Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014

Well, NaBloPoMo didn't work so well for me, did it?  Too much work travel and too tired at night.

I'm terrible at uploading photos and the girls scrapbooks from their baby years are a thing of the past.  I have a mild resolution to be better about keeping up with photos in 2015, but first I need to spend some time on pinterest to figure out the different techniques and how I want to manage it.

I'd like to keep this blog for my own thoughts and for a record of the bigger celebrations - so that one day, when the girls are in high school or college and I'm at a scrapbooking workshop working on scrapbooks from elementary school, I'll have some sort of a written record to look back on.

Christmas Eve was a bit of a mess - I had convinced the family to wait and go to church on Christmas Day.  Ramona spent the morning at gymnastics camp, Beezus wandered around the house moaning and whining, and Mr. Q helped me work on my back log of 12 months of expense reports.  The girls and I made Christmas cookies in the afternoon and then in the late afternoon Beezus had a melt-down which resulted in a forced walk around the block.  This sort of melt-down happens every time she doesn't have adequate physical activity and/or fresh air!  Mr. Q took them for pizza for dinner while I did more expense reports, and then we finished up the Christmas cookies and wrapping for Mr. Q in the evening.

Opening sister gifts; Beezus gave Ramona fuzzy socks;
Ramona gave Beezus a snowflake she had made at school.

When the girls have trouble falling asleep, the quickest way to get them there is so sit in the hallway outside their room.

Santa's elves organized gifts for the 12 Days of Christmas and wrapped late into the night.

Christmas yesterday was so, so lovely.  After a disasterous Christmas Eve (the by-product of too much unstructured inside time), I knew that Christmas Day needed to have more structure if it was going to be a peaceful day.

Sometimes I think that's a shame, that our family can't be cooped up inside all day without getting on each other's nerves.  Some days, it does work like that - but I can never tell which days it will work out and which days it won't.  So in order to hedge my bets, I decided to create a little structure for Christmas Day.

We woke up in the morning and opened presents.  The girls had a couple from their aunties and grandparents, 2 from Mr. Quimby and me, and 3 joint gifts from Santa.  We celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas, so several of the girls gifts will re-appear later in the week along with several family activities and outings.  We opened a few, took a break to eat a little breakfast, opened a few more, and then the mad dash was on to get ready for church.  Mr. Q and the girls went ahead without me, preparing a bigger crowd than usual (and our church is crowded every single Sunday anyway).

Girls chose their own outfits from our favorite consignment store.  Last year was the
last time for matching Hanna Andersson dresses evidently.  Sniff sniff.

I arrived on time and we were able to sit in our regular seats which is nice.  Mass was simple, we saw a few friends and then headed to Ihop for breakfast.  I was steadfastly against going to Ihop because I believe it promotes a market for businesses to stay open on Christmas when I think they shouldn't.  I acquiesed to keep the peace and it was a nice way to get a filling meal into the girls.

I knew the girls needed some physical activity in order to stave off the inevitable late afternoon melt-down, so we had some forced outdoor time.  I texted a few other families who I knew didn't have family in town or visiting and fibbed to the girls that they were thinking about coming to play so we needed to hustle to the playground.  The girls showed me all the games they played at recess and the "secret hide-outs" in the bushes where they go during recess.

We came home, tidied up a little bit, and settled in to watch a Christmas Story.  This is Mr. Quimby's all time favorite movie and the girls got some of the jokes.

The menu for dinner was a spiraled ham, turkey, mashed potatoes and green beans.  Yet again, it is always so upsetting when the girls won't try new foods and Mr. Q had asked me ahead of time to please not freak out and just let it go today.  I did, but I can't help but worry about the longer term implications of children who won't try new foods.  At least Ramona ate the mashed potatoes though.  We used one of our new family gifts which is "Table Topics."  It was fun to hear the answers to the questions and learn new things about each other.
Eating in the dining room and with china!  Proud of me and Mr. Q for letting that happen.

There was more clean-up than usual after dinner and while Mr. Q did the dishes, I tidied up the living room.  I have a new-ish strategy where each family member has a designated step on the stairs and all their stuff gets piled on that step.  It seems to make the room neater although the steps still look like a disaster!

Since we had late night on Christmas Eve, Mr. Q and I were in bed shortly after the girls.  We could look out the window and see the snow falling and it felt so peaceful.  I counted my many blessings and thought again how grateful I am for this life, even with its inevitable hills and valleys.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


A canceled religion class and no friends around to play resulted in a LOVELY unexpected afternoon at home today for me and the girls.

I halfheartedly worked and putzed around the house and for the most part tried to leave them to their own devices, but took frequent breaks to answer a homework question here or there or remind them that they might want to have a snack before they got hangry.

They absolutely refused to go outside, so they stayed in and played pretend and "snuck" an extra 20 minutes on the iPad.

This was in marked contrast to yesterday evening when Ramona and I got into a power play.  She wanted help with her writing homework but was frustrated and was taking it out on me.  After several episodes, I had reached my limit and stormed off while yelling that I wasn't going to help people who kept yelling at me.  She came to me a few minutes later asking for help as if nothing had just transpired.  80-90% of the time I can keep my cool while my they are spiraling up, but that other 10-20% eludes me.

I'm left with two thoughts: Ramona carries absolutely no grudge for when I yelled at her yesterday evening; that sort of unconditional love and forgiveness is just amazing.  Although the girls have very few activities right now and lots of opportunities for unscheduled time on a regular basis, it's still such a gift to have an unexpected afternoon off.

Monday, November 17, 2014


It's amazing to me how God works.  I have been comforted lately by the knowledge lately that God knows what is in my heart, even when I am tired and frustrated and being short with my family, or when I forget to say prayers of Thanksgiving but I feel grateful, or when I forgotten to say prayers of petition but I have a yarning in my heart for something.  Even when I do not voice these things in prayer, God still knows.

Sometimes I have a thought or a want or need in my heart and I find it addressed or answered and I wonder to myself later "how did God answered that prayer I never even spoke it out loud?"

What is also amazing to me is how God answers my prayers, sometimes more quickly than anyone would ever think is possible.

I've been thinking for a few weeks now that even with the vision therapy, there is still something funky going on with the way that Ramona learns.  I voiced this concern to our friends in our small church community meeting a couple weeks ago and I asked for prayers for wisdom because I don't know where to go next. All of my life I always have a plan for everything and this time I don't know what my next step should be.  

When I finished speaking, one of the members of our group (a pediatrician) said "let's chat for a few minutes after the meeting, I have some ideas for you."

I'll go into another detail in another post about his ideas, but here we are less than two weeks later and Ramona has assessments scheduled with two of the top educational psychologists in the Colorado area.

In the space of 10 days, because of the request for prayers that I spoke out loud and because of the way that God sent us on the path to this parish, and because of these people that are in our small church community (who don't even go to this parish anymore), my prayer has been answered.  What's even more ironic is that this pediatrician and his family have actually left the Catholic Church. They have joined another denomination but they also wanted to keep their ties to their former denomination and parish, so they have remained as active members of the small church community.

The path that has led us to these appointments for Ramona is filled with so many coincidences that it's simply not possible that they are only coincidences.

Is this God's Grace?  In this moment I can't recall the technical definition of grace, but I seem to believe that it refers to God loving us even when we don't deserve it.  This is the work of the Lord, reminding me again and again, that he hears my prayers (whether they are spoken aloud or in my heart), that he is here with me, next to me, walking this path with me offering me comfort and reassurance every step of the way.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Internal Mommy Wars

Things are going well on the work front:

  • Some pretty good successes at work recently with some building code and regulatory issues
  • A good system for packing for work travel
  • Thanks to counseling and more prep time, the anxiety I get before a trip has gotten down to a reasonable level
  • I'm still struggling with how to "get my work done" while on the road, but other than that and perpetually feeling like I'm behind or there is more that I could be doing, I'm managing my time in the office fairly well.

Mr. Quimby and I were at his work event a few weeks ago and were talking with a senior female executive from his company who is fairly well known as one of those "power women."  We were talking about our work travel and she complimented both of us on "leaning in."  I felt like I wanted to punch her in the face.  There has never been a time that Mr. Quimby hasn't "leaned in" other than when our children were born and her compliment felt patronizing.

That conversation and my recent work successes really created a flare up in my internal mommy wars, and I started to entertain the notion of looking for a client in a different industry to take on: maybe helping small businesses run efficiently, some light regulatory work for the oil/gas industry, or a way to get more people higher levels of work skills training so that they can address the shortage of skilled labor in this country (did you know there is a HUGE shortage of truck drivers?  Some shipping companies that ship commercial and industrial freight are able to pick and choose the jobs they take).

On the other hand, I'm almost at the end of 2 weeks with no work travel and I joked with my friends that I have taken back control of my house.  Mr. Quimby does a wonderful job when I'm gone and for the most part the girls experience a pretty seamless transition.  I LOVE being home in the afternoons after school, managing the activities and the homework, staying on top of the home exercises for Ramona's vision therapy.  I even like managing bedtime and I love reading the book and then laying with each child before she goes to sleep.

This arrangement that we have now works for us.  I wish I could just be content instead of wondering what else might come next.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Quick change

I've been doing a lot of work travel recently and I've got it down to a pretty good routine with several systems in place to help me.  One of those systems is doubles of everything for my toiletry bag except glasses and contacts.  Another is that I bring granola bars and almonds to eat for breakfast as that saves me a lot of time.  I always book rooms with double beds so that I can use one to unpack my suitcase and spread it all out on the bed.

But the habit that offers me the greatest pleasure is putting on jeans and clogs (in the hotel or airport bathroom) for the ride home!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Paternity Leave

The article Paternity Leave: The Rewards and the Remaining Stigma posted in the New York Times on November 7th could have been written about MY husband.  
  • Maximum amount of paternity leave while Mom goes back to work?  Check.  
  • System for freezing and thawing breast milk?  Check.  
  • Traveling to wife's workplace at lunchtime so baby could nurse?  Check.  
  • Washing breastpump parts and re-packing in the morning? Check.  
  • Career track being negatively affected?  Well, maybe it was temporarily but he seems to have recovered from that now.
When I was pregnant with Beezus, Mr. Quimby approached his employer (an industry trade association) and said that when his wife returned to work, he wanted to use his accrued sick leave as a paternity leave.  He had been with his employer for several years, was well respected and known as a hard worker.  It was sort of anti-climatic in a way - there wasn't any big discussion, they just said yes.  He wound up taking off for 2 weeks after she was born, 6 weeks when I first went back to work, and then another 6 weeks of working part-time.  He didn't take off quite as long with Ramona, but I do remember it was several weeks.  The thing is, even if his career did take a hit, albeit temporarily, it was worth it.  The bonding that he did with the babies and the way that he learned how to care for them, on his own, without any notes or instructions from me continues to this day.  All that work travel I've started doing?  I never leave a note - details about activities are in the family google calendar and I make sure after-school babysitters are booked and that's it.

Perhaps it would have worked out that way even if he hadn't taken paternity leave, but I definitely think it set the stage.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Amazing Grace

Something happened to me in the past year - I lost part of myself.

I don't know when, but I know it was after the move.  I think I know the reason(s) why and a big part of that was doubting myself.  My spiritual life wasn't that great and that always affects me.  Then there was the move, the adjustment, husband, kids, work, etc.  Those very same things that probably plague you, dear reader, on some days.  There were things that made it better and things that made it worse...

and I knew that I didn't feel quite right sometimes over the past 13 months, but I'm a high-emotion person anyway and not feeling quite right is typical sometimes.  It's part of who I am.

There were lots of good days and fun times mixed in with the hard and sad times, so it's not like it was all bad.

A couple months ago I decided that I needed to clear my head and so I started looking for a counselor to talk to.  The website Psychology Today has a great search engine and filter and led me to some good possibilities right away.  See, there are different kinds of counselors/therapist and different modalities (sort of like approaches or perspectives) that they use.  I've benefitted in the past from seeing a licensed clinical social worker (LICSW-C) who used the approach of cognitive-behavioral therapy, so that's the type of person I started looking for.  Instead I found a licensed professional counselor with a master's degree in therapeutic counseling and 17 years experience.  Best of all, early on in her career, she used to work in the prison system with parolees so basically there's nothing I ever say that she finds shocking!

Therapy is a funny thing - many people go for a few sessions, treat the surface issues, and feel better; and that's awesome for them.  That's where I was a couple weeks ago - 5 sessions under my belt, I had figured out a couple really important things that made a difference to me.  It would have been easy to stop then.  But I know myself and I know that I needed more, so I kept going.

After a couple more sessions, a lightbulb went off in my head and it was an ah-ha moment.

I felt right again; and feeling right helped me see more clearly that I had been feeling not quite right feeling over the past 13 months.

It's a hard thing to talk about, to admit here, that I need help sometimes.  But I am a person who is emotionally intense and I have a high need to talk and process.  There's nothing wrong with that - it's just who I am and it's asking a lot of Mr. Quimby, or my friends, parents or sisters to always have to listen to me.

I was lost ... but I've found myself again.

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