Friday, September 26, 2008

Big Boy

My little man is seeming awfully grown up lately. He's suddenly grown this sense of maturity -- we might go all day without tears, for example. He's not arguing when it's time to leave the house in the morning anymore. Things like that.

Don't get me wrong, he still has those moments when he tenses every muscle in his body, leaning so far forward that a breeze could topple him, fists clenched, eyebrows drawn down, with a laser beam of intensity shooting out his forehead, insisting, "I TOLD YOU, I WAAAAANT CHO-CLATE MILK!!!" But they are, right now, fewer and farther in between. Knock on wood.

He's become helpful at daycare, asks to put away laundry (I think it's because it means we play upstairs and we don't really do that often), and isn't squishing Violet any more. For the record, he is three and three months and one day today. Life just seems peaceful in his world right now.

Sure, he claims every night, "But I don't like to go to sleep!" and he protests both getting into and out of the bathtub, but for the largest part of the day, he's pleasant and cheerful. It's nice!

I just came from home -- no daycare today, so daddy is home with the babes -- and just before I left, we were all in a pile on the floor, snuggling and teasing each other, playing "Let's all kiss someone!" and just feeling each other breathe.

I kiss Violet, who kisses Daddy, who kisses Milo, who kisses me.

What could be better?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Money, Money, Money...

1/2 & 1/2
My deodorant
Dishwasher detergent
Dish soap
Canned veggies: carrots, green beans, butter beans
Frozen veggies, all but broccoli
Fresh produce

What's this list?

The list of stuff we're out of at home and cannot afford to buy until payday -- in six days. How is this possible? Scott and I both work, that's true. We pay nearly all of my wages for daycare -- I think I make $150 or so when it's all said and done. It IS worth it for me to work because of how the college pays our health insurance, so that saves us $370.00 per month that would otherwise be deducted from Scott's paycheck. Added together, that makes $520.00 that I make a month. Which we need.

So things got a little out of control this month, that's obvious. But not REALLY out of control -- we did eat at Texas Roadhouse once and did buy the kids some fall clothes and a Halloween costume for Milo. I paid for one skating lesson and we bought birthday gifts for Violet and Huey. We had carry-out twice this month, too.

We will be getting cost-of-living increases in our next paycheck, but it's still not going to be pretty. I don't know how families make it on one income. Home ownership has been the cause of our financial distress -- we financed some improvements on credit card, then ran into trouble when our pipes burst and family obligations made us take trips that we haven't been able to afford. We've charged too much, I completely understand, but have been making steady progress repaying that debt. We have delayed purchasing a larger vehicle until this is under control, so for now we'll pile into and out of my clown-car Jetta.

But this summer the price at the pump and in the aisle have really hit us hard. Simply put, a family of four with two working parents shouldn't have to scrimp as much as we've had to do. If, Lord help us, the plan to tax health care benefits goes through, we're going to be in a very bad spot. The college subsidized an enormous chunk of our health care this year, but will likely not be able to in the future. We are considering cutting our contributions to our retirement funds to the minimum as the funds are currently losing money.

I don't know what we'll do and how to further save money. We'll start canceling some things we enjoy: cable, DSL at home, Netflix. These are all non-necessities. If I can remember to charge my dang cell phone, we might be able to cut our land line entirely. That will likely make up the difference in the cost of our utilities this winter.

I can give up skating so that I'm not spending gas money to get to and from the rink twice, though because I teach, my ice time is already free. Or maybe we can combine the trip to the rink with weekly grocery shopping. I could clip coupons, but I'd have to buy a subscription to the paper to do it. It's hard to shop around with kids in tow, particularly because we live 15-25 minutes away from the major shopping areas, so stopping by one store to pick up soda on sale isn't necessarily cost effective and is certainly not time effective. I hate the thought of my weekends turning into a game show, "Cheap Food Hunt."

I can go back to shopping at, shudder, Wal-Mart for food and such because I already buy generic stuff when the quality isn't different. Maybe I'll have to start buying generic all the time, quality be damned. The biggest impact there will be Violet's diapers. She's long and lean and generic diapers don't fit as well (Hello poop up her back!). Plus, I'll have to wave goodbye to healthier snack options -- Organic Cheddar Bunnies come in a more expensive package than Whole-Grain Goldfish Crackers that are more expensive than Cheese Whales (or almost-cheese Whales).

We're really OK right now -- I just don't want to dip into the Christmas money if we can help it. Feeding us for the next week might be reason enough to spend some of our gift money on the essentials (so no deodorant for me -- I'll smell like Scott for a few days). We should be fine-ish through the new year, but who know what will happen after that? I know we're in a better place than a whole lot of households out there so I can only assume that people who make half of what we make are cringing about my whining.

Hmm... I guess I just might lose some weight since we won't be buying any junk food or making any spur-of-the-moment trips to DQ. That's not all bad...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


As it turns out, I did not get the cold last week. I did get it last night, though. I don't feel that bad, but am very sleepy.

Sleep is tough to come by right now. Miss Violet is still waking twice a night and needs me (well, my boob) to get back to sleep. I don't know how to stop this without causing more trouble. I love nursing her, but would be OK with just nursing for breakfast and before bed. Because she's still waking twice a night, I don't feel like I can put her in Milo's room just yet, though he has been asking for her to sleep in the crib. So she is still in room with us. Which means it could be the dogs waking her at night or daddy's snoring.

The snoring is bad again because Scott has a cold and cannot breathe with his bi-pap on -- but he also cannot breath with it off, so he's just not breathing. If the snoring weren't so thunderous, we all might be sleeping better. After a visit to his doctor discussing his bi-pap and restless leg syndrome, the doctor asked if we were still sleeping in the same bed. He answered, "No, but it's mostly because my wife is falling asleep in a chair while nursing our daughter." True, indeed.

I do not know when, if ever, I will get to fall into a calm bed and sleep for more than an hour at a time. I won't know what to do with myself if I'm ever actually rested. My quality of sleep is so poor that I don't know how I am able to function day after day after day. Scott is headed to NYC for 16 days with a class -- maybe I'll use that time to figure out what's waking Violet. And if it is daddy, maybe she and I might get a whole night of sleep in there. Not that I'm happy he'll be gone -- single-mommin' it for two straight weeks isn't going to be easy by any stretch of my active imagination. The kids will miss him terribly and we'll all be grouchy for most of the time he's away, I suspect.

Last night, Milo had a nightmare that he clearly remembered (this is a first). He woke crying and told Scott, "Mommy left me at the movie theater!" Well, I have never done such a thing -- he and I went to see Clone Wars last Friday and I stepped into the lobby to get him more lemonade, but leave him at the theater alone? Heck, no. And yet I somehow still felt badly about it -- even though I have never done it. I asked him about it this morning and his version made me even more guilty -- he said, "We went to see Madagascar and you left me at the theater all by myself and I cried and cried and you didn't come back."

All I could do was to promise that I would never leave him at the theater. So clearly my baby is subconsciously worrying that I am going to leave him somewhere. If only he knew I'd take him everywhere with me as long as he lives! The time for him to shove me over for a friend is approaching more rapidly than I can believe. I don't have too long before the thought of me leaving him somewhere is anticipated, not feared.

In other news: Violet is a nodding fool! She nods when you ask her questions now, sometimes accompanied by a "hmm-hmm." She hasn't quite got the idea that nodding is a neck-upwards movement, so she's nodding her shoulders, too. It's cute. She also bring us things and holds them up, saying, "dis? dis?" which I am taking to mean, "What's this?"

So I tell her, "That is the battery door on the remote. Have you seen the batteries?"

Nod, nod, "hmm, hmm."

"Should I be worried that you have eaten them?"

Nod, nod, "hmm, hmm."

In fact, she did not eat them -- that would have been a nightmare of a different sort.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I think I am catching a cold. Rats!

I haven't been sick in a very long time. I am glad for that. Something about pregnancy and motherhood has brought on extra immunity for me, I believe. It's as if the creation of new life has strengthened my defenses -- my body's way of knowing that moms just don't get the down time to be sick. I have never once caught a tummy bug from my kids and have only caught a few colds. But Milo was feeling puny last Saturday and Violet ran a fever for four days last week and they passed on illness to Scott, who has shared with me. Family style dining... with germs. It's OK, it's not going to be fatal or anything, but I was sort of enjoying a long run of being healthy.

I was one of those kids who caught everything. I had frequent colds, yearly bronchitis, and pneumonia every other year. Allergies year-round, ear infections that would rupture my eardrums... you get the picture. I can remember pretending I wasn't that sick so that I could get to school because I had play rehearsal and AP classes and all that stuff. Mostly because I didn't want to miss rehearsal lest the drama director decide I was unreliable. So I toughed it out. I guess that was good mom training -- you just can't shirk mom stuff because you're coughing.

I will be fine as long as I'm not running a fever. If I run a fever, then all bets are off because I crash and burn with a temperature of 100. Gert delirious and loopy if it ever gets over 101. I wilt and get confused and find that everything hurts my whole body. I have no control over my emotions and it's best just to send me upstairs to bed until the fever breaks. So, I hope I never run a fever. My poor kids would have to fend for themselves... Maybe the dogs can change diapers and fill endless sippy cups with milk? Nope -- they are thumb-less wonders. Good thing I've got a husband who agrees that the only thing that Mommy can do that Daddy can't do is nurse Violet. She wouldn't like his chest hair, anyway...

I dream vividly when running a fever. Crazy, incomprehensible fears tumble through my unconsciousness colliding and bouncing, building and cresting until I wake thoroughly frightened and occasionally inconsolable. The fever burns a tiny pinprick of a hole in the membrane that keeps the fears at bay, holding them sterilized away from my day-to-day thinking. The fears slip and slide through the portal, insidiously filling in between my normal thoughts like mortar between stones, pervading the structure of my life and turning the rational irrational. I have delusions of panthers stalking me in my bed, their hot breath whistling under my sheets, curling around my pillow, nestling into my hair. Social order is upended; I recall charging downstairs, sobbing uncontrollably to my parents that I had dreamt I wouldn't ever marry because my allowance was higher than my fiancee's... I was twelve and not engaged at the time. But the doubt had shown itself and I could not quell the impulse to share it. I imagine that this is what mental illness feels like to it's sufferers and am thankful that the inability to reason, to put a coherent thought together, to function is temporary and not a constant. I am thankful, so thankful. I am so very, very thankful that any illness which I have had has been curable -- just a transient wayward moment in an otherwise calm existence.

I am thankful.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Happy birthday, Violet!

This is the conversation that Scott told me he and Milo had last night:

Scott: Tomorrow is Violet's birthday. She is going to be one year old!

Milo: Her birthday is tomorrow? She will be one we can call her beautiful. She's so beautiful!

Happy, happy birthday my sweet, sweet baby girl. So far, she's celebrated by sleeping all night last night, nursing a good long time this morning, and eating "cra-kah"s to her heart's content.

This past year seems like a blink -- time had flown by faster than I ever anticipated. Last year, right about this time we were getting ready to go grocery shopping for the week. I had been having contractions every five minutes for the entire week, but wasn't making any progress with dilation. I discussed with Dr. Z that I wasn't ready to be induced because I was hopeful that by going into labor on my own I would be able to avoid a difficult epidural and minimize the amount of medication in my system so that I could have a better shot of breastfeeding.

Scott, Milo and I headed into town. We walked through Menard's looking for something that I can't remember now. I could feel the contractions getting a little more ouch-y, but they weren't exactly painful. And I carried Milo through half of the store. On to Target for groceries! Scott and Milo high-tailed it to look at Halloween decorations while I went to the restroom. I noticed bloody show and started to think that today just might be the day that we get to meet you! I didn't feel that birth was eminent, but also knew that we were dangerously low on food, so I continued shopping. After about fifteen minutes, Scott and Milo came upon me in the frozen food section, breathing through a stronger contraction. I told Scott, "You'd better call Mike to watch Milo, we're going to have a baby today!" He blinked and asked me if I was sure, I said "Yep!' and he got on the phone to Mike and Corey right away. Grandma Dianne and Grandpa Richard were supposed to have watched Milo, but they decided they needed a weekend away after Matt and Sasha's wedding, so they had driven down to Branson, MO to visit some of their "cruise friends".

I decided that we had enough time to get home and unload the groceries, which we did. We loaded back up and drove to the Blair's Ferry Walmart parking lot to meet Aunt Corey, who was headed back to Mount Vernon for a football game. Scott had asked me if I'd rather stay at home until the game was done, but I didn't think we'd make it that long. I was right!

We got to the hospital about 1:15 or so, checked in and nurse Jenny said I was about 2cm, but the bag of water was bulging. The monitor said I was contracting every 90 seconds or so. She said I needed to walk the halls for about an hour because they couldn't admit me until I was 4cm. I walked for about 45 minutes and I was starting to get really uncomfortable. Dr. M (our pediatrician) ran into us, but he stopped to say "Hi!" as I was in the middle of a contraction, so he wished us well and said he was excited to meet our new little one! Nurse Jenny checked me again and said I was at 4cm, so I was allowed to be admitted. I laughed and said, "If you weren't going to admit me, I wasn't going any farther than the parking garage because we will be having this baby today!"

I got all settled into a room and Dr. JKO came along to check us out. He disagreed with Nurse Jenny and said I was only at 2cm, but he wasn't going to discharge me. He broke my water and it was meconium stained, so I wasn't going be able to get too far away from the bed this time, either. After about an hour, Scott's favorite nurse Ann and her student came in to take over the labor/delivery part. We asked nurse Jenny to take pictures, and she was glad to do so.

Labor went very quickly. I went from the doc's 2cm to complete in about 3 hours. A couple of pushes and a leg cramp later, Violet came whooshing out! She was gorgeous! She took to nursing as soon as I was able to try (about 15 minutes after birth).

So, that is the story of Miss Violet's beginning. It was as easy as she has been this year -- I couldn't as for a more wonderful daughter. Her gentle spirit and sweet disposition make loving her oh so easy. She's been the healthiest, happiest, most easily contented child I have ever known and Milo, Scott and I adore her. She thinks her big brother is the bee's knees and is quick to follow him wherever he goes.

Today Violet is one and she IS beautiful!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Busy Weekend

Another busy weekend has come and gone in the Olinger household. Here are some highlights:

Friday evening: Scott and I took the kids to the picnic outside Riverside Theatre to celebrate the opening of the show Stones in His Pockets, which Scott says is excellent and which I am sure I won't get a chance to see as I hate to spend any more time away from my babies than I do with work and skating. Kids ate baked potatoes and corned beef sandwiches. Well, Milo did, anyway. Violet has been suffering a little tummy bug and she was not interested in eating much, though she made the discovery that by crumbling her roll, she could make it snow on mommy. Scott and I chatted while Milo begged to go home and Violet charmed the pants off the small crowd. At one point, two little brothers were sprawled at her feet, blowing her kisses. I think we might be in trouble...

Saturday morning: Skating lessons! I toiled away, not particularly successful at anything. Taught one group of tots and had a pretty good class. Then Milo came for his lesson. He got on the ice with me and I gave him a good morning hug and kiss, since he'd been sound asleep when I left the house. I spoke with the group instructor about moving him into this class as he was beyond bored with the Parent/Tot-Snowplow 1 group and when he's bored, he clings to my bum like a barnacle. Really -- he presses his face into my right cheek. Makes skating terribly difficult. Anyway, I held one hand and the other instructor took the other hand and we went across the ice that way. He was reluctant to introduce himself, but quickly amended my suggestion that he was George. "I'm not George! I'm MILO!" and answered correctly that he is "Three!" When the instructor realized he'd misplaced his clipboard, I took the opportunity to find it. I came back and Milo was absorbed in an activity, so I slid the clipboard behind the instructor and skated away. Thus began Milo's first lesson on-ice without mommy. He did pretty well -- I ducked and hid behind the boards and the vendor cart so that he wasn't able to see me peering out onto the ice at him. He skates pretty much like you'd imagine a three-year-old to skate -- not very fluid nor fast, but he doesn't fall often and he keeps plugging away at it. I think he's doing pretty well considering he started skating at the end of May and has been out there maybe a dozen times.

Saturday Evening: Scott moved scenery that had been evacuated to Cornell after the flood waters receded from Theatre Cedar Rapids while Violet napped and Milo played. We ate and took a long walk. Both kids tired of the stroller before we got back, so we came back carrying children and pushing an empty stroller. Milo did not think it was funny when we suggested that he push his parents in the stroller.

Sunday: The day started off pretty lazy for me. In fact, it took me a good hour and a half before the coffee kicked in and I was willing to open my eyes fully. We went for brunch and had a pretty good meal, though I was kicking myself and pretty upset because I'd given Violet a molten bite of my sweet potatoes and her reaction was swift -- poor little thing looked so panicked. I did cry about this because I felt so awful. It wasn't really a good weekend for the poor girl and her parents. Scott had accidentally guided Milo's skate-clad foot into her eyebrow and I tried to burn her tongue out with sweet potatoes. Good thing she's tough...

Then we went to Toys'r'Us to shop for Violet's first birthday. Which is tomorrow. She is pretty tough to buy for as she's mostly interested in playing with whatever Milo's doing. In fact, she often drapes the other Wii controller over her neck like a boa. She's very much into exploring right now and doesn't settle into playing with toys per se, yet, but that's totally normal. Interestingly enough, she was the only one who didn't poop while we were at Toys'r'us. I'm sure the staff was wondering what our issue was -- couldn't we afford to flush at home? Anyway, we ended up purchasing a soft June doll (from Little Einsteins). Violet did hug it -- which was about as interested as she was in anything -- except for an odd package of Floam that she brought us three times. Floam is not recommended for children who would eat it, and she likely would as she was calling it "cra-kuh" -- which, in Violetese means "food I can feed myself." After wandering through the store twice (and to the bathroom thrice), we finally went on our way with the biker scouts that Milo was promised as a "pooping on the potty" prize two months ago when he started potty training. They vanished from store shelves the instant that he decided that he was ready for underwear grrr...

On to Target where I manage to get everything we needed for the week while trying to entertain Violet, who is an hour past her naptime. We're checking out when Scott goes over to the service desk. I think he's going to complain aobut something, but no... He practically ambushed the poor stockperson that he notice stocking Wii Fit games onto the shelves. So now we have a Wii Fit.

More on the Wii Fit at another time, but suffice it to say, I did every exercise currently open to my very unflattering Mii. Because looking in the mirror at myself isn't depressing enough, now my Wii alter-ego is looking back at me as fat as I am in real life...

Then we had a lovely dinner at Scott's parents. Kids were relaxed, Dianne had been jammie shopping, and Richard was agreeing with us about voting for Obama. Dianne's choice in jammies for Milo was a point of hilarity. Apparently my sized 3T son isn't ready to wear big boys' size XS. Which is probably a 6-8. So she took up the pants, but did not take in the waist. The result: a pair of pants as long as they are tall... and a shirt that comes down to his knees. It's fine, though, he'll be able to wear them for four years...

My father-in-law, with whom I have not always agreed, asked me if I had ever considered running for public office. I said, "Why? Am I that full of sh*t?" Nope, he just thinks that I have a good way with words and can tell a person where to shove it in the most positive way possible. I dunno... I guess we'll see what happens when I get involved with the PTA, LOL!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


This morning, after I unfolded from sleep, I was about to step in the shower, but discovered it already occupied by a large brown spider. I gave a quick yelp and Scott came running in, smooshing the creep in a wad of toilet paper. I flushed it to make sure the beastie was really dead. Goose bumps crawled up and down my arms until I was almost done with the shower.

I don't care for spiders.

Later, as I was nestled into the couch, nursing my wiggly girl, I saw another spider scurry across the rug. I said, "Oh! There's another big spider!" Scott was, again, to the rescue. However, this time the note of panic in my voice reached Milo, and he dove onto the couch as if avoiding a man-eater. In fact, his question was, "Was it big enough to eat me?"

No, the spider wasn't big enough to eat him. We explained the jobs that spiders do for us -- killing other bugs and making beautiful webs. I'm not sure he bought it, but then, neither do I. Spiders are creepy no matter how you look at them.

It made me think about how much of our own fear we impart on our dear children. Milo is usually a bug-a-holic; he's a champion bug stomper. Or, at least he was until he saw how afraid I was. What other things have I taught him to fear?

Not water -- I barely blinked as, at the ripe old age of four months, a wave of water washed over his head while he was in the pool, swimming with daddy and his cousins and daddy's cousins. Everyone else sitting on the side of the pool about leapt in the water, even though the babe was safely cradled in his daddy's quite capable arms. I didn't flinch, Scott didn't flinch, and Milo didn't flinch.

Not crowds -- he'll bravely charge into a group of strangers if there's something interesting in their midst. We went to the Brookfield Zoo when he was about 13 months old. He decided all on his own that he was more interested in following any family with more than one child than in sticking with his boring old parents.

Not heights -- Although you'll never catch me balancing atop a ladder atop a piece of scenery fifteen feet above the deck, Scott is remarkably comfortable up there and, apparently, he has passed the monkey gene onto his progeny. It makes me nauseous to watch, but they can all climb all over anything.

What I truly hope that he never fears is people. Especially people who don't look like him, talk like him, or live like him. I cringe when I hear other family members pass racial and cultural slurs as easily as passing the stuffing at Thanksgiving. I hate it when I hear people who raised us say things that illuminate their fear and ignorance about other cultures. It's my biggest issue about living in the Midwest -- we're a bunch of homogenized white milk around here. I want my kids to understand that there is more than one way to look at our world, to recognize that your point of view is as valid as mine is.

Sometimes I feel like that spider in my tub -- trying like hell to climb out of the shiny white world into which I've slipped before I get squashed. I guess that's my fear -- never getting the chance to experience more of my world. Maybe it's OK to pass that one on...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Stormy Weather

It is labor day weekend and, once again, we are watching a hurricane bear down on Louisiana. Three years ago, when Katrina ripped apart New Orleans, Scott and I watched helplessly in the Norfolk Airport as she took aim at a place that I've never visited, but mourned anyway. Milo was a wee one then. We were returning to Iowa from my brother's wedding. As the story played out in the national news, I couldn't believe the destruction and devastation. I was saddened by the loss of history.

Face it, this country just isn't that old and we don't have the millenniums of recorded history like other places in the world have. Yes, we have fossils and such, but the largest part of this continent stood wild as civilization grew in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Funny how consider ourselves the most civilized lot on the planet, huh? In world history, we're sassy, brassy interlopers.

I have always felt like my personal politics are out-of-synch with a lot of my country. I remember on 9/11 wanting to rip down the "God Bless America" banners people had afixed to their minivans or the Old Glory funeral flags jammed in the windows of expensive, foreign sedans. Wasn't that the sentiment that caused the whole issue? That we believe we are blessed more than the cradle of civilization? I remember thinking, "Gee... I bet a little bit of humility might go a long way right about now..."

I am personally infuriated by the whole cowboy sense of foreign policy that we're living with right now. As if we need to show the rest of the world how the West was won... The rest of the world has been warring a heckuva long time longer than we have and even though we have the bigger guns, they're simply more experienced in the ways of fighting than we are. If it doesn't look like a video game, we don't know how to beat it.

I think this is why I am so confused about some of the political ads that have been crammed into network TV -- is it really a bad thing that Europe likes Obama? Really? I kind of think it might be nice to have European friends right now. Especially since we're not really making freinds in the Middle East and we're playing a high-stakes game of poker with Russia over Georgia.

I don't know what to do -- I don't want my kids growing up in fear of attack, but I really don't think that we're making friends by pissing in the swimming pool. Whoever is leading our country into the next decade isn't going to have an easy time of it -- that's a given. I just hope that they can weather the storms better than New Orleans has.