happy thing: I will get this signed by the author in four days!

Did you know that Brenda has published a book? She has! The first one (she has at least two more planned) is based on the alphabet flash cards that she made a few years ago for Bug, and they’re just as adorable in book form. You can even buy a Kindle edition to keep your kids entertained in the car or while you’re cooking dinner!

I bought a copy of the book for us, of course, and one for my 20-month-old niece just because. My mom reports that Aurora LOVES the book and has wanted to read it approximately 11 billion times since they got it. My brother has been working on teaching her the alphabet and she already knows most of her letters! This book is right up her alley, since she can practically read it herself.

Hearing how much Aurora loves this book made me think, “I should buy this for all the littles I need to give Christmas gifts to this year, and all the babies I know who are being born in the next few months!” Brilliant idea, right? So brilliant that I figured I should share it with you all. You’re welcome!

On another note, I’m so tired of being sick. Everyone in the house has been taking turns with a summer cold, the kind that leaves you listless and stuffed up and coughing. I’ve been fighting The Annoying Cold That Will Not Die (h/t Sonja) for what seems like forever. A few days ago, just as I was starting to feel better, I got a plugged milk duct! Those suckers can turn into mastitis, which I’ve never had but am scared of because I hear it’s quite painful. So I was stressing about that till it (thank God) cleared itself up. And then Monday, just as I was ready to tackle packing for California, I woke up with a fever and chills. What the heck, immune system!?

That is actually quite typical of me. Last year when I was pregnant, I was basically sick for two months with one virus or another. I think my immune system must be easily overwhelmed; once it’s working on one infection, all the other germs say, “Hey, she’s distracted! Quick, slip in while she’s not looking!”

Anyway. I’m feeling better today. I’m taking Emergen-C and drinking tons of fluids, and am trying really, really hard not to go overboard trying to make up for lost time, wearing myself out, and ending up right back where I started. Except for, um, making banana-coconut muffins and doing laundry and loading the dishwasher and sorting clothes to pack. That’s not overboard, right? Sigh. I’m doomed to be sick till September, probably.

But hey, California! Have I mentioned that we’re going to California for two weeks? Just me and the girls, making a cross-country trip to visit friends and family. We already have a ton of fun stuff planned, and my mom is going to be there at the same time as us, visiting her sister in the next town over from Brenda. Poor Troy has to stay home and work. Poor Troy, with the house and the TV and the bed alllll to himself for two weeks. I’m sure he’ll miss us terribly.

Although the travel prep is probably going to kill me, I’m quite looking forward to our actually being there, hanging out with old friends and introducing Elliora to them and my mom’s side of the family. Annalie is beyond excited to stay at Bug’s house.

I’m pretty excited that I’m going to be able to get Brenda to sign my book for me in just a few days. To celebrate that, and Brenda’s first published book, I’m going to give a copy away! Just leave a comment telling me if you’re a list-making, pack-weeks-ahead organized kind of person, or a wait-till-the-last-minute-and-oh-heck-I’ll-pack-my-laundry-they-have-washing-machines-there kind of person. If you actually buy a copy of Secret Agent Josephine’s ABC’s, forward me the Amazon order confirmation (feel free to delete your address first) and I’ll give you four extra entries in the drawing!

I’ll close comments after we arrive in California on Friday afternoon. Good luck!

This post has been brought to you by (1) me finally feeling something like normal for the first time in weeks, and (2) Elliora’s unexpectedly, blessedly long afternoon nap. That long nap was probably due to the fact that Elliora ate almost an entire grilled cheese sandwich (provolone and cheddar, ‘cuz we’re fancy like that) for lunch today, cut up into bite-size pieces and dipped in tomato and roasted red pepper soup. She loved it.

Apparently Elliora likes grilled cheese & tomato soup.

Comments are now closed. I’ll post the winner soon!

I write posts like the last one for two main reasons. First, I get a lot of great parenting ideas from blogs I read, and I figure if I have a decent idea I should pay it forward and share it with others. Second, if I write it down then I’m less likely to forget about it.

It’s ironic (or is it?! I’m always fuzzy on the definition of irony, thanks to Alanis Morissette) that the day after writing a post about how much easier our lives could be if I just remember to be more playful, I am writing a post about how my parenting report card today would be stamped with a great big FAIL.

Today I lost my temper at Annalie over something kind of stupid. She threw a fit over having to leave the house for dinner, then got mad because she had to put on long pants (a fight I have with her EVERY SINGLE DAY, every time we need to leave the house, oh my goodness does this kid ever need to live in Southern California). Then it went even further downhill, probably largely because she was hungry, which was why we were leaving the house to get some dinner.

I was hungry too, and I have the same tendency to be 300% more irritated by life when I’m hungry, so it took a lot of effort for me to stay calm. But by golly, I did. I spent 20 minutes patiently, calmly talking to Annalie. I reminded her she was hungry. I pointed out that 45F isn’t warm enough to go outside in a skirt and tank top. She was not entirely happy but had simmered down and even put on tights and was ready to leave.

And then she changed her mind. I don’t even know exactly what it was, but something set her back to square one and she told me, in that hmmph-so-there voice that is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me, that she wasn’t leaving the house ever again and I couldn’t make her. Then she laid down on her bed and grabbed the headboard like I was going to have to pry her off.

I saw red. I yelled at her. I pushed her down the hall towards Troy and stomped into my room to count to 100. I rested my forehead on the wall and took deep, shaky breaths. I listened to Annalie wailing, to Troy talking to her, to poor Elliora strapped into the infant seat, crying her head off. I hated myself just a little bit.

I pulled myself together and joined my family. I took Elliora out of the seat and comforted her. I hugged Annalie and asked her how much better she thought I felt now that I’d yelled at her. She said she didn’t know. I told her, “Not better at all. I feel worse. How do you feel?” She admitted she felt worse too. We all calmed down and talked and apologized and forgave. We went to dinner and came home and Annalie went to bed happy and serene while I laid on the couch and nursed Elliora and had a good cry.

I think what’s going on right now, mainly, is that Annalie is dealing with not having me to herself anymore. She is understandably frustrated at having to share my time, and that it often seems like the lion’s share of that is going to Elliora these days. Lately Annalie has been unusually snippy with me and angry at me. I know it’s all part of the process of learning to deal, and I’m glad she is taking it out on me and not the baby (with whom she is unfailingly gentle and loving), but it’s still trying. And today we were both hungry and I was tired and breastfeeding hormones probably played a part and just arrrrrgggghhhh.

On top of that, school has been challenging. I’ve been trying hard for the last month to get back into a routine with school, and Annalie is fighting me every step of the way. For every hour of school we do, I spend easily another hour convincing her. It’s exhausting.

Part of me thinks it’s no big deal. She is in first grade; putting the curriculum on hold and unschooling for another month or so won’t hurt her. We still read books every day, and she reads and writes plenty on her own. We talk about time and dates and prices and measurements every day, in real-life situations at the store, while cooking, while planning a trip. Now that the weather is warming up, and Elliora is a bit older and doesn’t hate the car quite as much, we can start going to the library regularly and hitting the museums again. We can keep plugging away at our year’s curriculum right through summer if we want to. We’re going to start using Time4Learning as a supplement (thanks, Yara!) and I’m hopeful that it will be a good fit for Annalie’s learning style and our needs right now.

[I am a bit apprehensive leaving the negative stuff about homeschooling in this post because I've gotten some pretty negative responses from people about this kind of thing in the past. Please know that I am not saying homeschooling is too hard for us, because I'm not; I'm saying that right now homeschooling is challenging but we are persevering because I want to teach my kids about perseverance and flexibility just as much as I want to teach them how to read and write. If I honestly thought homeschooling wasn't working for us anymore we wouldn't be doing it. It's as simple as that. And I want to be honest about our struggles because if someone else is struggling in their homeschool at least they won't read my blog under the erroneous impression that homeschooling comes easily to everyone else in the world but them.]

On top of everything else Troy’s job is crazy busy right now and he’s basically leaving for work before we get up and getting home just in time to tuck Annalie in at night. As you can imagine this is stressing all of us out for various reasons.

I’m truly okay now. I talked to Troy and my mom and Brenda and Madge. Brenda and Madge both told me that when I lose my temper at my kid, it’s an opportunity for me to help her learn how to deal with anger and angry people, and also a chance to teach her about how even her parents aren’t perfect. (Gasp! Shocking but true.) My mom and Troy both had good ideas for ways to help Annalie learn to deal with her frustration. They all reminded me that things will get easier and I know they are right. I am stretched pretty thin right now, with nursing a baby and homeschooling a first-grader and attempting to keep the house in some kind of order on days that are too cold for Annalie to play outside, and I need to be as kind to myself as I would to anyone else in this situation. So I’m trying.

Sarah commented on the last post that Annalie’s vocabulary is so good for her age that it’s easy to forget she’s just a little kid. I confess I have the same problem sometimes. Annalie is so mature and smart and empathetic in some ways, but in other ways she is still very much six-going-on-seven. I am guilty of expecting too much of her at times. Especially since Elliora was born, I think, since in comparison with a four-month-old Annalie seems impossibly grown-up. But she’s not. She’s still a kid in need of snuggles and silliness and reassurance and guidance and tons of patience and understanding and love. Though really, what adult doesn’t need those things too?

Tomorrow is another day. It might bring more temper tantrums, it might not. Either way, we’ll handle it and I will attempt to remain calm and remember that we’re all doing the best we can under the circumstances, knowing it will get easier eventually. Or I’ll get stronger in the process. Probably both.

How are you today?

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You know, I like a challenge. Challenges keep life interesting.

Give birth weeks before Christmas? No problem.

Spend hours sitting on the couch nursing a newborn when I’d normally be decorating the house, shopping and baking, wrapping presents and getting packages ready to ship? Sure, one Christmas that’s a little less festive than usual won’t kill us, and next year I can do all those things again.

Host a stream of out-of-town guests in the weeks before and after the baby’s birth? Hey, the more the merrier! We love company, and everyone will understand if the house is a little messy under the circumstances.

Of course I’d be happy to help you out with your Christmas card, Mom. I should be able to design it for you in only an evening or two, especially if you’ll hold Elliora for me. Hmm, it seems like she’d rather be held by her mama. And she wants to nurse and doze on me for five hours straight? All righty, I can use Photoshop one-handed; it just might take me a bit longer, that’s all.

Come down with my second cold in a month, really? Okay…I guess I’m usually sick this time of year anyway. I can deal with a cold. We might need to go buy a new humidifier, though, because ours died last week. And maybe pick up some saline nasal spray and a couple boxes of those tissues with lotion in them.

Wait, what!? PINKEYE, seriously? Sigh.

I guess I’d better let Bekah know that she probably doesn’t want to bring her family here to spend the night before their early-morning flight out of DC to spend Christmas with family in Wisconsin. The last thing she needs is for me to pass on an eye infection to all her kids right before Christmas. Man, Annalie’s going to be pretty disappointed when I tell her about the cancelled plans in the morning. She was really looking forward to a sleepover with her friends.

At least while I’m spending all this time nursing the baby and getting healthy again, I’ll stay busy. I mean, if I didn’t need to address all our Christmas cards, write baby-gift thank-you notes, package up and ship the handful of Christmas New Year presents we’re sending to family, help Annalie make the cinnamon-dough ornaments I promised her we could make, take self-portraits every day this week, and try to keep up with commenting on the other 7 Dayers’ photos with my one-handed typing, I might get bored!

Honestly, I just keep laughing. What’s next, a broken arm? A surprise visit from my Aunt Mildred and her 13 kids and three incontinent dogs? You better believe I’m being extra-careful lately—holding handrails on the stairs and walking around any ice—and saying a prayer of thanks that I don’t actually have an Aunt Mildred. I’m also saying prayers of thanks that my mom is still here, still in good health, and doing all my laundry for me.

It’s also worth mentioning that I feel like a walking experiment for home remedies today. Because I’m breastfeeding, I’m trying not to take cold meds unless I absolutely need to. I’ve gone through almost two whole boxes of tissue and half a bottle of saline nasal spray in the past two days. I’ve taken hot, steamy showers. I have drunk gallons of water and hot peppermint tea with organic raw honey stirred into it. I’ve taken extra vitamin C and swallowed a chopped-up clove of raw garlic (like taking pills, with a glass of water). I’ve stood over a steaming pot of water and apple cider vinegar. I’ve put warm compresses and chamomile tea bags on my eye. And finally, in the Possibly More Than You Wanted To Know category, I’ve put a few drops of breastmilk in my eye. I think it was my friend Lynn who told me about that trick a few years ago. Lucky for me, I just happened to be lactating when I got pinkeye for the first time since I was a teenager, eh?

Basically, I surrender. If you need me before 2011, I’ll be right here in the corner of the couch, addressing envelopes and snuggling with my girls in between one-handedly typing comments on Flickr. Hey, as long as you’re up, can you refill my water cup and bring me a banana? Thanks.