Monday, May 31, 2010

Nest

We are nearing the end of the bathroom expansion project. It's been a long few months. We went out to get tile for the shower a few days ago, all that is left to do is that and paint. Ah, the tile. A story for another day. As we were unloading the back of the van (for the first time) and piling it on the porch, I noticed something. Something odd.

My first reaction that it was kids. Or my crazy neighbor. But then I looked closer at it and realized that it wasn't what I thought it was.

What looked like a dirt clod thrown against the side of the house, up at the top of the front porch, wasn't. It was fresh and damp still, with little sticks and grass mixed in. And it looked like it was put there on purpose, not thrown haphazardly up against the side of the building.

Someone was trying to build a nest.

Tom and I were sitting outside a bit later and noticed them. The two of them. The confused birds, clearly agitated that we had interrupted their nest construction efforts. Flying between the houses, darting between the branches of the trees, but never landing anywhere.

I wondered why they would even try to build something there. There isn't any support beneath the nest really, just a tiny piece of a ledge. It's covered, but not sheltered from the wind very much. There are many other, larger birds in the area, with reputations for stealing from nests. It's hard to imagine this being the kind of place one would want to build a nest.

After dinner, I went back out to be alone with the setting sun. I also wanted to see if the birds would come back. They were still unsettled, flying about.

She's trying her best to build a home for her babies. She thinks she has chosen the perfect place for them. But it isn't. I want to pluck her out of the sky and tell her that she doesn't belong here. That this isn't the right place for her. That she needs somewhere safer. Somewhere that there is more protection from the outside world. Somewhere that her home won't be perched so precariously on a tiny ledge, ready to fall at any moment.

In the middle of my daydream where I was talking to this mama bird, I realized why her situation is so near and dear to my heart. And it has nothing to do with the inconvenience of having a nest on my front porch. It is because I see in this little bird so many things about my life.

I am so much that mama bird.

We came here, not knowing anything about the area. We thought we were doing the best thing for our babies. But we've been teetering out there on a ledge, ready to fall so many times. We haven't been safe from the outside world here. And I feel like here isn't where I belong.

I think, like her, I've tried to build my nest in the wrong place.

Or at least it feels that way.

Maybe I'm reading too much into the plight of this little bird. Maybe I'm seeing something that isn't there.

Or maybe, just maybe, this mama bird was sent to my home for a reason.

Maybe she can build this nest and protect her babies and live happily ever after. Maybe here isn't the wrong place after all. Maybe it just seems like it right now.

Or maybe she will realize it won't work and find somewhere else. Away from here. Only time will tell.

I'm rooting for her. I'm rooting for us both.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hole

I'd like to crawl into a hole for a while. I'd like to dig deep into the cool earth and tunnel out a secret place just for me. I could hide there when I need to escape everything else for a little while.

I'm a worrywart with a mountain of things to be concerned about. I'm a busy person with a serious overcommitment problem. I'm a neat freak in a house of chaos. I'm calm and balanced on the outside, but there are times that I just want to scream.

I'm a daughter and a mother, and I am having a hard time being both right now.

I could learn to let go of worry in the hole. Maybe.

I could learn to say no in the hole. Doubtfully.

I could keep my hole nice and tidy. Only as long as no one finds me.

I could scream in the hole. Quietly.

There are so many times that it would be nice to run away from it all. From everything. It just always seems like no matter how much is going on, there is always something more. Some new worry, some new responsibility, some mess to clean. Always.

But I'm not out in the yard digging a hole. Not yet anyway.

Though I'm not the biggest Foo Fighters fan in the house, I love them. Dave Grohl is seriously one of the funniest, most musically talented men of our generation. Plus, he got to hang with Kurt Cobain, so that just makes him awesome automatically.

I heard this song for the first time a few months back, at just exactly the time that it rang the truest. When I was traveling from one piece of my life to another, sitting on an airplane wondering why this was all happening. Music has a way of doing that to me.

I've found myself listening to this particular song a lot lately. Especially when I want to start digging that hole.

As Dave sings,

When the wheels touch ground
And you feel like it's all over
There's another round for you
When the wheels come down

Though there are days I want to grab my shovel and dig that hole, I haven't done it yet. If and when I do, I'm taking this song with me.

I have started to really hate that cliche that God will give you only as much as you can handle.

I'd be okay with handling less. Really.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONkiLR5Ehys
Foo Fighters, Wheels

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Nine

Nine years ago, my life changed forever. A tiny little boy came into my life, ahead of schedule.

We weren't ready for him. His room wasn't finished. My bag wasn't packed. The car seat was still in a box.

I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was getting sick. That I'd eaten something that disagreed with me. Nope, I was in full blown labor and didn't realize it.

People told us we had hours. So we acted like we did. I barely made it to the hospital.

I look back on that day now and remember feeling just about every emotion a human being is capable of. Fear. Joy. Shock. Sadness. Worry. Except it was all magnified. Bigger than it is for most new moms. He was in respiratory distress.

It all felt a little unfair.

After everything we'd already been through, the cancer, the pregnancy that defied all odds, the miscarriage, the months and months of trying, the diagnosis of infertility, the gestational diabetes. That wasn't enough? Even with all that, our test wasn't over.

I felt cheated. Felt like I had missed the ability, the chance, to bond with my baby they way I was supposed to. It was all taken away when he was rushed to the NICU that morning.

All those things we were worried about before, the car seat, the strollers, the bags unpacked, none of that mattered anymore. All that mattered was this fragile little boy.

He made it. And he turned out to be a mama's boy. My worries about bonding seem silly now, since he still tries to sit in my lap with every chance he gets. Even though he doesn't really fit anymore.

Beside me he sits now. Nervously anticipating another trip to the hospital. The unknown awaits him in that operating room. Awaits us all.

That fragile little baby turned somehow into the young man next to me, one with a with a gentle soul and a warm heart. I'm still not sure how that happened. It just can't have been that long.

He will always be my baby.

Happy Birthday Aidan.

My birthday post to him last year: http://debiehive.blogspot.com/2009/5/miracle.html

Friday, May 28, 2010

One Request

Dear AJ,

This is your mom. You know, that lady you love to embarrass in public when you poke me in the boob and blink your eyes at me and say, "eat, eat". That one.

I'm sitting here watching you chase your sisters around the kitchen wearing nothing but a diaper and some scabs on your forehead. Those little legs couldn't run any faster if they tried. You're laughing. Not just laughing, but laughing from your toes. Giggling. Squealing.

You surprised us all with your arrival into our family. Apparently we weren't as done as we thought we were. Now, it seems strange that we ever thought we were complete without you. I can't imagine what it would be like here if you weren't around.

You scared me back when you were in my tummy. Eager to get out early, you were. Earlier than your siblings. A lot earlier. Plus you were a boy and we live a mile above sea level and your brother had so many troubles, all red flags. You really scared me. Then you came and you were perfect. I should say thank you for that. I don't know that I could have quite handled another trip through the NICU.

You used to curl up in a teeny tiny little sweaty ball of baby and sleep on my chest. Oh, how I miss those days. That new baby smell. The squeaking little baby cries, the ones that required you to harness every ounce of your energy to make such tiny noises. The fists, all balled up.

You seemed to know right from the beginning that you'd be shuttled around. Put in slings, then carried in my arms, then pushed in strollers to and from. You knew you'd have to learn almost immediately to sleep when you got the chance, eat anything I shoved in your face, and sit and watch games and shows and practices for hours on end.

You gave all my other babies something they never had. A little brother.

You are wickedly independent, adventurous and wild. My life will be more interesting because of you. I just know that it will.

You know no fear. You know no limits. You aren't intimidated by your size, or the size of others. You'll keep up with them, I have no doubt.

You play hard, you sleep hard, and you love hard. Everything is always complete with you, nothing is ever partial or forced. Hugs, kisses, smooshed face time, you give them with everything you have, and demand the same in return.

You LOVE to color. Seriously.

You sing your heart out, you dance with joy. You'd sleep with a baseball if I let you.

You let your sisters dress you up and twirl you around.

You swing on the big boy swings, go up and down the big slides already, even though you're far too little for them. You ride scooters and climb up on the bikes, urging your legs to just grow already. You hitch rides on the back of tricycles. Jump off the stairs.

You make me tired. You make me worry. You make me proud. You make me laugh until I cry. You make me want to glance into the future and go back in time all at once. You bring me joy.

And when you are sick or tired or just need to be, you still climb up into my lap and fold into a ball with your sweaty little head resting on my chest.

If it isn't too much to ask, could you stay little for just a while longer?

Love, Mama

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ride

This morning, I am thankful for a great many things.

Thankful that I am blessed by wonderful friends who become my clients and who trust me to help them when they need it the most. Who let me into their lives and their hearts. Who let me hold their hands and wipe their tears. Answer their questions and calm their fears.

Thankful for all my mommy friends, many of which help me so that I may help others.

Thankful for my in-laws who willingly subject themselves to the chaos of temporarily parenting my kids when I need to be somewhere else.

Thankful for the fact that my husband bought pizza and soda last night. He knew that was exactly what I needed to come home to. Man, I was hungry by the time I got home. Labor can do that to a person, even when you aren't the who is in it.

Thankful for the end of the school year and the fact that I didn't have anywhere I needed to be early this morning. I needed to sleep just a little longer today.

Thankful for my healthy children and thankful for the fast and uncomplicated labors I have had.

But mostly this morning, I am thankful for doctors and nurses. The doctor who allowed my friend, my client, to do things her way, even though she didn't really want to. Who gave her the gift of trying. I am grateful for fast acting nurses, for a compassionate anesthesiologist who let me still help even when my time was done. Who understood that being a doula meant I had to help them even though I wasn't the one getting them through this delivery anymore.

Thankful for all those things that I stand against generally as a doula. Inductions and epidurals and internal monitors and c-sections. I am thankful for them this morning, because even though they might be used more often than they should, they are there when you really need them. And last night was one of those times.

A baby was coming, it is true. He just had plans that were different than ours.

It's a good lesson to be reminded of, really. Sometimes we are truly just along for the ride. I was glad to be on that ride with them last night. Everyone reached their destination safely, even if it was a bit scary there for a while.

A beautiful, wild, scary ride.

Happy Birthday Baby Boy

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Soapbox

Excuse me for just a moment. I'm about to climb up on my soapbox. If you don't want to read my opinions about something very close to my heart, then stop reading now.

Also, if you get squeamish when women talk about labor and mucus plugs and episiotomies, then you'd best stop now. Because really, they don't gross me out in the least. I could talk and talk and talk about these things. I guess that's part of why I'm a doula.

I've never quite understood how so many people are so terribly uncomfortable talking about pregnancy and labor. It is a part of the circle of life. To keep going on as a species, we have to have babies. And yes, that means that at some point, one human being needs to exit another.

I have a date with a labor & delivery unit this morning. A client, a good friend of mine, about to embark on the journey of induced labor. I'll be there to help rub her back, to remind her of what she wants when her body tells her to forget, to reassure her when the doubt inevitably sets in, to translate the language that doctors and nurses speak.

I love babies. Especially the fresh ones. I love being a doula.

I get to see the face of a baby often before anyone else does. I get to witness the amazing power of a woman as she realizes how strong she is. I sit in the hushed silence, when the world stops spinning just for a moment, as we wait for the baby to cry for the very first time. To go from being connected to that which created it, nourished it and protected it for nine months, to a living and breathing creature wholly separate. It's a tremendous physiological process to see happen, nothing short of a miracle every time.

If you've never been witness to a birth, I highly recommend it. It is really one of the most breathtaking things to see. And no, being there when you gave birth to your own babies does not count. Not at all.

I love being a doula. Not just for the women I help when they are in that place themselves, but for the others. Those who ask my advice, my opinion at other times. When they are struggling with infertility and feel like they are the only one who has ever felt this way. When they have lost a child and believe they will never be able to try again. When they are pregnant and have horribly embarrassing questions, even the ones they don't want to ask their doctors. When they need help with nursing or weaning. When they can't figure out what this rash is, or what this cry means. When they need help to work through what happened when they labored with their babies, whether it was ten minutes ago or ten years ago.

Women tell me things because I am a doula. They trust my knowledge and expertise, not because I have letters after my name, but because I have helped so many others. And I've often been there, wherever they are, myself.

What I find most troubling about the stories women tell me is that they so often felt like they had no choice. That they were at the mercy of their doctors, their nurses, their hospitals, the clock, the rules. That they never realized that they could ask questions before something was done to them. That they could say no, or that they could wait. The truth is that, as with most things in this life, the vast majority of what happens during labor allows time for choices to be made. Short of them wheeling you down the hallway for a crash c-section, there is time to ask questions. To wait and see. To give it another push, another minute, another hour.

But most women don't know that. And no one seems to be there to tell them. This is where I come in. Why I do what I do. It breaks my heart to hear stories of women that are defeated by labor. Who were subjected to interventions they didn't want or need. Who didn't know they had options. Who didn't know they could say no.

One of the first clients I helped had a labor experience like that. Things didn't go the way she wanted. In fact, they were just about exactly the opposite. Yes, she had the baby, but it wasn't a happy and peaceful labor story. It was a bad experience for her. So much so that she dreaded ever doing it again. She was terrified when she got pregnant again, afraid history would repeat itself.

By then, though, she had met me. I told her that it didn't need to be that way again. She doubted. I encouraged. I helped her take ownership of that second labor, though it took a tremendous amount of convincing on my part. But take ownership, she did. She even did the crazy things I asked her to. She did them with a vengeance and determination that surprised me. And it was a beautiful thing to see. She believed in her body again. She could have conquered the world that day, I think.

This is what is missing so often from childbirth these days. The ownership. I'm trying to change that, one woman at a time. No matter the circumstances, no matter the complications, we as a society need to give labor back to who it rightfully belongs to. Us.

I'll get down off my soapbox now. I have somewhere I need to be. I've got a date, and it's one that I can't be late for. A baby is coming.

A baby is coming.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Irony

All of my kids have allergies, thanks in large part to the wonders of genetics. I have allergies. Allergies to lots of things. Most of which have never been pinpointed. I've sneezed and sniffled and itched and broken out in hives. I'm allergic to typical seasonal airborne allergens, I'm allergic to ingredients in sunscreens and lotions and laundry detergents. I'm pretty sure I'm allergic to bees too. Only time will tell on that one.

Obviously I can't blame anyone but myself when it comes to the allergies my kids have. They got it from me. Stupid genes. Poor Aidan gets the itchy eyes. Ally breaks out in hives and has eczema patches almost constantly. Then there is Ashley. Poor Ashley.

She seems to have allergy induced asthma, which is of course aggravated by exercise. Not much fun. Her chest has been hurting all spring. She wants to run and play but it hurts to breathe. She's had to sit out recess and miss countless soccer practices.

Here's the irony. The cruel irony. Of all my kids, she needs activity the most. She needs to run and run and run until her body can run no more. She needs to get out every ounce of her pent up energy if there is any hope of her ever being able to focus and be still and listen.

Asthma and hyperactivity don't mix well. Trust me on this.

As if things aren't hard enough for my girl as it is, life has played this cruel joke on her.

I hope that whatever the source of her asthma trigger is coming down from it's peak season. This year has been particularly bad. I fully intend to have both the girls allergy tested so we can know what their triggers are, but I can't do that for a while. She has to be off all her allergy medications for a while before, and if I do that now, she'll end up in a full blown asthma attack. So we wait. Again, the irony.

Until then, I will try to balance getting her the activity she needs with the reality of her lungs. There is a fine line between playing and playing too much for her. Between running fine and being bent over coughing for ten minutes straight. I'll convince her that she needs to use her inhalers and nebulizer even when she feels okay right now because I know that a minute from now she won't. I can hear the squeak in her chest before she can, feel the rattle when she sits beside me, see the bags forming under her eyes. I know when it's coming.

I'll take deep breaths when she gets that crazed I need to run right now but can't look on her face, and instead starts to bounce off the walls in between coughing fits.

We'll get to the allergy doctor eventually and find out what is going on. Until then, I'll be mustering all the patience I can. She requires a lot of it. And I'm going to need it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

On

You don't really ever appreciate how fast it all goes. Days seem to drag on indefinitely, but the years fly by.

One day you have this little tiny new person to love. Then you blink and suddenly they are sitting in circle time on the very last day they will ever be in preschool.

As much as I am a fan of progress and moving forward, of milestones reached and hurdles jumped, today is bittersweet. My baby girl, the one who curled up on my chest for far too long, the one who nursed the longest of them all, the one who reminds me so constantly of me, is growing up.

She's in a hurry, not content to be little. She wants bigger, better. She wants to be older in the most desperate way. She wants to be grown.

She's not there yet, she's got a long way to go. But she's on her way. Whether I'm ready or not.

Advice

To all the men out there that read this....I have one small piece of advice for you today. It is this:

If your wife tells you that you should be nice to her, you should probably listen to her. I'm sure she has a really good reason for telling you to. I'm sure you are going kick yourself when you find out what that reason is. You shouldn't argue with her about stupid things. Really.

That's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Happy

My boy had his birthday party yesterday. He's not had one in a while. Not a real birthday party anyway. Last year he took a few friends to a movie, the year before that he had a sleepover, and the year before that one he had a few kids at the bowling alley. It's been four years since his last real birthday party.

He wanted one this year. And I was glad. Happy to worry about guest lists. Happy to make invitations. Happy to build a pinata from scratch and invent games for kids his age. Happy to make him a big giant cake just exactly like he wanted.

Aidan needed a birthday party this year.

Even though by this time of the year I am tapped out, I needed it too. May is a whirlwind. Church, scouts, sports, school - they all end this month. And at the end is my boy's birthday. His actual birthday isn't for another week, but we tend to celebrate early because his birthday inevitably falls on Memorial Day weekend. By then, school is out, vacations are started and his friends have scattered. So we do it a little early.

And this year he wanted a party. A real one. At home with lots of friends and games and a pinata and all that. A real one. We struggled with what to get the kids for party favors, since they are really past the age where goody bags seem right. We settled on getting the girls bracelets and the boys kites. For the most part, the kids were just fine with that.

Of course, there's always the kid who asks if this is all they are getting as he walks out the door. Shaking head....I thought it was Aidan's party. But I digress.

The kids came, and for the most part everyone got along. The older they get, the more drama there is. Kids start to lose the ability to just be friends with everyone, and it is sad to watch happen. They form alliances, shun outsiders. But at least while they were here, they all got along. (Not that I'd accept anything less than that, anyway....I'm not about to put up with anyone saying they aren't playing with someone else at my house.)

Tom taught the kids to play Red Rover. A sad sign of our times, most of the kids had never played it before. Really? I swear we played that at least once a week in elementary school. There were times we played with the WHOLE school. I'd suppose that, like most other playground games, some parent objected to it enough because their kid was the one picked first or last and that amounted to bullying in their eyes. Whatever the reason, the kids haven't ever played it. Sad. Tom taught them how to play, and it kept the kids busy for a good long while. From the five year olds to the nine year olds, and even the grown ups. How many games could you say that about?

Aidan helped me build the pinata, and it was sturdy enough that every single one of the kids got to hit it. Even the big boys. Before the party, he dug through all his LEGOs to find all his mini-figures for the game we made up. He helped me put together his cake, even though his helping directly resulted in the bottom half of one of the layers falling off. He didn't care. This was his party, and he wanted things his way.

One only needs to look at the expression on his face right as the candles were being lit on his cake to know how happy he was.

It was his birthday, and he got his party. The one that he wanted.

I'm not delusional. I know that this might be the last one. It probably is. He's hanging on so desperately to his childhood, but soon he'll start to want to let it go. He won't want a birthday party at home anymore. He'll rather hang out at the movies and ride go carts and play mini golf with his friends. It's coming.

But it's not here yet. And that's just fine with me.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Free

Five days from now, I will be free. Well, as free as the mother of four kids could ever possibly be, that is.

The last day of school is coming. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel....just have to get there. The last few days are always the craziest, and this year is shaping up to be the craziest of them all. I barely have time to think, let alone sit here and write.

Soon, though, I will have time.

And if ever there was a time in my life when I really just needed time, it's now. Time to snuggle my babies without worrying about who has to go where at what time. Time to sit around and watch cartoons in our pajamas and eat cereal at 10:30 because we were too busy playing to eat breakfast.

Time to play games and make puzzles and finish that Harry Potter book we are working on. Time to make homemade playdough and build blanket forts. Time to sit at the pool and splash in the water with friends.

Time to do nothing.

This summer is different than the last few. Usually we are running all over town every day, going to swimming and tennis and baseball and ballet and camps and more. Those summers we didn't have much free time. Not this year. I don't have much planned. I can't really. Though I haven't said much about it here, some of you know already that both the boys are scheduled for surgery in a few weeks. As a result, most of the summer is in a holding pattern. We can't really plan much until they are done and recovered.

Aidan is getting nervous. AJ is clueless. Soon they will both be hurting. And I hate that. If the surgeries could be postponed I would do it in a heartbeat, but we can't put them off any longer. We've pushed Aidan's off for as long as we could. He's ready to get it over with, but he's scared too. And he's sad that it's going to ruin his summer, part of it at least.

We get a little while to enjoy summer before the big day. And I fully intend to do that. I have plans, and they involve snuggling, pajamas, cartoons and cereal.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Work

I am unemployed. I don't have a "real" job. It's the truth. I haven't in a while, and the last few jobs I had weren't real ones. Part time fill-in-the-void jobs maybe, but not real ones.

I get harassed about this from time to time. And let me tell you, it gets old. Damn old. Like so old I want to scream. I'm sick of it. And I'm running low on patience right now.

I have lots of education in my past. Lots of degrees and training and preparation, it's true. And I have the giant student loans to go with it all. The loans that are the dark and looming cloud that follows me everywhere I go, a constant reminder of what could have been. Where I was supposed to be. What I was supposed to do. But I'm not that person anymore. I am mom. And I'm the stay at home variety.

I don't have a job. At least according to some people.

I think it is somewhat amusing that those who claim that stay at home moms don't work have never done it themselves. Never had to clean up barf for 6 hours straight or hold down a screaming toddler at the pediatrician's office. Never had to chase a running four year old who knows no fear. Never tried to grocery shop when the cart is already full of kids and there isn't room for food. Never drove to the same school six times in one day. Never tried to mop a floor with three helpers. Never gotten up every single morning and done it again.

They have no idea what they are talking about.

I've had jobs. I've even had "real" jobs. Being a mom is harder. Promise.

I've talked many times about getting a job. I can't though. I have way too many prerequisites for this job. This job doesn't exist. If you've seen it, let me know. I know about a hundred moms who would love to apply. Here are the requirements:

1) It must be between the hours of 10am and 2 pm. I can't do earlier or later, have to drive kids to and from school.

2) I have to be able to leave anytime, with a moment's notice, because my husband's real job is too important for him to leave when something happens.

3) I need to be able to answer the phone all the time. I don't care what you want me to do at work, the kids might need me, and they are WAY more important than what I am doing here.

4) I need sick days. A ton of them. Not just for me, but for anytime any of the kids are sick. No, my husband can't do it. See #2 above for reason.

5) I need the summer off. You heard me right. The whole thing. Again, see #2.

6) I also need all school vacations off. All the random teacher work days, need those off too. By now you know to see #2.

7) Oh, and the first Wednesday of every month, need to be off the whole morning. Late start for all schools in the district. (You know where I am going with this...)

8) I need off for all important class parties and days that the kids receive awards or do presentations. The kids won't remember the things I am there for, they will remember the one time I'm not.

9) The job must not involve any more interpersonal drama than I can handle. I get enough with the kids and the teachers and the friends and the moms and the PTO.

10) You have to pay me a lot. Like, A LOT. Enough to make me feel like my education is being put to good use. Enough to buy me clothes that I could actually wear to work. God knows I don't have any of those anymore. And enough for me to get my hair cut and dyed on a regular basis. I need to look presentable. Not to mention paying for all the gas and incidental day care I may have to pay for.

Have any of you seen this job? I've been looking for years. Until you find it, stop giving me a hard time for staying home. I'll let you do my job anytime. We'll see how easy you think it is. Maybe, just maybe you'd realize that being a stay at home mom is a job. A real one. It just happens not to involve a paycheck.

I'm unemployed. But I promise you I work harder now than I ever have in my life. And even though this job doesn't pay, it's the best one out there.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thunder

Sometimes we all just need a break. From life. From responsibilities. From worry and obligation. From rushing and running. From it all. And sometimes that break is forced upon us.

We need to be stopped in our tracks. We need to take heed and put aside whatever doesn't matter. We need to protect what is the most important and sometimes we need real, tangible reasons to do that. And those reasons come often here this time of year. Storms.

There aren't many times that I get a break. Hardly ever it seems. For even when I am not needing to do anything else, my mind is going a million miles a minute. Even my dreams are often interrupted, invaded. There isn't much peace in my world right now. There is always something. And the somethings seem to be piled upon one another so high that I can't see over the heap anymore. I can't see past the storm.

Sometimes though, we need to feel small and insignificant. We need to be humbled. We need to be reminded that though our worries seem great and our troubles many, there are larger powers in this world. Bigger forces at work. Things we have no control over at all, and are at the mercy of. Things we can't avoid or ignore or outrun. Things we can try to hide from, though we know our efforts mean little.

Mother Nature has a way of providing perspective. She did so today, as she often does here. In the midst of everything else I was doing and planning and thinking and worrying, she came. She roared in, interrupting. She scared my children, forced them to cling to me tight. She made me forget the rest of everything, if only for a moment. She told me that none of that mattered right now.

I was to hug my babies and watch the sky. I was to be still and listen.

The sky darkened. The rain came and washed everything clean. The thunder roared from the skies above, bounced off the mountains and came back again. As quickly as it came it was gone.

For me, this storm arrived.

I needed it to. Because the sky is never as blue as it is behind a storm. The grass never smells as good as it does in the minutes once the rain ends. The birds chirp louder. Only after the storm can we know we have made it through. No matter how big that storm is, no matter how scary it is, no matter if you swear you can't see past it, it does not go on forever. Eventually, it ends.

I will weather my storms. I will do it because I know that someday a brilliant blue sky will greet me on the other side.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bridge

I am new to this whole scouting thing. I was never a girl scout or a daisy or a brownie. I went to a meeting exactly once, for less than five minutes, and decided immediately that I wanted nothing to do with it. They were sewing. I didn't want to sew. My mom tried to talk me into it, but there wasn't anything that would have talked me into it.

My brother wasn't a boy scout. None of my friends ever did it either. It wasn't even on my radar.

But then I met this guy. He was a boy scout. Had been for a long time. He loved being a boy scout. Went on crazy 50 mile backpacking trips through the mountains. Got poison oak at least twice a year. Knew how to tie knots. Could build a great campfire, and could almost always light it (with the help of some white gas of course...he wasn't that good of a boy scout).

One day, that guy became my husband. Then the father of my children. And he wanted his children to love scouting as much as he did.

I was reluctant. The scouts had earned themselves some bad press, they'd made some policy decisions that both he and I didn't particularly agree with. It would still be good for the kids, he argued. He won.

And this week, this crazy busy week, my two scouts ended another year. My Daisy bridged to Brownies and my Bear Cub is now a Webelo. Another year over. Of camping and singing and car races and crafts. Of very first sleepovers and slingshots and bows and arrows. They've learned to tie ties. They have met an astronaut, they've raised money for their causes. They've made new friends and kept the old.

Though I know nothing about scouting, and am learning it all for the first time with them, I don't have to be familiar with the traditions and ceremonies to understand the pride my little girl felt as she put on her Brownie vest for the very first time. Or how my son feels when he sees his uniform, full of patches and pins and belt loops, each holding special significance to him.

I am learning with them, and through them, that being a scout is more than attending the meetings. It's more than fulfilling the minimum requirements. It's not just about the patches and the recognitions and the camps and all that. It's about friendship circles and secret handshakes. It's about being a part of something.

And they are. We all are. Next year, Ally will start Daisies. And my official journey with leadership will begin. I've helped with fundraising for the boys, now I will learn to lead a group of little girls. To teach them to make a friendship circle and to hold their hands as they cross a bridge.

After all these years, I am finally going to be a girl scout. I guess it's never too late to try something new.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Run

I want to run. Sounds crazy, yeah?

It could just be that I'm all amped up from needing to use my inhaler twice today. There's a reason supermodels use those things to stay thin. Wheee!!!

I had an overwhelming urge to run in college once. I was all hopped up on caffeine then, having downed way too many cups of coffee immediately before stepping foot into a 3 hour long class which required me to sit and be still and not fidget constantly.

I used to run. I liked it. It was the fastest way to lose weight. So I ran, and I liked it. Which is mind boggling considering how bad I am at it. You know, those sad videos on youtube poking fun at the uncoordinated? That's me running. That bad.

I blame my lack of coordination on the fact that I never was allowed to run as a kid. My knees have been messed up since I was little, and anything strenuous was frowned upon. I never had a chance to learn how to become coordinated. And now that I'm a grown up, I believe that ship has sailed.

Since having kids, I haven't run unless I had to. Running has been relegated to the times when a child was in mortal danger. Then, and then only. That, and if something big and scary was chasing me. I suppose I'd run then too. But only if it was big and scary.

I know a lot of people. And some of them run on purpose. Still. And they aren't even in high school anymore. Some of them are crazy enough to run marathons and compete in triathlons. What is wrong with them? Just thinking about it makes my muscles twitch. But then I wonder. Could I run again? Maybe.

I wish that I didn't suck at it. I wish that my knees functioned the way they were supposed to and wouldn't require pain killers and ice packs. I wish that I had a smooth stride and didn't look like a slow-motion flailing mess when I run.

But I do suck at it. And I've made my peace with it. Really.

Unfortunately, I also made a promise to my son. To encourage him to have a more active lifestyle, I made him a deal. After he recovers from his surgery this summer, we're going to run. Him and I. If he'll do it, I will too.

Poor boy, Aidan, getting his athletic abilities from his mom. Got my coordination too.

But later this summer, we'll be out there. Put your videocameras away. I don't want to see this on youtube. Seriously.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Moments

Life is but a series of moments made into memories, held together by all the inconsequential things that happen in between.

There's my deep thought of the day.

I didn't get anything written last night. My husband protested. And I obliged. He wasn't interested in taking his typical evening nap in his recliner while I pecked away at the keys. No, he said. Not tonight.

You see, he'd been to the liquor store. And he had already dragged out the fire pit. He had a plan. Get the little people to bed, first. Then spend three uninterrupted hours with his wife.

We talked for the first time in a really long time about things. There are a lot of things to talk about these days, but it's almost as if there isn't enough time in the day for us to ever talk about them. Most of them are the things you don't really want to talk about anyway. There is always too much else to do. Places to go, games to watch, parties to plan. Stuff. We get so caught up in everything else that half the time when the kids get to bed, we shut down.

He naps. I write.

But not last night. He had a plan.

And we had a moment. A long one. And we both realized again that even though here isn't where we ever planned to be, and the things that happen around us and to us aren't always in our control, we are united. We have to be right now. The road we've already traveled has been a bumpy one. There have been turnoffs in that road we didn't anticipate. Roadblocks. Detours. Rest stops. There are more waiting, for sure. Some we can see coming up ahead in the distance, but some I know will be there without any warning at all. Some will come from out of nowhere and sideswipe us when we least expect it.

As long as we're in the same car going down that road, we'll be okay though. We have to be. We've got too many passengers along for the ride.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Back

If I could go back in time, I know there are a lot of things I would tell myself. Things I would warn myself about. Things I would change, do differently. A lot of them.

Hindsight is 20/20, so they say. It's too bad that foresight couldn't be that way at least occasionally. Sure would be nice if we could know what the future held and make adequate preparations for it. To know when to save that money, when to splurge on that vacation, when to leave sooner, when to linger longer. If only.

There isn't much ever to be gained from looking back on the past with regret. The coulda, shoulda, wouldas. We all have them. Some more than others, I suppose. And right about now it seems like I have a ton of them.

There is an argument to be made that we reflect on the past so that we can do things differently in the future. That we are intended to learn from our mistakes, to remember the consequences of our choices and change them if need be.

But what about the times where there isn't a chance to ever do it again? What about when there will be no opportunities to redeem yourself? When that ship has sailed, never to return again? And there aren't any boats left in the harbor.

Sometimes life just sucks. And you don't get a chance to warn yourself it's gonna.

But then I guess you wouldn't want to know, right? Better to go on living life blissfully oblivious to what is coming.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Edge

You ever feel like you are this close to losing it? Like you are teetering precariously out there on a limb, waiting for it to snap at any moment? Like at any second you could shatter into a million pieces? Like every single time you turn on the radio, there is some song playing that conjures up all kinds of emotions? Every time that someone asks how you are doing, you say that you are okay or alright or fine when you are anything but?

I've been feeling that way for months.

I never know if I'm going to wake up on a given morning and have a good day. If it's going to be a positive day filled with joy and happiness, healthy distractions from everything else. Or if it's going to be a day filled with reminders of reality, of fear and anger and sadness. I never know.

I never know if tonight will be a night I can sleep, or if it will be one that keeps me staring at the ceiling for hours on end. I never know if I'll be up with worry and thoughts and the inevitable heartburn that accompanies my stress. I never know.

If it wasn't for the fact that I have a very good reason for being on this edge, I'd say that I'm starting to lose my mind a bit. That I need professional help. For surely, it's not normal to be this unhinged. Particularly for someone like me, who once upon a time used to pride herself on being such a grounded and balanced person.

Used to be.

The thing is, to most people, I still am that grounded and balanced person. The mom who somehow gets it all done. I put on a great show. I say that I'm fine and other people believe it. Most other people. There are those who see through my disguise. Who know that though I'm a good liar, I'm not a great one.

I try to put on the show. I try to keep it hidden. I try.

First on that list of people who see the real me is my husband. For better or worse, right? We've been through some crazy ups and downs together. Personal tragedies and triumphs. Unflattering moments and amazing experiences. These past few months have been hard. Hard for me, sure. But hard for him too. Hard enough for him to deal with it all himself. Plus, he has to live with me.

He has to deal with not ever knowing what kind of day today will be. He has to know that sometimes I need to take a nap when he is home in the middle of the day because it is easier for me to sleep when the sun is up. He has to let me cry at stupid movies and shows and songs and commercials because they brought to the surface some emotion I'd been suppressing. He has to be there to watch the kids when I can't cry in front of them and have to leave. He has to know that though nothing seems right in my world right now, I'm doing the best I can.

He has to know that I'm out there, so close to the edge I can feel the wind rising up from below. And he knows that he needs to be there to pull me back in.

I love him. I love him because he does all the things he has to do. Even if he doesn't want to. He does. He knows that I need him right now. And he loves me enough to let me need him the way I do.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Eyeliner

I wear makeup every day. Can't. Leave. The. House. Without. It. I'm the girl who puts makeup on to go to the gym. It's not for any of the typical reasons that women wear makeup though. It doesn't really have anything to do with enhancing my appearance. It's because my skin is atrocious. It's scarred from decades of acne. It's blotchy and just generally not good. Most of the time, I wear pretty neutral stuff. You know, put on makeup so it doesn't look like I am wearing any. I've actually had a few people tell me how nice my skin is before, while I laughed inside my head. If only they knew.

I went and got myself some new makeup last week. Not new, as in never had it before, but new as in it needed replaced since I had run out of it a long time ago and never got any more. That kind of new. I don't do the other kind of new well. I've bought and thrown away a ridiculous amount of makeup over the years. Some just looks bad, some does funky things to my skin, some makes me break out in hives. I decided against branching out and being adventurous this time. I got a new lip gloss and two eyeliners.

Clutching my little bag of goodies, I left the store and drove to preschool to pick up Ally. I put some of my new eyeliner on in the car, just because I was excited to have new makeup. It doesn't happen often, and I know that it's just a matter of time before the girls get into it. For now, though, it was new. And it was mine. It screamed put me on! Put me on now!

So I did. I thought it looked nice. It's been a while since I had eyeliner on. I went and picked up Ally and walked back to the car. My adorable five year old daughter, who happens to be a huge girly girl and lover of all things makeup, looked at my eyes weird. She saw the bag and knew immediately that I got new makeup. She looked at my eyes again and asked if that was my new makeup. Then she told me that with that stuff on my eyes, I looked old. Aren't kids awesome?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hug

I'm sending a hug today to someone who needs it.

That someone who isn't so sure about anything these days. Who needs encouragement, support and love, but feels like she is getting anything but all that.

The thing about plans is that they are made to be broken. And sometimes when those plans are broken, we are left wandering without a goal or purpose. I'm here to tell you that you still very much have that goal and purpose, even if others have you doubting that today. It's just different now.

It won't get easier. I can promise you that. But you've got what it takes to get through this. And you will.

I hate cliches. Really, I do.

But this one comes to mind this morning, as I am trying to find a way to communicate to you what I think.

When God closes a door, he opens a window.

Don't be so sad about that door closing that you forget to look out the window. You've got lots of windows. You just have to see them through the tears. They are there, I promise.

Fence

I'm torn. Not quite sure what to do right about now. I've been doing this for a while now. I started it as a way to get back in the habit of writing on a regular basis. To refine my style.

I started writing a book before this. And I stopped. It got too hard, emotionally, for me to work on it all the time. Essentially, it is a memoir, though I'm not sure it will stay that way. I'd prefer to fictionalize it eventually. It's a hard thing to relive those times in my life.

I have since started another one, I think. I'm not sure where the second one will ever go, if anyone else is ever permitted to lay eyes on it at all. That one I work on diligently. But for what? So that I can read it? What's the point, right?

I've been asking myself that lately.

I say that I want to be a writer. I consider myself to be one already, I guess. Just an unpaid one. I've published things before, though wholly unrelated to anything I write about these days. That was in my former life. Back when I was going to be an attorney, passionate about public interest law. Back then.

I've been debating whether to push the blog further. I have opened it up to more people lately, drawn in followers and readers I don't know. There are tons of ways that I could market it more. Attempt to connect with blog networks. Get advertisers. Figure out how to generate an income from it. It would be a lot easier to sign a book deal if I already had an established following, if I ever get to that point.

Here's the thing, though. I'm not entirely sure I want to. I write the best about the things that mean the most to me. And I'm not entirely sure that I want a whole bunch of complete strangers to be reading these things.

It's my fence and I'm sitting on it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Punked

A few months back we were watching some awards show, either the AMA's or the Grammy's. Tom has a habit of finding something else to do while those shows are on. Even though he is a huge music lover, he doesn't love all types of music. Some of it he can't stand to listen to at all. Some of it he pretends to hate, but I call him on it. Big fat liar.

Like Kanye. He hates Kanye as a general proposition. He hates the way he acts. The attitude. The preachy nature of his being. But he loves Kanye. He loves Kanye for the same reason that Kanye loves Kanye. He is freaking awesome. He is as good as he thinks he is. Really. And that bugs Tom. He hates that he loves Kanye. It's okay though, I'm sure Kanye doesn't mind. Part of his deal is that he wants some people not to like him. Besides, it's not like middle aged white guys are Kanye's target audience anyway.

It's not just Kanye though. He isn't much a fan of country. He doesn't like metal and he doesn't like gospel. He doesn't like the old bands that stick around too long and seem to perform every year. With each passing performance, you can understand fewer and fewer of their lyrics, they move a little slower, shake it a little less. There really should be an age limit on leather pants, don't you think?

He doesn't watch the shows. But he usually is cooperative and leaves the room so I can enjoy them. When whichever of the shows that comes to mind now was on, I called him into the room. There was something he'd want to see. Green Day. His all time favorite band. Well, them and Foo Fighters and U2 (but only the non-weird stuff).

Anyway, Green Day was performing. Figured he'd want to watch. He saw them at Lollapalooza in college. Back when they were still pretty new. He wore his Lollapalooza shirt to work on a Saturday this tax season only to have a conversation with one of his employees about it. About how long ago that was. About how this employee was only in elementary school back then. About how old we were. You mean that was 16 years ago? Nah, really? We can't be that old.

Suddenly Billy Joe looked a little too old to still be rocking that punk haircut. Behind the band at some point midway through the performance came a group of people. Back up singers. Green Day didn't have back up singers. After the set was over, an explanation came. The back up singers weren't back up singers, but the lead performers in a new musical based on the music of Green Day.

Back the bus up. Green Day has a musical??? What is the world coming to? I couldn't help but laugh as my dear husband quickly realized that we were that old. That Green Day was that old. It's hard to be edgy when you're pushing 40. I made a comment about how funny it was that this particular band, which always supported standing up to the establishment now inspired a musical. Ha!

My husband, bless his heart, he tried to come to Billy Joe's defense. To protect the reputation of the band he so loved. He wanted to make it better, make it not seem so bad. But, I kid you not, these are the words that came out of his mouth:

It's not so bad, right? I mean ABBA had a musical, right?

That's when I really lost it. The giggles I had been working to suppress came screaming out. I'm sure that the Green Day of 16 years ago would never have imagined that one day they would inspire a musical. They would have laughed at the thought, I'm sure. The only thing in the world that would have been more offensive to Green Day 16 years ago than the fact that they inspired a musical was the fact that my husband, one of their biggest fans, compared them to ABBA.

We really are that old.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Button

If I've done this right (and God only knows how technologically incompetent I am...), this should work. I've created a button, or a clickable link that you can add to your blogs if you'd like to. If you copy and paste the html below the image, you can add it to your html through a widget on your host. Crossing my fingers...

DeBie Hive

Wings

It's only natural that I should worry about my children. It's part of the job description, after all. I'm supposed to preoccupy myself with their fears and their challenges. With their hopes and their dreams. With their gifts in this world, and the struggles they face.

It is made all the more difficult by the fact that I have so many of them. And they are all so vastly different from one another. So, so very different. I don't think they could be more different if they tried.

One of the things I always find amusing about having children is that other people so frequently mistake them for each other. Especially the girls, since they are in the middle. People comment all the time about how much they look alike, when to me they look nothing alike. People who don't know them well enough seem to think they are alike in other ways. That their personalities are the similar. That they have the same likes and dislikes, when they so clearly do not. They are really nothing alike.

And that is what makes being a parent so challenging. I'm convinced that you could have a dozen kids, and that last one would present you with new issues the others never did. With each child comes a new set of problems. New quirks. New worries.

I worry about all my kids, and I worry about different things for each of them. I worry less for some, more for others. And I worry the most for my Ashley. She really and truly is like a butterfly. She is quiet and reserved, she is magnificent and beautiful, she flutters and flits, she is fragile and easily broken.

I worry for her. Everything in this life, it seems, is just harder for her. It always has been. I often find myself being reminded of that. She doesn't transition well. It takes her a long time to be comfortable in any situation. Sometimes it's as if she isn't even comfortable in her own skin.

It's made harder by the fact that she is rapidly approaching that time in life where she is no longer a little girl anymore, but not even close to a young woman. She is stuck, somewhere, uncomfortably, in the middle. At times she wants so desperately to spread her wings and fly, but others she feels safer nestled in her cocoon.

Her heart is pure. She loves without question, and is hurt easily. She's already begun to have conflicts with the other girls at school. Girls. God, they can be terrible sometimes. And it will only get worse.

It's hard to parent a child like her. It takes more thought, more planning, more sensitivity to her reality. Things, words, actions, they all mean more to her than they do to her siblings. She often is treated differently than they are. There are times that we, as her parents, have to throw fairness and equality out the window. She is not like them, and we can't pretend to make her so.

She is my butterfly. I've helped to nurture her, I've taught her to spread her wings. But she has to believe she can fly, and I cannot do that for her. Some days she believes, others she doesn't. For as long as she needs it, her cocoon, her center, will be here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wrong

We've been watching The Pacific, a mini-series on HBO. It follows Marines through WWII.

It's extraordinarily well done. Though I've never been anywhere near a war, I'd imagine it was something like the hell portrayed on the screen. It's depressing to become connected to the stories of these characters, only to watch them killed in the next episode.

But, what is worse, this is real. These things really happened. The particular stories of the soldiers are fictionalized, but the rest of it is based entirely on real events.

I cannot even fathom the horrors these men, these boys, must have seen. The piles of rotting bodies. Holding the hands of their dying friends. The fear in the faces of their fellow soldiers, the fear in the eyes of their enemies. The image of a woman carrying a crying child, making her way through the lines of soldiers, only for them to learn that she was a weapon. The baby a vessel for a bomb.

To watch these characters get sucked deeper and deeper into the war, to watch some of them go from naive young soldiers to almost soulless vigilante assassins, is disturbing to say the least. Some of them seem to have a personal vendetta against every single enemy soldier. Determined to kill them. The war, the fighting, having forced them to lose their conscience. The way that war can change people is frightening.

One only needs watch 3 minutes of this show to fully comprehend why soldiers have a hard time readjusting when they come home from war. Any war. Then. Now.

The one thought running through my head the entire time we have been watching this is we humans, as a species, are far too powerful. We lack the ability to control ourselves and can cause great destruction. Massive destruction. We fight. In the name of religion. In the name of pride. For land. For power. For money. We fight.

We can lose our lives. We can lose our homes. We can lose our sense of security. Worst, we can lose our souls.

If ever there was a way to teach people to be peace loving, it is through the use of films like this. Only though seeing the horror of war, the ugly and unedited truth, can we find a reason to stop it. And we must.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mama

My life is crazy. It's chaotic and hectic and harried and hurried. My needs are always pushed to the back burner. Someone else always needs something more. It's just how it is.

I haven't been on a real vacation in over a decade. I drive a, gulp, minivan. A dirty minivan. I routinely spend more money on my oldest child's shoes than my entire wardrobe. I choose earrings that can be ripped out by grabby toddlers without hurting my ears. I live in a ponytail most days because my hair is fun to pull too.

I've spent an insane amount of time figuring out activities that interest all the kids. I drive back and forth and drop off and pick up all the time. I have eaten left over macaroni and cheese more times than I care to count.

I've abandoned my career aspirations, let go of my prior life. I've gone from Kelly to Aidan's mom. Ashley's mom. Ally's mom. Soon, I'll be referred to as AJ's mom too.

I've learned to remove just about any stain from any item. I've swept the same floor five times in one day. I've done over 10 loads of laundry at a time.

I've called Children's Hospital at 2am. I've carried a child into an operating room. I've shielded my babies from hail, trying to outrun a tornado. I've sat and held the hand of a fragile and sick baby boy. I've lost a child.

I've been so happy I've cried tears of joy. I've been too scared to even realize how afraid I was. I've been overcome with sadness when my babies were hurt by those they trusted.

I've been a mom, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. Whether your babies are grown, whether they are home with you now, or whether they have left this world, they are life's greatest gift. They are what make us who we are.

I am blessed to have been the mother of five. I am blessed.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cinderella

I'll just come right out and say it. Shoes. I love them.

Once upon a time, long before I had kids, I could spend hours at the mall looking at shoes. Hours. The shoe stores, the full spectrum of them from the cheapest to the most pricey, they would call my name. Lure me in. Full of that new shoe smell, they were.

The best shoes were the virgins. You ladies (and some of you guys) out there know exactly what I am talking about. The ones that no one but me had ever laid eyes on. The ones that were so fresh from their box that the toes were all still stuffed, the tissue paper wrapping uncrinkled. I got to unwrap them, my toes touched them before anyone else's had.

I spent hours trying them on. Occasionally, a lucky new pair got to come home with me. Usually not the version of the shoe that I really wanted. Never the ones handmade of the finest leathers by fancy designers. I took home the knock offs. The ones on sale.

I never had the money to blow on really good shoes. Especially the really good shoes that served no practical purpose aside from making me giddy with delight. I shopped for those shoes, but I didn't buy them. At least not often. I had to have an excuse to do that. Like when I got married, good excuse. The shoes I bought for my wedding cost more than my veil, headpiece, and a bunch of other things combined.

I think most women, myself clearly included, are a bit like Cinderella. We are constantly in search of that fabulous glass slipper. The shoe that was made just for me. That is perfectly molded to just my foot. That goes with everything. That makes me more beautiful, but more importantly makes me feel more beautiful. That makes men swoon and other women envious. That would be a kick ass pair of shoes.

I have long since given up my shoe shopping days. Pregnancy enhanced the size of my feet, unfortunately permanently. I had a great assortment of 7 1/2 shoes. Heels, boots, sandals, formal, informal, some wicked awesome. Darn those pregnancy side effects. None of them fit after my first was born, and I parted with them.

Plus, coupled with the fact that I no longer could draw on my vast shoe resources, I had to come down to Earth and was forced into practicality. I had a toddler. And that particular toddler was a runner. After I twisted my ankle chasing said runner while wearing a pretty sweet pair of platform sandals, I begrudgingly put them aside. I could only wear shoes I could run in. That eliminates a lot of shoes.

Since my journey with running toddlers and bigger feet began, my shoes have been pretty unexciting. Mostly flip flops, and dammit I wear them all year. I don't care if it's snowing. They aren't even fabulous flip flops, they're from the clearance rack.

A while back, a friend asked if I'd ever been inside DSW, a new high end discount shoe store that opened in town. I hung my head, sadly, and shook it back and forth to signal that no, I haven't. Sigh. I haven't been shoe shopping, really shoe shopping in close to a decade. I can't. I really, really, really want to, but I can't. I've deliberately avoided going in that store. I still don't have the money for fabulous shoes, plus now I have four kids to chase.

Ally, my girl, is a fashionista in the truest sense of the word. What other almost five year old would request shoes for her birthday? She specifically wanted Lelli Kelly's, which run about $80. No lie. Girl's got good taste. I knew that the only way she'd be getting them was if I could find them at a department store discount place. I checked all the ones in town. No luck. Went to Famous Footwear, and they had some Skechers she might like, but nothing else. I glanced across the highway. DSW. I wonder if they had kid's shoes. It couldn't hurt to check, right? I mean, it isn't like I was looking for me or anything.

I took a deep breath and I walked in, kids in tow, to look for the shoes. The shoes for Ally, that is. Turns out DSW doesn't carry kid's shoes. But, wow. Seriously. It's like shoe heaven. AND, there is a giant room in the back of clearanced shoes. I could spend days there.

I was good. Like so good that I deserve an award. I didn't even look at the shoes. I didn't peruse the aisles. I didn't try on that really fabulous pair of strappy sandals that were in the front display. I was in the store, literally, for less than 2 minutes. As I was making my way to the exit (okay, so I was practically jogging towards the door, since I knew I had to leave), a lovely saleswoman came trotting over to ask if I needed any help. Help? Here? Lord no, I'd be just fine here. Me and the shoes. We could have a lovely time together. I don't need any help.

But I left. And those shoes, those rows and rows of shoes, I left them behind.

Maybe someday I can go back to dreaming about my glass slippers. Maybe. Mama needs a new pair of shoes.

Okay, so Mama doesn't need a new pair of shoes....but she sure would love one.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Licked

In the spirit of yesterday's post, I figured that this was the next logical place to go. We, as moms, often put ourselves last. We go too long between haircuts. We sacrifice manicures and pedicures for the sake of new baseball gloves and ballet shoes. We give up our sleep. We buy our clothes off the clearance rack while our kids get the nice stuff. It's just part of life.

Eventually, though, it all gets to you. You start to just feel...well, like a mom.

In the crazy lives that we lead, shuttling kids to and from every activity known to man, birthday parties, playdates, soccer games and school functions, we all start to lose a bit of our identity. A bit of our oomph. It's inevitable. We get caught up in mothering.

We've long since been wooed by our husbands, and though there are the occasional romantic gestures, there's not the same sense of urgency in the pursuit of said romance. Things become routine. Predictable. Lacking in oomph.

I was talking to some friends about this, about how every once in a while, it's good to know you've still got "it". How even though most of us would never really contemplate straying from our husbands, it is nice to know that there are other men in the universe who still notice us. Who don't see us as carpool driving, snot smeared, frazzled moms. Who see us, instead, as women. Living, breathing, beautiful women.

Of course, as we were in the middle of this conversation, a grown man walked up to the window next to our table at the restaurant and licked the window. I am so not kidding, this totally happened. Like I said, we don't want to actually be pursued. We just want to know we are still worth pursuing. Good lord, I can't imagine ever dating again. Having said that, it's kinda nice to have your window licked, even if it is by an obnoxious grown man.

After we recovered from the window licking incident, I told them about my most recent experience with men in the universe who aren't my husband. When I was waiting for my last flight home in the airport, I went into the bar to have a beer. I needed to decompress from the events of the past week and desperately needed some alcoholic assistance to get on that plane. I sat down, alone, in a bar. The Laker game was on. I needed the distraction.

I was fine, sitting there alone. Then, with no prompting from me whatsoever, the person next to me said hello. Only then did I notice it was a man. A nice looking one, a tall Swedish doctor, and he wanted to talk to me. Wanted to buy me a drink. Wanted to know what my interests were. Where I went to college. Really? No one ever asks me this kind of stuff. Ever. I'm just a mom.

I'm just a mom. But to him, I wasn't. I was a woman in a bar and he wanted to buy me a drink. Completely harmless, but man did it feel good.

It's nice to know you've still got it. Sometimes you have to hang out at the airport to realize it. And, yes, sometimes, it means you get your window licked.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hot

I know where these thoughts have been coming from. It just took a while for it all to click. My synapses are failing to fire the way that they should these days. (That neuro humor is for you, Blythe) I'd blame mommy brain, but it's more likely attributable to chronic sleep deprivation. Anyhow, it finally dawned on me why I've had babies on the brain lately. A blog, not mine, but one that I follow, the writer of which just had a baby girl. CJane. You can find her through the link on my margin or here: http://blog.cjanerun.com/

If I've not been organized enough to write a post ahead, I often find myself reading the blogs I follow in the morning, pondering the topic of the day. Well, as is probably fairly obvious to anyone who reads this, I've been thinking about babies lately. And she's to blame. But in a good way.

I had to laugh reading her post this morning. About how she is uncool and not at all put together in any way since having her second baby. How she feels sloppy and disheveled. I remember feeling that way. I've been down that road a few times. But that road of aches and leaks and sloshy cankles comes to an abrupt end at some point in the days or weeks after you give birth.

And when it does, whoa nelly.

I remember being delusional, especially the first time around. After being swollen and round for so long, once the baby is on the outside and you sort-of get your body back, you feel light and airy. No longer full of baby, plus now you have a really great rack. Once the waters receded and you have defined ankle bones again, you feel sexy. You don't just think you look good, you know you do.

You know how hot you are, how fantastic you look. That is, until some time passes and you find a picture that someone else took of you in that time period. When you were hot. Then you realize just how delusional you were.

Because staring back at you from inside that picture is anything but a hot mama. She's got bags under her eyes. Her hair is a mess. She still appears sort-of pregnant. She's not rocking that outfit, and she's got spit-up on her shoulder. But, damn, you thought you looked good.

I remember talking to a good friend about it at the time. Wondering aloud why no one ever tells you how much of a mess you really are. Why instead they always say that you look great. They're liars. All of them. They mean well, these liars. And really, you probably wouldn't want anyone pointing out what a mess you are. The pictures, however, don't lie.

Happy Mother's Day to all the hot mamas out there, delusional or not. You know you look good.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Breathe

It was windy yesterday. Insanely windy. Like, hold on to small children tight windy. I don't like the wind. Never have. Then, I'd have a hard time imagining anyone that does. A nice gentle breeze, maybe. Wind, no. Unless there is something really wrong with them.

It probably has something to do with the fact that I grew up in a tremendously windy place. Mom and Dad's house is right below a canyon in Southern California, and whenever the Santa Anas kick up, it's awful. Growing up, there were several months of the year that I never bothered doing anything with my hair. There really was no point. My eyes would itch, I would cough and sneeze. It was terrible. I hated the wind.

When I moved to San Diego, it was nice. Occasionally we would get the wind there, but it was nothing like home. Sure, we had a few windstorms worth mentioning, the worst of which knocked a huge branch off the tree in our backyard. We were damn lucky that it didn't hit the house or the fence. But it wasn't all the time. There wasn't a wind season.

When we moved to Colorado, I knew that it would be windy. Well, windier than it was in San Diego anyhow. I used to make fun of that area for having such dull and predictable weather. Every day, 70s and partly cloudy. It got old, don't get me wrong. The monotony. The lack of any discernible seasons. But man, do I miss it now. There is a reason people pay a lot of good money to live there. Seriously.

And here we are. It's not windy for full seasons like it was back home. But we get a lot more wind than we ever did in San Diego. The wind here is different though. It is almost always generated by one of two things. Either it is ahead of a frontal boundary for a storm, or it is part of a thunderstorm. There isn't much else that causes wind around here.

You would think that living coastal, I would have had a lot of experience with frontal boundaries. Logic would dictate that storms coming in from the ocean would hit hard. Nope. At least not usually. They were never as in your face there as they are here. Here, mostly because of the mountains, when a storm comes through, it comes roaring in with a vengeance. And before the storm, comes the wind.

We were introduced to the wind one morning. We had taken the kids to breakfast, beautiful sunny weather. On the way home, we were nearly blown off the road by wind. Welcome to Colorado.

Yesterday was one of those before the storm kind of windy days. It just so happened to hit on a high pollen day in the worst allergy season on record. I was outside probably less than 3 minutes the entire day, if you added it all up. I couldn't breathe. I am wheezing. And I don't have the kind of asthma that involves wheezing.

The kids wanted to go out and play, and we couldn't. It stinks, but they will live. Sorry, mom has to breathe.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wall

I'm not quite sure what made me think about this today. I'm pretty far removed from these experiences in my own life. Perhaps it is because even the memories of those days are so vivid it's pretty hard to forget them for long.

I tend to be reminded of them when I am helping another new mom. When I am talking her down from the ledge, assuring her that everything will be okay, that this is all completely normal. I say those things, yes, but I never really believed them myself when I was in that place. When I hit the wall.

All of the amazing miracles that can take place during pregnancy require hormones. And a ton of them. Then all of a sudden, one day you give birth and most of the hormones aren't needed anymore. They go away, all of a sudden, and you hit the wall.

It's one of those things that people can warn you about, but you really and truly have no idea what you are in for until you experience it yourself. There's no denying it when it happens. Usually, it comes around about 48-72 hours after birth. I've often wondered why that is the day that most people are sent home from the hospital. Your milk comes in, you hit the wall, and they send you packing.

You go from the postpartum euphoria, of being completely in love with this baby and stuck in a surreal place of wondering if it is all really happening to being pretty sure that you have completely lost your mind. You cry about nothing. About everything. And. You. Can't. Stop.

You question whether you can really do all the things now required of you. You doubt your body's ability to make enough milk. You decide you are going to be a terrible mother.

Your husband wonders what exactly happened to you between an hour ago and right now. What is wrong? Did I do something? She was fine just a minute ago, really....

The good news is that, like most things involved with labor, delivery and having a newborn, you just have to survive it. Most women experience the hormone drop off and dissolve into a pile of sobbing goo. It's not just you. We almost all do it. It doesn't mean you are weak or unfit or any of that. It just means your body all of a sudden purged a ton of hormones.

Too bad you don't see it coming.

Funny thing is that after you've had a baby, you should be able to anticipate it. But you don't. You think that you'll be fine this time around, you know what to expect, been through it all before. Nope. It still happens. Fortunately, it's a brief period of time. A transitional thing. And it only lasts about a day. Then you get to go back to being blissfully happy with your newborn.

Just have to hit the wall first.

This, among other things, is one of the reasons I became a doula. I didn't have anyone to hold my hand through this time period, when I hit the wall the first time. To tell me it was all going to be okay. That it was hormones. That I wasn't really losing my mind. I like to believe that I can help other new moms through this phase. When I am helping a pregnant mom, I warn her about this. I know that I can tell her about it until I am blue in the face, but she won't believe me until she lives it. No one ever does. But I will be there, for during and for after that phase.

I love being a doula. It really is the most amazing job. I don't just help women have babies, I help them become mothers. Mothers who can dissolve into a pile of goo, and really be okay with it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Doors

We have exactly one bathroom downstairs. That one bathroom is currently under construction, though the toilet and sink are in full working order. As a result of the bathroom being under construction, the door is off the hinges. No door to close and hide behind. No privacy.

I go upstairs, for now. I don't have anything that compels me to use the door-free bathroom.

The girls don't care. Ashley is just starting to have the slightest hint of a sense of modesty. But, if she's gotta go, chances are she's just going to go. It's not like she ever closes the door when there is one anyway.

And modesty....not anywhere near being on Ally's radar yet. She has no issues with using a bathroom lacking a door. Half the time, she announces when she has to go to the bathroom. And then there are the times when she still pages me to assist in the after-bathroom requirements.

AJ is fascinated with toilets, but not actually using them yet. Which is fine. I'm not sure how he would now, even if he was potty trained. He's way too short. I'm hoping for a huge growth spurt before summer comes since I have a feeling he's going to want to start learning pretty soon.

Then there is Aidan. Poor boy. He's the last of the kids to be hit with the stomach virus. He tries to get up the stairs, but there are times when he knows he just isn't going make it. He, unlike his younger sisters, enjoys his privacy. He'd much prefer that no one knows when he is using the bathroom. Except that right now, that's just not an option. There's no time for modesty right now.

Doors....who needs doors?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Reminded

I could blame it on the fact that I was really tired last night. Or that I was emotionally wound up in worrying about how Ashley would be at her very first sleepover. Or that I had a drink earlier and my normally self-regulating emotions were a bit off. I could. But I know that would be just making up an excuse. I'm not one to do that anyway. I hate excuses. And I know very well what my problem was last night. I know why.

We watched a movie last night. A funny one. There were parts of the movie that had me crying I was laughing so hard. There were other parts though, ones that weren't so funny I was crying, ones that weren't meant to be sad. I cried at those too.

Either Tom was busy watching the movie and not noticing, or he was willing himself not to see. I'm not sure which, actually. He learned a long time ago that I don't cry often, but when I do, there is generally a good reason. And it's rarely something he can fix.

I wasn't crying about the movie at all, really. I was crying about the message of the movie. About how, even though sometimes the people you are related to can drive you absolutely insane, you are supposed to be together on Christmas.

I haven't been with my family on Christmas in a very long time. I can't claim that I had no choice to move here. I did. I can't say that it is someone else's fault for not being here that I haven't seen them. It's not. I am the one who moved away, and I have to own that decision. I can't, and I don't, expect other people to come here for the holidays.

I have to tell you though, it has made the holidays hard.

I miss the years before we had children that we would spend on the freeway driving back and forth between the homes of each set of parents. I miss eating dinner twice just to make everyone happy. I miss the times we had both sides of the family crammed into our tiny living room in San Diego. I miss watching my Mom and Dad watch the kids opening presents. Mostly though, I miss that time in my life. And I hate that it ended because I moved away.

There are some choices in my life, even if they were the right ones for other reasons, that I will never forgive myself for. This movie just reminded me of that. And it made me sad.

This year, I will try to be with my family on Christmas. I'm not sure how and I'm not sure if. But I will try.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mysterious

I haven't found it. Yet. Whatever they broke or colored on or hung from the ceiling. Whatever has a hole in it, is ruined or stained. But it's got to be somewhere. Whatever it is.

Or they want something. And they are biding their time.

I'm suspicious of my children, you see. And I have good reason to be.

Normally, mornings before school around here are an perfect example of chaos. You'd think that the predictability of what needs to happen before we need to leave for school would eventually become routine. Not so. Normally, the kids are difficult in the morning. Someone doesn't want to get up. Someone doesn't want to get dressed. Someone doesn't want to change after I point out their outfit is seasonally inappropriate or doesn't match. Someone doesn't want to eat this for breakfast. Someone begs to get hot lunch instead of help pack lunches. Someone forgets to brush their teeth. Someone needs their wild morning hair to be tamed. Someone can't find their shoes. Someone can't find their backpack.

Mornings are chaos.

But not yesterday. I had to be up and showered early, earlier than normal, because of the construction going on in the house. And I was up and showered early. I figured that I'd have some moments of peace before waking my sleeping angels from their slumber. I got out of the shower and dressed, peeked my head into their rooms. AJ was still sleeping, but the rest of them weren't. Strange. It was early, and I usually have to drag someone out of bed.

I got downstairs and knew immediately something was wrong. Spongebob was on tv. Spongebob isn't allowed on tv in the morning. It's not that I don't enjoy Spongebob. I do. But, Spongebob isn't allowed on in the morning because he is a bad influence. He distracts the kids from all the things they have to do. The rule, which the kids are very familiar with, is that the tv is not to be turned on until everyone is dressed, brushed, fed, lunches made, and ready for the day. Hence, Spongebob is never on in the morning. Because the above requirements are never met with time to spare. Ever.

But Spongebob was on. Immediately, I knew someone was in trouble. Someone broke the rule and turned on the magic box. But then I noticed something. Something strange. They were dressed. All of them. Shoes and everything. Hair was a little borderline. They had all eaten. Aidan had made lunches, and the backpacks were all lined up and ready to go. His planner was out and ready to be signed, with a pen and everything.

I asked him what was wrong. What did he do? What did he want? How? Why?

Ally started to get anxious. She started to sense that we were late. We had to go. Right. Now. Nope, we had time. Lots of it. That never happens. Very mysterious.

I'll be looking for the source of the mystery. There has to be some kind of explanation, right? They did something or want something, right? My kids can't just all of a sudden be this responsible.

It's wrong. Wrong, I tell you.

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