2013 in review

2013 was rough–stressful in both good and bad ways, and looking back I’m floored at the amount of stuff our family has been through. There’s been travel, moving, new additions, injuries, and work–we’ve run the gamut, and I’m proud of all of us for making it through with relative good humor and patience. Hopefully 2014 will go a little easier on us.

A rough timeline of events:

  • A work trip to Hawaii in January made for a picture perfect start to the year
  • In April, we adopted Atticus. I had no idea one puppy could be so much work! But he is a sweetheart, and he’s calmed down quite a bit since we first brought him home. He likes to lay on my feet on the couch at night while I write or work.
  • In May, I traveled to Italy for work. Our team stayed in a rustic countryside villa in the hills outside of Florence, which was as amazing as it sounds.
  • We sold our condo in central Maine and moved north (the nearest Starbucks is in Canada, if that tells you how far north we are), back to my childhood home, to be closer to family. Easily one of the best decisions we could have made. The girls are thriving, and we’re loving all this space.
  • Gwen turned two in September, and boy, did she ever turn two. She owns her two-ness. She climbs, she runs, she’s maniacally happy and sad in one breath, she’s persistent and driven, and she wants to do everything by herself. Yep, definitely two.
  • Speaking of Gwen, we had that burn accident in September, which landed her in the hospital for three days and scared us all pretty badly. Thankfully everything turned out OK, we held it together, and she came out mostly unscathed. Though now she likes to tell everyone, “Mama spill hot coffee on my monkey shirt! Hurt. I cry.”
  • Another trip, this time to San Francisco and Santa Cruz for the Automattic company meetup.
  • We were without regular internet access until November, which made things difficult for working at home, but we managed. Got pretty familiar with the very few free wi-fi spots in town, and drank a lot of Tim Horton’s coffee.
  • I wrote not one but two novel-length pieces of X-Files fanfic, completing my first NaNoWriMo! Woohoo! I’m in the process of publishing the first novel here.
  • November also marked my second European trip of the year, this time to London, and I really want to go back; I feel like I could have spent weeks there.
  • I worked a lot. I may have spent more time in pajamas than is considered socially acceptable. I continue to marvel at how lucky I am to work with the people I do, and to get paid to do the stuff I do. From home. In my pajamas with the Ninja Turtles on them. Yeah. I love my job.
  • I struggled with depression, and it took a lot of time and convincing for me to acknowledge it, but with help from an SSRI and therapy, I’m ending the year from a happier, more balanced place.
  • Ellie turned five in December, which feels like a personal milestone for me. When she was a newborn, I remember thinking of five as some magical, mystical age in the distant future, and now it’s here, and I am so proud of my smart, funny, beautiful little girl. She drives me crazy, but I love her to pieces and I can’t wait to see what the next five years bring.

Upcoming in 2014? More travel. Potty training (redux). More fanfic writing. Working. Family. And hopefully a happier, more positive outlook on the whole.

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how to make a cupcake costume the lazy way (aka no-sew)

(If you’re looking for actual instructions, you may want to click this link.)

Ellie's cupcake costume (licking the spoon)I have this annoying aversion to buying Halloween costumes.

Annoying, because that puts the burden of effort on me to make something, since the kids are too young to make their own.

Annoying, because I will spend just as much (if not more) on supplies to make said costumes than I would on a mass-manufactured, made-in-China number.

Annoying, because the kids could care less about the costume as long as they get candy.

In other words, this is a neurosis of my own making, and I know it.

Unfortunately for this neurosis, I don’t sew. I don’t even craft, when it comes down to it. Last year I basically glued some felt onto plain-color clothes and that worked.

Side note: Ellie kept telling everyone I was going to crochet a Halloween costume this year — not only for her, but for Gwen, myself, and Tim. I’ve never crocheted in my life, but I’m glad she still has that kind of faith in me.

Originally, Ellie wanted to go as Rapunzel from Tangled, and I was thisclose to buying the costume dress and calling it good. But then she asked if Gwen could go as Pascal, which started a frustrating chain of events that led to a new plan: Ellie and Gwen would both go as cupcakes, and I would make the costumes.

I have a tendency to approach these things full speed, head-on, with little planning and big expectations. Anyone remember my infamous gingerbread house experiment?

So, here’s how you, too, can make an adorable cupcake costume the lazy way, no sewing required. I can’t promise your kid will still talk to you when this is done, though.

How to make a cupcake costume, sanity not included

Gwen's costume from the front1) Don’t use a pattern — that would make too much sense. No, just take rough measurements of your kids while they’re squirming around — even better if they’re naked and coated in Crisco — and follow the detailed instructions that sound so simple in your head.

2) Buy fleece fabric at the store. Eyeball it, because you’re not using a pattern, so you don’t know how much you actually need. You have the money, why not waste it?

2a) Buy fancy, $9-a-tube fabric glue at the store, after being assured by the saleslady it will work. Get it home, realize it takes 24 hours to dry — screw that. Plug in the trusty glue gun.

2b) Also buy scissors, since you don’t have any that are sharp enough to cut through tissue paper, let alone fleece.

3) Attempt the hat design first, because it’s simple, in theory. Overcomplicate it by cutting out a series of isosceles triangles and spend an hour and a half gluing them together. Realize later you could have Googled “no-sew fleece hat” and been done in ten minutes. You barely have enough fabric for the second hat now. Feck.

4) Move on to the frosting part. Don’t make the smaller, easier infant costume first — that would be silly! Go big! So big, in fact, that you size the costume for a ten-year-old instead of a three-year-old!

5) Experiment with sizing. Bully your three-year-old into trying on multiple variations of the frosting to get the measurements right. If you have difficulty with this, bribe her with TV and candy.

Gwen's cupcake costume from the back6) Using a large needle, thread yarn through the outer edge of the cupcake frosting to gather it. Yarn will break and fray after you’ve spent half an hour with this. At this point, your significant other may want to bring the children upstairs, “until it’s safe to be around Mama again.”

7) Brilliance ensues. Substitute the frayed yarn for a spare shoelace! You are a crafting genius! Children are allowed to return to the room, Mama no longer a threat.

8) Cut out sprinkle shapes from colored pieces of felt and hot-glue them to the surface of the cupcake. DO NOT DO THIS WHILE YOUR CHILD IS WEARING THE COSTUME. Especially if she’s still coated in Crisco. Ahem.

9) Realize the frosting piece is stupidly huge. Cut it back to a manageable size, re-thread the shoelace for the third time.

10) Cut out a rectangle from the brown fleece, and poke holes along the top. Realize you have to re-thread the shoelace for the fourth time to connect the frosting and the base. Cry.

11) Put it all together. Force your child to try it on “just one more time.” (You may have to promise her a pony.) Put $20 in the therapy jar for good measure.

12) Step back. OMFG it looks like a cupcake! You did it! Now, where is the awards committee? What do you mean there isn’t an awards committee?!? Disappointed.

13) Realize this took five hours and you still need to make another costume. Cry.

Continue reading

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In which my kids get the best of me, as always

By the time I returned from Vegas, Gwen had begun pulling herself up. One month later and the standing is a regular thing, along with creeping alongside the couch (leaving a lovely trail of drool on the cushions behind–apparently she keeps her sense of balance in her tongue.) I can’t say I’m ready for this. She only started crawling for real 2-3 weeks ago, but apparently she’s taking AP courses in mobility. Also, she’s learned to feed herself finger foods, clap, give kisses, and wave hello, all in the span of the last week and a half. If she keeps up at this developmental pace, she’ll be starting college in about, oh, three years. Two if she really applies herself in toddler school… but those quadratic equations are a bitch when you don’t know how to properly hold a crayon. 😛

getaway driver

Gwen taking Driver’s Ed. Careful parellel parking, kiddo.

Now I not only have to keep Ellie from unintentionally giving her sister a concussion, I have to keep Gwen from giving herself a concussion. Double your pleasure, if by “pleasure” you mean “number of small heart attacks.”

Gwen is also teething, and I don’t remember teething being this… nerve-wracking. Maybe I’ve blocked it from my memory for a reason, but Ellie cut all her teeth in the span of about six months, so it was wham, bang, done. No muss, no fuss. In contrast, Gwen’s chompers are taking their pleasant time. Apparently she’s going to draw this out as long as painfully possible and suck down every last ounce of my patience in the process.

Speaking of patience or a lack thereof, let’s talk about Ellie.

A rare snuggly moment

A rare moment of peace

I have mixed feelings about three as an age in general. I realize my experience in this arena is limited, and those of you who are familiar with teenagers are looking at me with “Oh, honey, you have no idea” eyes. Ellie may have an attitude, but at least she doesn’t have car keys, a credit card, and a hulking boyfriend named Todd, right? I still have some illusion of control here.

Ellie, oh my sweet Ellie. I know a big part of my struggle comes down to a difference in personality. She is so fiery, and I am not. I don’t know how to handle all her passion and angst. That’s not to say I’m not angsty, but I’m not outwardly angsty. Keep that shit to yourself, please!

But Miss Three does not know how to keep her shit to herself. Miss Three wants us to know about everything–every single thought in her adorable blonde head. All. Of. It. All the drama, all the time, like a Lifetime movie marathon on constant repeat.

And the noise! “Mama? Mama?!? MAMA! Hey Mama! MAMA!!!!” By the time I go to bed, every last nerve is fried and overstimulated to the point where I can’t sleep. I’m physically buzzing in an effort to keep up with my kids. Like a junkie who gets high on silence and desperately needs a fix.

Mostly, I can’t believe they’re growing so fast. Every time I look at Ellie climb the rope ladder to get to the big kids’ slide, Mama!, and every time I look at Gwen’s chubby legs taking tentative steps alongside the furniture, I am reminded of how much has changed in the last three years. I’m frustrated because I can’t hold onto it. The kids are always slipping out of my grasp, literally and figuratively. They want to move, they want to go, and I won’t hold them back, but part of me wants my babies to stay innocent and sweet and chubby and attitude-free. So much change in such a short period of time is overwhelming. Such is parenthood, I suppose.

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who let me have children, anyway?

I didn’t write about it at the time, but Tim returned from a business trip to Hungary a couple weeks ago and at the risk of sounding incredibly un-feminist–I’m not entirely sure how I survived that week and a half without my husband.

Let me preface this by saying, I am not single parent material. Period. Tim and I make a great team and he’s an exceptional and involved father. For that I am very grateful, but when he leaves life gets… difficult. Like I’m suddenly missing a large and very valuable limb.

Case in point: Tim went to Montreal for a weekend WordCamp this summer, leaving Ellie and me (a very pregnant me, I might add) to our own devices. My mom came to help for part of the time, but mostly it was just the two of us, hanging out. I thought I was prepared for the chaos. I even dug out my giant childhood sticker collection and let Ellie have at it, thinking that would keep her busy for a while (and obviously forgetting most two-year-olds have the attention span of a gnat on crack.)

Sticker fun lasted about five minutes. Five minutes of peace–that summed up my weekend. Ellie refused to nap, so by the time Sunday evening rolled around she was alternately bouncing off the walls with giddy happiness and throwing herself on the floor in a fantastic tantrum–all in the span of maybe two minutes. At one point Tim Skyped us to see how things were going and, upon answering the video chat, was greeted with two sobbing females–one child, one adult, both at the end of their proverbial ropes. Let’s just say it was intense. I’m surprised he didn’t decide to stay in Canada permanently after that.

So that gives you an idea of how I fare when I parent alone–I’m basically on autopilot, and a pretty crappy autopilot at that. I’m less hormonal these days, sure, but now I have two children to think about–twice the chaos! Half the sleep! Continue reading

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attack of the stupid gallbladder

Apparently Gwen’s pregnancy did more than just wreak havoc on my bladder, pelvis, stomach and the usual postpartum fare–it brought my stupid gallbladder* out of hiding, and boy is it pissed! Yes, pregnancy and an admittedly rich diet seems to have triggered gallbladder attacks, something I’d never experienced before, something I definitely never wanted to experience for sure. Ow. Thankfully I’ve only had two short episodes in the last week–I hope that means we caught this early.

You’d think having to push a baby out of my vagina and the subsequent sleep deprivation that goes along with having a newborn would have been punishment enough for one maternity leave, but no. Let’s throw a random medical issue into the mix for good fun. And here I was, feeling all smug for having successfully dodged two c-sections.

I’m seeing a surgeon on Friday to go over the ultrasound and (most likely) schedule a cholecystectomy. Of course, I’ve consulted with Dr. Google enough to have some anxiety about the process. Many people say they’ve had easy recoveries but there are enough horror stories out there to make me worry.

(Truth be told, I’m also worried about how this will impact my future ability to eat pizza without gastrointestinal discomfort. Hey, priorities. And I wonder how I got into this mess!)

Tim will also be out of the country (and by that I mean temporarily not on this continent–not just in Canada!) for a week very soon, so I’m already a little (read: a lot) anxious about that. I’m just a giant ball of freak-out these days, really. Thankfully I’ll have help from my parents (love you guys!) and hopefully I can put off the surgery until after Tim gets back so I have his support if the recovery is rough.

Sucky silver lining: I now have something to hold over Gwen’s head when she’s a teenager and driving me batty. With Ellie, I had a 30-something hour labor–easy guilt fodder there. But Gwen’s labor was only 8 hours–not effective for guilt purposes. Instead, I’ll be able to say, “You gave me gallstones–the least you can do is clean your room!”

It's a good thing I'm cute!

It's a good thing I'm cute!

As if to make up for my pain and suffering (cue overly dramatic sigh) Miss Gwen recently decided to sleep through the night, three nights in a row! Seven hours at a stretch! It’s pure sleepytime bliss up in here. I don’t know whether to celebrate or knock on wood to avoid jinxing it, so I’m just going to shut up about that now.

She’s also started smiling! And this is the part where I say it’s hard to believe she’s already a month old, I lament how fast she’s growing up, yadda yadda yadda. *sniffle*

* From here on out, I’m just going to refer to it as “my stupid gallbladder” because that’s exactly what it is. Stupid, stupid gallbladder.

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