my office on the daily, and i've never called in on account of it.

ohhh, i kid, i kid. i get it. i wish i could be home enjoying the snowstorm, too. but i can't. (ahem, the whole shitstorm thing).

but let me just say: it's really not fair that kids get snow days and adults don't. i mean, when you're a kid, your life is pretty much like one big snow day. me? i'm in dire need of a snow day. i want to be sitting on my couch, in my pajamas, shouting "UH-UH, no you diii'int get back with kieffer, jenelle!" while john slowly dies a little bit more inside. not to mention the fact that i would make myself a very large mug of hot cocoa + peppermint schnapps and sip on that throughout the day as well. and i would eat spoonfuls of alcohol-infused whipped cream. and i would snuggle with jack. and read books. and remember that scene from the final season of sex and the city, where that drug-addict socialite falls out the window, and the snow starts falling after the funeral. i always think of that scene when there are snowstorms. yes indeed, i deserve a snow day, and i would enjoy the shit out of it. these kids these days. so ungrateful for the blessings of snow days.

anyway, this is my ode to you, snow day. you blessed, magical, unicorn of my past. i never appreciated you when i received you in abundance and now that you're gone, i mourn the loss of you with a heavy heart. amen.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

keepin' it real.

to clarify: after reading my post from earlier today, you might get the impression that i'm trying to pretend that john and i are something that we're not. we are by no means that perfect couple who remembers to buy each other flowers on their anniversary or who write each other long love notes (yes, i do have a homemade valentine from him, circa 2005, that reads, "you give me boners.") but anyway, i am (often) struck by how lucky i am and how good i have it, and so i document the moment with a blog post. but most of the time? most of the time, we're more like this.

john: are you going to help me with the basement tonight? or are you going to waste time on facebook?

me: [in as exasperated a tone as i can manage] john, i am not on facebook. i am working! [pause] please, don't come over here because i'm working on stuff that's privileged and i don't want you to accidentally see. [nonchalantly x's out of facebook.]

john: ok, but seriously, are you coming down there to help?

me: i've got a lot to do. but i did write a blogpost about you today. I LOVE YOU!

john: that does not qualify as helping.

me: it was a very nice post. you should read it.

john: i already have. i get your blogposts sent directly to my phone.

me: wait, what? you do?! that's so sweet!

john: of course not! i've never read one of your posts in my life... and i don't plan to start. and if you're not going to help with the basement, i'm going to decorate it however i want. you might just as well call me TOM because it is going to be MY SPACE.

whew! that's more like it.

my "dear john" letter.

on my way out the door for work this morning, i heard john say to jack, "we're going to be working on patience this week, buddy." jack babbled something back that sounded like, "shawshank... shoe... bubble... mom?" i caught a glimpse of them in my eye as i turned to shut the door, both of them snuggled together in john's recliner, jack looking up at his dad while they settled in to catch up on some sports highlights from the night before.

it reminded me of a list i've seen floating around the blogosphere the past few weeks. rules for moms of boys. particularly, it reminded me of this one:

Let his dad teach him how to do things

...without interrupting about how to do it the 'right way.' If you let his dad show and teach and discover with your son while he is growing up, some day down the road (after a short period of your son believing his dad knows nothing), he will come to the realization that his dad knows everything. You will always be his mother, but in his grown-up man heart and mind, his dad will know the answers. And this will be how, when your son is too busy with life to call and chat with his mom, you will stay connected to what is happening in his life. Because he will call his dad for answers, and his dad will secretly come and ask you.

sometimes i want to be the one to do it all. i want to teach my son everything, and i want to be the one he comes to when he's wondering about something. when he's sad. when he needs an owie kissed. when he wants milk. when he can't turn on his toy. when he wants "are you my mommy" read for the 800th time.

but i also think a son's relationship with his father is so important, and i am so proud of the one that jack and john have. i love that he doesn't cry when i leave in the morning because he is just that happy to be spending the day with dad. i love that he has john's sense of humor and that his sneaky little smile is the mirror image of the one that's usually plastered on the face of the man i married. even though sometimes, i want to be the only one he wants, i'm happy that that's not the case.

and i have john to thank for all that.

dear john,
thank you your endless patience. first with me, and now with our son. thank you for your ability to remain calm no matter what new struggles you encounter. thank you for always seeing the silver lining when i can't. thank you for teaching our son all the important 'stuff' he needs to know as he grows... you know, like which beef jerky flavor is more delicious, which bubble guppies have secret romantic relationships and how to yell MOM when you need something.

thank you for never allowing yourself to be phased by my obsessive compulsive nature. thank you for introducing me to salsbury steaks, hamburger helper, 'the league,' and essentially every album i've ever enjoyed for the past 8 years. thank you for always believing in me and us, no matter how crabby i am or how crazy things get.

you are a wonderful dad. you are teaching our son to be an independent, happy, well-adjusted little boy, and i love you so much for that. you're the best.
xo, me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

crying on vacation.

we're baaaaaaack! back to the snow covered streets of dubuque from sunny florida. back from too much good food and lots of little baby babbling. back from a much needed, albeit brief respite from the day-to-day. back to reality.

anyway, on monday, we bid adieu to our family, and as i watched my brother-in-law walk off down the terminal toward the exit, tears welled up in my eyes. i tried to do that thing where you open your eyes really wide to stop the tears from coming, but it didn't work. i turned my head to the side, but not quick enough because my husband asked loudly, "are you crying?" and then some people started staring at me. which made it worse. i mumbled something to john about needing to change jack's diaper, then quickly wheeled him into a family restroom and shut the door.

the trip had gone by way too fast, as i knew, even expected, it would. what i did not expect was that it would make me so emotional or leave me feeling so reflective. this vacation really struck a chord with me. i have come to the inevitable conclusion. i need more of this. i need more sitting around the living room, watching two babies babble on and share exclamations over melissa & doug puzzles. i need more yuengling shared with family. i need more sand all over my suitcase and plastered to my baby's head. i need more opportunities to hit pause and revel in all of the precious moments that are passing by too quickly.

i'd like to say that the episode at the tampa airport was the only one with tears during vacay. it wasn't. after returning to my brother-in-law's house after a day at the beach, i was giving jack a bath, trying to wash all the sand out of every. crevice. of. his. body. he was looking at me very intently, and i stopped. just took it all in for a moment. my sweet little boy. my family all together downstairs. the opportunity to get together and share taco soup and beer and alcohol-infused whipped cream (we'll get to that in a minute). i shed a few tears.

i loved going on vacation. i loved it so much it scared me. i loved it so much i don't want to think anymore about it because what if i stop and think about it, and what if i consider the conclusion that maybe i love vacation so much because i'm not happy at my job? i'm not saying that's it. maybe i'm just overworked right now. maybe this vacation came at the perfect time, all the stars aligned, and i had a really great time, just like it was supposed to be. maybe i was moved to tears because i always am when i see jack experiencing new things (sand, airplanes, flamingoes) for the first time. maybe.

but what if it's more than that? what if the general feeling of "i just want to snuggle with you all day" that greets me every morning when i pass jack's room on the way to the shower is actually a feeling of "i want to quit my job and stay home," disguised by my eternal optimism? what if, what if? when asked, i like to tell people that i enjoy my job. i like to tell people that i couldn't stay home because i'd get bored. i like to pretend that i do really important things that no one else could do for me.

but is that really true? if i weren't my clients' lawyer, wouldn't they just find someone else? and would i really be bored at home? i doubt it. i wouldn't sit around eating snacks and watching tv; i'd sure as hell be filling my days with crafts and projects and adventures and stuff, but i don't think i'd be bored.

i suppose i'm torn. i do like my job and even more importantly, in my opinion, i love the firm where i work and the colleagues with whom i work. i like arguing motions and drafting briefs. i enjoy talking with judges and meeting with clients. i do enjoy what i do, and i can't deny the satisfaction i feel when i get the result my client was hoping to receive. that's all well and good. but there is definitely the part of me that avoids ever stopping to think about not working out of fear that i'd realize there's another life i'd choose.

my husband stays home. we've already made this choice; we've already decided on this arrangement. and while it's not like our lives are set in stone with no room for deviations from the masterplan, there's not as much of an opportunity for change when there are student loan and mortgage payments to be made. and i can't say that i'm unhappy with the set-up we've chosen. i love the relationship that john and jack share. i love seeing them together. for the most part, our household runs smoothly and efficiently. we don't dust the tv stand enough, but we i try to let that go. we make time for the important stuff and forget the rest. we are a work in progress, but i am proud of what we are doing.

and maybe that wouldn't be the case if i were home everyday. maybe instead of delighting in jack's every move from the time i get home until the moment he falls asleep, i'd be feeling overwhelmed or sick of him or ready for a break. maybe i'd put social events on my calendar, then sit waiting for the next opportunity to leave the house if that were my reality. maybe i'd feel resentful of my son for being the reason i gave up my career. maybe when he had graduated and left my house, i'd feel regret over decisions i'd made. i have it pretty good, after all. because of the sacrifices john has made, i get to be the one who misses jack. who finds everything he does adorable and amazing and magical. the one who's never gotten really mad at my son (in 15 months) or needed a break from him. i've gotten to revel in him, not resent him. and that's pretty awesome. i can't say for sure that it would be that way if i spent every single moment of the work week with him.

maybe this is just post-vacation "i don't want to be back at work just yet" ramblings. maybe i'm stressed out over the upcoming trial i'm preparing for next week. maybe i just need a new project. i'm not sure. i'm in a funk.

a funk that can hopefully be cured with some burlap, a drill and alcohol-infused whipped cream. yes, that does it exist. my mother-in-law introduced me while on vacay. i highly recommend in coffee. or on pie. or on a spoon. i highly recommend it anytime. it is amazing.

and now, it's time to power on through this funk. just need some strong coffee (sans whipped cream).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


at some point in my life pre-jack, i apparently became convinced that in the future, there would be a felt shortage. and though i can't remember this attack of way-too-prepared-ness, i apparently took it upon myself to purchase multiple 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of every color of felt in the rainbow. these sheets comprise a large portion of one of my rubbermaid craft tubs, and everytime i need some felt, i am overjoyed to discover the extensive and colorful collection. i have not the slightest recollection of having made this purchase, and what's more interesting is that each time i return to the tub, it seems to have gotten larger, with more colors, just in the shade i need. are they multiplying in there? i can't be sure.

anyway, this all ties in to this post, i promise. i was feeling a little down after putting away all the christmas decorations. something about taking the tree and garland and christmas burlap away just tugs at the heartstrings. so i decided to channel my efforts into some crafts to ward off impending doom. i descended upon the felt collection and decided to make some of my "pins" a reality.

one of the things i've had pinned to my DIY board was this adorable number.

(From here)

apparently this little back-of-the-chair valentine's day card holder was originally from pottery barn.

upon some further research, i discovered that it was being sold for $19. which was about $18 too much for this cheapskate. especially when you have an entire collection of felt multiplying in a craft box.

voila! this is my version:

it's as easy as making a felt envelope. because it is a felt envelope. when i excitedly shared this new creation with john, his response was less than enthusiastic. "that will be very handy for all the valentines he's going to get," john began. (i didn't even detect, nor suspect the veiled sarcasm.) "I KNOW!" i exclaimed. "that's exactly what i was thinking!" "yeah, except i bet he'll get ONE. from you." he finished. i promptly texted my mom and asked if she was going to send jack a valentine. to which she replied, "of course." so see, john? this project WAS totally necessary to hold jack's 2+ valentines. and even if he doesn't get ANY valentines (oh, the horror!) i still think this is a cute use of 4 sheets of felt.

the thing about felt is... when you get started with it, the fun just multiplies. and speaking of multiplication, let me issue this disclaimer. i can't do math good. hahaha. no, really. i don't want to share with you the exact timeframe on this, but i was sort of convinced for awhile that there were 5 quarters in a dollar. and my checkbook is perpetually off. i just forget to carry the 1 or something, i don't know. usually this results in us having more money than i think we do, and lots of unnecessary stress for my husband, who, each week, seems just as surprised with my math ineptitude as he was the week before. which is rather surprising to me, considering i've never taken a math class in the 8-ish years we've been together. come on, john, face facts. you married a felt crafting wizard, not a mathematician. but just because i'm not good at addition (well, if we're being honest, it's mostly subtraction) doesn't mean that jack has to suffer a similar fate. in fact, my hope for my dear son is that he doesn't inherit my sub-par division skills and that he has a gusto for calculus some day.

and so, to that end (and as a precursor to the magnetic felt alphabet i hope to one day accomplish), i used up a few more of the felt scraps to make him a little set of numbers.

inspiration from here.

i stuffed all the numbers into the little felt bag and set it on the couch, fully intending to give it to jack at some point in the future. after he woke up from his afternoon nap, however, he discovered the bag and pulled all the pieces out. i lined them up on the floor and counted each number (flawlessly, to my husband's surprise!) and he then mimicked me by grabbing each number and jabbering with different voice inflections which suggested he was trying to count like me. he has now taken to carrying the bag around the house, dumping all the numbers out, "counting" them, and then stuffing them all back in. he is partial to the purple equal sign. i am, to be perfectly honest, surprised that he cares at all about these things, but maybe it will be motivation for me to get started on the alphabet. i'm HOPING to convince my husband to paint one of the small walls in jack's room with magnetic primer. so far, my idea has hit a wall of laziness ("but we already have a refrigerator he can use."), but i'm not giving up just yet. stay tuned for the showdown!

getting there.

here's what (the-eve-of-our-florida-vacay-edition):

1. dear continental airlines: it should not take thorough analysis to understand your baggage policies. i am thankful that you have made it crystal clear that should i ever need to travel with antlers or animal horns, dry ice or a vaulting pole, i will incur a special handling charge. however, upon several searches, i was not able to ascertain your umbrella stroller policy. just a simple "yes, it's allowed and it will cost 'x'" would be appreciated. and if you can't oblige a weary traveler in that regard, then please train your rude and abrasive customer service people. i like to give them the benefit of the doubt, but no less than 4 of them treated me poorly. my dad's response to our airline choice was, "didn't they go out of business awhile back?" my response, after dealing with you for the past 24 hours: "they're headed that way."

2. i recently discovered my blog's stats bar. this link allows you to see what sort of google searches are bringing people to your blog. at the top of my list? "tying up my husband," "burlap advent calendar," "preggings," and "farrah teen mom braces." as you can see, we cover a wide range of genres here at the hodge podge lodge. from burlap to S&M to teen mom to maternity duds. all in a day's work for this humble blogwriter.

3. a few days ago, i decided that i needed to add some more art to the mini gallery wall in jack's nursery. i also decided that the lyrics to lynrd skynrd's "simple man" are really akin to a mother's wish for her son masked by a seedy bar-pbr-drinking type aura. i wanted to create some art with the lyrics of that song. so i did.

never mind that if you study the lyrics i painstakingly typed out into the background, you can see a spot where i misspelled simple as "snple." i might have been enjoying an ice cold hefe weiss at the time. after i finished the piece, i asked john for his opinion. "i feel like you're telling jack to be a simpleton or something," he critiqued. even though i absolutely doubt that visitors stopping by his room will assume i'm throwing out a "hey jack, stupid works," i can't get that comment out of my head. a total waste of an otherwise pleasant beer-drinking experience. damn you, john!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

for auld lang syne. (a 2012 letter to myself).

i had a whole post reflecting on 2011 and welcoming in 2012 mostly written. and then today happened. and i had an emotional breakdown mixed with a stress cocktail tossed in with a side of heartache. i am not the best at removing myself from the thick of a situation and giving myself some perspective, but i am trying to be better at that. and so, since this is a real and true virtual diary of my life, here's a real and true virtual letter to myself as we begin 2012.

dearest stephanie:

happy new year! another year over, and a new one just begun. first of all, i'd like to applaud you on a few accomplishments i've noticed. one - sometimes you go to bed and leave dishes in the sink. good for you. i know that would be a resolution for some, but for you, it's a good sign that you're learning to let some things go. i'm super proud of you for this. two - you don't make idle threats to burn your house down for the insurance money anymore, so i take this to mean that you're relaxing and learning to accept the "process" that is home ownership. kudos. three - you ate hamburger helper for the first time in your life (courtesy of john) in 2011, and you didn't complain. good girl. pick your battles, doll. some days are hamburger helper kind of days.

before i get into the meaty, thorny stuff, let me be crystal clear. you have made progress with the whole giving up control thing... to an extent. i think you are starting to understand that you aren't in charge of much. i think you are slowly realizing that there are more important things to bitch about than john's shoes perpetually being left in the living room and his coat constantly hanging over the side of the chair in the dining room. i know you're empathetic enough to see that there are people suffering, and articles of clothing strewn about your house are not. the. end. of. the. world. so, before i give you some gentle reminders, let me first say: good job. it's hard accepting that you're not perfect. you're not the best wife there ever was. you're not the most patient person to walk the face of the earth. you're not a perfect mom. you're not the best attorney on the planet. you're just a human being. one person in a world of so many, trying to make it day by day. that's all you have to be. and more and more, i see you accepting this and i see it shaping the things you say and do. and that is good. commendable.

but sister, you're on a journey, and you have roads to travel! you have hills to climb and valleys to forge. you are miles and miles and miles away from your destination, and let me tell you: the path is treacherous in parts. don't worry, though, i've got something better than a flashlight or a canteen. i've got FORESIGHT. and i'm gonna share it with you.

stop worrying about the curtains in your living room. they have been hanging unhemmed for more than a month now, and no one has died (or noticed, to be honest). no, they're not perfect and no, no one cares. if 12 months pass us by and those curtains are still unhemmed... you haven't failed anyone. you've just been busy living. and that's good thing.

stop arranging jack's room in meticulous order before he goes to bed at night. it is a child's bedroom, for the love of god. please let that sweet baby mess up the books and toys. please let him spread out all his lovies on the floor and then pick them up, one by one, and give them goodnight hugs. newsflash: bh&g is NOT coming for a photo shoot, and if they ever do give you a call, you will have ample time to straighten things up. let. it. go.

stop taking work stress out on your husband. guess who shouldn't have to worry about the brief that is due in three days? john. (and for that matter, jack.) john's job is to keep jack alive between the hours of 7 a.m. and whenever-you-get-home p.m. you do your job, and he does his. and guess what? that brief is going to get written. so stop panicking and start writing.

stop commiserating in your head whenever you have a bad day. you don't have it so bad. not everyone's life is easier than yours. suck it up and stop whining. whining is so unattractive and might i remind you... you chose this life. you have everything you ever wanted. and just because it doesn't look exactly like you thought it might is no reason to be anything less than utterly, eternally, on bended knee grateful. you are blessed beyond measure. you know this. so when you are tired, or sick, or feeling fat, remember that you married your best friend on a perfect day surrounded by your family and friends. and you became a lawyer and a firm trusted you enough to hire you. and clients respect you enough to hand you their most intimate problems and ask for your help in solving them. and you made a choice to expand your family, and you were blessed with a happy, healthy, beautiful son who warms your heart every day. and you live in a house that's cozy and comfortable and home. so quit your bitchin'. even if it's in your head, it still counts as whining.

we touched on this briefly, but let's revisit. you cannot control everything. you cannot control a lot. you cannot control much at all. you cannot control the weather. we know that if you did, there would be snow. and lots of it. you cannot control the decisions that the judges make about your cases. you cannot control the facts of the cases you are given. you cannot control jack's health. you cannot control your husband. you cannot control whether and when you're going to have another baby. (so please, spare everyone the mind-numbing agony of discussing it at every juncture. stop with the charting and planning and obsessing.)

this last one is the big one, so it deserves a paragraph all of its own. first, congratulations on your pure and unadulterated love of motherhood. it looks good on you. it's obvious that mothering jack brings you joy and happiness, and that is nothing short of wonderful. it's absolutely 100% great that you want to add to your family and it's even more exciting that your husband is on board. but that's where you need to be... and no further. stop obsessing over every symptom and temperature and premonition. it will happen. and when it does, it will be wonderful. until that time, enjoy the family you have. enjoy the precious son whose tiny blonde hair is getting long enough to look messy in the morning. enjoy your husband and his wicked sense of humor. sit down on the floor and play cars with your son. when you feel like perusing crazy online "ttc forums," read another book to your son. when you feel like peeing on a stick, take a walk. when you wake up pre-occupied with your temperature, roll over and kiss your husband. you are missing it! and that it will never happen again is what makes life so sweet. so please, for the love of all that is holy, and for the sake of your husband's sanity and your son's happiness, accept that you are not in control of everything. and that is okay.

go to bed earlier, set your alarm, get up... and go. to. the. gym. you will feel better about yourself and about your days. you have always loved being active, and have always prioritized your health. you cannot survive on coffee & granola bars alone. drink more water. run. sweat. do some sit-ups. you will thank me. so will your waistline.

be true to yourself. it's okay to say "no." you don't have to be everything to everyone. you don't have to be a part of every group you're invited to join. you don't have to donate to every organization that approaches you. you don't have to be something you're not. you have a really great family, wonderful friends, loyal co-workers. no one will fault you for telling the truth; "i just don't have time." don't be ashamed. remember, you're not perfect. and more importantly, people don't expect you to be.

most of all, enjoy this year. it will go by as fast as the last one did. who knows what jack will be doing next year at this time, but i certainly hope when we get there, you'll have experienced all the in-between instead of worrying, stressing or obsessing over everything else. have fun in florida. don't think about work while you're there. let jack splash in the bath. increase john's candy budget. the world does not stop because you discover stray cheerios under the car seat. get a massage. get more sleep. re-read this letter when you forget.

most of all remember - you're doing a good job! you're one crazy head case, but you're doing it. congrats! here's to a good year!

xo, your voice of reason.