Thursday, August 26, 2010

Still Looking for Little Kelly

With summer coming to a close, and my search for Little Kelly still underway, I decided to review my sabbatical list and regroup. September always brings about thoughts of starting fresh with a clear head. Mmm....fresh school supplies! If I could somehow incorporate a trapper keeper, some new folders, and plastic sleeves into this regrouping exercise, I would be very happy.

At the time I wrote down my initial sabbatical list the to-do's poured out of me like lava flowing from a volcano. I had no control over what my pen was writing. Clearly there were things hanging over my head that my subconscious needed to get out. In retrospect, I clearly felt my physical house was out of order and if I just cleaned my bathrooms, steam cleaned my rugs, and washed the kitchen floor I was sticking to then life would be easier.

Well, now I don't stick to the kitchen floor anymore...but that's just because I can't see it. It's covered with everything from our last camping trip and some hay from the bunny cage. And oddly enough, I am less stressed about how much messier my house is now.

This summer, I very rarely caught myself saying "I need to clean!" but often found myself giving permission to sit down, read a book, and enjoy the day. People, this is HUGE progress for me!! How many of you feel guilty for taking an hour to just sit and read a book or take some time to do nothing? And why don't we do that more often? The cleaning will always be there, the weeds aren't going anywhere, and all those errands can wait until tomorrow. Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be constantly on the go? And when we are constantly in motion, how can we take the time to notice all the little things in life that make our days worth it?

I am proud to say that of the 8 things I accomplished on my list so far, only two have to do with cleaning. And let me tell you, cleaning under the kitchen sink did nothing for me and I will never wash my windows again. I still can't get all the grates snapped back into place and at least one falls on the floor a day.

But I did plan a trip with my girlie friend Beth and we are leaving in a couple of weeks for Ohio to attend the Country Living Fair (check it out online www.countryliving.com/fair). We can NOT wait! I took up painting again. The kids and I spent many camping nights creating watercolors by candlelight. The kids are such talented painters and I have totally enjoyed finding my creative groove again. I am even thinking of taking a watercolor painting course this fall.

Speaking of camping, you can tell by my blog that we camped ALOT and it was awesome! I took Jack out to dinner last night and asked him what the best part of this summer was and he said it was all the camping we did. And you know what, my kids went tv free for at least 3 solid weeks this summer and they didn't complain about it once.

I have also read a ton. Last week while we camped I read three books! I have read 17 books since the beginning of June. I'm pretty sure that is the same amount of books I read in the past 5 years combined. I'm happy to see that many of you are taking recommendations from my list and that you continuing to send me your favs. I don't know when I'll have another opportunity to read so much and I am loving every minute of it!

Here are some other things I accomplished so far that weren't on list:

1. I have a kick ass tan. Best I have ever had in my life. And yes, I have been vigilant about sunscreen. But the back of my legs are tan for the first time since I was a teenager and my toes are tan. In my book, tan toes are a sign that you enjoyed your summer.

2. I truly felt like a kid again this summer. I read books, painted, had countless picnic lunches, swam alot, rode bikes, played games, and just relaxed and enjoyed each day. I know how lucky I am to have had this opportunity to take time off and I have appreciated every minute.

3. I got creative. I grouted sea glass and shells on my tub surround. I made a necklace out of a black oyster shell I found on Assateague Island. I painted some frame worthy (at least in my opinion) watercolors. I started this blog. I have always loved writing and I am glad I got back into it. It's like daily therapy for me. I have a notebook of blog ideas...just haven't had enough time to actually post them. When you take the time to slow down and listen to yourself, you'll find that there are all kinds of creative things waiting to burst from within.

4. I gained weight. My muffin top now has a muffin top. This certainly was not on my list of things to get done while I was on sabbatical. But, I loved every single onion ring, pizza slice, french fry, full sugar coca cola, and glass of wine I put in my mouth. I had fun doing it and I wouldn't take this summer back for anything. The old Kelly would be so remorseful of the choices I made and I would be wallowing in self pity and guilt. But not the new Kelly...I'm just going to accept the choices I made and deal with them. I'll get busy and get in shape once the kids go back to school and I'm not going to beat myself up over how I got here. And I haven't lost a friend yet over my weight gain. People like me for me, not the size of the shorts I can fit into. And if you don't like me anymore because I am pudgy, then go to hell :)

5. I realized that having a clean house doesn't make for a happy soul. Sure, organization and clean floors make you feel good but it's the little stuff that fuels you and makes for a happy life. Spending time with your girlfriends, taking the time to play a game with your kids (even if it is Monopoly), sharing your day with your hubby after the kids have gone to bed...these are the things that make you smile at the end of the day. I used to feel out of control because the house was out of order, but what I was really missing were the little things that fed my soul and kept me happy. I hope to never lose perspective on that again.

I worry that when I go back to work I will look back on these days with anger instead of joy. Anger that life got complicated again, that I don't have the luxury of time anymore, that I lost myself again. Every day I tell myself that I will be able to keep a better balance now that I've had this time...that I won't slip back into my old workaholic, stressed out self. I do have confidence in myself that I will be able to find a better balance and will recognize when I am slipping away again. But if for some reason I don't, will you remind me of this post?

Take the time to rediscover what you need to feed your soul and feel happy every day. You will be glad you did.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Little Kelly is Born!

One year and 2 weeks after Baby Jack was born, Little Kelly was born. Meredith Jacqueline Nealon arrived at 6:30 pm, 8 days late, on August 17th. We just celebrated her birthday last week while we were camping and as always, their birthdays make me think about the day they were born.



Mimi had no intention of coming out on her own. In fact, I think if she had her way, she would still be inutero. She likes to be taken care of, loves to have people dote on her (and believe me, everyone does), and she likes to be warm and cuddled. Given that, the uterus was a perfect place for her to live out her days.



On August 16th, the doctor told me I should call the hospital to be induced. The 16th worked for me...I like even numbers. And I had my mind all geared up to have her on that day. We called the hospital first thing in the morning and they said to call back...they were all full at the moment. What?! I AM READY TO COME IN, I felt like screaming. Turns out when we called back later they couldn't fit me in either. "Call tomorrow and we'll see what we can do." I spent the rest of the night crying. There was no way I was having a baby on the 17th...that was NOT an even number and I didn't like the sound of that birthday. And I wasn't ready anymore. I couldn't wrap my head around it for some reason. Nevertheless, we called the next day and sure enough they could take me in....on the 17th. Great.



This birth was totally different than Jack's where I waited too long at home and couldn't get an epidural. But I was in the zone and it worked. With this birth, they broke my water and I immediately started having contractions that I thought would kill me....and I was only 2 centimeters dialated. I think it was worse because I knew how bad it was about to get.



Without any dishes to wash and rewash, Timmy sat in a chair with his feet up and read a book. I couldn't focus on the words of the magazine I had brought because my body was busy pushing a watermelon out of something the size of a lemon. The more Timothy sat there reading his book quietly, the more I wanted to kill him. Occasionally he would look up from his book, look at me like he was surprised to see me still there, and say "How's it going?" How's it going?? If I could have reached him, I would have beaten him with the book.



To further annoy me, some intern candy striper came in and announced that she was doing a study on childbirth and would like to ask me a few questions. Hey, to anyone that works in the medical field, don't EVER try this again. This girl is lucky she got out alive. She was asking me questions like "At what age did you have your first child?" , "How old are you?" and the question that got me was "At what age did you first get your period?" After trying to think for awhile on that one I just snapped and yelled "What the hell do you need to know that for? Do you honestly think I can remember that right now??" She looked offended. Timmy looked up from his book, blinked a few times, and went back to reading. He knew better than to get involved. The little candy striper fled my room after that and I went back to writhing in pain.



6 hours later the doctor announced we had a baby girl. I was so sure we were having another boy that I asked to see her just so I could be sure I heard him right. Sure enough, there she was...all pink with tiny little heart shaped lips. Visions of pink and green danced in my head! We had decided on the name Meredith very early on...it just came to me and we both liked it. And I knew whenever I had a girl her middle name would be Jacqueline, named after my aunt who I loved so very much and still miss terribly to this day. I remember Tim's grandmother saying "That's such a big name for such a little girl!" As it turns out, her name is just perfect for her. It is unique and special, just like she is.



When she first came home, Jack couldn't walk and I had to carry them both up the stairs to get in our house....our front door had 14 stairs. It wasn't pretty. One day I stopped when I got to the top and I said, "Jack, I have to carry Meredith in...you are going to have to walk on your own." He thought about this for a minute and then pointed to her and said "Mimi". From then on, her nickname stuck. And let's be honest, what's more preppy than the name "Mimi"...I couldn't have come up with anything better myself!



Mimi has a mind of her own...she knows what she likes, what she doesn't like, and she isn't afraid to let you know either way. She has a great sense for fashion and is my go-to girl when I need an opinion on what looks best. She is very creative, caring, positive, strong willed, independent, organized, a fantastic cook, and confident. She constantly says things like "I am beautiful", "I have great hair", and "I look good in this". While some might feel she sounds like she is full of herself, I know I have done a good job instilling confidence in her. So many girls doubt themselves...even as grown women we doubt ourselves every day...so I hope her confidence continues to grow throughout life.



I won't lie to you...I don't think she and I are going to make it under the same roof through the teen years. We are very similar and in fact when I go away on trips, "Little Kelly" is always in charge. Not Timmy, but Little Kelly. She is a planner and is organized like me. She knows what it takes to run this place and she isn't afraid to take the lead. Having two alpha females in the house is going to get tricky in a few years. But I wouldn't want her to be any different than she is. She is going to do great things in her life...I know it. Happy Birthday Meredith Jacqueline!

Hamster Balls

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to put my kids in large hamster balls to keep them safe. I would pipe in happy Disney music and they would frolic in the front yard free of harm and crazy people. Since I haven't been able to find any online I have resorted to fretting about their safety on a constant basis.

Recently we were home for a few nights, in between camping trips, and I lay in bed getting myself worked up before I fell asleep. Would someone sneak in the house and steal my kids at night? If they called out, would I hear them or continue in my deep sleep? Stupid, I know, but I'm being honest with you...I think about this alot. I awoke that night to the cat meowing like crazy downstairs. I immediately thought "Someone is in the house and the cat is warning me!" Just call me the crazy cat lady.

I have often stressed about how I would save my children. Jack's room is at the top of the stairs on the left and Mimi's is on the right...how would I possibly save them both if someone was at the bottom of the stairs?! Thankfully, it turns out that night the cat was just being crazy.

Speaking of crazy, I know you think I am a nut ...I can see the look on your face right now. To be fair, I am the mother of one of the most accident prone children on the face of the earth. Besides Jack's two surgeries (a tumor on his face that I thought was a zit....c'mon, he was my first child...and a double hernia) he has had the following: two front teeth knocked out by a line drive. The teeth, his permanent ones that had just finished growing in, were dangling by their roots (luckily they were able to reattach them). He has broken several bones (pinky, arm, and two places on his wrist while on a school trip). He has had many stitches, like when he ran across the rain soaked yard and collided with a wood chip which tore open his knee cap. He ended up with 10 stitches and wore a full leg brace for 3 weeks. He has had staples in his head. Of course he got those by standing on our granite counter top, slipping, and whacking his head on the side of the granite. Yeah...I'm still not sure why he was standing on the counter. Do you understand why I'm kooky about their safety now? Mimi has never given me cause to worry about these kinds of things but I am fearful someone will snatch her up one day while she is skipping in the yard singing to herself.

Honestly, I like to be in control. I know that what I am really worrying about is uncontrollable situations. I have always felt if I did my best to warn them about potential dangers, I would give them the ability to control a sudden situation. As a result, I have groomed a quick thinker and a worrywart. Hey, a 50% success rate is pretty good, right?

Because we were camping alot this summer, and there were strangers all around us at the campgrounds, I found Security Kelly in full action mode. I also found myself saying crazy mother phrases to my children. I wrote a few down and thought I would share them with you:

1. While kids were enjoying themselves jumping in the pool I leapt from my seat and yelled "Make sure you jump far enough away from the edge so you don't fall back and smack your head. Then they would have to close the pool to get all the blood out!"

2. While kids were ahead of me on their bikes going down a hill "Don't use your feet to stop your bike - they could fall right off! And then you'll never be able to ride your bikes again!"

3. After they burned their feet while trying to stop their scooters with bare feet "Next time your feet might just catch on fire and then you really won't be able to stop!"

4. After giving me grief about brushing their teeth for the 5th time that week "You'll end up with green teeth and then no one will want to marry you!"

5. If you don't stay with your sister and someone ends up stealing her, you'll have to live with that the rest of your life!" Insert $100 in the therapy jar for that one.

Have you ever said crazy things to your children? If so, share some funny ones with us. If you don't think you have, listen to yourself....you'll get a good chuckle once you realize what you are actually saying.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Have A Problem - I Can't Stop Reading!!

With all this camping time, I am going through about 2 books a week! I tend to pick books by the cover...they are usually preppy with some pink, green or plaid in the design, have a screwed up funny looking kid on the front, or the cover and the title don't seem to go together and it intrigues me. However, the old adage "never judge a book by its cover" can come back and bite you in the patootie.

So, rather than blindly select books by their covers, I thought I would reach out for some good recommendations. What have you just read that you loved? Or maybe you read it a long time ago and you still think about how good it was (Pillars of the Earth and The Red Tent come to mind for me).

Come on...send me a book recommendation I can add to my whale scale!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Caught Crabs in Ocean City, Maryland!!

That's right...crabs...and lots of them. Now get your head out of the gutter...not those kinds of crabs. The campground we stayed at just outside of Ocean City, Maryland had a crabbing pier and we must have caught over 100 crabs throughout the week. The kids would get up every morning and run to the crabbing pier with their traps to catch as many as they could before we headed out for the day. When we got back, they would race down again and start it all over again until dinner. They also caught quite a few starfish in the traps, which was a highlight. We also saw some kids catch a flounder, a puffer fish, and a giant hermit crab...the size of your fist! You would think with this industrious work each day, they would be dying to try them. Not so much. They would just throw them back or give them to other kids who were going to eat them.

The trip was great - took about 9 hours each way with gas and food stops. The campground has a caribbean theme with all the buildings painted in Key West pastel shades. Besides the crabbing pier, they had a bayside beach, a pool, kids activities, free shuttles to Ocean City and Assateague Island...and the best part was that we were 3 sites away from their new addition...a tiki bar. They had great live entertainment each night, although I could have done without karaoke night and the very tall, thin teen, complete with braces and glasses, who sang one opera song after another. Holy Bloody Ears.

I won't bore you with our day by day details but instead I'll share some highlights. Within 45 minute of arriving, we had set up and we headed to the Tiki Bar. Turns out kids aren't allowed in.....although they are just separated by a few tropical plants and a knee high caribbean blue fence, Jack & Mimi looked like puppies in the window hoping someone would take them home. The kids were dying to go to the beach and crabbing but instead they stood there in their bathing suits looking like orphans. C'mon....after a nine hour drive (and we left at 3 am) we needed some tropical drinks to dull the pain. Rather than go to the crabbing pier or make a sandcastle on the beach together, which were within an arm's length from the tiki bar, they just stood there silently staring at us, wondering "When will they come out?" I think we lasted 8 minutes. So much for couple time.

We went to Assateague Island on our second day and it is pretty amazing. If you aren't familiar, there are wild ponies that live and roam on the National Seashore. The beaches are like talcum powder and the waves were fantastic. When we arrived, there was a herd of 4 horses in the parking lot just hanging out. They have amazing campsites right on the beach and we saw a couple eating outside their pop up at a picnic table, and 3 horses were eating grass right next to them. If we go back to visit we will spend at least one night there just to experience it up close and personal. We even saw a little baby horse on the side of the road. I should mention these aren't domesticated horses...they are truly wild..and the visitor center does a good job showing the effects of getting too close to the horses...many people with horse bites that looked very painful. If you get the chance to go, I wouldn't pass it up but remember to keep your distance.

Mimi lost three teeth in 4 days. When we started the vacation she had one loose tooth...and it was very wiggly but just didn't want to come out. One day while we were eating lunch, she said it hurt, and the next thing we knew, it was in her hand. The next day she said "the tooth next to that one is wiggly now" and by the end of that night when we were waiting in line for ice cream, we were all surprised to see the tooth fall into her hand. She looked like a crazy old lady with all that space on the side of her mouth. The next day she mentioned the molar on the other side was wiggly and on day 4 she was complaining that it hurt. She went to wiggle it and it just came out in her hand. It was a little unnerving, I have to admit. It was as if all her teeth were just falling out of her head. That left the rest of the vacation for her to gum all her food or chew like a gopher with her front teeth. We have been tap dancing around the tooth fairy thing for some time. She has been in the space between knowing there is no tooth fairy but not wanting to admit that it has been us all those years. Well, this past week took care of that. I told her to put her tooth under her pillow and she put her hand on my shoulder and said in a very mature little voice "Mom, why don't you just hand over the money now..." Nuff said. In hindsight, maybe it was me that had the issue, not her....

We went to a great restaurant literally on the beach called Macky's. I don't understand why there aren't any places like that on the Cape. Our table was literally ONE step away from the water's edge. They sold nets in the lobby so the kids could troll in the water looking for critters. The sun was just setting when we got there and the temperature was about 83 degrees at 7:30...it was a perfect setting. That is until a lady a few tables away decided she wanted her picture taken IN the water. She kept lifting her dress up so it wouldn't get wet but she was basically providing a peep show. She was also very inebriated and had trouble standing up. Timmy and I caught ourselves silently praying she would go over...who wouldn't love some entertainment like that?? Unfortunately, we didn't get the show we were hoping for but nonetheless, it was a great spot!

We met some really nice people this time around. Not sure if it is us starting to open up to other people when we camp, or if the people we ran into were just super friendly but it really paid off. They gave us crabbing tips, restaurant recommendations, area information, and even some great future campground recommendations. For the most part, this campground was made up The Rest of Us, with only a small handful of Sweats.

We also noticed the kids really got along well on this trip. I'm not sure if the summer togetherness has finally worn them down or they just had so much fun on this trip that they realized playing together was more fun than fighting. Or it could have been that they really bonded while standing dejectedly outside the fence of the tiki bar and realized they might have pushed us so far over the edge with their bickering that we wouldn't come back. My guess is it is the latter. Whatever the reason, it was really pleasant.

Instead Timmy and I decided to fight tho. He couldn't hear a thing I was saying for about two days and when I asked him if there was a problem, he accused me of mumbling. Then phrases like "You're like an old man!" and "Why don't you speak up?!" started flying. We finally realized it was a combination of constantly having the ac on in the camper and the car, the constant sound of the waves, and the music from the tiki bar at night. The kids got a kick out of it and spend the rest of the vacation putting on old people faces and saying "What? I can't hear you!" It was a frightening glimpse into our Edith & Archie days.

The most unfortunate highlight happened 3 days before we left. Randy Quaid's twin brother and his unruly brood showed up at the pool. I am not kidding you...this guy was a dead ringer for Cousin Eddie....looked like him...and boy did he sound like him. I really paid attention to him when he stood over the pool with his Natty Light in hand, yelling "Someone let a deuce go in the pool!" He couldn't stop laughing and yelling "Check out the Baby Ruth!" I looked around and didn't see anything so I thought he might just be trying to clear the pool for fun. I got the kids out of the pool anyways just in case. And sure enough, there it was taking a ride in the fountain in the pool....giving us all a Big Pooh Wave. Please tell me, who poohs in the pool?? My guess is that it isn't a kid in a swim diaper but more like a 7 or 8 year old boy who just didn't want to take the time to get out of the pool and take care of his business. Even though the pool opened up a mere few hours later, we never went back to The Poohl for the rest of the trip.

Another great camping trip! Next week I am off for my second solo camping trip on the Cape, at a different place in Falmouth. Am I getting sick of camping? Not yet! The kids would like to be home more, especially with school just a few weeks away, but I'm hoping this will a great last camping trip with the kids for the summer. Wish me luck!