When we were little, my parents ran a home business. Geary Associates was a mail-order quilt pattern company. They made and mailed quilt pattern template kits, and also sold their wares at quilt shows around the country. One of the biggest shows was in Houston, TX around the end of October. Every year around that time they would load up the van with all their booth gear and inventory and drive to Texas for the big show, being gone about 7 to 10 days in total.
We had several babysitters for this gig. Sometimes it was a neighborhood teenager, or a college student from church. I don't remember much about who watched us. What I do remember was the beginning of a family tradition called Surprise Bags.
You can probably guess what Surprise Bags is all about. Mom would line up a row of numbered brown paper grocery bags along the top of the piano, with tops stapled shut. Each night they were gone we got to open one bag. It was a way of counting down the days as well as getting something for our trouble - something to look forward to and distract us from the strangeness of having our parents gone. Since they were always gone over Halloween, one bag always contained glow sticks for each of us to hang around our necks while trick-or-treating. It is not surprising that I also remember one bag always contained a box of Twinkies, a treat we never had any other time of year.
As with so many things, I only understand now that I'm THE MOM how much work these were for my Mom to put together, while raising four children and getting ready for a major trip. But they were worth it - we loved them so much, and I have loved carrying on the tradition the few times I have been away from my kids. In 2006 Ed and I went on a cruise and my parents watched Hazel. In 2007 I left surprise bags for Hazel when I went into the hospital with Ginger. And last year when Ed took me away for a weekend for our anniversary, I put a few little things together as well.
Planning Surprise Bags for this upcoming birth has been pretty fun. Without going overboard, I wanted to get them things that would not only be fun the day they opened it, but also offer a little entertainment mileage in the months to come. So while I'm in the hospital this weekend, and the girls are enjoying an extended sleepover stay at Grandma's, I thought I'd just make a note of this round of Surprise Bags.
New pajamas and a box of doughnuts - what's not to like?
Melissa & Doug Happy Handles stamps and pads of paper
Tinkertoys - I never would have thought to get them this, but a few months ago Ginger's Peewee group learned about construction. When I picked her up the kids were playing with Tinkertoys and she was having a blast building. And I don't think Hazel has ever even seen Tinkertoys before, they are so classic. I cringe slightly at the multiple-pieces factor, but it's not as bad as Legos! The creativity factor seems worth it; we'll see if I regret it.
So while I'm off at the hospital I thought it might be a good time to finally post an Easter follow-up. Do not be confused. I am not writing this from the hospital. I'm not quite that dedicated a blogger. I wrote it ahead of time and scheduled it to post.
First of all, the EBX10 was a huge success. We had 27 participants this year, a record high, hailing from England, Virginia, Tennessee, Utah, Colorado, South Carolina, D.C., Alabama, Michigan, California, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Massachusetts. We even had low-carb, gluten-free, and diabetic participants, all of whom got awesome baskets. Personally, mine was perfect. After all, can you ever really have too many Cadbury Cream Eggs? Here's a slide show of some of the fun (kudos to those who put themselves in the pic - I think most of us were a little too freshly-woken to allow photographs):
As I mentioned before, Ed actually got a basket this year. While preparing for a recent business trip, we realized he is lacking a stock of travel size toiletries, so I loaded him up with toothpaste, hair gel, shave cream, lint roller and a Tide stain-remover-on-the-go stick. Also, his brown dress shoes have been sitting unworn for months simply for needing a polish, so I got him a brown polish kit, his favorite Trader Joe's licorice, a tiny chocolate bunny, and a box of ear plugs. He thought they were for hunting (which isn't until October) but I'm even smarter than that. With both past babies he has had a hard time sleeping through newborn squeaks and grunts, and has always worn ear plugs to bed for the first weeks. Finally, I picked him up a book called Take a Hike Washington, D.C.: Hikes within Two Hours of the City. Should come in handy this summer, when I want him to take the kids away, and when he starts training for hunting season. I think he was pleased.
On Easter morning we woke up and opened our baskets, then had a decadent breakfast of Chocolate Sticky Buns (check today's VGP post - that's right, I coordinated posts.)
It was such a beautiful morning we packed some snacks in a bag and went on a little family nature walk near a local park. When I needed a break, we spread out a blanket, had a snack and read the Easter story from the Bible, followed by some simple discussion and testimony.
In the afternoon we watched General Conference, then went to my sister's for dinner. Overall a nice, fulfilling, relaxing day with family. And a rockin' basket.
For some reason I was completely exhausted yesterday. I slept OK the night before and luckily the girls were on their best behavior after Tuesday night, but I was still drained. Woke up early and made buttermilk waffles for breakfast - totally hit the spot. Then I took Hazel to school and Ginger to Peewees, and found myself with 2 hours to spend. I went to the mall. It was rainy and I just felt like walking and window shopping. Got Ed some socks at Macy's, got the girls a few things at a good sale at H&M (hello, $17.95 pants for $5, awesome.) And the best part - stopped at one of those kiosks and had my eyebrows threaded. So even though I look and feel like a whale, now I look and feel like a MOVIE STAR whale. It's a subtle but important difference.
On the way to the mall I passed The State Theatre in Falls Church and saw on the marquis that Cowboy Junkies are doing a show tomorrow night. Of all the horrible timing! They are one of my favorite bands - my first real "grown-up" band I started liking as a teenager. And the theater is so close! That is something I would actually pay a babysitter to go to, and it's on the one night I definitely can't go. Major bummer.
Yesterday afternoon after putting Ginger down for her nap I thought I was going to collapse so I laid down on my bed and immediately fell asleep for two hours. Fabulous, but I woke up just as tired as I'd been before. Got the girls a snack, started dinner, did some dishes. Ate dinner, cleaned up dinner, did more dishes. Gave the girls a bath, put them to bed. Ed got home late so we talked while he ate, then I dinked around a bit, arranging some baby things, reading a little, then fell into a light and restless sleep all night. Did I mention I'm tired?
This morning some friends took the girls to a park for a Peewee Earth Day field trip while I went to the hospital for my pre-op screening, which consisted of a little paperwork and a blood draw. Then I picked up a sandwich at Subway and met them at the park.
I remember in the weeks before Ginger was born, I felt a little resentment towards her. I was so bonded and focused on Hazel I felt like a new baby was going to mess up what we had, get in the way of our little life. It's easy to resent someone you've never met. Obviously, I got over that fast and now of course Hazel and I both prefer having Ginger to not. This time I don't feel resentment towards the baby, but I am feeling a little sentimental about my time with the girls, trying to make the most of it, and focusing on them before my attention gets further refracted. So while I could have taken advantage of that hour or so I had free after my appointment, by running an errand or having alone time, I missed the girls and wanted to be with them at the park.
We enjoyed a typical Ginger meltdown/nap resistance when we got home, then moved on to do some work. Packed the girls' "Grandma bags." Pulled some stuff together for my own bag. Tried to stay calm, not think too hard, not work too hard. It's a lot of pressure to have such an awaited event loom large. Completely surreal, so I'm trying to act as normal as possible. Later I'll finish packing my bag, maybe lightly review some of my newborn-care books.
Tonight we plan to have a special Family Home Evening. We'll retell each of the girls' birth stories (only the good parts.) We'll read some stories (we like We Have a Baby and What Baby Needs.) We'll tell the girls the baby's name and talk about what the next few days will be like. Finally, we'll have Ed give me a blessing. Crossing fingers it will be a nice evening and not the exercise in frustration FHE sometimes is.
Honestly, I am desperately trying to squelch my nervousness by keeping perspective. I'm only going a few miles away and only for a few days. Ed will be with me. I'll have lots of help in the hospital. It is somewhat bitter consolation, though consolation nonetheless, that it is guaranteed to be a better experience than I had in Brooklyn with Ginger. Things will be fine. I can't believe it's tomorrow.
Oh, the thrills continue. I hope you know I am just writing this stuff for myself; from past experience I know I will have no recollection of the days, weeks, months leading up to this baby. Someday I - or she - might be interested.This morning I ventured to Trader Joe's for a final stock-up trip - mac n' cheese, marinara sauce, toasted pecans, my newest favorite chocolate. All the good stuff. Came home and cleaned out the fridge. Why have I not done that in a long time? Geez. Four open bottles of mustard and two of cocktail sauce. But I freed up a lot of space, and a lot of Tupperware.
Mid-morning my friend dropped her kids off for babysitting. (Note: It's handy to have a pregnant friend with whom to trade babysitting for doctor's appointments. Coordinating appointments makes it even easier.) The kids played outside while I sat on the deck doing email, blogging and a little more work on G's baby book. Thrill of thrills - I got an email from Cook's Country with my first test recipe since signing up to be a tester a few months ago. Later I made the recipe and it was disappointing, but at least I got to give my feedback.
Ed came home for lunch - a treat we rarely experience - then G went down for a nap while I played a little with H and cleaned up the office a bit. Then I went to lie down and I must have fallen asleep because when the girls woke me up asking for a snack there was a line of drool going down my cheek and pooling on my pillow. After snack the girls played on the deck while I made the Cook's Country recipe and washed some dishes.
When it was almost dinner time I went up to the family/play room to find the kids had not done the cleaning job I'd given them earlier. Also, the patio chairs had been drawn on with chalk, an explicit no-no. As a general rule, I try to avoid power struggles in my parenting - they are emotionally draining for everyone and not very effective. However, I'm THE MOM. There are times when my authority WILL be acknowledged and I WILL be obeyed. Anyone who's known me since high school knows not to cross me. Obviously the girls are still learning this. So the next few hours saw us through one of the biggest power struggles our family has seen, ending at bedtime with Hazel and I having eaten dinner but not dessert, Ginger not having eaten anything since snack, everyone drained and crying or on the verge, me sweating from exertion and frustration, and the family room cleaned up and cleaned out. Every SINGLE toy hidden away in the office closet, only to be earned back by being obedient and doing a job, starting tomorrow. At bedtime, I go to pick the stories. And poor Ginger, who had fought me the hardest, and lost the worst for the evening, was asleep before they were even over. Tough love is just that - really tough.
So this is a day I'm glad to be done with. Forget whatever work may need to be done around here. I am shaking from temper and guilt and just want to put this one behind me. What am I thinking having a third?
Monday is usually my grocery shopping day. But since I did zero meal planning or shop-listing last night it didn't happen. Whatever. We're low on fruit but we've got stuff for some basic meals, and I decided a few weeks ago Monday is always spaghetti night - helps things move along quickly so we can have Family Home Evening on time (not that we actually did tonight.)
So today after dropping Hazel at preschool Ginger and I ran other errands - bank, Target, car wash, library. I warned the girls we were only returning books and videos, not checking any out this week. Then while they were looking through books I found a cookbook I had to have so I ended up breaking my own rule. Nice.
We picked up Hazel and went to McDonald's for lunch. I just feel the need to do everything once more before becoming home bound, or at least having to worry about things like diapers and nursing while I'm out. Came home and put Ginger down for a nap, not that she actually slept. Sorted the Target loot, fielded emails, worked on blog posts. Spent at least 20 minutes going through junkmail, clicking on the "unsubscribe" links in the possibly vain attempt at decreasing my inbox volume since I won't be checking it as much in the next weeks.
Laid down for about a half hour, talked to my Mom on the phone about the plan for Friday, then got up and took the girls out for haircuts. As usual, they did a butcher chop job on Hazel but it always grows out, and Ginger's is fine. Came home and made three loaves of zucchini bread (two regular, one chocolate) with the squash going bad on my counter. Made a pot of spaghetti and started the overwhelming pile of two days of dishes. Got dinner on the table only to realize to everyone's horror we are OUT of Parmesan cheese. Much crying that I have no patience for. Hobbled through dinner, Ed came home and handled the girls while he ate, then put them to bed - an hour late, as has been the trend this week - while I finished the dishes.
My brother-in-law is coming to stay with us. This is OK. We like him, he is low maintence and even helpful, and he'll be working most of the time. But that did mean we had to spend some time tonight transforming the spare room from baby-stuff-explosion to proper guest room. It actually led to further cleaning of the surrounding rooms and even a bathroom got cleaned so overall it was a productive evening. And in sorting some of the baby stuff we realized our Diaper Dekor, which has been sitting unused since August, still stinks after being scrubbed with Pine Sol and soaked in bleach. I guess we'll be making an 11th-hour capital purchase. I haven't done this kind of research in five years; anyone got a favorite diaper pail?
Sleep has been totally unpredictable lately. I told you about the home reno show keeping me up one night. I did not mention watching "American Gangster" a few nights before that. Ahem, I won't be doing that again. But about two weeks ago I put together a preggo-sleep-cocktail that seems to do it for me:
one hot shower + one 24-hour Claritin + my "Restful Rain" white noise CD + not drinking water within 3 hours of bedtime = a passable night's sleep
I don't always make it happen, but I do what I can. Tonight I'll be adding an antacid to the equation, thanks to my big spaghetti dinner. One more day down.
Here's the thing. If you knew the exact day and time you were having a baby, what would you do in the days leading up to it? It's a lot of pressure. Shop, certainly. Baby things galore, groceries, etc. Make sure things are in order - laundry, bills, and so on. Clean the house - it's a nice idea but not practical due to extreme discomfort and awkwardness. Catch up on things - email, blog posts, projects, thank-you notes, small unfinished piles around the house.
I've been doing a little of everything. Last week my friend came over, armed with her 3-month-old baby, two bottles of nail polish, and a lasagna, and shooed me out the door for two glorious hours out by myself. I shopped at TJ Maxx and got a pedicure (with the freaking most awesome massaging chairs!) I came home to a still-in-one-piece friend, two painted daughters gleefully reading to the baby, and the smell of lasagna wafting from my oven. (Note: This is always the right thing to do for a 9-month-pregnant woman.)
In March I cashed in a gift certificate to Let's Dish that I had gotten for Christmas, and stocked my freezer with ready-to-go meals. Also took my visiting teacher up on the offer to come clean with me for a few hours. (Note: Always take everyone up on every offer they make. No room for pride these days.) Finally took down the outside Christmas lights and some other important jobs. Ed and I stripped and stained the deck. (Mostly Ed but I did help some.) I knocked out about 3/4 of Ginger's baby book and at this point there's only a little formatting and a few more photos to put in. I also got the ball rolling on some continuing ed credits I need to keep my speech-language pathologist credentials current.
More recently we finally got the baby a dresser two weeks ago and set it up over the weekend. Which then meant I could wash, fold and organize the baby blankets, clothes, burp cloths, etc. Check! Still need to set up the bed, though.
Today I stayed home with Ginger - she had been up much of the night with allergy problems so we were both exhausted. Washed some baby things, organized the office a little. Balanced the money. Baked a cake which we then took to my cousin's house for dinner. Tonight I did some normal laundry and folded it with Ed while we flipped between basketball games. I don't care about basketball but I don't mind it either. Lately if I watch anything remotely intense before bed it keeps me up so basketball was perfect. The other night I watched a home reno show where the neighbors compete, and I was awake much of the night reliving the tension. Ridiculous.
I know I still have the Easter Basket Exchange follow-up post to write, and it will get done...eventually...probably. But this week live the countdown with me. I have much of the week planned out but not all of it. And it's pretty normal stuff. Seriously. If you knew when it was coming, what would you do?
I just went back to last Easter's post to remember what I wrote and also what I even put in the kids' baskets. Those Target baskets were cute. Unfortunately Ginger stood on one shortly after Easter - before I had the chance to put them away - and broke it, so the other has been relegated as Ed's or an all-purpose basket. This year I let the girls choose out some cheap felt pails, and I have my eye on hitting World Market Monday morning to see if I can buy the baskets I really like on sale for next year. Eventually we will use the same thing two years in a row, though I don't know if I dare get baskets with their names embroidered on. Seems like jinxing myself somehow.
Anywho, I think everyone will be happy with their loot. Here's what they're getting:
Candy - One tiny chocolate bunny and two Ring Pops each. It's not like the kids suffer for treats around our house, and they don't even like some of the traditional stuff like jelly beans. Whenever they get goody bags at parties, or even Halloween candy, they forget about it as soon as they're home, and we just throw it away.
Playdoh - one can each
Groovy Girls - these are one of the new interests around here. I took the girls to a toy shop recently to buy a birthday gift for Hazel's friend and out of all the amazing stuff she chose a Groovy Girl and has been talking about it ever since. They are very cute with cool hair, funky shoes, and non-curvy soft doll bodies (and thank goodness no MAKE-UP like Barbies or Bratz, eew!) Some of them are even dressed modestly. But the $20 price tag is a bit steep. Luckily Ebay exists, so I got this set of two fancy-dressed ones for $13 or so, and popped one in each basket. (Got two more for $1 each at a consignment sale recently; I'm saving those for a moment of desperation after the baby comes.)
Grow capsules - we love these in the bath
Fancy Nancy underwear - each gets a set of 3. I'm finding that undies can be great motivators to getting out of the bath, getting pj's on, getting dressed in the morning, etc. if they have ones they like. I recently got Hazel a set of days-of-the-week underwear and not only is she motivated to change her panties and get dressed, she is also motivated to READ them and to finally get the days of the week straight. What a revelation.*
DVD - they are each getting a new DVD and it is almost completely self-serving because I am anticipating needing some new entertainment for them in the next few weeks. Ginger is getting Charlie and Lola - we have 1 and 2; this is 3. I think there are 10 or so and each one is adorable and fabulous. We love this British brother-sister team. Hazel is getting Shaun the Sheep, which is so freaking awesome it's almost criminal. I meant to do a whole post about Shaun sometime but never got around to it. The show is done by the same people as Wallace and Grommit but is not as intense/scary/ominous (my girls are tenderhearts and I'm OK with that). It's just positively silly and very smart as well. Especially after visiting Yorkshire last year, where it is set, with its stone hedges, fields of grazing sheep, and folks who look and "talk" just like the farmer.
This year Ed is getting a basket because I had a little stroke of inspiration, but I can't explain it here. Once in awhile he actually checks the blog so I'll have to tell about it after Easter.
And of course I will be thoroughly hooked up through the exchange. My package is sitting on the chair in my bedroom waiting for Sunday morning.
I just realized yesterday that we have not, and have no plans to dye eggs this year. I just never thought about it, or planned for it, and I think there's just enough going on. No one will miss it. The girls probably don't even know it's traditional. Whatever, we have their whole lives and next year I won't be 36 weeks pregnant. Knock on wood.
*I am actually thinking of starting my own line of little girls' underwear, starting with CHORES and RULES sets.
"Hey, Mom, I'm wearing my FOLD THE LAUNDRY panties today so why don't you go rest while I do that?"
"Ginger, today we're wearing NO WHINING undies so we'll just have to find another way to communicate." These could really take off!
Fascinating. Revelatory. Nearly unbelievable. Truly stranger than fiction. Kind of horrifying, yet touching and loving. I ripped through this one, could hardly put it down - kept having to find out what happened next.
From my shallow, self-serving point of view, it made me feel fabulous about my own upbringing, which I don't always see that way, and also about my own parenting, which sometimes I need. But it lends perspective on more than that - prejudice, poverty, small towns, families, generations, and more. (Not to mention addiction and mental illness!) I can only imagine the courage it took Ms. Walls to write her story, and the obvious impact her youth had on her to be able to remember and retell it so well. Bravo!