Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Notes from the Nap Trenches



January February March 4, 2015

It's been hours.  No, it hasn't been hours, but it feels like hours.

He needs a nap so bad. When he doesn't take his nap, he is a different toddler.  There are fits, lots of instances of having "no bones", dishes thrones and whining that can drive even the most mellow parent to annoyance. There will be lots of crying about not being allowed to hold essential oils.

My normally very sweet. very easy and good-natured boy turns into something else.

"Cry it out" they say.  I hear those mocking words in my mind as I rock and rock and rock and rock.

How did we get here?

Let him cry it out.  Yes. That is good advice. It would be so easy if he didn't hurt himself.  See, when my child gets upset, he likes to rake his fingers over his cheeks in a very melodramatic, overacting type of way. Unfortunately, if there is just ONE nail that has a corner, a miniscule sliver of sharpness, there are facial scratches later.  He pulls out his hair, which I'm not even sure if he notices until it's over, since his poofy, gorgeous, delicious curls are right in the path of his over-dramatic face raking.

I thought there was nothing I couldn't handle as a parent. Turns out I can't handle tiny black curls dusting the inside of his crib or lines of blood on his beautiful, soft cheeks.I can't do it.

So now it's 1pm. We've tried everything.  About 50% of the time it works, but somehow my child knows when things aren't exactly perfect.

Here is the list of things that can throw off an entire nap:

-When his Dad tries to put him down for a nap.
-  A loud breath, sneeze or cough when leaving the room or laying him down
- If his knees are up when I lay him down
- If he is not laying the right way on his lovey
- If he has a icky diaper
- If it's Tuesday, or a Thursday, or maybe a Sunday, Saturday, Friday or Monday. Oh, or Wednesday.
-There is a weird slant of light in his room
- If I somehow miss a toy in the crib and suddenly it's playtime and I SWEAR I WILL BURN THAT FREAKING DUCK LATER
- If a dog breathes in that general area
- If he farts

It's always the same. I think he's asleep, I think I've succeeded, and then I step away from the crib. His super-spidey toddler senses alert him that I'm not STANDING RIGHT ABOVE HIM, and he pops up to his feet like he's an Avenger.  "Mama! Mama! HI! HI! Hi!"  I have literally laid on the floor next to his crib trying to outlast him only to roll over and see big brown eyes staring back at me as he whisper "Hi. Hi. Up?"

Such cute words have never broken such a heart.

There is no going back. There is no lying him back down. He's up and it's only downhill from there. Trust me, we've tried everything.  This kid has a card to play that trumps any parenting skill/advice/book/prayer we've got.

It's that our first priority is keeping him safe, and that even means from himself.  I won't let my child get physically hurt. I'm not going to let him scar the only face he'll ever have (We hope. I don't know, the future might be weird.)

It's only naps that are like this, thank goodness.  The bedtime battle has been won (for now), and that's peaceful, easy.  It's just the naps.  Half the time, which means half the time he ends up in our bed.

Occasionally, this is blissful co-napping, tangled up in each other, me breathing in his coconut shampoo and toddler breath and big, warm feet pressed against my tummy.  We fall asleep together and there has never been a nap as comforting, wonderful and heavenly in all the world.

The rest of the time, this is him sleeping on my now-dead arm, and me wishing that I could reach my book or phone or anything.  I'm contorted in a weird way, and every time I try to slip away off the bed, he stirs and it's not happening, so I lay there, plotting novels in my mind.  The rest of the time it is me, just on the verge of a much needed nap myself when I hear a very not-tired whisper "Happy...happy bday mama."  or "Mama, sing Elmo's song?"



The nap trenches.  We're in the muck here, with the cutest little opponent the world has ever seen.

It's not a fair fight. Not even close.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Reviews: The Bees, Astonish Me, The Gifted Dead and More!



Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead:
 I was simply astonished by Astonish Me. Sucked in from the opening paragraph, I loved losing myself in the world of ballet, something that I know nothing about. (And, just in case you are wondering, I think the boat might have sailed on my changes of being a famous ballerina.) Joan was a great character - she possessed depth and change, and she opened up as the book progressed from a woman that I resented to a woman that I respected. Her vulnerability in not being loved equally was one of the bravest character arcs I've read in a long time. While I suspected the twist - as I imagine every reader did - I loved that it played out the way it did, the climax of the novel spinning and spinning across the stage. I was left holding my breath as all their fates intertwined - Jacob's resentment, Joan's cracking shell, Arslan's ego and Harry and Chloe's mirrored romance. As soon as I shut this book, I ordered her other one. I love when I discover an author for the first time and I am utterly seduced. Astonish Me did just that.




The Bees:
The Bees was such a heavy, mind-blowing read, that I dare say it was like being smoked in a bee-hive. You are surrounded by sensation, the sounds of the hive, the sugary-delirium of the cluster, the fear as Flora fights for every minute of her short life.  The research that must have gone into this book is staggering, but the writing felt as light as the buzz of wings.  The book was so original, so intense and so beautifully described that when I closed the book, I leaned back for a minute and clutched it to my chest, knowing that I would not read something like this ever again in my lifetime.  




The Gifted Dead:  
House of Cards meet Games of Thrones is a great description of this book, with the exception that both of those are TV shows, and THIS NEEDS TO BE ONE. I loved this book! It took awhile to get familiar with the large (and I do mean large) cast of characters and multiple pov's. However, once I was in the world of the Gifted, I didn't want to leave. We read this book for my book club, and we had a lot to talk about - was this a veiled criticism of the Mormon church? Is David on his own quest to get Mel where she needs to be by being the PERFECT husband? Where did Anna go? How crappy/awesome were some of the gifts? Is there a gifted who can manifest spirit guides? (I'm wondering if this is the Tomasso's gift?) While a lot of the threads were left open to the sequels - which I hope are coming soon - I was fairly satisfied with the ending, and wanted to read more about this world. Seriously though, this would make a great series. And the Anima going mad? LOVED IT.




The Vanishing Season:
I really wanted to love this book, with it's lovely cover and landscape descriptions. Anderson certainly has a talent for detailed geography - I could see in my mind's eye every inch of lake and sky that Maggie walked over, could hear the crunching of the ice underfoot. While the story didn't capture or quite engage me - and at the end made me wonder if the book had been mis-marketed - I still enjoyed parts of it very much. This is hardly a ghost story, rather a quiet story after first love and heartbreak. It was a quiet little tear of a book, and in that, it was special in it's own lovely way, like the whisper of snow over a frozen lake. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

APPRECIATE THE MANATEES



Who here is excited to see the Oscars tonight?  Okay, me too. Guess who has not seen like a single Oscar-nominated film this year, much to her embarrassment and shame?  This girl. Still, I plan on enjoying the dresses and the awkwardness like everyone else, although I'll probably miss the first hour due to a new episode of Downton Abbey, because like, why is Mary a total witch this year?   And Edith?  Ohhh. I try not to get too upset at this part of the show, because I can't think about it too long, how baby Marigold was just yanked out of her mother's arms because Edith suddenly decides oh yeah, she DOES want to be a mother, with no thought of trauma to the mother and to the child.  What peeves me the most about this is that Edith had every resource - EVERY POSSIBLE RESOURCE, including servants, nannies, and a honest-to-god-castle-house - at her disposal. Her only fear was - let's be honest - Mary's judgement. If you can't get over a couple of jabs from your uppity sister with a stupid haircut to let you parent your child, then you have bigger problems.

Wait, what am I saying? Every decision Edith makes is stupid. Let's fall in love with an old guy publisher who likes to hang out at Nazi bars! Okay!

On to life as we've known it the past couple of weeks - last Tuesday, we celebrated my sister's birthday by spending a day with Cici at the museum!



 The Denver Museum of Nature and Science (or as it will always be called to me, The Denver Natural History Museum), is a childhood nest of nostalgia for me. I have so many memories of wandering the huge halls, losing myself in the Wildlife displays - always my favorite part. There was just something about those dioramas; the beautiful painted backgrounds, the animals so alive and yet not. Even as a child, I would park myself under the manatee diorama and just sit, and imagine I was a mermaid. No one was ever in that area, and I was so happy to find that that still is the case: all around the manatee was quiet and still and serene. Except when I brought my toddler there.  I was all like, "Look! Look at the manatee! Revel in this glorious museum! Look at the animals! You love animals!"  And he was all like "BUTTON."



There were buttons in front of all the dioramas that made animal sounds.  LittleM just wanted to push ALL THE BUTTONS in the entire museum. My sister was like "Why don't we just buy him a button next time?"   He did have fun running through the wildlife halls, but there was a lot less gazing and pondering of the majesty of the animal kingdom than I would have liked.  We checked out the Space Odyssey, which was donated by Lockheed Martin, my Dad's old company, so that was fun to see LittleM enjoying toys that his Grandpa used.



He liked the moon very much.


We had lunch in the Sky Pavilion, which has, no joke, probably the best view in all of Denver. Lake? Check. Denver skyline? Check? Perfect lining up of city, lake and mountain? Check.

It's pretty dazzling, especially when there is that pretty, lacy dusting of snow on the ground.


 We also ended up in the "Discovery Zone" which is code for CRAZY TODDLER TOWN.   In crazy toddler town, there is a giant water table, where little kids can play with and discover all sorts of fun water stuff.  I have mixed feelings about the Discovery Zone.



 On one hand, it's nice that they have an interactive place for kids to touch and learn.  LittleM loved it and that made me love it. It's designed very well, and I'm thankful for the mini-smocks that are very needed and perfectly adorable. On the other hand, I hated that my kid was soaking wet about two minutes into our museum day. (Note to self, next time we will end at the Discovery Zone, not start there.)  My other feelings, which leads me into one of my pet peeves, is the abundance of older kids in the Discovery Zone. There are about 19 huge signs around that clearly say "The Discovery Zone is for our littlest guests, ages 1-4."   Parents, teachers, chaperones all chose to ignore these signs and let 9 years olds run like crazies around the Zone, even though those kids have, you know, THE REST OF THE MUSEUM to play in.  I stood back and just watched the splashing, ball throwing, water leaping insanity of the older kids who were, to put it nicely, total maniacs.  LittleM was trying to play at the water table with all the rest of the little toddlers, but the bigger kids kept dousing each other like they were in a pool, while their bored caregivers checked their phones. LittleM kept getting splashed in the face and pushed roughly aside. I was fuming, as was every other parent of a little there.  Good thing I took my sister, who told me "I'm a helicopter aunt, that's what I DO for a living!" before swooping in and yelling at some older kids for being super jacked up and aggressive.  After she told them in what she called her bitchy boss voice,  "You need to calm down. This area is for little kids and you are shoving them over." Cici is scary when she is mad. I should know, I'm her sister.

I don't blame the kids. How could you not get all excited? I blame the adults, who are clearly ignoring the signs and the fact that it's ALL TODDLERS. 

Grr. Anyways.  Happy snow days to you!



In other news, LittleM finally got some boots (3.80 on sale!) and so we adventured out into the Colorado snow and our new backyard, that is the perfect little size for him and for us.  He looked so cute in his little rubber boots that I couldn't even handle it and had to take a million pictures, much to his inner eye-rolling I'm sure.



Like our Target poop bag in the background? Classy, I tell yeah. At first he wasn't thrilled, but once he learned that his boots made a crunch crunch sound, and that the gutter had icilies and drizzling water coming out of it, there was no turning back. That's something I love about Colorado - you can hang snow on the ground and it still might be warm enough to play outside.  

So that's this last week.  I have been spending a lot of time writing emails, writing two books - the last Elly and Wendy Darling, Part Two - and being a Mom. It's pretty much living the dream, and I can't imagine doing two things that I could love more than this.

I hope to post an actual new house post sometime this week. I keep waiting until all the rooms are cute, but I've finally come to the conclusion that I can't wait until the house is perfect, but rather maybe feature one room at a time.  I need bathroom suggestions anyways. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Upstairs Circus Birthday




It's a week later and somehow I have finagled a way to have people still celebrating my birthday. It's worked out very well this year.  Things have been crazy lately, between actual (forgotten)birthdays and birthday celebrations, blog hops, concerts and chasing my toddler around. I feel like breathing is something optional, in the evenings, when we sit down and fall asleep watching The Fall.

Last night though, was the good kind of busy, the fun kind of busy. My beloved friend Katie planned the most fantastic and yet-somehow-low-key-at-the-same-time birthday celebration for me, at this new amazing downtown place called Upstairs Circus.



What is Upstairs Circus?  It's a new chic little bar off Wynkoop where you pay $35.00 and you pick from one of about 40 crafts. The supplies are all there, along with VERY detailed specific directions.  You drink, you craft, it's pretty much the perfect night out, because if you think about it, you totally drop 35 dollars on a night downtown and you don't get to take anything home, other than a hangover the next day.



We carpooled downtown and made our way to the Circus.



IT WAS SO AWESOME.

Parasols were hanging from the ceiling, cool tattooed chicks serving drinks, adult coloring books - like one called "Fat Ladies in Space" were on hand, the radio was blasting hip hop from the 90's, the sound of hammers was everywhere - it was no joke, the perfect atmosphere for turning 35.  I'm over the bar scene. I would rather pick up dog waste than go to a dance club. Crafting with friends with a glass of wine? YES AND YES, forever.



Katie had brought along her homemade amazing snacks, like tuxedo brownies and homemade cookie cups like the ones at Ms. Fields - just for me!



 After much internal debating between a T-shirt necklace and some string art, I decided on the string art.  It was fun seeing who ended up making what. Even when two people made the same thing - Cindy and I, Amanda and Nikki - they looked completely different.  People's creativity just shines through!



First, I painted my board white, which you would think would be easy not to screw up, but in the half hour it was drying, I dropped crumbs and some soda into the paint.  After painting it white, I hammered about 200 tiny nails into the board, which was exactly as fun as it sounds, but yet, somehow very stress-relieving.



After the nails were in, it was time to string.  I went crazy with the string, which is what the directions told me to do. It was only later, the next day, that I realized if you were doing the MAP string art specifically, there were separate directions. Luckily, I still think it turned out okay...



Okay, more than okay! I actually love something I made! This is amazing! I crafted something that didn't turn out horrible!

Katie made a beautiful charm necklace with her son's initials. Amanda and Nikki made scrolled paper letters.  I looked over at Nikki while we were working. "What's going on?" I asked. "Waiting to for paint to dry" she sighed.  It took me a minute before realizing that she was, literally, waiting for paint to dry.  BWWWAAAAHHH. I'm so easily entertained.



Karen painted a Colorado sign for her husband, and Wendy made a magnetic shelf to hold keys.



Then there is my sister.



My sister, of course, made string art as well, but did her own thing, in intensely focused, grand Cynthia tradition, and it was better than any of the ones I saw on the wall. One of the workers there said "I've never seen anything like that. And I've seen EVERYTHING."


We probably crafted for about three hours total, and we barely finished in time. (Well, most of us. Katie got done with her craft in about 22 minutes, because she is ridiculously talented.)


As I went to the restroom, looked up and saw this on the wall, I was so overwhelmed by the blessings that God has given me in good friends.  I'm so lucky to call them my friends, my sister.

That's really the best birthday present in the world.  These are deep thoughts for a bathroom trip.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fairy Tale Fun Blog Hop and Giveaway - Colleen Oakes



For something different today, I'm participating in the Fairy Tale Fun Blog Hop, hosted by ChickLitHQ!  The assignment? Compare the heroine of my book to a fairy tale princess.  The reward: A box of amazing brownies. Read on, princesses. Read on, peasants.  The details on entering are posted below.

So!

Elly as a Princess? The idea at first was almost laughable.  Elly, clumsy, chubby Elly, Elly who sometimes says the wrong things, is always in the wrong place, Elly who can be hopeless at love (up until recently that is!). Elly Jordan isn't the obvious choice when fairy tales are involved - she certainly doesn't look like a Disney princess, all minuscule waists and GIANT eyes.  Of anyone, I should know - I write twisted fairy tales for a living!   Still, even though Elly might be a far cry from my fantasy genre, but that doesn't mean that she doesn't deserve to be compared to a princess!



If Elly was a princess, I think the obvious choice would be Rapunzel, particularly the Disney version of the movie Tangled.  Sure, she doesn't look exactly like Rapunzel, save the blond hair and blue eyes - though, Elly does have A LOT less hair - but it's more her emotional state.  Elly, for so long, hid herself behind walls of her own making - walls of grief at the death of her mother, walls of insecurity about her weight, walls of fear that she would never find love again after she caught her husband cheating on her with a redhead.  The walls that surrounded Elly were thick, made up of a thousand cobblestones of expectations and disappointment.

And yet, she bursts through them!  She escapes from her towering fears and discovers that there is life and light beyond her walls.  There is love, there is friendship and life and flowers! Many flowers, flowing from every surface, every crack of darkness that held her!  Like Rapunzel, she would cartwheel down the grass, spiraling into joy, leaping unexpectedly into her own life. 



Elly might not look or feel like your typical princess, but this is why she deserves the title so solidly. No one gets to be a princess in real life.  But all of us have obstacles, real obstacles that we must struggle to overcome. Maybe it's relationships, maybe it's finances or reaching your goals. Maybe it's work, or toxic friendships or something that happened in your past that has built walls around you.

You don't have to be a princess to break down your walls.

Unlike Rapunzel, you don't have to physically leave your tower.  Take a walk, call a friend or a therapist, or, like Elly...design the crap out of some gorgeous, jaw-dropping flowers.  Take that creative energy, aim it at the wall, and let it rip.

The walls are your own. Now go and break them. And check out Elly in Bloom and Elly in Love here:
http://www.amazon.com/Elly-Bloom-Novel-Colleen-Oakes/dp/1940716098/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_y


 *Walls broken? Okay, that was quick! The GRAND PRIZE for this blog hop is the Magic Morsels 48-count gift box from Fairytale Brownies which includes a bite-sized assortment of 48 delicious gourmet brownies!

To enter, leave an answer to this question in the comments, along with your email address: What Princess would you most like to have a drink with, and why?

Small print: 
 - You must leave a comment with your email address to enter the giveaway.
-The Giveaway is open to US Residents only.
-The winner will be randomly selected on Monday, Feb 16th.
- You can enter at each stop on the tour, which means you can enter 21 times!

To enter, answer the question: What Princess would you most like to have a drink with, and why?

Please visit the blogs below to read and enter!
 Isabella Anderson  http://chicklitgoddess.com
Jayne Denker  http://jaynedenker.com/
Kat Halstead  blog.kathalstead.com
Robyn Neeley  www.robynneeley.com
Meredith Schorr  www.meredithschorr.com

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I Forgot My Husband's Birthday




This is the sad true story of the day I forgot my husbands birthday.  I woke up after we had a long night with LittleM. He's in the 18 month Sleep Regression, and it's been a bit nightmarish in the evenings. Some nights are fine, others he wakes up every two hours or so and has to be put back down, as well as a major battle in the evenings for the first time down.  He was always such a lovely and easy sleeper, that I feel like we got spoiled and up until the last three days, have been paying the cost.

Luckily, we pushed in hard and dug in our feet these last few days with the routine. We held our ground, and the issue seems to have resolved itself: tonight, last night and the night before he went down on the first try and slept all night.   But a week ago, we weren't having such luck. It had been a hard night and the morning came very early.  LittleM likes to get up at dawn, because he's a toddler and that's when he is cool with getting up.  Ryan and I got up with him and went right into our morning, which was your normal toddler-running-around-destroying-things, cuddling-time (the best!), reading and trying to get all three of us dressed.  I noticed Ryan was pretty quiet that morning, but he's sort of that way all the time. The man likes to sip his coffee and groan. It's just what he does.

I was meeting my friend Katie and her son AJ at Little Monkey Business, an indoor playground in the nearby outdoor mall. I can't decide if Little Monkey business is genius or ridiculous, but probably a little bit of both.   So, I dressed LittleM and myself, trying to at least look like I have it together A LITTLE BIT before we leave, and as I'm getting ready, I'm asking Ryan to do some things in my sted, since Thursday mornings I do some chores like laundry.  "Do you think you could fold the clothes on the couch?" I shout. "And maybe sweep?"   "Sure" he replies in a strange, flat, semi-amused voice.

I'm annoyed at his obvious ambivalence, but we are leaving, so I give him a quick kiss and leave.

Then I'm at Little Monkey business and LittleM is running around like he's landed in the Willy Wonka factory and I'm filling out a waiver that basically says "If your kid dies, it's not our fault."  "What day is it?" I ask Katie.  "January 29th" says the hipster at the counter.  I nod and fill in the date. Katie stares at me. "It's your husbands birthday today!"

There is an awful moment of silence and then my mouth drops open and I utter a single word that probably shouldn't be uttered in a kids playarea, rhymes with fit.  I have a sinking feeling in my chest, as if my entire pool of pride is being sucked out of my toes and is spilling across the linoleum floor.

 I have done something very, very bad.



I have totally and completely forgotten my husbands birthday.

I am the worst wife in the entire state, entire country, probably world, except for those stick-legged bugs who eat their spouses.  Not only did I forget his birthday, but I asked him to do chores! ON HIS BIRTHDAY MORNING.

Usually,  I make Ryan breakfast and go get him Starbucks coffee.  I let him sleep in.  I make the day special: presents waiting downstairs, yummy lunch, a fun night planned.

Not so much this year.  This year, for some reason, I got it in my head that his birthday was on the weekend instead of Thursday, like it actually was.  It really doesn't matter how I forgot. What matters is that I did forget and MY FRIEND remembered.

I quickly called Ryan and I could just tell from the way he answered the phone that this was going to be bad:
 "Hey honey!" he says, all chipper and hilarious and I want to die.
 "So....."
"So."
"So....I forgot your birthday was today."
 He laughs.  A lot. "I sort of figured."
 "I am the worst wife ever."
  "Pretty much."
 "I'm so sorry. You don't have to do chores."
 "Yeah, I wasn't going to."
 "I'll bring you lunch later. And make a good dinner."
 "Sounds perfect."
 "I love you so much. Happy birthday?"
 "Oh honey, I love you too."
At this point he is just laughing at my groveling and so is Katie and so I just hang up the phone.



It was bad.  I tried to make it up  in the next few days, but didn't really do a great job.

Pro: A threw him a low-key birthday party on Friday
Con: I forget to invite like five people that I was supposed to.



Pro: Ordered seriously adorable and delicious Groot cupcakes from Flour Power Cupcakes (https://www.facebook.com/iloveflourpower?ref=br_tf) - if you are local, you must know about them!
Con: Didn't get ice cream to go with said cupcakes.

Pro: Got chips
Con: Got two bags of the same kind of chips

Pro: Ryan had a great time
Con: I felt so guilty that I watched the last Twilight movie

So, since I didn't say it that morning, I can say it here again: Happy Birthday to my seriously wonderful, incredible, handsome, intelligent, spiritual and giving husband. I'm so blessed that you chose me. You are an amazing Dad and husband. You continue to amaze me, year after year. Just when I think I've seen the best of you, you surprise me anew.



At least I'm lucky that I have a husband who is so wonderfully patient and understanding. If he forgot my birthday, I can't say I would be the same.



Yeah, it would be bad.  Luckily, we are going out tomorrow night to celebrate BOTH birthdays at a an amazing restaurant called Ocean Prime, followed by drinks at an awesome bar and then going to see the new Bender-ditch Cumber-la-batch movie.  It's going to be all....



Hopefully that makes up for something.

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