Sunday, February 28, 2010

Prepared

Yesterday I had to get a lot done. I have even more to do today. And I have to get it done in time. My little girl is having a birthday party this afternoon. And that party is happening without regard to the fact that I haven't been anywhere near here in over a week to get anything ready for it. Far be it from me to plan too much ahead. Of course I didn't have anything ready before life called me away. That would have been too easy.

When my husband harasses me for buying stuff too far in advance, I will now be able to provide him with a legitimate explanation. To explain the necessity. To avoid the chaos. There is no such thing as being too prepared, but there is most definitely such a thing as being unprepared. As I am learning.

I dragged Aidan along with me yesterday, and we had a lot of shopping to get done. Ashley is having an ice skating party, and I learned very quickly that no one stocks any party supplies even remotely related to ice skating. I found some snowflakes and sparkly papers and craft bags and a handful of fancy die cut skates. I got tablecloths and streamers, plates and napkins. I found gifts for her from her siblings and got the ingredients to make cupcakes. And icing from scratch. Note to self: when inviting children to birthday parties, if there is a combination of milk and nut allergies attending, one must make all icing from scratch.

I've finished the treat sacks and cupcake toppers. I think, I hope, that I'm not forgetting anything. Of course, as I write this, I realize that I did not buy any forks and hope that I will have no need for them. One doesn't generally use a fork with pizza and cupcakes anyway, right? I have to remember to stop and pick up some snacks on the way.

I missed her actual birthday, because as hard as it might be to believe, someone else needed me more. But I am here now, and the party is in 5 hours. I've got a lot to do.

Of course, the weather is calling for snow, and the party is at an outdoor ice skating rink. None of that will matter though, it will be perfect. At least it will if I have anything to say about it. ;)

Happy Birthday Ashley.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Learned

In case you haven't noticed, I've been gone for a while. I'm back now. Back home. Well, back here. At this, my current home, anyway.

You'll have to forgive me if it takes a while for me to get back into the swing of things. To readjust to my routine, to normalcy, to schedules.

I feel like I've been through hell and back a few times in the last 8 days. But in those days, I have learned a great many lessons, been reminded of ones I learned long ago, and been taught many more that I cannot yet fully comprehend. That understanding will come with time, and time alone. If it comes.

I've learned that there are people in this world that I can entrust with the care of my children at a moment's notice. Even if they are sick. Even if they are scared. Even if I am far, far away.

I've learned that my children can survive without me, and me without them.

I've learned that my husband can make lunches and fold laundry and figure out school schedules and drive carpools and bake birthday cakes.

I've learned that I can wear the same pair of pants for 5 days in a row, and that I can be okay with it. Totally okay with it.

I've learned that I can function pretty well on almost no sleep. For over a week.

I've learned that I am solid and steady and strong. And I've learned that other people see this.

I've learned that there is a tremendous need in this world for male nurses.

I've learned that despite everything I've ever believed about someone, none of that matters at the end of the day, because that person cares deeply and truly.

I've learned that a few beers makes it easier for me to get on a plane, but nothing makes it easier to leave.

I've learned that I will probably never forgive myself for some of the decisions I've made. But that's the thing about life. There are no d0-overs.

I've learned that sometimes there is no answer to the question of why things happen. Sometimes a best guess is just a shot in the dark.

I've learned that sometimes miracles require a lapse in supervision.

I've learned that stubbornness is a scary, but useful personality trait sometimes.

I've learned why they say medicine is a practice.

I've learned to say what I have to, and to listen when I need to.

I've learned why hospital ice is the best ice in the world. It's because there has to be something redeeming about the place.

I've learned that sometimes I really don't have anywhere else I need to be.

I've learned all these things, and more. Some are new lessons, some are reminders of ones I've learned before. And there are many more I find myself still trying to sort out today.

I woke up this morning snuggling with a baby boy. One I hadn't seen in over a week. I'm home. And just for a moment, all was right with the world.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Red

My Grandma Doll was an interesting lady. She used to do a lot of quirky things, one of which involved red lipstick. Whenever she was having a particularly bad day, whenever things were going wrong, whenever she felt the sickest, she would do one thing. Wear red lipstick. She always said it was something about how even in the face of the worst life can throw at you, you have to put your best effort into fighting it. And how much better, stronger, more able to fight she always was with that red lipstick on.

I don't own red lipstick. If ever there was a day when I needed to wear it, it's today. I need to go buy some.

If you happen to have a second to spare a thought today, your prayers are much appreciated. We need them.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Order

Should I be just a little worried?

Ally is my helper. She has to help all the time, with every single thing I do on any given day. There are so many times I wish that she just wouldn't help. That she could be content just being a kid and not caring about always keeping herself busy with chores. She will have plenty of time when she gets older for those things, why is she so preoccupied with them now?

The answer to that, I know. It's that she is her mother's daughter. I don't do idle time well. Never have. When I was a kid, I was more likely to be trying to hang out with the adults than playing with the other kids. And, like Ally, I'd do whatever I had to do in order to make that happen. Even if it meant making dinner with my mom almost every day or folding laundry. I've been told many times that I never really was a kid. She isn't much of one either.

I'm not sure how I feel about that, to be honest.

In this life, we are children for such a short time. It's a waste to spend that short time wishing it away. Wishing to be older. Wishing for responsibilities and obligations. She should be carefree and irresponsible. She should be impulsive and playful. But she isn't, at least not usually. She is so much like me it's scary sometimes. It wasn't until I was well into adulthood that I longed for the days of my childhood, wishing I had the chance for a do-over. Like her, I was always in a hurry to grow up. I knew what I wanted, and I wanted things to be just so. I craved order and predictability. I still do.

So, I had to chuckle a little when I found what I found in the laundry room yesterday. Ally had been in there, cleaning, again. And her love of organization might be stronger even than mine. The kids hangers, all hung in a row, sorted by color. I even have been told, by her of course, that they are to be used in a specific order. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

We really do create little people just like us.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Blog

I've created a second blog, one devoted to sharing hints, recipes, parenting tips and more. There is a link to it on the left margin, top of the page.

<----------------Over there

Click on it and check it out. If you have a questions, ask - I'll do my best to find you an answer.

Best

We all do it. Some more than others. We second guess. We are disappointed in ourselves. We doubt. We fear that our decisions will ruin our children forever. We beat ourselves up. We morph into a human punching bag. There is always that nagging voice in the back of our head. Motherhood is hard sometimes.

The thing about parenthood that takes a bit of getting used to is that no one has it figured out yet. If ever there was such a thing as trial and error, having kids is it. Sure, there are things that you can read up on before you have your baby. Tips and pointers to learn. Pros and cons of different methods. But what happens when you bring that little person home is another story entirely.

All the books in the world suddenly seem useless. All the advice from friends, family and parenting experts seems not to apply to this kid. And you are left to your own devices. Having no other choice, you have to start figuring it out on your own. You have to learn what works for you. For your family. For this child. And it will almost certainly not be the same thing that works for anyone else. The problem with the so-called experts is that they know nothing about this baby. Or about you.

We beat ourselves up. If that wasn't bad enough, we judge each other. We see the choices that others have made and think they are doing something wrong. Or we are. We judge ourselves and each other about every facet of motherhood. Labor, breastfeeding, sleep patterns, potty training, daycare, preschool, play dates, sports, extracurriculars, friends, parties, phones, makeup, dating, driving, college. I could go on for days about the choices we have to make as parents. About the important things we are faced with. Successfully navigating one phase of parenthood only brings you to another. Most people seem to think that there is only ever one way to cross each of these bridges. Why not instead entertain the possibility that there is more than one way to raise a child?

As women and as mothers, we need to spend less time judging one another about the choices we make. And we need to spend less time beating ourselves up about the ones we are faced with. If, at the end of the day, you can honestly look your child in the eye and tell them that you did the best that you could, that's all you should ever expect. There is no such thing as a perfect parent.

As parents, all we ever want from our children is to know that they have done their best. We can't expect more than that for ourselves.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Magic

Next time I am at the store and they are on sale, I am going to have to stock up. Magic Erasers. I have no idea how or why those things work the way they do. It really is magic, I think. I need more. Lots more. Seems I have a budding artist in the house. One who is not afraid to experiment with any medium he comes across. AJ.

He's a tiny little bundle of energy, always moving, always going. There is no downtime in this child's life, and by extension, none in mine. Every waking moment of every day, he is on the go. Running, jumping, climbing. And coloring.

In the last two weeks, not only has the child discovered coloring, but it has become his new obsession. He would literally color all day if I let him. He rejoices when he retrieves a stray crayon from under the couch, especially if I happen not to notice in time. He colored the floor under the kitchen table one color, the floor by the patio door another. The wall near the laundry room has purple scribbles on it. I need more Magic Erasers.

He will actually sit at the table and color with his siblings already. I had Aidan haul the little table back out of the basement last night. You know, the one I just put down there a few weeks ago because he was climbing on it. Turns out I'd rather him climb on that table than the big one. I just wish he wouldn't use it for it's alternate purpose - climbing over the back of the couch.

As I type this, he is doing laps, up, over and around. Up, over and around. I could stop him and tell him no, of course. I could. I could put him in the playpen and listen to him cry in frustration. I could follow him constantly, putting him down every time he got up. But I've learned that with active kids, it's far better to let them go up and over and around than try to contain them. All things considered, climbing over the back of the couch is pretty safe , much more so than other things he could be trying to climb on. But still. Makes a mom nervous.

As soon as he goes down for his nap today, I have to start trying to get the crayon and marker off. But first, he needs to run off some of this energy. And he plans to do that by going up, over and around. He's got a few more laps in him at least.

This little boy is going to give me many more occasions to buy cleaning supplies, I am sure. And he'll also prompt a few trips to urgent care, I am sure. Let's just hope they never ever stop making Magic Erasers. I'll be needing them for a while.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hole

You ever just have one of those days? You know which ones I am talking about. The days where nothing seems to be going right at all. When virtually every contact you have with other human beings results in something bad. When every phone call brings bad news. When things that should just be routine turn out not to be. Those days. I'm having one.

And to think I couldn't come up with a topic to write about this morning.

In the last 4 hours, I have learned the hard way that today is one of those days. I now have a referral to a pediatric specialist for not one, but two of my children. Ally has an ear infection, and I forgot to stop at the pharmacy on my way home for her medication. Not one, but two people that I care for are in the hospital. One needs surgery, the other needs a transfusion. My youngest is so far off the growth chart that I have been informed that I need to insert any kind of high calorie food into his diet possible. If only I had that problem.

I came home to a blinking message light and cringed a little. I knew it just had to be something else bad. It was. Ashley's birthday party is messed up now too. She's not sick, at least not yet. But the people I scheduled it with forgot to notice that the venue was already booked for something else. Never mind the fact that the invitations are already out. Ugh.

For the rest of the day, it's probably better if I just find a hole to crawl into and hide. Clearly, nothing good is coming from today, and I'd rather just start over tomorrow. But I can't. I forgot to get Ally's medicine. I have to go back out into the world again. Wish me luck...seems like I need it today.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

This

Love. Today is the day that we celebrate love. It's not really about the flowers and chocolate and fancy dinners, this day. At least it isn't supposed to be. It shouldn't be. Rather, we should take a tiny step back and breathe in the warmth of the love we have in our lives. To be grateful that we are lucky enough to love and be loved.

I've been with my love for more than half of our lives now. It seems as though he's always been there. Always been around. We grew up together. Became adults together. Formed a life together. All because I love him, and he loves me.

I think you can learn a lot about your relationship from how other people see it. How it looks from the outside. Other people can see things sometimes that we can't. And every so often they share what they see, and it's a beautiful gift.

On the day that we got married, many years ago, I realized that other people looking at our relationship saw something special. It became obvious to me when Paul, the best man, gave his speech. This guy, who Tom had known since they were 6 years old, saw it. At the time, he was happily single, enjoying the freedom and fun of not having anyone he was beholden to. He was not in a hurry to find a serious girlfriend, settle down and get married. Not at all.

But then he gave his speech. And I realized in an instant that he was different. Something happened the morning of our wedding, and he was changed forever. He talked about hearing the birds singing that morning. About being so blissfully happy for his best friend. About the power of love. And about how he has seen it with his own eyes. Some while later that day, I danced with Paul. And all he said to me was this, "I want this. I want what you have."

It came, then, as no surprise to me that within what seemed like seconds (though it was probably more like weeks), he had found his one true love. The first time we met the girl he fell in love with, we knew. She was the one. Andrea. And they have been pretty much inseparable ever since. They've weathered the storms of life, they have moved and started over, they have known triumph and disappointment. But they've done it all together. And, like us, I'm certain that they are more in love today than they were yesterday, but not as much as they will be tomorrow.

Happy Valentine's Day to the love of my life. And to the love ours inspired. Miss you guys.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

20

Living with children is like being stuck in a perpetual game of 20 questions. There is rarely ever an answer to a question that does not lead to another. If that, then why this?

Aidan is my resident inquirer, asking and asking and asking. It can get exhausting at times, but it's a good kind of exhausting. I'd much rather him be asking me questions than feeling like he couldn't. Feeling like I wasn't paying attention to him. Feeling like I gave him intentionally short answers or shrugged him off. Or feeling like I wouldn't be able to answer the questions he asked. I want him to ask me. And I'd like to believe that I can answer him.

He asks. I answer. Almost all the time. There are things he asks about that I just don't always have a good answer for. And I say so. I tell him that I don't know, but that response is generally followed by an offer to find out, at least for the times when there is an answer to be found.

I can look up things like how many miles the moon is away from the Earth. How tall the tallest mountain on the planet. How you become a Lego Brickmaster. How to make a penny turn green. These are answers I can find, even if they are questions I never thought I'd be asked.

Every morning on the way to school, he sits in the back of the van and ponders the universe. Usually, he comes up with some question out of left field. I never know what I'll be asked on any given day.

Then there are the times that I can't give him an answer. The times I can't go find one for him. The times when there is no answer that could satisfy him, let alone me. The bigger questions.

Why did Daddy get cancer?

Why are babies born sick sometimes?

Why did the earthquake happen in Haiti?

Why did that Olympic luger die?

The last two questions were prompted last night watching the opening ceremonies. Though I can explain tectonic plates and the shifting of them, though I can explain speed and momentum and a smaller country's lack of adequate training facilities, I can't tell him why either one of those things happened.

There's no real answer. At least not that I can give. Horrible, terrible things happen. Accidents, natural disasters, illnesses. Sometimes they happen an ocean away, sometimes in our own backyard. And it is often those horrible, terrible things that happen without any discernible reason. Without an explanation. Without an answer.

I try to explain things the best I can to my little boy. I think he understands that there are just times there aren't any answers. If only I could be so accepting of that truth.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Linked


"One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." ~ Neil Armstrong

These words were uttered by a man in a space suit over forty years ago, and they are the same ones spoken by a little boy in a costume this week. Separated by a couple generations and thousands of miles. The first time they were spoken, the world was collectively silenced. Hushed. Watching. A goal, met. A race, won. This week, those very same words made this proud mother cry and connected my little boy to a man he's never met.

My grandfather, his great-grandfather, worked in the aerospace industry. At the height of the space race, he worked for Rockwell International. He moved his family across this country, more than once, to be part of that race. He helped build the rockets that went into space. He shook the hands of the men who walked on the moon. He taught me, as a little girl, about how important it is to do something you love. And to love what you do. And that if you get enough people together, working towards something, just about anything is possible.

My grandfather died long before my son was born. I was still a little girl, myself. Not much older than Aidan is now. We had been at my Grandma and Grandpa's house just days before he passed. He was healthy, no sign of anything wrong. But when it came time to leave, I couldn't go. I didn't know why, and I didn't know how, but I just knew that we needed to stay a bit longer. I threw a fit and I hid in a closet, but was found. I cried in the car as we left so miserably that my Dad pulled off the on-ramp to ask me what the problem was. Only I didn't know, I couldn't explain what I was feeling. Home we went. And I knew that I'd never see him again. In less than a week, he had a massive heart attack and was gone before my father had a chance to get there and say goodbye.

Since then, every time a shuttle has launched, I've tried to watch. I've taught my children to love the launches too. They know that their great-grandfather helped build the space shuttles. Every time one goes up, I pray. I hold my breath, and I wish them godspeed. It means a little more to me than most people. It means more because they aren't just carrying astronauts and cargo and satellites up into space. They are carrying my history too. The dreams of my grandfather, and the dreams of my children.

A few months ago, Aidan came home from school asking if he could audition for a play. Not knowing what it was about, or what it entailed, I signed the permission slip. Sure, why not? He was a bit nervous the day of the auditions, but was pretty sure he had done a good job. He hoped to get a speaking role. He got a bit more.

Turns out that the play is actually not just a play, but a musical. And it's about space. And my little boy was chosen for the role of Neil Armstrong. Of all the roles in the play, the only one having anything to do with the space program was the one he was chosen for. He had a bunch of lines and a song to learn. He wouldn't practice at home with me, mostly because I think he was a little embarrassed about it, which made me even more nervous for him. He didn't even want me to stay at the dress rehearsal, so I didn't. A few of the other moms assured me that he would do just fine, as did the music teacher. Still, never having heard him do his part all the way through, I was nervous for him.

The performance arrived, and it was his turn. When he stepped onto the stage, wearing his astronaut costume, my heart swelled with pride. I couldn't help but wonder if there was a reason he was chosen for this role. He nailed his performance, even helping out the other actors with their lines a few times. His song was awesome. He made his mother proud. And I'm sure he would have made his great-grandfather the proudest man in the galaxy, the universe even.

My grandfather and my son never met. Separated by generations, yet connected by a story. The story that one of them helped make possible, and the other helped to tell. And here they are now, linked forever.

There is a space shuttle that sits on a shelf in Aidan's room. It's always been something special to him, but it means just a little bit more to him today.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dull

This is the most boring four weeks of the entire year around here. At least as far as sports are concerned. The Super Bowl is over, and I find myself mourning the loss of football. I love football. Really. I'm not one of those girls that pretends to like football. I love it. I scream at the TV just as often as my husband does. And there is nothing in the world like seeing a game live, being there with thousands of other fans. I miss football while it is away, for sure. August can't come soon enough.

Though football is by far my favorite, I love other sports too. I like to watch tennis, though I have a hard time watching it pre-recorded. That being said, I'm not about to stay up late or get up early to watch it. If it happens while I am sleeping, that's just fine with me. The suspense will not kill me. Tom tapes the matches and watches them later, forbidding me from telling him the outcome. I just can't see sitting though hours of it when the match was over 13 hours ago.

I love baseball, but I don't love to watch it on TV. My husband, again, disagrees with me. Needless to say, it's a constant in the house during the summer. He even watches the preseason games. I can enjoy a game live, but it is hard to watch otherwise. It's a slow moving sport. And I just don't have that kind of attention span. If only it was as exciting as the guys on Baseball Tonight make it seem.

I'm not a basketball fan, not a real one. Until it gets closer to the end of the college season, I ignore it. I like the dance (aka the NCAA tournament), but I could care less about everything leading up to it. The NBA is full of overpaid guys who spend more time being dramatic to draw fouls than actually playing. It's not that I don't like the game, because I do. I just don't like the drama. Again, towards the end of the season, I start paying attention. It's actually a good sport to watch on TV, one of the best.

I don't do NASCAR. Can't watch golf. Not a hockey fan. Again, I like it in person, but not on TV. Plus, I totally don't understand the rules of hockey, so it's hard for me to ever know what is going on.

Put it all together, and February is a pretty dull month for me. Smack dab between football and baseball seasons. The dance hasn't started. Tennis is only on occasionally. I don't care much about the rest of it.

Thank God for the Olympics. This sports fan was just about to get bored. You can only watch Sportscenter so many times in a given day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Intoxication

Baby, oh baby.

best.smell.in.the.world.

Seriously.

There is something divinely intoxicating about the smell of a brand new baby. Something that can make you forget about all the unfairness and injustice and cruelty in the world in an instant. Make it all fade away. Make everything new and right and perfect. Fresh.

It's a smell that never ever gets old. No matter how many babies you hold, you never tire of it. At least I don't. It is part of why I became a doula. Of course I want to help women through their pregnancies and labors. I want to help them with nursing. But a big part of why I became a doula has nothing to do with those. Part of it was done purely for selfish reasons. I love babies. Especially the brand new ones. Can't get enough.

I've told my dear husband that it is in his best interests to support me being a doula. The hours drive him crazy. Babies don't always cooperate with weekends or plans. They interrupt my sleep and his. Still, he knows that he need to encourage this outlet. Simply put, I need a baby fix every now and again.

I need to breathe in that sweet smell. To marvel in the perfection. To witness the miracle.

Next to being a mom, being a doula really is the best job in the world.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

sp.

I try, really I do. I try to be patient with people. I try to not notice. I try to not let it bother me. But it does. I know what they mean. I know what they are trying to say. I know that they mean well. And that they probably have no idea of their errors. Still, it drives me crazy.

I think it's partially my fault for having the writer's equivalent of OCD. I write. I go back and read. I re-read. I edit. I post. I go back and re-read. I edit. I kid you not, I have gone back to things I've written months ago and found careless errors. And been disappointed in myself. Why did I not catch that earlier?

How many people have seen my mistake? Gasp. I shudder at the thought.

It's one thing for people to make mistakes when chatting or texting as those forms of communication lend themselves quite easily to imperfection. However, people who write and publish in any form, even if only online, should know better. And when they make blatant errors, it bugs me.

I have a hard time taking people seriously if they can't use the spellcheck feature on their editor adequately. It bothers me if they don't know the difference between their and they're and there. I cringe when I see words used without regard to their actual meaning.

I think it's a bit sad that our society doesn't value the written word as much as it used to. That people don't take the time to evaluate what they present to the world, to do a quick once-over of their communications. The children of today are growing up in a world of sound bytes and instant messaging. Shorter, to the point, abbreviated. And with that comes a sacrifice.

I don't claim to be an expert on intricacies of the English language by any means. I hated grammar. It was my all time least favorite subject. I wasn't very good at it. I still am not. Anyone who reads this knows all too well that I prefer the passive voice. I start sentences with and, but and because. I make many errors in terms of proper grammar. I told you I never was very good at it. However, I like to believe that my posts are easy to read, that they make sense. I hope that you never have to go back and re-read something to figure out what I was trying to say.

Even though my writing is far from ideal, I work pretty hard at it. I take pride in it. I wish more people did. And I really wish more people would use spellcheck. It's there for a reason. ;)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Center

Narcissism (nar-cis-sism) n.
1. Excessive love or admiration of oneself.
2. A psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy and unconscious deficits in self-esteem.

The human condition is such that we are all, at some point in our lives, and to some degree, narcissistic. It's just inevitable. Toddlers are a prime example of narcissism. The world, at least according to them, revolves solely around them. They are the center of everything, at least in their own minds.

Most people are narcissistic at least in some facet of their lives all the time. Each of us is good at something, and we know it. We pride ourselves on it. We puff ourselves up just a bit. Even people who will insist that they aren't good at anything have some kind of one-upmanship on others, even if it is solely for the purpose of attracting attention. They can elicit sympathy from others, make others feel sorry for them. That, really and truly, is narcissism at work.

The thing is, while you might believe that you are the center of the universe, the only universe you are really ever the center of is your own. No one else's life revolves around you. And there is no reason to ever believe that it should. Theirs inevitably rotates on a different axis from yours.

It amazes me that there are so many people in this world who are wholly incapable of accepting this reality. Who cannot seem to realize that what they want might not ever be what people want to give them or do for them. Who can't see that it really isn't all about them.

A few days back, having a deeply philosophical (and alcohol-assisted) discussion about karma with some friends, I realized that good karma and narcissism have a hard time co-existing. They can't do so because it is virtually impossible to allow good things to happen to you when you are so wrapped up in expecting them to. That maybe it's better to stop believing that you are entitled to anything and start working towards a goal. Stop worrying about yourself and focus that energy into helping others. Rather than waiting for the cycle to turn, turn it yourself. And the only way to do that is to stop thinking that it's all about you.

Because it hardly ever is.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Natural

When you are pregnant, you are bombarded with propaganda. From every angle imaginable, you get information coming at you. About how to labor. About where to have the baby. About what kind of diapers to use. About which car seat and stroller to buy. And about what to feed your child.

It's a topic a little close to my heart, as I have tried with each of the kids to exclusively breastfeed. And it almost worked. Aidan and Ashley never touched formula. Ally had one bottle in the hospital out of necessity. And then I had AJ. And we've gone through cans of it. When he was first born, it was because he had low blood sugar. Then, when he was older, over a year already, we didn't have a choice but to give it to him again. He wouldn't nurse during the day, but had trouble with whole milk. Again, not really a choice.

The problem with choosing what to feed your child is that so many people make it seem like it's not a choice. And, I suppose that it really shouldn't be one. The default should be breastfeeding. It's what our bodies were made for. It's the only food in the entire universe made just for that child. It really is the best. The trouble is that our society decided a while back that formula was just as good, or even better. And new moms believed it.

With formula feeding becoming more and more common, fewer moms nursed. Over a couple of generations, breastfeeding went from being the normal way to feed a child to a gross thing that shouldn't ever be done in public. It became the thing that got a woman and her child kicked off an airplane.

It went from the natural thing mothers did to something that hardly anyone knew anything about. The women of my generation haven't had enough women of older generations to rely on for help. There aren't enough people to ask questions of. No one to reassure us that everything would be just fine. No one to tell us that we would be able to make enough milk. No one to tell us that babies can do just fine without formula for a few days until your milk comes in.

When Aidan was born, I didn't have many people to ask questions about nursing. And it was hard. Really hard. All the books and the pamphlets and the pictures you ever see about nursing when you are pregnant tell you that it's natural. They make it look like it's just something that should come so easy. But then it isn't. He was early and sick and couldn't latch on right. I was sore and discouraged, but determined. So much so that I made it work.

I found that the people who were supposed to be the ones helping me, the nurses and the lactation consultants only made things harder. The people who really made a difference, the only ones who really helped, were other moms. The moms just like me, trying to figure it all out for the first time.

I was able to nurse my children, all of them, almost all the time. For some people, that isn't how it works. Sometimes life gets in the way. And for those times, formula is the answer. But before new moms go there, they should be given all the help and support they need. Before they give up trying, they need the tools to be successful. And we, as a society, need to stop believing that breasts are only sexual objects, and that there is something dirty about nursing. Breasts were designed to feed babies. And that is exactly what they are supposed to do. And almost all the time, with the right support, they can.

Truly the hardest thing about nursing is overcoming all that. Once you believe that your body can do exactly what it is designed for, you've won half the battle.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

New

It's my birthday today. Which, really, isn't all that big of a deal. Once you pass 21, birthdays just become less and less fun, I think. There isn't much else to look forward to, no other milestones of significance. The only milestones left are those that just celebrate the fact that you are older. If "celebrate" is the right word for it.

I don't mind getting older. It doesn't bother me, actually. Age really is just a number.

It's tax season, so my birthday is effectively delayed until tomorrow. Tom's at work. Today really is just another day. But then it isn't. It's different for a couple reasons.

The first of which being that I am ecstatic to now share my birthday with a little boy. By now, he should be cuddling with his mama, getting ready to meet his big brother. This afternoon, I get to go meet him. I can't think of a better way to spend my birthday afternoon than holding someone new. Happy Birthday Brady!

The second reason this year is different involves something happening far away. Somewhere I once called home. A blood drive in my Dad's honor is being held today. In the rain and the wind, people will come from near and far to give. And though their gift isn't for me at all, it is. Their gifts will give my father strength and hope, a new chance to fight. And really, that's the only thing I want for my birthday this year.

Thank you all.

I love you Dad.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Winner

I bestowed upon myself the "Worst Mom in the Entire Universe" award a few days back. I think it's an award that we all receive at some point, whether it is proclaimed by a child or self-imposed. Luckily, there is only one of them, so we never get to hold onto it for long - some other mom will always come along to snatch it away.

The reason I won the award involves vomit. So, right there, you know it's not a pleasant story. Aidan had a stomach bug earlier in the week, but it was a short one and he went right back to school after a day off. Two factors were at work there. First, the child has the weakest stomach known to man. Anything can make him throw up. Second, he thoroughly enjoys a day off, even if it means he has to throw up every so often. Anyway, after less than 24 hours, he was back up and going.

Wednesday morning was a drama filled one. Once a month, the school district has a late start day, and though Aidan and Ashley get a few hours off in the morning, Ally doesn't. To compensate for the fact that she gets to go out to lunch and just generally gets do a lot more stuff than they do, I always try to do something with them on late start mornings. She found out I planned to take her older siblings out for breakfast while she was being forced to go to school. And she wasn't happy about it. And when she isn't happy, no one is.

I stuck to my guns, and drove her to school. I brushed off her whining about her tummy hurting, because that is her go-to fake illness. She uses it any time she is in trouble, wants to stay up late or isn't getting her way. You could say she is like the boy who cried wolf, at some point, I just stopped believing her. Besides, when she is really sick, she tends to curl up in a ball and lay on the floor. She was doing neither, and wasn't running a fever. Plus, she ate breakfast just fine. So, off to school she went. And off we went to eat some pancakes.

During breakfast, her teacher called to tell me she was complaining about her stomach hurting. The teacher, who knows Ally very well, agreed with my assessment that she was probably faking. She told Ally that she talked to me, and that we had decided she needed to stay at school.

We finished breakfast, then I drove to school. The older two start about the same time that the preschool gets out on late start days. I dropped the other two off and waited out front for Ally's class. One teacher walked out, pulled me aside and gave me the news. Ally had just thrown up. As they were lining up to leave. All over one of her classmates. Ugh.

I went back to her classroom and apologized to anyone that would listen. She was a mess, and the custodian was already cleaning up the worst of it. I felt horrible for the kid who caught the brunt of it. At least she had on a huge coat, and it didn't get anywhere else besides the coat and her backpack. Knowing your child has vomited all over another one isn't pleasant though, even if the damage wasn't that bad.

I took Ally home, gave her a bath and found some jammies for her to wear. Beating myself up in my head already, though a part of me thought maybe she had done this to herself. Maybe, just maybe, she got herself so upset that she made herself sick. Her teacher and I were on the same page about that. That is, until she came down after her bath. She spiked a 102 fever and fell asleep almost instantly on the couch, not moving for over 2 hours. Even Ally can't fake a fever.

I'm not psychic. She tends to fake tummy aches. I didn't believe her. But I didn't believe her when I should have. And a little girl in her class paid the price for my unwillingness to believe her. Guess she didn't just want pancakes after all.

I've already surrendered the award. I didn't keep it for long. Someone else out there earned it just after I did. And we all do, at some point. No matter how hard we try, all of us will screw up occasionally.

I just wish my screw up didn't have to involve vomit.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Little (part two)

Sitting here, I am thinking about the post from this morning. About how the little things can make me so happy. About how easily I can be pleased. Then I got to thinking about other little things. How the smallest gestures can mean so much to me. How the people making them probably have no idea how much they mean. And how I need to say thank you more often.

The times that I have called on friends to help with getting the kids to or from school when life got in the way. When someone was sick, when the car wouldn't start, when my world crumbled. Thank you.

The envelope that arrives in the mail weekly from my mom, full of coupons. Thank you.

The gifts that I received for Christmas, taken almost directly off my ridiculous wish list. The purse. The magazine subscriptions. The pedicure. The gift certificate that bought the jeans that actually fit. Thank you.

The generosity of those who give us the clothes and the shoes and the toys that their children have outgrown. Thank you.

The time that many will take this weekend to donate blood in the name of my Dad. It might just be an hour of your life, but it means so much that I cannot frame the words to describe my gratitude. Thank you.

The amazing gift that a Girl Scout Cadette Troop has made here in honor of my Dad. They will be sponsoring a blood drive here locally, and have designated their cookie donations this year for those that give. To see such caring in those so young is refreshing. Thank you.

The willingness to make sure the kids get to play the sports they love. My brother and my sister-in-law especially. Thank you.

The teachers of my children who have become my dear friends, with whom I trust the lives and minds of my babies. Thank you.

The friend that will always do just this one thing. Thank you.

The plane ticket to see my Dad, arranged by a friend. The free voucher for the tv on the flight, the one that caused me to find the nearest bathroom and cry tears of gratitude for so long that I nearly missed the plane. Thank you.

I could go on for days about the little things for which I am grateful. The small pieces of kindness that fill my life with the belief that people are good, and that reassure me that I am indeed blessed to be surrounded with the people I am. I love you all. Thank you.

Little

I love Target. There. I said it. I especially love my Target. About two years ago, they tore down the old one and replaced it with a Super Target. For the few months that I was forced to go to that other major chain store, I would mutter unkind words about Target. But it really wasn't Target I was annoyed with. I was annoyed that I had to go to the other store.

It's not that the customer service at Target is good. Far from it. It seems like most of the employees have never spent any time in the store, and aren't ever any help when you need it. I frequently drag two carts around the store, and no one ever offers to help me out to the car. I'm fine dealing with two carts and 2-4 kids simultaneously, but the offer of help would be nice. I've been blacklisted for returning things. More than once. They changed their return policy a while back, and it's just about as ridiculous as it could possibly get. Do I always keep my receipts? Of course not. Do people always give me receipts with a gift? Of course not. Yet, the powers that be at Target decided that short of having that tiny slip of paper, they will deny almost all returns. Frustrating, yes. But not enough to make me love the place any less.

I love it because I can get just about anything I need to pick up at one place. I don't have to run all over town to get the things I need. This makes me happy. It makes me happy because there are few things in the world more likely to rattle the patience of even the best parent than dragging children from store to store. This week, in addition to the groceries, I got Aidan a pair of jeans off the clearance rack for $3.74. I got a huge case of diapers. I got three jars of the best pasta sauce in the world. I got a birthday gift for Ally's friend. And I got myself something little. More on that later.

I love Target because I have just about figured out their markdown schedule. I know when the clothes go from 30% to 50% to 75% off. I love 75% off. It too makes me happy. Aidan's jeans were on that rack. Most of the kid's pajamas are from that rack. The shoe sales are great too. Last summer I stocked up on flip flops for myself. I got 4 pairs for less than $10. I have picked up all kinds of stuff on the clearance racks there. Good stuff.

Every once in a while, I find something at Target that makes me want to leap with joy. This week was one of those times. I found something that I have been searching for. I've been looking for it for a very long time. And finally, it was there. Sitting quietly on a shelf, waiting for me to discover it and snatch it right up. To put it in my cart and give it a good home. Bright green quick drying nail polish. It doesn't take much to make me happy, I guess. It's the little things. And Target is full of them.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Uniform

Though it has been a very long time since I was in a school that dictated my attire, I seem to wear a uniform most days. Not a real uniform of course, those things are terrible. For three long, torturous years, I was forced to wear itchy pleated plaid every day. Button down shirts. Knee socks. Catholic school. It's a good thing I got myself kicked out of there.

It's funny though, because as much as I hated them as a kid, I can see the appeal in uniforms now. As a parent, especially as the parent of little girls, I can see the benefit in knowing exactly what they need to wear to school every day. It might take some getting used to, but I can see the mornings going a lot smoother than they do now. There are a few schools, even public ones, in the district that wear uniforms. Ours doesn't. And, really, I am fine with it. The girls already have learned to express themselves through fashion, and taking that away would take some of the fun out of the day. It sure would make back to school shopping cheaper.

The uniform to which I refer here today, isn't really a uniform at all. At least not in the literal sense. I'm talking instead about the things I wear all the time. The clothes that I come back to when I've tried, and failed, to branch out a bit. My uniform.

I read an article in a magazine a while back about the subject. How most women, by their 30's have a uniform. A committed sense of style. I'm not edgy or traditional or contemporary. I'm not trendy or cutesy or any of that. The only word that comes to mind when I think about my wardrobe is comfort. I'm not sure that is a good thing.

Sure, it's great to be comfortable. It makes everything else that you have to deal with on any given day easier if you aren't fighting with your clothes constantly. But is it a style? That, I am not so sure of.

When I was working at the mall a few years back, I had to dress for work. Not dress up, by any means, but I had to break out of my uniform. I couldn't wear capri jeans, hoodies and flip flops. I couldn't wear my uniform. It was nice to dress up a little. Because when I don't have to do that, I tend not to. Half the time I put a skirt on, the kids ask me why I am dressed up.

For Christmas, I got a gift card for clothes. I walked out of the store with 4 new tops. One was cute, totally predictably me. Two were almost identical to each other, the same color even. I asked myself if I really needed two of what was essentially the same shirt. Of course I did, I rationalized. And then there was the fourth top. It's not like anything I have in my closet. It's dressier, first off. It's not something most moms would wear to the park. It's comfortable though, which I liked. But it's totally not my style. It's edgy. Am I edgy? I'm not sure. I haven't worn it yet. I don't know when I will, to be honest. But I hope I do.

We all have a uniform. What is yours? And what are you going to try to do to push the envelope a little? I have a shirt hanging in my closet. And someday, I'm going to wear it. Someday.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Year

Today I celebrate the one year anniversary of the day that I was talked into starting a blog. I reluctantly agreed, but only because the one prodding me into it promised she would do something too. If I would do this, she'd join Facebook. She made good on her end of the bargain, not like I really gave her a choice.

Turns out that this whole blog adventure has been a good one. I thought it might be a good idea for several reasons. One being that I am far behind on working on the kid's baby books. Aidan and Ashley's are done. Ally is all of 6 months old in hers, and poor AJ doesn't even own a book yet. I figured this way, I'd be able to document some of the things that happened, tell the stories of things that they had done, and capture some of the essence of the kids. Trying to work on the scrapbooks is next to impossible. It's something that will have to wait until I have all the kids in school, and until I don't have constant helpers. Besides, I'm a far better writer than scrapbooker anyway.

I thought the blog might be a good idea since I needed to get back into the habit of writing on a regular basis. Writing is something I have done for just about my entire life. Well, my entire life until the kids came along, that is. Even after they were born, as long as I was in school, I was writing. Moving out here ended my journey with education, and I stopped. I didn't realize how much I missed it. A handful of people know that I have started the lengthy process of writing a book. In some ways, I am using the blog to test responses to things I might put in the book. See what people think. It's, as they say, a work in progress.

As it turned out, the blog ended up being good for me in many more ways. Not only is it a good way to start a family archive and an excellent process for me to iron out the kinks in my writing style, it's more. A lot more. More than I expected, to be sure.

I can't even tell you how many times I have sat here and cried. How many times I have laughed. I've remembered, sometimes in far more detail than I could have imagined. Writing out my feelings about the things that happen is therapeutic, even if I delete them before anything is published. There is value in the expression, even if the only set of eyes that ever see the words are mine. It's been a way for me to examine some of my relationships. I've connected with people in a way that I never could before. I've been able to say things to people that I have a hard time speaking aloud.

It's been a year. Of joy and heartache. Of happiness and sorrow. Of milestones reached and goals unmet. Man, has it been a year.

To my children, I hope that one day you appreciate this. Though it's not much, everything I write is genuine and done with love. I hope that someday you look back and remember the stories I tell about you and decide that I've been fair.

To my husband, I know that secretly you read this even though you say you don't. And I love that about you. I promise that someday, I will find a way to get someone to pay me for my thoughts. Just remember...the book, like me, is a work in progress.

To my readers, I've let you in. You see sides of me that I am reluctant to show. I hope that I make you think. I hope that I don't bore you too often. I hope that you laugh. I hope that you feel a little connected to the chaos that is my life. I hope you keep reading.

And I hope I keep writing.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Grown

I got to thinking last night about something a little strange. Maybe it was the beverage prepared by my husband....I do tend towards the philosophical a bit more when I've had something to drink. I was thinking about my life. Our life. And suddenly that song popped into my head. How did I get here?

Most days, I am wholly aware of my role as wife and mother, of the responsibilities of being responsible for other people. Of the day to day things. Chores. Lists. Meals. The things that I have to do, because there is no one here to take care of me anymore and do them. I'm the mom now. And if I don't buy toilet paper, no one will.

But then there are the other days, the nights like last. When I feel a bit like a kid playing house. When it seems impossible for me to be here. How did I get here? Slightly detached from the reality of my life, feeling as though I am doing something naughty by pretending that this is all mine.

The wondering isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Kids want to play house because they think it will be fun. Usually, it is. And I hope that a part of me will always feel like a kid pretending to be a grown up.

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