Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday, Monday

It must be Monday. Though my son generally sleeps pretty well at night, he decided to get up twice last night for no particular reason. He didn't really eat, he just wanted to sit around and fuss. As a result, I didn't get a whole lot of rest last night.

Tom woke me up as he was leaving for work this morning and I realized that it was just about that time for me to get up too. My alarm was going to go off in less than a minute. I didn't want to get up and let it start. Snooze. Again. Finally, I gave up the fight.

The benefit to getting up early is that I can get in the shower before the kids get up. I can spend five whole minutes without listening to anyone needing anything. No one is bickering yet. No one is whining yet. It's a beautiful thing. Usually, Ally is up well before she was this morning, so I took full advantage of it.

After I got dressed, I decided against waking them up. It's not often that all four kids are still asleep that late. I came downstairs, poured myself a big cup of coffee and sat down to watch something on the tv that didn't involved singing stuffed animals. For that ten minutes, it was quiet, and I was alone. It was pretty nice.

I made their lunches, made them breakfast and got out their clothes before I woke anyone up. It's not often that I have the chance to be so prepared. Usually mornings are harried and rushed. Everyone had dressed, eaten, brushed and packed their lunches and they were all in the car with time to spare. It was too good to be true.

The battery in the car was dead, and we weren't going anywhere. I yelled to Aidan and Ash that they had to go fast, run to the bus. Crossing fingers that they would make it in time, I called a friend to come pick up Ally for preschool. It just wasn't meant to be. I can't be that prepared. All those errands I had to run will have to wait. Apparently, a new car battery is now on the list of things I need. But really, did it have to happen today?

Gotta love Monday.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Distressed

Whenever I get a catalog in the mail for Pottery Barn, I have to laugh. I do love their furniture, don't get me wrong. It's fantastic stuff. Pricey, but generally worth it. It's good, solid and sturdy. I am always amused though by the distressed furniture, the finishes that people pay extra for. Really, they could just send the new stuff to my house and we'd distress it for them. We are pretty good at it. There aren't many pieces of furniture in my house that are not distressed. And there are some that would raise the white flag of surrender if they could.

We have had the same kitchen table for years. We bought it right after we bought our first house, which would be about 7 1/2 years ago. It's a modest table, nothing fancy. It was from IKEA, and though it was cheap, it is made of solid wood. Initially, we bought the four matching cross backed chairs to go with it. Over the years, two of the chairs have been broken. The first of them fell victim to Ashley. She got her legs stuck in it, and despite my best efforts to grease her up, I couldn't get her out. I had to get the saw out of the garage, and the chair lost the fight. The other chair broke after being tipped over with Aidan still in it, he went right through the back framing of it. Of the two remaining chairs, only one is fully intact, and it is up in Aidan's room. The other, partially broken chair is in the kitchen for the desk area.

Needless to say, we got new chairs, one of which has already succumbed to the dangers of living in this house. In a cost saving effort, I decided that rather than look for a new table, I would sand, strip and refinish the table. Great in theory, but not so much in practice. I'm not really sure what went wrong, but something did not work as intended. The lacquer I used never fully cured, and the table has a sticky feel to it. It's only gotten worse and worse, to the point where anything and everything now sticks to the table. You can't read a newspaper without losing a few pages. The kids can't do homework there without peeling the papers off the table carefully when they are done.

When people started asking what I wanted for Christmas last year, my answers were amusing to say the least. I wanted two things: a vacuum that actually sucked, and a kitchen table. My, how lists change as we age. I was so happy to have a new vacuum Christmas morning that I actually took it out of the box and used it right away. Really! Santa didn't bring me a table, but I was just fine with that. I had a vacuum that actually picked things up again.

The truth is that the table really is in fine condition. The legs are undamaged, the joints are good. The finish on it is just so gross that it's hardly worth the effort involved in trying to clean it. Messes, like everything anymore, just stick to it. It needs a little TLC, and it needs it from someone who knows what they are doing. Obviously, I didn't.

The table fairy arrived yesterday morning, whisking it away. Off to a wood shop not too far away. To be stripped and sanded and stained again. And, I hope, to be finished right this time around. I hope, I hope, I hope. It will be nice to sit at the table without my elbows adhering to the surface. To be able to get a napkin out from under my plate without negotiating a hostage release. To be able to wipe it clean without the paper towel sticking to it. Who needs Santa when you have a table fairy?

Thanks, Papa. :)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

High

Last night we went to a street festival here in town. We've gone every year that we have lived here, I think. It's a huge party, and a great way to say goodbye to summer. There are dancers, performers, bands and more. Local restaurants set up a food court. Area businesses set up booths. The high school bands and sports teams run fundraisers selling cotton candy and popcorn. And there are tons of activities for the kids. Bounce castles, bubble towers, chalk to draw in the streets, face painting and the bungee ride.

The last few years that we have gone, the kids have begged to go on the bungee ride. We've always managed to talk them out of it, primarily by pointing out how long the line was. Up until last night, they were content to go down the giant inflatable slides and play in the bubbles. We walked past it at first and the pleading began. We said we would walk all the way down the the end and eat, then we would talk about it. I know Tom was hoping they would find something else they wanted to do.

We did stop along the way and watch an acrobatic act. There were girls performing on the silks in the middle of an intersection, suspended by a cherry picker truck. It was surprisingly good. We stopped and had burritos, giving AJ his first taste of refried beans. He's a fan. We started the trek back towards the bungees. It's not like we could have missed them if we tried. The support structure for it is so high we could see it from four blocks away.

By the time we got back down there, Tom was working on the kids, trying to talk them out of it. He managed to convince Aidan that there were better ways to spend his time, but Ashley wouldn't budge. She really, really, really wanted to jump high. I told her that we would wait. Even though the line was longer than it had been when we passed the first time. Aidan realized that if I was waiting, he might as well stay too. Tom took AJ and Ally and walked around. They came back and left again a few times before we got to the front of the line. Ally briefly thought she wanted to do it, she even made it so far as to get the harness put on and wait in the line by the trampolines before her fear took over. She backed out. Every so often, she remembers that she is only four.

Aidan wasn't sure about it. As I watched him getting hooked to the bungees, the hesitation was clear on his face. But he wasn't about to hop down after waiting over an hour. Finally, the lift went up and the guy pulled him down. Boing! He flew about 30 feet up in the air, his expression switching back and forth from terror to joy. After a few bounces, it was just fun and the fear was gone. He did it, and he was grinning ear to ear. When his turn was over, we walked over to the line Ashley was in.

I was so nervous for her. She got clipped in, and the guy working her line must have seen the hesitation on her face. The lines went up and pulled snug, but he didn't send them all the way to the top. He pulled her down just enough that she went about 15 feet up in the air. Plenty high for her. She was a little scared, but she hid it well. And after a few bounces, the smile peeked through. She didn't go nearly as high as Aidan had, or nearly as high as she initially wanted to, but she did it. And I forgot my camera.

This bungee ride is just one of many experiences in life that I will have to stand back and encourage, wait and see, hope and watch as my kids try it on their own. I can't go with them. All I can do is cross my fingers and sit on the edge of my seat. Hug them when they are scared and rejoice with them when they conquer their fears.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bubble

It's just about time to drag out my bubble. I happily put it away periodically throughout the year, hoping to be done with it for a while. For however long the weather cooperates anyway. This year has been a strange one as far as the weather has been concerned, and we never really had a true summer. The thermometers haven't even flirted with 100 degrees. Not that I am complaining of course, mild is just fine with me.

Even though it is still very much August according to the calendar, it doesn't seem like it. It feels a bit more like the end of September. The highs are reaching only into the 80's and the nights are cooling off quite a bit. It is because of those nights that you can smell it. That you can feel it. Change is coming.

The trees have already started to turn. Fall is by far my favorite season here, the mountains and the trees and the color are just amazing. It really is beautiful. With every possible opportunity, I find myself driving through the older neighborhoods in town. Those with the narrow, tree lined streets. The canopy of magnificent leaves, all shades of green, yellow, orange, red and purple covers the roads below. I could sit and watch the leaves falling from the trees all day. The mid air dance they do as they leisurely drop to the earth. I love to watch the leaves swirling in the wind created by passing traffic.

It is a time of transition. A time of change. A time of planning. A time that makes you drag that crockpot out of the back of the kitchen cupboard and start dreaming of homemade soup. Pumpkins start to turn shades of orange. Night comes earlier and earlier. Fallen leaves are transformed into decorations. This time of year brings out the fantasy in the kids. Halloween is just around the corner, what will they be this year?

As much as I adore this season, the one we are teetering on earlier than normal, it does not love me back. It does not treat me with kindness. My eyes are red, itchy and watery. The sneezing is relentless. My head hurts. My allergies try to force me inside. The days I forget to take my medicine are miserable. I have, unfortunately, shared my allergies with Aidan and Ashley. For the amount we spend on allergy medication, I should buy stock in it. I joke that if I could only construct a bubble, where I could be sealed off from the pollen and weeds and trees, I would love Fall even more.

The simple truth though is that I love the Fall. I won't let my allergies stop me from loving it. In fact, even though I know I will feel awful, I look forward to it every year with eager anticipation. I spend as much time as I can outside, sacrificing some of my senses for the benefit of the others. And every year I vow to get better pictures. This year, I desperately want to take my rake and my camera to a park in town and let the kids play. Let's hope for cool, breezy afternoons, cooperative children, and a lot of allergy medication.

Being forced inside isn't an option, not for me. Maybe someday I'll get that bubble. But until then, I'll grin and bear it. It's well worth it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

3rd Grade

Aidan started third grade last week. And though it isn't generally considered to be a major milestone in the eyes of most parents, it is for me. And for good reason. When I was in high school, I taught religious education at church. I always had second graders. Four years of second graders. During the summers in college, I worked at a summer camp. And I always the kids between first and second grade.

When I was doing my student teaching back in California, I worked in a first grade classroom. In all my years of experience with other people's children, I had the little ones. I worked predominately with second grade and under. It was what I got used to, and I realized after a while why I liked that age so much. And why I didn't really ever want to work with the older kids.

The younger ones, the kids in second grade or lower, are basically still little kids. They still sense that adults are supposed to be in charge. For the most part, they still play together with all the other kids. They haven't developed attitudes and cliques yet. They haven't started talking back on a regular basis.

Something happens the summer between second and third grade. They morph. They go from adorable little kids, precious and sweet to sassy, back talking pre-teens. And though I have known for years that it was coming, I kind of hoped that my son would not fall victim to the change. That somehow he would stay my little boy for just a bit longer. Didn't happen. He changed. As did most of his friends.

He's started slamming doors. He talks back. He whines again. He definitely has an attitude. After I took something away from him as a punishment for his misbehavior a few days ago, he stared me right in the eyes and said, "It's okay, I didn't want that anyway". And he's still alive.

I know that him growing up is inevitable. I know that the boundary testing and button pushing are there for a reason. He needs to learn his place in the world. He needs room to develop his own relationships. He needs space to thrive. He needs to know where the limits are, and he needs to discover them by pushing me as close to them as possible. I know all of these things. I just don't happen to like them very much.

To all my cohorts, those with new third graders, I think it will be a long year. But we can survive. And if we are nice enough, if we are patient enough, and if we are understanding enough, the kids just might survive too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Feeling

Sometimes as a mother, you just have a feeling about something. It's hard to explain, since there isn't really any quantifiable way to measure to the accuracy of said feelings. There are just times in the lives of your children where you think something is going to happen. Sometimes this feeling is just about a clumsy kid, prone to injuries. Sometimes it's a feeling that a kid is going to inherit your need for glasses. Sometimes it's a feeling about a friendship between a child and another, one that you just know won't end well.

But sometimes, that feeling is about something more important. About something that can't be easily fixed or solved or healed. Sometimes that feeling is hard to face. Maybe a phase is not just a phase. Maybe it is really a sign of a significant issue. These are the times that I dread as a mother. The times that I just sense that there is something wrong. There is nothing more in the world that I hate more than to be right when it happens.

I hope my feelings are wrong. I hope that it is a phase. I hope that if I am not wrong, that those around me will be supportive and understanding. That they will not offer unsolicited and irrelevant advice. That they will not criticize the choices that may have to be made. That they will realize the challenges we will face. That they will not judge.

I hope I am wrong.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stretch

We made it to the 7th inning stretch, which is longer than I thought we would. Taking four children anywhere is an adventure, to be sure. Tonight, we took them to the Rockies game. The Dodgers are in town, and we met Grandma, Papa and Uncle TJ there. This was intended to be Papa's birthday gift. All the in-state family members going out for a night at the park.

Anytime the Rockies are playing another NL West team, the crowd is a bit rowdier than normal. And out in the cheap seats where we were sitting, they tend towards being downright obnoxious. Throw in the opposing left fielder, Manny Ramirez, recently back from a suspension for using performance enhancing drugs, and you have a loud group of fans. We were sitting out in the left field, and every time he was out there, the hecklers started. Every time he was up, they yelled too. And though you'd think that the stadiums are too big for the players to be able to distinguish the voices of each annoyed fan, they can. Once in college, a few friends and I moved up right behind to dugouts during a game, and it was amazing what you could hear people yelling.

We brought in sodas, which were shaken and opened shortly thereafter more than once. We bought hotdogs and had the audacity to smother them with condiments, the condiments that would eventually find their way onto everyone's clothes - whether the eater of the hotdog, or the unsuspecting neighbor of the eater. Blue cotton candy tinted the mouths of the kids. The girls alternated between lollipops and M&Ms. Though it doesn't sound like a good combination in my mind, they seemed to like it.

At some point, in the fourth inning I think, AJ's diaper leaked. Every so often I pay the price of frugality, and this was one of those times. Cheap diapers just don't work as well, and unfortunately for Grandma Kathi, she was holding him when the proverbial dam burst.

I don't think I really watched more than a few plays with any intensity. You mean there was a baseball game being played? I was too busy trying to make sure that AJ wasn't putting anything too gross in his mouth. Trying to make sure the girls weren't driving each other too crazy. Trying to get Aidan to stop asking me over and over again if they could go play at the playground. Baseball is a sport best watched with a beer and a scorecard. It's not a terribly fast paced sport, not one that holds the interest of a kid. And it certainly can't sustain the interest of four of them at the same time.

Happy Birthday Papa! Sorry we couldn't provide you with an uninterrupted, peaceful game. Sorry you got smeared with ketchup and mustard. Sorry your socks and shoes are probably splatted with tiny dots of soda. It could have been worse. At least you didn't get peed on.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mom Poetry

oh little goldfish
escaping your pouches then
stuck in my couches



my van, my van
my second home
once you had some
shiny chrome

my sad, sad van
you are always covered
in dirt and grime
and with food smothered

i wish, i wish
for clean and shiny
but until then
you're filled with whiny

messy, dirty kids
behind them a trail
of trash and wrappers
without fail

someday, my van
you will be tidy and neat
someday, my van
your job complete


HE'S TOUCHING ME!
SHE'S HITTING ME!
WHY MUST I ALWAYS REFEREE?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Clip

If you've ever stood behind her in line, you know what I mean. The audible sighs, the shifting your weight with the amount of time spent waiting. The peeking around, hoping that there is another option. If you've ever worked in retail, you also will know what I mean. You can see her coming a mile away, and you cross your fingers that she picks another register. Who is she you might ask? The coupon lady.

The shopper that methodically makes a list, checking the ad for specials and trying to rack up as many deals as possible. After perusing the aisles in a strategic manner, she approaches the checkout with the cart piled high, fists clutching her tiny pieces of paper as though they were gold. It takes almost as long to enter the coupons as it does to run the items through the scanner.

I used to hate the coupon lady. And then something happened. I became the coupon lady. Motherhood does some crazy things to a person. I've never been one to spend money in a lavish fashion. I've tried for most of my life to be sensible about it, at least as much as is practical. For years I avoided using coupons, rationalizing that it just wasn't worth the amount of time and effort to save such a small amount of money. And besides, I hated getting stuck behind people who used them whenever I was at the store. I bought stuff on sale, bought certain things in bulk when cheaper, but I avoided coupons like the plague.

I'm not sure when it really started, but I have it down to a science now. I wait until something goes on sale, then use as many coupons as I can. I stack store coupons with manufacturer ones, and there are times that I literally pay just pennies for items. There are still very real limits to the practicality of the coupons though. I don't even attempt to coupon shop when the kids are with me. I try to do one big shopping trip a month and use as many of them as I can. Then I make smaller weekly trips for the perishable stuff, almost always lugging most or all of my children with me. Those trips are designed for speed and efficiency. Get in and get out. No time for coupons. Trust me when I say that no one wants me to coupon shop with my children. Not me, not them, and certainly not the poor people at the grocery store.

After making my list this morning, I started sorting the coupons. Tom looked at me like I was crazy and asked me what I was doing. I put them in order of when I will see the item in the store. There really is a method to it. When you intend to use over 50 coupons at a time, there has to be some sense of organization. I got to the store, alone, and set off. Tom called me twice while I was there, wanting to know if I was done yet. Nope. It takes that long.

I had my cart piled so high that I had to be careful going around corners, and total strangers stopped to ask me how many kids I have. Usually rude comments like that are reserved for the times when I have all the kids with me. But, when I do my monthly trip, people tend to start asking questions. All that food certainly cannot be for just one average sized family, right?

The girl behind the register did not even attempt to mask her displeasure with me. Sorry, but it's your job. Spare me the comments and snide remarks and just scan the stuff. Yes, I do have all the items for that coupon. Yes, I do really remember how much that buy one get one free item cost. And yes, I do need another cart to get all the stuff to the car.

My apologies to those people unfortunate enough to be stuck behind me in line on coupon days. My apologies to the checkers who have to process my huge orders. My apologies to whoever the person is that eventually has to sort through all those little pieces of paper.

It's a lot of work. It's not for the impatient shopper. But it is worth it. I saved $75 today. And I am no longer ashamed to say it. I am the coupon lady.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Would I?

Tom stopped at the video rental store on the way home last night and picked up a movie. Living with kids often means that we are subjected to watching horrible children's movies. Some of them are really bad. If you've ever had occasion to watch Shark Boy and Lava Girl, you will have no other choice but to agree with me. If you've never been subjected to that movie, avoid it however possible. Trust me. It's that bad.

There have been some so bad that we stopped watching them mid-film. I think the last one that happened with was the Golden Compass. I want to say we only got about 15 minutes into it before we gave up trying. The one that Tom brought home last night was better though. I'd even venture to say it is a good movie. It's certainly a thought provoking movie, for sure.

He rented 17 Again. The girls wanted to see it only because Zac Efron is in it. Not that I can really say that I blame them. He is adorable. In the movie, Matthew Perry's character, who is about our age, wishes he could go back to when he was 17. And through the magic of movies, he is transformed back into the 17 year old played by Zac.

The premise of the film is that he is stuck in a life he didn't plan for, hates his job, his wife is divorcing him and he is totally irrelevant to his teenage children. If only he could go back to that pivotal point in his life, the one where he chose to stay with his pregnant girlfriend and abandon his hopes of a basketball scholarship, things, so he thought, would be different. Better.

There are times in all of our lives like that, I suppose. The moments where one decision irreversibly shapes our futures. If I could go back to any one of them, would I? If I could go back to high school, would I? The answer is a resounding no.

Sure, things are different than I ever imagined that they would be. I'm not supposed to be a stay at home mom. I'm not supposed to be living in Colorado. I should be some high powered attorney, successful and important. I'm supposed to be financially secure, living the sweet life. I am supposed to have a beach house by now. If things had gone according to my plan, I'd have one child now, and would have perfected the working mother dream. That was the plan.

Some of the things that shaped the future were things I didn't have control over. But they weren't all like that. I made choices. I am where I am as a result of those choices. Every once in a while, I question things. The "what ifs" start running through my head. Then I look at my children, and I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Would I ever want to be 17 Again? No thanks.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Squint

I often say that I pulled the genetic short straw. If there is a gene on either side of the family that would predispose me to anything bad, chances are that I got it. All the genes for a good metabolism, blond hair, and nice skin avoided me. I got the others. The bad teeth, horrible vision, acne, varicose veins....those are the genes I got stuck with. Lucky me.

By far the most annoying of the things that are wrong with me is my vision. I have never in my life been able to see right. I really shouldn't complain, though. At least I don't have an astigmatism like my brother. And I never had to contend with having other vision problems like some in my family. I just wish I could see.

I don't ever remember a time in my life where I could see clearly. Even as a kid, I'd squint and get headaches. Finally in fifth grade, I got glasses. And for the first time ever I saw that there were actually individual leaves on trees. Though I knew that trees were filled with separate leaves, I had never seen a tree the way that most people can. From any measurable distance, they just looked like green blobs.

I suffered for two miserable years with glasses, and I got them at the worst possible time. I had just had a haircut, just had a perm, and just got glasses. It was the trifecta of ugliness. I got picked on like you wouldn't believe. If you look up dork in the dictionary, you'll find my 5th grade school picture. And if there is ever a point at which in a child's adolescence that you shouldn't go to great lengths to change anything drastically, it is about then. Let's just say it was a bad, bad phase. I clearly still have issues about wearing glasses, thanks to that time period.

The year I started junior high, after much begging, my parents gave in and let me get contacts. The perm had long since fallen out and my hair had grown a bit. Still awkward, but not as bad. At least I could see without glasses. And people had one less thing to tease me about.

Back then, there weren't disposable contacts like there are now. I was only supposed to wear them for as little time as possible, because they didn't allow much oxygen through. I, however, had no intention of ever wearing my glasses publicly again and wore my contacts any time human contact was possible. It wasn't the best choice. My eyes suffered. After years of this, blood vessels started infiltrating into portions of my eyes that they weren't supposed to. I had to change contacts. I had to start using the disposables.

Since switching several times to better, newer, thinner and more expensive lenses, the blood vessels have receded. I am still supposed to get my eyes checked every six months, just make sure it doesn't start again. This is why my optometrist was a little shocked when I came in for my checkup earlier this summer. He wanted to know who else I had been to see. Had I been doctor shopping? Nope. I just waited too long. Way too long.

It had been almost two years since I got my eyes checked. I did not realize it had been so long. I don't go back in until I get close to running out of lenses. And this time I waited until I was wearing my last set. Since I wear them far longer than I should, I had squeezed almost twice the recommended time out of them. Luckily, the lenses are better now, and I can get away with it. Though I was scolded for not changing them as often as I should, my eyes were fine. My prescription had not changed, and the blood vessel issue was okay. He gave me a sample set of lenses and sent me on my way with the prescription. The prescription that I was supposed to fill, as my new set of sample lenses were the only ones I owned. I say supposed to.

I didn't fill it. Not yet. As with everything in my life it seems, I just don't get around to doing the things I need to do for myself in a timely manner. (This is why I have a few inches of gray roots showing in my hair too....another lovely gene I was blessed with.) Only this morning, when that sample pair ripped did I order my boxes of contacts. I should know better than to wait. My prescription is so strong that it isn't kept in the inventory at any regular optometrists office. I have to wait about a week. And for that week, I have to wear my glasses. Yuck.

I hope that maybe one of these days, I will be able to do Lasik. It's pricey, but probably worth it in the long run if it works. I spend a lot on exams and lenses. I would just love to wake up in the morning and be able to see the alarm clock. My eyes are so bad now that I can't even see it if I squint with all my might. It's the simple things like that that my husband takes for granted. He got a little luckier in the genetic department. He got a fast metabolism, better than perfect vision and has never had a cavity. Let's just hope that the kids take after their father.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rhythm

It will take a few weeks, but we'll get there. Adjusting to all the things that come with the beginning of the school year takes time. This year, just the mere thought of all the things we have to do in any given week is mind numbing.

Aidan is at school full time, so is Ashley this year. Ally goes three mornings a week. Aidan wants to join the school choir, which meets in the mornings once a week. He's in Cub Scouts, which usually meets on the same day every week. Add in a few after school clubs and church, and he's busy all the time. He has already asked if he can do swimming too, but I am not making any promises.

Ashley is still getting used to her new reality of being a first grader, and being at school all day every day. Add to that church, Daisies and soccer. Whenever their school has the cheer leading class, she'll be doing that too. Ally is just doing preschool and soccer so far. She'd like to take ballet, but the city classes overlap with her preschool time. And quite frankly, we have enough to do already.

If that wasn't bad enough, it seems like even Tom has activities we have to coordinate this Fall. He recently joined a tennis group in town, and they meet to play once a week. Never on the same day or time though...that would make it too easy. He has networking events for work as well as some charity events coming up. He is also now the Cubmaster for Aidan's Pack, and I got roped into helping with the popcorn fundraiser. All that begins in two weeks. For a month, my life will revolve around hundreds of overpriced tins of popcorn.

So, if I seem a bit frazzled in the following weeks, there is a reason. I'm just not used to the schedule yet. We'll get into the rhythm of it eventually.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hey!

One of my absolute least favorite things about the beginning of the school year is the parking lot. Whoever designed the parking lot at the kid's school didn't take into consideration the fact that it would often need to be utilized by twice the number of cars that fit into the allotted spaces. The morning and afternoon are just insane, too many people in too small of a space.

I've been around long enough to know that it won't last, though. The crowds thin and the cars are fewer in number after the first week or so. Carpools start, people use the drop off lanes more and kids start getting sick. Eventually, it's not as crazy. That is until the first day it rains or snows, of course. Then all the parents who were normally content to let their kids walk or ride their bikes, and happy to avoid the parking lot, are forced back into the madness.

The normal aggravation with the parking lot is one thing. But I have noticed every year that the drivers get worse. The inattention increases. The obliviousness multiplies. The danger worsens. I was rear-ended last spring in the parking lot by another parent. She was too busy lighting a cigarette, dialing her cell phone and manually rolling down her window to actually pay attention to the fact that she was headed right towards my back bumper. There is such a thing as ineffective multitasking. Fortunately, she did this after drop off, when the parking lot was for the most part emptied of children. She would have just plowed one over if there had been anyone behind her.

Then today, the first day of school, I got to school early. Like the prepared, veteran parent I am, I knew that if I waited until too close to the end of the day, there was no way I'd get a space. So I got there early, and even backed into a spot so it would be easier to get out. I was parked next to the handicapped space, knowing full well that I'd most likely have an open spot next to me when it came time to leave - there aren't many with placards at school.

Like normal, I left a little later than planned. The parking lot was about halfway cleared out by the time we headed over there. Rounding up four kids just takes a while. I opened the doors so the big kids could climb in, then took the stroller over to the driver's side to put AJ in. Parked next to me was another van, in the handicapped space. The space dedicated to those who need to be closer, filled by someone perfectly capable of going elsewhere - she didn't have a placard. Unless being stupid and inconsiderate is a new handicap that I am unaware of.

I was backed in, she wasn't. Our driver's doors were right next to one another. Her window was down, and I could not possibly have been closer to her if I tried. I went to unbuckle AJ to put him in the car and she threw her van into reverse. And started backing up. Even though I was standing right next to her, in clear view, with a baby. She was pinning my stroller to me since her wheel was cranked so hard to the side. Only after I yelled at her did she notice.

Gee, think you should actually look before you drive? It's not like you are in a parking lot full of kids or anything. Maybe stupidity should be a handicap.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Line

Last night, we both fell asleep on the couch. Worn out and exhausted, we were both too tired to make the trek upstairs before drifting off to dreamland the first time. Tom passed out before I did, though he really did try to stick it out to the end of the baseball game that was on tv. I was snuggling with a little boy, his sweaty little head nuzzled on my shoulder when I gave in to the heaviness of my eyelids. Though I am not exactly sure how long we were sleeping down here, I enjoyed every second of it. I know my days of having a baby sleeping on my chest are numbered.

At some point, we woke up and headed upstairs. I had AJ, and Tom had to turn off all the lights and lock up the house. He closed the windows, but not the blinds, as I found out this morning. When I came down, the back of the house bright with light from the morning sun, I had to giggle. What I saw was another immediate reminder that I live in a house filled with children. It's only early in the morning, when the sun is just over the horizon that you can see what I saw. The line.

Anyone with little kids will know exactly what I am talking about. With the angle of sun streaming through the windows, it's pretty clear. There is most definitely a line. Above the line, the windows are reasonably clean. Not perfect, but pretty good. Below the line is an entirely different story. Fingerprint, smudges and more - readily apparent only this time in the morning. Clear, obvious signs of the heights of my children. Of just how high they can reach.

In reality, this line exists all through the house. The few areas left with the original paint from the builder show it the most. My walls all show the remnants of kid, limited of course by their reach. My family room wall is the worst, and my repeated attempts at cleaning the wall have done little but start removing the texture. I'm not even sure what is on the wall in some spots. There is a point at which the mess stops and the clean wall above magically appears.

I clean my windows. Really, I do. But no one who has ever been in my house just after sunrise would believe it. That is, unless they remember what it was like to have tiny people living with them. And they remember the futility that is cleaning. The constant nature of the fingerprints. The never ending mission to undo the mess.

It's okay, though. The fingerprints don't bother me. I don't mind having reminders of my kids everywhere. I know they won't be there forever. I know that one day, I won't have to worry about grape jelly being smeared on my windows. I won't cringe when someone runs their hands along the wall on the way to the bathroom to wash up after dinner. Someday, the line will fade. And someday the walls and the windows will stay clean. It's not actually a day I am looking forward to. I like the line.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kitty

Grandma Judy has been here for a visit for a little over two weeks. And though I know otherwise to be the truth, I could swear that she is really a cat. In the last 10 days, she has managed to dodge the proverbial bullet four separate times. She really does have nine lives.

I took her with me to play bunco at a friend's house the weekend before last, and our game was rudely interrupted by Mother Nature. Without any warning at all, a thunderstorm rolled through and brought with it rain and hail. It brought something else with it too, and that something is the most dangerous weather phenomenon in the state of Colorado. Lightning. About halfway through the second game of bunco, it hit. And it hit only about ten feet from the house we were at. I have never heard anything so loud, it sounded like a cannon had literally gone off inside the room. And the light was blinding. We were lucky. Really lucky.

A few days later, we went to Elitch Gardens, a local amusement park. Before I could even realize what she had done, Mom walked through a metal detector. Doing this is something that most people never think could be dangerous, but when you have an electromagnetic shunt in your head, you really are supposed to avoid magnetic fields. After some calls to her neurologist, and enough time elapsing without any major incidents, we figured that she was okay. It didn't appear that the field was strong enough to mess with the setting on the shunt. Again, she was lucky.

The following day, we went to the outlet mall. Malls are pretty harmless, right? Not if you have Mom with you! I had taken Ashley into the bathroom with me, and Mom was standing out in the hallway with AJ in the stroller, Ally in the cart and Aidan. I was only gone for a few minutes, but when I came back out I knew something was wrong. She had bent over to get something out of the stroller, and when she got up she smacked her head on a little alcove in the wall. And she hit it right where the shunt goes in. Again, we waited and hoped that it would be okay. She was hurting, for sure, but whether she had done any real damage we weren't sure about. After about 36 hours, the lump went down and she felt better. Once again, she was lucky.

By this point in the visit, we had started to laugh about all the things happening to her. I mean, really? Do people have this much bad luck in such a short period of time? I got up yesterday morning, the last morning of her visit, thinking that I was driving her to the airport. Not exactly. The look on her face in the morning told me that there was something new, something else to worry about. She has a history of blood clots, and there appeared to be one in her arm. It was swelling and red and hot and painful. She called her hematologist, who told her that she had to be seen to rule out a DVT, and she certainly had to do it before she got on an airplane. So, instead of taking her to the airport yesterday, we went back and forth between urgent care and the hospital. The clot is small and in a superficial vein, so they increased her medication. They are treating her for a possible infection from a big bite as well. She is lucky that it wasn't in a different vein. Lucky....seems to be the word of the visit.

She is supposed to be headed home today, after rescheduling her flight for medical reasons. But it's early, only 8am. Her flight isn't until this afternoon. That is hours from now, and she's got 5 more lives.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cupcakes

Tom thinks I am crazy. Maybe he is right. Well over a year ago, back before we had the official confimation that AJ was a boy, I found his first birthday invitations. Of course, I knew that he was a boy. I knew with all the kids before the ultrasounds. Tom, though, needs confirmation. And not having had that yet, he wondered why I was buying things so far in advance for a baby that I might not ever use them for. The invitations have a big giant blue cupcake on them. I reassured him that we would use them, and besides, they were on clearance and really cheap.

They are quite possibly the cutest invitations ever, and how could I pass them up?

Fast forward to about a month ago. I knew they were in the house, put away in some safe place. I just had to remember where that safe place was. I have a habit of putting things away so well that I have a hard time finding them again. After some searching, I did find them. And I was instantly glad that I had bought them so long ago. They were even cuter than I remembered.

Luckily, AJ loves cupcakes. The kid would sit and eat frosting all day if I let him. He loves the stuff. A friend of mine found a cake pan that looked almost exactly like the cupcake on the invitation, just super-sized. And perfect for a first birthday cake to destroy.

We had the party at a park here in town. The weather wasn't being entirely cooperative at first, with thunder and rain. We were glad to have the shade canopy to hide under. This summer has been a strange one. But then I remembered something. It did rain quite a bit one day in August last year. The day AJ was born. It was only fitting that it rained yesterday. It cleared up just in time for him to have his cake and open presents.

We put the cake in front of him, and he was a little unsure of what was going on. He seemed to be thinking, "Why are all these people looking at me?" We've been working on teaching him how to blow for the last few weeks, but he was a little overwhelmed by all the frosting to care about blowing out a candle. He wanted the cake. He had his cupcake, the one I had been planning on since long before he was born.

The first year is over, a new one begins. And my little boy had a great first party. Thanks to everyone who came out and braved the rain to join us. Thanks to Erika for finding the most awesome giant cupcake pan ever. Thanks to Grandma and Papa for hauling a cake and frosting smeared highchair home. Thanks to Tom for humoring his crazy pregnant wife. And thank you God for bringing me this amazing little boy. Happy Birthday AJ!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Four

We've been done having kids more than once. We always planned to have two. Then the plan was revised and Ally came along. Again, we were done. Someone else had a different plan though. We weren't done adding to our family.

I had always heard that when you get rid of baby stuff and maternity clothes you will jinx yourself. For sure that guarantees another baby. Ally was set to start preschool, and I've heard that too will magically make a baby appear. I had just gotten rid of all the baby stuff, all my maternity clothes, and Ally was ready to start school. Surely the combination of all those things virtually guaranteed another addition. I shrugged off all the warnings. We were done. Or so I thought.

I knew that I was pregnant almost immediately, but it took a few weeks to get official word on the matter. The kids were all completely excited about having another little one in the house. I wasn't too sick with him, which was nice. Or maybe I was just too busy living life with three other kids to notice. I didn't have time to be tired.

I knew that he was a boy early on, but Tom was skeptical. He wanted proof. We went to the first ultrasound that we could find out the gender and met with an uncooperative baby. Crossed legs and an impatient technician meant that we weren't finding out that day. Tom was disappointed. A few weeks later at my routine office visit, the OB needed to check fluid levels or something and he looked. It was a boy. I was right.

Sitting in that dimly lit office, staring at the fuzzy screen of tiny boy parts, I smiled. And I cried. Though I was sure he was a boy, and was actually hoping for a boy, now I knew for sure. There was balance in our family. The same number of boys and girls. Harmony in the universe and all that jazz.

Towards the end of the pregnancy, I started having more trouble with my blood pressure. I started needing non-stress tests. At about 32 weeks, the baby wasn't being as responsive as the doctor wanted and I was sent over the the hospital so they could hook me up to all the monitors. The nurses instantly realized that I was having regular contractions. I knew that. Could have told them, but I knew it wasn't labor. They just didn't believe me. The on-call OB was all worried, kept insisting that I needed to go on medication to stop the contractions. That if I didn't listen to him, I was delivering a very premature baby. I told him I just had an irritable uterus. He thought I was crazy, and finally discharged me begrudgingly. I told him I wasn't having a baby that night, and I was right.

Almost four weeks later, I went back to the doctor and my blood pressure was higher. Higher than was safe and I was starting to have other symptoms. Plus, I had been up all night contracting and knew that I was in early labor. It would be sometime in the next 24 hours. I was sent to the hospital and admitted. I needed to have the baby that day.

The nurses weren't terribly fast getting everything hooked up, and my regular doctor was leaving town for vacation. He was sad to go, especially since he knew that once I was on the pitocin, it wouldn't be long. He wasn't even 5 minutes out of the city when AJ arrived. At some point, I told the nurses that they needed to get the on-call OB there, and he needed to get there now. They looked at me, again, like I was crazy. I told them he needed to hurry and I wasn't waiting to push. I gave them fair warning that I go fast, and the doctor barely made it in time.

I was nervous about him coming so early. He was 35 weeks, 5 days. The earliest of my babies. And he was a boy, and we are a mile above sea level, all risk factors for preemies. I was worried about his lungs not being ready. But he was fine. 6 lbs, 3 oz. A little perfect baby boy. I finally had a baby that never left my side. He never needed to go to the nursery. There were no visits to the NICU. And he went home on time.

I never knew that my family wasn't complete until he arrived. Four is a good number. And though I've said it before, I think we are done. Happy Birthday sweet boy, we all love you!

Friday, August 14, 2009

One More Day

I am down to my last day. The last day that I will be the mother of an infant. The last day that I will ever be able to say that my youngest is not yet a year old. Yet again, a phase of my life ending before I am ready to let it. AJ will be one tomorrow.

He's already walking, he's already saying a few words. He's figured out a lot about how things work around here. He antagonizes his siblings. He knows that if anyone leaves a gate open to get up and go fast before anyone realizes he is gone.

My dear sweet baby boy, my last baby, enjoy your last day of infancy. For tomorrow, your journey as a one year old begins. And my days as the mother of a newborn are gone. Already the days where I could swaddle him are gone. He no longer wants to be held all the time. That first year goes by too fast. And I'm not entirely sure that I am ready for it to be over.

Can I just have one more day?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Adrenaline

We went to Elitch Gardens yesterday, an amusement park in Denver. We had never been there before and weren't really sure what to expect. It reminded me of a combination of a few parks back in Southern California, with a little bit of something for everyone.

When we first got there, Tom and Aidan took off to find the big kid rides. Since Aidan is tall enough to ride just about everything now, Tom has a buddy to go with. When we met back up with them for lunch, the look on Aidan's face was priceless. "I went on my first loop-d-loop! I went upside down!" he exclaimed. He was pretty proud of himself.

While the big boys were off on the rollercoasters, Grandma Judy, the girls, AJ and I were in the children's area. Lots of little rides, geared towards the little visitors. The girls had a good time on all of them. And when I say girls, I mean the oldest one too. Grandma appeared to really be having a good time on the crazy bus and at the Bob the Builder show. Really. :) Even AJ seemed to think the Bob show was pretty cool, since he was dancing along the whole time.

After we had a bite to eat, we decided to try and find some rides that Ally and Ashley could go on outside the kid area. Aidan and Tom had already been on a few water rides and wanted me and the girls to go on those with them. There are two main water rides. One is a river rafting type, the other is a large waterfall boat ride where the riders get pretty much soaked. We parked the strollers in some shade for Grandma, then started to set off for the waterfall ride. Except Ashley wasn't budging. She wasn't going. She was scared. Really scared. From where we were sitting, you could see the entire ride. Basically, you go up a hill, down the hill and get wet. That's about it. She wasn't going, even though everyone else except AJ took a trip down the big hill. Even Grandma got soaked.

After that ride, and the obligatory stop at the sea lion show, we headed towards the raft ride. Tom and I took the girls and Aidan. By this point, Ally had been on the other water ride as well as a few others and loved all of them. But this one was different. Very shortly after the ride started, she got scared. The ride was really quite mild. No big hills, no super fast spins, and no one got soaked, but she was terrified. I heard noises come out of her I have never heard in my life. And to see her so scared, when she is usually my daredevil, on such a mild ride was a little baffling at first.

But then I realized what the problem was. And again just how different the girls are. Ashley was afraid of what she could see, Ally was afraid of what she couldn't. Totally different fears, both slightly irrational, but both totally legitimate for each child. Fear and nerves are part of what makes an amusement park scary, but also what makes it fun. It's the adrenaline rush we are there to seek after all. There is a reason that the lines for the ho-hum rides are never as long as they are for the thrill rides.

As we made our way out the park yesterday, after refilling the cotton candy tub and flattening three shiny pennies, exhausted and damp from all the water we'd been covered with, there was a bit of a sense of accomplishment. Grandma got her trip to the park, and went on as many kid rides as big rides. But I guarantee you that she had just as much fun on the little ones as the big ones. Aidan went fast and he went upside down. Tom got to bond with his oldest boy in a whole new way. And the girls now have something to laugh about, for they each know one thing that they are less afraid of than the other. As for me, I got to go on my first thrill ride in years. And I was quickly reminded that I am a lot older this time than I was the last.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

And Beyond

A good friend of mine just passed along something for my girls. Something that her daughter, who is Aidan's age, very recently outgrew. It's not clothing or shoes. It's not a toy or a doll. It's a set of four pictures. A set of pictures that hung on her wall up until a few weeks ago, when they were unceremoniously removed by the owner and shoved under a bed.

What might prompt such a quick removal? She outgrew them, plain and simple. The pictures are princess pictures, and she just is too old for them now. Overnight, she outgrew them. Her mom, my friend, was a little sad to see them go, but happy they would have a new home where they would be more than welcomed. My girls have already decided which pictures belong to who and where in their room they want them to go. They are, after all, years from outgrowing princesses.

Something very similar happened here about a year and a half ago. My little boy woke up one morning and decided that he no longer wanted anything to do with Buzz Lightyear. There were a great many years where the kid practically had to eat, sleep and breathe Buzz. He had the movies of course, but he also had just about anything else you could think of. Plates, toys, stuffed animals, clothes, pajamas and books. He has had the full blown deluxe Buzz costume in at least 4 different sizes.

When we moved into this house, he knew right away what he wanted his room to be decorated like. Of course, it was Buzz themed. Much to the dismay of my husband, I obliged Aidan. I painted his room galactic green and blasting blue. I hung a solar system from his ceiling, next to the flying Buzz. He had pillows and bedding, though it took several people in different states to find it all. And he even had drapes with Buzz, thanks to Grandma Kathi. And for his fourth birthday, he got a Buzz tooth fairy pillow. I spent months searching for lithographs and posters for his walls. It took a lot of work and a lot of time, but it was pretty cool.

And it lasted for a while. Until that fateful morning. Not long after he had just received his last costume for Christmas, in the biggest size I could find, he was done. And all of a sudden, he was too old. Too grown up. He is a big kid now, and he no longer wanted anything to do with Buzz anymore. He took a lot of the stuff down himself. Begged for new bedding. Volunteered to get rid of the toys and costumes. He even got rid of the matching Build a Bear costume. Told me that he didn't need the pictures in his room anymore. He was done.

A phase of his life was over, and so was a phase of mine as his mother. Gone was the little boy, imagining himself to be a space ranger. Gone was the twinkle in his eye and the joy on his face when he got the autograph of his hero at Disneyland. Gone were the constant questions about where his Buzz pajamas were. And gone was the costume. He is too old for that now.

Kids grow up. Their interests change. It's inevitable. It needs to happen, but it's not always a pleasant process for me. I miss Buzz. He was a pretty important part of my life for many years. I miss Aidan pretending to be Buzz. I miss him blasting off. I miss him yelling, "To Infinity and Beyond!" I miss my little boy.

I didn't get rid of all that Buzz stuff, even if Aidan thought I did. I kept some of it, just in case he ever changes his mind and decides that maybe it's not such a bad thing to have Buzz around again. I'm not getting my hopes up, though. I think he's really done. I repainted his room last year, and the solar system is the only thing left from the Buzz days. I can't even tell you when the last time was that we watched the movies.

Maybe someday Aidan will sort through a box of his most loved playthings with his children. And maybe he will find Buzz and remember how much he used to love him. And maybe, just maybe, he'll miss him a little. I know I already do.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bear

This is a story about a bear, one that was inspired as I watched the kids play this morning. Not just any bear, mind you. About the Brannan bear. For those unfamiliar with the Gap, he is their signature bear. The little bear embroidered on the baby boy polo shirts, the one that inspired the bear shoes, he's "the" Gap bear.

As much as I adore the Gap, this story really isn't about the store at all. It's about the bear. When I was pregnant with Aidan, all those years ago, Brannan came into my life. After losing the first baby, we were both a little hesitant to really go shopping and buy things. Even once we knew that he was a boy, we held back a little, afraid. I didn't want to be putting anything else away into a box, never to be used by a child.

Tom was even more hesitant than I was. It took him far longer to get used to the idea that we were actually having a baby this time. And that it was real. I think men have a harder time with that in general though. They aren't growing the little person inside them, after all, and it isn't as real to them. Sure, they know that there is a baby in there. But they don't really grasp the gravity of it, I don't think. At least most men I have ever met don't.

We went on one last trip together as a couple when I was pregnant with Aidan. Our last time we could go anywhere without dragging car seats and sippy cups and playpens along. We went to Vegas. I'm not entirely sure why we went there. Most likely the reason was that it was fairly close and relatively cheap. The only way to have a really good time there is to drink enough to not care about losing money gambling. I was too sober. Vegas is less fun that way, trust me.

We spent a lot of time while we were there in the mall inside one of the hotels. We did have a little person on the way that we needed to start buying things for. We stopped in the Baby Gap store, just to browse mostly. Since I was pregnant with our first child, we were really kind of clueless about the whole thing. We held up little onesies and laughed at how tiny they were, of course not realizing that when he was born, they would be way too big for him.

There was one thing there, though, that caught Tom's eye. Something that made the pregnancy real for him. He was going to be a father. And I think he really realized that standing in the Gap, of all places. He found a bear. And, for whatever reason, he needed to buy this bear. He wanted it to be Aidan's first and most loved stuffed animal, and he wanted to be the one that chose it.

It was an adorable bear. Chocolate brown with nubby fur. He had hand stitched eyes and a nose and mouth. He has some beans in his behind so he can sit up. And he's just about the perfect size for a toddler to snuggle with. The bear came home with us, then sat on a dresser waiting for Aidan.As luck would have it, that bear did turn out to be Aidan's most favorite stuffed animal. Still is to this day. He's been on trips. He's been in wedding pictures. He's been to camp and he's been to school.

As we added other children to our home, we added new bears. They haven't always been easy to find. All four kids have Brannans, each just slightly different. I'm sure the subtle differences wouldn't be obvious to outsiders, but we can tell them apart. Only Ashley's is easy to distinguish since hers is a lighter brown and fluffier than the others. The kids each know which is theirs. All the kids have a bear from their Daddy. And, as you might guess, each bear is the most favorite stuffed animal of it's owner.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Colors

Maybe it's the fumes. Maybe I'm getting philosophical in my old age. Or maybe I've just been painting for so many consecutive days that it's all I can think about. As I was washing out my paintbrush yesterday it occurred to me that my paintbrush says a lot about me.

I have used the same paintbrush ever since we moved here. Before that, I had the exact same paintbrush in my other house. It's not an accident that I have always used the same brush. I found one years ago that I liked. I'm extremely picky about them, being the demanding painter that I am. I use them literally until they are falling apart.

The first version of my paintbrush served many purposes. We bought it shortly after purchasing the condo, and with it we declared our independence. We, for the first time, could mark our own territory. We owned something, and if we wanted to paint the walls every color in the rainbow we could. And we came pretty close. At one point, my brother referred to the condo as a giant Easter egg because of all the colors we had in it. After some time, we toned the color scheme down. We grew up, and our walls did too.

We bought our first house, and the brush came along. It worked hard in that house, since that house was a constant work in progress. By the time we left, I had painted every single square inch of wall there, most of the ceilings and the patio cover. Some more than once. It has also painted an entire bedroom set, the old dresser I had in my room as a kid that Ashley inherited and the rocking chair my mom used when I was born. By then the brush was done. It had painted it's last stroke. And when we decided to move, I finally said goodbye to my first brush.

I find it strangely fitting that I left that brush behind, though a part of me will always wish that I had kept it. For posterity, if not to ever use it again. It represented one phase of my life, and the shiny, clean brush waiting for me in Colorado represented a new one. A new beginning.

Over the years, this brush , my second one, has helped me with a lot. It has helped me cope with moving cross country. It has given me solitude and a sense of purpose. It has helped me take the blank canvas of a tract house and transform it into my home. It has allowed me to let my son express his personality in his room, and it has done that more than once. It has given me the means by which to create a peaceful retreat in my room. It has helped me prepare for the birth of my last baby.

This paintbrush has not just been a tool for positive change and transformation. It has allowed me to make mistakes. Many mistakes. And it has allowed me to fix them. There have been times that I needed that sense of redemption in my life. That sense of completion and finality to a project. The ability to repair damage. To most people, they would see it as a dirty old paintbrush. It's more than that to me. Much more. It has provided a strange source of comfort in my world.

If this paintbrush could tell you stories, it would. Every color on it means something. And I will keep using this paintbrush until it can give no more. Until it is time for a new phase. Only then will I go shopping for that third brush. I won't be looking for long, I already I know which one I will need.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Interruption

We have not had a good internet connection in the house in two days. Two painfully long days. You don't realize how dependent you are on technology until it is gone. I suppose that could be said for a lot of things in life though. Those things that we take for granted until they disappear, then we long for them desperately.

When I began the blog, I intended to get an entry posted every day. And, for the most part, I have. There were a few days when a friend was visiting that I didn't get to one. There was the cop-out post earlier this week on the first of my marathon painting days. And then there was yesterday. Another blank day. It wasn't intentionally left that way, I would have written something if I could.

I am not technologically blessed. I am barely competent. I have always had spirited disagreements with electronic devices, computers in particular. In college I had the brilliant idea of taking 18 unit semesters. To do that, I had to split my 4 unit computer class into two 2 unit classes. I signed up for computer programming. Let's just say the teacher gave me a mercy grade, barely passing. And I was grateful. I'm certain I didn't really deserve to pass. Maybe he took into consideration the amount of effort I put in. It wasn't for lack of trying that I couldn't program anything. I just can't do it.

Fast forward 14 years, to yesterday. I tried everything I could think of to get the internet connection back on, and they all failed. Even the guy in customer service for the high speed internet couldn't help. Everything from his end looked good, it should have been working. Should have.

Turns out that the router was the problem, and that problem was one reserved for Tom. I know when I have done all I can, when I have reached the limits of my computer abilities. The router is outside my capabilities. I know vaguely what it does, but don't ask me for any details. Something about wireless signals being transmitted through the network Tom set up. They magically beam through the air, passing right over my head, literally and figuratively.

I was somewhat relieved when it took Tom a while to fix whatever the problem was this morning. There are few things in life that aggravate me more than being completely unable to remedy a computer problem with a simple solution. The times when all I needed to do was push one button, download some update or restart the computer. The times when my husband just shakes his head at me in disbelief. Really, I am intelligent. But put me in front of a computer and I am pretty close to clueless. It's a good thing he can figure this stuff out. One of us should be able to, and clearly, it's not me.

Here I am, back online. Back to the blog. Until next time, anyway.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Next

This is my most favorite paint brush. I love this paint brush. It wasn't cheap when I bought it, and it has more than served it's purpose. It has paid it's dues. It has been with me for many years, and it has painted many rooms. It has the perfect angle to edge along the ceiling. And it shows remnants of just about every color I have used in this house.

I have already confessed several times to my love of painting. I know it's a strange thing to love, and I'm pretty sure that there has to be some genetic component of it. You see, my grandmother loved it too. I think she might have even loved it more than I do. It seemed like she was always painting something, and there are areas of her house that were probably 20 coats or more thick with paint.

She must have bestowed upon me more than just a love of painting. I like to think that I am pretty good at it too. Part of it is that I am just lazy, but part of it is attributed to skill. I don't use drop cloths. I don't use tape. And I don't make a mess. I can edge along the ceiling and corners almost perfectly by hand. Anyone who knew my Grandma Helen knew that she was the same way.

I love to paint for many reasons. I find peace and solitude in it. I love the almost instant changes that take place. The kids know to stay out of my way when I am painting. They have learned. Tom doesn't even try to help me with it, and the truth is that I really just want him to stay out of my way too. I don't want him to help and I certainly don't want him to watch. Last week I was perched with one leg on the extension ladder, the other teetering rather precariously on an upturned laundry hamper, painting part of the stairwell. Short of building scaffolding, it was the only way I could reach that last spot. Had anyone been watching, I would have been hearing about how unsafe it was, and how I was going to fall. But I didn't. And the wall is finished. I just needed to be left alone.

The kitchen is done. The stairwell is too, though I am already debating whether a new color is in my near future for it. I have paint to touch up in the dining room, then I will tackle the family room. Ceilings that vault to the second story await me there. Does it sound strange to be excited?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Four Down

At the beginning of the summer, Aidan and I started a journey together. It is one that I have been waiting years for. I am glad that I waited. We've been reading the books in the Harry Potter series. We just finished the fourth book this week, and as I write this, he is watching the movie again.

I love that I made him wait, and I love that I waited for him. I've been tempted more than once to read ahead when the story gets interesting, but I don't. He is old enough to get the plot turns. He is old enough to have a firm understanding of good versus evil. He is a strong enough reader that we can alternate turns reading aloud. He is eager to read, forgoing almost anything else he could be doing if I offer to sit a while and read a chapter or two.

He has become a fan. A totally unwavering fan of Harry's, he has already asked if it is okay if he dresses like Harry for Halloween. He's already talking about how long it will take him to grow his hair out. He now owns not one, but two, magic wands. And the girls often have heated discussions about whether or not they can both dress as Hermione for Halloween.

I indulge his desire to rush out and buy each movie in succession as we finish the books. Initially, I was planning to just rent the movies or borrow them from the library. But, I decided against that. With all the effort involved with reading the books, and the fact that he is still as interested in it as he was the first day, I think he deserves to own them.

He pays attention to the stories with such detail that he can pick out every place the films deviate from the books. And he is even already slightly disappointed with the fact that the books go into so much more detail. If you ask, he will answer that the books are far better than the movies.

Thus far, we have finished the first four books. We still have a few to go. There is still more mystery, more suspense and more imagination in our future. And it's pure magic.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Restless

I haven't done much sleeping in a few days, and I'm not quite sure why. Usually my lack of sleep can be directly attributed to something in particular. Whether it's insomnia, a nightmare, a thunderstorm or a sick kid, I generally know what the cause is. But for the last three nights, I haven't been sleeping. If I could figure out what the problem is, I would in a heartbeat.

AJ has been up, fussing, virtually all night for days. He tosses and turns, he throws his pacifier. He eats only half-heartedly. He sleeps in what seems like five minute spurts, punctuated by thrashing at the end of the short naps. We have, it seems, tried everything. He doesn't want to sleep in his bed, and he certainly isn't sleeping while he is in ours.

At first I thought it was just a growth spurt, but that would be accompanied by marathon nursing sessions, which haven't materialized. I thought maybe it was teeth, but there aren't any close to the surface that I can see. I thought maybe he was getting sick, but if he was getting sick three days ago, he'd be sick by now.

I have no idea what is going on. And the sleep deprivation isn't helping me figure it out either. Let's hope tonight is a better night, for both our sakes.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Gone

Sorry I'm not busy writing today....I've gone to my happy place. The place where change is instant, where sweat is a given and where inspiration is found. I'm painting. I'll be back soon. :)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sprint

You never know how fast you can move your body until you have to. You can be instantly transported to the other side of the room if needed. You can leap over furniture, fly over unsuspecting dogs and take the stairs three at a time. These things don't sound like something you can do? Oh, but you can. We all can be transformed into the fastest beings on the planet.

What, you might ask, does it take to complete this transformation? It's not years of training. It's not a genetic predisposition to athletic prowess. It's not even a conscious desire to be awesome. It's having children. Specifically, having a toddler in the house.

Once babies start crawling, they are bound to get themselves into constant trouble. And even the safest, most baby-proofed homes are full of peril. And they are drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Babies have to touch everything, and they will at least attempt to put everything possible into their mouths. It's how they explore their world, learn about their surroundings. It's also quite dangerous in many ways.

Babies who live in homes with stairs will at some point need to learn how to get up and down them safely. And, that in and of itself, is bound to involve some bumps and bruises. Babies who live in homes with older siblings will have many more opportunities to pick up little things they should not have. Things like Legos and Littlest Pet Shop accessories. Babies with older siblings, will, as a result, learn to spit things out on command a lot sooner out of necessity. And it's out of that necessity that I have taught AJ to do so.

It's also why having a toddler in the house with older kids forces me to be even more vigilant about watching him than I ever was when Aidan was a baby. When you only have one toddler, you can open and close baby gates. You can pick up the things you leave on the floor. You know that there isn't anything too dangerous around for the baby to get into. Life with older siblings is different. They leave gates open and leave stuff all over the floor. They are constantly creating hazards. It's just the way it is.

AJ is walking now, and when he crawls, he is fast. He can get through an open gate and halfway up the stairs in a matter of seconds. He can play in the toilet if someone leaves the lid up. If there is anything even remotely interesting on the floor, he will find it. Though you might not ever imagine it looking at me, I am fast. Ridiculously fast. It's a good thing I am fast. Sometimes I have to be. There's a baby in the house.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sunshine

Ally loves to dance. She always has, and I think this might become a life long passion for her. Unlike her mother and her big sister, her curiosity about ballet didn't end with the first session she took. She wanted to do it again.
She has been going all summer, once a week to ballet class. She is eager to point out the studio any time we get within a few blocks of it. I've heard she does this with anyone she might be traveling with. She adores her teacher. She has never once tried to talk her way out of going, unlike swimming lessons which she tries to get out of frequently. She's always excited. Always ready to pick out her outfit for the day. And even willing to sit still and have her hair done.

She started walking on her tippy toes about a year ago, without any urging from us mind you. She just started doing it one day. Up on pointe, at the age of 3. I asked her doctor about it, and she in turn asked me if we were encouraging it. Of course not, I reassured her. That would be crazy! She was three at the time! Our pediatrician told me that as long as she can do it, and we aren't pushing her towards it, she saw no harm in Ally walking around like that. At the mere mention of her tippies in the office, she was up on her toes to show the doctor. I think the doctor was in shock when she saw that I was being completely serious.

Her teacher this time has been a great one. You never know who you are going to get when you sign up for classes like this. You could get someone who knows what they are doing, loves to teach and really has a connection with the kids. Or you could get someone utterly clueless about all of that, who is just there for a paycheck. We were lucky this time around. She has not just occupied the girls for 45 minutes, she has actually taught them ballet.

Ally now has a basic understanding of positions, rel eve, arabesque and more. She is familiar with how to use the barre and has learned proper stretching techniques. My personal favorite song that she sings to incorporate the ballet techniques is called the Sunshine song. To see Ally's eyes light up the way they do when she sings it, as she stands in first position, is a sight to behold. The girl loves to dance.

Though she just finished this session of classes yesterday, she is already asking when she can go back. And go back she will. I have a feeling there are many years of dance classes ahead.

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