Friday, December 26, 2008

An Unexpected End to Christmas

After spending a lovely Christmas with my parents (with the exception of missing my husband), the boys (minus Blake) and I drove around and looked at Christmas lights for a while before we came home. When we got home, it was probably somewhere between 8:30-9:00pm - time for the boys to be in bed. I got them unloaded and we came in the house.

It hit me immediately. Something was wrong. I was talking on the phone with Chris as we walked in the door from the garage, and he heard me when I gasped "Oh my God! The back door is open. It's open!" It was about 3 or 4 inches agape. I stood there for a moment, then Chris said "Take the boys and get out of the house." So we turned around and went back out. I put them in the van, locked the doors and started back towards the house. Chris and I discussed what I should do next. I asked where the gun was (he has a shot gun for hunting, and I was hoping it was in the garage), and he told me it was in the bedroom closet. Not helpful. I thought about getting the bug spray and something heavy to hit with or maybe a shovel to use as a shield. I ended up going back in with nothing. Chris had me look around, and I went as far in as to turn on the hall light. Then we both got freaked out and decided I should call the police.

I went back outside, and right at that moment the van alarm started blaring. Leave it to 3-year-old boys to mess around with all of the buttons and switches they can get their little hands on when Mommy is not there and they are not buckled in their car seats. I had grabbed the home phone before going back out, and I called 911. They said they would send a police officer right over.

I got back into the van with the boys, and chatted with Chris while we waited for the police. At this point, my thoughts were that there had not been a break-in. From the brief time that I was inside, I noticed that my dog was still alive and that he did not seem to be freaking out at all. I'm thinking if someone had really intended to burgle us, then they would not let a dog stop them. And I really don't know how much of a threat Jaz really is, but he would at least bark his head off at a stranger, especially if Chris and I were not around. I would think an ill-intentioned intruder would put a stop to that. Secondly, the stuff that I would think would be desirable (and easy!) to lift quickly was still in place and intact (TV, laptop, etc.). I thought of the possibility that perhaps someone maybe had intended on breaking in, but only got the door open so far before the barking dog scared him (I'm not trying to be sexist here - it's just easier) off. The last scenario that we entertained was that perhaps the wind blew it open a bit (even though there is a storm door on the outside of it that closes towards the house, AND it wasn't really windy today).

We had concluded that I must have left the door unlocked. I sometimes do this, and Chris has (repeatedly) requested that I lock it EVERY TIME I let the dog back inside, even if we are there. Just to get in the habit, he says. Well, I do try to remember, I honestly do. But my brain is not all that reliable anymore. And it is really frustrating! But I have left it unlocked before when we've gone somewhere, and I've received more than one lecture about not doing that. So I was feeling really guilty about it, and Chris was giving me a quite stern lecture about how this is why he says to lock it every time, yadda yadda yadda.

I saw the patrol car come slowly down our road. I knew it was the police because the lights were almost off, and then they turned them off completely and turned into a drive or something a couple of houses down. Chris informed me that this was standard protocol, and that they would most likely approach our house on foot. I kept talking with him and was looking down the road, and then I turned my head to see a face right outside the van window. Talk about an adrenaline rush - that about scared me half to death. It was the police officer. Whew. I tried to apologize for startling and he put his finger up to his lips for me to be quiet. I was impressed with (and intimidated by) his serious demeanor. He meant business. He was going to serve and protect us, and I was in awe.

The officer had me come with him so he could ask me a few questions. Had I gone in? Were there any dogs in the house? Would the dog try to bite? Was there anyone else in there? Those kinds of things. I asked if I should try to get the dog out of the house, and he said yes. I was still on my cell phone with Chris, and I tried to call the dog out (after he had his initial bark at the officer who was standing between the dog and me). I was asking Chris where a collar or leash was, and I must have been taking too long because the officer then said to me, "Hang up the phone and pick up the dog." Yes sir! I complied immediately, and realized then that my dog is really overweight. I mean, I already knew that, but sheesh he's heavy.

The boys were having a grand old time in the van, and were pleased as punch to see the dog join the party. I watched the officer begin his search, gun outstretched, like they do in the movies. I was relieved, scared, thrilled, and really grateful all at the same time. It gave me a chance to think about how serious police officers train for their jobs, and how hard they work to be prepared for scary situations. And I felt very confident that this officer was good at his job. He made me feel safe and secure from the get-go.

I saw another officer appear from the darkness and enter the house through the garage. And a few minutes after that, another one. There were 3 police officers in my home! Making sure we were going to be safe from harm. And all I could think at that point was - oh man, they are inside my disaster area of a house. The clutter! The mess! Can they even walk around in there? I joked with Chris about this (we needed some levity, OK?), saying "I'm sorry miss, but we could not locate any perpetrators underneath all of the clutter. We're going to have to excavate immediately." He chuckled. Meanwhile the boys were happily eating a snack of pancakes (I had brought some leftovers home from my parents' house), not concerned in the least.

A woman officer showed up outside the van (that made 4! 4 police officers at my house!) and told me that I needed to go inside and inspect the place to see if anything looked amiss. She said she would watch the kids and the dog. They were delighted to talk with her. I went inside, and the first police officer said that there was no sign of forced entry or tampering with anything, but that the door was unlocked. I admitted that it was probably my fault, and he told me how important it is that I always lock the doors when I leave (where have I heard that before?). I was pretty convinced that there had not been an intruder, as I looked over and saw some Christmas cash lying out in plain view that had gone untouched. I inspected the rest of the house, and everything seemed to be completely normal. As I looked inside the nursery, I was SOOO thankful that I didn't have the baby with me (he would have not been patient or happy at all). Once I was finished, the officers gave me the all-clear to get my kids out of the van and go inside. I thanked them and wished them a Merry Christmas.

I still felt uneasy about it all. I am by myself, after all, with two little kids under my care. I let the dog out. He barked (as he usually does - we have cats who sometimes get into our yard), and I wondered - is he barking at a lurking stranger intending to do us harm? I tried to put those thoughts out of my head.

I got the boys to bed and decided to call my parents to let them know what had happened, and to ask for some extra prayers for safety and protection (besides the lecture, Chris made it very clear that he was not comfortable with us living on our own - he's such a great protector!). My dad answered, and I told him of our excitement. He stopped me before I got very far and said, "Um...I think maybe I left the door open." What? Oh yeah. I had totally forgotten that he came to my place today to grab some stuff, and while he was here he let the dog out. Then he must have gotten distracted (he did fix a hinge on the door leading to the garage) and didn't close the door all the way. He apologized profusely for putting us through that, and I was like - are you kidding? I am so thankful it was you and not some intruder! I did have to ask if he remembered whether or not he had to unlock the door when he let the dog out. He said he did remember, and that he did have to unlock it. Which means I did lock it in the first place! Hooray! I did make sure to let Chris know when I called him back.

When I put the boys to bed, I hugged them extra tight. And during prayers, I thanked God for those police officers and our dog. And you know what? I was not even irritated in the least by my dad's blunder. I just kept thinking of how grateful I was (am!) that I had an answer for what had happened. And I was so glad that I called my dad, even though I thought maybe I shouldn't since it was 10:00pm and everything was fine. I am just glad that I can take a sigh of relief and feel safe in my home once more. And besides that, it was kind of an adventure. It was a thrill to see those police officers in action. For my sake. They put their lives in danger and answer the call of duty daily to make this world a better place. And it made me think of the true meaning of Christmas once again. Not such a bad way to end Christmas, after all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Some of My Favorite Christmas Movies

As I've been contemplating Christmas, there are lists of favorites that come to my mind: favorite foods, movies, gifts, decorations, traditions, and the like. I recently came across this in a friend's blog, and thought I would attempt to compile a list of some of my favorite Christmas movies. There are SO MANY Christmas movies that I LOVE (ask my husband - I can do Christmas movie marathons for weeks, and sometimes in the summer), so I won't even try to list them all. The list is too long, and I like different movies for different reasons. Plus I'm not sure I could name my very favorite. So I'm going to focus on the Christmas movies I loved as a child.

I loved watching the Christmas specials on TV as a child. When I was a kid, when a show came on, you had to watch it THEN or else you didn't get to see it. I remember those special times we got to eat dinner on TV trays and watch special programming as a family - what a treat that was! We eventually got a VCR, and my dad would tape shows for repeat viewing. A few years back I came across a tape with Christmas shows on it, and was flooded with nostalgia. Here are a few that I remember watching with great fondness (and these are in no particular order):

The Year Without a Santa Claus:
This continues to be one of my all-time favorites. I love Jangle the Elf, Snow Miser, and Mickey Rooney as Santa Claus. There's not really a Rankin/Bass video that I haven't liked, but this one is at the top.

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear:
Another Mickey Rooney classic. Kind of has the feel of It's a Wonderful Life, but with (what was then, back in 1984) a modern twist.

Jim Henson's Muppets: The Christmas Toy:
If I didn't know better (and really, I don't), I would say that Disney's Toy Story idea came directly from this 1986 Muppet special. It's super cute and clever, and done in true Muppet style. Plus I like watching it now (from my dad's old tape) because the old commercials really crack me up.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!:
Good ol' Dr. Seuss. His whimsical, rhyming storytelling genius really shines in this animated classic. Heartwarming and clever, it is on my must-see list every year.

Mickey's Christmas Carol:
I love the story from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. And I love Mickey Mouse. So it stands to reason that I would love this version of the classic Christmas tale. And I do.

The Night They Saved Christmas:
I thought the storyline of this movie was different enough to make it interesting. It stars Scott Grimes, who was the cute boy from Who's the Boss (Sam's boyfriend), who was also in It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, and who incidentally ended up as an adult actor (he's now on E.R.). But that was enough to keep my attention, back then. I should watch it again and see if I still like it.

Frosty the Snowman:
When I watch this video with my kids now, I admit I get a little annoyed at obvious plot flaws and hoakie-ness. But I loved it as a child, and my boys love it now. So I will continue to watch it and just gloss over the fact that Frosty is smart enough to speak full sentences upon first wake but for some reason says "Happy Birthday."

A Christmas Story:
Ok, so I said I couldn't name my favorite, but this could be it. It's for sure in the top 3, at least. I love so much about this movie: the fact that they use Peter and the Wolf music, and that it's set in Indiana of all places (where I grew up! and live now!). And here's a little fact that some of you may not know: the main character (Ralphie) shows up in another great Christmas movie as an adult - the movie Elf starring Will Ferrell (he's a head elf).

Santa Claus is Coming to Town:
Another great Rankin/Bass production. This one is great because you get to see the story of how Santa Clause becomes Santa Clause (I'm a sucker for backstory). And again, Mickey Rooney is definitely the best Rankin/Bass Santa Claus in my book. Plus he can sing!

Santa Claus - The Movie:
I love Dudley Moore in this film. He is an endearing elf who just wants to share goodness with the world and find favor with Santa Claus. Plus John Lithgow is great as the villain. I like the backstory in this one too, and I really really wanted one of those puce lollipops.

I know there are several more that are worth mentioning, but I'll leave it at ten. I do have other Christmas-y things to do, you know. I hope you get to see some Christmas specials this year that bring back warm memories for you, as these do for me.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Life is a Series of Tradeoffs

You know, this could be a really, really long post. But I'm going to try and focus on one particular topic here. Be forewarned, this is going to contain very personal information (men, feel free to skip this one). If you are not interested in "female stuff," I suggest you stop here and check back later for more entertaining material.

I came to the end of a journey. A long, painful, exhausting, and difficult (but worthwhile) journey. I am officially done pumping. If you haven't read why I was pumping exclusively for the past 10 months (minus the last few weeks), you can catch up here. I had intended to post about my experiences with exclusive pumping along the way, but for some reason I never got around to it. I will now attempt to recap some of the more interesting facts about it:
  • Most of the time pumping was a multi-tasking experience. Usually it was pumping while on the computer and eating a meal. My hope (fantasy) was to be able to carry my pump in a tote or backpack and do my household tasks while pumping. And I actually did do this a few times, until the battery pack option failed (of course). I was able to do some cooking and kitchen duties while pumping, which was nice (though cumbersome). My favorite memory of using this method though, would have to be when I was decorating cakes for the boys' birthday while pumping. Another extreme multi-tasking memory was when I was standing in the Atlanta airport, waiting for a flight connection - pumping, talking on my cell phone, and putting my contacts in at the same time.
  • I pumped in some very interesting places. Many times I would pump in the car on the way to a destination. I had to pump in bathrooms, other people's houses, airports (as previously mentioned), the office (when I worked), at get the picture. I had to take my pump everywhere.
  • I pretty much had to swallow my pride and give up modesty and dignity while pumping. I had to pump in front of strangers, friends, was horrifying to me in many cases. I did my best to be discreet. I covered myself up with blankets, tried to use clothing that would make it more modest, but it was very difficult to pull off the process without flashing boob at some point. To say it was embarassing would be an understatement of extreme proportions.
So now I'm done. I am free of the milk machine. I can look forward to getting over being so self-conscious about how big my chest is and how nice it will be when shirts start to fit better. I don't have to stay up extra late to make sure there's milk for when the baby wakes up in the middle of the night. I don't have to lug my pump everywhere with me just in case we're gone longer than expected. I'm free!

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, there are a few things I had forgotten about along the way. Like the fact that as I am shrinking back down to a normal bra size, I am finding myself without a single bra that fits properly. And any investment in a good-fitting bra would just be a waste, as it will be a while before I get to my new normal.

And then there is the (major) issue of returning to the woman's monthly cycle. I had totally forgotten all that this process entails. I was going on a 3-day migraine when I discovered that I am once again at the mercy of the monthly visitor. I should be grateful that I am one of those women who don't have this issue while lactating. But I forgot about the severe and persistent migraines due to hormonal surges, the lower back pain, the bloating, the horrible cramps, and the irritability and moodiness...not to mention having to once again add "feminine products" to the budget. I cried looking at Christmas cards. What? Oh yeah, hormones. I've been snapping at the boys for stupid things. I need to get this all under control so I'm not Mommy Monster for a good part of every month. I will probably be trying a variety of things: supplements, exercise, more rest...whatever it takes.

So I am trading one womanly experience for another. And to celebrate the end of one journey and the beginning of a new/old one (that I have no choice about and will have to deal with every single month for the next, oh 15 years or so - but that I'm in no way bitter about), I think I will bake lots of Christmas cookies and eat myself into a sugar stupor.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pillow Talk

Oh come on, people. This is a family friendly blog. But it sure got your attention, didn't it?

Josh loves his pillow. Ever since we had to prop him up on multiple pillows when he was in his cast, he has insisted on using it. Towards the end, he would drag his pillow down the hall with his teeth while scooting along in his cast. It was quite the sight, and I'm bummed I never got any pictures of that. But here is one of him post-dragging:

Now he just drags it down the hall like this:

And once he gets it where he wants it to be, he usually ends up like this:

Of course all we have now are regular, adult-sized pillows, but I would like for him to have a kid-sized pillow (I have read that having your head too high can hurt your neck/alignment). A friend and fellow mom of twins recommended these - she uses them with her boys and loves them. I was on the verge of ordering them, when I had a brilliant (or possibly delusional) idea. I'm going to make them! I thought it would be a good way for me to brush up on my sewing skills while also exercising my desire to be frugal. We bought a couple of extra pillows during the cast phase, so my idea is to cut one in half, take out some of the stuffing to make them flatter, then sew them back up. Voila! Two pillows! And my mom and I are going to find some cute (inexpensive) fabric to make pillow cases (should be simple). I'm excited for all the things I'll be able to do once I'm back into the swing of sewing! Oh, the projects (drool). And moving to a new house, I'm sure I'll have lots of opportunities to use my sewing machine (curtains, anyone?). I will be sure to document/blog the pillow-making process.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

*Updated* Use What You Have - Pink Eye Solution

We've just gone through pink eye, as I recently mentioned on here, and I thought I would post a couple of suggestions that I received as alternatives to using the regular pink eye drops.

1. Breastmilk - Obviously this option would only work for those of us who have immediate access to this particular liquid. But this idea came to me from an online friend (who also happens to be a La Leche League leader, and knows all kinds of interesting uses for breastmilk!). I tried it in the boys' eyes, and it seemed to do just as well as the store-bought drops.

2. Tea - I was talking to my friend Lisa today, and she shared this idea. Someone she knows said to make some strong hot tea (my assumption is that you would of course let it cool off first, and I'm not sure if it matters what kind - I'll have to update that information if I find out), dip a cotton swab in it and dab it on the eye. The tea is supposed to have soothing and antibacterial properties that clear it up fast! She said she tried it with her girls and it worked in like 2 days.

I'm always interested in frugal/natural/homemade recipes and alternatives, so if you have anything to share, please let me know!

*Update* So just regular black tea (like Lipton's) should do the trick.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Nancy's Product Reviews (NPR) - Tom's of Maine Deodorant

NPR - Doesn't that have a nice ring to it? Not to be confused with National Public Radio, of course.

I thought I would start a series of posts where I review new products that I am trying out (and possibly products that I can't live without). No, I am not getting paid for this (but I should be!). Nobody asked me to do this. But I appreciate people's opinions on stuff, and when someone actually takes the time to write a review, then that helps me make my consumer decisions. So I figure if it helps me to know why someone likes or dislikes something, then perhaps other people will find my reviews helpful.

I am currently in the process of putting together a more natural living plan. I've been doing some research, and many of the products I currently use I am hoping to start making myself. Deodorant is one such product. However, I have tried some Tom's of Maine products, and thought I'd give their deodorant a try as well, since it is a non-aluminum containing product.
Here's a little info about the product:

Natural Long-Lasting Care Deodorant Stick
Size: 2.25 oz
Fragrance: Apricot, Lavender, Lemongrass, Unscented

Our Long-Lasting Care Deodorant Stick fights odor three ways to keep you feeling fresh, naturally, all day:

  • Hops inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria. The antimicrobial action of hops inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria while reducing the possibility of skin irritation.
  • Zinc ricinoleate binds up odor molecules. Sourced from castor beans, zinc ricinoleate traps and absorbs bad smells
  • Natural fragrance blocks odor. Encapsulating natural fragrance oils with silica shells makes them last longer.
Sounds good, right?

I took one whiff of the apricot and knew that was the one for me. I have a sensitive nose, so I have to be careful about the products I buy. But this smells wonderful. And since it touts the ability to last 12 hours, I was pretty excited about smelling fantastically fruity for that long. Now, as it happens, I am someone who does not perspire much unless I am exercising vigorously or in a very hot and humid environment. So the need for deodorant, for me, is not as much to keep me from stinking or sweating as it is to make me feel smooth and fresh. I like to use deodorant. It is part of my daily routine. But I don't really notice its absence unless I start to feel sticky under the arms.

With Tom's of Maine, I could tell after the very first application that this is probably not the deodorant for me. Though the scent is delightful and not overpowering at all, I think this deodorant actually made me feel stickier than not having any on at all. As for lasting 12 hours, I couldn't really say. I just know that I can only go for maybe 3-4 hours wearing Tom's of Maine before I feel like I need to put a different deodorant on to feel fresh. So there you have it. For me, it is not worth the extra money or the "natural" ingredients to buy Tom's of Maine. My overall plan is to go more frugal, anyway. I just wanted to try it once and see what I thought. I will be using it (don't want to be wasteful!), but I will not be buying it again.

Anyone else tried Tom's of Maine Deodorant and like it? I'd love to hear other people's reviews. Let's make this more of an interactive blog!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sign of the Times

Blake has started signing! I can't believe my baby has begun to really communicate. But the gears are clicking and the wheels are turning and you can just see it happening - it is amazing! When the big boys were about 10 months we started signing with them too, and it was a wonderful experience. They were able to communicate their needs without frustration and we had a lot of fun with it too. We use Signing Smart, and I highly recommend it. The big boys still remember some of their signs, and still love to watch their signing DVD. I think they will have a lot of fun helping us to teach Blake how to sign.

So he can use two signs so far: "light" and "more." He knows "milk" too, but hasn't actually used the sign yet. He definitely recognizes it, though. He's so smart! Don't believe me? Here he is signing light:

It's not perfect, but it's his way of doing it. And I love it.