Monday, June 10, 2013

Operation: Get My Sh*t Together

So far, I can't even say that Operation: Get My Shit Together (or OGMST, as I like to call it) has been a failure, because it just hasn't happened.  At all.  Surely you can't consider it failure when you haven't made a single change? Or perhaps THAT'S the failure, that I've got all these ideas floating around in my head but I haven't even bothered to pause Dexter and get off the couch and put a single one of them into practice. Hmm.  That actually DOES sound worse. At least if I'd tried and failed, at least then I'd have tried.  I'd have done something.

Is it better to try and fail than never try at all? Kinda like that phrase about is it better to have loved and lost than never loved?

I dunno.  I do know one thing, and that's that it's better to try and succeed watching an entire season of Dexter in forty eight hours.  BOOM.

Of course, my husband is unwittingly making me look bad (he doesn't really know about OGMST because it's happening entirely in my own head) by deciding he wanted to build the kids a set of monkey bars and then just doing it.  It took him seven and a half minutes.  Ugh.
 Part One of my OGMST plan is to Feel Better Physically.  This step also has to be broken down in many little steps.  Remember when Joey makes Chandler spend Thanksgiving in the box and they all keep saying how it's three fold?

No? Just me? Whatevs.
Part One Indent A was supposed to be Lose Twenty Pounds.  I don't think we need to rehash the numbers for the millionth time, but I'm WAAAAY above my pre-Warren weight (the last time I felt and looked amazing, in my own humble opinion) and I'm ten pounds heavier than I was when I left Hawaii.  So I wanted to lose ten pounds, reward myself with some Lulemon yoga pants, then work on the remaining ten, which would put me Pre Daisy and only ten small pounds away from Pre Warren.  Thirty pounds.  GROAN.
^^^^^^^^^^^My body made this.  And that down there, but I don't know how to make arrows going down.  So I've cut myself a lot of slack over the years, and truly, I know how badass it is that I grew four real live human beings in the short span of 72 months.  Yes, I did the math.  Got knocked up with Ava in Feb 2005 and delivered the grand finale in Jan of 2011.  That's 72 months. I really am sort of amazing.

But.  And isn't there always a but? But I've been using that as a crutch, using it to justify eating an entire jar of peanut butter.  And not the good organic peanut butter that's just peanuts and salt and you have to stir it, I dig in to Costco sized tubs of Jif. I'd grab a spoon and mutter 'I deserve this, I had four kids in five years, I'm hungry.'
Why is this background grey?

 And truly, I'd stay fat if I felt good.  I don't mind looking the way I look (well, I mind, but I could get over it if I felt okay.) But I've been feeling like shit.  Naturally.  I mean, I'm cramming garbage in my face. "Then I realized living in the garbage wasn't making me feel very good."
 So I started working out.  Five days a week.  And it didn't help. That's not true, it made me feel SO MUCH BETTER.  But still fat, and still not able to zip my jeans.  So I tried a diet program, and I don't want to name it because I hate to bash on it, and I'm still hoping for some dramatic results, but so far, that's not working either.  Still fat, still not able to zip my jeans.
 But I feel amazing.  I really do.  I work out and I feel energized and happy and put together.  I believe in the power of endorphins.  Not sure I'm buying into the whole 'I feel better when I eat better' crapola, but I cut out diet coke completely for the beginning of my diet thing, and now I'm down to one a day most days, and I think I feel better.
 So who knows.  What else can I do except either keep doing what I'm doing (which is counting every single calorie with My Fitness Pal and doing a Jillian Michael's tape four or five times a week, depending on the weekend, in case anyone is interested in a plan that does NOT work) or have very extensive reconstructive surgery?

And now I can't think of a Part One Indent B. So let's move on to Part Two: Feel Better Mentally.

^^^^^^^^I wanna feel like THAT guy, all the time.  Or at least a lot of the time. We found a church that I really like, although it's hard to tell.  Basically, I'm pretty much mesmerized by anyone with a British accent.  So I can't tell if the messages are really that good, or if I just like listening to British people talk.  But I figure either way, it's a good first step.  Next will be getting involved in a Bible study and actually DOING the work.

Also, I'm still taking my Zoloft religiously.  It's been surprisingly sunny these last two weeks, and the fact that the sun rises at four thirty and sets after ten doesn't hurt, so I haven't used my Crazy Lamp in a while, but it's still set up in the office for when I need it.  Sometimes, I don't even realize that I DO need it, until Angela says 'hey moron, go turn your lamp on.' Always nice to have a helpful friend.

I'm trying to cut down on TV.  As always.  I've been trying to cut down on TV for the last twenty seven years. I just really love TV. Like, a lot.  The problem is that after the kids go to bed, Nick and I just sort of collapse on the couch and watch two hours of Sons or The League and then going to bed.  Which is fine, except that I usually have nine baskets of laundry to fold and some picking up to do because I watched two straight hours of Dexter and The Good Wife during naps.  So that's a problem.

And I'm about to tackle my latest project: The Biggest Most Intricate Quilt Someone Who Has Never Sewn a Single Stitch Has Ever Tackled.  I'm SOOOO excited.  But I think I'm going to need to put at least an hour a day on that.  So either afternoon or evening TV is going to take a serious hit.

Which sucks.
Hello? Is there a way you can beam the TV directly into my brain so I can watch while I do other, more productive things?

Also, this sounds dumb, but part of feeling better mentally has actually been figuring out how to use Spotify (we don't get pandora) and having AMAZEBALLS playlists going all day.  This house is wired for sound (do I sound like I know what I'm talking about?) so I can set up the ipad with a six hour playlist and then listen to it no matter where I wander around the house.  That really helps keep the TV off, and music always puts me in a better mood.  My current obsessions are Monsters and Men (thanks Nikki!!) and Young the Giant.  And of course, I'm refreshing myself with The Killers since I'll be seeing them in like ten days, but honestly, I don't need much refreshment because The Killers are basically engrained in my DNA by now.
This poor dog, my sweet friend had us over the other day and of course, my kids have never been around dogs.  Daisy KICKED her in the face, screamed that she hated her, and tried to ride her like a pony.  Dog never barked or growled or even really bothered to move.  I'm not into dogs, but if for some reason I needed to have one, I'd want THIS one.  Love.

Part Three of OGMST is to Get This House Under Control.
This house? I can handle this house, you deal with your house. 

This house is huge. I have a cleaning plan, but I don't stick to it.  It goes hand in hand with the way that I watch too much TV...but still.  Part of OGMST is to figure out how to stay on top of the laundry and dishes, and getting my time under control, and not realizing at the last minute that I've got an appointment at Ava's school in five minutes. All suggestions welcome.

And that's it. Now I'll just bombard you with the rest of these pictures. You're welcome.

Hopefully one day, I'll actually start to WORK on OGMST and I'll have another post with updates and success stories and tips for everyone to have a fabulous perfect life like I do. 

If I were you though, I wouldn't hold my breath. 
Engelbrecht out. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Traveling With Kids (and more pics)

So, obviously, when I was younger, I always thought it would be cool to travel, but I didn't really GET those people that were like TRAVEL ADDICTS, MUST SEE ALL THE THINGS. But now? Now I get it.  I feel like my life at home in Northwood is basically just a waiting game, and my REAL life is when we get in that little Ford SMax and hit the road.  THAT'S LIVING.  I want to see ALL THE THINGS.
And yes, it helps that we're just outside of London and can get to neat places rather quickly, but honestly, other than being in Guam, you can basically travel from anywhere.  Surely there's cool things to see in America.  In Mississippi even. And the idea that people skip out on the wonder that is travel just because they have kids? That turns my stomach.  Just go!!! GO!!!
So.  In the interest of wanting everyone to agree with me and feel and think the same way that I do, I put together Travel Tips.  YOU'RE WELCOME.
Tip One: Where to stay when you get to wherever it is you're going.  DO NOT STAY IN A HOTEL. Hotels are for suckers.  Or for rich people.  Or for rich suckers who only have one kid.  If you have more than one kid, you need a house.  And entire house, with beds behind closed doors, and even better a kitchen.
Our house in Bruges.
And a washing machine.  Now, if you have more than one kid, you're doing laundry every day anyway. So you can either pack every single shirt your kids own and not have to do laundry on vacation and have twenty seven loads to do the day you get back, or you can suck it up and just do laundry on vacation.  Yes, it sucks, but that's what you get for having so many kids.

We use to find houses, but I've heard great things about airbnb too.  And for those of you who have a creepy feeling about this, or you think of that Kate Winslet movie The Holiday where they swap houses, it's not like that.  Most of these people (although NOT the ones in Paris) have these homes for the SPECIFIC purpose of renting them out.  They're stocked with dishes and clean sheets and towels, and they're ready for strangers.  It's not like the owners live there day to day and then go to a hotel when you show up, leaving all their icky soap and leftovers and hair in the showers.

At least, that's been our luck.  The only 'bad' experience we've had was in Wales, and that wasn't even actually bad, it just kind of wasn't fantabulous.

Tip Two: Don't pack a bunch of shit you don't need. Ever since Ava was tiny and when we were only going to visit my sister a few hours away, I've always packed my kids' clothes in gallon sized ziplock bags.  Pants, shirt, undershirt, undies, socks, and jammies for Warren and Daisy, who are still small enough that all of that will fit in one bag.  Ava and Scott are now tall giants, so their jammies just get thrown on top of the suitcase.
With four kids, we use one big suitcase for the kids, and one for me and Nick and our toiletries.  We used to bring fullsized shampoo and shit, but that was dumb, so now we use a travel kit from Ikea.  I filled it up when I bought it and hopefully won't have to refill it for a year or something.  I got four sets, so that I have a full set of each color.  My stuff goes in all the pink bottles, Nick's stuff goes in all the orange (plus two oranges for lotion because he only uses two things and my eczema babies go through a LOT of lotion) and the girls get purple and the boys get green.  Everyone knows what to grab for shower time, and it ALL fits in the Ikea case.  Ikea for ever.  Seriously.
Anyway, I've worked out that for us, three outfits is plenty.  Especially considering it's never EVER going to warm up, so they're wearing their jackets in all their pictures anyway, so no one knows they're wearing the same thing over and over.  Three outfits, plus what they're wearing when we leave the house, plus extra pants for Daisy in case her diaper explodes and an extra outfit for the trunk for Warren in case he's alive, and we're good to go.  Bonus, with three outfits, if for some reason I can't get to laundry one day, we CAN survive.  It just sucks.
Tip Three: get an iPad.  Since I'm no longer in competition for Mom of the Year (I dropped out of that race the day we brought Baby Ava home from the hospital) I have no qualms.  I want my kids to shut their mouths in the car so that Nick and I can hold hands and listen to Mumford and look at the scenery.  I don't want to hear made up knock knock jokes for seven hours, and I CERTAINLY don't want to listen to them cry. The big kids in the back row share Nick's iPad, Daisy gets mine (God we sound like awful people.  Nick got an iPad during that awful deployment in Guam, summer 2011, and it was the original so it doesn't have anything cool and someone <no names> broke it a little and the screen is wonky, so he got a new one a few years later, so now I have the old one) and Warren gets Nick's phone.  This could all be avoided if we didn't live in the suburbs of London and could drive a mini van with a DVD player, but since we already had all these Apple products anyway, it wasn't that big of a deal.
And for some reason (probably because they know that all they have to do is ask and I'll hand the screens over) my kids are mostly really good travelers.  Car travelers anyway.  They'll read books, draw, talk to each other, just be dummies.  They sit still, they don't usually complain, they're good.  In fact, during that awful deployment in Guam, I used to load them up in the van and just drive up to Andersen because I knew it would buy me two hours of peace and quiet.
Tip Four: If you have a kid who cries nonstop about hating to walk, buy a second stroller.  No one cares.  No one is going to look at your four year old sitting in a stroller and say "that kid is too old for a stroller." And even if she does, you won't care, because you'll be pushing your four year old up the coblestone streets, holding hands with your lover and gazing at breasts and penises molded from chocolate.

And the lady saying nasty things will be dragging HER screaming four year old behind her, broken out in a sweat and having a miserable time. You probably won't even HEAR her nasty comment because you'll be all high on the endorphins from walking and seeing ALL THE THINGS and enjoying yourself.  So seriously.  Get the second stroller.  Ava is SEVEN and she needs a break every now and then too.  You certainly can't expect kids to walk ten miles a day up ancient European streets with no breaks.
Tip Five: Take breaks.  Again, ever since Ava was a wee one, and we ventured to Disney with her and Baby Scott, we kept up with nap schedules.  This is why my kids are such excellent nappers.  Hate on haters.  Take a break.  If you can't get back to the house for a proper nap, at least put them in the car for a cat nap while you go look at something else. Also, if you have another stroller, you can nap two of them in those suckers.  Win win.
Tip Six: Plan.  Plan plan plan.  Yes, Bruges was nice, and I didn't plan a thing.  But.  BUT. I am a planner.  People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan.  When we did Disney before coming to Guam, I planned our daily itineraries to the hour.  Seriously.  And everyone laughed at me, but you know what? We rode every single ride we wanted to ride, we saw everything we wanted to see, and I got every picture I wanted to capture. Same with Scotland and Ireland.  I want to do specific things, and I know that Nick is fine with going with the flow, so if I want to make sure I get to see what I want to see, I plan for it.  Specifically.  Don't be embarrassed.  If you're embarrassed, just don't show anyone how detailed your plan is. But if you're only going to go to Ireland ONCE in your life, and you have a few MUST DOs, you better plan it out, including drive time, distance, traffic considerations, bathroom breaks, hours of operation for the specific location, pictures you'd like to capture, coresponding hours of the day to get the best picture, PLAN IT ALL OUT.  The less you leave to chance, the more likely you are to accomplish most of what you want to do.  And believe it or not, extensive planning makes it EASIER to go with the flow.  Say I plan three things for the day, but we end up having a FANTASTIC lunch and spending an extra hour at the pub.  Well, I can look at my detailed files and quickly rearrange any little thing to accommodate my NEW plan. I know it seems counterintuitive, especially to people who don't plan plan PLAN like I do, but seriously, having a well oiled plan truly does make it easier to go with the flow.  I don't make the rules, but I can vouch for their efficacy.

Tip Seven: just go.  I don't know what else to advise you to do.  Just plan it out, get in the car, and go.  That's the only way you're going to see stuff.  When we get back to the States, I plan on renting an RV and just going to see a bunch of stuff.  Wouldn't that be fun? But the first step is to just GO.  Make sense?

Engelbrecht out.