Monday, December 31, 2012

We spent Christmas at my sister's. Last Christmas there was terrible. It was worth it to be with my sister and her family, but I had strep, everyone else got a stomach bug (possibly from us), and there is nothing good about six kids and four adults under one roof. Unless you have a huge roof.

This year we stayed at a friend's house (they were on vacation out East, and they also left us tons of homemade spanakopita, and you all know the way to my heart is through my stomach), none of us were sick, and our kids suddenly, magically, are okay with traveling.

Let me tell you something. I love my kids. They bring such heart-rending joy to my life that sometimes I want to cry just looking at their sweet, pudgy faces.

However, when I'm in the grind of day-to-day life, I usually find myself thinking of how much easier life was before they came along. No bedtimes, no naptimes, no squeamishness over "weird" foods. Just me and Jeremy. And Jeremy a grown man, so I didn't have to buckle him into a car seat or find a babysitter every time I need to buy a gallon of milk.

If I did, that would be super weird.

I have been chafing under this yoke since Grace was born more than four years ago. Yes, I know that children are the natural order of things; I know that God gave me these children; I know that they are good for me, for us; I know that they are a blessing. I feel it, even. When they are in bed after a full day, I look back and remember the bright, sweet moments with aching fondness. I sometimes want to wake them up just to cuddle their tiny soft bodies to my own.

But in the middle of a meal, or a long car ride, or a conversation with my husband, I am selfish and angry. All I wish for is peace. Peace and quiet. Rest. A good book or a long bath or a frivolous TV show.

So I was half-dreading this trip. Our kids have always been terrible travelers, from the first trip out to Denver when Grace screamed 15 hours out, 7 nights there, and 15 hours back. The last trip was better, but I had strep, and, like I said, 10 people under one not-humongous roof.

This one was so remarkably different that I was half-convinced something terrible would happen, like we would have to make a payment for how great it was.

My sister and I went for a couple of runs. I love family and Christmas and all that, but this was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I don't know if it was the running or my sister, or both, but it was nice. Keep in mind, I still hated running just a few months ago.

My little nieces and nephews are a lot older already than the last time I saw them. I feel a little (a LOT) awkward around children, especially once they get past my own kids' ages, the ages that I'm familiar with. But they are each great kids in their own way.

The oldest is old enough to be interesting on his own terms, not just as a cute kid. He loves origami and reading and asking annoying questions. He tells jokes, and some of them are hilarious. Jeremy really took to him; I think their brains operate in the same way. The next one is such a boy, all superheroes and dirt and destruction. The older girl is such a girl, all glitter and princesses and cuddles. She and Grace either loved or hated each other at all times. And the baby. Everything she does is adorable. I can't even describe it, she just kills me.

I don't have cousins. I didn't really miss it growing up, but I really hope my kids grow up loving their own. I even enjoy their fighting in a small way because it means they are comfortable enough with their cousins that they can fight. It makes me miss my other siblings and their kids all the more, but I am glad I live so close to my sister.

Grace and Emmy were pleasant all the drive out there. They were mostly pleasant while we were there (as pleasant as two tiny, neurotic sinners can be). And they were pleasant most of the way back.

This is thanks in no small part to the wonderful people who lent us their house, but still, it's amazing what a year will do to improve a couple of small children.

This is so cheesy, but every time we're all together, it's like a new part of my heart opens up that I didn't even know I had before.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I also enjoy baking now. Kind of.

I have no idea what is wrong with me. Between bouts of violent coughing spasms the other week, I declared to Jeremy that I thought another baby would be nice. This idea just... took hold in my brain right then, and a reasonable explanation is not forthcoming.

Both kids are 100% potty trained (even for nighttimes!). They can feed themselves. Kind of. They can even open the refrigerator and retrieve snacks and put things away for me. Why would I want to go back to changing diapers and staying up all night and cutting up food into microscopic pieces? I DON'T KNOW.

The only thing I can think of is that all that coughing gave me brain damage.

I took a few weeks off from running and swimming while I was sick. Weights and low-intensity biking were okay for much of it, but there's nothing less fun than choking up what sounds like a hairball in the middle of a shared pool. Croaking out, "I'm not contagious!!!" does not seem to comfort the people around you.

So now I'm back, and oh, I lost so much ground. I was down to a ten-minute mile (for 3 miles) right before I got sick. That's still really slow, but hey! it wasn't completely embarrassing anymore. Also, shin splints. They are back with a vengeance. I guess I can never take a break from running again without working my way through them every single time. I can't tell you how frustrating this is.

Swimming is good, though. I can't say I always enjoy swimming laps. It's not a sport that really invokes the word "fun." You can't look at scenery or watch movies or listen to music or talk with friends while you do it. You stare at the bottom of the pool until your goggles fog up, and then you stare at fog, and then you take your goggles off and have raccoon eyes for the rest of the day. Sometimes it kind of looks like Jeremy hits me.

But. It feels really good to be good at something. If I shared the pool with real swimmers, I'd get a discouraging ego-check, but I don't think Utah has real swimmers. Or if they do, they don't go to the Gold's Gym in West Jordan. Probably because it's only three lanes, and it's the last part of the facility that ever gets any attention.

Every single time I go swimming, I have to ask them to straighten the lane markers. Once, the guy said to me, "You can't swim in a straight line?" Really. He said that to me. He was joking, but I could tell he was actually kind of not joking.

A couple of weeks ago, I kind of lost it. I was trying to share a lane with another lady, except the lane line was so loose that we kept swimming into each other. So I got out of the pool and went up to the front desk in my swimsuit and swim cap. You people have never seen me in a swim cap, but it's not nice. It's just about as unattractive as I get. That includes childbirth.

So I went up to the front desk, which is right in front of the weights area, which is full of people who look a lot better in a swimsuit than I do, and I asked the guy if someone could come fix it. He said, "Well, the maintenance guy isn't in right now, but he can fix it when he gets back."

"When will that be?"

"Uuuh... an hour?"

"It's really easy to do. I can do it myself. Just give me the tool for it."

"His office is locked, and there's no way for me to get in there."

(At this point, my brain exploded because I can't believe there is only one person in this building who has access to the maintenance tools. It's a 24-hour facility. The guy must be exhausted. No wonder he's so terrible at keeping up the pool.)

"I know this is not your fault, but this happens every single time I swim here. It takes five seconds to straighten them. He can do it a couple of times a day when he walks through the pool area, which I see him do ALL THE TIME. I know the water aerobics ladies ruin them, and I'm really sorry about that, but it's impossible to share a lane with someone when the lane markers are everywhere, and it makes me completely crazy, and I don't understand why it is so hard to do this one tiny little thing as regular maintenance."

This doesn't sound all that terrible, but imagine the combination of swim cap, increasing volume, and crazy eyes.

He backed away a bit, then said, "Oh! There he is! I guess he's back!" and scurried off to get the maintenance guy who had magically appeared at just that moment.

The lane lines stayed nice for a couple of weeks after that, but now they're back to their drunk old selves. I've been working on my butterfly extra hard; I'm hoping that doing enough of it will prevent people from wanting to share a lane with me.