What will my Toddler eat? You tell me!

I have found myself completely confounded by this tiny person:

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Real men wear their girlfriend’s hats

I know, I know – How can someone that adorable EVER cause any problems? – you might ask. Well probably most of you would know the answer to that one. Toddlerhood is wack-o man. Some days all is totally normal and fine and others it is like what alternate universe did I fall into here?

I took Jack with me to start that project last week because it was in a town where we had family and they wanted to watch him while I worked. Looking back, on that 5 hour drive north, just over a week ago today, I was a mom who knew her toddler’s eating habits. I knew if there was an ear of corn to be eaten in a 20 food radius, that belonged solely to Jack. I knew he preferred mac-n-cheese to about anything else. Chicken nuggets were a close second. Most of the time he will eat some of his stirfry. He will eat edamame like it is his job and he will eat green beans as if they were edamame and carefully extract the tiny beans inside, leaving the shell….you get the idea.

Little did I know that in the span of 3 days I would go from answering ‘yeah Jack will eat that’ when questioned to ‘I honestly have no idea, let’s try’.

Granted we were traveling….that obviously affects everyone differently. We were with less-known relatives (he sees them about once every 3 months or so and on all major holidays, but he is 2….or 3 according to him…you determine who’s right there)…so yeah basically I get it, but I don’t at the same time.

We went out to dinner after we arrived and he ate 2 grapes, no chicken and no spaghetti or “noogles” as he calls them…..okay he has been eating snacks in the car for the past 2 hours. The next morning we had eggs and pancakes for breakfast and he ate his pancakes like a champ! and pushed his eggs around the plate.

I got back from work and my aunt asked if he would eat pizza for dinner? um of course he will…..no, no he will not. he will eat half a granola bar from his diaper bag and two applesauces and then he will fall asleep at 6pm and not wake up until tomorrow. They’d skipped nap and gave him cheese crackers for lunch…..which seemed fun at the time, but was not fun for the hour he woke up from 9:30-10:30 when he was groggy and crying.

Pancakes for breakfast the next day….winner again. I went off to work and came back ready to hit the road. For some context, this is when Colorado was being dumped on (I was up in WY)….rain-wise. There was crazy flooding and you probably know the rest. We’d been watching it all morning, checking the road reports. The main highway that runs from WY to CO was closed and that left one highway option for me once I got to Cheyenne. I was ready to hit the road….but still had to get the work collected that morning. So as soon as I got back I was ready to load up and shove off. But my aunt wanted to feed us. Will Jack eat grilled cheese and corn on the cobb? and I said yes with certainty!…..turns out no,….no he won’t. He will eat two bites of grilled cheese and then run off to play with his train.

Despite them wanting us to stay and wait out the flooding, I wanted to get as close to home as possible. Being 5 hours away wasn’t sitting well for me. It looked as though we could at least get to Greeley, our hometown and where my in-laws live. I’d be an hour from home and Jack would be comfortable there (and maybe eat some food).

Off we went. I had a co-worker on the road ahead of us, so we were able to check in with each other to see how the roads were and if there was news about the highways closing/opening. We made it to Cheyenne and CDOT was indicating that all roads into Colorado were closed. Fuck I know no one in Cheyenne….I have to try the other one anyway. I arrived to a line of cars and signs saying ‘checking ids, only CO residents’. Man, did that feel strange – being carded to cross a state line.

I thought things were going to be peachy and that maybe just maybe we would get home that night (more on why that was important in another post). We made it into Greeley/Evans and quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. The Big Thompson was….well BIG. They’d evacuated the areas of Evans and even though the water wasn’t over the bridge in Evans, it was really high. I wondered if maybe, with my cunning local knowledge, I could find a higher bridge that they had left open somewhere…..nope. Apparently emergency services is on top of it and when they close roads over a river, they do it thoroughly.

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This is kind of hard to see, but the “bridge normally over the tiny river” is right in the middle, it was flooded to about 100 feet on the road side and for what looked like over 1/4 mile on the other side. Crazy.

So I gave in and decided that while there was the option of driving several hours East to give those bridges a try, it was a shot in the dark. We went to my in-laws and would try again the next day.

My MIL was making spaghetti for dinner and while four days ago I could answer the will Jack eat spaghetti? question, now I could not. I don’t know? I admitted with defeat He has been eating weird the past few days. Let’s give it a try.

She offered to make him something else, but I honestly couldn’t tell her what he would eat. Having her make something special, even mac-n-cheese, might turn out to be wishful thinking and then she’d have gone through the trouble. So we tried the spaghetti….no dice. Instead he ate grapes and goldfish and cookies for dinner.

For breakfast the next morning….again just grapes. Le sigh….

We made it back home and whilst I hoped Jack’s eating weirdness was just circumstantial, it seems in fact he has had a big shift in eating habits. Not sure if he is fasting or what, but even his go-to foods are only getting a few bites before he is off to do other things.

So if you ask me “what will Jack eat?”….I seriously can’t tell you besides suckers and gummy bears…..do they have suckers and gummy bears infused with protein, calcium and vitamins? I need those.

And Sometimes You Get to the Cool Stuff

I’m gonna be honest with you, most days “Ze Dream Job” is just like a normal job and not so dreamy.

It was probably my own fault for labeling it “Ze Dream Job” deerrr you think Natalie?

Not to be cynical in my old age, but I think I am finally learning that there is a reason you get paid to do your job – because you don’t always love every second of it.

For me there have been trade-offs. Somedays (more than I’d like) I am staring down projects that make me feel so distant from the person I envision myself to be that I want to tell the whole world ‘this is dumb! someone else do it’. Then I quickly realize that is the attitude of a spoiled fucking brat and I give myself a gut-check.

Then other days I realize that those projects are the bitter that make the other projects – the projects I came here to pursue – so very sweet. I am doing my time, so to speak. Taking one for the team and pushing things forward even when I’d rather stomp my feet and pout like a toddler.

Last week started out heavily bitter. I found myself bombarded with issues that are beyond the realm of my ability to care, and yet…of course I care about them and need to resolve each one. But the resentment set in when I realized this collection of issues was distracting from the project I wanted to be focusing on. But there was sweet relief because I had a travel deadline. I did what I could to push the issue-ridden projects forward and then I informed everyone I would be unavailable to help for a few days. And then…..and then!!!! I hit the road and got to truly focus on that other project.

For two and a half days I got to see myself and my life through that vision that I had for this job. I found myself walking around the surviving structures of a World War II military base and daydreaming about their history, their impact on our world, and the future I hope to give them.

I remembered the moments I walked across those graduation stages, the opening of letters after completing each licensure exam, the day I started at Ze Dream Job… and I thought to myself – this is exactly what you wanted to be doing with all that info you stuffed into your brain.

And suddenly the other stuff becomes worth it. Just days after turning 31 I got a glimpse of the light – the light that reminds you what you are working towards. I am thinking someday I might get all the way there and I am trying to find ways to enjoy the journey in between.

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In Much Less Depressing/Stressful News…

It’s a boy!

I am destined to be surrounded by a bunch of penises!……3 qualifies as a bunch right?

20w us

I blame Andy and Jack for their t-shirt choices because obviously if they had not both worn blue shirts it would have been a girl….or maybe it was Jack choosing the blue sucker. Because obviously the baby sprouted its penis in the few hours between the time Andy and Jack got dressed and the ultrasound.

Don’t worry though, I am still excited. There are a lot of good things about two boys. It makes lots of things easier – mostly the fact that we have all boy supplies ready to go. Also my house will invariably be less crowded in the long run…it will be dirtier for sure….and stinkier….but hopefully less cluttered because in my mind girls come with lots of extra stuff! I mean not all of them, but mine totally would. Because I like to do crafts and also I know I would buy a shit ton of clothing and accessories. I know I had way more shit than my brother ever did and I am not even that much of a girlie girl.

The not fun aspects I am thinking about – more snakes/insects/gross things coming into my house. Masturbation….there is going to be years and years of masturbation in my house now. In all of the rooms!…..I am going to need a room to myself….with a lock on it!

There are some things I am sad to miss out on – wedding planning mostly. But I am imagining that my boys will be highly successful members of society and love me so much that they take me on exotic vacations, perhaps even buy me lavish gifts….yeah I am totally sure that is going to happen. Also they will both find a person to marry who will love me and want me to be heavily involved in wedding planning, so I feel like there are ways around that one. Plus I have plenty of little ladies in my life and you know their mom’s are my best friends so they are going to let me be heavily involved in their lives because they will feel really sorry for me for not having a little girl. “I am sorry honey “aunt” Natalie absolutely HAS to be here to pick out your wedding gown because she doesn’t have a daughter!”.

I definitely wanted a girl….but I think I will worry less about boys in the long run. I know that my boys will need me a lot for the next couple of decades, but after that I think I can feel free to become senile or something like that.

As a daughter who lost her mother, and knowing my brother at least appears to be handling it much better than me, it was kind of a relief knowing I wouldn’t have to feel guilty for the next 20 years while I wonder if I will be leaving my kids too soon as well. Not that I want to leave my boys hanging….you know what I mean right? Just that I think Andy will be able to better fill in the gaps for a boy….whereas my dad does not even come close to filling in the holes I have….I mean he has no idea how long to boil an egg and he doesn’t know any of her recipes! I bet my brother doesn’t even think about stuff like that.

Anyway, it’s a boy……I am going to have a gaggle of boys. And honestly, it makes sense that this is how it was meant to be. I make pretty awesome boys. Jack is so sweet and perfect, if it was a girl I might be a little sad anyway at the thought that there weren’t going to be more boys like him. So now I know my purpose: to make these the best darn boys in the world. You know the kind of boys that all your daughters/gay sons will be fighting over. Let me know if I should put your child’s name on the waitlist.

 

 

In-Laws

Warning – this is the longest post ever!

Andy has a tough history with his family. I would say it is really the basis of most of the issues I have with him. I love my family….well there was a time that I didn’t love my dad so much and then there’s crazy grandma who can be challenging, but I would say for the majority of my life my family has been a huge part of my life. I actually like spending time with them! Shocking I know.

Andy and I met in the midst of his angsty teenage years. By the time we started dating his dad had kicked him out of his house (and thrown all his belongings into the trash), so he was exclusively living at his mom and step-dad’s house. They both traveled for work and/or worked a TON, so despite being strict and him having a fair share of confrontations with them, they weren’t in his life consistently.

In fact, not to play psychologists (but I am going to), I think his real issues go back to being 6 when his mom asked for a divorce and then decided to somewhat disappear from his and his sister’s life for a period of time. His dad is a nice guy, but lacked the understanding that you can’t dump on your 6-yr-old (he knows this now and has expressed extreme remorse for it) about your failed marriage and his mom abandoning all of them. Hey we all learn things the hard way.

I don’t know how long she was gone for, but Andy likes to exaggerate and say she was basically not a part of his life until she seemed to reappear to pester him about high school grades. I know that isn’t entirely true, but I am not about to argue the facts with him (that’s what his sister is for).

Anyway, all the parents combined were not exactly enthusiastic that he decided to enlist in the Marines (I think everyone now agrees it was one of the best things he ever did) and it caused much uproar. So much so that he rebelled more and ended up moving out at 17 and getting a shitty basement apartment with his best friend (who also enlisted with him).

What we will call “the War years” were probably the best for his family relationships. He was doing things that challenged him and made his life worthwhile and contact with family was understandably minimal, but good when it did happen.

In the midst of those years, we got married and thus began the true comparison of family involvement. My mom came to visit us often, praising our accomplishments, spreading love and hugs, etc. She was a hard woman to live up to, to say the least, but I think for Andy, when she became his mom too he really realized what had been missing from his mom.

Anyway fast forward several years. He’s out of the Marines…a little directionless…pretty lost. And he’s back to the parent/child conflict from his teenage years, primarily with his mom and step-dad. Every time he sees them they pester him about his job, about his future, about his drinking (while ironically handing him beer after beer), etc.

His dad has figured it out by now, there’s no need to continue the conflict. He’s taken on the standard mid/late-20s parental role of trying to mend the past and attempt to find things in common to talk about. But his mom and step-dad can’t get to that place. Still!

He got a little reprieve from it when he started school. They expressed how proud they were about him going to school. But then he declared his major: International Affairs specializing in sub-saharran Africa. Suddenly I was pregnant and despite them being over 1,000 miles away, the implication that we may relocate out of the country with their grandchild was cause for expressing more distaste. Why couldn’t he just be happy with a business degree and settle into a nice stable office job with health benefits and a 401K like the rest of his family?

Now I will be the first to tell you, Andy is not that type of guy….not that some days I don’t wish he was….man would that make life easier! But he is who he is, just like the rest of us, and him settling and doing something he isn’t inspired about would most likely kill all the things about him that make him awesome.

Anyway, the battering, nagging and overinvolvement restarted and it hasn’t stopped. With school getting drawn out (re:derailment) and Andy not being the type to want to share his failures with his parents, the pestering has gotten worse. Every conversation includes “how’s school going?” “when’s the graduation date?”.

I explained to him that they know something is amiss and if he tells them it might lighten the load, so to speak. So he did….but unfortunately that hasn’t lightened the load.  In his mom’s defense, Andy has taken on the retaliation tactic of trying to come up with the most shocking and subversive things to say to her during their conversations now….so it isn’t a one way street, but I can also see that after years of dealing with it, he’s trying to find the only means of defense he can find.

Now every get-together is a pain in the ass. I dread them because he spends the 24 or more hours before them complaining about the upcoming stress. So when his mom called a few weeks ago to say she would be in town for a week and a half and was hoping to see us, I cringed. I straight up panicked when I realized that she didn’t have any other plans while in town than to hang out with us. A week and a half straight!

She arrived at our house on Wednesday while I was still at work. That day I had a project kick-off for the elementary school project and was excited and inspired by their mission/passion/staff and came home ready to share that enthusiasm. I also had a concert with my BFF, so only had about an hour at home, but in that short span of time I went from stupid excited to full-on pissed when I was met with Andy-the-Wall-of-Hate.

I couldn’t comprehend how 4 hours could make the difference between him being normal and him being a total dick, but as I was driving to the concert I obviously realized the answer. She had come in swinging. Not in the house more than an hour, she had already questioned him about school (which he had just started the week before), work, drinking, and his life direction.

Now some mom’s might realize time visiting their 30-YEAR-OLD-KIDS is precious and should be spent with meaningless small talk and praise of their excellent parenting skills or something. So I genuinely felt bad for him….well in addition to being mad that he was a dick to me.

I called him out on it the next day, saying I figured she was the reason, but it still didn’t give him an excuse to be a dick in the hour we got to see eachother and squash the shit out of my happy day. He apologized. Then I reminded him that he was an adult. That she wasn’t paying once cent for his school, that she wasn’t paying one cent for his life, and that perhaps it was time he stick up for himself and find a way to gently tell her it is time to butt-out. I mean a guy can only take so much…and the wife of that guy can only take some much too.

I don’t think he ever did it. Despite expressing his extreme displeasure, and sometimes hatred, for his mom, deep down there is still that respect for your parents that wouldn’t allow him to really let loose. I respect that…I wasn’t so much hoping for a “let loose” situation, but rather a rational conversation situation where he draws his line in the sand and she respectfully accepts it…but I can also fully admit that Andy might not be capable of a rational conversation with her. So it was probably better he didn’t say anything at all.

I think hearing that from me helped him a lot though. And also the fact that I got pissed off as well. I was pissed that she couldn’t leave him alone. That she couldn’t just say nice things to him and love him like my mom would have done for him. Sure your son isn’t done with college, it is taking longer, but at the end of the day, he is employed full time, he is a good employee (despite not loving his job), he is contributing to his family, he is an amazing father and he is trying…..we are all fucking trying….so can’t you just find the positive aspects of that and ignore the negative?

The last straw for me was when I came home and he told me she had pestered him about our yard. I have agonized over our yard for the past 5 years. And every spring I come up with a to-do list of things I would like to get done and every year we realize there is no money for that. For us the choices have been to maintain our cars or pay for landscaping.  Pay for school, books and daycare or pay for landscaping. Replace our 40-yr-old water heater and furnace or landscape. Build up a maternity fund or landscape, etc. You can see that landscaping always gets shoved to the bottom of the list (and rightfully so I should add).

I wish landscaping was cheap. I wish I had $10,000 right now to make the front and the back yard amazing! But I don’t and I hate that it will probably be a really long time until we will. I have tried to make small cheap improvements as we go and I have tried to at least keep the weeds mowed down so it isn’t as obvious how shitty our yard is.

But his mom told him she didn’t understand why we hadn’t taken care of it, why we don’t just put in an irrigation system and lay down some good ole Kentucky Blue Grass like the rest of America. She told him there was no pride of ownership, she said that our yard reflected one of poor people…..and that’s where I broke.

I could chalk the rest of her “involvement” up to wanting what is best for him and trying to somehow show interest in his life…but suddenly I realized that isn’t what she is doing. She is breaking him down from every angle possible.

I feel bad for her. I really think it is a matter of her not knowing how to communicate with her son. But she is a very smart woman. She’s read mountains of books on investing and becoming a success in business. Obviously that has paid off because she is 57 and retired. So perhaps it is time she look for a book on how to relate to your lower-middle-class, 30 year old, veteran son. There has to be one out there!

I get that there is a drastic striation between where she is in life and where we are. I get that she is decades removed from the struggle and grind of being a young family in a rough economy with mountains of debt. But can’t she remember at all what that was like? Can’t she remember what panic you feel course through you when you hear a questionable sound in your engine and realized you just paid all your bills and have about $200 in the bank? The busy sifting your brain is doing as you start to think ‘is this a $200 problem or could it cost more? and if so how can I pay for that other than a credit card?”.

It isn’t that hard to relate to…even as a recently retired person who is about to break ground on building a new house and is pondering the idea of buying a second house in Colorado so one could spend more time visiting family. I mean I get it….we are in different places…..but even if you can’t understand it…can’t you try to accept it?

Needless to say, the week and a half ended and we survived again…although it felt like just barely this time. We rejoiced in the fact that she decided not to buy that second house in Colorado (instead they plan to find places to rent for a month at a time). And we made ourselves feel better by guessing what the challenges of their life must be like “should we buy a pontoon boat for the lake? but if we do we will need to lengthen the dock!”.

I suddenly get why Andy has this strong and deep-seated desire to relocate and why those conversations almost always include “my mom will never come visit us there”.

 

 

Pregnancy Dos = Fail City

So apparently I am pregnant? I know, news to me as well. Also apparently I am fairly pregnant which is also a shock. So fairly pregnant that in 5 days I am having my 20 week scan.

Everyone keeps asking if I know what it is….first off – if I knew what it was, why would I be paying for another ultrasound?….Okay well one could argue there is that whole checking for correct body parts and what not….so I suppose we could argue that would be the real reason behind the 20w u/s…but let’s get real. We all know why I am doing a 20 week u/s –  to see what’s between those legs!

Do I even need this disclaimer? Well here it is – let’s not get crazy up in arms about what a terrible person I am for teasing that I only want to know the sex. Mmmkay? Obviously I am a jokster…although in the words of Garfunkle and Oats:

“Don’t care if it’s brain dead
Don’t care if it’s limbless
If it has a penis”

Obviously a joke folks – stay calm.

Maybe it’s neivety, maybe it’s because I am too sleepy, but this time everything feels okay. I don’t feel as nervous and anxious as I did with Jack. The anatomy scan for him was such a big deal. I recall feeling such relief at each thing she named off that she was checking for. This time I don’t feel that same anxiety.

I am not feeling much worry at all this pregnancy. At least about the pregnancy itself (because obviously I am still worrying every day about Jack-related and life-related things). I feel like the birth will be fine. I haven’t had many questions for my midwife. I haven’t felt a need to reread any of the books. And I certainly haven’t thought about preparing for a second child at all yet.

The only preparation I have done is to get another crib mattress and put it on the floor next to Jack’s crib. He is sleeping like a champ outside of the crib. Well he still hates going to bed, but that is a story for another day. But (probably jinxing myself right now) when I go get him in the morning so far he is still on the mattress. I was just waiting to find him laying passed out on top of a pile of stuffed animals in the corner or something.

The plan is to take the mattress out of the guest room and move it to the floor in his room. Then convert said guest room to baby dos’ room. We would have done the bed switch sooner except my mother-in-law just came for a visit…..Now that is DEFINITELY a story for another blog post. So I will get on that ASAP. So anyway, as much as we joked that it would be hilarious to do that before she arrived and then be like ‘here is your tiny mattress on the floor’, of course we are not animals.

And a friend had a spare crib mattress they weren’t using so voila! we tested it out. I figured having two mattresses would be great so that if sleeping outside the crib didn’t work out – and you know that discovery would come in the middle of the night – I could just plop him back in the crib without worrying about moving a mattress and bedding while half asleep. Anyway, so far so good. And now that the MIL is gone the question is, when will we make the crib/bed exchange?

With Jack I was so primed and ready to start his room. This time I am just not as concerned. Maybe I just realize how much time is still left. I remember thinking there was barely any time my first pregnancy. Things are definitely breezing along at a rapid pace, but 20 weeks is still a fair amount of time. And I can pull off a nursery in just a few weekends if necessary.

One thing I have been slacking on, and which I do feel terrible about, is starting a diary! I started a diary for Jack a few weeks after I found out I was pregnant. I wrote telling him everything I felt and all the stages…..I haven’t even bought a diary for baby dos! Poor baby dos! It is borderline child-abuse at this point, I know.

I have been feeling movement for about 3 weeks now. It is amazing how you don’t really remember what that feels like until it happens again. It is sad to think you forget….I wish I could somehow bottle it up and keep the memory of the feelings forever.

The biggest challenge for me is I don’t feel like I look pregnant….I look like a college student who partakes in too many keggers and dining hall ice cream. We went to Taste of Colorado last weekend and I walked around eyeing other women with my same body shape trying to determine if they were pregnant too or if I just now look like a woman who wears too tight of pants and tops that give you that muffin top/spare tire look. Ahhh the look desired by so many.

Maternity pants don’t help hold in my love handles….I am not sure how to engineer maternity pants that would give your belly room to breathe and yet control your love handles….but I won’t give up people! Mark my words.

Ironically I haven’t gained any weight. My midwife seemed cool with it the first visit…the second she made some comments about how I should double my breakfast intake to “help with my weight gain”….I checked the scale a few days ago and now I am in panic mode because Friday is another appointment and I feel like I at least need to gain a pound or two. Don’t worry people, this is a challenge I am willing to accept!

If I was going to analyze it, I would say the lack of weight gain is probably related to muscle loss. I was running a lot and I have since resorted to mostly walking with minimal light jogging. I know the stamina I had built up is shot, so I assume that’s the culprit.

So even without a scale change, apparently my body thinks it’s funny to “rearrange” things. I am a chunkier person to begin with, but I had the great fortune of things being semi-proportionate. Maybe I was living in denial, but these love handles seem new….and I don’t like them one bit!

Anyway I am obviously stupid excited to be pregnant…at least when I remember that I am. Mostly I just feel like I have mono or something. I can’t wait to find out what we are having and even though I don’t really have a good idea one way or the other, I do know that whatever it is, it’s going to be the perfect addition to our family.

I can see myself surrounded by boys….cheesus help me with that one because Jack just recently started picking up snakes and bugs from the yard, plus I will seriously be outnumbered when it comes to watching my TV shows…or I can see the balance of having one of each. I waffle back and forth on what sounds better. And it changes from day-to-day, which just shows that either way will be just peachy. Stay tuned I will let you know when I know.