Weekly Column: Rush Hour

©Stephenie Freeman

I spend my life in a hurry, constantly trying to get everyone around me to do the same.

“Hurry up and eat your dinner.”

“Hurry up and get dressed.”

“Hurry up we’ve got to go.”

I am the only one in my family who’s in any kind of a rush. My kids inherited the Golfer’s laid back nature. Being still, being in no hurry to go anywhere or do anything, goes against every fiber of my being. I don’t have time to be laid back. There is always somewhere to be, something to do, someone who is waiting on us. I’m a person who runs on time and expects everyone else to do the same—including my children.

Waiting on people isn’t a virtue that I possess. I’m quick to honk the horn, letting you know that you need to hurry up. I’m big on alarm clocks and watches and schedules to keep us on time and ahead of the game. I figure that age will cause me to slow down eventually, but for now I choose to go full speed ahead.

My kids feel the opposite. They take their time, leisurely enjoying the world, never in a hurry to get anywhere anytime soon. My kids are too busy discovering roly-polies on the driveway, waving hello to the neighbor’s dog or putting their Crocs on the wrong feet, all of it slowing me down and driving me crazy.

As summertime approaches, I am filled with mixed emotions. Part of me is excited. No alarm going off at the crack of dawn. No homework to help with. No lunches to pack. I’ll admit that I’m looking forward to it. There’s a reason it is called summer “break.”

Summer break is also about breaking from your daily school year routine. This is the part that I’m not looking forward to. I’ll be forced to slow down because there won’t be any reason to constantly hurry to get somewhere. I guess they don’t call them the lazy days of summer for nothing.

But I don’t like being lazy. As a stay-at-home mama, I feel compelled to fill every second of my day with some kind of activity or chore or errand. When you work inside of the home your work constantly surrounds you. There’s always something to do and I’m always in a hurry to get to that next thing.

However, my hurried nature might be doing more harm than good. I’ve begun to notice that being in a hurry leaves little breathing room for things like unplanned fun. There’s no time for spontaneous playdates or trips to the library. There’s no stopping at the park on the way to the grocery store. Those sorts of last minute choices have no place in our hurried schedule.

Whether I like it or not my children are growing up and in my quest to be the best mother I can be, filling my days with hurried schedules and responsibilities, I am missing out on a lot of fun that I could be having fun with my kids.

Last week, two cases of strep throat forced me to slow down. As the boys convalesced on the couch, I had no choice but to abandon all our plans and schedule. I could easily have spent my day catching up on housework, perhaps work on those photo albums that needed updating or reorganize the closets.

Instead, I chose to sit and be lazy. I sat on the couch between the sniffling and the coughing and simply loved on my sick babies all day. It made us all feel a lot better.

This might just be the first case of strep throat that ever inspired someone to change, but that’s exactly what happened. When the Golfer asked me what activities I had planned for the summer, what our schedule looked like, he was shocked when I told him that I had nothing planned, nothing scheduled.

And I would have explained why if I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get out the door.

Roses of Motherhood

What I looked like before children...

What I look like after children...

Everything's sagging, my flaws are totally exposed, and what isn't drooping is about to fall off.

{photo credit: mine. roses: also mine. iceberg roses in my front yard or what is left of them anyway.}

My soapbox: Jon & Kate + 8 = Divorce

photo courtsey of usmagazine.com

During the long weekend of doing nothing, like most of you I got sucked into watching the Jon and Kate Plus 8 marathon on TLC.

I hate television marathons. They ALWAYS suck me in and I'm not sure why. It's pretty smart of TLC to do it on this long weekend when lots of people are sitting at home doing nothing. Even my best friend who has been laid up after surgery and has never, ever watched the show (or cared to) got sucked into watching the marathon.

So of course I was looking forward to watching the premiere tonight. It's one of those things that I wasn't quite sure why I was "looking forward to it." I just knew that I couldn't miss it.

It was a train wreck that I couldn't wait to watch.

Apparently the rest of the world also couldn't wait to watch either. During the show, Twitter was going nuts on the topic. I looked up the word "Kate" under Trending Topics and every couple of seconds there was a request to refresh for the 11, 14, or 20 new tweets about the show.

It's quite obvious that there are a lot of us out there that over the weekend became toatlly invested in these people's lives. I'll admit it; I was curious to see what would happen. Would they get into it as they finally came face to face on the couch like all of the previews suggested? Would TLC allow us to see/know what the future holds for this family and this couple?

After 1 hour and 13 minutes of watching, here's what I know: this marriage is in trouble. Big time. If I was a betting woman, I would drive to Vegas right now and put all of our savings on the bet that they will end up in divorce court.

Do I care? No, not really. I'm big on, "Hey your life is your life. You stay out of mine and I'll stay out of yours." But there was a moment during the show when I emotionally connected in a weird kind of a way. It freaked me out a little bit.

It was during the party scene. It was one of the 8. I'm not sure which little girl it was (Alexis maybe?) but she was talking to her daddy about her little friend at the party and hugs and kisses and she started to hug and kiss on daddy and before you knew what was coming, she was asking her daddy to please not go away anymore and he gave her a lame ass answer of daddies having to leave for work sometimes.

Yeah, right.
Did that not speak volumes about what has been going on in their house? She's five. She's not an idiot. She's knows her daddy's not leaving for work. Give the girl a little more credit.

I am a child of divorce. I grew up to be a happy, well-adjusted adult and harbor no ill will towards my parents. (Not about the divorce anyway.) But let me tell you, during the years preceding my parents' divorce I was totally and completely aware that my parents were having huge issues. There was so much tension and so much arguing. Towards the end, my father moved out for a while. Even though I was only eight at the time (same age as Jon and Kate's oldest girls) I could sense what was coming.

If you watched the show, did you hear Kate talking about how helpful the older girls had gotten? Those girls know that something is up. They know that there dad is gone when he should be at home. They know that their mom is sad and not acting the same. They notice that their mom and dad don't hug and kiss as much as they used to, and whether they are doing it consciously or unconsciously, they are stepping in to try to make things better.

This is what breaks my heart. Not Jon and Kate sitting motionless on the couch. Not Kate getting teary at the end. What breaks my heart is knowing that those kids are walking around on egg shells, knowing that at any minute they might be called downstairs to hear the news that they've knew all along was coming.

That's what happened to me anyway.

Did anyone else find it sad that Kate (and Jon too) just kept saying, "It's all for my kids. It's all about my kids. I breathe for my kids. I get up for my kids." Blah, blah, blah.

That's all well and good, but perhaps that's what brought you and your husband to this horrible place. Life can't be all about your kids. There's is nothing you can do that will benefit your children more than loving your spouse. I wanted her to say something, anything, about her marriage, about wanting things to be better, but she never did. Neither did he.

It can't all be about your kids. At some point, it needs to be about the two of you and only the two of you.

And if not, get ready to spend some of that TLC money on shrinks for 8 kids.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

Where did I go?

It has been a while since I've written about my Weighty Issues. You thought I had fallen off the wagon hadn't you?

Nope! I've still been at it. I've still been meeting with my trainer twice a week (versus three times a week when I first started) and she's still kicking my butt. But I've learned to enjoy it (as much as you can enjoy sweating, groaning, and grunting your way through an hour workout.)

And it has paid off! I have lost...wait for it...a total of 11 inches from head to toe (or should I say boobs to butt.) 11 whole inches! That's almost like, a whole ruler's worth of inches that are no longer attached to my body!

I chose to focus on the inches lost instead of the pounds lost. I wanted my "transformation" to be more about how I felt versus what the scale told me. In the past, I always got so frustrated with the number on the scale that I usually ended up quiting. I didn't want that to happen to me again since I tend to lose weight slowly (about 1/2 pound to a pound a week.) I knew that only worrying about the number on the scale would sabotage my progress.

Before we started, I measured the following: tummy, butt, bi-cep, and bust. In the last 20 weeks I've taken my measurements twice, each time finding that I had lost more inches. Of course I've been weighing myself too and have been losing pounds as well. But as expected, the weight loss has been slow. So keeping up with my measurements have kept me motivated. The two places I have lost the most? My butt and waist (obviously the two places I needed to lose them!) I have lost 4 inches on both! (Plus 2 around my butt and 1 around my bi-cep in case you're keeping track.) Crazy!

But now summer is almost upon us and I've made an important decision. I'm going to give up my trainer for the summer and see how I do on my own. Why, you ask, would I choose to do this when I've been making such good progress with her? For one thing, having a personal trainer is expensive. She's been worth every penny, but even she says that I can't keep going to her forever. At some point I've got to try and do all of this on my own. I figured that summertime would be a good time to start. We'll see how it goes and if I need to, I can always go back to her in the fall.

I'll continue to keep you updated on my Weighty Issues, but if I kept losing these inches, I might just disappear for good!

9 years ago...

...was the first day of the rest of my life.

Weekly Column: These things come in 3's

©Stephenie Freeman

So the Golfer and I were sitting at the table last night after dinner. The boys had already gone upstairs to supposedly get ready for bed (cue the laughter) and we were just hanging out, finishing our wine and talking about our week.

I start talking about all of the advanced options that I'd been reading about on my camera. He says it's good that I'm making the most of it because my camera is a perfectly fine camera.

And I say yeah I really, really want a new one because mine is just a point-and-shoot, but instead I’ve been thinking that maybe I should learn Adobe Photoshop instead.

And then he says well that's expensive and hard to learn and I say yeah but I'm a crafty girl and anyone who can teach herself HTML and build her own website with a baby in her lap can learn anything.

And he says of course you can, but why do you want to? And I say because I want to take better pictures.

And he says why? And I say why wouldn't I?

And he says but all you do is stick them in an album. And I refrain from saying what I’m thinking and instead say I don't care where I stick them I want them to be the best pictures possible.

Suddenly we're in the midst of a heated discussion (i.e., having an argument) about my want of better pictures and my need to be crafty and how even though I already write a weekly column, a blog, plus do a little knitting and needlepoint on the side while I’m trying to parent, I still wanted a new hobby that perhaps included a new camera.

And the Golfer is just sitting there looking at me with his “this is why I hid the credit cards from you” face. I decide that the conversation isn’t going in my favor and tell him that I'm done discussing this and to just forget it and stomp over to the sink with the dirty dishes to pout. I'm scraping plates into the sink while the Golfer tries to make amends asking me questions about my camera, etc. when I go to flip on the garbage disposal in protest to drown out his voice.

Nothing happens. No noise. No grinding. No chewing up the scraps and sending them off to the ocean (because I assume that's what happens.) And I keep flipping the switch thinking that something is suddenly going to kick into gear while hoping for the best. But all I got was a bunch of nothing.

And then I cussed because I've gotten really good at that lately.

After ten minutes of trying the reset button and unplugging it, the burning smell made it clear that the disposal was busted. This in and of itself would be frustrating enough, but just last week we came home and flipped on the air conditioner only to find it blowing hot air and within twenty-four hours quickly found out what home emergencies funds are for.

Happy we were not. If I had a really good camera, you'd be able to clearly see through all of the mega pixels just how not happy we were.

The crazy thing is that this is the third disposal that I've gone through in my lifetime and I haven't had direct contact with disposals for that long. Standing over the sink the Golfer was just staring at me like what the hell are you doing to these things woman? I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong, but a person who can teach herself HTML and build her own website with a baby on her lap should be able to effectively use a disposal without burning up the motor.

Apparently not.

The only blessing in the situation--actually there were two--was that Home Depot was still open and fortunately I am married to a man who knows how to replace these things. Now I'm just waiting for the next shoe to drop, the third thing to break, because you know these things always happen in threes.

Maybe this time I'll get lucky and it will be my camera.

Weekly Column: Making Plans

(Note: If you haven't figured it out already, I post these columns the week after they run in the paper.)

©Stephenie Freeman

The last few weeks I’ve enjoyed asking other mamas what their plans are for Mother’s Day.

One mama wants to spend the day bike riding. Another mama wants to finally watch the movie “Twilight.” Still another mama told me that she simply wants to be left alone for the day with her books and her coffee and her own cozy spot on the couch.

These mamas have got the day figured out. I have a feeling that they will get what their wanting this year. It’s hard not to when you’re the one doing all of the planning.

We mothers are, by our very nature, planners. One of the major responsibilities of our mothering job includes planning the daily lives of each and every person in the house: every birthday party, sporting event, extracurricular activities, and every single holiday event listed on the calendar. This includes Mother’s Day.

Last year I left all of the planning and gift buying completely up to my lovely spouse and my darling children. After a lukewarm cup of coffee in bed and a quick kiss good morning, I spent the rest of the day doing laundry and watching everyone else relax.

Note to all of my fellow mamas: Never tell your husband and kids that you don’t want a present. You’ll be lying and they’ll being taking you seriously.

I’m not dense enough to make that same mistake twice. As some brilliant mind once said, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” This includes creating Honey-Do lists for your own personal reward.

I’ll admit that I’m not much of a list maker. I do a fairly decent job of keeping track of everything inside of my own head. But I’ve learned the hard way that it’s difficult for other people to know your plan of action if it isn’t written down somewhere.

When you don’t write things down you tend to hear things like, “How was I supposed to know that you wanted that done?” from the husband that you just finished yelling at.

So I decided this year that I would take Mother’s Day planning into my own hands, the way God intended, and create a list of my wishes, hopes and desires for this Mother’s Day.

First, I’d like to sleep in. This of course will require someone else to get up and cook breakfast. Please do not let them eat on the furniture. If I find one more strawberry Pop Tart smeared on the couch I’m going to ban them from the house. (The children, not the Pop Tarts.)

At some point I’d like a nice picture taken of me with my boys. Everyone must be clean and smile without making silly faces or posing like the Incredible Hulk. And by the way, it needs to be taken in good lighting that makes me look thin and rested. In other words, make the impossible possible.

Don’t forget to take the kids shopping for my gift. There’s nothing specific that I want. Just let the kids pick something out. However, do not let them buy me the following: anything related to cooking or cleaning, anything that reminds me of my diet or lack thereof, or any type of clothing especially underwear with the word “angel” written in rhinestones across the crotch. (That actually happened once.)

Finally, I’d like to spend some quality time together as a family doing something that we’d all enjoy. I’d rather not spend it playing video games or playing the boys’ new favorite game, dodge ball, in the backyard. I’m such an easy bruiser.

All I really want this Mother’s Day is to be together, doing something that requires lots of laughing, hugging, and occasionally someone telling me what a great mom I am.
No matter what you do, I promise to act surprised.

I simply couldn’t have planned it better myself.

More Decorating Pics

As promised, here are more pics of the decorating/redecorating that's been going on around here.

Here's the space that we call "the loft." I did have my desk shoved into the corner, but even with the windows, it felt as if you were being punished to sit in the corner. I've tried to hide the computer cords with the red leather chair. Seems to be working fine. I wish that I could make my desk look all cute and creative, but hey, it's a desk. It's more about function than fancy.

Still in the loft. This would be the boys' T.V./video game arcade/lounging space to get away from Mom and Dad.

This is the chair that was meant for the Golfer (in our bedroom) but has served as more of a reading spot for me.

I love this little corner of our bedroom. Those big pics of the boys were taken when they were each a month old. I love the profile shots. The little bench was my great-grandmother's and fits the odd angled wall perfectly.

My bedside table. This was the envelope that my birthday card from the Cheese came in. I'd loved it more than the card itself. It's of course of the four of us. I love it because it's a happy picture, which I hope means that he feels like we're a happy family because of course we are!

Now to my favorite room in the house: the guest bedroom. This is the room that I NEVER let the boys are the dogs go into. It's the one room that's always clean which is perhaps the reason why it's my favorite.

The painters thought I was nuts when I chose this color but I love it. Gotta love the pillow that my friend Kim found for me on esty. Had to have it of course.

So I bought this cool empty frame at IKEA with no idea what I'd put inside. Really I just thought that I've leave it empty. It's cool enough to stand alone. But then I found this old Life magazine when we moved and of course I didn't want to through it away because it had all of these old pics of Princess Diana in it. So instead I thought of doing this collage.

This bedside table was on sale at Pottery Barn. It was one of those finds that I snached up, not believing my luck at finding something that I actually needed that was cheap (or cheaper at least.) The yellow wicker chair was mine when I was a little girl.

This spot is an odd little space in our upstairs hallway. It's part of a linen closet. The grey stones are from the beach that the boys and I collected for the past 2 Mother's Days (didn't make it this year due to a case of strep throat here in the house.)

I hope that you enjoyed my little home tour. Hopefully in the next few months I'll have some pics of a remodeled kitchen to show you. But I'm not holding my breath. The garbage disposal broke the other night. If things keep breaking at this rate, we'll never get the kitchen done!

a simple mother's day

hope yours was just as special.

Weekly Column: Big Birthday Equals Big Wishes

©Stephenie Freeman

In between checking my kids for the swine flu and reading the reports about the mom who was arrested for making her kids walk home, I’ve been racking my brain for ideas. It’s my father’s birthday today and I don’t have a single present to give him.

This birthday is kind of a big one, the Big 6-0, so I really wanted to try and find something unique and special. Big birthdays should be celebrated in big ways. This includes big birthday presents. And since we live 1,300 miles away, I wanted to buy him a present that said, “Sorry we can’t be there in person to wish you a happy birthday, but maybe this big, oversized, expensive present will suffice.”

Gift giving is just hard. I tend to put way too much pressure on myself to buy the perfect present. The whole concept of “it’s the thought that counts” just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t want the thought to be the only thing that counts. I want the fact that I racked my brain and spent weeks coming up with the perfect present to count for something too.

But what do you get for the 60-year-old dad who has everything? And I’m not just saying that he has everything to get myself out of having to find him a great present. He really doesn’t need a single thing.

Which only leaves me with presents that fit into the category of “I can’t think of anything else so here’s a present that I know you can’t reject” like the kid’s artwork and some family photos I’ve been meaning to send for the last several months.

I of course had the kids make the mandatory homemade birthday cards, covered with stickers and love and lots of bad handwriting. As I sat there peeling off stickers that had somehow made their way onto the dog, I started thinking of all of these fantastic present ideas. Presents that my dad would never see coming. Presents that would blow him out of the water. Presents that I could never actually buy for him, even on my best day, due to bank account issues and just plain old common sense.

So instead, here it is Dad. Your birthday present. Instead of taking out ad space to put in a picture of you as a baby with the words “Guess Who’s turning 60?” I’m giving you some of this week’s column space to write you a list of everything that I wish that I could give you for your birthday:

  • Travel the country in an RV—I know that you’ve always wanted to travel in an RV. Your friends reading this might be shocked because on the outside you look like a Ritz Carlton kind of a guy, but I know how much you’ve always wanted to do this. Just don’t ask me to go with you. I might look like a Best Western kind of a gal on the outside, but I’m really a Ritz Carlton girl on the inside.
  • Driving the Indy 500 Pace Car—I remember all of the great stories from your Indy trips you’re your best friends years ago. I’d get you racing lessons too, but I think you’ve had enough broken legs for one lifetime.
  • A round with Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer or better yet, all three—You’d be a fine addition to this threesome, but I have a feeling that you wouldn’t have as much fun with them as you do at the LCC with Danny and Jimmy.
  • A trip around the world—If Great Uncle Fred could do it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. Unlike the RV trip, there’s a stipulation that goes along with this gift: you have to take me with you. I figure if we start to get on each other’s nerves, I can always just leave you behind in Tahiti.

The list could go on and on, but you know better than I do Dad that ink and space cost money in the newspaper business, so I’ll simply close with this:

Happy Birthday, Dad. You don’t look a day over 59.

Goodbye kitchen remodel. It was nice knowing you.

Okay. Part of the nice thing about having a blog is the ability to bitch and complain about things, even if they are things that no one else truly cares about. So bear with me.

So as I've written previously we've been planning this kitchen remodel for a couple of months now. It was set for June--a week and a half that the Golfer could be home to be the extraordinary handy man that he is. Everything was picked out, decisions had been made, we were good to go.

I was excited!

Then yesterday it got really hot here where we live--over 90 degrees according to my car. We have a programmable thermostat that automatically kicks in when it gets over a certain temperature. So after we got home from a story time at the library, pizza at the mall, and a hot game of putt-putt, (yes I know, Mother of the Year is in the bag!) it was no surprise to hear the air conditioner running.

And it continued to run. And run. And run.

As we soon discovered, the air conditioner might have been on, but the fan wasn't working. And if the fan isn't spinning, cool air isn't happening. And if cool air isn't happening, it gets really hot in a house with one side that faces the west on a 90 degree day.

The Golfer and I just stared at each other. We had trouble with this unit last summer. This didn't look good. So we called a repair man who said that he could be out the first thing the next morning.

By 8 o'clock this morning, our worst fears were realized: we needed a new air conditioner.

Ka-BAM! and goodbye kitchen remodel!

A big ass chunk (sorry, when I get irritated I tend to cuss) of the money that we had been saving for the kitchen remodel will now have to go to, you guessed it, a brand-spanking-new air conditioning unit.

Son of a b%*#!!!!

I mean, I'm glad that we had the cash to pay for this cooling and heating emergency and it proves why it is so important to have a little money stashed away for such a thing, but these are the moments when I absolutely hate being a responsible grown up. Who wants to spend lots of hard-earned money on a big metal box that's going to sit in your yard?


But that's not even the part that pisses me off. The REAL thing that I'm frustrated about is the fact that our home warranty--the one that came with the house when we bought it--EXPIRED LAST MONTH!! Isn't that the way life works? It's like there were these little gremlins just sitting around, waiting for the exact moment to crawl into our unit, break the fan and create a mysterious leak in the freon.

No, no! Not yet! Two more weeks until it expires and then we strike!

But here's where it gets really good. According to the repair man that came this morning, the electrical work that we had done on the unit last summer by a repair guy sent by the home warranty people WAS ILLEGAL! I'm not sure what illegal electrical work includes or means exactly, but all I know is that I paid a $50 deductible to have some guy come out and make us look like criminals.

It was 8 o'clock in the morning and I needed a beer.

Instead, I'm getting a new air conditioner. Which is a good thing because today is supposed to be 90 degrees again and as hot as I am right now, if I get any hotter I might kill somebody.

And the poor kitchen remodel? Well, it will have to wait until August. That is, unless the gremlins come back and break more of our stuff.

Free Upgrade: More rearranging and decorating.

on my desk...

in my laundry room...

in the family room...

just a random wall...{my favorite owl candle is hiding on the other side of the books.}

would you like a drink? {the "bar" needs a lamp and the other wall is still waiting for its buffet.}

the "formal" living...

including the dog...

to relax on the porch (which we never do)...

it's the house with the green door...


{more to come}