Thursday, July 31, 2008

Nine Months Up, Nine Months Down

As with most women who have had children, I now have an appreciation for my body that I used to not have. It is an amazing piece of human machinery that conceived, grew, birthed, and fed two children, and as far as I know, could continue to do so.

But, oh, vanity.

Before I had any children I was not completely satisfied with my body. I could stand to lose ten or fifteen pounds, I ate junk, drank too much, didn’t exercise, and so on and so forth. How I did wrong by my body is enough to write several essays on. Then I got pregnant. I had to take care of myself and suddenly enjoyed taking care of myself. I ate better, but I still would snack constantly. Also, where I worked was a place where vendors tried to schmooze us (schmooze? It is a word?) and would often bring by doughnuts and cookies and the like. My wonderful co-workers always made a point to let me have the first go at them. “Better let the pregnant lady go first!”

I happily would. I ended up gaining about fifty pounds.

After Faith was born I didn’t even care first about all that extra weight. I was just so in love with my baby and everything else took a backseat. Every once in a while, though, I would get up the courage to try on a pair of my old jeans. Try and FAIL, for months.

Then I began walking. I really didn’t do it as much for exercise as I did it to just get out of the house for half an hour. I would put on the ipod, my shoes, and take off around the neighborhood. Later, I began cutting out sugar from my coffee. Then I stopped using butter. Then we stopped frying food. A little change would lead to a bigger one, and eventually all of my eating habits had changed. One day I tried on my jeans again and not only could I button them, but they were too big. In a fit of glee I tried on everything I owned and all of my clothes were too big. I bought new jeans. I lost another ten pounds on top of that. My father-in-law told me I needed to eat some biscuits. My sister let me try on her clothes, which were also too big, and my sister is an extremely tall, extremely thin woman. This was just weird. Awesome, but weird. Right when I was getting used to it I got pregnant. “This time,” I thought to myself “I will not gain fifty pounds”.

I gained fifty-one.

Losing weight the second time around has been different. I no longer live in a sub-division so walking is not the same exercise as it used to be. Jeff is a lot busier so times that I do walk I have to take the kids with me and it’s not so much exercise with two tiny people. I seem to have more of a love for food than I used to. I don’t know. Excuses.

James just turned nine months old. He has been out of my body as long as he was in it. I am one pound away from my pre-pregnancy weight. I fit into most of my old clothes (one pair of jeans, my teeny-tiny jeans, they just aren’t working with me).

It’s exciting, being able to do this again. A tiny bit harder than last time, but I did it. Almost. You know, one pound to go.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Closest Neighbors We Have

Sometimes I imagine myself making new friends and telling someone about where I live.

“You live next door to your in-laws?” I imagine my new, not real, friend saying incredulously.

I imagine this because; well for one thing I’m a loser who imagines meeting new friends (hi, dork self!), and also because I know how most of the world sees their in-laws. Some are okay, some are really not, but most people wouldn’t want to live next door to theirs.

Mine are just different.

They lived in the trailer for three years while they saved and then began the building process on their new home. They told us we could live in the trailer and offered us land so that we could build our dream home next. We obviously accepted (and ever since have talked non-stop about our future home). My mother-in-law told me that if I ever wanted to go back to school or back to work that she would change her work schedule to keep our kids. She also offers to keep our kids all the time so that we can go shopping, or out to eat, or just so we can get chores done. When we go over there she always reaches out her hands to take the baby from my arms and when supper is ready she comes back to take James so that I can eat with the rest of the adults. My father-in-law always comes over weekly to haul off our trash even though we tell him we can do it ourselves. I’ve looked out the window to see him ride by on the lawnmower cutting our grass. He’s come in here with bags bulging from the garden that we’ve neglected to pick for a couple days. They built a pool beside their house, mostly for our kids and us. My mother-in-law often comes by with clothes she’s picked up for Faith and James and she has started keeping a drawer full of baby food at her house, even though we live just next door.

They are just awesome. I could not imagine better grandparents for my kids.

There are times, though, that I just want to be around Jeff and the kids, simply because we’ve spent so much time in the past two years around family members. I just want our little family in our own little space and to not have to do obligatory visiting with people we see all the time. However, that feeling often vanishes very quickly.

Last night around 7:30 Jeff told me that his dad was buying some steaks and planned to grill out. Immediately I began private grumbling. It was really too late for me to eat dinner, it will be forever before the food is ready, on so on and so forth. I can really be a buzz kill sometimes.

Then, two hours later, I’m holding a sleepy James on an outdoor glider in the corner of their patio, just in the shade from the porch light. Jeff has turned on the pool light and my father in law has solid country gold on the radio. Although I am not a big country music fan, it feels sort of right rocking James to the old music made more than twenty years ago. The sun has just set, leaving vibrant peach streaks in the slate sky, and I watch the trees move so gently, that if I weren’t staring at them it would seem like they weren’t moving at all. Faith is running around inside with her second cousins, and my mother-in-law is talking with her sister while getting food prepared, Jeff helps his dad grill. It’s too late to eat still, but I will. The kids should be in bed, but I’m glad they are not. I think, this is nice, no this is perfect.

Yeah, I’m pretty happy about the whole in-laws next-door thing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


For several days now I’ve had my two nieces staying with me. My sister needed help with childcare since my mother is out of town and I’ve missed my nieces and thought that they are young and simple enough to enjoy country living for a few days without missing the luxuries of life too much.

They went back home today and although I could elaborate at length on my mental and physical state right now, suffice to say that I am exhausted.

Not only is it more laundry and more dishes to wash and more food to cook, but it’s the pickiness of the eaters, one wants this food, but the other two refuse it. It was the constant bickering between my five-year-old niece and my two-year-old daughter. It was the constant effort of entertaining my eleven year old niece and then throw a baby in there that has severe attachment issues at the moment and, well, there you have me, a mindless and tired puddle of Jenny.

All I really want to do is curl up in bed and not do a single thing for an entire day. I just want to read a good escapism book about pirates or something ridiculous, and stay in bed for hours beyond the point of the normal limits. I want to not think or do anything. I know this sounds whiny and silly, but I just FEEL whiny and silly. Maybe it’s osmosis or something. I’ve been around whiny children and felt the need to join in.

I’m also slightly disappointed, maybe because I set my expectations too high. I remember being the age of my oldest niece, and going to visit my aunt. I always loved her, sometimes more than the rest of my family. She just seemed so real and down to earth and funny and simply fun to be around. She seemed like she really listened to me when I talked and she kept up with my life. She made the most out of every situation and even a trip up to the local gas station sometimes felt like an adventure with her. I so badly wanted to give my niece that same experience. Well, I failed. I watched her shows with her and just tried to be upbeat and happy and show her the more simple pleasures in life. Jeff took her for rides on the four-wheeler and she saw rabbits and deer, she went by the garden, she played fetch with our great danes, she just simply was here not having to be poked and prodded and fussed at. However, I had James to constantly care for and he seemed even more needy than usual because of the girls being around. I had to mediate arguments with the two little girls. I had lunches to make for Jeff, I had to apply sun block, I had beds to make, and here I am still making excuses.

Three days later and she’s gone and maybe the chance I had to connect with her is gone. I am sorry for it, but so thankful for it at the same time. I’m not ready for four children quite yet. And who knows, maybe one day she’ll write about the few days she spent with her aunt up in the mountains and how she’s always remembered that experience.

Or maybe she’ll always just be grateful for her own large house and a kitchen that holds more than peanut butter sandwiches and vegetarian food.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Now What?

So. Yesterday was another day of diapers, bottles, potties, constant meal making and deal making, bribery, and tiny life lessons with the kids. In other words, just another day at home.

At one point James was crying and Faith was fake crying because she did NOT want to take a nap and the phone started ringing. I looked at the caller ID, didn’t recognize the number and laid it down. We do not yet have an answering machine or voice mail yet. So it rang and rang and finally I was like, WHAT ON EARTH PHONE JUST SHUT IT!

But I still didn’t answer it.

Later, curiosity and the power of Google told me that it was the office of the job I interviewed for last week. Obviously, they did not leave a message and they have not called back. I don’t know what any of this means.

I suppose I am thankful that I don’t have to go back to work quite yet. We have a vacation planned for the first week of August and I have a doctor’s appointment for James next week and I was so scared of having to start a job but to tell them from the very beginning that I already needed time off. Who am I kidding, I have kids, and I’ll always need time off. I just sort of thought that I would know when my last week or so at home was, and I would spend it holding the kids constantly and reading tons of books to them and playing all of Faith’s intricate make believe games involving a mixture of babies and other small assorted toys – in other words, the things that I don’t do enough.

I’m still looking and trying to figure out where I should be. It’s difficult to try to figure out what the master plan to your life is. But for now, I’m off to go read to the kids, play games . . .

Monday, July 14, 2008


I am officially looking for a job, but not very aggressively. I will occasionally go to a job search engine and look, sometimes more willingly than others. I’ve seen some things that I think would be a good fit, but most jobs have been a little too far away or a little bit too much of a stretch from my experience.

Last week I saw a job that I thought, “hey, I can do that!” and so I started filling out an application on a spontaneous whim. I got to the second phase of the application process before it really registered that I was applying for a full time position when I would really like to work part time, so I just hit cancel and went about my day.

On Thursday I was writing my friend one of my typical long and rambling emails. In it I wrote that I was starting to feel a tiny bit panicky that there weren’t many jobs available. I suppose I had foolishly thought that when the time came that I would want to go back to work there would be open and available positions that I could pick and choose from.

Fifteen minutes after I sent the email I got a phone call.

“Hello, may I speak to Jennifer?”

“This is she,”


“I am calling about an application you submitted online? We’d like for you to come in for an interview. Would tomorrow work?”

My mind started spinning and tripping over itself. Application? Online? But . . . that was the only application, and I didn’t even submit it. How. . . What . . .?

“Oh! Okay, um, yes I suppose tomorrow would be fine,” and I found myself setting up an interview and getting directions all while being slightly dumbfounded. I immediately called my husband, talking a little too fast and my thoughts being strewn too far around to make much sense.

All that night I wondered, was this a sign? I mean, I had CANCELLED my application and yet the system had still received it. Seriously though, that’s probably just how the system works, not so much divine intervention. But what if it was? I argued back and forth with myself. I often find myself looking for signs and then wondering if I am creating my own.

So the next morning found me trying to get ready all while taking care of two young children, hurriedly straightening my hair, applying makeup, putting on my professional clothes that haven’t been on my skin in three years. Jeff came home so I could go to the interview and admired the way I looked, I probably looked like a completely different person. I sort of FELT like a different person, competent in a way that I had missed. Nervous and excited I went to the interview, not knowing if I was thrilled at the chance of working again, or scared of the thought of not being able to stay home with my kids anymore.

Three days later here I am, still feeling torn between the two feelings. I’m not sure how the interview went. I think they liked me and I immediately found myself trying to sell myself to them, but I don’t have a lot of experience in that particular field and there was a glitch in the system that showed that I was still working and they seemed a tiny displeased that I’ve been out of work for two and a half years. I don’t know if I’ll get a call. Part of me hopes that I don’t. More than half of me hopes that I don’t. I just can’t stomach the thought that maybe my last full weeks with the children were spent not even knowing they were the last.

Yet, part of me will feel like I have failed if I don’t get offered the job. Rejection is always a sour feeling, I suppose, even if it is hoped for.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Perhaps A Little Too Deep For Tuesday Morning

I have kept journals since I was about fourteen years old. When I was a teenager I discovered the amusing diversion of looking at an entry written the year before. I would usually chuckle at my previous immaturity and experience disbelief that I could ever have a crush on HIM or that I wasted so much time in THAT drama, etc. I would write a new entry with my newfound experience and wisdom of knowledge from another year of life, only to inescapably fall into the same scenario another year into the future.

I still find myself doing it, reading about how life was two years ago when Faith was about 8 months old, the age that James is now. I compare their milestones or remember some little funny thing that she did at that time that has slipped from my mind. I try to recall things that I didn’t write down like my eating habits or just how I lost all that weight so easily, or what my daily routine was. I try to fill in all the blanks, and sometimes I try to forget.

Then I go back a little further and remember how life was five years ago. Most likely I would come home from my professional job where I wore nice clothes and heels and go straight to the fridge where I would grab a cold beer before I even changed out of my clothes, and then Jeff and I would sit on the back deck for hours exchanging bits of gossip and then as the hours wore on and we became more inebriated the conversation would shift to who was a better lyricist, James Hetfield or Axl Rose? Occasionally we would go out to eat where we would eat and drink with no thought to the amount we were spending and then tipsily walk over to Target where we would wander the aisles until the buzz wore off, accumulating more unnecessary stuff and more debt. I had all the time in the world then, time to read or paint my toenails, time to spend on the phone with friends and time to exercise, but back then I thought I had no time at all.

If I do the same game of compare and contrast, then I think the girl I was five years ago would never imagine the person I am today. I spend all day with two young children, wearing t-shirts and cut-off shorts, Jeff and I no longer spend our marriage as drinking buddies, we don’t go crazy spending the money like we used to and we are just so undeniably different in every way that it feels like the people we were five years ago are like characters in some movie that we watched or book that we read. Of course sometimes the nostalgia of days gone by takes over and I remember fondly our silly and drunken conversations, but I am happier that those times are past. Time has a value to me now that I couldn’t have imagined before. So does marriage, for that matter. Things that held such importance are not even a factor in my life anymore. A million little lessons have been learned without me even knowing I was learning them.

I wonder what I will think a year from now.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Fourth

For the past few days we've been on a camping trip. We took the pull-behind camper and stayed on the lake for a few days and it was so PERFECT. It was the quintessential summertime type of thing – camping on a lake, watermelons, lazy days, grilling out, taking naps (yes, I took a nap, it felt so wrong, but SO GOOD), Jeff playing guitar. The kids enjoyed it, and somehow it managed to be relaxing even with two small children in a tiny space. Now coming back home from being in a 31-foot camper for three days, well, it feels like a mansion here.

Friday was spent swimming and absorbing the sun's rays, holding sleepy and slightly sweaty children, and eating great food. That evening Jeff's parents and grandmother came out to our campsite and we cooked for them. Oh, ha! I mean, Jeff cooked for them and eventually Jeff's dad took over the grilling. I just sat around and talked. After the food was finally prepared my father-in-law declared the dinner perfect EXCEPT for the obvious missing ever-important potato salad, which he said while looking accusingly (and comically) at me. Of course! Where was the potato salad? So, wonderful day besides the whole potato salad thing.

At one point in the trip, I sat down on a picnic bench for a few moments and just stared at the lake. We were incredibly lucky to get a spot by the lake, and it was just so beautiful I wanted to take a little while to soak it all in. While I sat there I wondered, would we remember this trip always? What we did for Fourth of July 2008 . . . we went camping with the children, we got an awesome spot on the lake, yes, that was the trip when we grilled out for Jeff’s parents, when Faith fell in love with watermelon and dripped it all over her new flag shirt that she loved, that was when James danced his crazy little serpentine dance whenever Jeff played guitar, that was when we were young and trying to teach the kids how to just enjoy life. Or will we remember it more like, whatever did we DO that year?