Friday, July 31, 2009

Shared

It's official. My son and my husband have the same taste in movies. They are, at least in that sense, on the same level. Tom has always had a liking for the stupid humor boy movies. You know the ones I am talking about. The ones rife with bathroom jokes, physical comedy and an abundance of general inappropriateness. Almost every movie by Jim Carrey falls into this category, as do most things with Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller.

It's not that I don't enjoy them. I do. Hell, I grew up on them. My Dad loved the Porky's series, Spaceballs and I've seen every single one of the Police Academies. My Dad's favorite movie of all time, if I had to guess, is Stripes. I could probably recite that entire film from opening scene to ending credits.

There are plenty of times that I like watching them. Sometimes, a silly film can transport you to a place of much needed laughter. When you laugh so much that it hurts. Scenes like that one we saw recently in the Hangover - the one where you see them all waking up for the first time. And the scene where the vet in the chair teaches some men how to dodge a ball. And, who could ever again look at an apple pie the same after that fateful teen movie?

These movies are funny, mostly because of the fact that they aren't so far outside the realm of possibility that we could never imagine them happening to anyone we know. The opposite is the truth. I can imagine most of the things that happen in these movies happening to people I know.

As much as I can laugh along with him, I don't love them the same way that Tom does. I don't feel compelled to wear a t-shirt proclaiming my love of tater tots. I don't need to wear an Average Joe's shirt either. And, no, I don't need to watch Dumb and Dumber every single time it happens to be on TV.

Every once in a while, I want to watch a serious film. I like the occasional lighter, though predictable romantic comedy. I love a tragedy. And every so often, I want to see a horror film. The problem is that my husband isn't as willing to humor my interests as I would like him to be. I've learned over the years that there is a ratio of about 1 to 4. One movie that I want to see for about every four he likes. And he's usually asleep during mine or in the other room playing a video game. On rare occasions, he will allow me to drag him to see one in the theater, but since we only see about two movies a year that way - the odds are stacked against me. I'll see a first run chick flick sometime in 2011.

Finally this year, he got me a gift card so that I can see movies on my own if I want. He's gone to see some of the big ones on his own. I have virtually no interest in some of the movies he absolutely needs to see. Anything Star Wars related and anything based on a comic book - all things he needed to see on the big screen. And he goes, alone, happily. Sometimes it's just easier that way. Soon enough, he won't need to go alone. He'll have a little buddy to tag along. Aidan likes them too. This, dear readers, is why men have sons.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Delete

It never ceases to amaze me how completely and totally unaware some people can be about the effects that their words can have. How much words can hurt. And how it really doesn't matter what the intentions of the speaker were, and how noble they might have been.

I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. I don't even recall a single time in my life where it wasn't an issue. I've been painfully aware of the harsh reality of being overweight my entire life. Kids are cruel, and adults are often worse.

I had a chance to revisit this subject today, as a direct result of a person's comment online. Someone, who I know that has never struggled with it, claiming to be looking out for the best interests of the overweight people in the world, berating them in the process. Not realizing that her statements, her words, though she thought they were harmless and encouraging, were cruel.

It reminds me of the old saying, you know the one. If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all. It really is a good rule of thumb. Don't go on slinging insults, claiming that they are meant to be inspiring. Don't make fun of people, call them names and blame them for their situations, particularly when you don't really know anything about them. Don't be mean, even if you think you are doing a good deed.

If your perceptions are that flawed, that misguided, do us all a favor. Type. Delete. Type. Delete.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Practice

Via the wonder that is Facebook, I've recently reconnected with many of my former classmates from law school. Some of them, I haven't seen or spoken with since the day we graduated, over eight years ago. Many of them have had successful careers in law. Some have already abandoned the field, burnt out and fed up with it. And a couple, like me, never really entered it fully to begin with.

Aidan was born three days after I graduated. The rest, as they say, is history. I had intentions of taking the bar exam a few times, but something it seems, always came up. We talked about moving to Oregon for a while, and I was set to take the Oregon bar. But then those plans to move fizzled out. We moved to Colorado, and since then I haven't thought much about practicing law.

I had some great experiences in law school and met some wonderful people. But I also learned that I was pretty sure that I didn't want to really ever be a lawyer. At least not in the usual sense of the word. Part of it I loved, but a larger part I didn't. The realities of working as an attorney aren't compatible with my life now anyway. I won't work the hours with the kids. It just isn't going to happen. Particularly with Tom working in the public accounting field, I can't. I won't. The kids need at least one parent present in their lives, and for three months out of the year, I'm pretty much it. They come first.

I did a lot of pro bono work in law school. I joke that if there was a way to get paid for pro bono work, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Helping the people who needed it most. Those who had legitimate legal issues, but couldn't afford to pay someone to represent them. Primarily, I worked for the AIDS clinic. All my clients there were at least HIV+, if not diagnosed with full blown AIDS. And, to be eligible for our services, they had to meet income requirements. I helped dispute social security eligibility. I filed restraining orders. I fought evictions. Life or death issues. Important things.

I wrote a lot of wills. The most memorable was for a young man, dying of AIDS. He was only 22 years old, and he was scared. He didn't have a thing to his name. He didn't own anything. He was on public assistance, lying in a Medicaid paid-for hospital bed. I brought him the will, what there was of it anyway, on the afternoon that he died. Tears of the deepest gratitude were his gift to me. Though he didn't have much, he wanted to know that he had done all he could to tie up loose ends. And I made that possible.

I helped a man in his 30's change his name. His family had disowned him when he came out of the closet as a teenager, and he hated being connected to them in name only. You wouldn't think that something as simple as a name change could alter a person's entire outlook on life. But I assure you that it can.

These are the clients that I remember the most. That I truly feel like I helped.

Maybe someday I will practice law again. Maybe someday I will tackle the bar exam. Maybe someday I will find myself explaining a lengthy absence from a career that never really began. Maybe someday I will find someone who will take a chance and hire a woman who is a mother before she is a lawyer. Maybe someday. Right now though, my family needs me more.

Monday, July 27, 2009

9 and 17

A good friend of mine was telling me a story about something her professor said one day in class. They were talking about marriage, and he told them plainly, that the 9th and 17th years are the hardest, and that if you can get through those, you should be fine. I have no idea where these numbers came from, or if there is any empirical evidence at all to support them. But, it makes sense in a way. Some years of marriage are just harder than others. And I know first hand that the 9th year was a challenge, the hardest thus far for us.

Marriage is work. It's not easy, and unfortunately I think there is a romanticized idea of marriage by far too many people. It gets hard. The truth is that it's not always fun. It's not always great. And it's not always easy.

Living with anyone can be difficult. One of the hardest things to accept about being married is the fact that you absolutely cannot do anything to change the actions, the feelings or the thoughts of another person. They are who they are, and you have to just deal with it. The only person you have control over is yourself.

What makes this reality even more challenging is the fact that people change. We all change as we get older, and life gets more complicated. And we have to deal with the changes that happen not only to ourselves, but the changes that happen to our partners. The changes that come from having children, and the changes in priorities that come as a result. Not all of those changes are always welcome.

We are old enough now that we have witnessed most of our friends get married. And we are starting to see some of them getting divorced. The reasons are many, the situations different. Unfortunately, not everyone has their happily ever after.

We have had bumps in the road. We've struggled to see eye to eye. And we've had trouble communicating. But, we are together. We made it through year 9, let's hope that year 17 is one we can overcome too.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Flicker

I had occasion yesterday to revisit the wonder that is pregnancy. Of course, there is the scientific explanation of it all, the dividing of cells, differentiation, organ development. Having taken classes in anatomy and embryology, pregnancy and labor, biology and child development, I have a pretty good grasp of how and when things happen and in what order. Even knowing as much as I do about babies, how they are created, how they are helped along and how they grow, it is still amazing. It's still a miracle.

How a pairing of cells can transform into a separate being, with a brain and a heart within a matter of days is simply breathtaking. And, as any parent or parent-to-be can tell you, seeing and hearing that tiny flicker, that heart beating for the first time is pure magic. It's even more magical when there has been a long journey to that day, sitting in a doctor's office.

Though it is a total cliche, life really is a miracle. Babies are a blessing. Sometimes they come when we least expect them to, and sometimes they come only after years of longing. I know myself that every time I had the chance to hear the heartbeat during my routine office visits when I was pregnant, there was nothing routine about it. Even with AJ, I still cried the first time I heard it. I still was amazed at the pictures on the screen during the first ultrasound, with the tiny flickering heartbeat. I loved being pregnant.

To all those mothers out there, tired and exhausted from the daily challenges of parenting, be grateful. Find some time today to admire your creations, to be thankful for your miracles. Time to snuggle, time to count fingers and toes, time to love. Time to feel the warm sweet breath of a sleeping baby on your shoulder. Time to kiss an angel as they dream.

To all those pregnant mothers out there, hearing that racing heartbeat, cherish this time. It goes by too fast, and though you might have difficulty looking past the discomforts of pregnancy sometimes, enjoy it. You will, I promise, miss having that little partner, poking and prodding you from the inside. Soon enough you will meet that precious little baby, but as you have already learned, you've loved them since the instant you knew you were pregnant. The human heart's capacity for love is remarkable, and the instantaneous nature of it is evident the second you see that line. Unconditional love, at once.

To all those future mothers out there, hoping for a child and wondering when, have faith, have love, and have hope. For without those, there cannot be miracles.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Transfer

Oh, the things that a mother will do for her children. I wrote about the frog we got from preschool a few months ago. The kids had raised them from tadpoles, and a few were able to take one home at the end of the school year. Within 48 hours of being in the house, the frog had killed the only fish in the tank. And the snails were picked off one at a time until all that remained in the now algae-covered tank was one stinky, mean little frog that the girls had named Ariel.

The kids have been asking since that first weekend when we could get another fish. The answer was a simple one - we couldn't. No fish until the frog died. Every time we would go to the store, the kids would longingly look at the tanks, picking out the fish they would get again someday. A few people told me to just let it go. It's a water frog and would need to be either in water or very near a very wet place, and there happens to be a little pond at the golf course across the street. Unfortunately, the introduction of non-native species is a bad thing for any ecosystem, so I couldn't do that, especially when I already knew that this frog thought fish were tasty.

I met with some of the moms and kids from preschool for lunch earlier this week, and for some reason we started talking about the frogs. One of the other of the moms had taken a frog home, and it had been instantly adopted by her older daughter. It was her pet, she kept it in her room. And it had escaped a few weeks prior. The poor little girl was hoping to find it, and her parents knew that the chances of that happening were virtually nonexistent after the first couple days. But she held out hope.

"You're missing a frog, and I want to get rid of one?" I said. Isn't that terribly convenient? I told her that she could have ours. Really. I'd much rather have fish to be totally honest, and in doing so, we could give her daughter a pet again. She emailed me, asking if I was really sure. Completely. I told my kids that someone was going to take the frog, and give it a new home. They wanted to know where it was going, and I could only tell them it would be safe and loved. They can't know where it was going, because the little girl on the receiving end can't know where it came from. And she is a good friend of Ashley's. They said their goodbyes, looking forward to the new fish.

And so last night, under the cover of darkness, my friend came to pick up the frog. Packed and ready to go to a new home, Ariel was waiting. I'm sure this morning that her name isn't Ariel anymore. I'm sure that we are going fish shopping in the very near future. And I'm sure that a little girl's hope in finding lost things is restored.

Have a good life, froggy. For now, I've got a tank to clean.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Spread

Though I didn't actually finish my degree, I completed almost an entire master's program in public health. A project is all that keeps me from claiming it fully, and those three units will forever be in the way. My emphasis was in public health management, but I am fascinated by most of the specializations in the field. Of all the classes I took, I really enjoyed epidemiology the most.

The classes in epidemiology taught me a lot about things that most people don't want to know about. The things that ordinary people in a civilized society don't want to deal with, don't want to think about. Food borne illnesses, sexually transmitted diseases, air borne viruses, epidemics. These things might seem boring to some people. To me, they are fascinating.

When the WHO first started to express concern about the Swine Flu, my interest was piqued. I had an feeling, from the first mention of it, that this one was going to reach pandemic levels. The CDC and WHO were quick to employ containment efforts, and the initial outbreaks did not seem as bad as the public feared. Not too many people died in those first weeks, and in general, the public was irritated by the perceived overreaction. The problem is that it's not over.

Swine flu, since renamed H1N1, is still making it's way around the globe. Still infiltrating every city and town. It's here in Longmont. And it's still going. In some ways, I am dreading the start of the school year. I have a feeling that it will run rampant through the schools, and ours is no exception.

It's a strain of the influenza virus that hasn't been seen in human populations before this. We have no natural immunities to it. No one has had it before, no one has built up a defense to it. The attempts at creating a vaccine for it are in large part, slow and unproductive.

Perhaps it is the danger in knowing too much about how diseases spread, and how we fight them, not as individuals, but as societies, that scares me. The complacency, the shrugging it off bothers me. There are people here in town, those who know that they have been exposed and are presenting symptoms, that still insist on going about their normal activities. They could be spreading it. They probably are spreading it.

Boost your immune systems, my friends. You might be needing it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Captive

There are days, many days, this summer that I feel like I am a captive in my own house. Like I am stuck, against my will, indoors. That my children are in essence prevented from playing in the front yard. And I don't like it.

It's not illness or weather or bugs or heat keeping us inside. It's kids. Other kids. Most neighborhoods have them, I'm sure. The kids who are perpetually roaming the streets, looking for someone to play with. Someone to entertain them. It's not terribly unlike the way most kids were when I was younger. Children were given longer leashes back then. Parents were less restrictive. The difference is that they are the only ones in the area like this, and it's obvious.

They are a bit older, and their parents clearly a bit more tired and less interesting in amusing them. Or so it seems, anyway. We have seen them only rarely and spoken with them never. Even when I was a kid, back in the days when kids were universally given more freedoms, my parents would have shuddered at the thought of me going over to someone else's house, hanging out with other adults that they didn't know.

They seem to think that by giving their kids a cell phone, they have done enough. They can, to some degree, keep electronic tabs on them. Good enough, right? Not in my mind. Especially since I am one of the weary parents tired of always having a few extra kids around.

The kids show up at the door many times a day. If we are out front, they will be there within minutes. My kids simply cannot play out front without them showing up. If they hear us in the backyard, they invite themselves in. If we tell them "not today", they stand at the fence and try to prod the kids into talking us into letting them out front. Even on holidays, they are there. Bugging. Constantly. Don't they have anything better to do? And shouldn't they be with their family instead of pestering mine?

The constant need for playmates is one thing, but the chattiness and questioning is another. My patience wears thin for parenting advice coming from a child not much older than Aidan. No, we haven't eaten dinner yet, and yes, that is fine. Yes, the baby can eat this. No, you cannot hold him. This is replayed daily, hourly sometimes.

I am not the only mom in the area, tired of the relentlessness of it all. The only time all summer that we have had a break was when they were on vacation. It was nice to be able to go for a bike ride without tag-a-longs. To let my girls play without interference from other kids with their own toys, the ones that can only be played with out front.

It's not that they are bad kids. They are well behaved. They are kind to my children. But they are not my children, and I've had enough.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Bag Full

Though it is well into the summer, we went to the farmer's market for the first time this season yesterday. In reality, there isn't much use in going until the end of June or beginning of July here anyway. The growing season is extremely short due to the weather, and there isn't much to look for locally until the summer is in full swing. Some crops can be planted here in April, but not many. Most have to wait until May, and even then it can be a risky proposition. We had snow the second week of May last year.

This year, the winter was not nearly as drawn out as last, and the farmers were grateful. The crops have flourished this season, thanks in large part to a very rainy spring and summer thus far. There have been more than the usual number of thunderstorms this year. They bring some danger, no doubt. The hail and wind can wreak havoc on the plants, just as they can on patio furniture. But the storms tend to be isolated, and the damage is rarely widespread. The one thing that has been statewide this year is the rain. We have had a lot of rain.

I didn't even bother attempting to grow vegetables this year. I've been burned the last two years, all my plants abysmal failures. I did have a good sized tray of flowers ready to go, until it blew over in a windstorm and destroyed all the seedlings. I have been hearing from friends, those who are better at timing the planting of vegetables than I am, that the crops this year have been remarkable.

Those rumors of super sized veggies are true. I've seen it for my own eyes. At the farmer's market yesterday, there were heads of cabbage bigger than basketballs. Squash and zucchini as long as baseball bats. Green onions as big as vidalias. Really.

We got to the market later in the day than we had planned, and some of the stands were closed up already, sold out of their items. We did happen upon one stand that still had an abundance of produce. It is run by Miller Farm, a large local farm that we love for many reasons. They put together a fabulous farming instructional program for the kids, have a great fall festival and have sponsored the preschool float in the holiday parade for as long as we have been here. I was glad to give them my business.

We lucked out that they were ready to pack it up for the day, and still had a lot left over. Just as we walked up, marveling at the size of the yellow squash they had displayed, they announced the new prices. Buy a grocery bag, fill it up, $10. Anything. Now that is my kind of challenge. I asked the man if he was sure. I could cram more into a bag than anyone else I assured him. Really, just $10. Yep.

I walked away with my bag full, bulging at the seams. Onions, green beans, wax beans, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, carrots, and more. I put the big stuff in first, filled in the gaps with the green beans. There is a science to competitive shopping, you know. And if someone tells me to fill up a bag, I most certainly will take them up on that offer.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Forever

One of the unfortunate byproducts of having had moved to Colorado is that I miss things. I miss a lot of things. And I miss some important things. There are days, like today, where my thoughts and my heart will be somewhere else, far, far away from where they actually reside. My cousin is getting married today.

There are few moments in our lives more important, more special, than the day we get married. About the only days that will ever trump that are the days our children are born. And to be a part of that day, to witness that ceremony is a privilege. A joy.

To see the nerves showing in the eyes of the bride and groom. Those emotions fade almost universally the second they see each other for the first time from opposite ends of the aisle. Together they promise to love one another, to take care of one another, to trust and to be trusted. They came into that day as two separate beings, two distinct lives. And they leave as a team, a partnership.

This joining together is even more special for my cousin today. He has been hurt before. He brings into this marriage with him a beautiful daughter. Another person who depends on him. Who needs him. The mere fact that he can fall in love again, and trust that it can work is a testament to his heart, to his faith in people, and to the goodness in his soul. Though I have not met his soon-to-be wife, I can only assume that she is deserving of him as a partner. She has to be special.

Though I can't be there to see it for myself, I am sure it will be a beautiful day. I wish you both all the happiness in the world. And when that happiness sometimes seems missing as it inevitably will, I wish you all the love you will need to see it through. Marriage is work, but it's work worth doing. To steal from what a wise couple, long standing family friends, wrote to us on the day we were married, Just love one another forever.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

My apologies to all those daily readers out there who are probably wondering what has happened to me. I try to get the daily entry posted by noon or so, but it just didn't happen today. I had every intention of having a fairly mellow day. I was going to take the kids to the pool for swim team and lessons, then ballet. I was going to run to the grocery store for a few things and come home. Home. Home sweet home. Haven't seen much of it this week. I had grand plans of cleaning my bathrooms and mopping the floor. As of right now, my bathrooms are no cleaner, my floor no less sticky.

What happened? Nothing, really. Just life. And being that it is summertime, it's a good time to find other things to do than planned. It doesn't help that I have a few friends who twisted my arm this morning. Toilets can wait. Come to the pool, they said. The same pool, mind you, that we were already sitting at, waiting for the swim team to finish up.

As we walked out into the parking lot, us on the way to ballet class, these friends of mine, these terribly convincing friends, managed to talk me into running around like a mad woman for the following two and a half hours, just so I could come right back to the pool. Makes complete sense, right?

To the pool we went, again. Only this time, we went with the purest of intentions. To have fun. No classes, no training, no teachers, no coaches. Just friends, food, sunshine and cool water. I can't think of a better way to spend a Friday afternoon. And my friends were right. The toilets can wait. Summer comes once a year.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pros and Cons

Having a big family comes with its ups and downs. There are good times and bad times in every family, but it seems that those swings are magnified when there are more people involved.

The pros are easy to see. We have a lot of love. We laugh all the time. Someone is always hitting a milestone. There is usually something to look forward to. And there is always, always something to do to keep us busy. Seeing the kids grow and develop their own relationships is amazing. The older three are fiercely protective of AJ, sometimes a little too much so. Ally asks Aidan to read her a story and tuck her in. The girls spent an hour yesterday building a village out of blocks, playing together in their fantasy world. The fantasy world where boys are not allowed, and all characters must speak in super high pitched voices.

The kids drive each other crazy quite often, on a daily basis right now since it is summertime. But even as they drive each other batty, they miss one another desperately when they are apart. Horseplay takes on a whole new meaning when there are more than a couple kids involved. The wrestling matches in our family room could rival the WWE.

There are many positives to having a large family, for sure. But there are also some challenges. I have learned to resign myself to the fact that it's highly unlikely that my entire house will ever be clean at the same time. I can clean one room, certainly. But as I do so, another room is simultaneously being dirtied. It's just life. It takes some getting used to, but I'm working on it. I have learned to sweep the floor as needed, sometimes 3 or 4 times a day. But I have learned not to bother mopping it until after the kids have gone to bed for the night. At least that way, it will have at least 8 solid hours of cleanliness. I have learned that laundry is something meant to be done daily. And that if I take a day off from the laundry, it multiplies at night when I am sleeping.

We go through a lot of food, which is only going to get worse as the kids get older. Feeding a small herd of children is not cheap, and the grocery bills are not for the faint of heart. I've learned to economize, to cook from scratch as much as possible, to use coupons whenever I can. We will, at some point, have no choice but to get a larger water heater. Aidan can use most of a tank as it is now, and he's nowhere near puberty. Our vehicle choices are limited these days. We can only use a car that fits 6, ideally more in case we have a carpool to contend with.

One of the most annoying downsides of having more than two children is that it apparently gives every rude person in the universe free license to make comments about us. I have learned that I don't really care what other people think about me, my children or my parenting. I'm doing the best I can, and for the most part, I think I am doing a pretty darn good job. Don't ask me why I have so many kids. It's none of your business. Don't ask if they are all mine. Clearly, the children are from the same genetic stock. Don't express shock at the fact that they can all behave in public. They are children, not wild animals.

As with anything in life, there are pros and cons to having a large family. But I'm certain that the pros will always outweigh the cons. The good times will always make the bad ones worth enduring. And the love we have will always be more important than the sacrifices we may make.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sisters

As anyone who knows me already is aware, I only have one sibling. I have a brother, who will forever be my little brother. No matter how old we get, that is just the way it shall be. I never had a sister, and I never really wanted one to be truthful. Too much drama.

Having my girls has served to reinforce this thought in my mind. They fight about everything it seems, and there are days that drag on and on, me playing the role of the constant referee. Since they have had to share a room, the situation has become ever more strained. And I can't really say that I blame them. Neither of them has space of their own. Everything it seems, must be shared. Their room is a small one to begin with, and with both of them crammed in there, it doesn't leave much room for them to keep anything besides clothes and shoes. They have a couple baskets of other things, and that's about it.

Aidan, meanwhile, gets to reap the benefits of being the oldest. He has his own room, and he also scored the best room with the most windows. He has not just his bed and dresser, but his desk and bookcase. He has room for his toys, and room to play on the floor. Since he has a loft-style bed, a lot of his things can go underneath that. He, just generally, has more stuff. He has a room all his own. He can do his homework, he can create his art, and he can have his privacy in his room. The girls don't have that option.

We are working on finding a solution for the situation. Ideally, I want to close the wall in the loft and move Aidan in there, so we can split the girls up. We've discussed moving Aidan downstairs into what is now the office, but I'm not sure that I want him on his own floor just yet. We'll have to figure something out, and the sooner, the better. They need their own space, away from one another. Before they kill each other.

I fought with my brother growing up, for sure. But I know that if I would have had a sister, we would have fought more. I've seen how my girls fight. And they aren't old enough to fight over phones, makeup, friends, cars and boys yet. That time, I am afraid, will come. I hope that they make it through adolescence, I hope that we all make it through their adolescence. And I hope that they will find a way to share. To respect their differences. To take care of each other. To love each other even when they don't see eye to eye.

A few years ago, I got a sister. Not in the traditional sense, of course. She's my sister through marriage, my sister-in-law. We aren't genetically related. We don't have any long standing grudges against each other. We can't retell the same stories from our childhood, since they were spent on opposite sides of the country. But what we do have now is even better in some ways, I think. We have the love, the friendship, the trust, the understanding of sisters. But we have all that without the animosity, the anger, the bitterness, the judgment that comes from growing up together.

I always said that I never wanted a sister. I was wrong. I guess I just didn't know what I was missing. Love you Gretchen!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wasted

I wasted a perfectly good morning today. Summer mornings are gorgeous here in Colorado, and often the only time of day when it's cool enough to do anything substantial outdoors that doesn't involve water. There are countless things I could have done this morning. But I was busy. I had a garage sale.

I've spent weeks getting things ready to put out, both anticipating and dreading today. I hate having garage sales. I hate people giving me sad eyes when I tell them that no, I won't take a quarter for something labeled five dollars. I hate the kids wanting to help, running around the driveway while it is filled with strange people. But, I hoped that it would be worth the effort.

Of course, we found out a couple days ago that the HOA is having a neighborhood sale in August. Whether I will put anything out for that, I'm not sure. Our neighborhood is faily isolated, gets almost no traffic. This is a good thing almost all the time. All the time, that is, except when you are trying to have a garage sale. We had one a few years ago during a neighborhood sale and did only slightly better than this time. You'd think I would have learned my lesson the first time around.

For whatever reason, I went ahead with it again. I was wrong, completely and totally wrong. Weeks of preparation, 4 hours standing outside. And for what? $67. I'm done with garage sales.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Journey

Four years ago this week, we left California. We made one of the biggest decisions of our lives, and took an enormous leap of faith. Not really knowing what the road ahead would bring us, we crossed our fingers, packed up the kids and left.

Ever since college, Tom and I had been talking about moving out of California. Our intended destination for many years was Oregon. We almost moved there for law school, and then almost moved there again afterwards. For some reason, it never seemed to work out.

A year before we moved, TJ moved to Colorado. I sent Tom out here to visit his little brother, and the conspiring began almost immediately. Tom came home from that trip, and I just had a feeling that the wheels were turning. He wanted to go. The thoughts were there, in the back of our minds for a few months. It was about March when Tom really started to get the itch. Right after Ally was born, we made a decision.

I told him that I would go. This time, we would go. But, before that could transpire, there were a lot of things that had to happen. I put quite a few conditions on the move, assuming I think, that some of them wouldn't come to fruition. Not all those things could possibly fall into place in such a short amount of time. I thought I had given myself an out. A way to stay.

First, he had to get a job there. And it had to pay at least what he was getting paid now. He registered with a head hunter, figuring that it would be months before he got a call. Less than a week later, he already had a few interviews lined up. We flew out here when Ally was only 6 weeks old. He got the job, and he was offered more than we anticipated.

The second condition was that we had to find a house that was bigger, close enough to his work and with good schools. We settled on Longmont, midway between Boulder and Fort Collins, where TJ was. We found a new development, one that had just started construction on the edge of town. Third, we had to sell the house, and we had to get what we wanted for it. Put it on the market, and it sold in two days for more than we were asking.

We had a month. A month to tell everyone we loved, all our friends and family, that we were leaving. For real, this time. We had a month to find a rental house 1200 miles away. And we had a month to pack. I use the term "we" loosely here of course. Tom packed exactly one box. Everything else, all me. With three little kids, one of which was a newborn, we were leaving.

At some point, the reality hit me. We actually were going to do it this time. I struggled with the decision we made, questioned if it was the right choice. It was hard to go. I won't lie. It was scary, driving off into the unknown that day in July. There were many tears shed, many lingering doubts in the back of my mind.

The trip out here was a long one. I don't recommend cross country moving with three kids and two dogs to anyone. Especially when most of that trip takes place through the desert in the middle of the summer. When we crossed over the Colorado state line and stopped in Grand Junction for that last night, I really started to think we had made a terrible mistake. We got out of the car, and it was at least 110 degrees, and the wind was horrendous. What was I thinking?

Adjusting to life in Colorado took a while. And I'm still not entirely used to the weather here. I like to think that I have acclimated. I have held fast to my California ways. I wear my capri pants and flip flops year round, even in the middle of winter. I have developed almost the same relationship with the mountains here as I did with the ocean in California. Accustomed to seeing them all the time, but visiting them less often than I would like.

The schools are great. It really feels like a community here. There is so much for the kids to do, and it really is a family friendly place to live. I hardly ever get questioned by people about my choice to have so many kids here. It's more normal to have a larger family. It is less about the rat race here. Fewer people drive fancy cars. More people hang flags on their front porches. We have pancake breakfasts and parades. I can't go anywhere here without running into someone I know these days. While I will forever be a California girl, Colorado has become my home too.

Now here we are, four years later. I learned many things about myself through the experience. I learned that sometimes, you just have to jump in with both feet and hope for the best. I learned that when you are doing something truly because you believe it is the best for your children, you are almost always going to be right. I learned that my home is wherever my children are. Wherever my husband is. I learned that as scary as it is, I can start over. And I learned that life really is not about the destination, it's not about where you end up. It's about the journey. Enjoy the ride.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Shattered

I have grown weary of the weather here. Spring is supposed to be the time of the year for severe weather, but this seems to be the year that just keeps on giving. Just when you think we've crossed over officially into the heat of summer, it comes back. It's July, we should be done. We should be having our little thunderstorms every few days, just enough to cool off the afternoon and sprinkle the grass with a little water. What we have actually had is something entirely different.

There are still tornado watches, still local street flooding. There are still swollen rivers and creeks, some running so high that the crossings are closed. There are still those looming dark clouds off to the West, and there is still a constant need to determine which way the wind is blowing.

The storm that came through yesterday was the worst yet this year. We had at least 2 inches of rain in about thirty minutes, hail and hurricane force wind. The storm came through so fast, and from a direction that they don't generally come from, that we didn't have time to fully prepare. We managed to get most of the things picked up in the backyard, but not everything. Even the smallest of toys can quickly become dangerous when carried with the wind.

We had a few casualties from the storm. The patio table, umbrella and 3 chairs didn't make it. The wind carried the chairs at least 50 feet, around the side of the house until the fence caught them. The safety glass in the table worked precisely as it was intended - which might make it a fantastic safety feature in some ways, but makes it infinitely more dangerous in others. It shattered on the grass, which is now littered with thousands of shards of glass. We picked up what we could, but there is still a lot out there that we can't see. The flag on the front of the house was ripped off, 2 inch wood screws through the bracket and all. I expected to see the pole snapped, but the entire bracket was gone.

I am grateful that the tables and chairs didn't hit a window. I am grateful that the fence remained standing. I am grateful that we didn't lose any trees. I am grateful that the hail didn't get big enough to do any substantial damage, though it appears to have done a number on some of my rosebushes. And most importantly, I am grateful that no one was injured.

Tables and chairs can be replaced. The kids really should always be wearing shoes outside anyway. We can buy longer wood screws for the bracket. And my roses needed to be pruned before yesterday. Mother Nature has a way of putting things into perspective sometimes. And she has a way of reminding us of her power, of how fragile we are.

When they say keep an eye on the sky around here, you'd best do it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Boom

There is just something appealing about gunpowder to boys. Since I am lacking in the male gene department, I'm not quite sure what that appeal is exactly. But it's there, for sure. And it's not something that they ever outgrow.

One of the so-called benefits of moving to Colorado, at least in Tom's eyes, is that you can legally blow stuff up here. Fireworks are legal. In the city limits, there are some rules - essentially anything that stays on the ground is fair game. If it goes up into the air, you aren't supposed to have it. Of course that doesn't stop people from lighting them around here.

There were no less than 6 separate areas last night with airborne fireworks that we could see. Only one display was on the up and up, the others clearly smuggled across state lines. It didn't take but about 10 minutes after dark for the fire trucks to be racing down the main street, sirens blaring. Someone lit something on fire they weren't supposed to.

The problem with fireworks is an obvious one. They are dangerous. You light them at night, presumably in the dark. And all this is generally done after hours of drinking have transpired. Not a good combination.

My problem, clearly, is that I just don't see the huge appeal in it. They're cool and all, I suppose. But I don't have any desire to light them myself. I'm fine with leaving it to the experts. Must be that lack of a male gene.
Happy Fourth of July. Hope you all still have your fingers attached.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sacrifice

How many men and women have laid down their lives for you? How many people have given the ultimate gift, made the supreme sacrifice, so that you may enjoy your freedom? Many more than you might think, I guarantee. I am now and will always be eternally grateful for their bravery. We all should be. And we should all take time out of our harried, busy lives, to thank those around us who serve. Those who sign up to defend our country, knowing full well that their signature binds them to complete service. That their signature could mean deployment, battle, and yes, even death.

What I struggle with understanding are the deaths that didn't need to happen. That could have been prevented. That should have been prevented. The fights that we shouldn't have been in. The lives given for questionable reasons. For politically motivated battles, the ones never fully legitimized in the eyes of the world. There is a line, a time and place where most people can agree that war is the final determining answer. Attacks like the one on Pearl Harbor and the genocide of entire race of people - acts like this cross that line easily and clearly. But everything else leading up to that line is a gray area.

Some people will argue that it is inconsistent to say that one supports our troops and simultaneously question the motivations of their commanders. I wholeheartedly disagree. The soldiers are doing their job, doing as they are ordered. They deserve 100% of our support. They should be taken care of, financially, physically and mentally, upon their return. Their families deserve adequate support. They should not be forced into battle without proper equipment, not in a day and age where it exists. We need to train them not just to fight, but to be human when they come home. And if they need help, we need to help them. As a society, we need to do a better job, and we need to demand that our government does a better job.

It is abhorrent what happened to the men who returned from Vietnam. Sent to fight, brought home to a life they no longer recognized. Many of them had lost the ability to live a normal life, and there was not enough help here for them to recover that ability. The statistics of homelessness in the veteran population are disturbing to say the least. And the health care is woefully inadequate. I fear that the men and women returning from the Middle East may face the same challenges. I hope that they don't have to. I hope we can do better for them.

Has our government always been prudent about sending troops to fight? I would argue that the answer is no. We hastily went after the wrong target, letting the one we really need to focus on escape us. And in doing so, we embroiled ourselves, our troops, in a war for the wrong reasons. And far too may of them have not come home. Men, women, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, friends, all of them. Gone, but not forgotten.

I urge everyone to really think about that on this Independence Day. Think about what it takes for us to live the lives we are fortunate enough to have. Think about the choices, the sacrifices made to ensure that. And thank a soldier. Our freedom comes with a price.

Too close to home, a life was lost early in the war. Mike DiRaimondo was one of TJ's best friends. He was a medic in a Blackhawk helicopter that crashed outside Fallujah, Iraq in January 2004. At the age of 22, he was gone. Thanks, Mike, from all of us.

www.fallenheroesmemorial.com/oif/profiles/diraimondomichaela.html

Friday, July 3, 2009

Presumptions

I recently spent about 5 minutes yelling at the radio. I get incredibly frustrated with stupid people in general, but even more so with those who are given public and open platforms like the radio. You would think the station owners would be a little more careful about hiring hosts, or at least that the producers of the show would be better about telling them when they are just flat wrong. I was listening to a talk show host discussing the Michael Jackson situation, and she was talking specifically about his children.

The details of how his children were conceived aren't fully clear, and to be totally honest, why should they be? Since when did it become anyone's business how someone chooses to become a parent just because they happen to be famous? The speculation currently is that his oldest two children were conceived outside the womb, through in vitro fertilization, and implanted into his then-wife, Debbie Rowe. Whether that marriage was ever anything close to resembling a real relationship is debatable, and it has always seemed to have been purely a marriage of convenience. She was his wife, on paper, and for the purposes of giving him kids. It doesn't seem that she got anything from the arrangement, except I assume to be paid handsomely.

Recent news reports have said that Jackson's sperm was not even used for the oldest two, and that it was instead from a donor. It is this point that the radio host seemed stuck on. If his sperm wasn't used, then the kids were never really his, and so then who gets custody after his death? People are so stupid. Of course the kids were his. While the genetic tie may be in question, they were his children. The host couldn't comprehend why he had never legally adopted the kids. Well, perhaps it was because he didn't need to. He was married to the mother, he was the intended father, his name is on the birth certificates. In the state of California, any man married to a woman who gives birth is automatically presumed to be the father. Period. He is the father. Whether he is genetically the father or not has absolutely no bearing on the situation at all. Whether the marriage was a sham, created solely for the purpose of enjoying that presumption, also doesn't matter.

She spent a good long time trying to analyze the situation the best that she could. Trying to decipher how the courts would go about determining custody in light of the fact that he wasn't really their father. It amazes me sometimes that people sitting behind a microphone don't think before they speak. The court will determine custody as they do in situations like this every day when the custodial parent is deceased. The wishes of the parent will be considered, but ultimately, the court will grant custody based on the best interests of the children. And the judge, I assure you, has no interest in where the sperm came from.

Much more troubling in my opinion is the status of the youngest child. Jackson was not married to the mother at the time of birth. If his sperm was not involved, and there is no genetic tie, he would have had to adopt the child to be the father. But that never happened. The only name on the birth certificate is Jackson's. There is no mother listed. Clearly, Jackson and his attorney held some powerful influence to accomplish that. What child has a birth certificate with no mother listed? I would think that whoever approved that birth certificate has some definite explaining to do. Assuming that there is no other legal document establishing legal parentage of the youngest child, the court would be put in the awkward position, it seems, of presuming that Jackson was indeed the father. He certainly was the intended father. And unless someone steps forward with contrary information that they can prove, he will be treated as such.

Jackson lived almost his entire life in the public eye, under the scrutiny of the microscope. Even in death, questions arise. And it seems that his children will not be able to escape the spotlight either. And, unfortunately, those children will not be able to avoid the idiocy of people who think that they are qualified to judge them - even when those people clearly have no idea what they are talking about. Give a stupid person a microphone and it won't make them more intelligent. It will just make them louder.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Purging

I find strange things therapeutic. I love gardening, getting dirt under my nails and everything. Tom thinks it is bizarre, but most of the time, I prefer not to wear gloves. I usually wear them only when pulling particularly stubborn weeds and when I am pruning the rosebushes. I'm not entirely sure where this love came from.

I love to paint. Most people see it as a messy chore, but I find peace in it. Solitude, calm. It's amazing how easy it is to transform a space, to renew a room. I am itching to paint, it's been too long. The source of this love, I can identify. It came from my grandmother. That woman painted and painted and painted everything in her house. The cabinets in her kitchen must have had 20 layers on them. So much that it was often impossible to get the doors open without sticking. At some point, a few of the doors lost the ability to close completely. She loved to paint, for her it was therapy too. If she was in the mood to paint, it was best to just get out of her way and let her have at it.

I love to clean out the house and get rid of stuff. This, I know I get from my father. He is the all time king of banishing clutter. My mom will never let him forget the time he donated her Kitchenaid stand mixer while she was visiting me. He tends to clean out the house when she isn't around. I find myself doing it often too, though I would never get rid of my mixer! I've spent a lot of time recently going through the kid's things. The clothes, the toys, the shoes, the stuffed animals that either don't fit or don't get used. They need to go somewhere else. They need to get out of my house.

Is it strange to find such satisfaction in cleaning?

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