The Finish Line (#NaBloPoMo Day 30)

I did it!  Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo, and I managed to blog every single day in November.  Day 30 is upon us, and my final theme is … Books.  Wait, what?  What on earth inspired me to pick something so anticlimactic after such a momentous (for me, probably not for you) month?  Well, what I was thinking was, dreaming up thirty different themes is hard, and November 30th is Lucy Maud Montgomery’s birthday.  So I’ll just write about books on that day. 

How weird is it that I: a) ever knew Lucy Maud Montgomery’s birthday, and b) still remember it to this day?  What important, life-saving information am I forgetting because I’m using up so much crucial brain space on menial LMM trivia?  Clearly I had a slight Anne of Green Gables obsession in my adolescence.

If you’re dying to know about me and books, I’m kind of a David Baldacci nerd (#basic).  But, I don’t intend to write any more on the subject today, because I’d rather use the rest of this post to reflect a bit on what it was like to blog every day over the past month.

So how did it feel? Honestly, it felt really good.  If you haven’t already guessed from the flavor of my writing and my own outright admissions, I struggle with anxiety.  It’s not crippling, but it is a significant part of my daily life.  When we first moved to upstate New York and I became a stay-at-home-mom, my anxiety surged in response to all of the unknowns.  But having this blog and forcing myself to write every day over the last month has strangely calmed my nerves.  I’ve been much happier, more organized, and more patient with my children.

I guess you could say frequent blogging has been an anxiolytic for me.  It’s forced me to reign in and synthesize some of the silly parenting thoughts bouncing around inside my head.  It’s allowed me to reflect on and put words to some deep-seated issues with certain family relationships.  It’s given me a platform to bitch about petty stuff and then move on, when I would otherwise be obsessing.

While it was hard to have “homework” every single day, it was alternatively nice to have a bit more purpose beyond mom-ing my kids and keeping house.  That’s not to say that I don’t think both of those things are incredibly important and fulfilling in their own way.  But neither is something that I do for me.  It felt nice to take care of myself and pursue my own interests with my blog this past month.

So all to say, I think I’ll keep going with this whole blogging thing.  But probably not every single day.  Because mommy needs to catch up on her shows.

Until next time,

Vee

#NaBloPoMo Day 29: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

It’s November 29, and there’s only one day left in this year’s NaBloPoMo.  Today’s theme is Hair, because who wouldn’t want to read an entire blog post dedicated to that?

If you could change one thing about your appearance, what would it be?  For me, there’s never been a question: my hair.  My stupid, awful, life-ruining hair.

When I was a toddler, I had kind-of adorable hair.  It spiraled out of control, straight up from my scalp.  I looked like a cute little lion, rawr! But that shit was not cute or acceptable when I got older.  No, as I got older, I realized that I lost the hair lottery.  In so many ways.

Worst things first, my hair is not straight.  Notice that I did not say that my hair is curly, or wavy.  It’s none of those lovely things.  It’s just this fluffy, frizzy, poofy mess, with some straight parts here, some curly parts there, and some wavy parts over there.  It never dries the same from one day to the next.  You know how when you’re watching ’80s movies, you have to laugh and wonder, what the heck were they thinking with that hair?  Let’s just say I would have been a lot more popular if I went to high school in the ’80s.

I feel like I’ve tried everything.  Expensive hair cuts.  Expensive hair products.  Pregnancy hormones.  Praying to sweet baby Jesus.  It never looks better.  It looks so bad, in fact, that I’ve spent at least 5 million hours of my life blow-drying or straightening it.  That’s good for me, right?

Aside from general appearance, my hair is also cursed because it falls out at an alarming rate.  Alarming, you guys, it’s not normal.  I can’t touch it without coming away with somewhere between 4 and 100 loose strands in my hand.  Don’t worry, I’ve asked a doctor.  I’m not balding, and I’m not dying.

Our floor, our carpet, our bathtub, our car, our kids, the Hubby — all completely covered in my hair.  It is impossible for me to look down at my body without spotting two or three stray hairs no longer attached to my head.  I’ve even had self-described touch-a-phobes reach out and brush loose hair off of me.  Ugh, gross.  It’s embarrassing.

The last thing that’s wrong with my hair, well, I can barely even talk about it because it makes me nauseated.  Let’s just say, without expanding any further, that there may be some gray hairs on my 32-year-old head.  Ew.  Ugh.  I just gagged a little bit as I wrote that.  It’s only a sprinkling of gray, but still, I don’t know what I ever did to my hair to make it betray me so.  (Maybe the decades of heat abuse?)

I can only hope that my kids have better luck with their hair than I do.  And they probably will.  My stupid mother-in-law has straight hair and almost no grays at 67. Whatever.

Until next time,

Vee

#NaBloPoMo Day 28: Heartfelt Confessions on Giving Tuesday

Today is NaBloPoMo Day 28 — two more days!! — and my theme of choice is Charity.  Hop back to yesterday’s post if you feel like reading about just how charitable I was feeling towards my sister- and brother-in-law after their Thanksgiving visit.

It’s trendy these days to refer to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving weekend as Giving Tuesday.  A day where, after spending your paycheck and then some on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you’re meant to dig even deeper into your pocket and give charitably to others.  It’s a lovely idea, but my guess is that most people are feeling a little overspent by the time Giving Tuesday rolls around.

Nevertheless, Giving Tuesday has me thinking about my own approach to charity.  Over the years, I’ve struggled to develop a consistent or meaningful theory about how or when I should give to others.  Do I give to people or to organizations?  Do I give money or things?  Do I give based on perceived need or perceived desert?

I’ve never been very charitable in the past, at least not with hard cold cash.  I’ve donated here and there to my almae matres and things like the Terry Fox Run.  And after I realized it was cool to buy coffee for the person behind you in line at the Starbucks drive-thru, I also did that once.  And then as I drove away, starting to feel pretty good about myself, I suddenly thought, what the fuck?  My version of charity is to cover a $4.50 expense for someone who owns a car and can already afford their own Starbucks? Is that the best I can do?

If I have $4.50 to give, shouldn’t I be giving it to someone who really needs it? Someone who can use that money to buy themselves a meal when they wouldn’t otherwise eat?  I really should be giving the money to someone living on the street, right?

The concept of giving money to a homeless person raises very complex emotions for me though.  And no, it’s not because I question what they will buy with the money or whether they actually deserve it.  It’s because my own little brother is homeless — truly, actually, really homeless.

Even though this is an anonymous blog, I am mortified to make this confession.  Not because I am ashamed of my little brother for being homeless, but because I am ashamed of myself for having a homeless little brother.  For being a spectator and letting it happen.  It is a life-long story that I couldn’t possibly do justice to in one or two blog posts, but suffice it to say, my whole family is in agreement that my brother is beyond help.  That there’s nothing we can sanely do to rectify his situation.  But I still feel so deeply, gut-wrenchingly guilty about it.  He’s my own flesh and blood, and I’m not doing everything in my waking power to keep him off the streets.  I can’t forgive myself for it.

So maybe you can imagine how giving to others feels a little hypocritical to me.  I’m not financially supporting my own little brother, who I grew up with and love very much, but I’ll readily give some change to someone on the street that I don’t know from Adam? It doesn’t make any sense.  But at the same time, I know my brother makes his living off of those same donations from other people.  And I am eternally grateful to those who stop while passing and drop some change in his cup, because they are keeping him alive.  So maybe the person I am passing on the street is someone else’s little brother.

I don’t know what to do, which is why I spend a lot of energy trying not to think about the whole situation.  Which makes me feel even more guilty, because if I’m not going to support my little brother, surely I could at least give him the courtesy of my thoughts from time to time.  Basically, I’m a horrible person.

Until next time,

Vee

#NaBloPoMo Day 27: What Happened at Thanksgiving

It’s the 27th day of November and the 27th day of NaBloPoMo.  While today’s theme is supposed to be Christmas, I’m going rogue and talking about our disastrous Thanksgiving instead.  Don’t forget to read yesterday’s post about how Hubby and I went rogue and bought a house without seeing it in person!

When I designed my list of NaBloPoMo themes, I thought I might use today to talk about Christmas, because I am one of those people who gets into the Christmas spirit early.  Like, let’s get Halloween and Thanksgiving out of the way already so we can make some fucking Christmas cookies!  (And if you’re a celebrate-Christmas-before-Thanksgiving-er, more power to you!)

But today, instead of looking forward to Christmas, I find myself reflecting on how this past Thanksgiving was something of a disaster.  Before your imagination runs away with you, let me just say that most things food-related turned out really well (with a gravy exception discussed below).  So why was our Thanksgiving so disappointing?  Would it give it away if I suggested we rename it Pukesgiving?

Half of us got a horrible, pukey, 24-hour stomach bug.  It all started when I heard my sister-in-law (SIL) puking in the bathroom on Friday night.  She puked twice and then had a headache and chills.  Then I woke up at about 1am Saturday morning and vomited my brains out.  I threw up 4 more times before actual morning.  And then Ell-Bell barfed all over herself and our bed at about 3am.  And at 4am Hubby spewed an unbelievable amount of his insides out, developed the most violent shivers I’ve ever seen, and then buried himself deep under the covers and became totally dead to the world.  When K-Man woke up for the day at 7am, he said his tummy hurt.  Uh oh.  Over the next 8 hours, he managed to chuck on the rug, the sofa, and the kitchen floor.  Who knew two-year-olds had so much room in their tummies?

I continued to vomit every 1-2 hours for the first half of Saturday, and then I felt like death warmed over for the rest of the day.  Hubby was only out of bed between the hours of 11am and 6pm, and when he was up, he was pretty much just sitting on the couch moaning and shivering.  We have no idea what happened to make us all so sick.  Food poisoning is one potential culprit, but we couldn’t isolate anything that only the sick folks ate, so who knows.

It was pretty brutal, though.  There we were with guests who had come all this way to see us, and we could barely function enough to keep our kids alive, let alone be good hosts.  And if I’m being completely honest, I was pretty bitter that Hubby just helped himself to bed, leaving me solely responsible for our two little vomiting munchkins.  Have you ever tried to clean up toddler vomit alone while keeping a crawling and curious baby at bay?  All while trying to soothe your own ever-increasing urge to barf?

On the bright side, I lost 3 pounds in a day!

Aside from the pukefest, there were the inevitable awkward interpersonal shenanigans that just made the whole weekend kind of uncomfortable.  Caution, major vent sesh ahead.

My SIL and her husband (BIL) would not stop with their miserable bickering.  It was kind of my fault that they weren’t getting along to begin with.  We were talking about BIL’s little brother, and I mentioned something about the brother’s fairly unusual and newly-diagnosed medical condition.  Well, unbeknownst to me, I wasn’t supposed to know about said medical condition.  So BIL really let SIL have it about telling secrets that were not hers to tell.  Never one to leave a damsel in distress, I rushed to her defense: “To be fair, I think I heard about it from [SIL’s dad].”  And then BIL proceeded to flip out because he didn’t know that SIL had told her dad about it either.  So, yeah, I was super helpful there.

But they kept up with their fighting all weekend, and it was majorly uncomfortable.  SIL was a grumpy buttface and treated BIL like dirt, and BIL made no effort to tone down his “go fuck yourselfs” in front of us or the kids.  I have never had to change the subject so much in my life!

BIL was also weirdly combative with Hubby and me about things that just don’t matter. Like, why didn’t we have a baby gate at the top of our stairs?  What if K-Man suddenly developed a sleep walking habit and fell down the stairs in the middle of the night?  Why did K-Man’s training potty have a liftable top lid on it? What was that for?  And back when I had a job, why did I choose to eat breakfast at work instead of at home?  BIL also insisted on taking charge of the gravy for the Thanksgiving meal because “Americans don’t know how to do gravy right” (he’s from the UK).  Guys, he totally wrecked it.  It tasted like watered-down Turkey butt.  While that may be the approximate technical definition of gravy, can I kindly introduce you to my two friends, salt and butter?  I wouldn’t hold it against him if he hadn’t thrown out the whole “Americans don’t know how to…” business.

Also, K-Man and my nephew did not get along.  At all.  Which we expected because they’re both two, and when you’re two, you couldn’t give any shits about caring through sharing.  But my god, could 3 seconds go by before they were both screaming and rolling on the floor, wrestling over a stupid toy that neither one of them wanted to use only moments before?  And of course both sets of parents had to run to the rescue, and there were all kinds of awkward politics as we tried not to directly accuse the other couple’s child of being a complete asshole.

Finally, SIL and BIL just made themselves a little too at home for my taste.  The kind of petty stuff that shouldn’t bother normal people, but I have trouble letting go:

  • SIL decided it would be fun to let her son do sensory play with a bowl full of cranberries on our floor.  She made no effort to clean up or apologize when he spilled them everywhere, stepped on them, peeled them, and smushed them into our carpets.  What the fuck?
  • My nephew was completely naked from the waist down approximately 79% of the time.  Too much baby penis for me.  And maybe you could have your kid put some pants on before he rubs his bare butt all over my furniture?
  • My SIL’s bra broke and she had to borrow one of mine for the rest of the visit.  Is it just a little bit weird that she only brought one bra?

Okay okay.  Petty complaints aside, it really was good to see family for a few days.  And SIL and BIL really stepped up to the plate when Hubby and I were drowning in puke on Saturday.  My SIL even cleaned up one of K-Man’s vomit piles.  That’s the real deal.

Nevertheless, this introvert is exhausted and ready to recharge alone at home for a few days.

Until next time,

Vee

#NaBloPoMo Day 26: We Made a Mistake

We are 26 days in to this NaBloPoMo November, and today’s theme is Dream House. Don’t miss yesterday’s post about my dream diet, the Whole30.  (Just kidding, if it was a dream it would permit deep fried peanut butter cups.)

I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret.  Something Hubby and I refuse to tell almost all of our friends and family members.  Here it is: we bought our current house sight unseen.

Go ahead. Go ahead and judge us hard.  It was a bold and mostly stupid move, but we felt pretty backed in to a corner.  When Hubby learned he had matched to a program in upstate NY, we had about four months to find a house, get approved for a mortgage, close on the house, and move ourselves and our two kids up from the DC metro area.  It was a pretty steep timeline, especially when you consider the fact that it takes an average of 60 days to close on a house in New York state.

Anyway, Hubby was still in school, I was working, we had two very young kids, and we were trying to navigate a 500-mile move.  To a market where flights were not cheap.  All to say, it was pretty hard to go house hunting.  Don’t get me wrong, we tried to do it right.  Hubby drove up for two days and saw maybe 10-15 houses, but they were all total non-starters.  Any house we were ever excited about was snatched up before Hubby could get up there to check it out. Ugh!

So when we saw what looked like the perfect house come on the market — in budget, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a lush backyard, beautifully finished, and a fricking Wegmans down the street — we decided to do something crazy and offer on it without first seeing it in person.  Thankfully our agent was game to go check it out for us, and she confirmed that it was a steal.  So we put in an offer the day it came on the market.  And so did 3 other people, yikes!  We subbed in another offer slightly above asking price, and our bid was ultimately selected.  Who knows what to believe, but our agent told us that all 4 offers were essentially for the same amount, and the owner chose us because she liked our family story. Aww! We never met her but I still feel like she must have been a sweetheart.

So after the offer and the passed inspection, we waited an excruciating two months before we could check out our house and see if our gamble paid off.  When the day finally arrived, we were giddy, and for good reason. The pictures had done the house justice, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Was this really our new home?  How could we be so lucky.

But as we walked around, we started to come to a sick realization. Cigarette smoke.  The cigarette smoke smell was unbelievably pervasive.  Oh shit.  Did we just make a huge mistake? It had naively never occurred to me that there could be a smell issue we were missing when we looked at the pictures.  And it wasn’t just a hint of something here and there, it was really bad.  The garage especially smelled like a human-sized cigarette had died in there.

So, we buckled down and did some research on how to eliminate smoke odors. We washed the walls with vinegar, we vacuumed the rugs with baking soda, we wiped down all the fixtures, we even bought an ozone machine to see if it would make any difference. Everything helped a little, but there was never an inexpensive silver bullet. So after a few months of “should we, shouldn’t we,” we bit the bullet and had our carpets changed. You’re welcome, Home Depot, for that generous donation.

Where are we now? We’re thinking changing the carpets did the trick, at least enough to live with. If things start to stink again and we have to shell out money to have the whole house repainted, I might die of a bad mood.

In the end, we know we did something risky and stupid. But we also think we probably would have bought the house even if we had smelled it in person, first. Because we’re cocky and we probably would have thought it was an easy fix. That’s what I tell myself so I can sleep at night, anyway.

Is it our dream house? No.  But we weren’t looking for a dream house.  We’re here for three years, and just needed something to keep us warm.  And now that the smoke smell is gone, this house exceeds our expectations.  It may not be my textbook dream house, but owning a home is still a dream come true.

Until next time,

Vee

Losing It with the Whole30 (#NaBloPoMo Day 25)

The end is sort of nigh, my friends!  It’s NaBloPoMo Day 25, and today’s theme is Diet.  Don’t forget to read yesterday’s post if you want to know more about my gluttonous shopping habits.

Thanksgiving is over, and the massive stock of leftovers in our fridge is slowly dwindling away.  Honestly, I’m happy to see them go.  If you’re anything like me (aka, have no portion control and eat all the things), you won’t be stepping on the scale for a few days.

Let me just say that I’m all about body positivity, and I’ve worked hard to be happy about my weight over the years, even after my once fantastic metabolism fizzled out at 26.  But! It’s nice to have a diet to resort to here and there when you want to reverse the damage of a particularly gluttonous period, or shave off a few unwanted pounds.

For me, that diet has been the Whole30.

After I had K-Man, I actually lost the baby weight pretty quickly.  The problem was that before I got pregnant with K-Man, I had gained an embarrassing amount of weight.  I’m talking like 20-30 lbs over the course of a year.  Oof.

So I wasn’t happy at my weight and wanted to do something to shave off at least some of those extra lbs.  Exercise wasn’t working, and I didn’t feel awesome about cutting back on the quantity of food I was eating.  Because I was breastfeeding and I was hangry ALL THE TIME.

That’s when I stumbled on the Whole30, a diet that doesn’t restrict how much you eat.  When K-Man was about 8 months old, I decided to give it a try.  It was only a 30-day program, it couldn’t kill me, right?  (Spoiler alert: it didn’t kill me).

Fact: The Whole30 is not easy.  It’s an elimination diet where you pretty much cut out everything that tastes good. I mean everything.  No added sugar.  No dairy.  No grains. No legumes.  No alcohol.  Basically, you’re just eating meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and sweet potatoes for 30 days.  (Blech, sweet potatoes, am I right?)  And if you really want to lose more weight, you take it easy on the fruit and nuts.

I struggled epically with the diet, because my normal go-to meals consist of some combination of bread and cheese.  Obvious no-nos on the Whole30.  But I kept going because one rule of the diet is that if you slip up and cheat, you have to start all over again.  Uhm, no thank you!

The first time I did the Whole30, I lost 15 lbs in a month.  Not the most unbelievable amount of weight, but decent considering my frame and how much I had to lose overall.

I did the diet again when Ell-Bell was about 8 months, and it was equally effective.  But this time I threw two cheat days in there.  Because I’m human and because oh my god there were freaking deep fried Reese’s peanut butter cups when we went to the state fair you guys! I’m still fantasizing about those puppies.

On paper the diet is a little inflexible and hippie dippie, but you can take or leave that stuff.  Obviously, the stricter you are, the more weight you’ll lose.  But if you can’t find sugar-free bacon, I don’t think it’s the end of the world if you partake in the real deal. Because bacon.

So what does a day on the Whole30 look like?  Well, there are a ton of officially sanctioned recipes in the book by the people who invented the diet: The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom.  If I’m being honest, while most of those recipes are tasty (my favorites are the Chicken Chowder and the Shepherd’s Pie), I don’t find them super accessible for someone who is cooking challenged or has little free time.  But, still a good source of ideas for fun ways to jazz up meat and veggies.

The more I do the diet, though, the more ok I am with bland, boring food.  It’s only temporary! So I’ll usually just have eggs and avocado or eggs and bacon for breakfast.  A salad with tuna, tomato, avocado, and hard boiled egg for lunch.  And a meat with two veggie sides for dinner.  A Larabar or a handful of almonds with a banana are my go-to snacks.

Skeptical? You should be.  Diets suck! But if your fear is tinged with interest, give it a try! You can always do a Whole7 or a Whole15 to get your feet wet.

Until next time,

Vee

#NaBloPoMo Day 24: Let’s Go To The Mall

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving filled with warmth, family togetherness, and good food.  Now that it’s NaBloPoMo Day 24, the theme is Shopping.  Let’s go to the Mall!

Here in the States, it’s Black Friday, aka, the day of major epic awesome sales in stores nationwide.  These days, it’s not uncommon for Black Friday sales to start on the evening of Thanksgiving.  So folks will finish up their turkey dinners and head out to the stores before they even have time to button their pants back up! Ahh, I love you America.

Truthfully, I’m not much of a Black Friday shopper.  Because people are legit scary out there on this day.  Thank you, internet, for enabling me to take advantage of most Black Friday deals without having to rub elbows with the crazies.  Even though I don’t partake in Black Friday festivities, I do have the shopping bug.  Guys, I have it bad.

I get quite a rush from buying anything, whether necessary or superfluous,  practical or impractical.  Dishwasher detergent from Target? I’m delirious.  New anti-frizz product for my hair?  Yes please.  Even more new dresses for Ell-Bell?  Would love some.  Another Moleskin notebook when I already have 5 and none of them have a single page filled out? Gotta have it!

I’m guessing I inherited my shopping habits from my mom.  She’s the kind of lady who thinks she saved money when she bought something on sale that she wasn’t already planning on buying.  I mock, but here I am years later buying things from Target that I don’t need because I have a coupon for ten cents off.  Yikes. (But guys, I saved ten cents!)

As if my own shopping habits aren’t bad enough, I compounded the problem by marrying another shopaholic.  Hubby, he likes the finer things.  So while I’m out killing us financially by the nickle and dime, he’s browsing the internet for table saws, 900-fill down jackets, and pick-up trucks.

This is all pretty problematic when Hubby and I are somehow supposed to be cutting our expenses down by 75%.  So does that mean all shopping has gone out the window? Honestly, no.  Shopping has always been therapeutic for me, and I can’t bear to give it up completely.  But, I do a lot more near-buys these days.  You know, put it in your cart, walk around with it for a while, and then put it back on the shelf.  What a rush!  I’m living dangerously over here, you guys.

Until next time,

Vee