Friday, January 30, 2009

Where I go.

I have been blogging these little bits and pieces of our life now for two years now, I think- 254 posts' worth. And in the process I have read many, many other blogs, mostly written by other moms, from all around the country. Because January has turned out to be a relatively sloooow blog-worthy month for us personally, I though I'd share with you today some of the other blogs I read.

It's a strange thing, reading these daily dispatches from people's lives: you do feel like you know lots about them, celebrating their highs and empathizing with their lows. Most have quite adorable children (most of whom are just plain busier than mine, which gives me great perspective on things) and struggle with the same issues we all do: making order out of chaos every day, making the right decisions every day, feeling successful and important every day, even when our children are melting down and the house is a mess and there's no food in the house for a decent dinner. Whether in Pennsylvania, Illinois, South Carolina, or Washington State, lives for us moms are surprisingly similar.

So, in no particular order, are some of my daily must-reads:

1. This one features my beautiful niece Kate. What a great way to keep up with her growth and development from 9 hours away!
2. Written by my friend Carrie, who married my brother's friend Mark, who is the son of our retired Pastor. Got that?? She posts lots of great pics of her adorable son and has great insights into being a first time mom.
3. I found this blog purely by accident and have been reading ever since. The author, Em, just had her second baby boy and writes beautifully about being a mom. She is honest and touching and funny and insightful.
4. Tracy M writes this wonderful blog out of the Pacific Northwest. She alternates between the ridiculous and the dead serious and makes everything interesting. 2008 was a terrible year for her- her husband lost his job, among other things- and her incredible documentation of their emotional, financial and psychological struggles makes me pray every time I open her blog that something wonderful will happen for them in 2009. Like winning the lottery.
5. Oh, dooce. How I love thee. Heather Armstrong in Salt Lake City writes this blog, which I believe is the most read mommy-blog on the web. My dad found an article about her in the Wall Street Journal and I have been reading ever since. She is edgy, brilliant and flat out the funniest writer I have ever read. She is currently pregnant with her second baby girl, which provides her with LOTS to write about.
6. http:/ (no www): Mimi Smartypants lives in Chicago, uses lots of swear words and makes me laugh until I cry. She takes no prisoners with her writing and has fabulous interactions with the general public that put my little Walmart entries to shame. Completely unsentimental, rough around the edges and usually kind of miserable: that's Mimi.

So check them out and let me know what you think.
I am off to Walmart to go big-time grocery shopping. I have been trying to clean out our vast stores of pantry and freezer items and have been quite successful: we are officially out of food.
We are heading to my parents for a SuperBowl party on Sunday and we're all looking forward to that.
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Best seat in the house. Or car.

We've hit another fun milestone in the Libutti household: Jenna has graduated to a new booster seat. Gone is the tricky five-point harness; gone is the gymnastics one must perform to get the old carseat in and out of the car; gone is the wide, space-hogging base of her old seat. Now we are slick and sleek and easy with a high-backed booster and able to use the regular seat belt. Hallelujah!

We put the seat together this morning and of course the girls were very excited to use it. We found a cute cup holder and snack tray hidden underneath the base of the seat, so Michaela sprung into action and whipped up some microwave popcorn to test it out. At 8:45am.

Friday, January 23, 2009

You say tomato, I say to-mah-to.

Jenna is a great talker at home: she can go for hours, puttering around the house, carrying her dolls and talking for them, asking them questions, asking me to change/ feed/ carry them. While her vocab is great, she still has yet to master the letters G, C, and K.
This lends itself to some funny stories.
Today I was grabbing her, tickling and kissing her, and telling her, "Give me some sugar!" (which in our house means love or hugs or kisses). She was pulling away from me, laughing and squealing, and chanting, "That's enough shu-der! That's enough shu-der!" Which of course made me kiss her more.
We sing the song Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar? which you can imagine is a challenge for Jenna to say... so it comes out something like this: "Who stole the too-tie from the too-tie jar?" And it's so cute when she responds, "Who me? Touldn't be!"

We had a quiet week this week... January is in full swing here and we are without many extra activities. I had barely anything on my calendar and I was relieved. I read Stephen King's latest book of short stories, and except for the first story in the book, which is horrible, it's a highly entertaining read and I recommend it. I taught the second of five Junior Achievement lessons in Michaela's class on Thursday and had a blast. I am happy to report that the morning routine is 200% better now that the stricter consequences are in place.
Jenna has launched a fairly sophisticated PR campaign to get out of going to Preschool by reporting to us that "Preschool is booooring..." and when we ask who she's played with that day, she sighs, looks downcast and says, "No one..." with the most pathetic look on her little face. She asks me, "Why can' t I just stay home with you, Mommy?" so I know that's what this is all about: an attempt to get us to say, Poor Jenna. You are having such a miserable time. Let's just have you not go to Preschool anymore. Her story weakens a bit when I pick her up and she is happy and smiling and tells me, "School was great!" I also talked briefly to her teacher, who reports that she does, in fact, play with her friends at school.
Overall, a great week; full of Wii and projects getting done (I am working on finally uploading all of my photos to Snapfish). We have a quiet weekend ahead and I couldn't be happier about that. Life is good.
Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Boxer.

A hint to all those trying to master Boxing on the Wii:
it's all in the hips.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Nobody said it would be easy.

Michaela has been having difficulty lately getting ready for the bus on time. We have very clear expectations of what has to be done in the morning, what time she has to be ready, and the consequences if she is not ready in time. Our consequence plan fell apart after Christmas: losing tv for the day is just not a big deal is you have a Wii to play instead. So a few weeks ago, we restructured things so she loses the Wii AND tv AND dessert after dinner if she is not ready on time (soooo Draconian, I know).

Last Friday she missed her deadline in the morning and when she came off the bus in the afternoon, she begged me to have her friend Kaitlin over for a playdate. I told her no, calmly explained why, and she burst into tears. Then I told her she lost her Wii and tv and dessert. And she cried harder. And looked horrifically bereft. I reminded her gently that the rules are very clear. She cried, hugged me, and sounded like her heart was breaking.

And of course my heart was breaking, too. Being a disciplinarian is hard. Following through is hard. Knowing that you could take it all back and stop them from crying is so tempting... but you know it's not the right thing to do.

So there we sat in the kitchen, Michaela crying and I holding on to her, and I realized this is the bond, the unbreakable bond, you have with your first born: you are both going through this process kind of blind and just holding on to each other and hoping it turns out okay. Michaela's never been seven before. I've never been in charge before. By the time Jenna gets to this point, I'll be old hat at this discipline thing, confident that my methods are effective and knowing better what to do having dealt with all the situations that Michaela has thrown at me.

No, it's different with your first born. You grow together, learn together, make mistakes together, celebrate first-time victories together and love each other like crazy.

Which is good, because you come awfully close to killing each other.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cheryl is.

At the urging of my buddies Gina and Angel, I made up a Facebook page for myself and while it is a fantastic way to waste lots of time, I do enjoy playing on Facebook. One of the best parts about it, for me, at least, is the Status Update section, where you are prompted to complete the sentence, "Cheryl is..." The world is your oyster: you can be as funny or rambling or boring or pithy or mysterious as you want to be, and it's all good. Some people (many, in fact) just leave it as is and just put a period at the end. Cheryl is.

My friend Randee just posted that "Randee is having a better understanding of what it means to be a silent witness" or something to that effect, and while I kind of understand what it means, I kinda don't, and I like that. But Randee is very smart and very neat and it's a real Randee thing to post.

The side effect of this is that all day long I find myself thinking of things to write. My whole day today has been about finishing that sentence.

Here are some of my Status Updates in my head from today (can you tell I've been home all day?):

Cheryl is...
... tired of doing laundry.
... wondering why her husband and 7 year old seem to produce 90% of the laundry.
... finding it harder and harder to differentiate between Michaela and Jenna's clothing.
... kind of bored.
... having an awesome hair day.
... excited about going to Michaela's class tomorrow to teach Junior Achievement.
... wondering if people who work in dryer sheet factories are the only laborers who come home from work smelling better than when they left the house. And did you know that dryer sheets are produced in Canada? Who knew? Do you think that smell of fresh laundry gets cloying after a few days? Do you think their spouses say to them, Honey, I can't stand that Lavender Breeze anymore... go take a shower, for goodness' sake!
... watching Sleeping Beauty for the 7,397th time but loves it when Jenna says, "When the dragon comes, I'm going to cuddle up to you, otay?".
... irritated with the new format of the Times Union newspaper.
... thinking she really needs to make an appointment for the vet for KiKi before KiKi learns how to hold a butcher knife in her little paws and kills us all in the middle of the night.
... wondering if she can justify to Dan getting the girls' pictures taken professionally in their Christmas outfits.
... eating Friendly's Vienna Mocha Chip ice cream and loving every bite.
... thinking she'll start dieting when the ice cream is gone.
... looking very forward to the day she can sell each and every one of the Dora the Explorer VHS tapes and DVDs in her house.
... thankful that she does not have a job in which she sits in boring meetings.
... happy that Jenna's new clothes fit her. Yay, Target!
... shocked that Jenna didn't want to take a ballet class at the YMCA.
... grateful that she was a heated, cozy house, warm clothes and hot food to eat when it is 9 degrees outside.
... grateful that she was a washer and dryer instead of having to lug her clothing down to the riverside and wash it all on a metal board with lye soap.
... grateful for her husband. And his job.
... grateful for her children and their wonderful quirks and personalities and love.
... grateful.
... grateful.
... grateful.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Winter Wonderland

We've been lucky enough to have some great snowstorms this winter and I love every one. I love the excitement in the buildup, the gorgeous, quiet muffle sound of falling snow, and the way the snow covers everything with pure white beauty. The girls love going outside after a storm and then coming inside to demand hot chocolate, only to drink a few sips and leave the mugs, abandoned and cold, for me to pick up and dump out later. But the idea of the cozy-cocoa-warm-up is enough for them, so it's enough for me, too.
Arctic cold air will be blowing in for the next few days and I'm less cozy-feeling about that. That's just cold.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Quick laugh. (For me, at least.)

While trolling the Clearance section at Walmart today, I spotted these awesome items: school folders with Chuck Norris on them. I myself am not a huge Chuck Norris fan but have heard of the really funny emails that circulate around about him which make all kinds of comparisons about him and his toughness. Apparently two of them were manufactured into these stunning folders, which read:
"Chuck Norris can bring a horse to water and can make him drink."
"Chuck Norris can win a staring contest with the sun."
Of course the accompanying graphics also added to the whole effect: grainy black and white pictures of Chuck, the first with him, powerful and noble, and a horse; the second with him, chin down, clearly on a mission, wearing fantastically outdated sunglasses. The words were written in big, bold, black, white and red letters, and screamed, DON'T MESS WITH CHUCK!!!
The whole thing is so cheesy and yet pokes fun of itself.
Absolutely perfect. The whole thing made my day.
All that for only 25 cents each!
...And to think I was strong enough to resist.

For a longer list of funny Chuck Norris Facts, go to:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Because I have a platform to speak to the world.

While walking around Walmart yesterday, I passed the picture me! photography "studio" (and I use that term loosely*), which had a whiteboard hanging inside declaring this brilliant marketing-based message: Live each day as if it's your last- Take pictures!

Ok. Clearly I understand the reasoning behind writing this on the board. Perhaps one or two of my fellow Walmart shoppers would read it and think, You know, I haven't had the kids' pictures done in a while. And hey, I can get 574 pictures for about $9.99 here... maybe I will make an appointment. And anyone who knows me knows that I am a bit freakish about getting my daughters formally- and informally- photographed. So that part doesn't bother me in the least.

No, I am more irritated by the "live you day as if it's your last" part of it. I have read this in many other inspirational settings and it has always rubbed me the wrong way. Because if it were my last day, I would not be buying diapers, pasta, toilet paper and dental floss at Walmart. I would never go to the gynecologist. I would eat out every night. I would never pay any bills, Dan would never go to work, the girls wouldn't go to school, we would live in Disneyworld and only eat ice cream. The whole premise is ridiculous. Then I feel like if I'm NOT living each day as if it's my last, I've surely wasted my last day. It's so simplistic and irresponsible.

The better saying is to appreciate it day for what it is. Some days are going to be fun and rewarding; some are boring but really pretty decent; and some are just horrible and frustrating, but learning opportunities. Appreciate them all.

And that concludes my rant of the day. Thank you for reading.

*For those of you still interested, I do have a great story about the Walmart picture studio. For Jenna's first Christmas, I bought the girls matching plaid jumpers. They were really cute. Wanting to save a little cash, I booked an appointment for the Walmart picture studio to capture the cuteness forever. I got a late morning appointment; I bathed both girls, dried and styled Michaela's hair; timed Jenna's nap, fed them, bundled them up and drove down to Walmart. A very, very, very marginal person was the "photographer"-let's call her Mabel: she was loud and kind of caustic and tried to prop Jenna and Michaela on top of this high table covered in cheap carpeting and then yelled, "Come on, girls.... Smile!!!" over and over. Jenna of course burst into tears and wouldn't stop. At one point Mabel dragged out this beat up kids' tape player and put on a Disney music tape. The music was loud and distorted and horrible and Jenna cried harder and Mabel then said accusingly to me, "What? She don't like music?"
On top of all of this, the camera was digital and the way the woman explained it to me- which was either true and ridiculous or the result of her misunderstanding how the camera system worked- we would take a picture and we either saved it and that was the final picture or we had to delete it... but there was no saving pictures and reviewing five and picking the best one. It was a huge gambling game: you could get a decent picture and keep it or delete it and hope that a better one came later. So after each awful picture of my precious babies in their cute jumpers perched perilously high- Michaela trying valiantly to smile and be a good girl and Jenna crying in misery about the whole situation- I would have to look at each picture Mabel took on a small screen and make the split second decision to stop or go on and hope for a better picture.
After a while Jenna reached her breaking point so we stopped and I nursed her in the studio- add that to the list of exotic places I've nursed her- and then fell asleep for a short time while Michaela played with the sad toys nearby and when Jenna woke up we tried for a few more minutes, got a shot that Jenna was actually crying but looked like she was merely grimacing and we called it a day.
We immediately went over to my mom's and when I walked in the door, three hours after our scheduled appointment that started this whole fiasco, my mom took one look at me and said:
"I don't think I've ever seen you so... defeated."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Short and Sweet.

I finished a fairly good book yesterday called Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult. It was a pretty interesting book about a woman who suffered with depression as a young adult who goes through a painful divorce and at the same time her seven year old daughter starts hearing God speaking to her and performing miracles.
The author had great quotations at the beginning of each chapter and one I really loved:

Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.- Sophocles, Phaedra

In the case of the book, it was particularly true: the only thing keeping the mom from being swallowed up into another depression was her desire to care for her daughter. But even if you don't struggle with those type of issues, I think the quote is applicable: I know that often I feel like my children ARE my life, they give it meaning, they give it purpose. They keep you real and engaged and grounded and responsible and on top of your game.
It's also a great visual of how I feel some days: sometimes that anchor is heavier than others. I could get a lot more DONE without a three and seven year old alongside to manage. But without them... surely I would drift away.

PS- Happy, happy birthday to my brother Brian!! You are loved!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Holiday Pictoral Essay: Part II.

For New Year's Eve, Dan and I and our good friends Judy & Bryan and Angel & Tom went out to dinner at a Japanese steakhouse. We sat at a hibachi table, which provided both food and entertainment. And almost burned my eyebrows off when the guy set the cooktop on fire.

My peeps

You should have heard us explain to the girls the next day that Daddy ate raw fish. ("Was it DEAD?" Jenna asked, completely perplexed.)

The boys' appetizer: sashimi

We finished the night by having yummy chocolate cake with fruit and very, very sweet and very, very yummy champagne at Tom and Angel's house.

A perfect way to ring in 2009.

And much better than the New Year's Eves of my youth, in which my parents would say, Why stay up? It's already the New Year somewhere in Europe. I'm going to bed.

Toothless Wonder.

The two funny parts of this are that Jenna literally kicked the tooth out of Michaela's mouth this morning ("Mommy- we were wrestling each other and Jenna kicked me in the mouth by accident and I felt something moving around in my mouth and guess what? It was my TOOTH!" was the official story I was told) and that Michaela has spent the day singing, All I want for Valentine's Day is my two front teeth; my two front teeth...
Jenna, meanwhile, is once again troubled that a mythical creature will come into their room... AGAIN... while she's sleeping. She asked me tonight, "Where does the Tooth Fairy live?" and at 9:40pm, I just didn't have a good answer nor the energy to figure out what would relieve her anxiety. "That's a good question," I said, "probably not too far from here."
Like somehow a local Tooth Fairly is less intimidating than one from downstate.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Welcome to the 21st Century, Me!

It is Saturday night at 9:49pm. I am sitting on my loveseat in our living room, all comfy-cozy, with the dull sounds of a football game a few feet away as Dan "watches" the game, lying on the couch with his eyes closed. It is absolutely a wonder of nature because I am typing on our new laptop with WiFi- so exciting! So 21st century! So now! Usually when I am blogging I am squirrelled away in our downstairs office, which while functional, is about 20 degrees colder than the rest of the house in the winter. So try to withold your smirks and dismissive chortles as I relish being modern and fresh... and warm.
We got back into our regular life today after a long holiday break. Michaela had a fun Brownie outing to a local bowling alley and was a little disappointed that she didn't score as high as she does in bowling on her Wii. Then we brought her over to a friend's house, which she declared was "a tradition" because last year she went to the same friend's house during Christmas break. Dan and I hit the mall with Jenna to do some returns and after Christmas sale shopping. This evening we worked on assimilating our gifts into the house, after which I declared myself Officially Christmassed Out.

I am forming in my head all kinds of to-do lists of things I've wanted to do for the last few months but have been too distracted by the holidays to actually accomplish. Most are stupid things, like bringing the cat to the vet because I'm suspicious that she has some pretty serious cat dementia which causes her to howl at night and constantly stare at us like she doesn't know who the hell we are, but other items on the list are more significant, like printing out some of the roughly 5000 pictures I've taken over the last three years. I have so many pictures that you could put them in a pile (assuming they were printed, of course) and flip through them and you'd see my life animated before your eyes. I also have closets to organize, checks to write out, copious amount of fudge-based fat to lose, and multiple projects to complete. I don't really do New Year's Resolutions- I'm stressed out enough by seeing the Quit Smoking ads that flood the media airwaves (remember my rant about how glad I am that I don't smoke... and don't have genital herpes???) and I generally think that a to-do list is better than an "I wish I could..." list.

Though speaking of "I wish I could..." lists, I do wish I could slow down time: I feel like the girls are growing up before my eyes these last few weeks. Dan and I keep looking at them and suddenly they are big and not baby-faced anymore. Jenna's personality is forming and changing right in front of us and her sense of humor is growing and developing every day. Michaela looks like a different person than she did just a few months ago... more sharp-featured as her baby fat in her cheeks melts away and her face elongates and looks narrower. They are more independent, more helpful around the house, and generally seem to have moved into a new stage in life: from Let's kill Mommy through sleep deprivation and endless nursing to Let's demonstrate a glimmer of a behavior that will keep her up at night languishing about whether she's raising us right AND negotiate her to death. Fun times! Seriously, though, it is great to see them make this shift and I love every minute of it.

Jenna is now older than Michaela was when Jenna was born and that totally blows my mind.
And I will bet you a million, trillion dollars that my father just read the last sentence and is saying out loud, Well, come on, then!! Time for another!!