I had just finished another rushed shower. You know, the ones where every worst case scenario runs through your head. I did the infamous speed scrub and skipped the conditioner (again) while I pictured my toddler writing all over the walls with her purple marker and mashing chocolate kisses into the rug, dragging the baby around the room by one ankle like she does her dolls, and then unlocking the back door to let in a band of traveling gypsies who raid my house and steal the kids. I grabbed my towel and ran through the house to check on the girls... who didn't even notice me as they bounced along to Barney Tunes and rolled blocks around the floor in their room. PHEW! I returned to my bedroom to find something to wear when suddenly, two tiny hands gripped my bare butt cheeks. Shelby had entered the building. "Mommy," she said, squeezing with one hand, and then the other, "it's like jelly!"
I've spent the past two days visiting the local hospital where my newest nephew was born. This amazing event just never gets old. New life, brand new life is such a wonder. And the sight of those teeny tiny feet, that red fuzzy skin, the perfect lips just brings me right back to the very moment my own girls were born. The relief of their arrival, the joy in their first cry, the emotion of feeling that little body up close for the first time on the outside of me instead of the inside. That first diaper change...peee U! Well, I look at my own kids now 3 years old and 7 months and I must admit I can't believe where the time has gone. I remember the day we brought each of them home from the hospital. Our very first time leaving the hospital with Shelby we spent an hour in the parking lot trying to figure out the damned car seat! No one told us how tricky those things are and we, of course forgot to install it before we actually had the baby. John and I were sweating bullets in the midday heat bent over in the backseat of our car grumbling at each other under our breath. Don't tell anyone, but we finally agreed to just attach it the best we could and then I rode in the back seat and held on to Shelby in her car seat with white knuckles and clenched teeth the whole way home! By the time baby #2 arrived, we were old pros. We were no longer nervous about the car seat, or changing diapers, or getting up in the middle of the night, in fact, we weren't nervous about Ana at all, we were, once again nervous about Shelby and if she would accept or reject her little sister. Well, it's all water under the bridge now. Life has adjusted itself, as it so often does, and we look ahead to other challenges, like learning to ride a bike, multiplication, jr. high, dating!
I am not a great cook. I get by. I burn half of it, and the other stuff is usually edible. My husband has the good sense to never complain (he cooks every third blue moon). And I do have my standards...my mom's Spaghetti recipe,Take Out Sushi, Tri-Tip in the crockpot, and pizza, delivered. I have come to grips with my mediocrity in the kitchen and so has my family. But I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. Over the years I've come to scrutinize Trader Joe's easy meals and here are a few of my favorites:
Green Curry Sauce in the glass jar, add some Chicken or Shrimp and veggies and Voila! Spicy!
Cacciatore Sauce over baked Chicken, yum.
17 Bean and Barley Soup, dried in a bag, I like to add diced ham or soft cooked bacon.
Annie's Mac N Cheese and meatless Corn dogs (frozen)
Italian Meatloaf, from the refrigerated section.
Stuffed Red Peppers, near the meatloaf. These were a great serving size before the kids consumed real food. Now it's pricey to buy two packages at $5 for two stuffed halves.
Black Bean & Cheese Burritos, near the meatloaf. I freeze these to use for quick lunches.
Asian Salad with all the fixin's in the bag (mandarins, crunchies, almonds & dressing), I add chicken for a light meal.
I'd love to hear of any other Trader Joe's Meal savers if you have any additions!
"So what's left to do in this life?" I asked John as we retired for bed on a Friday night before 9 pm. My frankness was not only disheartening, it was a little morbid, too. It's been a few months since I turned 31 and I catch myself repeating the same phrase in my head every once in awhile. "I can't believe I'm already 31. I am the mother of TWO kids. I can't believe I'm already 31. I am the mother..." I remember lying awake at night in junior high giddy with the thoughts of my future, the anticipation of my high school prom (THAT was a let down!), those golden days of college academia, wild college parties, wilder college boys, moving out of my parent's house, "finding myself", finding my soul mate, falling in love, choosing a career, planning my wedding, the blissful years of newlywed life, buying our first house, getting pregnant for the first time, and then the second time (oops). And so I reflect on the "Back 30" as a mountain of accomplishment. Every year a new event, more exciting than the last. And now, suddenly, it's all happened. I've climbed to the top, I've checked everything off the "To Do List". Now I spend my days maintaining all those things I acquired in the previous 30 years. Like the wrinkles on my forehead and the teaching credential I have to renew. The mortgage payment and the gym membership I keep in hopes of restoring my twice pregnant figure. They say that depression often rides the curtails of a major accomplishment like finishing a marathon or completing a degree. You get such a high from the finality of it all, that soon afterward, you find yourself slipping into the doldrums. What goes up, must come down. Well, in a sense, I'm a little down. And no, this doesn't equate to any disappointment in my life or my marriage, and certainly not in my children. I am thrilled with where I am, more in love with my kids every day, and captivated by the intricacies of my ever changing relationship with my husband. I suppose I've just added it all up and determined the sum of all the parts and stand here scratching my head because I can't believe all the parts are already in the equation. Wait, I really got them ALL? There's not one more little peak over this valley? And no, I'm not hoping to get pregnant again, so I guess that answers that question. And now that I've looked back over the last 30 years, I slowly turn my head toward the future. A future that is no longer just about me, that is full of my children's futures, a life that is shared wholly with my better half. A group effort from here onward. What shall I lie awake at night and think about to conjure up that giddy excitement of my preteens? Menopause? Well, for now, I'll focus on everyone else because right now, it's their lives that bring excitement to mine. Their futures, his career goals, his dreams about new business, their first days of kindergarten, learning to read and draw, their first date. And here I am, reshaping my figure on the treadmill, packing their lunches, padding my retirement account, and waiting for my next big climb. I'm packing my newfound selflessness, strapping on my humbled confidence, tying on my open-minded appreciation, and bringing the whole family for this next leg of the journey.
I wonder what my days would be like without the humor of my children. Today, Shelby rode her little red tricycle around the driveway growling out a conversation with her make believe friends, Jeremiah and Hannah. Her low, husky voice could be heard as she chatted away, "I'll meet you on the purple road, okay, Jeremiah? And you can follow, follow, follow me right down this streeeeett!" I watched her little feet speed-pedal those tiny wheels as she cranked the handlebars and whirled around the driveway in the sun. Then, as she pulled away toward the garage she made a low ringing noise, "Brrrrngg! Brrrrnnngg!" and reached back into the trunk of her trike without looking back. Pulling a purple sippy cup out, she placed the nipple top into her ear and said, "Hello? Oh Hannah! I'm on my way! Okay, Bye Bye!"