Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012.

I am exhausted. I feel run down. I don't have the time to catch up on house work, nor the time to relax.  I really want to see Les Miserables. I worked 26 hours on Christmas Day and the day after. There is no room in our house for all the Christmas gifts. I can't quit obsessing about this $600,000 house that is ridiculous of me to have even randomly stopped in the Open House that one Sunday a couple months ago. The kids won't sit still for a picture. They never want to eat what I have made for dinner. They are hungry. Tired. Bored. Can I play with your phone. Can I play with your iPad. Can I go outside and play in the snow. Do you know how long it takes to bundle up a 2 & 4 year old. Ugh. I want to go to my sister's for some chili. I still haven't seen Les Mis. I've got one of eight loads of laundry done and folded. The sheets need to be changed. The Christmas tree needs to be taken outside.  I spent most my day taking down Christmas decorations, instead of playing with my kids. But the storage containers are still in the middle of the living room, because I don't have the energy to carry them all the way to the basement, and reorganize to find a place to fit them back into storage. I absolutely DO NOT want to go to work.  Done. I am done. I don't have this weekend off. I didn't have last weekend off. It gets dark by 5pm. How depressing.  I haven't worked out in at least 2 months. Because of my grumpiness, my husband is now overworked. He didn't get much vacation or time to relax either.

An entire year is over.  I try not to think about the hundreds to thousands of things we did not get done, like finishing our back porch. Re-carpeting the upstairs and building a walk-in closet. Painting the hallway. General organization of the entire house. I try not to think about the things we can no longer put off; painting & repairing the outside of the house, perhaps new windows, new driveway and new garage door. Getting my loan repayment situation figured out. Deciding on what I want to do upon finishing residency in a year and a half.  Every measurement of time has the same cycle with me, I wake up refreshed ready to take on the day and go to bed disappointed I only accomplished a third of what I hoped to do...the week, the year, it's all the same.  Tomorrow, I will wake up inspired, optimistic, motivated.  Someday, I will learn to adjust my expectations to reality. Well, probably not.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Cards, Cards, Everywhere are Cards.

When Almar Printing contacted me to inform me of my finish Christmas postcards, my night suddenly became awesome. I texted Matt to inform him of our new evening plans.  I would sit, sip some wine and address my #120 postcards (well, 94, I still have a few to send out...) while he editted some of my sisters wedding photos. I love snail mail. I love sending it. I love receiving it.  Most of all, I love creating it.  It feels so much better to send something you consider to be your own work of art.  Or, in this case, a vision fulfilled by an excellent, creative, one-of-a-kind photographer.

Three years ago, we decided to have a family portrait taken for us.  I had long wanted a photo to embody the chaos that is our daily life. Matt thought no one better to do it than Chris Mullins.  It turned out so spectacularly, we decided to send it out as a Christmas Postcard.  This card remains legendary. It precedes us. To this day, we meet friends of friends, who know us by our Christmas card, despite having never met.  That.  Is exactly what I hope for, everytime I send out some mail. 
I often regret having set such a steep precedent for my Christmas cards.  I did not intentionally create this tradition.  There is no "wow" factor when something awesome is always expected.  I do like that it forces us to take a professional family photo each year, that truly captures and displays our daily lives.  I have plenty of that other, family posing, smiling at the camera, looking all put together and perfect crap...

...and you will just have to deal with more of it.  Until next year.  Cheers!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

CHRISTMAS. #betterwithkids

I love doing jigsaw puzzles.  Especially on Christmas morning. Year after year, I would open my presents. Get irritated about getting a bunch of stuff I didn't want.  Wonder why I didn't just get the ONE expensive gift and none of the multitude of cheap, nonsense gifts (always been quality over quantity for me, always.) Then eat some candy and cookies.  Then retire to my bedroom to open and begin one of my brand new jigsaw puzzles on my puzzle table.  Yes.  As a child, I had a large, low, rectangle table in my bedroom for the sole purpose of doing puzzles.  Ok, and having tea parties.  As I aged, I merely replaced the location, and added a cup of coffee to the ritual.  And maybe increased the number and decreased the size of puzzle pieces.  To this day, that would continue to be my favorite thing about Christmas morning...if I didn't have kids.

Kids have changed the holiday.  What I used to think of as a holiday only for my own selfish pleasure, I now think of as a holiday 100% based on giving.  I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning the night before Christmas Eve (Santa visited a day early, as I worked all day on Christ's birthday) wrapping presents. Oh, and perhaps, polishing off a near full bottle of wine from the sweater party the night before as well...let's just say the wrapping job was not exemplary work.  I exhausted myself, just so that I could see and enjoy the excitement on my children's face the next morning.  They love it.  They believe in Santa.  They think he is real, that he can deliver gifts to all kids, all over the world, in one night.

We put on matching pajamas. We {forgot to put out milk and cookies}. We read The Polar Express the night before, Brock and Curtis were engrossed.  With every one of these moments, a flood gate of personal memories opened.  I remember the mystery and magic of believing in Santa.  Of being so excited I could not possibly sleep the night before. Of listening, and listening, and listening in the silence of my room, to the point of convincing myself that I most certainly heard the reindeer on my roof.  Of sneaking down the stairs before anyone was up to see if Santa had visited.  I remember my siblings being so excited and thankful.  A day where the house was allowed to remain a mess, a bigger mess than ever.  A day completely devoted to playing with toys.  Eating.  Staying inside. Enjoying family.  Though some of these feelings, moments, principles never left me as I aged, all of them are present now with my three little boys present.
I try my best to not completely shove it in people's faces that having children is amazing.  My favorite thing in the whole world.  The best decision I have ever made.  I know that some people can't have kids.  Don't want them.  Aren't in the right situation.  Or whatever their circumstances may be, they are childless, by choice or not.  I think life definitely has it's perks without children.  As, I lost my ability to do a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, on Christmas day, or any other day for that matter, about 4 years ago.  With the arrival of Brock.  But even with the loss of my favorite tradition.  Christmas is still better with kids.  It just is.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Leah got married.

I don't know where to even begin. November 24th, 2012. My little sister got married.  My best friend got married.  Someone I have only lived without for 24 months of my entire life.  She's never known life without me.  We realized long ago how lucky we were to have been born into the same fact, we opted to room together in high school.  We had a slumber party every night, falling asleep to Frasier, or Center Stage, or Billy Elliot or just gossiping. With bunk beds - so much more room for activities! 
Being somewhat of a traditionalist, Leah insisted I give a speech at her Rehearsal dinner (I mean, I was going to give one whether she said to or not, just sayin').  I hate public speaking.  I abhor it.  I can write all day, but speak it?  In front of a {assumed} captive audience?  Suffice to say, I nearly vomited or fainted no less than a dozen times the Friday before the big day.  Matt insisted I not write it out, but just think of a few ideas, and go from the heart.  So I did.  It was easy.  My heart was so filled with love, joy and memories for my sissy.  I decided to open with a scenario that I felt exemplified our relationship from an extremely young age.  Probably too young to mention, as people may think less of my mother for letting 2 girls that young walk over a mile to Dos Hombres (now JalapeƱos) for lunch without adult supervision, but it's what we did.  We could not wait for our August birthdays, when we received cash, equal to our age, from the grandparents.  We'd split the lunch special, a chicken burrito with rice and beans, and both purchase a soda - the birthday girl, being the buyer.  This relationship did nothing but evolve and mature. To this day, she is one of, if not my favorite lunch date. Or coffee date. Or happy hour date. Or shopping partner.  Or co-host of parties.  I even enjoy her friends. Now.  (They used to be REALLY girly, and REALLY annoying.  Luckily, they all seemed to grow out of all that.)  And my friends enjoy her.  Honestly, I think a lot of people prefer us as a pair.  We are fun separately, but together, the fun quadruples. Yes, genetically, we have lots of similarities.  We share a lot of preferences in fashion, food, drink, events, musicals, movies, company, art, morals, but most of all, it's our {hand gestures} sense of humor that is identical.  If you could remove my dry, cynical, heartless personality, and her emotional, bubbly, sensitive side...we'd be identical. 

When you love someone this much.  Know their heart inside and out. All you ever hope for them is happiness.  So, the day I met Neal, in the Crossroads, during First Fridays, I was ecstatic, relieved even.  They exuded happiness, excitement, comfort in one another.  My longest friend had found her match.  Someone that would know her heart even deeper than I ever could.  So, what else to do, when the wedding day finally arrived, than to celebrate?  And celebrate hard, fun, and fashionably. 
Hers was one of those weddings where no one questions it.  Everyone in attendance is thrilled.  Supportive.  Ready to party. And boy did we.  Brunch at Andres'. Mani's and Pedi's at Oak nails. Rehearsal at Carmen's (where I wasn't sure if the open mic would EVER end.  There was no shortage of love and stories for/about Lean and Neal.)  Slumber party at the Intercontinental.  A morning of beautifying.  Ceremony at Visitation.  A party bus (overwhelming Bobby Baker's).  Reception at Californos.  Sparklers (bad idea.) And the departure of Leah and Neal as husband and wife.  Love filled every moment.  With some dancing, prayer bombs, laughter, drinking, awkward moments, and great food in between. Even as I write this (nearly a year later), I remember it all vividly.  I am brought to tears, and so happy for her...
...Love you SISSY!!!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas it is!

I always thought Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday.  And, I am thinking it truly was for a long time.  Growing up a few blocks from the Plaza in a good-size home allowed for tons of family members, and a great meeting place for all of my friends to walk to see the Plaza lighting.  But somewhere between my Junior Year of high school, and today, Christmas has taken the lead. I am inclined to say it's the arrival of kids.  Or the purchase of a home.  Or having a significant other that you really adore and love.  Or the sending out of what became a legendary Christmas postcard (which I somewhat regret). Or the hosting of a Christmas party with all my best friends and then some for 7 years running.  Or all of the above.  Either way, it happened slowly and without warning.

Our 7th Annual O'Laughlin Ugly Christmas Sweater Party went off without a hitch last night.  Great attendees.  Good food.  Fun.  Hilarity. And an awesome apron that I found at Tuesday morning. The kids until about 9pm, then were kindly swept away by their Mimi & Papa.  Except George, who promptly went to bed at 8pm and slept through the debauchery.  As Matt and I went to bed just before 2am, I said, "Thank goodness we have no kids here to worry about."  And he says, "Well, except George."  To which I replied, "Well, ya. I guess.  But he really doesn't count, he's a baby.  One baby might as well be no kids."  Ha!  Back when we had one baby, he hung around at the party for an hour. I was stressed the whole time. I couldn't wait for my mother to take him.  Everyone who has only one baby thinks it is a burden, time consuming, and somewhat stressful.  This quickly changes with the addition of more.
Mostly, I love that people can rely on this party as a meeting place.  All the out-of-towners know that this party is happening.  They know that when they come back to Kansas City for a short holiday stay they have an opportunity to see all their friends in one setting, on one night.  Many come here before then heading out to the bars. No more planning or scheduling necessary.  I also love having the "first-timers". I love sharing my home and friends and family.  I enjoy them all so much, it seems selfish to keep them to myself. And though we did not get the photobooth up and running this year (it's guaranteed next I should have more time off, finally) it was still a classic. Cheers!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Hot Mess

Brock has been on a roll.  I get a text from nearly everyone he hangs out with about the things that come out of his mouth.  They must have based the show, "Kid's Say the Darndest Things" off of 4 year olds.
The other day, my mom texts me informing me that I need to feed Brock more broccoli. He had apparently kicked his brother, and when asked why he did it. He explained something along the lines that the water from the pipes in his brain that run to his arms and legs were not working because broccoli is what feeds it...right.

My text from Matt this morning:
"Daddy, can I play with your phone?"
"That sounds like music to my ears." ...really?
Kerry told me she went upstairs that day after we set up the new bunk bed, to see if Brock and Curtis really were asleep for nearly 4 hours, and she found Brock chilling on the top bunk with my sunglasses on, reading books.  When she asked if he wanted to come downstairs, he groaned and said, "Can I not just relax? I am trying to read here after my nap."  He soon came downstairs and stated, "I feel old after reading all those books."

Leah walked in on him playing Angry Birds, and he let out a loud, "YES!!"  She inquired as to what was so exciting.  Brock explained that he had just conquered a level that he really wanted to beat. So Leah said, "You go, girl!" He then gave an extremely long, loud, exaggerated fake laugh.  She asks what that was all about.  His response? "I just think it's hilarious when people say You go girl."  Um, how many times you heard that one, Brock?  Is it a common saying on the playground these days?

These represent only a few samplings of the daily Brockism occurrences.  These are in addition to the infinite number of explanations containing comments about how his belly told his heart that he wanted gummy bears, or his heart told his brain, or well, his heart tells a lot of his body parts to do a lot of things.  And when he feels he's been wronged in some way (usually because he didn't get a fruit snack or a Sprite or something like that) he will now give a tirade in front of that damn elf.  Fizzlee Cupes gets an earful pretty frequently. Or how a "little bit can turn into a lot, at night (or in the daytime, or in the car or, with whichever modifier is appropriate at the current moment)" pertaining most frequently to the number of minutes he has left to play with his cousin, or how many minutes he gets to play before bed, or the number of Skittles he gets, etc.  Everything is a negotiation with this child. Everything. Always has been. Thinkin' it always will...

Brock and I were headed over to my mother's house to pick up some Christmas lights for our family photo shoot, riding in the new Mercedes.  This was only Brock's second time in the car and you could sense his excitement.  He couldn't talk fast enough, pointing out every single item in sight within and without the car.  Then suddenly, he blurted.  "Mommy?"  Yes, Brock?  "You're a hot mess!"
No dear, that, I know for certain you have got wrong.  If anyone is a hot mess, it's YOU.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Late night thoughts. By Erin.

• The beginning of "Up" is really sad. I verge on tears every single time. And that's saying a lot, because it's Brock's favorite movie. And any of you out there with a child between the ages of 2 & 5, know exactly what I mean - saying A LOT.

• Aging is strange. I don't feel older. My memories don't change, just increase in number. I generally enjoy all the same foods I always have, plus or minus a few. Yet, I am a completely different person than I was 15 years ago. Every so often, I look in the mirror and think, holy $*#+, Im getting old! And I'll be honest (sorry to burst your bubble) but I've also seen random photos of a lot of my friends on Facebook and thought the very same thing about one is immune. The clock keeps ticking. At the exact same pace. It's just weird when you really stop and think about it. We are aging, every second of every day.

• I go back and forth when trying to decide on the most amazing organ. But I think the heart wins more often then not. Similar to my thoughts on aging, your heart just keeps beating. All day, everyday. It doesn't get tired (unless you abuse it). The only thing keeping you alive at this very instant is that organ. If it stops, you die. Simple as that. Yet, it doesn't stop. It keeps ticking away, budump budump budump. It goes, without taking a rest for twenty, thirty, sixty, ninety and even one hundred plus years. It's unbelievable. A true masterpiece. I am
Thankful for my heart. My brain too. But mostly my heart.

• Love is limitless. You can love a lot of people. And when you take in another person to love, it doesn't push anyone out, or move them down the chain. It just puts them right there alongside everyone else you'd consider giving your life to save. Or at the very least, your kidney, or part of your liver. Love is perfect. Live is divine. I love love.

• Because if this love phenomenon, and aging thing, and your heart keeps ticking, and all that stuff, I realized I worry more. I get pervasive thoughts of my loved ones getting in a fatal car accident, or their heart stopping, and any number of irrational fears I won't list to save some face of sanity. I didn't used to have these. It's because my love has grown and expanded to such a point that I truly feel I have a lot to lose. Mostly I carry on like normal, but sometimes I just worry. Or have an anxiety attack...which I like to think of as a little wind sprint work out for my heart. Does a body good, right?

• And all of these fleeting thoughts about aging, the heart, love, worry are demonstrated in the opening 15 minutes of the movie "Up". And further displayed throughout the entire film. So yeah. I tear up at the beginning of that movie. Every single time.

Brock has impeccable taste in movies.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Our Life

Matt and I went to cut down a tree our first year together, in our current home. We took our boxer/lab mix, Tali.  It was snowy.  She never stopped running, I think, to stay warm.  We bundled up in hats, gloves, scarves and I was wearing my black Columbia Jacket, that I don't believe fits any longer. We searched row after row after row.  Inspecting every potential tree from multiple angles.  Judging them on height, color, fullness, texture.  Finally finding the perfect one, and Matt cut her down, as I yelled, "TIMBER!" because I am hilarious, clever and original. I remember loving that day. I remember thinking, I want to do this every year. We took a picture in front of that tree.  Together, we drug it to the road for the tractor to pick up and take to the shake station.  I remember thinking that things do not get anymore perfect. Things do not get better than this  I am celebrating the holidays with the person I love most in life.  Pure Happiness.
The following year, we had a 2 week old baby.  We bundled our little bundle in this funny little "Winnie the Pooh" full body bunting, and I strapped him into the Bjorn.  We left the dog home, I wasn't ready to handle both.  Again, we searched, perhaps a more abbreviated venture, but we did it just the same.  And despite my feelings about last year, it was more perfect.  We had Brock, our perfect as perfect can be little boy.  It was better.  I was celebrating the holidays with the two people I love most in life. Overflowing joy.
The next year, we had a toddling, determined 1 year old who loved the outdoors. I could fit in some of my old jeans again. Matt had become extremely proficient with the camera.  The dog still stayed home. We had a blast laughing at Brock falling in the mud.  Taking pictures of his adorable face.  We walked through the rows of trees just observing our little boy, observing the world around him.  We glanced at trees, and picked one that looked good, but our true interest was our son.  At this point, he had become the center of our world.  We experienced everything in a new light, with young eyes. Again, this year was even more perfect than last.  It was better.  I was celebrating the holidays with the two people I love most in life. Laughter and wonder.
By our 4th year of marriage, with the addition of a second child, we had become very busy. I was still in medical school as well as interviewing for residency spots.  We had put off getting a tree until the weekend before Christmas, and it was a COLD one.  But we were determined to cut down that tree, as we had every year prior.  We put Brock in a huge green, puffer coat with mittens and a hat, Curtis being a fantastic eater from the get go, was in navy blue bunting from his uncle, as he was significantly larger than his older brother had been just 2 years earlier.  We were pros.  I could maneuver well enough with a baby attached to my front to also chase an agile, stubborn 2 year old.  And Matt chopped that tree in 3 strokes.  I didn't yell timber.  But we laughed the whole time.  We wondered why we had dragged our new family of four out in the freezing cold.  Wondered why I risked frost bite just for a few photos.  We laughed at how stupid we were for doing this.  We were glad we had left the dog, she would have froze to death. But it was perfect.  The day was better than I could have ever imagined.  I was celebrating the holidays with the three people I love most in life.  Silliness and warmth.
The fifth year, the weather could not have been more perfect.  We wore vests.  And hats because they are cute for photos.  Despite being 13 months old, Curtis wasn't walking, so we brought a stroller.  Cranky Brock should have taken a nap before the trip.  We even had a 3rd child with us on this trip, warm and secure in my belly.  We did not bring Tali, she had unexpectedly passed away that May, but we did have our clumsy puppy, Fannie May.  We tried to get Brock to give us his input on a tree, but he was obsessing about getting some McDonald's.  Curtis loved the adventure, crawled around, got pounced on and licked by the dog.  We finally decided on a tree.  I am not sure I glanced at the pines once.  I was too engrossed in the beauty of my children.  Too busy observing their smiles, their tears.  Loving every moment, of every day I spend with them.  Brock's attitude problem did not affect my memory of him or that day.  I still remember it fondly, and believe it to be perfect.  We'd had a rough year, but had nothing but great things to look forward to, and it was still better than the last.  I was celebrating the holidays with the three and a half people I love most in life.  Surprising resilience.

Today, the weather was more perfect.  We didn't even wear sweatshirts, just a long sleeve shirt.  And the hats were fun, like a fedora, froggy and engineers cap.  Our latest addition cannot walk, so we just brought the wagon.  Our oldest did help to choose a tree.  Our middle just ran around, mimicking his older brother.  Our baby explored, touching new things.  We looked through trees.  We watched tractors drive by.  We took lots of photos.  We wrestled.  We jumped.  We ran.  We brought no dog, as Fannie had passed away just a month or so ago, and Tater doesn't enjoy these sorts of things.  We found a tree, that is kind of leaning to one side in our living room right now.  And though it is far from perfect, our day was.  It was the best day ever, just like every day is that I get to spend with the four people I love most in life. We functioned as a happy, joyful, silly, resilient family filled with wonder, laughter, warmth and love.