Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Beast

You have to be careful what you say around kids. Not just some of the time, but all of it. You have to do that because they repeat everything you say, mimic everything you do, and remember everything else. Kids are far more perceptive than we give them credit for.

It's amazing sometimes how unobservant they can be most of the time, but the second you do or say something you shouldn't, they are right there, ears perked and eyes glued.

A while ago, I made a comment about Ally. She was in one of her hell-raising kind of moods. The kind of mood where she spent just about every waking moment of that day antagonizing anyone and everyone she could. She goes out of her way to throw fits, to fight over toys, to claim territory. She has days like that. I wish I could blame someone else for that trait, but it's all me. Sucks when you make little people just like you.

Anyhow, I made a comment about her. About how her brothers and sister should just steer clear of her when she's in that kind of a mood. About how it's better to avoid conflict, and not give her a chance to pester you. Then I said it.

"Don't anger the beast."

Aidan and Ashley laughed at the time, Ally gave me her look of death. If you have ever spent any measurable length of time with the girl, chances are she has shot you one of the glances I am talking about. She can make one heck of a mean face.

I probably shouldn't have said it, this is true. But it was also true that I needed to convey to the other kids that it was really just easier for them to leave her alone. And when she is in a mood like that, there really isn't a whole lot that I (or anyone for that matter) can do to change it. We just have to wait it out.

A few days later, I overheard Ally's play voice. She was talking to her dolls. And she introduced herself as Anger, the beast.

Apparently, she thought I had given her another nickname.

It's a running joke now, and whenever she gets into one of those moods, we just have to call her Anger. She knows immediately what we mean, and checks her behavior.

Trust me when I say that you don't want to anger the beast.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fields

Though I have no idea if I will be able to make it down to San Diego for this trip yet, if I can, there is one place I must stop. There are many things that I miss about California, and one of them is truly something that has to be seen in person to be appreciated. The Flower Fields.

If you've never been there, you simply must go. Here is a link to their website, though the pictures on it do not come anywhere close to doing it justice.

http://www.theflowerfields.com/

The Flower Fields are magnificent, and they are a few weeks from their annual peak. 50 acres of ranunculus flowers, in all different colors. Off the 5 in Carlsbad, you can see it from the freeway. (Sidebar: I just totally almost referred to the 5 as I-5, or the Interstate....have I really become that accustomed to living in Colorado???)

When we lived there, we made sure to go every year. As Aidan got older, we started doing the things he was interested in, like riding the tractor around the fields and running up and down the rows. The last time we went, I was very, very pregnant with Ally. Little did I know that only a few months later, we would leave California for good. It's probably better I didn't though, it would have diminished the joy I felt standing among the flowers.

There really aren't words that can describe the feeling of being surrounded by such beauty. It's best in the afternoon, when the breeze sweeps up from the ocean. If you hike up to the top of the fields, you can gaze upon all the flowers, with the Pacific as a sparkling sapphire backdrop.

I miss those fields. I miss those flowers. I miss California.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mix

Right now, I'm not really here. I'm trying to write a few posts before leaving, so that the blog doesn't just sit idle for the entire time I am gone. This particular entry was inspired by my preparations for the trip, the things I was checking off on my to-do list.

To go anywhere that involves any length of time in a confined space with children, there are certain things a mother needs to retain her sanity. Snacks, diapers and wipes, water bottles and juice boxes are required of course, but there are other things. Like the Frappucinos hidden deep at the bottom of my ice chest. Don't even think about touching those bad boys, they belong to me.

One of the required items is of course the DVD player and a nice big stack of movies to keep their interest. I need enough movies that I don't start to tire of the same songs and cheesy lines, though I never get tired of listening to my kids laugh at all the same parts of the movies. Aidan in particular has a laugh that warms your soul from within, it's as if he literally giggles from the bottoms of his toes. Never gets old.

As I was going through the list for the final time, I remembered something that had not made it on to the list at all. My CDs. I don't have an ipod. Not because I don't want one, but because my husband doesn't believe that I would use it enough to justify it. Okay, so he is probably right. I'm just not that technologically savvy. The downside though to the fact that he has an ipod, and is the chief entertainment officer in our family, and thus responsible for almost all music purchases, is that he doesn't buy CDs anymore and hasn't in a very long time. I would be hard pressed to think of the last one he bought. Without him and his ipod, I'm all pre-2005.

It's okay though, I don't need new and shiny. I have a batch of old CDs that will work just fine. In fact, I put a specific set of CDs back into the player in the car. The CD equivalents of mix tapes. Remember those??? I got them from my husband many years ago. Before we moved to Colorado, he made them for me to listen to on the drive here in the car. He, of course, had his ipod.

The CDs have never left the car in all those years. But they were gradually replaced with kid music, one by one. I dug them all out of the compartment and put them back in while waiting for the kids to get out of school one day. Listening to them on the ride home, I was suddenly overcome with nostalgia and emotion. These songs, the ones that I listened to over and over again on that long drive here have a special place in my heart. They became the soundtrack for a portion of my life. Even though I didn't choose any of them, and I had no say about the order they were put in, it all fits just right. And the fact that he spent all that time finding songs that he thought I would like all those years ago, and that I can still listen to them today, means a lot. It's like he'll be with me on this trip in a little way. Even though I'm far away, he will be in my thoughts almost constantly.

And really, isn't that the point of a mix tape? To make someone fall in love with you? I can tell you it works, even almost five years later.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Crazy

I'm officially crazy. Only someone crazy would attempt what I am doing. Driving cross country with four kids. My wonderful mother in law will be accompanying us. I hope we don't scare her away from offering help in the future. Two days in the car with 4 kids is enough to drive anyone insane.

I vacuumed the car to get ready to pack it up, then wondered aloud why I bothered. By the time we reach our destination, it will be covered with crumbs and dirt and socks and more. Like I already said, I am crazy I guess.

Wish us luck. I will try to pop in during the trip for a brief post here or there. If the kids let me, that is. Man, is it going to be a long week.

It's a good thing I'm crazy enough to think this is a good idea.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Memory

I just remembered something that I haven't thought much about in years. I chuckled a little at the randomness of my memory, then figured that there was some reason that one particular image popped into my head. Perhaps it is the parallels in my life now that brought it about. Perhaps it was the constant nature of laundry in my house. Perhaps it was the fresh Spring breeze sweeping over me as I sat on the front porch and talked about boys and school and flowers and snacks and dogs with my little girl, Ally. I can't be sure why, but there it was all of a sudden. My memory.

You have to understand that I don't have many great memories of my childhood. It's not that I had a particularly bad life as a child or anything. It's just that I didn't much enjoy being a kid. I was miserable a lot. Like, a LOT. Often with no rhyme or reason or justification. There are, however, a few great ones tucked into my memory banks. And every so often, sometimes without any warning at all, they come back out to play.

This isn't the first time recently I have had a sudden remembrance of something that happened a long time ago. I've gotten a bit (okay, a lot) more sentimental as of late. And I'd prefer to look back fondly at the happy times than dwell on the things that didn't go as well. The losses. The heartbreak. The sad times. I was a very melodramatic child. Seriously.

I have one of those myself. Ally is freakishly like me. And I think that perhaps the reason that this particular memory came to me at precisely the time it did was more about her than I. My subconscious mind is trying to make sure that she doesn't end up like I did. My brain and my heart want to make sure that she enjoys her childhood. That she doesn't become negative and sad and withdrawn like I did. That she stays happy. I see in her so many similarities to me. Maybe, just maybe, this memory showed up for a reason.

And it's a good one.

This memory, this wickedly vivid one, strangely enough, has to do with chores. Changing the sheets, specifically. My mom used to ask me to help her put the new clean sheets on the bed, and I'd oblige. I'd help her eventually, but not before I played.

She'd grab her edges and I'd grab mine, thrusting our arms up into the air simultaneously to open up the sheet and smooth it out over the mattress. The sheet, though, would catch the air just right and would form into the most perfect parachute you'd ever seen. The temptation was always too irresistible, and I'd dive under the sheet midair. Once was never enough either. I'd convince her that this time I would do it right. Promise. I would promise that I would finish the chore. That I would neatly tuck in the corners and suppress my urge to roll around in the fresh smelling warmth of clean. I never did though. I'd always manage to fake her out at least once.

She would give in to the laughter eventually, after I managed to wear her down. And I would giggle endlessly. I'm sure there are times it would take more than 15 minutes to make that bed.

Filtered sunlight streaming in through the window, diving under my parachute, rolling around in the sheets, driving my mother to cry tears of laughter, taking far too long to do a simple chore. That was my memory.

Told you it was a good one.

So, the next time that something takes me a lot longer to do because Ally wants to help, I won't get frustrated with her. I won't sigh and beg her to just do it right. I will believe her when she smiles and promises me that she won't be naughty again. I will listen to her giggle until I cry tears of laughter. And I will do all that because someday she might remember.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Be

I spent most of yesterday running the conversation with Aidan through my head. It served as a good distraction from everything else I would have been thinking about. The things I don't want to think about. About why I am planning to leave for this trip. About why I am taking the kids. About why, even though it seems crazy, I need to do it. I don't want to think about those things. I would have been all day, had it not been for the sudden realization my boy had yesterday about growing up.

He's got a lot on his plate right now, and it has to be overwhelming for him. It would be a lot for an adult to deal with, let alone a child. It's no surprise that he lost it yesterday. I hurt for him. I wish that life didn't have to happen the way it does. I wish that he didn't have to worry about the things he has to worry about. I wish that he could just be a little boy, running and playing with his friends. I wish he didn't have anything more important to think about. I wish he didn't have things to dread. I wish his body worked the way it is supposed to, rather than the way it is currently.

I wish he could just be.

But wishes don't make things so.

All that I can do is promise to him that I will do my best for him. I will try the best I can to help him roll with the punches that life will throw at him. I will advocate for his physical and emotional well-being. These challenges will pass, these hurdles will be jumped. But there will be more to come. I will focus on making the remaining years of his childhood happy and joyful, teaching him how to be a kind young man. He won't be a kid forever, it's true. He will grow up. One of those irreversible processes in life, aging is. Even if we don't want it to continue happening. He will be a teenager, dating, driving and filling out applications for college before I know it.

I can't make things easier. I can't make the inevitable stop. I can't fix most of the things that are wrong right now in his world. But I can do something. I will be there to catch him when he falls, when he hurts and when he cries.

Motherhood is hard. And, sorry to say this to all of you out there with babies and toddlers, it only gets harder. The struggles only get tougher. The trials only stretch longer. And their memories only get stronger. For his sake and mine, I need to make sure that I do my best. There is far too much at stake here right now, and he's at far too fragile a point in his life for me to do anything less.

I love you Aidan.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Awakened

I don't have much time today, I've got just under 8 million things to do. But I couldn't help but sit and write about what my little boy told me this morning. And about how much it broke my heart.

He came into my room, crawled under the covers and cried. I woke up a bit confused, since he almost never comes in anymore. It was daylight, Tom had left for work already. The girls weren't even up yet. What was going on?

He was sobbing, to the point almost of hyperventilating. I calmed him down and asked what was wrong.

I want my Buzz stuff back. I want my Buzz stuff back. I want my Buzz stuff back.

It's all he could say, and it took me a long time to even understand those words because he was sobbing so much. When I woke up enough to figure out what he was trying to say, I understood instantly.

It's not so much about the toys and things, those which he discarded about a year ago, having outgrown them and no longer needing them. It's about the inevitable. And how he realized that this morning. He is growing up. And he doesn't want to.

I reassured him that if it was just about the Buzz stuff, I'd find a way to get him some. I'm pretty sure I kept a little of it in the basement. But then I told him that I knew it wasn't just about the stuff. It was about what it symbolized. To him and to me.

He didn't want it anymore all of a sudden one day. He was too big for it, he proclaimed. I was sad. A little hurt even. I had worked so hard to get his room just the way he wanted it, and had spent even more time finding the toys and stuffed animals and fabric and action figures and pictures and posters. And, just like that, he didn't want it anymore. I accepted his decision though. He wanted to grow up. And I helped him change his room again. Got rid of the Buzz stuff.

But then Pixar decided to make another version of the movie. One for which the ads are running almost constantly these days. Reminding him of just how obsessed he was once upon a time with a Space Ranger. It doesn't help that the premise of the movie is that Andy, the boy who owns Buzz, grows up and moves away to college, leaving his old toys behind. Aidan has many years before that day comes.

But now he knows that it is coming.

And as sad as I am that it is coming for me, I am even sadder for my little boy. I wish I could slow down the clock. Let him stay young as long as he wants. Life, unfortunately, doesn't work that way though.

I hugged my little boy this morning and let him cry as long as he needed to. And then I told him that age is just a number, you are only as old as you feel, grown ups get to play with cooler toys, and that he will forever be my little boy. No matter how old he is.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Paws

The kids got a snow day, for which I am grateful this morning. Days like this make me kick myself for buying a house with such a huge driveway. Shoveling it with light snow is a chore enough. But shoveling it when it is covered in nearly a foot of heavy wet March snow is a whole different animal. Threw my back out last week when there was less than half this amount. It's a good thing I don't have to worry about going anywhere anytime soon.

Lucky for my husband. His car manages to get up and down the driveway just fine. Therefore, he doesn't need to shovel to go about his daily business. I'm not so lucky. Minivans are insanely heavy, especially when loaded with a herd of children and all the things that come with them. And though our driveway doesn't appear very steep, throw some snow on it and get ready to slide. The van gets about halfway up the driveway before it yells "UNCLE"! It's not so much the going halfway up that is the problem as the sliding back down sideways. But I digress. I'll get the van into the garage sometime today...just might be a while.

Before then, we have plans. Forts to build, sleds to ride, snowballs to throw and hopefully a snowman to construct. This is the kind of snow good for those activities. Before I moved here, I never could have imagined all the different varieties of snow that exist. Before I had been initiated.

Today is the day for another first. Little boy will be initiated today. Until now, he's been inside, toasty and warm while his older siblings got to have all the fun playing in the snow. Not anymore. He's big enough now (okay, so I use the term "big" loosely), and old enough now that he should be able to hold his own out there. He's got some super funky orange plaid snow pants. He's got some snow boots. He's got a coat. I just need to find him some teeny gloves. There's only about a million sets in this house, I've got to find one small enough for his little paws.

Bring it, old man winter. It's on. There's a new kid in town.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Night

Nights are long around here lately. There have been too many children, too bright eyed and bushy tailed for the middle of the night for too many nights. There has been much whining and tossing and turning and needing.

I'm tired.

All the kids are sleeping right now, as is my husband. He's snoring, both girls are coughing. Snore, cough, cough. Snore, cough, cough. It's not their fault though, as he is sick right now and both the girls have my kind of asthma - the kind that tends to rear it's ugly head only at night.

Night is not as quiet and peaceful as it could be around here.

I should be taking advantage of this time to rest myself. Especially since I haven't had much of it as of late. But I'm just not the kind of person that can go to bed early. Character flaw? Perhaps.

Mostly it's that there are so many things, so many very different things, running through my head that it's hard to get control of all of them simultaneously. To make them settle and be still at the same time. Little things. Big things. Things I can control. More that I cannot. Many more.

These moments of the night are for me. It's just about the only time I get to myself. It is the time that I can sit and think about the things running through my head without constant interruption. Without someone needing me, tugging at a pant leg, hollering from down the hall.

Sometimes I find comfort in these moments. When I can work through my feelings, figure out ways to get things done, to make things right. Other times I find sorrow in these moments. Being alone with my feelings, really having time to explore the thoughts I push aside when I am too busy to think them, to feel them. When I am wrapped up in whatever else I need to do. At night, these thoughts come back. And they force me to realize that I am powerless far more often than I would like.

Tonight, I write. I am tired, yes. But I am not sleepy. It was not until sometime after I became a mother that I really realized that being tired and being sleepy are often not in any way related. That you can be one or the other or both or neither at any given time, sometimes with no rhyme or reason.

Sleep may come, but rest eludes me these days.

Goodnight my friends. May your night be restful. May your dreams be sweet. And may morning greet you with newness and peace.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Offer

I know this is early. I wanted to wait until morning to post this, but I just couldn't. I've been feeling these feelings for a while now, bottling them up inside. Until now, and they just escaped all of a sudden.

You ever just feel like there is something that you are meant to do? Like there is something, some way that you are supposed to help someone else, but have no possible idea of how to offer that help? How do you offer what I am willing to offer? How do you do it without hurting someone when that is the furthest thing from your mind? How?

I guess you just do. And I should. It's not a small thing I am offering to do. It's actually huge. But my dear husband is on board. He knows how important it is. It's not really something I am in the best position to do, to be totally honest. There are risks with me, yes, but I've proven that I can deliver, so to say. It's something that I can do, and I will do. If they want me to. And I don't know how to ask that. How to offer that.

Now isn't the best time, but it's not like I am getting younger. And they've waited for a very long time. It would be a big endeavor for all involved, this is true. There would be a lot of ifs and onlys. There would be tears and joy and hearts mended and holes filled. There would be a lot of explanations needed, journeys made. But it could be amazing.

I think I can do this. I want to do this, if they'll have me. If they need me.

And if they, those to whom I am offering, read this, I am certain that they will know exactly what I am talking about.

Lists

I love lists. I love list pads. I adore organization. I thrive on checking off the things that are done. Some might say that I take it too far. And maybe I do. I'm not obsessive about it or anything like that. But I learned a long time ago that the only way I am every going to get all the things I need to get done completed is to write it down.

I blame part of my inability to remember things on mommy brain. The fog that takes over your mind when you are pregnant the first time around, then clears briefly at some point after the baby is a toddler. The fog that reappears and moves in for good once the second child arrives. That mommy brain.

I used to be able to remember everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything. I had damn near close to a photographic memory for most of my life. Well, at least for the portion of it prior to having kids, anyway. Then suddenly, I forgot things. I had trouble remembering what I needed to do, where I needed to go. I stopped being able to go to the grocery store and come home with all the things I need. Even with a list now, that almost never happens.

Interestingly, it's not that my brain stopped functioning. It just started serving a different purpose. A more important one. While I couldn't tell you what I had for lunch yesterday without sitting and thinking a good long time about it, I could recite exactly what each of my children wore to school today. I can tell you precisely what was packed in their lunchboxes. I can tell you which after school activities they have today, tomorrow and the next day. The times they need picked up and dropped off.

When you become a mother, you start having more important things to occupy your thoughts. Anything deemed not that important gets shoved down on the list of priority, some falling through the cracks completely. Some things get forgotten. And, eventually, like me, you learn that you've got to start writing stuff down. If there is any hope of ever doing everything you need to, you need physical reminders.

I have several lists going right now. One for the things I need to do before I can leave for the trip. One for the things I need to take on the trip. One for Ally's upcoming birthday party - trying to get that all figured out way ahead of time. As I learned before, I might not have the time I think I will to get it done later. There is another list, the weekly one, of the meals and activities and appointments. And yet another of the things I'd like to get ready to take to a consignment sale in May. I need to start another one, of the things I need to do around the house. The kitchen and bathrooms need re-caulked, the shades in the kids rooms need replaced. Honestly, if I don't write these things down, I'll never get around to them.

I need some more list pads.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reminder

There are a few families at school as large as mine, only a couple larger. The vast majority of families at school have one or two children, though there are a decent amount of three child families.

People ask me all the time how much harder it is to have 4 than 3. Truthfully, it's not much harder. Once you have two, you have to learn to spread yourself out, you have to learn how to be wholly wrapped up in worrying, teaching and mothering more than one child. The third, at least for me, wasn't much harder. And by the fourth, it was literally an issue of just throwing another car seat in the car. Really.

But I'd suppose that my ease with parenting is not something that happened by accident. I have four kids, and I can handle having four kids. Most of the time, anyway. I know many, many people who don't think they could. And who are probably right.

There is one in particular who often tells me that my family serves as a reminder for her to take her birth control. Gee, so glad I provide that service for you. I'm so glad that there mere thought of having more kids terrifies you. That my kids terrify you. (I'm being a little sarcastic this morning, aren't I?)

I do have to say though, she has a point.

Maybe it is because, unlike what most people think, it is possible to care about, worry about, parent and love the fourth child just as much as the first. It just requires that I put myself last a lot of the time. I don't usually have the time or energy to worry about how I feel, or think about what I want. Having a lot of kids requires more sacrifice on my part. On my husband's part. And a lot of people just aren't cut out for that.

Without going into too many details, I haven't slept much this week. Between asthma, teething, injuries and worry, I've been up. A lot. Something is going on with every single one of my four right now, and it can get to the point of being overwhelming at times. But it is what it is. They are mine to worry about. To parent. To love.

It's the hardest job in the universe and it's the best job in the universe. Even if it also serves as a reminder to others to avoid it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Drive

I received a compliment for one of my children today, for my oldest. But it seemed a bit half-hearted. Today was the Pinewood Derby. 28 boys, 28 cars, 1 winner. That one was not my son. Though he did better this year that he ever had before, he didn't make it to the final round. He got to the semi-finals, which is just fine with him.

He wasn't upset when he lost. He was totally fine with it, actually. He rooted for his friends, cheered for the other boys in his den. He's a good sport. I see it as a good thing, for sure. And I truly believe that it's a testament to his general demeanor, his overall character and his basic personality. He's a mellow, easy going little boy.

The reason the compliment put me a little on guard was that it implied that he isn't competitive. He's not. He's not driven to succeed, especially if that would ever come at the expense of others. Never has been. He's an awesome teammate, but isn't ever going to be the star player. He doesn't want the lead. Doesn't want to win. He's never been the guy who tells the coach to get him the ball, no matter the sport.

He doesn't care if he wins, he just wants to play.

And I don't see that as a problem. Even if other people might think I need to push him to compete, I won't. It's just not in his nature to be that way. Think how much nicer a world we would live in if there were more people like that. Like him.

My little boy didn't win today, but it doesn't matter. I am pretty proud of him.

I like him just fine the way he is.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Seriously

I find myself either saying or thinking this particular word a lot these days. Except it's more in the form of a question.

There are so many different things going on that make me say or think it. And it seems like practically every day brings a new reason to light.

As if I didn't have enough other health issues going on with my kids, in the last few months, all the following have been added: a possible case of scoliosis, an eye condition which may need therapy, two kids in need of glasses at some point in the near future, two kids who are probably going to need surgery and a partridge in a pear tree. So I'm being a bit facetious.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it, honestly. And I'm tired of the routine not being routine around here. Well child check ups are supposed to confirm that your children are just that. That they are "well", right? What ever that is, anyway. They aren't supposed to find other things that are wrong. Or at least I wished they worked that way.

I'm in hurry up and wait mode. I know that I am being referred to the right people to handle the surgery situations, it's just biding my time until the appointments. And hoping that nothing else happens in the meantime to make the scenario worse. Until then, I will sit and worry, cringing every time the phone rings from the school, hoping it isn't what I think it is.

I'm ready for a break. A time where nothing goes wrong for a little while. Seriously.

I have to say that not all of the things happening that make me wonder, seriously?, are bad. Some are just plain amusing. Disturbing, but amusing none the less. The one at school is laughable. Basically, there is a parent outraged about something that happened three months ago, and is determined to make a stink about it. But rather than facing the music, and doing the job they are paid to do, those in charge have taken another approach. Run and hide.

Seriously? I'm pretty sure that the people who put you in that position of authority wouldn't agree with your general approach. And really, if you can't handle being under the gun like that, then maybe you should rethink your career path.

Seriously.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rest

Does Ally really need to? No. Of course she doesn't really need to. Do I want her to? Unabashedly, that answer is a resounding yes. Should she still? I think so.

Naps.

Naps are often the bane of my existence. I have spent a tremendous amount of time and energy making sure that naps happen. Aidan liked to sleep. He still does. He's a bit like me in that department. When he was little, he took naps pretty well. It was slightly complicated by the fact that he outgrew his crib at about 13 months old and needed to transition into a toddler bed. It would take me a long time to get him to be still enough to sleep, but once he settled down, he would nap pretty well. He was a car sleeper too, any time we went anywhere that involved a long car ride, he'd be out cold. He napped long enough to get heavy enough that I started to have a hard time moving him. And then, suddenly, he was done.

Ashley was not a napper. She didn't do much voluntary sleeping, even as a baby. I spent many afternoons driving around in circles hoping that she'd fall asleep enough that I could put her down without waking up. In my most desperate moments, I would sit in the car, afraid to move her until she was done. I used to rock her for what seemed like forever, only to get a 15 minute nap out of her. At some point, it became obvious that it wasn't worth the effort involved for the amount of rest she got. I just learned to deal with the afternoon meltdowns and could set a clock by the time of day that she hit the proverbial wall.

AJ obviously naps still, he is only a year and a half old. In his fantasy world, he'd sleep from 1-4 every day. Except he's got three older siblings that need taken here and there, picked up from school and shuttled around. He's the first of my kids that actually looks forward to sleeping. If you mention nigh-night, he runs to the stairs, blowing kisses to whoever is around on the way. I'm sure he'll be napping for a while yet. And anyone who has spent any time with the child can appreciate the fact that I need the down-time just as much as he does.

Then there is Ally. She likes to sleep. Always has, and still does, though she'd beg to differ about that I am sure. By now, both Aidan and Ashley had long abandoned napping, but she still will lay down. It has to be on her terms though. She won't take naps in her room anymore, and will only lay down on the couch. And we can't call it a nap. She rests. She is almost 5, and could stop altogether. But I don't want her to. I so look forward to those precious minutes of quiet, even if I have to be quiet too so that she will sleep.

As much as she would argue about it, she likes to take naps still. She is a much happier kid afterwards, much less cranky in the evening. They don't last long, and she's not missing anything while she rests. Most of the time, I am catching up on my email, writing here or cleaning upstairs. Things she has no interest in anyway. Works for me.

Next year should be interesting. The kindergarten schedule is weird here, with two full days and one half. That full day is going to be hard on her, especially if she keeps napping through the summer.

She's sleeping right now, snoring on the couch. Had a rough night. She might be in a hurry to grow up, but she isn't willing to part with some pieces of childhood quite yet. She needs to get her nap, I mean rest, in first.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish

Being Irish, today is a good day for me. I love St. Patrick's Day. I love the food, the parades, the blarney, the beer and everything that is green. Love it all.

I'm not as Irish as most people think I am, probably because it's the only part of my ancestry that I have really made any attempt to embrace. I'm more Irish than anything else, though. My kids are more Dutch than Irish, considering their paternal grandfather is 100% Dutch. But for today at least, they are Irish.

Most people would think my name was chosen because of the heritage. Not so much. 70's tv had more to do with it's selection than my family ties.

When I was in high school, I went through a phase where, for whatever reason, learning about my ancestry became very important. I think part of it was that I had many friends of different backgrounds, some of which were very connected still to their past. To the cultures, the languages, the traditions. We ate corned beef and cabbage once a year. I wanted more than that. I started reading up on Ireland, falling in love with the place from afar.

I've yet to visit the Emerald Isle. Someday, I hope to. The closest I ever got to going was a few years ago. Tom worked for a firm that had a lot of nonprofit clients back then, and we went to a lot of charity dinners. Shortly after the 9/11 tragedy, we were at a dinner, and the live auction items were trips. One of them was to Ireland, including airfare and a stay in the Four Seasons. It went for under $2000, and I would have snatched it up in a heartbeat if my husband had not been holding the paddle hostage on the other side of the table. One day, I will get there.

In college, my best friend and roommate wanted to get a tattoo. And she wanted me to get one with her. I managed to talk her out of the one she wanted to get initially, and she managed to talk me into it. But first I had to figure out what I wanted. She never did get one, but I did. A four leaf clover. I reasoned that I would never outgrow it, and thus far I haven't. (By the way, you still owe me for that one girl!)

Up until this year, I have cooked a traditional Irish dinner and made soda bread for the preschool. It didn't happen this year. Too much else going on at the moment. I'm just not as organized right now as I usually am. I am, however, gearing up for a dinner here. The meat is already cooking. Bread will be made soon.

I spent this morning talking with some friends, friends who are experiencing some of the same things I am right now. And I find that my most favorite Irish proverb is ever more relevant today. I wish it for you all.

May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all. Even if it's just for a day, we are all Irish. Go get your green on.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jealous

There are a great many emotions I don't do well with. Anger. Sadness. Envy. I'm feeling that last one today, and I know that I have to get over it. It serves no real productive purpose. And it is one of the seven deadly sins....the worst of the worst.

I see people around me all the time that make me feel this emotion. The old couples at the store together. The home full of aged, frail grandmothers and grandfathers that the Cub Scouts sang carols to this past Christmas.

Some friends of mine are blessed to still have their grandparents with them. Who can regale in the tales told by their family elders. Who look forward to family reunions, 50th anniversary parties and 80th birthdays. Who can watch the parents of their parents live long, fulfilled lives.

What bothers me more are those who complain about the things they need to do because they still have their grandparents. The things to help their grandparents. The smells of their homes. The trips to the doctors. The holiday dinner traditions and the arguments about who goes where. What I wouldn't give to have those problems.

My grandparents have all been gone for a while now. The last left our world when Aidan was a baby. None of my kids ever knew any of my grandparents. I have a few pictures of Aidan with my Grandma Doll, but he was less than a year old. He has no real memories of her.

So here I am, with no grandparents left. And dealing with a very serious illness in the only layer above me left on my family tree. I have many friends in the same position I am. And I can't help but think that we are all too young to be dealing with these things. That there is inherent unfairness in the way of the world.

Why do some people still get to have grandparents, when mine are gone? Why do some people's parents look forward eagerly to retirement and fabulous trips, while mine spend their time going back and forth to doctor's offices?

Jealousy and envy are not flattering traits. I know that I need to remove them from my life. But it's hard.

I see old couples walking hand in hand and a little part of my heart breaks. I wonder what my grandparents would be like today if they were still here. Someday I hope to be lucky enough to know what my Mom and Dad will be like at that age. And I pray that they will be able to walk hand in hand for many, many years to come.

To all those out there reading this blessed with grandparents and parents, whether they be healthy or ill, take some time to be grateful for them today. Sit down and listen to them tell the same story for the hundreth time. Take them to their favorite place for lunch, even if you've been there again and again. Help them, but be grateful for the fact that you have them to help still. There are many out there who would trade places with you in a heartbeat.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Screech

It's only appropriate that Ally loves owls. We happen to have a screech owl in the house. Or at least it sounds that way. Having had four children, I am accustomed to noise. A lot of it. But, seriously, this child takes it to a whole new level. AJ.

I'd suppose that there is an argument to be made that he has to be loud. Being the little brother, the youngest sibling, he has to make some noise if anyone is ever going to pay attention to him. He has already figured out that he really and truly needs to make his presence known around here.

The thing he hasn't realized is that there truly is no reason for him to always be so loud. He gets me all to himself a fair amount, and I can hear him just fine at a normal decibel level. Really. It's probably just force of habit for him, and I'm sure he isn't doing it to intentionally drive me bonkers, but wow. He's loud.

He was showcasing his loudness at the store today. And as I have learned a great many times in my life as a mother, there are many things you can make a child do. And many you cannot. Making them be quiet falls into the latter. No matter what you do or try, you can't make a child be quiet.

It doesn't help that it's cute for a while. Other people notice him exercising his vocal cords and comment on how cute he is. No, people. Don't. Really. You are just encouraging him to do it more and louder. Until it gets to the point where it is no longer cute and just becomes obnoxious. Since he's only 18 months old, he hasn't figured out where that line is quite yet.

My apologies to all those poor people in the store. I would have left, and taken him out if I could have. If not for the fact that he waited until the cart was full and we were in the checkout line, I would have. At least outside, he can make all the noise he wants.

We're going to have to work on finding his inside voice.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Brick

Must be Spring. Well, almost anyway. Never mind the fact that it's only about 35 degrees out right now and raining. It was 60 and gorgeous yesterday, so I guess it's just my wishful thinking that it will stay that way. I'm cleaning. You know, really cleaning. Not just regular cleaning. Nook and cranny cleaning. Closet cleaning. Spring cleaning.

Part of it is being forced along by the fact that I am taking the kids to California for Spring break this year. And though shorts and cute little dresses and sandals aren't really required here for at least 6 more weeks, they are in season there all year. And I need to figure out what fits who. It's not a fast process with four kids.

After cleaning out Aidan's room and even reaching into the deep dark scary nooks and crannies in his space, I turned to the dresser. It was time.

Making my oldest try on clothes is a special kind of torture. I'm not sure who hates it more, me or him. The trouble is that he grows so fast that he needs almost an entire new wardrobe every time the season changes. And before I reluctantly part with the old and buy the new, I have to see if anything left still fits. Not much ever does, and watching him try to cram his body into clothes that are way too small is amusing to say the least.

I even cleaned out his underwear drawer. Those seem to last a lot longer than the rest of the clothes, for whatever reason. But it's time. Like, way past time.

I think we managed to get through most of it. At least I have a general idea of what needs upsized anyway. I wish we could get more than a few months out of his clothes.

My Grandma Doll used to tell me she was going to put a brick on my head so I would stop growing. I keep telling Aidan I'm going to do the same. He's 8 and wears the same size shoes I do. He's only about 6 inches shorter than I am these days. The brick seems to have worked on me. I wonder if it would slow him down?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bit

I'm thinking that I might be just a little bit crazy this morning.

I'm resurrecting an annual tradition. One that I used to stick to, engaging in every year that we lived in sunny Southern California. Weather wasn't an issue so much there as it is here. And back then, I only had one or two littles to contend with.

Back when I only had to lug around a chair for me and a stroller. Back when my husband would toil away at work inside a building across the street from where we staked out a spot. Back when he'd escape for a while to join us. Back when even when he wasn't there, he was close just in case I needed rescuing. Back then.

The St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Being an Irish lass, it's important to me that the kids get to see it. Hear the music, watch the dancers.

We went once here, the first year we lived here. I wanted so badly to go, and the weather was nice. I practically begged Tom to come with us, since I wasn't familiar with the route and the seating and how it all would go with three littles. He no longer worked across the street, he wouldn't be there to come rescue me if I needed him at a moment's notice. That year, he switched his weekend work day and came along.

We had a blast and all the kids fell deeply in love with the Irish dancers. Both the girls and Aidan have asked to take classes several times since.

We haven't gone since that first year we lived here. The weather has been the main reason, I suppose. There isn't much appeal in driving over an hour, hiking about a mile and sitting on the side of the road to freeze for three hours listening to whiny kids.

But this year is different. The weather is beautiful. Aidan is more than old enough to help carry the stuff. Tom's at work, yes, and far away from any parades we'd be watching. But it's okay. I learned a long time ago that I don't need to be rescued very often. Must be that Irish blood in me.

We'll be heading out soon. To enjoy some culture and sunshine. To drive and hike and sit and watch. With four kids this time.

I'm just a wee bit crazy.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Squeeze

Clearly I have babies on the brain today. Over a thousand miles away, a little boy entered the world yesterday and made me an Auntie all over again. He is so needed and loved and wanted. He is a lucky little boy.

This new little boy made me think about my little boy. My baby. You know, the one who isn't so much a baby anymore. It also made me think about my other little boy. The big one. And just how different things are now, different for my two boys.

There are times I catch myself shaking my head at the things I do now, laughing. The things that I deemed irresponsible back when my oldest was an only. The things I found myself judging other parents for. The things I do now. Perspective is an interesting gift.

Back when Aidan was a baby, I was so caught up in doing everything "right". I obsessed about milestones and timeframes. I worried about just about everything. I spent a lot of time trying to make sure that I was following all the guidelines. To make sure he was in each phase at precisely the time he was supposed to be. I know better now.

Looking back, it makes me a little bit sad to think that I just might have hurried him to grow up. Pushed him for those transitions before he was ready, because I was too worried about him getting attached to things or too comfortable or too dependent. He was done with pacifiers at 6 months, exactly. (Totally not kidding, the day he turned 6 months old, we threw them all out.) He had his last bottle at 9 months, transitioning to sippy cups. Except that he didn't really. He couldn't figure out how to tip them himself, and so for the next 9 months of his life, I tipped his cup every time he was thirsty. How ridiculous is that, honestly? Just who's life was I making easier? Not his, and clearly not mine.

I spent countless hours on the floor with the kid, just trying to get him to crawl. He was perfectly content not to, though. Once he could stand, I was there again, constantly encouraging him to walk. We tried and failed miserably at potty training when I decided it was time. By then, I had finally started to figure out that I needed to wait until he was ready. It wasn't my timeline that dictated things, or shouldn't have been. It was his. Or it should have been.

I wanted so desperately for him to be okay with other people. I put him into a daycare so I could go back to school, and that was finally what pushed me to realize that I had to stop trying to get him to fit into my mold of what I wanted. When he started screaming miserably every time we got in the car, obviously afraid I was taking him back to that place, I knew. It wasn't about me. It didn't matter what I wanted or needed anymore. I had to do things on his terms. And those terms clearly didn't involve daycare.

I wish in a lot of ways that I could go back in time, back to when he was my only baby. And give myself some advice. Let him have a pacifier if it helps him sleep. Give him a bottle until he's ready to move to cups on his own. Let him crawl and walk and use the potty when he is ready. Let him be a baby for as long as he needs to. And enjoy it while it lasts.

This time around, I've learned these lessons. I know better now. I'm not in a hurry for AJ to grow up. I'm not pushing him towards independence, though he reaches for it faster on his own than any of the other kids ever did. I don't want him to grow up. Quite the opposite, actually. Babies are babies for such a short time, and that time is not nearly enough for me.

The irony of motherhood is that each child seems to learn these things faster than the last. Milestones are reached earlier, independence gained sooner. And by the time we, as mothers, have figured out that we don't want them to grow up so fast, grown up they already have.

So, you'll have to set aside judgment if you happen to see my little boy wandering around with a bottle or a pacifier. He's not ready to let them go quite yet. And I am really okay with it. Because neither am I.

I've got to squeeze all the baby out of him while I still can.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Happening

Whatever I had planned to write about today doesn't matter anymore. There is something bigger, more magnificent happening today. Something far more important than my random musings about life.

Something years in the wishing, months in the making and hours in the working.

It is happening today. Right now.

Life is about to get strangely surreal.

Life is about to get more interesting.

Life is about to get a whole lot more important.

Life is about to change.

I love you more than words can say. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Break

Every so often I feel weak and vulnerable. I am almost always so good about keeping my emotions in check. Almost always. Note the qualifier there.

Looking ahead to the summer already, I am trying to figure out how exactly I am going to fit in all of the things I would like to do. The places I want to go, need to go. The camping trips the kids look forward to. The baseball games and swim meets. The county fair that I keep promising myself I will submit my photography to. The baptism of my soon to be niece or nephew. And the relay. I'd like to squeeze the relay in there. That relay that just made me suddenly so overcome with emotions that I had no ability to control the sobs coming from within.

Every so often I break.

I want to do this relay. I just don't know how feasible it is. With all of the other things happening in my life right now, all of which can be changed or dropped at a moment's notice depending on one of those things, I'm not sure it will fit in. But I want it to.

It's important to me.

In June, there is a local Relay for Life, through the American Cancer Society. It's a 24 hour team event, a relay walked continuously by friends and families, survivors and fighters. They do a couple special laps. One is for those who are fighting. Strangely, that isn't that lap that set off my tears. The other lap did. The survivor lap.

I find it odd that up until today, I had never really thought of Tom as a survivor. Yes, he was diagnosed with cancer. Yes, he had surgery. Yes, he had radiation. Yes, there was a lot of pain and worry. Yes, it was a long time ago. And yes, he is healthy today. But for whatever reason, I had never really put him in that category. Never given him that label.

I think part of the reason is that once cancer invades your life, it never really ever goes away. It's hard to feel like a survivor when you are always worried. Always looking over your shoulder a bit. Will it come back? Chances are good with him that it won't. But still, there really is no such thing as ever feeling truly cancer-free again. Even if, for all intents and purposes, you are.

Cancer takes a lot away from you. That feeling of invincibility. The notion that life will go forward without interruption. The idea that you can makes plans and life will go down the path you anticipate. Those aren't things you ever get back, even if you do regain your health eventually.

From today forward, I will think of my husband as a survivor. The label imparts some degree of finality. That his struggles are over. That he has won the battle, his opponent been destroyed. I hope and I pray every day of my life that it is the case. That it doesn't come back. That he stays healthy.

I need to do this relay, somehow. Not just for those who are fighting, but for those who are surviving too. And for those, like me, who are fighting and surviving with them.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Stache

I don't fully understand the reasoning, and I suppose that I never will. I can't, really. I'm not a guy. And I've never had cancer.

But something funny happened when I was back home this last time. After surviving the scariest experience of our family's collective life, Dad decided to do something. He started to grow his moustache back out, even though it's been well over a decade since he last had one. And this time, he's growing a beard too.

Dad rocked a moustache for a very long time. Pretty much as soon as he could grow one, he did. Before he married my Mom, and through all of my childhood, he had it. He was burned in a bad truck versus man accident, and had to let it go for a while as a result. Once his skin had healed, and he could regrow it, the stache was back. Until all of a sudden one day when it wasn't. Not sure why, just one day it was gone. He shaved it off for good.

He's never, ever had a beard though. Until now.

I can't pretend to understand, though in some ways it makes sense to me. Bucking the system. Rebelling. Not giving in to society's rule about these things. Fighting the man. Being angry and just not giving a damn. Proving that you can do it. Making a point. I'd suppose that all of these are a part of it.

I've lived with a guy who went through a similar experience a while back. Tom did the same thing after he was diagnosed. He grew out his beard and his moustache. For a while he started to resemble a mountain man. I never questioned why he did it. I just always figured that there was a reason.

And there was then, as there is now. Even if no one else ever understands.

Rock the stache, Dad. Rock it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cherry

Talk to me. Oh,beautiful cup of bounty, tell me your story. You are full of perfectly roasted espresso beans. Warmed with milk, heated to precisely the right temperature. Infused with the flavor of dark chocolate. And topped off with the teeniest, tiniest pieces of chopped ripe cherries. If there was such a thing as heaven in a cup, this has to be it. Yum.

Dark Cherry Mocha, Venti of course. Do they make coffee in any other size?

Now, don't get me wrong. I love coffee. I'll be the first to admit that I am not really all that picky about it. I even like the cheapest of the cheap - convenience store coffee. Waiting room coffee. Vending machine coffee. But this is not like those. This, oh this, is divine. Run, don't walk to your nearest Starbucks and get you some of this. Mmmmmm.

This was SO worth scrounging for change in the bottom of my purse this morning.

They should pay me for the praise I bestow upon them, don't you think? Or at least give me some free coffee. It's not too much to ask.

You know you want some.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Curly

Last year, Ashley joined the Daisy Girl Scouts. Most of the girls in her Daisy Troop are her good friends, and most of them she has known since starting preschool years ago. The Troop has picked up a few members over the two years, but it remains a fairly tight knit group of little girls.

The girls have learned songs, gone on field trips, sold cookies and made crafts. They have become even closer as they have gone through the year. It's an interesting dynamic to watch them when they don't know you are looking. They have learned to show caring and compassion towards one another. They hold hands and give each other enthusiastic hugs. They laugh and play and giggle. Oh, do they giggle.

There are two major events for the Troop. The Boo Bowl and The Me and My Guy Dance. The Boo Bowl is in October, and they all dress up in their Halloween costumes for a huge city-wide bowling tournament. 36 lanes of squealing little girls, complete with black lights and loud music. It's pretty awesome, actually.

The other event happened last night. The Me and My Guy Dance. Where moms are forbidden, siblings not allowed. Only the girl and her date of choice (which has to be a guy, obviously) are permitted in the building. Of course she takes her Daddy.

Last year, it was the first time for both of them to attend. And I think they were both a little nervous, unsure of what to expect. She obsessed about finding a dress and sparkly things for her hair, he worried about whether they would have a good time. They went and they had a good time, even though there weren't many people there that either one of them knew. When the pictures came in the mail from that night, the look on her face said it all. She was pretty proud to be there with him.

This year, they had a better idea of what to expect. They had been there before. Plus, this year, Tom knew more of the Dads that were going. She knew more of the girls. And in the last year, I think both Tom and Ashley have realized just how much they are alike. How much they get along. And how little they need to stay amused when they are together.

She was even pickier about her dress this time around, we were lucky that we found one she liked quickly. She was even pickier about her hair too. She wanted it curly. Really curly. Except that she has fairly straight hair, and getting it really curly took tremendous patience on her part. She had to stand still for a long time for me to get it just right. After I got her hair done, I helped her put on some fancy lip gloss and sparkly eye shadow.

A few months ago, Tom was going through his closet and dug out his tux. She saw it and started working on him. She wanted him to wear it to the dance. He obliged, of course. She grinned just about from ear to ear when she saw him all dressed up. He picked out her corsage this year.
Before heading over to the dance, he took her out for a Shirley Temple. And afterwards, he took her out to dinner with another friend and her daddy. They came home exhausted, but glowing. It was a good night.

Though I wasn't with them last night, and I can't be certain of all the things that happened, or the people they talked to, or the songs they danced to, it doesn't matter. Last night was for them. Besides, I already know just about exactly how my little girl felt last night.

Once upon a time, I went to a dance with my Daddy.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fate

Thirty four years ago today, my parents were married. But their story began long before that day, and I happen to think it's one worth telling.

They met in high school, at a football game I believe. It had to have been something like that, some kind of place where good Catholic boys and girls who went to all-boy and all-girl schools were allowed to commingle. They dated for a while, went to each other's proms and were as happily in love as two teenagers could be.

After graduation, for whatever reason, they went their separate ways. Mom went to college. Dad went to school to learn his trade. They went on with their lives. Time passed, they grew up. Mom met another young man and he asked her to marry him. She said yes, and the planning began. All was well until about two weeks before the wedding date. I can't be sure which of the following two events took place first, but they were both eerie coincidences, signs if you will. I think I have the timeline right, but if not, I know she will correct me. ;)

One night Mom had a dream, a vivid one, about him. Not her fiance, but my father. This guy she had not seen in over 4 years. And she knew the moment she woke up that she had to call off the wedding. She couldn't marry another guy when she was dreaming about him. Invitations had already gone out, deposits paid. But there was to be no wedding.

Not long after that, Mom and Grandma Doll were out shopping and ran into Grandma Helen. They exchanged pleasantries, asking how life had turned out for the other. Dad was single. She was no longer engaged. Well, then, isn't that interesting, they all thought. Grandma Helen went home to tell Dad who she had seen. As the story goes, he spent hours looking for her phone number. He found it eventually.

I think they saw each other once before she left on what was supposed to be her honeymoon. Instead of taking her new husband along, she took a girlfriend on the trip to Hawaii. When she got back and stepped off the plane, he was there. Waiting.

What happened next is like a scene out of a movie. I can only imagine how it all played out, but it went something like this...

Him: I love you, and you are never leaving me again. We are going straight to your parent's house to tell them that we are getting married.

Her: Well, okay.

Needless to say, they did get married. Thirty four years, two children, an apartment and three houses ago. And though life has been filled with some ups and downs, they are here. Together. They have managed to make it through things that would break up most married couples, and they are united now to fight the biggest fight of their lives. And together they will fight.

Take some time today to enjoy one another. To be thankful for the love you have. To be grateful for the gift of each day. To believe in coincidences and fate.

"The whole is greater than the sum of it's parts" ~ Aristotle

Happy Anniversary. I love you both.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Or Not

I was going to clean my floors today when little boy took a nap. He's sleeping, as is his big sister, at the moment. The house is quiet and still and peaceful. I could clean, yes. But I changed my mind.

Today just got a million times better than it was this morning, and for the first time in a long time I feel like I can breathe again.

Remember that bottle of green nail polish I bought a few weeks back? Well, it's time for a pedicure. Not a fancy one with bubbles and oils and massages, though that would be dreamy. One here. Just me, a nail file and a few bottles of polish. And quiet.

The floors will still be there, waiting, tomorrow.

Today, however, will not be wasted on chores. It's just too good for that.

Welcome to my rollercoaster.

Distraction

I'm trying the best I can to think about other things this morning. To distract myself from everything else. Too many people I love are scared or weak or sick or nervous or sad, I am trying so desperately to fill my mind with strength and hope and joy and peace. Then there are the people I love who are waiting. Some are waiting for life's most beautiful gift, knowing that this gift may bring with it challenges they never anticipated. Others praying that the waiting will be the hardest part, and that good news awaits them on the other side. Still others waiting, and hoping for a miracle.

I'm damn near close to saying "Uncle". I know that I am strong. But I am starting to question the amount of that strength I have left. It seems lately that each passing day only bring more heartache, more tears, more asking why.

So, today, I am trying. Trying to think about other things. Trying, if only superficially, to worry about the trivial things in life. The things that seems so terribly minor and unimportant. The things I can control. I need to clean my floors, I need to shampoo the carpet. A dear friend, who knows almost everything going on, remarked how she was surprised I even had the energy to worry about cleaning my house right now. I have to. It's not a sick compulsion or anything. It's just that I need to feel like I can make something, anything, right. I can't heal people. I can't undo what seem to be inevitable health conditions. I can't magically make scary things disappear. But repairing the damage done to my home by children and weather and time...that, I can do.

In the last few days, I've realized how important it is for me to find productive ways to get out my pent up frustrations, my anger, my fear. I have realized that it's far better to channel those into something good than to let them fester in my mind. Two days ago, I spent over an hour chipping the ice off the driveway. Did I need to do it? Of course not. It wasn't on the part we drive on, and it would have melted eventually. It wasn't doing anything to anyone. But I needed to move it. I needed to beat something into submission, even if all if did was make me feel better for a little while. Yesterday, I cleaned out the garage, sweeping and vacuuming and reorganizing. Today, I plan to do the floors. I need to do these things.

Assuming, of course, that my children cooperate. Which can be a big assumption. They don't understand what is going on, nor do I want them to. I want them to stay naive. I want them to run and play and giggle without regard for what I need. I want them not to worry about things that are going on in the world around them.

In addition to needing to clean, which for me is oddly therapeutic, I also need to be the mother of a toddler. I need the constant hugs and sloppy kisses from a little boy. The little boy who spends most of his time taking his clothes off, climbing on the kitchen table, coloring all over anything and everything and dancing every times he hears music. The little boy who looks for stickers his siblings leave around the house, just so that he can stick them to his forehead. Half naked, stickers on forehead, crayons in hand. It's pretty hard not to love that. If ever there was a time in my life where I needed to be caught up in mothering, it's now. I need the distraction.

And when my distraction is napping, I've got a floor to clean.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Potty

One thing that having kids has taught me is that I am at their mercy. I mean, I am the parent. I am the adult. I am the rule setter and the meal maker and carpool driver. I am the homework supervisor and the cleaner-upper. But there is a lot more to parenting than that. And a lot of parenting has to do with timing. Not mine, but theirs.

They will jump to the next stage only when they are ready, regardless of what I want or need. Sometimes they are ready long after I had wanted them to be, wished them to be. But other times, like this morning, they seem ready before I am.

My baby isn't really a baby anymore. He hasn't been one for some time now. He's more like a miniature 3 year old, trapped in the body of an 18 month old that looks more like a 9 month old. I get asked how old he is at least once a day.

Part of it, I am sure, has to do with the fact that he has older siblings. A lot of them. He sees them doing and going and playing and wants desperately to keep up with them. Part of it probably has something to do with the irony of motherhood. We want our first babies to hit those milestones, pushing them towards each one. But then we have another baby and realize that what we really want is the opposite - for them to stay little for as long as possible. But the second baby, and the third, and the fourth, grow up, each seemingly faster than the last.

If only it was possible to slow down time. I know I'd do it in a heartbeat if I could. For many reasons.

What my baby, who isn't really a baby anymore, is ready for long before I wanted him to be this morning is potty training. He takes his diaper off literally within seconds of going. He wants it OFF now, and even with how absorbent diapers are now, he can't stand the feeling. I talked to Tom about it, and we both wondered aloud how he would even be able to use the bathroom since he is way too little to reach the toilet. I guess that's a bridge we are going to have to cross sooner rather than later.

The toddler training potty came back out of the basement. I was a little surprised that I still had it, since I thought I got rid of everything before I was pregnant with him. Ally hardly ever used it at all. She too decided very young that she wanted to be done with diapers. Barely two, and almost entirely nonverbal, she was done in less than a week. And I could count on one hand the number of accidents she has had since then.

I figured then it was my reward for the challenge of potty training the older two. Aidan was 3, and success came only after trying when he was too young. Which led to frustration, giving up, and waiting until he was ready. Ashley was harder, strong willed and too preoccupied with everything else going on in the world to remember when she had to go. Ally was easy. Really easy. In some ways, it seems like AJ might be too. He's even younger than she was.

Here I am this morning, glancing over at a little boy, one who seems too tiny to even be thinking about potties, sitting on his new potty chair. He's ready, I guess. I just don't know that I am.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Place

I'm angry today.

And I'm sad.

I don't do well with either emotion. Especially when there is virtually nothing within my control to change the circumstances causing those emotions. I'm a control freak. I like to believe that I can fix things. But I can't. Not these things.

That reality makes me angry and sad even more.

It's one of those downward spiral kind of things.

But I have to find a way not to be angry and sad all the time. I have four little people who need for me to find a way.

Part of it, I know, is just exacerbated by the fact that I am tired. I can't sleep, at least not in any restorative way. My subconscious thoughts and feelings come at night when I am trying to push off the conscious ones. And they are no less real to me. No less disturbing.

I talked to a friend yesterday about how we should just both go to our happy place, where ever that may be. But then I realized that my happy place and my sad, angry place are the same place. Here. For what keeps me going right now are my children, and they are no less a part of my reality than everything else happening around me.

I will get through this, somehow. We all will. It's not like we were given any say in the matter.

Life doesn't work that way, now does it?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ice

As silly as it may seem, I really wanted to make sure that everything was just right for Ashley's birthday party. Even though it had already been rescheduled due to a conflict at the venue. Even though I wasn't here for her actual birthday. Even though I had only about 36 hours from the time my flight arrived back home until the start of the party. And even though I had nothing ready for it at all.

It was a big deal to her. To me too. Birthdays are around here. I have this philosophy about birthdays. Of all of the days that kids have to look forward to in a given year, there is only one day that is just for them. Christmas and Easter and Halloween and school celebrations and other holidays are well and good, certainly. But those are for everyone. Birthdays are just for them.

Her party has been cancelled for the last three years due to her being sick. This year, she was healthy, and I was determined to get her the party she so desperately wanted. That she had been waiting years for. She'd only been talking about it since the day after her party ended last year. This year, she wanted an ice skating party. Ice skating. Outside. In Colorado. In February. Deep breath.

Since I was out of the loop for the entire week leading up to her party, I had no real idea who was coming or not. I tend to err on the side of caution when planning for a party anyway, figuring that most people will come, and a few will bring extra siblings. Even still, I somehow managed not to get enough treat bags and had to go back for more.

I had to be a little more creative than usual since ice skating themed parties aren't common enough that you can find anything for one easily. I didn't have to make the cupcake toppers, I didn't have to bedazzle the treat bags, this is true. But she loved it.
I decided long ago that cupcakes would be simpler given the location. I figured all along that I'd be making them from scratch to accommodate her friends with allergies, but I managed to find a cake mix that was safe for everyone. I did have to make the frosting, but it's easy. And it's so easy, in fact, that I don't understand why more people are so unwilling to make the effort. The simple words of gratitude from these kids and their parents is worth it, really. To watch them just get to be a kid at a party eating a cupcake. For that day at least, they weren't different.

I got some awesome last minute suggestions from the grandparents near and far that made the party even more successful. We brought hot cocoa for the guests, and I sent Tom to pick up some last minute items for the gift bags - stretchy gloves for the kids, just in case someone forgot theirs at home. The cocoa warmed the kids on their breaks from skating and the gloves were indeed used by a little boy who left his at home. Good thing we brought both, since it started snowing midway through the party.

She got her party, and she got it the way she wanted it. She was able to share her day with her friends, even the ones who didn't know how to ice skate before that afternoon. She got to share her cupcakes with her friends who routinely bring their own treats to birthday parties. She was healthy and happy and she even remembered to thank everyone without any reminding from her parents.

I almost didn't notice that I was freezing. I almost forgot about where I had been just hours before. I almost forgot about everything else going on in the world. For those two hours, I was just a mom throwing a great party for her little skating princess. And it was an amazing place to be.

Happy Birthday sweetheart. I love you.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Numb

I can say with absolute certainty that I have only ever been this exhausted once before in my life. Feeling like every ounce of emotion had been squeezed from me, with just a shell remaining. Numb. Almost like I'd never again know what restful sleep was. Having given up on trying to maintain any semblance of normal. Realizing in an instant that what I thought was important belongs in a different order of priority than I placed it.

Last time, though, I brought home a tiny baby boy from the hospital. He was early and sick and fragile, but there was a happy ending. He got stronger. Things got better. This time was different. I helped another home from the hospital. He too was sick and fragile, needing me in a different way than that baby boy all those years ago. But needing me still.

How this story will end, I don't yet know. None of us do. I pray and I hope that there is a happy ending here too. And I will do anything and everything in my power to make it so.

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