Thursday, January 31, 2013

Coming Clean

I'm getting ready to return to work full-time and so, in anticipation, I've been trying to pack up all of my maternity clothes and unpack all of my work clothes.  Should I have waited until a week and a half before returning to begin this?  Nope.  But, I did and so here we are.

Now to the coming clean part, here is my closet:

That's the somewhat organized part.  Ohhh look, things are folded and stacked and even stacked in categories like turtlenecks, thicker sweaters, tops I would wear to work and tops I would never wear to work.  But then, as we look further we run into problems:

Two containers of clothes that I'm hoping to fit into again someday.  A pillow from a chair I no longer have.  Some clothes that I'm planning on giving away.  A Lego Star Wars 2012 Advent calendar that I got on a super, reduced clearance and plan on using next Advent.  Crutches from when I had a blood clot and couldn't bend my knee way back in 2009.  Boots.  And a stack of magazines I should probably just throw away but feel compelled to look through before doing so.

And it gets worse.  There's actually a second closet in my closet.  It's long and skinny which makes it almost unusable but it certainly isn't very functional like this:

You can't see it in the picture, but waaayyyy in the back hangs my wedding dress.  Other dresses and things I actually wear are opposite and somewhat neater:

Dresses first followed by tops that need to be on hangers and then sweaters and jackets.  Don't look up:

Or down:

There's the breast pump I haven't used in years but can't bring myself to throw away because it was so expensive.  There's a Target bag hiding a Lalaloopsy doll house I found on clearance way back in the fall and snapped up for Quinn's birthday.  Hanging are baby blankets that my mom received when I was a baby and so I fear that if I use them I will ruin them but not using them doesn't really make sense either.

So, my project for the rest of this week and the weekend is to whip this closet into shape.  I need it more functional so that when I'm still half-asleep at 6:00 a.m. I can just reach in, grab some clothes and look decent.  I don't need to be tripping over dry cleaner bags and breast pumps!  Of course, getting rid of those things is pretty easy, the hard part for me is always weeding through everything.  I admit to having some hoarder tendencies and so it's quite difficult for me to throw or give things away if I think I may ever need them again in the future.  I'm sure that someday I'll be back into my size 12 pants.  That my size 12 pants are from about a decade ago and probably no longer in style doesn't seem to register with me and so I hang on to them.  Or, is it more that giving them up seems like an admission that I will never be a size 12 again?  Yea, that's probably it.

Wish me success.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Name Change

I've decided to rename my blog to something that fits a little better into where I am now in life, as opposed to around five years ago when I first started writing.  Back then I had one toddler and was trying for a second.  I mainly started blogging as a way to express all my mixed up feelings regarding secondary infertility.  Three more children later, clearly that isn't my main issue anymore.  My family has been shaped by infertility, miscarriages and surprisingly easy fertility, and those things will still come up I'm sure.

My life today is more about figuring out how to manage a family of six while working full-time.  There's juggling the schedules of the husband, the kids who are in school, the kids who are still taking naps and my own.  There's what's to eat for dinner.  There's where in the world is my black skirt I need to wear to work and why can't Quinn find her other mitten.  There are bills that need to be paid, preferably on time.  There's homework to help with and books to be read.  There's swimming and ballet and should we sign up for little league?  There's weight to be lost, laundry to do, and a baby that needs tending to.  And that's just to name a few.

It's a cluttered life but it's also a life that I love.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tea Time

One great thing about being home is all the flexibility.  Typically I eat breakfast sitting at my desk but the other day the husband was home, Shannon and Quinn were at school, so we decided to drop Sully off at the babysitters and go out to breakfast with just the baby.

We went to Blue's Egg, which is a great breakfast place, but most times too busy to deal with.  When it first opened, we were regulars up until the point word got out about how good it was and since we haven't been back hardly at all.  It's just too difficult to sit in a crowded reception area with all the kids waiting for a table, no matter how good the food is.  I figured we'd be safe going on a Wednesday morning but was surprised by how busy it was for a weekday.  Don't people work?

While we waited for our food they served us grapes.  I, of course, had coffee while Maren had some yummy, yummy formula.  Maren wasn't sure what to make of any of it.

Blue's Egg is a breakfast and lunch place, no dinner, and as such instead of having happy hour specials they have morning specials.  Wednesday was the day for discounted monkey bread so we took advantage.  It's no wonder I'm not losing any weight.

On the advice of our server, I ordered the potato pancakes.  These were awesome.  I managed to eat one and took home the rest.

Thursday, the grandmas, Quinn and I went out for a ladies lunch.  We went to the Watt's Tea Room, a Milwaukee institution.  Quinn dressed the part of a little lady.

I had tea.  Real loose tea, not the kind in a little bag.  I love having the silver strainer, it's so Downton Abbey.

And, keeping with the theme, I ordered the tea which included little finger sandwiches followed by finger desserts.  Unfortunately, Quinn wasn't on board with trying anything new and ended up ordering a grilled cheese sandwich.

I was super excited when the Sunshine Cake arrived.  Watt's is known far and wide for this cake.  I was so excited, in fact, that I forgot to take a picture.  You can find pics and even the recipe here.  Quinn wasn't so picky as to not try the frosting on the cake, although she refused to actually try the cake.  Weird.  What kid doesn't like cake????  Also weird, I didn't really lose any weight this week.  Hmmmm.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Days Go By

Last week Sunday the husband tackled the secretary desk we got for Christmas.  It had arrived the week prior in two huge boxes and definitely required some assembly.  After our Ikea disaster this past summer which resulted in three failed delivery attempts, 18 calls to Ikea customer non-service and one assembled Ikea closet, but still sans doors, I was surprised he wanted to tackle this assembly job so quickly.

Pieces were unpacked.

Directions were read.

 Sully helped, well, not so much helped as caused mayhem.

And over the course of full day, a desk was built.  And by this past Sunday things were in place.

And yet, my dining room table remains a tad cluttered.
In my defense, the Target bag is things that need to be returned and the brown files and boxes of coffee sitting in one of the chairs are things that I will take to work with me once I return in another few weeks so those things will disappear sometime soon.

And with that, I have just moved one step closer to my fantasy world in which we eat dinner each night at the dining room table.

Yet another step forward, I made dinner!  No, it's really not THAT rare of an occurrence but it's a little rare for me to make homemade sloppy joes instead of just using Manwich and even more of a rare occurrence for me to make enough to freeze half to use later on.

And here's what you do when you break the glass lid to your skillet and have yet to hunt down another one.  Pizza pan to the rescue.

And last, but certainly not least, over the days another box filled up with things to donate.  Watching Hoarders has a way of making it just that much easier to part with stuff.

Now go, fill up some boxes of your own.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Like Mother Like Daughter

Some would say that I'm stubborn, I prefer to think of myself as tenacious.  With each passing day it is becoming evident that this is one trait I have passed down to my oldest daughter.  She not only looks just like me, she might just be even more stubborn, errr, tenacious than I am, which is really saying something.

Lately, we've been battling over food.  I don't have the healthiest relationship with food so I'm hoping for a little something more for my kids.  I'm not the type of mom to buy only organic foods or to serve only non-processed fair.  I enjoy a slew of both healthy and unhealthy foods and I have been exposing my kids to a wide array of things and teaching moderation.  I know many would disagree, put I don't really think that a Happy Meal is the end of the world so long as it's balanced with healthier foods the rest of the day/week/month.  So, that Quinn's favorite food is mac 'n cheese doesn't bother me as much as her refusing to even try a raspberry.  Yep, you read that right, she won't try a raspberry, or a strawberry, or an orange, and don't even get me started on vegetables........

I started off by just putting these foods on her plate with the hopes that one day she would actually try them.  That didn't work.  With my oldest son I had avoided ever telling him that he had to eat something.  I was always told to clean my plate when I was little and didn't want to pass that kind thinking down to my kids.  I was fine with him stopping eating when he was full.  After months and months of offering new foods but absolutely no trying of them going on, I caved and told her that if she didn't eat them she wouldn't get any more food until the next meal.  That didn't work either.  She'd eat everything else on the plate, ask for a snack later only to have it denied, but then she would go about her business and eat again at the next meal.  So, next, I tried bribing her with saying that if she ate some of the new foods she could then have a few chips (she loves chips) but nope, she'd rather just not have chips than try something new.  Next came bribing her with the help of Hello Kitty.  If she tried one new thing each day we'd go to Build a Bear and she could buy a new outfit for her Hello Kitty.  This worked!  Yes, finally, something worked.........until the next week when her Hello Kitty was dressed in a beautiful new purple flowered frock and my little girl was once again refusing to try anything new.  Didn't Hello Kitty want her own bed to sleep in?  Nope.  Didn't Hello Kitty need a swimming suit for over the summer?  Nope. Nope. Nope.  Not if it meant a strawberry would have to pass little Quinn's lips.

This lead to utter frustration on my part.  How could she not just give in and at least try one bite of something new?  So, I chose to escalate things and tell her she would have to sit in her chair until she at least tried whatever new food was on her plate.  She didn't have to eat all of it, but she did just have to take at least one little bite.  Except that she wouldn't take even one little bite, instead, she'd sit there until it was time to go to school or time to go up to bed.  Sometimes she'd sit for almost two hours.  I thought maybe it wasn't so hard for her to sit there since she was still with the whole family, she could talk to us and watch tv if it was on and so I thought perhaps it would be more effective if she had to go to her room if she was choosing not to try something and then she could choose to come back downstairs and try the food whenever she wanted.  Only that didn't work either because she would lie in her bed for hours with no sign of ever giving in.  She's just that stubborn.  Actually, she's that stubborn and then some.  When asked if she'd rather try a raspberry or not have a birthday party she said she'd rather not have the birthday party.  When asked if she'd rather try a raspberry or have to give up ballet lessons she said she'd give up ballet.  What in the world do you do with a kid for whom there is nothing you can offer or take away to help motivate them to do something?  I could get Shannon to eat an entire bunch of broccoli just by saying if he didn't he wouldn't be allowed to play his Nintendo DS.

In an attempt to not fall into Mommy Dearest mode in which I serve the same rare steak to my strong willed child over and over and over again, I might just be throwing in the towel (not that I'll tell her that.)  I think I am going to move to here is dinner, take what you want, but if you won't at least try everything then there's no food until the next meal and then hope against all hope that she grows out of this. This being both her unwillingness to try any new foods and her unbelievable stubbornness.  I won't hold my breath though.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Morning Has Broken

Some days morning just comes too quickly.  Maren ate at 8:00pm and then it took her a bit to fall asleep but once she did she slept a glorious five and a half hours before waking again around 2:30am to eat.  Waking up in the middle of night is quite hard for me and thankfully, the husband does the majority of the middle of the night feedings, but even so, I'm still awake through most of them.  The rock 'n play sleeper is also on my side of the bed and so when Maren is just stirring or can't fall back asleep I rock her gently and then hope that I too will quickly fall back to sleep.  That's what happened at 5:00am this morning but unfortunately, I didn't fall back asleep and before I knew it, Maren wanted to eat and my alarm was going off.

The husband got Shannon and Quinn up and dressed for school while I took care of Sully and Maren.  Today is tag day at school so that means no uniforms in exchange for a small donation.  Shannon and Quinn both chipped in a dollar and were so excited to pick out something to wear that didn't consist of navy pants, a white polo or a plaid jumper. Then we all headed downstairs for breakfast.  It never seems right to be eating breakfast while it's still dark outside.

Sully was quite camera shy this morning.  He was super excited to see banana on his tray though, really he was.

While the kids ate I emptied last nights bottles.  No, I didn't give the baby beer.  I enjoyed a very tasty Blue Moon Winter Abby Ale along with my dinner last night.  It's a special winter brew but I wish it were available all year round.

Quinn Kelly, our goldfish, got fish flakes for breakfast.  At one time there were two fish, one named Quinn and one named Kelly.  In Quinn's little mind that made the most sense as we were the people who had won them at a church festival this past summer.  When one passed away just a few days later, I made the executive decision to combine the two names in order to rename the survivor Quinn Kelly instead of having to decide which of us had died.

Hope you all had a good morning and that tomorrow morning doesn't come too quickly.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Divide and Conquer

Everyone told us that things would get a lot harder once we had three and then again once we had four. See, with two children each parent can take one, but with three or more, the children out number the parents.  Our strategy is typically one of divide and conquer. Sometimes, we each take two kids but most often one of us is with the baby and the other is wrangling the three other little ones.  It's fun, really it is.

Last night Sully quickly headed for the stairs when I told him it was bedtime.  Then, he got upset when I told him he'd have to wait until someone could follow him up.  It's just been in the last few weeks that he's begun climbing the stairs and I guess I've been too slow in getting the baby gate out.

The husband followed Sully upstairs, got him in his pj's, read him a few stories and put him down for sleep.  I stayed downstairs for a bit.  Shannon and Quinn were playing in the den while Maren enjoyed her Happi Tummi band and  I caught up on season 2 of Downton Abby.

A little later it was time for Shannon and Quinn to head upstairs.  They got their pj's on and then climbed into "the big bed" (their name for our bed) for what they call "big bed time."  Upon bringing Maren upstairs I found them both playing video games.

Maren got into her pj's and then the husband came in and took Maren so I could go read bedtime stories.  Maren was happy to have some daddy time.

 It always seems so quiet in the house once Shannon, Quinn and Sully are all in bed.  I'd love to be able to say that I took the opportunity to go accomplish a whole bunch of household tasks but nope, instead Maren and I snuggled for a short bit and then we both fell asleep.  Wonderful, glorious sleep.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What Day Is It?

This morning started like so many others.  There was a sink full of bottles needing to be cleaned.

 This morning I also got big Maren smiles.  She's starting to be awake a lot more and I love that she's smiling more and more each day.

After getting Shannon off to school and Sully and Quinn off to my sister's, there was a bit of breakfast, a bit of work and then laundry.  Typically laundry is something I do on Sundays but being home allows me far more flexibility and so I threw in two loads this morning.

My laundry used to be two loads a week.  One was my clothes and the other was household stuff like towels and sheets.  Then, I had Shannon and it increased by a load.  Then, I had Quinn and was so happy when I realized that I could still manage most weeks just doing three loads.  I had always heard that once you had kids you'd spend all your time doing laundry but clearly those people just didn't know my secrets, like washing everything together in cold.  But then something changed and that change is named Sully.  With Sully, all of a sudden I couldn't fit all the kids clothes into the machine at one time and so I had to start splitting the loads.  Now I was doing four loads.  One for my clothes, one for household stuff and two for the kids clothes.  Then, Shannon and Quinn started school, with uniforms and white shirts and I realized that perhaps there was a reason for the hot setting on the washing machine and that if I wanted the shirts to stay white I would need to wash them separately.  Add another load into the mix - whites!  And then, and then came Maren and along with her came a day practically entirely devoted to laundry.  Shannon and Quinn's darks, Sully and Maren's darks, a load of whites, my laundry and a load of household items.  Then, every other week I seem to have special things too like bath mats, kid's winter coats, etc.  You know, the stuff that is so big you can really only wash one or two things at a time and then, just as bad, it takes more than just one cycle to dry.

After washing comes folding.  So much folding and so many piles.  I actually don't mind the folding but do so hate the putting away.  I can't wait for the day when the kids can put their own laundry away, not to mention do their own.

Maren supervised.

And finally, I rounded out the afternoon with lunch and watching the pilot episode of Nashville which I had missed the first time around.  Lunch was Lean Cuisine Chicken and Cranberry Salad Additions

It's a bag of frozen chicken with veggies and a packet of salad dressing.  You microwave the chicken and veggies, thaw the dressing under hot water and then add it all to your lettuce (which, obviously, doesn't come frozen in the box.)  Overall, I thought it was just okay.  Adding the hot veggies to the salad seemed a little weird to me as I tend to like crisp veggies on my salad, not hot, soggy ones.  There were little sesame crunchies to add on top, but they too got a little soggy once added because of the hot veggies.  The website shows the salad looking like this:
But mine ended up looking like this:

A few years back there was a much better salad kit on the market, I believe made by Jennie-O, with turkey, cranberries, reduced fat white cheddar cheese and lite raspberry dressing.  Since I loved it, it was, of course, discontinued.

Tonight I'm heading out to dinner.  Yea for a night out with friends.  The husband will be home with all four kids tonight doing homework, dinner and bedtime pretty much on his own.  Wish him luck!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Home Neat Home

Oh, who am I kidding? My home in anything but neat!

The other day I was reading the blog of a stay at home mother of six who had a house as spic 'n span as I've ever seen.  On another blog, a woman showed her crock pot sitting atop her otherwise completely empty counter top.  Each woman had an entire section of her blog devoted to tips on how to keep a neat and tidy home.  I read them and was enchanted by the neatness of it all, the utter organization, the lack of stacks of magazines and unopened mail on tables, the perfectly folded sets of sheets in the linen closet, the immaculate hardwood floors without a stray Cheerio in sight..........and I wondered, are these homes and these women for real?  My home doesn't look that nice EVER.  Okay, maybe the one day when my house was featured on the tour of homes for my neighborhood, it looked that clean and neat, but surely not since that lone day in August, 2006.

I'll admit that I've never been a super neat person.  I just wasn't born that way.  And yes, I think people are born either with a neat gene or without.  My older sister definitely has the neat gene.  Sharing a bedroom growing up was quite interesting given her need to have the hangers in the closet each exactly the same distance apart and my need to stack things on any available surface.  Talk about an epic battle.

There is a saying that a cluttered home is the sign of a cluttered mind.  I guess my mind is pretty cluttered because as you can clearly see from my counter top, I have a whole lot more than just a crock pot on it!

Why is there a Happi Tummi box in my kitchen?  I guess the box hasn't found it's way into the recycling bin yet.

We've been using the Happi Tummi to help Maren with her gassiness and amazingly, it works really well.  In case you've never heard of it looks like this:

You heat up the little herbal packet in the microwave, place it into the pouch, and then wrap the band around the baby with the heated packet on the stomach.  When Maren starts to get really fussy I use this and it seems to calm her right down.  I just wish I had a microwave in my bedroom so I could use it during the night without having to trek downstairs to heat it up!

Back to all things clutter.  I realized a long time ago that I will never be as neat and tidy as some women because the truth of the matter is, I just don't care enough about it to make the time and put in the effort to maintain that level of neatness.  Despite my clutter, I know where everything is and only have trouble finding things when someone moves something.  I don't lose my keys, my wallet or my phone and if you ask me where the field trip permission slip is I can say "second stack on the dining room table, right underneath the Real Simple magazine."  Yes, I see the irony there.  I will concede though that since adding our second, third and now fourth child, I feel the need for a little more organization.  After all, I'm not just keeping track of myself anymore and with Shannon and Quinn in school, there is a much greater influx of papers and just stuff into the home everyday.  My cleaning comes in spurts and one hit the other day, the end result being pounds and pounds and pounds of old magazines being dragged out to the recycling bin (by the ever great husband, not me.)

I have a hard time giving up magazines because I think about all the great ideas contained in them and I like to think that one day I will actually use those ideas or make all those great recipes.  It's a fantasy land that I believe I one day will occupy.  Every once in a while a moment of clarity hits and I realize nope, I most likely will never make all those recipes, and even if one day I have the time and energy to do so, I can find those recipes online.  Ahhh, you have to love the internet for giving us the ability to let go of so much paper and yet still have things right at our fingertips.

So, I made a little progress in my on-going battle with clutter.  Sully approved (ignore the crumbs in the corner.)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Good Start, Better End

I got a good start to the day yesterday with a healthy breakfast.

 The Greek Gods pomegranate yogurt is super creamy and easily the best I've ever tasted.  I wanted a little crunch so I added a little bit of granola.  When I spotted this granola at the store it looked good, and it was good, it was not, however, crunchy which surprised me.  It was more like baked oatmeal than traditional granola.

Shannon and Quinn return to school on Monday so we decided to have some fun and go see a movie.  We decided on Monsters, Inc. and in 3D no less.  I can remember a time when I said I would never pay more than $5.00 to go see a movie and yet there I was paying an arm and a leg to see a movie that isn't even new!  I had two free passes and we were at a matinee and the total still came to $17.00.  Apparently, a free pass isn't really a free pass if you're going to a 3D movie.  On the bright side, spending that $17.00 earned me $10.00 in AMC rewards so I used that money to get popcorn.  The movie was funny and I guess I had forgotten that the lead monster is named Sullivan just like my Sully.

After the movie we browsed the Lego Store and I picked up the Star Wars Lego 2012 Advent Calendar for half-price.  I figured it wouldn't matter if by next year it's a year old because it's filled with Lego Star Wars figures, not chocolate, and because there are always 24 days before Christmas so it never matters what year the Advent calendar was produced.

Upon returning home Maren and Sully napped while Shannon and Quinn played.

I ended the day with a steaming, rich, mug of hot chocolate.

Complete with mini-marshmallows.

Shannon finished his day displaying his now almost empty mouth.  He'd lost three of his four front teeth over the last few months and just yesterday he lost his last front tooth.  My  younger sister, niece and Quinn made him a special pillow so that the tooth fairy could easily find his teeth and this was his first chance to use it.

The tooth fairy loved the pillow and left him a $2 bill.  Thank you tooth fairy!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Pots and Pots of Luck

What better way to start the morning than to have Hello Kitty say hello to you!

I had waffles with peanut butter - so much better than syrup - and a steaming hot mug of coffee.  Maren had a room temperature bottle of Target brand sensitive formula.  Yummy!  We switched her to the sensitive variety in the hopes of it helping her spitting up and I think it really has.  She still spits up but we've had fewer full-on exorcist projectile vomiting incidents since switching.

Breakfast was followed by some telecommuting, followed by a shower, followed by a trip to the grocery store to pick up the necessary components for a feta cheese dip.  Work is having a New Year's potluck lunch today so I needed something quick and easy to make.  I found the recipe through Pinterest and more specifically, this blog.

Just a few simple ingredients, olive oil, feta cheese, tomatoes, green onion and Greek seasoning make the dip.

The recipe suggested Roma tomatoes but I can't stand Roma tomatoes so I choose some on the vine.  I chopped them up with the green onions and added them to the olive oil, then crumbled the feta on top of that, added a few shakes of the seasoning, mixed it all up and viola, dip, served with crusty french bread.

The pot luck lunch was fun. Everyone enjoyed the dip and I enjoyed the wide of variety of other dishes.  I had a little salad, shrimp cocktail, crackers with cheese, a deviled egg, potato salad, and apple crumble for dessert.  I had taken Maren into the office two weeks after she was born to show her off a little so it had been over a month since I'd seen my co-workers.  It was nice to talk to them in person instead of just via email.  Although I have really been enjoying working part-time from home, I do miss being in the office.