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Carrie Elle

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Monday, November 28, 2011

NaBloPoMo Dropout

I am declaring myself a NaBloPoMo dropout.  I posted every day until just the other day...took a day off and pretended like it didn't happen and kept posting...but I know the truth.  I failed.  I was so close...I EVEN POSTED THE DAY I HAD SURGERY!  But the other night I just thought, "Nah, not interested in writing tonight!" and so I didn't.  And just like that...NaBloPoMo FAIL.

So here I am, at the very end of the NaBloPoMo experiment, and I quit!

But I'm okay with that.

And I have a couple of important events coming up that I actually want to write about.  Jack is turning THREE (how is that even possible?!) on Thursday, and Charles and I are celebrating our 11th anniversary (how is THAT even possible?!) on Saturday.  These are things I actually want to write about.  And will.  But not right now.  Because right now?  I have some very important Cyber Monday window shopping to partake in.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

I Am Grateful for Claire's Birth Experience

I already wrote about Claire's birth, but today I was thinking about what an amazing experience it was (again...I can't believe it's been four months and I am still thinking about how awesome it was).

I am grateful that I was able to have a beautiful birth at a Birthing Center.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Another NaBloPoMo Cop-out

I knew NaBloPoMo would be challenging...and I got off to a good start...but to be honest, I don't have ANY interest in writing right now.  Yet, here I am.

The baby is asleep and the monitor is on (I know she will be waking up any second, because that's what she does).  Jack is leaning on me, making typing challenging, as we watch Beauty and the Beast (the Disney favorite).  Charles just got off the phone with Animal Control because guess what?  The dog somehow got out and the neighbor, who has never met her before, called the police when she saw a collar-less pit bull roaming the neighborhood (she doesn't have a collar on because she shakes her head and the tags jingle and it wakes up the baby).  The house is a mess (a MESS) and I am stuffed on Chinese food (that was delivered, yay).  I want/need to sew so I can get the project done that I started oh, a MONTH AGO, but I'm watching Beauty and the Beast, remember, and I don't get much time with Jack (umm, yes, I realize I'm not spending quality time with him when I'm on the laptop but we are at least sharing some dialogue and cuddles).

I feel like I should be writing something meaningful (and grateful-like), but this very average, normal day has wiped me clean out of ideas and somehow managed to reduce me to a worn-out lump on the couch.  Who is watching Beauty and the Beast, at least.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

I Am Grateful for the Internet

I am grateful for the internet.  Because tonight?  At midnight?  I'm going to throw it down Black Friday style...from the comfort of my BED.  And probably with my iPhone.

Complete awesomeness.

Thank you, Internet.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Am Grateful for Toddlers (specifically, pre-tantruming toddlers)

Looking through some old pictures the other day, I found this:

Oh, how I miss those days!

It was just a few months ago (ok, maybe more like a year and a half), yet it feel like it was another lifetime.  Maybe I am getting all reminiscent and emotional because he'll be three next week.  But...I really, really miss those sweet toddler days!

It was pre-tantrums.  He didn't tell me "NO!"  He cried if I left the room.  He wobbled up to me on unsteady little chubby feet that were still too puffy for most shoes and would grab my finger and drag me into the playroom so I could sit on the floor and push trains around with him.  He still looked like a baby, despite the little boy I started noticing from time to time.  He said "UCK!" for "truck" and "mick-muck" for "motorcycle" (I have no idea how this came to be).

He was baby, only not my baby anymore...

So far, the those days have been my favorite.  The "glory days" in between the newborn stage and the full-blown tantrum stage (when does that end, by the way?).  Don't get me wrong...I love the little person Jack is becoming and I love watching him grow...but there was something special about those early-toddler days.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Am Grateful for What I Had

I am all sorts of grateful for what I have.  I have a lot of new things in my life...things I wanted and ended up getting, things I am currently enjoying.  A new house, a new baby, a new town.

Getting into this house, in this town, was a long and bumpy ride down a long and bumpy road.  But no matter how bad I wanted OUT of the old place (and, um, it was pretty bad), I am still grateful that we lived there.

Our home in the country was just what we thought we wanted when we first moved to Texas.  In many ways,  it was exactly what we wanted.

But it was also more than we bargained for (and this didn't become apparent until we had Jack, and all of a sudden driving an hour to the pediatrician or forking out another $200 to mow the front pasture started to get...old).  We thought that raising our kid in the country was just what we wanted...until we tried to actually raise our kid in the country.  That fifteen acres of land and the pond in the backyard?  All of a sudden, I realized that it was less "free-range children playing in the forest and fishing in the pond" and more "snakes in the trees, scorpions in the bushes, and a giant drowning hazard surrounded by mosquitoes and more snakes in the backyard."

The time we once happily and easily invested in cleaning stalls and driving to the feed store with the best deal on grain suddenly became precious.  Who had time to clean stalls when the baby needed to eat (again)?  Who cared if we were saving $1/bag of alfalfa pellets when the baby was fussy (again)?  Literally overnight, the things we had enjoyed took second fiddle to the new little person in our lives.  Even feeding the horses was a chore, and I had always cherished those moments in the barn with my grateful herd.

Once we decided to sell the place and move, we didn't look back.  Some would even think that by the time we had packed our last bag, I hated it out there.

But that would not be the case.

I am grateful for our time in the country.  I am grateful for the balmy July night I went out back and jumped on my horse, bareback, and cruised around the pasture under a full moon.  I am grateful that my beloved Mo, a horse I bought not once, but twice, was able to live out his days in a pasture with his horsie pals rather than isolated and in a small corral back in California.  I am grateful for the donkeys, who I never expected to own (and who I never truly did own...I would say they owned US).  I am grateful for the sound of the cicadas (not the actual cicadas, those things are NASTY) and the leisurely strolls I took down our country road.

It was a chapter in my life that I will someday look back on fondly (once we finish paying off the foundation repairs on that house, most likely).

I am grateful for where we're at and for what we have, but I am also grateful that I used to have this:

I think Seamus pretty much sums it up here:

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Monday, November 21, 2011

The 21st of November

Can someone please tell me how my baby is FOUR MONTHS OLD today?  Where is the time going?

I almost forgot that today was the 21st of November...and Claire's "four month birthday" until I randomly looked at the clock and realized all at once that we had missed the great morning light for her four month glamour shots!  And then I realized that I had also forgotten to start taking pictures as soon as I woke up for my "21st of..." experiment (see more here).  So...nothing unusual to a slow start.

9:30 AM

I start off my day doing...wait for it!...laundry.  What else, right?  Also no different than the last few months?

Jack is not dressed.  Although you'll notice he's in UNDERWEAR and not a diaper...woohoo!  He's playing with "his" iPhone right now (my old phone with a few toddler apps, his favorite being Talking Tom Cat, the cat that repeats everything you say...yay?).


An hour later and I'm still working on that laundry.  By the looks of it, I haven't made much progress.

But something else wonderful happens at 10:30...Jack poops ON THE POTTY and is seen here enjoying his reward.  A measuring cup full of chocolate.  I don't even know what to say about that (the measuring cup, and the chocolate).


Here is where I try to do something great.  I pull out all of the circulars from the newspaper and cut coupons and start browsing the pre-Black Friday sales.  I think, "Yes!  I will make a list of who I need to shop for, go through these circulars and find the very best deals, cut out the appropriate coupons, organize them, and tomorrow I will make my purchases!"

The reality is that I started this project while Jack was playing trains and Claire was scooting around on her tummy.  Neither child was interested in these activities as soon as I started cutting coupons.  What you see here is the extent of my coupon-cutting, Christmas-list-making intentions.  In fact, if you walked in to my kitchen right would see this very stack of coupons and circulars, just moved to a chair so the table doesn't look so cluttered.


I actually just got off the phone with Jesika and am now entertaining the kids (who were good! and let me actually talk!) with a dinosaur book.  Claire, at four months old, already loves books.  


Claire takes a nap on me.  Jack, still in his underwear, is on the couch watching "Aloha Scooby-Doo" which is actually THE WORST MOVIE ever made.  Ever.


Does anyone want to come clean up these toys for me?


Sigh.  More laundry.  When did my life turn into one giant load of laundry?  This time, I'm folding diapers while the baby plays on the floor next to me.


Maybe my favorite picture ever?  I was cleaning the bathroom and these "dishes" needed to be taken out to the kitchen.  A bottle used to store pumped milk, a giant cup from Dickey's BBQ that I drink tea out of almost every day, and a very empty wine glass.  This pretty much sums me up.  


The never ending cleaning continues.  But this is fun cleaning.  Look how cute Claire's little bows are, all organized!  The truth is, she rarely wears them because we rarely leave the house, and she's going a little bald so they are kind of hard to keep in...but I can't stop buying them.


I did go through a box of random diapers and other assorted baby junk today.  These diapers and inserts are going to be donated to the DFW Cloth Diaper Project.


See that?  It's a clean, vacuumed thanks to me.  Charles did it.  


After nearly an hour and a half of rocking Claire (she kept waking up, and the thunder wasn't helping any), I finally am able to put her down, run out and say goodnight to Jack before Charles does his bedtime, and log on to the laptop.  It's raining outside so it's kind of cozy in here, all dark and peaceful with the occasional sweet baby sigh in the background.  

And with that...peace out.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Go Ducks!

I am not a college football fan - at all - but my Mom is a huge Ducks fan (being a Duck herself), and in her honor I dressed Claire up in her GO DUCKS onesie. 

I am grateful for this cute baby and wanted to share!  :)

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Friday, November 18, 2011

I Am Grateful for My Mommy

Today I was reminded - again - of how grateful I am for my mother!

I wish I could build a time machine and travel back in time to, oh, say, 1995?  And tell my Teenage Self to stop being such a B-I-T-C-H to the one who loved me mom!  But before you feel too bad for her (my mom. not my Teenage Self), I now have a daughter and you know what they say about payback...

I guess it has taken becoming a parent to realize how much my mom really did for me, and continues to do for me.

When Claire was born, she filled our freezer with soups and bread and muffins so we wouldn't starve in the general Life Fog that accompanies a newborn.  She entertained Jack and helped us pack, and then unpack in our new house (when Claire was six days old).  She came to stay with us for a week when we moved...which turned into two weeks...and I cried when she left.  Only a mother knows when to suggest you take a hot bath by yourself while she holds the baby, and only a mother knows what kind of chocolate to bring home for you when she does your grocery shopping.

She entertained Jack when I was at my most hormonal (desperate?) those first few weeks after Claire was born.  She cleaned, she cooked, she held the baby so I could get dressed, she unpacked...she did all the things moms just do, without being asked.

Today I had to have a surgery (minor but still took a part of the day) and my mom came up last night and spent the night and watched the kiddos for me today.  In fact, as I write this, she is watching Polar Express with Jack.

I wonder what I would do without my mom...I don't even like to think about it!  I am grateful for my mom, grateful that she is a wonderful person who has always had my best interests at heart (and that of my siblings) and grateful that Jack and Claire get to know and love their "Memaw" as well.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Am Grateful for My Health

Tomorrow, I am going to the doctor for a procedure (surgery) that requires me to be under anesthesia.  I am kinda freaking out about this.

Without going into details (yet - I may later in hopes of helping someone else experiencing the same thing), I will be under "light" anesthesia for a 20 minute procedure that is, in my doctor's words, "routine."  Not routine for ME, though.

This will be my first time under anesthesia.  I'm scared.  But also?

I am grateful for my health.

Nothing like a little health scare to put things in perspective.

Not only am I completely OVER going to the doctor (I've probably been four times in the last three months, which is a lot for me), but I am also over dealing with insurance (and I'm an insurance agent, remember??) and pumping and the logistics of taking care of the kids while I'm at the doctor and being scared that this is going to have an unpleasant outcome.  

It's. Not. Fun.

And it makes me realize how incredibly lucky I am.  

Most likely, this will all turn out okay.  My life will go back to normal (with a few more routine check-ups). If it turns out it's *not* okay, it will still probably turn out okay as what I am dealing with is very treatable.  

What about the people who are chronically ill or seriously injured?  What about the people who spend days, weeks, months in hospitals and being shuttled from doctor to doctor?  What about the people who endure surgeries all the time - I bet they would think I'm a real wuss right now.  

I bet someone who doesn't have insurance and needs it would hate to hear me bitch about mine.  I bet someone who is in the hospital right now would hate to hear me whine about a few doctor appointments.  

I can't imagine the emotional, financial and physical strain an ongoing illness could cause a family.  I just get a little taste of it and I'm OVER IT ALREADY.   

So today, I am grateful for my health - and the health of my family - and will not take it for granted.  

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Am Grateful for This Poem

My mom printed the poem below out for me when I was pretty much STUCK on the couch or in the glider (until it broke) with Jack for the first several months of his life.  It was perspective I needed at that time.  I stuck it on the fridge and read it...a lot.  For me, this was a reminder that babies grow up fast and that I wouldn't be "stuck" on the couch nursing a baby for the rest of my life (of course, as soon as he became mobile I was wishing for the days when he'd nurse and fall asleep on me and I could just sit down!).

Now that Jack is bigger, this poem holds even more meaning.  The author was right.  Babies *don't* keep.  I knew it, but I didn't know it at the same time.  This time around, when I rock my baby to sleep at night, I take these words to heart.

Song for a Fifth Child

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat- a- cake, darling and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard and there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look!  Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs.  Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby.  Babies don’t keep.

1958   Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Little Things

Today, I am grateful for the little things.  Like iced tea (I am so grateful for iced tea it got its own post, actually), rain clouds, kids in a good mood, hearing my favorite song on the radio (preferably when the kids aren't in the car so I can blast it), a little too much olive oil on bread,  and hummus from Central Market (yeah, a lot of the things I am grateful for are edible).  The little things bring happiness throughout my day.

Here's what prompted this post:

70 degrees and a little bit humid (my favorite weather because it reminds me of a tropical vacation), Jack is outside in his training pants singing into the garden hose.  His boots are on the wrong feet but I'm just happy he put them on himself (seriously...if there is ever a kid who does not want to dress himself, it's MY KID).  This little scene was just so darn cute.

I took a picture and as I was looking at it, I noticed I had other pictures of other "little things" that make me happy.

Like, for

And chocolate and flowers that Charles randomly brought me home one night.

And purple horse pants, pajamas for me and leggings for Claire.

And COVERED playgrounds (I think all playgrounds in Texas should be covered):

And frozen yogurt.

And blasters to shoot the "bad guys" on Scooby-Doo.

And a sleeping baby (*especially* a sleepy baby, I don't see this often).

Truly, I am grateful for the little things.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

I Am Grateful for Texas

Well, here's a post I never thought I'd write.

I am grateful for Texas.

I am grateful for Texas because it has given me opportunities I would not have had in California.  We own a home, we have a horse, I am a Stay at Home Mom...we can afford it here.

I had a wonderful job thanks to Texas.  My husband has a wonderful job.  We have met many great people that we will have as friends for life.

We have family in Texas (good thing? or bad thing? HA).  We have family in California too, and friends, and I miss them all dearly.  Perhaps distance has made the heart grow fonder.

One thing I hate about Texas, though?

The weather.

Yeah.  It's awful. AWFUL.  Which, I suppose, is why we can afford a home here and can't afford a home in sunny SoCal...but...OMG.  It's bad.  This past summer was MIS-ER-ABLE.  My saving grace was pregnancy and a newborn.  I had an excuse to stay inside for, like, three months, with the AC blasting,  And I LOVED it when my Dad would call me from California and tell me how hot it was as soon as it reached 85 degrees at his house ON THE BEACH.

And then there's the winter.  Remember the Super Bowl last year?  When it was in Dallas but there were ice storms and no one could drive on the roads?  Yeah.  So basically, it's either too hot to too cold.

But this post is supposed to be why I am grateful for Texas, not why it makes me miserable.  And today was one of those super-duper beautiful, perfect weather kind of days I used to live every single day in southern California but which I never, ever, EVER take for granted anymore.

It was 80 degrees and blue skies.  The kind of day that makes me think, "Wow, I love it here."

So...I am grateful for Texas  Yeeeeeeeeehaw, y'all.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

I Am Grateful for SLEEP

Here is another one of those things I took for granted pre-kids.



Recently, Charles and I were reminiscing about the "good old days" when we could stay up till 3 AM drinking wine and watching LOST or Beavis & Butthead and then sleep in until noon the next day.  We'd roll out of bed when we felt like it and go get some brunch somewhere. If we had to work, we'd just go to sleep earlier and then whine and moan about how hard it was to get out of bed and how *TIRED* we were the next day.



Oh, how I wish pre-kids Me could see post-kids Me.

Times have changed.  There is no more late-night wine drinking.  Period.  And if there was, I would regret it the minute I got into bed because you know what happens the second I actually feel my eyes start to close and sleep start to overtake me?

The baby wakes up.  Like clockwork.  So, I don't drink wine late at night because I know I'm going to be up soon anyway, and why make it harder on myself than it needs to be.  Right?

There is no more sleeping in.  Well, there *kind of* is sleeping in...Charles will take the baby in the mornings (since I am up with her at night) and let me sleep until he has to work in the morning.  On weekends, he lets me sleep until she needs to eat.  So now, sleeping in equates to an extra thirty minutes to an hour and a half of sleep all by myself.  There are no words to explain how amazing that feels...all stretched out in bed in whatever position I so desire with a pillow over my head to drain out any unhappy kid noises coming from the living I won't even try.  But there's no lounging in bed until noon anymore (there's no relaxing brunch anymore,'s WORK taking two kids out to eat).

These days, I am so grateful for sleep, it's ridiculous.  Not just my sleep.  I am grateful when Charles gets to sleep.  I am grateful when Jack sleeps.  I am grateful when Claire sleeps.  I am even grateful when the dog sleeps, because it means she's not running around making noise and waking the kids up.

I am grateful for sleep.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

I Love My Dog

I am grateful for my dog, Janga.

Yeah, she can be super annoying and is guaranteed to wake up the kids by barking at phantom visitors as soon as they fall asleep.  And she is so terrified of thunder that she can't be left alone if there's a chance of rain (lesson learned the hard way...twice...and at the expense of one of Janga's teeth and also a claw, not to mention a broken crate, a chewed-up door frame and freshly painted walls).

But we love her.  She is a good girl, and I can't imagine our lives without her.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Loving My Country

My Gramma Polly wrote out something that she wanted to be read at her memorial service when she died (my Dad forgot about this and found it AFTER the memorial service, but I'll try to make up for that, in some small way, here).  I have a copy of it somewhere and I can't remember what it all said, but I do remember it saying something along the lines of "I loved my husband, my kids and my country."  

When I first saw this (it was a little over ten years ago), I thought it was kind of weird.  Not the husband and kids part, but the part about loving her country.  I mean, we all love our country, right?  Isn't that a given?  Did she really love it so much that she'd actually want it mentioned at her memorial service?  

I found that note again when we were moving a few months ago, and after not seeing it for close to ten years, it resonated a little differently this time.  I kind of got it.

Maybe it's because I have kids now.  Maybe it's because of 9/11.  Maybe it's because I am older and the older I get, the more grateful I am for what I have.  I don't know what it is, but I feel a stronger connection to my country and my freedom now than when I was younger.

My Papa and Gramma never took their freedom for granted.  Gramma was born in Texas (all I remember from her stories was that they had dirt floors, and yes, they had to sweep them).  They lived through the Great Depression.  They ended up in a house my grandfather built just a few blocks from the beach in Carlsbad, CA.  I vividly remember an American flag hanging next to the plantain tree by their front door.  

Papa (Lewis Chase) served in World War II (I found the picture below at - he's the one in the aviator glasses):

I imagine, when I see this picture, that Gramma and Papa knew a thing or two about sacrifice and patriotism.  It seems to me that their entire generation was invested, somehow or other, in their country.  

I don't feel like we have that today...I feel like there is a great divide and a sense of entitlement when it comes to our freedom.  We all want it, but only a few are ready to step up and fight for it.  The rest of us just get to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and rest easy at night while they do the dirty work.  

My grandparents had a strong grasp on what they were fighting for.  They didn't take their country for granted.  They knew, each and every day, that they were lucky to live in the US of A. And my Gramma was so thankful for that, she didn't want us ever to forget it (which we almost did, thanks to my Dad losing her note).

So in honor of veterans everywhere, and in honor of veteran's families (and my Gramma), I am grateful for my country.  

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Boring But True...I Am Grateful for Health Insurance

Today we received four medical bills.  One for Charles (technically, it was the dentist) and three for Claire.  That's not the kind of mail I like to get.  As I was writing out the checks for them I found myself thinking "Insurance is such a pain."  It is.  Insurance is a pain.  But I am grateful (so grateful!) for insurance on SO MANY LEVELS...I felt it deserved its own post.

The first reason I am grateful for insurance?

I had a job because of health insurance (job = good).  Until July 1st (right before Claire was born), I worked at an insurance brokerage in Dallas.  My job was to find insurance coverage for small groups (in this case, a "small group" was a company with 2-20 employees).  I would then help them implement the policies they chose by educating and enrolling all of their employees and getting the group set-up with the insurance carrier(s) they chose.  In addition, I was the "go to" insurance person for the group (employer and employees) and answered benefit questions, helped with claims issues, etc.  

You know how someone comes to your work once a year and tells you about your benefits?  I was *that* person.  The irony of that is the one day, about ten years ago, I was listening to the "insurance girl" at my place of employment and I thought, "How the heck does anyone ever decide they are going to talk about insurance for a living?  Does it get any more boring than that?!"  And then, ten years later, there I was...telling people about insurance for a living.  And I wasn't even bored (just another example of how you really never know where you'll end up or what you'll end up doing).  

One thing I learned while working as an insurance agent (besides a whole lot of acronyms) is that people have really, really, really different attitudes and expectations when it comes to their health insurance.  

Case in point.   I was at a meeting one day telling a group about their new insurance plan.  Due to a very large increase to their rates, their benefits were being "reduced" drastically, and the cost to the employee was going up as well.  I had to tell them that not only was their deductible increasing by $2,000 (per person, per year), but also that they no longer had co-pays and would have to pay everything out of pocket until they reached that new deductible.  The group was...shockingly...grateful.  I spoke with several employees after the meeting who said they had never even had insurance before and they realized it was expensive and they were grateful their employer offered it and that they were able to have it in case of an emergency.

Around the same time, I had to tell another group that their deductible was increasing as well.  From $250 a year to $500.  Their co-pays were also increasing.  From $15 to $20.  You would have thought I was telling them that they no longer had insurance and that they were all getting pay reductions.  Seriously.  I feared mutiny on the deck.  This group was pissed.  In their words, "what was the point of health insurance?" if they had to keep paying more (and on a side note, employees who felt entitled to health care and complained about their coverage also tended to be the same ones who were opposed to government-run plans, and many times blamed the government for their company's crappy plan...).

For some perspective, the first group was comprised of hourly employees who brought home about $20,000 a year.  The second group was a group of "white collared" workers who were in many cases bringing home 5x that.  

It boggles my mind that people would be ungrateful for EMPLOYER-PAID HEALTH INSURANCE.  

I am grateful for my job.  I loved my job.  I learned a lot (I didn't even know what a deductible was when I started, and I cried on my commute home the first day because I didn't know how to use Outlook, create a spreadsheet in Excel, or even send a fax...I used to work with horses and they don't require any technology) and I am so, so thankful to those who gave me the opportunity. 

When I was employed, I was grateful for health insurance because not only was it my bread and butter (well, let's say "butter" only because Charles works too), but because it was there in case of an emergency.  It was there when I had Jack.  It was there for most of my prenatal care with Claire.

When I left work to be a full-time Stay At Home Mom, I switched onto Charles' plan.  He works for a very (very) large company.  Due to their size, they are able to offer several health plans, and the "cheap" plan is much richer in benefits than many of the plans I used to recommend to local small employers.  We are very lucky.

It's been four months since my last day of work.  Insurance rules and regulations are already different than when I left (I don't actually know this for a fact, but I am pretty sure it's true because the one thing I learned about insurance is that it's constantly changing).  My brain is foggy from all the Staying At Home and Momming (I think I just made up a word).  When Charles asked me a question about his coverage the other day I answered him, then thought, "Wait, is that right?" and ended up telling him to call his benefits department.  I mean, seriously...I AM THE BENEFITS EXPERT AND I TOLD HIM TO CALL THE BENEFIT DEPARTMENT.  Lame!

But today, I am not just grateful for insurance because it gave me a job.  I am grateful because for the first time ever, we actually need it.  We are using it.  We are taking advantage of it and seeing it's benefit and saying "Thank God we have insurance" each time we leave the doctor's office.  

It would be easy for me to feel entitled to great healthcare.  To think, "We worked hard and we live in America and we deserve this!"  But I'd be lying to think I am where I am today just because Charles and I worked hard.  I owe my situation today to hard work AND to circumstances out of my control.  To my parents, to a little help from the Universe, to a fateful trip to Las Vegas in 1999 (where I met Charles at a blackjack table), and to countless other itty bitty circumstances that are out of my control but in my favor.  

What about all the millions of people out there who haven't been as lucky as I have?  Why doesn't everyone get health coverage (especially children)?  Why is it that I can take my kids to a swanky pediatrician at the first sign of a sniffle and some families are forced to take their kids to the emergency room for a cough that is out of control because they couldn't afford a doctor when their child first got sick?  

I don't know why.  My experience in the insurance industry tells me that it's not as simple as just giving everyone health coverage.  Someone has to pay for it, and it's not cheap.

But I am lucky, so lucky, that we have the coverage we have today and that I can go to the doctor I choose and that my kids will never have to suffer because I can't afford a doctor visit.

And for that, I am grateful.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Total NaBloPoMo Cop-Out

Today?  I kind of just don't feel like writing.  But I am not ready to give up just yet.  NaBloPoMo calls.

So, I thought I would post some pictures of things that are related to gratitude (kind of).

Let's begin.

These are out new sock monkeys (one for Claire, one for Jack).  Their names are Monkmellious Mee-Mee-Schwee-Schwee Munglewood II and Pinky.  I am grateful for these monkeys for two reasons.  First, I am grateful for them because they were a gift for my kids from a friend who recently moved to Texas.  Second, I am grateful that there was a Monkmellious Mee-Mee Schwee-Schwee Munglewood the First.

I am grateful for Mo.  Mo passed away last October from heart failure, but I had him for about ten years and for that, I am grateful.  I miss him.

I am also grateful for my siblings.  Here we are in Oregon, in 2008.   This was pre-baby - I was still skinny (I was 12 weeks pregnant in this picture)!  This is why I feel like I need three kids...I have a brother and a sister and I love them dearly and can't imagine life without them (even though we are several states away) and I want my own kids to have a similar relationship.
And with that, this post is done (ohhh, I should say here that I'm grateful for blogging because I can write whatever I want however I want to with whatever punctuation I choose).  

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pee for Two

As I was rocking Claire to sleep for her afternoon nap, I was thinking about what a great day today was.  I woke up to a thunderstorm (which was awesome) and was rocking the baby to sleep next to an open window with a cool breeze blowing in and not a cloud in the sky.  Jack and I baked pumpkin muffins (they only have two ingredients, but I am going to let it count as cooking), the kids stayed in their pajamas all morning and in diapers/underwear all afternoon, and Jack was relatively mild as far as almost-three-year olds go.  There wasn't much more I could ask for and I was thinking I would blog about how grateful I was for this typical day.

But then?  That whole thought I was having about Jack being pretty mild-mannered?  He stuck it to me.

It went down like this.

It was around 3:00 PM - the Witching Hour in our house.  This is when Jack *should* be sleeping, but instead he is just grumpy.  So, we put on a movie and turn out all the lights and sit him on the couch and hope/pray he will fall asleep (he never does).  I take this time to rock the baby and see if I can get her to sleep on me for an hour or so in relative peace.  Today was no exception.

As usual, she was tired but fighting sleep like crazy.  She was wiggling and squirming and scratching at my chest with with her sharp little fingernails (baby fingernails are so sharp they're ridiculous - kind of like kitten claws - in fact, a fussy baby fighting sleep is not unlike a Feral Kitten).   After about ten minutes of this, she was finally reduced to a warm soft ball of squishy baby goodness as she drifted off to sleep.  I listened to her little baby sighs and watched as her eyelids dropped lower...and lower...until finally her eyelashes rested against puffy cheeks  I felt myself let out a sigh (a happy one) and all tension drain from my body (seriously, getting a baby to sleep can be dreadful but once they're out, it's the best feeling EVER).

Not two seconds after she closed her eyes, Jack walked in.  I sighed again (not a peaceful and content sigh, because I knew where this was going).

I put my finger to my lips to tell him to be quiet.  I knew better.  Telling him to be quiet when the baby was sleeping DURING HIS GRUMPIEST PART OF THE DAY would not go over well.  But I had to try.

He stopped and looked at me.  He was standing by the white noise machine, which was turned on because it helps drain out, well, him.

He pulled the plug out.

I shook my head in disapproval and pointed at the door (thinking, "SHIT.  Now I have to get up with the baby who just fell asleep and go turn that back on or else she's going to wake up in five minutes anyway when Jack starts laughing as loud as he can at the movie."), hoping he would take the hint/order and leave.

He plugged the thing back in.  The baby stirs.  I am not happy because he's TWO and not supposed to be plugging things in (or unplugging them for that matter), but I'm also kind of happy the noise maker is back on.

I mouth "thank you" and point at the door again.

He stares at me.  I see the little wheels in his head turning.

He pulls the plug out again.  Silence (the anti-noise from the noise maker is louder than the actual noise, I swear).

This time, I have to respond.  First, I give him "the look."

"Jack," I say very seriously and quietly.  The baby wakes up, because she really didn't want to sleep to begin with and now she has an excuse to wake up.  "Jack.  The baby is sleeping.  You need to go watch your movie.  You are not supposed to mess with plugs or wake up the baby.  Step back right this second."

He plugs the damn thing in again.  The baby is craning her neck around to see what is going on (and I'm sure she's thinking "What is up with out noise maker??").

This time I give him "the look" but double the intensity and I can see he's getting it.  "Step back from the plug right. this. second.  I mean it."  He doesn't move, and I can see by the look in his eye this is not over.  "Step. Away. From. The. Plug."  I am *extra* clear (you know, in case he's not understanding or something...HA).

And guess what?  He does!  He steps away from the plug!  Then he looks at me again, reaches down, and PULLS IT OUT.


I jump up out of the rocking chair, wide awake baby in arms.  He makes a run for it and jumps on the couch and turns around to see what I'm going to do.

I plug the noise maker in and tell him to watch his movie "or else" he's going to take a nap (which I know is not going to happen because I do not have the ENERGY to make him sleep and there ain't no way he's going to sleep without someone sitting in bed with him staring at him until he drifts off and that's JUST NOT GOING TO HAPPEN).

I return to the rocking chair, a bit frazzled and back to dealing with the Feral Kitten.

Eventually, though, she does go back to sleep.

Not long after she's fallen asleep, I hear "Help!  Help Mama!  Mama help!" from the living room.  We are trying to teach Jack not to call for help unless there's a real emergency.  I know from experience and his tone that this is not, indeed, an emergency.  So I keep rocking Claire.

Five or ten minutes later, Jack walks in.  "I pee-peed in my underwear!" he says.  Loudly.  Sure enough.  His underwear are soaked.

I try to help him pull the wet ones down while keeping the baby asleep but she is waking up quickly.  "Go get some clean ones!" I say, hoping he'll actually follow directions and not only help me out by getting clean underwear, but also maybe (just maybe!) being quiet long enough for Claire to settle back down.

"No, Mama, I can't get clean underwear.  YOU get clean underwear for me."

"Why didn't you take them off and use the potty?"  I ask.

"I called you and I needed help taking them off."  Oh.

"I'm sorry, I did't know that you needed to pee.  Just go watch the movie until I come out," I tell him.

Well by now of course the baby is wide awake and there's no going back to sleep for her, so I go out to the living room and there is PEE EVERYWHERE.  A giant puddle on the wood floor, and footprints ALL OVER THE ROOM.

I put the baby down, grabbed a couple of towels, and got after it.  Who would've thought a little bladder could make such a mess!  I guess, in hindsight, I should be grateful it wasn't poop.  I dealt with plenty of that today, too.

The reason I share this story is because A) it's kind of funny, now that I think about it, and B) in a matter of thirty minutes or so, I went from thinking about how grateful I was for a normal day to thinking about how grateful I was for my own self-control.  Because seriously, I almost lost it.

But the kid is TWO.  So even though he pushes my buttons (a lot, and the grumpier he gets, the worse it gets), it's important to keep things in perspective.  A two-year-old should not be able to ruin my day.  In fact, a two-year-old should make my day *better*.

I am grateful for my two-year-old and the lessons he teaches me, even when it means the baby doesn't get to nap and I have to clean up a bunch of pee.

This is close to the look I got when I asked him to stop unplugging the noise maker.  

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Why I'm Not a Songwriter or a Poet

Today, I found myself humming "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music.  I've always been drawn to this song (probably because it mentions "cream colored ponies").  As I hummed away (because I can't actually remember the words), I thought, "Hey! That's a song about FAVORITE THINGS...I am grateful for FAVORITE THINGS...maybe I'll just put my own words in, blog it, and call it a day!"

Plus, my English teachers in High School used to give me projects like this and they were fun.

OK, two things here before I go on.

1. NaBloPoMo?  Yeah.  It's like a job (like, a real one that pays, only it doesn't actually pay so it's like I'm stressing and trying to get all creative for free).  I won't be participating next year.  I would quit now but because it feels like a job, I feel like I have to finish or I'll let down my boss/leave my clients hanging, etc. (neither of which I actually have).

2. My brain is not like it was when I was in High School.  It's duller.  Slower.  I thought this would be easy and fun.  The sad truth is I half-assed the whole thing and relied on a rhyming dictionary to come up with things that rhyme with "things" - for real.   And proof about the half-assing?  I know that "ponies" and "homies" don't rhyme...but I left it anyway.  Because it made me laugh.

So here we go.  More NaBloPoMo greatness and gratefulness.  

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Strawberry lip gloss and snail mail and ponies
Cozy sweat pants and rollin' with my homies
Chocolate and wine and platinum rings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Sweet baby smiles and chilly iced tea
A good book for reading and Christmas and brie
Autumn in Texas and all that it brings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Pit bulls and Pink Floyd and brand new high heels
The smell of leather and getting good deals
Wearing my baby in new baby slings
These are a few of my favorite things

When the kid teethes
When the car dies
When I'm getting mad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad!

You're welcome. I'm sorry.  

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

This Post Started Out as a Rant About Daylight Saving Time and Turned Into Something Else Altogether

I tried - tried hard - to think of something I could write about that would be interesting and heartfelt tonight.  I am trying to keep up with NaBloPoMo (a post every day for the month of November) and to be honest, I am already kind of over it.  I have lots of things I want to write about.  I just don't necessarily want to write about those things right now.  And then of course I gave myself the added pressure (or maybe, easy way out?) of deciding that not only would I post every day, but I'd post every day about something I am grateful for.

But today?  I am going against the grain.  I am going to rebel against my own rules (watch out!) and write about something I am really not grateful for at all.

Daylight Saving Time.

It may be OK for people that don't have kids.  I don't know.  Those days, although only three years ago, are hard to remember.  A figment of my imagination.  What did I do with all the "extra" daylight?  Rode horses and went for walks late in the day, I guess?  I don't recall.

But you know what I do recall, because it happened just this morning?

KIDS DON'T APPRECIATE THE WHOLE "EXTRA HOUR OF SLEEP" THING.  Nope.  They don't.  They wake up at the same time they usually do, only the clock says it's an hour earlier.   And making matters worse...I tricked myself into thinking I had an extra hour to sleep so I stayed up for an extra hour at night (OK, that was dumb, I KNOW BETTER!).  I can't do the math (because I didn't get any sleep), but it's safe to say the end result is a sleep deficit for Mom and Dad.  Which I suppose is normal, but extra annoying when the cause is some guy from the 1800s who decided it would be a good idea to change the clocks twice a year.  

While writing this post, I started wondering about why we have Daylight Saving Time to begin with.  I thought it was to give the farmers (which farmers, specifically, I am not sure) more time in the summer to work their land.  That is what I have been told and blindly believed.  Until now. 

Guess what?

That is WRONG.  And actually, many farmers don't like it (I am guessing that this is because. like kids, plants and animals don't use clocks and therefore are unable to appreciate the extra hour anyway).  

All this time I've been thinking that Daylight Saving Time is for the greater good of humanity (we need agriculture if we want to eat and be clothed) and all this time I was wrong.  Daylight Saving Time was first proposed by George Vernon Hudson in 1895 because he had free time at night and wanted more daylight because he LIKED TO COLLECT BUGS.

Mating bugs.

Yes, you read that correctly.  We have Daylight Saving Time because of a motivated bug collector.  

I have to put on the brakes here.  Part of me is incredulous that one person was able to convince the New Zealand government (which apparently convinced many governments thereafter) to change the way we time  our days because he liked bugs and wanted more time to collect them, and part of me is kind of in awe that one person was able to change the world in this way.  I mean, here I am complaining about what a pain it is to readjust everyone's schedules because of Daylight Saving Time (and when it's time to "spring forward" I'll be complaining about that too, but only until I start to enjoy the extra daylight).  Do you think that when George Vernon Hudson first proposed this idea he would ever have imagined that many countries of the world would adopt this policy and that some chick in Texas would be writing about how she's losing sleep over it more than a hundred years later??  I think not.

I feel my tune starting to change a bit here.  Maybe I should just suck it up and deal with the kids' funky sleep schedules for the next couple of weeks.  What I really need to do is think of a cool idea and proposition ol' Uncle Sam and see what happens.  

And to George Vernon Hudson, who at first I was a little bit angry with, I now salute you.  And I will think of you every time I "spring forward" or "fall back."  And every time I see a bug late on a summer day.  

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cloth Diapers Make Me Happy

I change a lot of diapers.  A lot.  I have a baby (and you know they poop a lot!) and a toddler (pre-schooler?) who is potty training but still in diapers overnight and usually for part of the day as well.

But I really don't mind changing diapers.  In fact, I kind of like it (weird, right?).  But here's why:

I am grateful for my cloth diapers.  They make the constant diaper changes a little less mundane.  They add some color and cushiness to my day (we can all use a little extra color and cushiness!).

Every time I change a diaper (and like I've said, I change a lot), I feel like I am doing something good for our environment and for baby, too.  So, not only am I saving the earth one diaper at a time (makes me feel a little less guilty about all those Keurig cups we go though, I guess), but I also get the added cuteness of a fluffy-butted baby whose diaper matches her outfit.  And who wouldn't want that, right?!

Yes, it does increase my laundry a bit.  I wash about a load of diapers a day to keep up with the non-stop pooping that goes on around here.  But you know what I wash less of?  Onesies. Baby pants. Tiny pajamas.  Because the great thing about cloth diapers is that they ACTUALLY HOLD THE POOP IN.  I would rather wash the poop out of the diapers (which are supposed to be pooped in) than the baby's clothes (which are not supposed to be pooped on, but which get pooped on a lot when you have a newborn with liquid poop).

My cloth diaper stash is extensive (I like to buy all the new colors and prints), but I haven't bought disposables in months.  A few more months and the diapers will have paid for themselves.  So there's that, too - cloth diapers save money.  I don't know about you, but I can always use a little more money (I should note that technically I could use a lot more money, but I guess that's neither here nor there!).

In case you are thinking about taking the plunge, here's the Reader's Digest version of What You Need to Know to Cloth Diaper.

Depending on the type of cloth diaper you want to use, they will run you anywhere from $5 to $35 (and up!) per diaper.  Supposedly, you need about 18-24 for a newborn...I had about 30 and I would have struggled with fewer, but as she's gotten older 18-24 is plenty.  You can buy diapers that are supposed to fit from birth to potty training (these are called "one-size"), but in most cases these diapers won't fit well until you baby is about 8 pounds (10 pounds for many brands) and has chunked up around the legs a bit.  You can buy special diapers made for newborns to fill in the gaps between birth and when they actually fit in the "one-size" diaper.

You will also need cloth-diaper-safe laundry detergent (super easy to find online), a wet bag for dirty diapers (a small one for traveling, and I recommend two large ones for your dirty diaper pail at home so you will always have a clean one), a diaper pail (I use a trash can from Target with a lid and a foot pedal to open it) and wipes (I am super duper grateful for my cloth wipes, I think I will do a separate post on those later, but totally recommend cloth wipes and a bottom spray for cleaning).  Some people also say they can't live without their diaper sprayer (attaches to the toilet and can be used to spray poop off of the diaper - you won't need this until you Little One is eating solid foods).

We use mostly pocket diapers.  I put baby on changing table, remove old diaper and toss it in the pail (because she's not eating "real" food, there is no need to clean off the poop first), spray bottom with bottom spray, wipe bottom, throw wipe in diaper pail, put new diaper on (in most cases you have the option of velcro or snaps...I recommend snaps for most brands because they last longer and are easier to launder as the velcro tends to come undone and attach to other diapers in the wash) and go about our business.

When the diaper pail gets full (which at this point, it does on a daily basis), I remove the wet bag and dump the contents in the washing machine (wet bag included).  I soak in cold water...anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight depending on the load and time available.  Then, add diaper-safe soap and wash on hot.  Do Do another cold rinse.  Remove diapers.  I take stained diaper covers and inserts outside to dry in the sun (the sun removes stains LIKE YOU WOULD NOT is awesome).  I hang all of the non-stained diaper covers in the laundry room to dry, throwing the wipes and inserts in the dryer.  Once the stains have been removed (usually only an hour or so in the Texas sun of late) from the outside laundry, I bring everything inside (duh, right?).  I have a fan in the laundry room and the covers generally don't take too long to dry.  I toss everything in the dryer for about 5 minutes to fluff it all up and get the "outside" smell off...I don't like the way things smell when they dry outside (but that could be my own weirdness and you certainly don't have to throw anything in the dryer at all, actually).

After everything has been dried, it takes me about 15 minutes or so to stuff the pockets and stack wipes and get everything back in its place under the changing table.

And that's it!  It's an ongoing cycle, but once the pooping (here I go talking about poop again) lets up some I will be able to skip a day between laundry (I actually can skip a day now if I want to, but since I am home all day and I don't like to see the diaper pail get so full it doesn't close, I usually just do it every day).

Here is my reward:

Yeah.  A smiling little baby girl in a leopard print diaper.  See how fun they can be??

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Friday, November 4, 2011

I Am Grateful for TEA (iced, hot, with a straw, without a straw)

No joke, I am addicted to caffeine.  But I don't drink coffee (way too intense) and I don't drink Coke or *anything* carbonated for that matter (to me, bubbly drinks feel like fireworks in my mouth - not cool).

So I drink tea.  Lots and lots and lots of tea.

I prefer it iced but I'll take it hot.  As long as it has caffeine.  Until about 2 PM - then I have to put up the black tea and break out the hibiscus tea (yummmmmm....).

It's the simple things.  A big glass of properly brewed iced tea is, to me, a little piece of heaven.

Charles calls it my crack, my heroine.  My legal drug.  I call it Nice Mama in a Cup.  Because if I don't start my day with a big old glass of tea, I might not be so nice.   So really, I guess my whole family should be grateful for tea.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Am Grateful for My Babies

I am grateful for my beautiful children.

I am grateful that I was able to have them, grateful that they are with me, and grateful that they are healthy.  

I was going to save the "I'm grateful for my kids" post for later in the month but I couldn't wait.  I just love them so. darn. much.  And I feel so, so lucky to have the both of them.

I could go on and on about how lucky I feel and how happy I am have to these precious little beings, but I won't (well, I will just for a few more sentences).  Today I had a doctor's appointment and for several reasons, we all ended up going. Jack just about drove me to the brink of insanity with his relentless whiny, clingy, bossy two-year-old-ness.  But that same OH-MY-GOD-I-AM*SO*OVER-THIS!! feeling is what drove me to write this post.  I imagine a woman who wants children and is unable to have them would really hate to listen to me whine about the trouble mine give me.  So, even though I imagine I'll be whining about them again soon, I think it's important to say that I am, more than anything, grateful for my children.

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