Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'm still here

Still here.  Still studying.  On the home stretch - finals are over in 8 days, and then I'll be back to my blog world!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I hit the wall earlier this week.  And have spent the rest of the week doing my damnedest to avoid hitting it again (and so far have been only fairly successful).  This back-in-school bit has been, well, exactly as hard as I imagined it would be.  (Last semester, my Algebra class was a cake walk compared to this - which, if you know me, know how absolutely ludicrous that sounds coming from me).

My top complaints (I hate to call them that, but let's call them what they really are) are pure exhaustion, immense intimidation at the prospect of actually being accepted to the nursing program and the time that studying takes away from my kids.

My kids?  I can't even go there tonight.  If you want to get an idea of where my head is, I'll tell you that I forgot to put Ethan's Tae Kwon Do uniform in his bag and so he had to wear his jeans and t-shirt to class today.  When I picked him up, he told me he cried before his class and that he was "so sad" that I'd forgotten it.  Nothing like letting down your kids to boost your confidence.  Damn it!  I even wrote myself a note.  I'm not doing much better with Eli.  I had to sneak up to his room around 11 last night and scoop him out of bed so I could snuggle with him for a little while (I have only done this once or twice in the five years I have had my boys).  Tonight, I picked up dirty clothes off of Eli's floor and realized that seeing his brown pants and yellow shirt in a pile by his crib was the only way I knew what he had on yesterday.  That sucks.  When I snuggled with him this afternoon, he smelled like my babysitter.  That sucks more.

To say the competition for seats in the nursing program is almost not-even-worth-it-ridiculously-high is an understatement, and I only say "almost" out of fear of my mother coming over here to kick my ass upon reading this in order to keep me from assuming an attitude of defeat or worse, uttering the word "can't".  A recent figure I heard from a reliable source: 400 students applied last semester.  65 were accepted.  This is not encouraging.  A 4.0 GPA is not technically required, but it might as well be since 4.0 students are being turned away.  But it's okay.  I can handle that.  However, what that translates to for me is the EVERY test I take in EVERY class is THE MOST IMPORTANT test I take because it only gets me that much closer to getting my rear-end in one of those highly-coveted seats in the program.  EVERY test is the MOST important because I cannot make ANY mistakes.  And that's really not much of an exaggeration.

So the crazy, hormonal, sleep-deprived, unbathed, under-nourished, anti-social person I become the week and a half leading up to each of my exams is because I have the crystal clear understanding that if I make ONE mistake, then it's game over, baby.  I treat each test as the most important test of my life because it is.  A flawless performance, every time, is the only way I can stay in the game.  There are no foul-shots or lay-ups here.  As they say on Project Runway, you're either in or you're out.  And I sure as hell am not losing all this sleep, working this hard and missing time with my husband and babies to be voted off the island.

For the past week, I've walked around filled with doubt about my priorities - why the hell am I aching for and missing my own kids while spending my time trying to learn how to take care of someone else's kids? I suppose I could look at that way, but tonight, I finally found my zone.  All the facts, figures, formulas and concepts all came together for me.  It all seemed so doable.  I sat in Starbucks, completely re-inspired and rejuvenated, and worked problems, listened to music and dominated my text book (to the extent that you can dominate a really dorky textbook).  And the truth is, in those moments, I knew I am doing exactly what I want to be doing.  (Ok, right now sleeping is what I really want to be doing, but I'm talking bigger picture here).  So, if I want to stay in the zone, I can't start crumbling under pressure, I just need to trust that I'm making the best decisions I can for myself and my family.

And that, my friends, is how Jen got her groove back.

So, bring it.  Game on, baby.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Remember this post about my Northern vs. Southern roots?  Well, it seems I may not be the Southerner I think I am!

The post got picked up by a syndicate feed and several websites linked to it, including The News Observer.  One reader was kind enough to point out to me that I spelled "y'all" incorrectly.  In my post, I spelled it y-a-apostrophe-l-l and the reader explained that it is not a contraction of "ya" and "all" but is a contraction of "you" and "all" and therefore should be spelled "y'all".

I obviously need to brush up on my terminology, you guys.  That was wicked embarrassing.

Stories of Sleep

This morning, Ethan asked where his grandpa (who is visiting this weekend) was sleeping.  I told him he was asleep in our guest room.  Ethan said, "Oh.  The guest room.  That's where people who don't belong here, but are your friends, but live in another state sleep.  That's why we call it a guest room".

* * * * * *
Each night before bed, I have Ethan tell Eli something nice about being brothers.  Last night I overheard Ethan telling Eli as he gave him a goodnight hug, "Eli, you're my best brother that I have.  And I'm sorry you had a blow out today.  And that you got water up your nose in the bath.   Twice."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

My life, I assure you, while quite lovely, is far from a from a fairy tale.  Our life is happy, but can also be harried.  And messy.  And chaotic.  And stressful.  So when story book settings (along with opportunities to slow down) make appearances in our day-to-day life, I soak them up as much as possible.  Today was was one of those sweet and special days.  Take a look at what we saw on our walk:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What You Won't See Here

If you are new to my blog, let me take a few minutes to tell you what you won't see here:

You won't see step by step instructions accompanied by photos of recipes that I have made for my family that day.  Really.  You won't.

You won't see me referring to my husband with a cute nickname or cryptic initials instead of his actual name.  My husband's name is Adam and that's how I refer to him both on my blog and in my real life.

You won't see give-a-ways of various gift cards, gift certificates or other gifty things.  It is a nice thought and probably really fun for readers and great for blog traffic and ratings, but quite honestly, I am horrific about going to the post office.  I couldn't mail a package (or even a letter) in a timely manner if my very own life depended on it.

You won't see contests where I ask you to name our pet fish or to guess how many Starbucks coffees I've had that day.  I assume you don't care about how many cups of decaf I've had (three) and I don't plan on buying anymore pet fish (we already have a half-dead Beta that lives in a dirty fishbowl in Ethan's bathroom that has proved to be too much for me to handle).  The fish is (aptly) named Fishy by the way (named by my son, not by a blog reader).

So, then...now that you know what you won't see, let me tell you what I can guarantee:

My honest-to-goodness, genuine and very real experiences and emotions.  I will pour my heart out to you (and have already).  I will do my very best to tell it like it is, to show you who I really am (even if that means it's not exactly who I would like to be).  I'll paint the pretty (and not-so-pretty) pictures of my life.

Because at the end of the day, I'm all I've really got to show for myself, right?

I'm glad you're here and I hope you'll keep reading.

Total Picture Tuesday

In an effort to show you a real look at my real life, I bring you another Total Picture Tuesday!

A peek at a photo from our fun-filled family vacation....

....or, a peek at what awaits my real life now that we're home:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Blogalicious Weekend

When I told my mother that I was going to a blog conference that was for women of color, she looked at me with a look that seemed to say, "Uh, honey, I don't know how to break this to you, but you are in fact, NOT a woman of color."  I guess the fact that I am indeed white and was attending a conference for women of color does seem to merit some sort of explanation.

Except, now having returned from the conference I can tell you, it actually doesn't.  I have never felt more comfortable, more welcomed or more honored to share my weekend with women whom I'd just met.  Women who are just like me.  Women who love to write, who love to share, who love to be.  

While we are all at various levels in our blogging lives and despite the fact that we are all jockeying for position in the blogosphere, there was not one iota of competitive spirit or, of cattiness or of criticism.  I only felt that the women that we were with were there to  support and uplift, to learn and to teach, and to enable and encourage one another.  Never have I had the opportunity to associate myself with a group of women who were more genuine, more graceful and just downright fun to be around.  I walked away wishing that everyone could've shared in the beautiful dynamics that moved this conference forward.  I simply cannot wait until Blogalicious 2010 and am looking forward to cultivating the new relationships that began to bloom.

Total Picture Tuesday

Inspired by this recent post, I would like to share another sneak peek and offer some full disclosure on what my real life really looks like!

I could show you what my my tidy laundry room could look like:

Or, I could show you what my messy laundry room actually looks like:

Just making sure you have the total picture!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

In the Driver's Seat

After an amazing, inspiring and dynamic weekend at the Blogalicious blog conference, it is nice to be home and back in the driver's seat (literally!) mothering my little men once again.

Bantering About My Yankee and (New) Southern Roots

Hop over to Deep South Moms to see what I have to say about being a Yankee living in the South in my recent post Southern Sayings I Will Never Say.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Total Picture

I love blogs. I love writing my own blog as much as I love reading other people's blogs. One thing that always gets me thinking is the different pictures of people's homes that they post on their blog. Most often, the photos show their home in its absolute best light, in its most perfect state. The photo in one particular blog I've started reading look like they came out of the latest Anthropologie catalog. Everything in the house is beautiful and colorful and sweet. The blogger's outfits are to die for - adorable dresses, sweet little shoes, perfect hair all the time. And while they make for a beautiful blog and fill me with light-hearted thoughts of a happy, artsy family living their happy, picturesque life, I can't help thinking...is this the TOTAL picture? What I want to know is, what's on the other side of the lens, the side we can't see? And is the pretty perspective the reality? Is it even what people really want to see or simply just what we want to share? Is there something to be said for allowing people to see what we really live like? Are the invisible parts of the story board the more interesting parts? Personally, I love a pretty picture but I also love to see how people really are. The authentic is what draws me in. The pretty stuff is just that. Pretty. Stuff. But when you show people how you really are, then they really know. Who. You. Are. And isn't who you really are more interesting than what you look like?

What do I mean?

I could show you a picture of my sweet little front entrance, decorated for Halloween:

Or I could show you what my entryway REALLY looks like:

I could show you the pretty kitchen cabinets I have, all neatly organized:

Or I could show you my REAL cabinets, the ones without the glass that visitors don't usually see:

I could show you the pretty couch in my playroom:

Or I could show you what the playroom REALLY looks like:

I could offer you a sneak peek at the delicious beef stew I made for dinner, from scratch, that simmered all day:

Or I could show you what my youngest son REALLY ate for dinner:

Now, which set of photos makes you feel like you got the TOTAL picture?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Ugly Side of Being Back in School

While I love being a student again, there is an ugly side to being back in school. For one thing, it means getting up super early in the morning so that I can not only get Ethan fed, dressed and dropped off at his school the moment the doors open, but I also must get myself dressed, fed (if you count being fed as slurping my coffee on the fly and throwing a cereal bar in my backpack) and sitting in class by 8 a.m. On the mornings I have class, Ethan and I are a flurry of Thermoses, backpacks and bedhead, both of us clamoring to the car. Without fail, Ethan always asks me if he's the one who's late to which I always answer, "Nope, but Mommy's going to be if we don't hurry". Today, as we drove to school in the predawn hours (it was 7:15, admittedly not all that early, but still very dark), Ethan asked me why his "school starts at night". The familiar stab of mommy guilt stayed with me for a while until I remembered that even on the days where I don't have to be at class, Ethan still insists on being at school as early as possible so he can do "his morning work" which from what I've gathered is coloring some sort of picture at his table. You gotta admire his enthusiasm.

The second disadvantage to being back in school is that my downtime is severely lacking. While I must admit, that there are many times where I consider doing school work to be a form of relaxation (read: there are no kids scurrying around me vying for my attention), when an exam is approaching, it is hard to be relaxed. Especially for me, someone who functions optimally only when my surroundings are organized, when my to do lists are as completed as they can ever be and when my household is running smoothly. The glitch here is that the rest of my life, both the big things and the little things, get ignored when I'm preparing for an exam. There is no organization, my to do lists grow so long they might as well be written on a roll of toilet paper and as far as the household running smoothly, let's just say I manage not to burn the house down or leave my kids unattended for long stretches of time.

When I say that the rest of my life gets ignored, I really mean it. As far as the little things, laundry is left unwashed, unsorted, unfolded, and un-putaway in whatever place it happens to land at the moment just before I realized how desperately I needed to start buckling down on my school work. Meals do not get prepared, the contents of the pantry and the fridge are depleted and my family is forced to survive on whatever non-rotten food they can find at the time until the fridge is restocked, which will probably be a day or two after my exam (I pad it with an extra day of recovery time). Up until the day of my exam, my house looks like it was burglarized and ransacked. My physical appearance isn't much better, as hygiene is another thing that takes a back seat to studying. (I don't have time for a shower, people! That is 20 minutes that could be spent memorizing polyatomic ions or mastering molecular geometry.) So far, I've only gone two days in a row without showering, but three days without washing my hair, and I think I went an entire 24 hours without brushing my teeth, but I can't be sure. And of course, if you read my blog regularly, you'll notice that while I'm typically not a new-blog-post-every-day kind of gal, my blog gets ignored too. Sigh.

Sadly, it isn't only the little things that get ignored, but the big things as well, namely my friends and family. Adam is always very understanding about the large gaps of time I spend away from him in the days leading up to an exam. The kids are understanding too (not sure Eli even notices I'm gone most of the time) but it certainly bothers me. Especially this past weekend. Sunday morning, Adam was planning a fun activity with the boys and I got up and out early to study away from the house and all the distractions. I headed to Starbucks, got my coffee and settled in for an entire day of studying. But it took me a while to get started because I couldn't concentrate on anything other than the emptiness that I felt. I watched moms with their kids come in for a hot chocolate, I watched husbands and wives sit hand-in-hand while sipping their lattes. And all I could think about were my three boys off having fun without me.

Eventually I regained my perspective and was able to push through three chapters of molecules, ions and balanced equations, fueled in large part by the memories of the fun day the four of us had had the day before (I pulled myself away from my books long enough to spend the day apple picking with Adam and the boys - what a blast and a welcome break!).

Most of the time, I know I'm doing the right thing, but sometimes, I wonder. I wonder if it is worth it to put this burden on myself, I wonder if it is fair for me ask Adam and the boys to sacrifice their time with me, to ignore my own babies so that I can go take care of other people's sick babies in a few years from now. Usually, the answer is yes - not that there is anything that is ever better then spending time with my children - but usually, I know that everything I am doing right now is the means to get to my goal. Other than being a mother, I know that being a nurse will be the (second) most important thing I do with my life.

It's a long term goal, one that I am slowly (but ever so surely) achieving. The rewards this early in the game come in small doses. But today, I received an extra dose - my test grade from Monday's exam, which was 102. The road is long, but it feels good to know I'm on my way.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Midnight Wanderings

Tonight I was sitting in the living room studying for my chemistry test next week. I heard Ethan crying upstairs so I ran up. He had soaked through his jammies but that's not why he was crying. Apparently, "Daddy left his room without saying goodnight", which is to say that Adam fell asleep putting Ethan to bed and then left the room around midnight. Not exactly the same thing.

Ethan was carrying on about wanting someone to sleep with him in his bed. As much as I wanted to comfort him and as much as I would've like to snuggle up next to him all night, I also know what a slippery slope co-sleeping can become. I stood my ground, even though it hurt my heart. Instead, I spoke softly to him as I changed his jammies, I wiped his tears away with my fingertips, I cracked a few jokes in failed attempts to make him smile. Finally I led him, tearfully, back to bed.

He climbed under the covers, sniffling and sobbing. I smoothed his blankets for him, tucking his favorite froggy blanket around him. I had Ethan's favorite stuffed animals and sat on his bed and did a little show for him with the animals, pretending that they were telling me secrets. I finally saw a hint of a smile which was encouragement for me to continue with the stuffed animal show. It worked, because full on giggling ensued. My heart soared. It brought me such joy to be the one to turn his tears into laughter, to be the one to end his day on a happy note. It was a special moment for me. There was something about us being the only two people awake in the house, something cozy and sweet that seemed to strengthen our connection. As I left his room, and Ethan was snuggled and content under his covers, he said, "Can we do that stuffed animal thing again tomorrow night, Mommy?". You bet we can.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Southern Yankee's European Vacation Part #4

You can read the first three installments of the European Vacation series on my blog and you can also read about how the idea for the series came about. Enjoy!

If you'd like to know what I've been up to present day, read my latest post at www.deepsouthmoms.com.

Sunday, May 2nd, 1999

I wake up not nearly as hungover as I expected, but still a little dizzy. Schewart will drive us to Amsterdam today, but first we need to find a place to stay.

Anita makes an amazing breakfast which Schewart cannot eat because he's not feeling well after our evening of drinking. We eat eggs fried with tomatoes and ham. And of course tea, bread and cheese. We outside again, enjoying the warm sunlight in the cool air.

After we eat, I help Anita carry in some dishes and V. and I get online and try to find a place to stay in Amsterdam. The cheapest place that could accommodate three people is "Bob's Youth Hostel". We wait for Schewart to recover (he has some soup) and we leave in a tornado of backpacks and goodbyes. V. and I hop in the car with Schewart, S. goes separately with Dirk. We will meet up at the ferry station.

We park the car on the ferry and walk out to the outside of the boat. We pass so much green and windmills. The trip is quick and we get back in the car after saying goodbye to Dirk in the typical Dutch way. Three kisses on opposite cheeks while holding hands.

When Shewart stops to get gas, S. and I go into the store for something to drink. I purchase some "gummy autos" which I find hilarious. I chose the gummy autos over gummy pink cadillacs, gummy taxis and gummy double-decker buses. S. and I try to figure out the coffee vending machine but have trouble since it is written in Dutch. We pray after we press the button that a cup will dispense, otherwise, coffee will be all over the floor. We are joyous and relieved when a cup comes out and we let out a little cheer.

The rest of the ride is about two hours. When we get to Amsterdam, it is dirty and ugly and secretly, I am terrified and suddenly very homesick. Schewart isn't quite certain where Bob's is, but we finally find it. Schewart says it is in a pretty good neighborhood, but it looks awful to me. After saying goodbye (three kisses), S., V. and I find ourselves in Bob's "lobby", which is actually just a dirty room with old wooden tables and chairs and a few seedy young guys drinking beer and smoking pot.

The receptionist has huge bushy eyebrows, doesn't speak much English and scared me and V. Bob's doesn't accept credit cards and we don't have enough cash, so we are sent off into the night, with our packs, to find an exchange office. We stop off at a Crowne Plaza hotel to get directions and I wish were staying in that comforting, welcoming place. The bank that is open 24 hours is at the main train station a few blocks away. Sex shops and garbage line the dark, dirty streets.

We wait in line forever at the bank. We exchange American dollars for gelders and trek back to Bob's. I hate going down those stairs into that hell hole of a lobby. V. hates it too, but S. thinks its funny and wants us to hang out there. V. and I flatly refuse. We pay a deposit and one nights' stay - 200 gelders which is $100. We are given three keys and bad directions to our room. The receptionist and her friend try to tell us where to go but the only thing we hear is to go around the corner of an alley and look for the "number 1".

We duck into the first alley we come to and see a door connected to a convenience store and can't possibly imagine that's our room. But, after exploring all the possibilities and all the other trash-filled alleys, we figure it must be. It is exactly what the receptionist says: a little door with the number one on it. V. struggles with the key and hands it to me. I struggle too, but miraculously, it unlocks. I turn the square door knob and push the door with all my might. It won't budge. My first thought is that there is a dead body blocking the door, but it turns out, it was just sticking.

We fall into the narrow hallway and immediately, the smell of pot fills my nose. To the right of us is a stairway, which is more like a ladder in terms of how steep it is and the size of the stairs. We all look at each other perplexed. We were told to go up two staircases and go to the door on the left. We literally climb the stairs hand over hand. It is just wide enough for one of us to go up at a time. When we get to the top, we open the unlocked door that is facing us and see a little kitchenette to the right and a bathroom to the left. There is a door at each end of the hall. Following the directions, I open the door to the and someone is laying on a bed watching tv. I quickly close the door. We open the other door and am pleasantly surprised to be greeted with a spacious, clean and nicely decorated room. The bedspreads are blue plaid (there is one day bed and one double bed that looks more like a box. The exposed beams in the ceiling are painted a pretty pale green and red curtains with gold stars hang on the windows. The room is cute and I especially enjoy the Matisse prints hanging on the walls so we don't mind sharing the little apartment with a stranger for a couple of nights.

The three of us are starving so we explore the surrounding area and settle on a pizza place - not too imaginative but it is late and all we want to do is go to sleep. We order two pizzas and three cokes. We get no plates and instead, are handed three little napkins. We eat fast and fall asleep as soon as we climb into bed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ethan talks politics

Earlier this week I sat down with Ethan and watched the President as he addressed our nation’s students. Apparently they didn’t watch it in Ethan’s classroom – not sure if that was because his school didn’t broadcast it or if the kindergarten class was deemed too little to “get it”. Either way, I thought it was important for him to see it. After all, when else does the President speak directly to kids? I thought the idea of his address was very appropriate and I would’ve welcomed the opportunity for Ethan to see it in school. I know others don’t share this view point with me and that’s fine, except that it actually isn’t fine…and I could go into why I think that is but I don’t want this to turn political but the point of this post is to highlight some of Ethan’s hilarious commentary as we watched it together, not for me to comment on politics.

First of all, if Ethan’s school decided that the kindergarten class shouldn’t see it because they are too young, good call. Ethan had a hard time sitting and staying focused. He was bribed on several occasions with many snacks and the promise of being able to play the Wii when it was finished.

We sat down at the dining room table with my computer and as we watched the young gentleman introduce President Obama, Ethan’s eyes lit up. “Is that Barack Obama!?” he asked excitedly.

Uh, no. That’s a black kid that’s about 16 years old and a foot and a half shorter than the President.

“Oh. Well does Barack Obama like kids? Does he have kids? He does!? What are their names?”

Oh me. I see where this is going. As we settled down to watch, I asked Ethan what he would think if the President came to his school. His answer: “I would certainly love that!”.

A minute or two into the speech, Ethan says, “Barack Obama is funny. And he’s very nice, too.”

I’m sure he’d be very happy to hear that.

When the President was stressing the importance of being responsible, Ethan perked up a little.

“Am I responsible, Mommy?”

Yes, Ethan.

“Right. Because I’ve never told lies.”

I think that would mean you’re honest. But responsible works here too, I suppose.
Lots of fidgeting ensued and then he settled down again after being bribed with some cheese and crackers and listened as President Obama advised our nation’s students to find something they are good at and enjoy.

“Am I good at something? Like Tae Kwon Do! (Gets up from the table and demonstrates his Tae Kwon Do acumen) Ow! I kicked the table leg. Ow. Ow! It really hurted. Ouch.”

I sensed my efforts of trying to get him to actually sit still and listen were becoming futile, but I could see that the address was close to wrapping up, so I forged on (and also make the mistake of telling Ethan it was almost over.) He was downright gleeful.

“It’s almost over!!! YES!!!!! It’s super close!!!!! AH!!!!”

Then the President used the word “stupid” as in something like, “If you make a bad grade, you aren’t stupid.” Well, we aren’t allowed to say that in our house, no matter what the context so this pleased Ethan very much. I hear a huge GASP! from Ethan and then, “That was a bad word!!!! Why did he say “stupid”!?!? GASP!”. Minus a half point for Obama.

The President continued by telling the kids that they have to keep practicing to be really good at something.

“Like I practice at my Batman Nintendo DS game! I never gave up my Batman game! I just keep trying and trying.” Somehow, I’m not entirely sure that’s exactly what President Obama had in mind. Yes, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that he most definitely wasn’t stressing the importance of playing video games to our nation’s future leaders.

Finally, I Ethan could take no more. He was getting up, dancing around the chair, looking around the room. And then he perked up again. “Did he just say ‘Facebook’!?”

Um, yes, he did. Ethan looked ecstatic. And then his face went from ecstatic to irritated.

“He said Facebook. He’s saying a lot of words. He’s not even breathing. Just keeps talking and talking.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Not a baby anymore

Not long after I wrote this post, I began to see some strange sort of phenomen exhibited by little Eli. You see, Eli is supposed to remain the baby, yet has been demonstrating certain behaviors usually reserved for big kids, certainly not babies.

For example, rather than being carried across the parking lot and into a store, restaurant, etc., he much prefers holding my hand and walking.

He also runs. Without falling. (Most of the time.) And he jumps.

He can throw things away for me.

He can respond to familiar questions by shaking his head yes or no and will say the appropriate "Mm-hm" or "Mm-mm" to go along with his response. It really is quite cute.

He even has been known to throw a tantrum or two. (His tantrums, I'll admit, are pretty mild...they usually involved stomping backwards repeatedly until falling or crashing into something.)

He can climb up the stairs, opens his mouth to let me brush his teeth, tries to brush his (red) hair and can feed himself yogurt (how much of that yogurt he actually eats has not yet been determined).

He walks up to the refrigerator and says "Guh! Guh!" when he would like a cup of milk.

He says "please". Sort of.

He likes to wear his little yellow back pack as walks (and is certainly not carried) into "sool" (Eli language for "school"). He also tries to do anything that his big brother is doing. Currently both boys appear to be attempting to master the fine art of snapping. Eli demonstrates his snapping skills by lightly - ever so lightly - tapping his thumb and forefinger together. Ethan demonstrates his ability by putting his hands right up by my ear asking if I "can hear this snap?" many, many times each day. Admittedly, Ethan is dramatically improving his snapping capabilities each day, which I attribute to marathon snapping practice sessions which take place at all hours of the day and night.

Eli dances, pulls his shirt down over his belly when it starts to ride up and kisses and snuggles his baby, aptly named "Bubba".

These things certainly do not sound like the normal behavior patterns of a baby to me but more along the lines of a dare-I-say, BIG boy.

Drat! And I really thought this one was going to stay a baby for me forever. Time is flying by me my friends. I'm used to it with Ethan, but with Eli, all I can think is, "Not you, too!".

Southern Yankee's European Vacation Part 3

Read this post and this post to catch up!

And if you're interested in some of my present day musings, read a recent post posted on Deep South Moms.

Saturday, May 1st, 1999

All of us sleep past eleven. Our clothes are clean and folded at the top of the stairs this morning. Anita is having brunch at 1:00 p.m., so we shower and head downstairs. Her oldest son, Schewart, is home for the weekend, visiting from Amsterdam. Outside, the table is set and we load up on bread (Fresh! Soft inside, crispy outside), butter, jam, cheese so rich and delicious it reminds me of cream, meat salads and chocolate sprinkles. We all have tea to drink.

During lunch, another son, Dirk, arrives. We are a lively bunch, joking between bites while Anita bustles around, refusing help. When our meal is through, everyone lingers at the table enjoying the perfect weather. Later, Schewart and Dirk drive the three of us girls to Antwerpen, a city in Belgium along the water. We take pictures in fornt of an ornate church, at the Great Market, by the water and in front of a castle. We have drinks at two cafes; one on the sidewalk and then one inside because we are cold.

When the five of us get back to Terneuzen, S. teaches the two boys (Louie has gone home) to play Rummy. WE drink beer and play cards and annoy Dirk with our girlishness. Anita and Johann return. We hide the beer bottles and caps because we feel guilty. Dirk and Schewart take us to a bar called The Snuggly. Everyone's eyes are on us - it is disconcerting and uncomfortable. Schewart says its because we are wearing a lot of makeup (edit to add that each of us only had on a bit of blush and some light lipstick) which is considered a little slutty in Terneuzen, but since we are dressed conservatively, it's okay. He says we look like movie stars compared to the other women in Holland. They have been brought up watching American t.v.

After we leave The Snuggly, we head to another local bar where everyone is much more friendly and social. Someone buys us light green shots that taste like coconut milk. Everyone in the bar is watching us as we dance to Elvis music. Everyone in Holland seems to have an obsession with Elvis. Every street corner has a place to buy Elvis postcards. Odd.

Schewart and Dirk tell us we'll stay out until 4:00 a.m. but I don't know how I will make it past 2:00. But by the time it reaches 4:00, I am not at all close to being tired or ready to leave. Finally, around 6:00 a.m., it is time to go. S. is talking to some men and they don't want her to leave (story of my life!). But then it gets more serious and I begin to panic. She tries to pull away and they won't let her go. Schewart and Dirk begin to get concerned and say "it is important for us to get home immediately".

Finally, we get possession of S. and rush home with the men close behind. We eventually lose them. Daylight is quickly approaching and some houses have their lights on to start the day. V. and I collapse into bed reeking of cigarettes and beer. V. eats a granola bar in bed as the sun comes up. (Gives new meaning to the idea of "breakfast in bed", doesn't it?)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Southern Yankee's European Vacation Part 2

Enjoy part two of my decade-old-journal. And if you missed, part one, you can find it here.

Friday, April 30th, 1999

The days have all melded together. I figure it's a different day because yesterday I was on a plane and today I am on a train. I've had dinner and then breakfast. But, my outfit is the same. Jeans and a bright pink t-shirt with a navy blue cotton cardigan

The ride to Brussels is smooth and slow. Green lush grass lies to each side of the train, sometimes scattered with neighborhoods, sometimes with wooly sheep. I see one particularly fat sheep with two babies close behind. The sun is bright and the grass is the greenest green I have ever seen. We are told the weather is unusually beautiful for this area.

We pass one neighborhood that is so lovely I am sure it will never leave my mind. Boys with cherry red shirts play soccer on a field atop a hill, high over the pure white houses with deep, chocolate brown roofs. It is so picturesque and reminds me of a photo you would see in a guidebook.

We pass alternating neighborhoods and sheep. I am surprised at how often and how many sheep we see. I drift in and out of sleep (must be the sheep) until we finally arrive in Brussels. We are the last people to get off the train and are a little surprised to see all the signs in a foreign language (though I don't know why this should surprise us). Most of the signs do have English somewhere, so we do manage.

At some point while in London, we realized that we needed to walk along the left side of the sidewalk instead of the right. But in Brussels, it switches back to the way it is done in the U.S. so once again, we adjust. We wait in line to get our passports stamped and I am annoyed that they stamp mine on page 13 rather than next to my stamp from London on page 5. We go down an escalator and Anita and her husband Johann (pronounced "yawn") are waiting for us. They kiss S. and they shake our hands as V. and I introduce ourselves.

They ask us about our flight as they lead us to the car parked along a downtown street. We pile our backpacks into the trunk and the three of us girls share the backseat while Anita and Johann roll down the windows in the front seat of their tiny car. Driving in Brussels is crazy. The streets are extremely narrow, the cars go fast and everyone cuts each other off. This part of Brussels is not beautiful, but we do pass an amazing cathedral with young students dressed in black shorts and leotards, obviously outside for gym class. The weather is warm and sunny, the first nice day Anita tells us. It is unusual. V. and S. and I keep nodding off in the car due to our jet lag. We need a good night's sleep.

The drive to Terneuzen takes almost two hours. When we reach the border of Holland, I can't stop looking out the window. There is lush green grass surrounding either side of the road. The road signs are painted in primary colors, houses have thatched roofs and look like gingerbread houses. Tall trees closely line the street. Some houses are in rows, but Anita and Johann's house is a single home at the end of one these rows. It is bright white, tall and made of brick. I love it instantly.

One of Anita's sons, Louie, who is 18, answers the door. He is smiling and friendly and takes us out into the beautiful backyard for some Heinekens at the picnic table. Our pampering begins here. Anita and Johann join us with drinks and cigars. We stay out there in the cool sunlight and watch Anita's hens run around the yard until it is time to shower for dinner. Johann has carried our bags to our rooms for us. V. and I share a room with two twin beds and a TV. S. takes the single room with a sink.

Anita is an amazing chef. She teaches cooking classes and has made us lasagna. Dinner is delicious. The lasagna has the freshest cheese, peppers, sausages and tomatoes I have ever eaten. We also have wine and salad and ice cream with homemade syrup and traditional Dutch cookies. Tea comes with sugar and no milk, tiny spoons made of coiled silver and a teapot complete with a basket and cozy.

We must have been dozing off at the table because Anita sends us to bed at 9:30 when it is still light outside. She urges us to leave our dirty laundry (which we are happy to do). We watch some American shows on TV and drift off to sleep.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Southern Yankee's European Vacation - Part 1

You might remember a few weeks back that I wrote this post about finding my old journal. I'd purchased the journal in London when I was traveling with two of my college roommates during our last year of college. I didn't fill it up during our trip so I used it to write bits and pieces during my first year of marriage. And then I completely forgot about it. I was so excited about finding it and read the whole thing from cover to cover. As I was reading, I was struck by two things: 1) how very different yet very similar the writing style of my former 20-year-old self is to that of my current 31-year-old self and 2) how much common sense I lacked while possessing more wisdom than I gave myself credit for.

As promised, here is the first installment of my adventures from a decade ago:

Thursday, April 29th, 1999

We should've predicted the disorganization that was to come when we left Gainesville to head to the Atlanta airport. None of us were prepared for what we were doing. We were less entertained with the fact that we would be in Europe in 15 hours and more entertained by the fact that the night before, when we were packing, we threw our carpet out the window because it was easier than carrying it down the stairs of our sorority house.

When we get on our British Airways flight, they tell us our packs are too big, so they must "go in the hole". We check them at the door of the plane and the whole ride I worry that they will be lost. I left my return ticket in my bag and V. left her wallet. I am also terrified of losing my passport and I keep checking my pocket over and over to make sure its still there. The flight is long but not unpleasant. The stewardesses (er, called flight attendants in the year 2009) pampered us from the moment we got on board. We are given socks, headphones, a menu, a sleeping mask and a blanket as soon as we sit down. Then we are given a glass of orange juice. Then a snack with a complimentary cocktail from the bar, then a really delicious meal. Our stewardess is extra friendly and wears bright pink lipstick. We eat chicken, onion and leek souffle, pasta salad and cheese cake.

After we eat, I sleep uncomfortably with the British Airways blanket and mask. We arrive in London at 6:00 a.m. with dry skin and static-y hair. We see our bags on the truck heading to the terminal and we are instantly relieved, although the panic returns while we wait for them on the carousel for what seems like a really long time. When we are finally reunited with our bags, we are immediately overwhelmed. We have no plans. No agenda. No hotel. No idea where we are or what we are doing.

S. has family friends in Terneuzen, Netherlands and they said we could stay with them for a few days. We need to get to Brussels where Anita will come to pick us up. We are completely lost and disoriented. We are on neither London time nor Florida time. All we know is that it is some time of the day.

There are not as many directories as we hoped there would be. We find a British Airways counter and the price for a flight to Brussels is 120 pounds, much more than we wanted to pay. From there, carrying our heavy packs and bumping into people constantly, we find an information booth and book a Eurostar train to Brussels that leaves in two hours, but we are at the wrong station, so we must get to Waterloo Station via the Metro. I exchange a substantial amount of dollars and get very few pounds in return. We are directed to platform #4 and hop on the first train that arrives. It doesn't take long for me to realize that we are on the wrong train. We stepped on the train that arrived at 8:38 instead of the train that arrived at 8:42. The later train would have brought us to Chatham Junction where we would've connected with a train to Waterloo. Now we are pressed for time and I begin to get nervous. I think there is no way we will ever survive this trip.

I am panicked inside but try to remain calm and sensible on the outside. My backpack is extremely heavy and uncomfortable. I'm not used to its bulk so I keep hitting people with it at every turn I make. We ask the ticket collector for help and she points us in the right direction. It is scary being on a train and not knowing where it is going. The air is thick and gray and the sky has a yellowish tint. The ride is ugly and disappointing with the exception of a few cathedral tops poking over the graffitied brick buildings. WE are in the south of London and hope that the north is better.

We get on the right metro to Waterloo and at the station I must pay 20 pence to use the restroom, which is surprisingly clean. I buy a croissant and water and have no idea how much I spent in U.S. dollars. Once again, we find ourselves struggling to find the right platform. We ask for help (again) and although the conductor shows us the right way to go, we find ourselves on the wrong train again.

I still am bewildered by the time changes, by the fact that I am halfway across the world. I can't comprehend the time change. It is neither day nor night for me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Things We Do Not Say

As if Ethan and Eli heading off to school were not enough, I also had my first day of school. (If you don't already know, I'm attempting my hand at nursing and am trying to complete the pre-requisites so I can apply to the nursing program at Kennesaw State.) I started classes last spring, but my class was online so today, my first class in an actual classroom on campus, felt like my real first.

As I dropped Ethan off at school this morning and then fought traffic, I worried that I would be the only adult learner (such a lovely PC term) in my class. When I arrived, I was thrilled to see that not only was I not the only adult in the class, but I wasn't even the oldest adult, probably by a decade! Yay for the two forty-somethings in my class! They will never know how much good they have done for my bruised ego!

During class, I recognized one of the girls that I'd met during our nursing program orientation. I went up to her after our chemistry instructor had dismissed us and started chatting, reintroducing myself, telling her I remembered she'd had a new baby just before we'd met. At first she didn't remember me, but then I could see her eyes brighten with recognition and our chat turned into the kind of conversation that typically only happens between long-time friends. Or at least between people like me who have no sense of privacy (My mother often tells me she will never understand how I am so free with the most intimate details of my life - but lucky for me and my blog there are people who are curious about them!)

As we talked before our next class she told me how'd she'd had a terrible summer. She'd taken a full load of classes but had also decided to take herself off of the medications she was taking to help her with her Post Partum Depression. I know that some people hear PPD and recoil. I am not one of those people. Very shortly after I'd given birth to Ethan, I got hit with a fast (and furious) case of PPD. And I kept it to myself. For all of the reasons that you would expect for someone to keep it to themselves...shame, an unwillingness to burden other people with my issues, a fear that people would think I was ungrateful for my beautiful and healthy son.

I tried to treat the PPD with anti-depressants but the physical side effects of the medications were unbearable for me (shakiness, sleeplessness, anxiety) and I was forced to battle through on my own. Slowly, the fog lifted and it was only then, when I began to feel better, that I realized just how badly I'd felt. I never tried to hurt myself, but I surely fantasized about it. The only thing that got me through those scary days was the deep and consuming love I felt for Ethan. He made the despair and sadness dissipate enough to at least let me function normally each day. When the fog lifted, I mentioned Post Partum Depression to anyone who would care (or not) to listen, at any opportunity that presented itself (or that I created). And what I found both comforted me and infuriated me. Many of the women I spoke to responded with "Oh, I had that! It was awful." WHAT!? They did!? Why, oh WHY, didn't they say something to me!? I was terrified and alone and ashamed for months. And I didn't have to be. What a waste.

So today, I was so proud of my new chemistry friend. I was so proud of her for speaking up and telling it like it was. In fact, I was so touched and impressed by her honesty, that I shared the story of how I miscarried a baby in between my pregnancy with Ethan and my pregnancy with Eli and how I battled with infertility for a year and how heartbreaking it is trying to get pregnant on the heels of a miscarriage. Immediately, her face softened and she shared the story of her three-year-battle with infertility and her heartbreak over a miscarriage. Now, it may seem a little odd, two perfect strangers sharing their fertility and pregnancy loss sob stories. But I was comforted and uplifted by our discussion. I know, that because of our honest and emotional conversation, we became fast friends. We cut through the B.S. that takes years to muddle through sometimes and found out what was at the core of each other. And only because she had the courage to open up. I like to think that maybe there was something about me that she knew she could trust, but really, I think she's just the kind of gal who speaks about what's on her mind.

But I had to wonder...why don't women do this more often? Why do we keep all of our pain to ourselves and only share it when it becomes unbearable? Why do we feel dramatic or embarrassed or ashamed when we fully experience our emotions? Why have I never told anyone (other than my husband) that I still feel hot tears in my eyes when I'm filling out paperwork at a doctor's office and I write "3 pregnancies, 2 live births"? Why do I feel like I can't say that out loud and that I need to push that sadness away?

I'm not sure what the answers to my own questions are, but I do know that while the subject matter was a bit depressing, I loved the authenticity of our exchange today.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Digging for Details

Ethan, who is typically a man of many, many words, is tight-lipped when it comes to sharing the details about his days in Ms. K's class. We are only three days into school and already battle lines are being drawn between the two of us as I struggle to get him to eek out even the smallest and most minor detail while he struggles to do his best to pretend not to remember (or at least make the prying painful enough for me to give up and find something else to do). He obviously hasn't figured out how stubborn his mother is, but I refuse to surrender. Even if it means bribing him with a variety of rewards in exchange for him to drop a few tidbits about his day. Yesterday, I bribed him with an offer to clean up the crayons he'd left scattered on the floor, which he immediately took me up on. Today was a particularly lonely day for me and because of my desperation for details of how he spent his day, I offered up an extra 20 minutes playing the WII. (Worked like a charm). Sadly, I'm not even ashamed of my underhanded tactics. But the following dialogue is what I was able to coax out. It may not look like much, but let me assure you friends, this was some pretty intense questioning.

Me: What was the first thing you did this morning at school?

E: Lots of sighing and hmmming. More hmming and sighing. And finally, "I'm not sure." Okaaaay.

After a long pause he remembers that they colored.

Me: What did you color?

E: "A house and some trees with an owl peeking out and the sky and the sunset. That's what I colored." So it's not that he CAN'T remember the details..

Me: What did you do after coloring?

"Uh. Let me think. Do I have to tell you or can I just think?" And then, after a pleading look from me, " Well, I think we went to a center! I think I went to the block area."

Me: What did you do after centers?

E: "Hm. Good question. I think we went to the media center." And then in an effort to stave off my next line of questioning, he adds, "And I DEFINITELY do not know what we did after the media center."

Me: Not about to be outmaneuvered, I say, What did you do IN the media center?

E: "The lady [I can only assume this is the librarian] read a book to us, but somebody scribbled the pages. So the lady couldn't read it. So she just stopped reading it because she said she couldn't see the words and she didn't read us another book."

Okay, is it just me, or does this librarian sound like she could use a nice stiff margarita in exchange for her mid-morning coffee?

Me: What did you have for lunch?

E: "Okay. Um. (Clicks tongue). Eh. Um. Uhhhh. Remember I told you I had chips and cheese and those little bumpy sausage things. Yeah, the bumpies. And pears. And chocolate milk. And that's it."

(long pause)

"And I think I had something else."

"Oh! I remember. That little cherry icy. And that's it. That's all I had for lunch. Hey! Are you writing down what I am saying!?"


Monday, August 10, 2009

Kindergarten, Ms. K and KCafeterias, Oh My!

Even though the calendar tells me otherwise, yesterday marked the official end of summer for me because of the simple fact that Ethan started Kindergarten today. My baby officially became a big boy today (and you know how I feel about this all official school stuff...).

Speaking of official school stuff, shopping for Ethan's school supplies proved to be no small task. First of all, I didn't expect the stores near me to run out of Crayola crayons, or every other item on the supply list for that matter. I went to no less than five stores to find the coveted "2 boxes of 8 thin Crayola Crayons" finally finding the last two packs that an out-of-the-way Rite-Aid had in stock. And if not for my friend Julie telling me what a "primary paper tablet" was, I would've sent Ethan off to school with a bound pack of construction paper rather than the writing journal we were supposed to send. I read "primary" and immediately thought "primary colors". I guess I stretched the interpretation a little too far. But the "8 large Elmer's glue sticks" still eludes me. Five stores. Zero large glue sticks. I found glue sticks, just not large glue sticks. And I found lots of single-packs of large glue sticks, but not eight. And not Elmer's. And also not priced at an amount of money with which I am willing to part for a glue stick.

But back to today. The drop off went as smoothly as I could've hoped. Ethan was bounding toward to the school doors with glee, encouraging Adam and I to "hurry up" behind him. His new teacher was as kind and friendly as you would expect a kindergarten teacher to be. And my eyes filled up with tears at all the appropriate times. Like when I was driving home yesterday afternoon. And before dinner last night. And during dinner last night. And when my alarm went off this morning. And when I put on my seat belt to drive to school. But thankfully, the tears remained tucked away while we were at school. And stayed away after I returned home. For a whopping 80 minutes.

And then I managed to keep them away for a few hours longer. Until I realized it was lunch time and began imagining all sorts of horrific scenarios unfolding in the cafeteria. Like the lunch lady not understanding Ethan when they asked his name to verify that his lunch has been prepaid and that because I sent him with no money, he would starve. Or that he wouldn't be able to reach any of the items on the food line and would starve. Or that he would need help opening his milk and no one would be there to help him. And he could starve!

Of course, all of these fears were unfounded. Ethan informed me later that his thoughtful and lovely teacher had the kids "practice" carrying a lunch tray during their "planning ahead" time. Sigh. I think I'm smitten with Ms. K. Planning ahead time!? She had me at hello.

But back to lunch. Ethan reported the following information in regards to holding the tray:

"I handled it with two hands! That's the important part of holding a tray." Very important, indeed.

Here is some more commentary direct from Ethan regarding the rest of the day outside of managing a cafeteria tray.

The first thing they did this morning after being dropped off:
"I got to find a place to sit and then we colored gum balls. We also had story time on the magic carpet."

His favorite classroom activity:
"We got to go to recess and play on the playground! I played General Grievous by myself. All the kids were playing by themselves." (I don't know about you, but this sounds like the saddest recess I've ever heard of, though Ethan seemed to be truly fine with wandering about the playground solo. However, I've encouraged him to approach some kids tomorrow to see if they might like to play with him.)

Ms. K's funny antics:
"We were getting ready for rest time and she took out two towels. [They rest on towels from home rather than mats] One was Batman and one was Spiderman. But she called the Batman towel Spiderman and the Spiderman towel Batman. It was so funny! We laughed and laughed!"

But Ethan would only let the one-sided interview I conducted last for so long before he turned the tables around on me.

E: So, what did you do while I was at school?

Me: Went to Ms. Amanda's house.

E: What did you do there?

Me: Drank coffee.

E: That's it? Was it boring? That's all you did?

Me: Mm hm. That's it.

E: (Now incredulous) The only thing you did was have coffee!? Nothing else! That sounds so boring! You're so boring! No joke!


The sharing about our day promptly ended when Ethan looked at me seriously and very politely asked, "Should there be a reason that you're talking to me all this time?".

We returned to our coloring without talking. And tomorrow morning Ethan will return to Ms. K's class. And hopefully I won't cry.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Crazy over my car seat

My (er, Ethan's) car seat is driving me batty. It's a Britax Frontier. I purchased it not quite a year ago because I had to play around with the boys' seating arrangements in the backseat. To make a long story short...or maybe longer come to think of it, Eli had outgrown his infant carrier/car seat combo and Ethan had long outgrown the Britax Roundabout. I was very happy with the Britax Marathon that Ethan was in but Eli needed it because I didn't want to buy another Roundabout since they outgrow them so quickly. I had to purchase, at the minimum, two new car seats (both for Ethan) while Eli went into the Roundabout in Adam's car and into the Marathon in my car. Are you with me still??? No? I don't blame you...the car seat craze at my house is enough to keep my head spinning. Suffice to say, I did tons of research and lots of mathematical projections to come to the conclusion that I needed to buy a combination booster (a booster that provides you the ability to use it as a five-point-harness car seat AND ALSO a belt positioning booster).

So saving you the boring math and reading recap, just know that I wound up buying a Graco Nautilus for Adam's car (Even though I HATE the way the Graco seats buckle. The clasps are always wonky to me.) and a Britax Frontier for my car. Why didn't I buy identical seats? First, I love the Britax product so wanted to make sure I at least had ONE Britax, preferably in the car that Ethan spends the most time in. They are admittedly expensive, but also the safest seat around. All my Britax seats have worn well, have been easy to install and worth their weight in gold. Why didn't I get two of them, then? Because they are admittedly expensive. The Graco Nautilus had the same safety ratings that the Frontier had and since Adam has Ethan in his car so rarely, I couldn't justify the hefty price tag for a second Frontier.

As if the decision making process for these darn seats didn't seem complicated enough, fast forward to the installation of said seats. The Nautilus, which I considered to be the stepchild of car seats, was an absolute breeze to install. I barely had to glance at the directions and was able to install it correctly on the first try.

Not so much with the Frontier. I think it took me two hours. Maybe that's not true. Maybe it was three. Seriously. HORRIBLE!!! First off, the LATCH clips are situated in a horrible way where you are required to thread them through the front of the seat to the back. Which would be fine, except the pathway for the clips and the part that you tighten them with is too narrow. So it is impossible to tighten them all the way because they get hung up on the back of the carseat. UNLESS you position the seat the way you would if you were using it as just a belt-positioning booster. And then wear a red shirt while you install the seat on the third Tuesday of the month and spin around three times before opening the box.

But seriously, going against the safety instructions really freaks me out. So, in order to position the seat the WRONG way to make it work the RIGHT way, you have to flip a platform underneath the seat in the the opposite direction you are supposed to flip it for the five-point-harness seat installation. Have I mentioned I don't like going against safety rules? And it took me two hours to figure this out. I finally won the battle with the car seat and emerged from the garage sweaty, my hands and fingers scraped and bleeding practically beyond recognition and my patience was nowhere to be found. I think I kicked things on the way into the house.

We've been riding around in Britax bliss (well, blissful except for the safety recall as well as the issue with consistently twisted straps, which I believe is related to the recall) for the last 10+ months. Fast forward to today. I had taken Ethan's seat out (which I NEVER do. For obvious reasons.) and had to reinstall it on the fly this morning. It did not go well. But I didn't have time to fool with it because we were running late (me!? late!? how odd!!). I decided at the moment where I scraped my hand and hit my head on the ceiling of the car that no car seat is worth the aggravation (or the injuries) that the Britax Frontier has caused.

Plus, the stupid cup holders (which is a feature I LOVE since my oldest son is always "completely thirsty" in the car) are BOTH broken. All in all, the Frontier is not a good design and a big disappointment. I should've stuck with the Nautilus. And in a fit of irritation, I strapped Ethan into his improperly installed Frontier to run to the store to purchase my second stepchild of carseats and am now the proud owner of two Graco Nautilus seats.

My friend over at www.babybunching.com asked me today, all this over installation? Well, yes. With Ethan starting kindergarten in the fall August 10th, I foresee many play dates in his future and I can't fathom having to repeat this epic battle of the Britax. Plus the straps will not remain untwisted for any extended period of time and to properly fix them, I need to uninstall the car seat which then puts me in the unfortunate position of having to reinstall it yet again. So yes, all of this over installation issues. So stick a fork in me because I'm done with the Frontier. PLUS, the Nautilus converts into a backless booster, so it is actually THREE seats in one (a five-point-harness car seat, a belt positioning booster and a backless booster). So now here's my question. How did I miss all this the first time around?