Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Show

I know that I did it to my parents when I was a kid. I know that we made countless family members suffer through probably a hundred of them. Even back when I was a kid, I knew that I wasn't really meant for the stage. The rolling eyes and audible sighs in the audience always told me so.

And yet, the show went on.

Every holiday, birthday and family gathering, there was a show. There had to be a show. We'd make everyone sit there, demand all their attention, then bore them silly with amazing shows. We would sing and dance, sometimes there were costumes involved. The shows usually had some kind of theme or idea behind them, but I remember there was a lot of improv going on.

The more kids that were around, the more elaborate the shows were. On my Dad's side of the family, there were always a ton of us cousins. And everyone would participate. Shows that big required planning. And better costumes. I think we probably spent half our time together rehearsing back then.

Thing is....the shows sucked. Sure, our parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles would sit there. They'd be good sports about watching our performances, at least for a little while. Until something more interesting tore them away.

Payback time.

My kids, though they have no cousins close to their age, or anywhere around here, have enough siblings to put on shows. And do they ever. They even make tickets and programs for their performances. There are always costumes. And it seems like there is more improv these days.

Don't get me wrong, it's cute and all. The work they put in is impressive. They have a great time doing it.

Unfortunately, the shows still suck.

So if you're ever at my house and the kids ask you to come to the show, I'm apologizing in advance. You're never getting that time back. And yes, we are all going to sit and watch it. For a little while, at least.

I know that eventually they will outgrow this. Until then, I'll just enjoy the show.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Half

Both my girls have been unintentionally hilarious in the last two days. That's the best kind of hilarity, really, the unintentional kind. The kind that catches you totally off guard because you don't see it coming. No lead in, no wind up. Just the good stuff.

Ashley went first. We'd eaten dinner early that night for whatever reason. A lot earlier than we normally eat. I figured she would wake up hungry, since she's been eating everything in the house lately. Seriously, I'm talking everything. As in, as long as it's not moving, she is eating it. I keep waiting for her to wake up four inches taller one day. So, obviously, I figured she would wake up hungry. I just didn't realize it was going to be at 1 a.m.

She came stumbling in to our room, mumbling, twirling her hair. She was barely forming words, and I'm not even sure she was actually awake. She's had issues in the past with night terrors and I wouldn't be surprised at all if she was sleepwalking.

Then she started to cry. Which made it even harder to understand what she was saying. Finally, we got her to calm down for a second and she managed to say she was hungry. We both started to giggle a little, tried to tell her to go back to bed. She insisted she was hungry again. "Food, need, eat", is all she said. We laughed again. Tom asked if she could go back to bed and eat in the morning. She muttered something incomprehensible and walked away.

Not long after that, she came back. More mumbling, more hair twirling, more pleas for food. She didn't even wait for us to respond that time, she just went back to bed. I made Tom follow her in there to make sure she actually went to her room, and not on some middle of the night half awake fridge raiding escapade.

When she awoke the next morning, she didn't remember waking up in the middle of the night. But she ate 3 bowls of cereal.

Ally's turn. It was her turn to be unintentionally funny today. She took a nap. If I make her stay in her bed long enough during quiet time, every once in a while she actually falls asleep. By the time she woke up today, Tom was home from work. AJ was still sleeping, and I was checking my email. Tom was sorting through the mail when she appeared.

She wakes up often in a bad mood, or a quiet mood. She likes to sleep, just doesn't so much enjoy the transition to waking. Today was a quiet day. She just walked down the stairs and past the kitchen. Didn't acknowledge either of us.

I glanced over at her as she passed Tom and saw tiny little butt cheeks walking through the kitchen. I asked Tom where she was going. He hadn't even noticed that she walked past him, looked around wondering who I was talking about. I told him Ally just walked past and I was pretty sure she was naked from the waist down.

He backed up, peered around the corner to the formal dining room. No Ally. He walked over there and called her name, looking around. Then he asked her what she was doing.

She was going potty, she said. Except she was sitting in a chair, not on the toilet. Luckily she hadn't actually gone yet. Tom picked her up and pointed her in the right direction. And we laughed again as we checked for puddles.

Half awake children can be far more hilarious than the awake ones.

Monday, June 28, 2010

All

Let me tell you a little story about the most wonderful thing in the whole wide world.

There is this time of the day that I look forward to all summer. It's not the time when the dishes are clean and put away and the counters are all wiped down. Though I love that time. Which is good, since it happens a few times a day.

It's not when we sit around the table and talk and eat dinner and laugh at AJ being way too civilized for his age. Insists on using forks and napkins, that boy. I do love that time too.

It's not when we hang out in the backyard and the kids all play nicely together and the mosquitoes stay far away, though that time is lovely.

It's not when my babies are all fresh and clean and right out of the bathtub. Even though that is pretty much my favorite smell in the universe.

It's not when I'm sitting with my little girl at the table helping her master letter sounds and perfect writing the alphabet. Or when my oldest takes a victory lap around the table after getting a math problem right (we're working on memorizing his times tables right now). Or watching as my big girl writes a whole entire page about something then reads it back to me. I love all those things too.

It's not the time at the park or the pool, hanging out with friends, though that time is nice.

It's this thing we do almost every afternoon. After we eat our lunch and we have quiet time and everyone spends a while in their rooms, it happens. Just about every day.

They come back downstairs, they wake up from their naps, they peek around corners, they ask if quiet time is over yet. Rested and rubbing their eyes. And they want to snuggle. They want me to read them stories. They want to sit on my lap.

All.Of.Them.

And it's pretty awesome.

I love summer.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Up

AJ is entering a phase. I hope and I pray that it's a short lived one. And one that doesn't require any trips to the emergency room. It's a phase that none of the other kids ever went through. I suppose that I've been lucky that way.

One of my best friends growing up had a brother like AJ. He was constantly experimenting, finding new things to use. Once, he shoved Skittles up both sides at once. Had to go have them removed that time.

Oh, the things a child can cram up their nose. It's a never ending list, really.

So far, he hasn't managed to get anything stuck up there. Or at least, I've managed to get to him and yank it out before he crammed it up high enough. His favorite thing to put in there are tiny little torn up pieces of paper towels and napkins. Crayons go up too. And last night, for the first time, watermelon. Just gross.

Every kid seems to go through an oral fixation/experimentation stage. That's just normal. They start teething, they start chewing on things. They stick everything in their mouths, which is a pretty logical place to put things since food goes there, right?

But noses? Where is the logic there?

It almost makes you want to shrink yourself down miniature sized just so you could climb inside their heads and see what it is exactly that they are thinking. What theories they are testing. What they think is going to happen. What the reasoning is, assuming there is some, behind doing something so strange.

You just want to ask them why?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Missing

It's just been me and my little guy for the last day. His daddy and uncle took all his older siblings camping. Hmmm, wonder why they didn't want to take him too? Might have something to do with how he earned the nickname Houdini...

In the last day, I've realized a lot of things, not the least of which is that having one child is no easier than having four. Really. Not kidding.

If anything, in some ways it is harder.

I've been able to devote all my energy, all my attention to AJ. Something I haven't really been able to do since back when I was the mother of only one child. Back when Aidan was a baby. It's been a little strange, I have to tell you.

And not in the way you might think.

It's hard because he isn't just a toddler, he is a little brother. He's a little brother who is madly in love with his siblings. He asks me where they are all the time. Where Aidan? Where Sissy? (At some point in the last few weeks, he decided that saying Sissy was easier than trying to pronounce Ashley and Ally. Which is just fine with me, since that's what my little brother used to call me.)

He misses his playmates. He misses the mothering he gets from the mother hens in the house. He misses his big brother pushing him on the swing.

Since he isn't getting all the attention he is used to getting from them, he looks to me to amuse him constantly. The kid has been located in my back pocket since they left.

I never really noticed that when Aidan was a baby - you know, the idea that I alone was his entertainment. His only playmate. His only friend. The only person who'd roll the ball with him, read a book, get him a snack. But I was then, and I have been for AJ for the last day or so. I have to tell you, it's a bit tiring. I'm just not used to it anymore, and it's totally foreign to AJ.

He misses them. And I miss them for him too.

It's been nice to let my world revolve around one for a while, even if it's been a bit strange and exhausting.

They'll be back soon enough.

Until then, I get a little boy all to myself. And I don't have to share.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Locks

Like most women, I have a love/hate relationship with my hair. I think I always have.

The proverbial grass is always greener.

It started back when I was a little girl. Long before I should have been aware of how much hair color can influence your life, I was. I was born the sixth in a line of girl cousins. And they all had something I didn't. Sun kissed, golden blond hair.

Mine came out brown and dull. Straight as an arrow, fine and wispy. I still have those little tiny baby hairs all around my hairline. Like my hair never grew up, even now.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted what they had. I wanted to fit in. I wanted people to tell me how pretty my hair was. How pretty I was. I wanted people to know that I belonged in the family. When my grandfather died, a woman actually came up to my grandma and asked who I was. Surely I couldn't have been part of the family. Surely.

Not long after that traumatic experience, I asked my parents for a perm. What I wanted was a spiral perm. What I got was something much different, much worse. The stuff hair nightmares are made of. And I got a haircut at the same time. I closely resembled a poodle for a few months. A poodle with some brand new super dorky glasses, that is. As if I didn't have enough issues already.

Thankfully since my hair was so short, it didn't take long to grow out. When it got nice and long again, I asked for that spiral perm. The right one, this time. I got one, but realized that my hair didn't like spiral perms. It took, but only on some of the hair. What I wanted was bouncy, flowing curls. What I got was stringy occasional curls.

Sometime in high school, I started experimenting with home highlighting kits, sun-in and lemon juice. They either did nothing or turned my hair orange. Not good. Finally I managed to talk my mom into letting me get highlights done. By a real hairdresser who knew what she was doing. I needed professional help. And I got it.

By then, I'd learned to embrace my straight hair. It looked better with some highlights. And all was good for a few years. Through college, I was semi-blond. Over time, it got too expensive to maintain. And my hair slowly started to turn to straw. It couldn't handle the amount of chemicals it took to lighten it. So I gave up.

I went back to plain old brown. By then, I was attempting to get pregnant and trying to avoid all the chemicals anyway. Except there was a problem. Poking up from the top of my head.

Wiry, gray hairs. Lots of them. The blond hid them well. The brown wasn't as kind.

In between pregnancies, and these days on a regular basis, I have to dye my hair. I can't do plain old brown, has to have a little auburn tinge to it. I have too many issues with that plain old brown color, honestly. It's amazing how much what one person says to you at nine years old can screw you up for life.

Pregnancy brought with it other blessings, besides the cessation of the highlights that hid the grays. It made my hair wavy. Not wavy enough to be nice, just wavy enough to be annoying. I miss that stick straight hair.

To combat the waves, I've been growing it out. These days, it's longer than it has ever been in my life, mostly because I never can find the time to get it cut. I never have time for me.

I have always had issues with my hair, and I probably always will. I think it's just part of being a woman. Our hair is a huge part of how we define ourselves, how others define us.

It's taken a lot of failed perms, a lot of horrible haircuts, a lot of bad dye jobs, graying and waves, but I have learned to love my hair.

I've been growing my hair for a reason, one that not many people know. I'm having it cut tomorrow, donating it to a charity for cancer patients in my Dad's honor. I can't do much for him right now, but this I can do. Someone out there might be happy with slightly auburn, awkwardly wavy hair.

Someone other than me, that is.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Buttered

I was just reminded of a funny story, one that I know I haven't shared here yet. An oldie, but a goodie.

It's a story about Ashley. And it involves a chair. And butter. And a saw.

She was about 5, I think. It was one of those nights that Tom had been at work way too late. Like, way past the time when my internal clock told me that someone should come and relieve me of my parenting responsibilities. I have to assume it was during tax season, because the kids were sitting at the dinner table and he wasn't home.

Ashley got antsy eating, and kept getting up and out of her chair. She has more creative ways to perch herself on a seat than you could possibly imagine. I was tired, and I just wanted her to sit still.

Then, she was still. And quiet. She's almost never still and quiet.

It didn't take her long to realize that she was stuck. That she'd made a bad choice.

She had turned around backwards in the chair and put her legs through the hole in the backrest. They went through just fine. But they didn't want to come back out.

It took her about 10 seconds to dissolve into utter hysterics. She pulled and pulled and yanked and yanked. And nothing. She cried.

Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!!!!!

Of course it only took me a fraction of a second to realize what she had done. I sighed audibly, cursed under my breath at the fact that my husband always seems to miss these kind of things, and grabbed the butter.

I greased her up and pulled and yanked. Nothing.

No amount of butter in the universe was getting her out of that chair.

All the while, she was freaking out. I think she had decided that maybe she was going to be stuck there for the rest of eternity. Because clearly, I couldn't get her out.

I made at least 10 calls to my husband's cell phone. Of course he was busy with something and didn't answer.

Then I did what I had to do. I got the saw.

Of course, by this point, she was screaming at the top of her lungs. I had to calm her down, at least enough that she was still. I was trying to cut the chair apart, not her. I'm sure anyone in a 3 mile radius might have thought differently that night.

She made it out unscathed. And relieved. And still crying. And buttered from her hips to her toes.

The chair, however, did not fare so well.

You know Tom walked in the door about 2 minutes later wanting to know what happened, staring at the scene in disbelief.

It's not every day you come home to a wife wielding a saw, broken furniture and a completely buttered child.

Halfway

I knew it was coming, I'd been warned by friends. Even with fair notice, it surprised me just how emotional I was. How much it all pulled at my heartstrings. How much I cried.

I took Aidan to see Toy Story 3 today.

Those people at Pixar, they know what they are doing.

To some, all they did was create a group of cartoon toys, conjure up stories to tell about them. But the toys in these films aren't just toys. And these aren't just stories. Some of the toys are ones which I had as a child, so there is some sentimentality right there. Many are toys I never could have had because they are characters created just for these movies.

But they are toys my son has had, because of these movies.

The stories these movies have told are some of the most poignant stories of humanity. They aren't just about a cowboy and a space ranger. They are bigger. They are stories of being loved one day, and not the next. Of trying to do what you want, but failing. Of finding your place in this world. Of putting others before yourself. Of the importance of honesty. Of the necessity of friends. Of the old adage that when a door closes, a window will open.

My son, who isn't much a little boy anymore, he grew up with these movies. In his world, Buzz and Woody weren't just characters in a film. His world revolved around Buzz Lightyear for many years, so much so that when we moved here he wanted a Buzz room. At the time, Tom tried to talk me out of doing a themed room. He reasoned that soon enough Aidan would outgrow it. He was right. Aidan decided one day he was done with Buzz, and banished the toys from his space. The posters, the bedding, the toys. All of it. He was too old.

I was more than a little sad. He wanted to get rid of everything. And I did, with great reluctance. I kick myself for that. I should have known better.

I should have known that even though it might take a few years, he would want that stuff again. And he did. When the commercials for the movie started running, and the premise of the movie was revealed to be that Andy, the boy, was growing up and moving away to school, it got into Aidan's soul and being.

All of a sudden, he realized that, like Andy, he was growing up. And wasn't ready to. He wanted all that stuff back. Except it was gone. All of it.

Since then, he's managed to acquire a few Toy Story things. He's trying to talk Grandma into making him a Buzz costume for Halloween since the ones at the store stop the size below his. He used to live in those costumes. He even got the super fancy deluxe ones with wings. Those are gone too.

Of course, at the top of the list of things he is missing are Woody and Buzz. He had the talking Woody with the pull string and everything. And then there was Buzz. You know, the one with the retractable wings and the laser beams, the helmet that makes that whoosh noise. He was a really cool toy.

After I took Aidan to the movie, and tried to suppress my sobbing from being too distracting, I took him to the store to pick up a few things. He managed to talk me into a toy, one of the new characters. And he looked longingly at Buzz and Woody. He glanced up at me with his wishful eyes, and said maybe he'd ask Santa for them this year. If Santa thinks he should have a second chance, that is.

Halfway to 18, my son is. Halfway to being Andy's age. Halfway to being grown. Halfway to moving out of the house. And though he thought at 7 that he was too old to still love a cowboy and a space ranger, at 9 I think he loves them more than ever.

I think he always will.

And I think Santa just might give him a second chance.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Weird

I'm a strange person. I know that. It's nothing new.

I've been told many times by many different people.

I was reminded of my weirdness yesterday. For whatever reason, Aidan was asking me random questions. Wait, who am I kidding, really? He asks me random questions all the time.

Anyway, he was asking me questions about eels. He knows how I feel about eels.

They are pretty much the grossest, most disgusting, ugliest and scariest animals in the world. At least to me, they are.

Normal things don't freak me out. I'm not afraid of much. And I'm not afraid of the things most people are afraid of. Spiders, sharks, bats, snakes...none of them scare me. Back when I was in junior high, I was a curator for the school's science museum. I held snakes every day. Played with tarantulas. Mixed up nasty smelling food for the iguanas. Taught kids about sharks.

As much as snakes don't scare me, put a perfectly harmless snake in water and you've upped the fright quotient dramatically. I don't know what it is, and I don't know why there is such a difference. But water snakes? Seriously, why do there need to be water snakes?

And don't even get me started on eels.

At Sea World, right next to the touch and feel ray tank, are the eel caverns. Everyone knows that they make my skin crawl. And everyone always wants to go look at them.

They are down there, waiting for me with their mottled orange skin. Staring at me with their yellow beady eyes. Wanting to attack me with their sharp little jagged teeth. Evil little creatures they are.

Even behind the glass, they freak me out.

I know it's not a legitimate fear I have. I mean, really, how likely is it that I will ever encounter an eel in the real world? I live in the middle of the country. Not likely at all. The ocean isn't anywhere around here. The only ones here are in big aquariums. But still.

It's not like they prey on humans or anything. We are way bigger than they are. I'm pretty sure the only eels that have ever done serious damage to people are the electric eels. And they are even more rare than eels in general. But still.

It doesn't matter though, they are out there, those eels. And they scare me, even though not much else does.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Enroll

Over this past weekend, I participated in the Relay for Life. I headed up a team dedicated to my Dad, recruited friends to walk with us and raised money. Even though this was our first year and we did very little actual fundraising, we passed our goal.

It was a beautiful, emotional and exhausting experience. And I can't wait to do it again next year.

I also did something else in the fight against cancer. Something that is just as, if not more important, than raising money. I enrolled in a study.

The American Cancer Society is a co-sponsor of a very large scale cancer prevention study. It's a long term, prospective study aimed at identifying risk factors and lifestyle issues that are implicated in cancer development. It isn't the kind of study that will benefit our generation. What it will do, however, is provide tremendous knowledge for our children and our children's children.

As someone with a public health background, I was positively exuberant when I learned that this study was enrolling here. I nudged friends to go do it too. Some were reluctant, but I persuaded them.

I'm not just a person with a public health mindset. I'm not just someone who studied epidemiology and understands how hugely important this study is. I'm not just a fan of evidence based medicine, urging this industry to find more cause and effect relationships. I'm not just someone who knows that prevention is far superior to treatment.

I'm a daughter and I'm a wife and I'm a mother.

I refuse to believe that the way we detect and treat cancer today is good enough. I refuse to believe that there isn't a better way. I am highly suspicious of the chemicals and toxins in our world that we have come to accept as safe and normal. I don't for one second believe that we can trust companies to make safe products.

I am doing this study because I'm a daughter and a wife and a mother. And I want my children and my grandchildren to live in a world without cancer, something I have not known. I want them to be equipped with the tools to avoid dangers. I want them to know that something might harm them long term. I want to give them the information they need to make conscious decisions about their health.

So if that means I need to answer lots of questions on a regular basis, so be it. If it means I have to give blood occasionally, so be it. It it means I have to subject myself to tests and measurements, so be it.

This is important. Really important.

This is bigger than us.

Monday, June 21, 2010

10 Things I Hate About You

I hate you Colorado.

I hate you and your affordable houses.

I hate you and your good schools.

I hate you and your family friendly atmosphere.

I hate you and your beautiful snow capped mountains.

I hate you and your greenways and riverwalks.

I hate you and your bike trails and parks.

I hate you and your outdoor concerts.

I hate you and your crisp fall afternoons.

I hate you and your snowy winter mornings.

I hate you and your glorious sunsets.

I hate you Colorado.

And I hate you because I love you.

Parts

Oh, the conversations we have had in my house in the last month.

Without giving too many details, both of my boys had surgery on their boy parts. Yep, those ones.

The parts that make any guy who hears of the surgeries cringe, then makes them immediately sympathetic to the healing process.

Those parts.

AJ is, thankfully, way too young to ask questions. He just occasionally realizes something hurts and slows down a little. Tom stared at his incisions in disbelief the first day, wondering aloud how the kid could be moving at all, let alone wanting to run and play and climb and jump.

Aidan, however, isn't too young to be oblivious. And he is the kind of kid that asks a lot of questions anyway. In this circumstance, it means we have had a lot of conversations about things we didn't plan to have conversations about for a while.

He wanted to know why he needed to have things fixed. They'd been like that his whole life without major incident, why did they have to change? The answer...because someday he would want to make sure all those parts work.

You know what questions came next, right? We ended up having a pretty thorough talk about what everything does and what it's for. Then, as if the lightbulb went on for real over his head, he asked the question every parent of a little boy dreads.

How does the sperm get to the egg?

Like I said, we've been having a lot of conversations.

They didn't end after the surgery of course. He had all kinds of new topics to talk about. The first of which he noticed upon waking up from anesthesia. Let's just say that there were dressings on one of the incisions, which had to stay for a little while. And, presumably to show the sense of humor of the urologist, they were pink.

Aidan decided it looked like a cast. Then he laughed. Pink weenie cast. (seriously, I cannot make this stuff up)

The kid saved it, his prized pink proof of surgery. And he wants Papa to make him a shadowbox for it.

A few days after his surgery, he was slowly getting up off the couch and realized that he could control some of the boy parts using his abdominal muscles. You know he spent the next thirty minutes bending over and standing up, laughing hysterically the entire time.

Then he asked me the funniest question of them all.

Hey mom, do testicles have minds of their own? Because if they did, that would be awesome!

Of course I told him no, though I know all too well that they will in a few years. Then I called his father.

Tom, of course, wanted to know if I answered yes.

I told him that was his conversation to have with his son, but hopefully not for a very long time.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers

In my life I have been lucky. I've been surrounded by some really fantastic men.

As a doula, I have helped men become fathers, some for the very first time.

As a sister, I have been able to watch my brother become the father he always wanted to be.

As a niece, I was shown how to defend what is the most important by my godfather.

As a little girl, I was blessed to have been able to spend time with both my grandfathers.

As a teenager, I found out that grandfathers can be men that you aren't related to at all.

As a married woman, I became a daughter-in-law to a man who never had a daughter of his own.

As a mother, I have been fortunate to share this journey through parenthood with my amazing husband.

Before all those, though, I was just a little girl. A little girl who had long brown pigtails and wore footy pajamas and who's world revolved around the most important man in her life, her daddy.

Happy Father's Day. I love you.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Strong

I'm not here right now. At least I am not supposed to be. Assuming everyone cooperates, I won't be home tonight. If all goes as planned, I will be out at the Relay for Life with my husband and my children and my friends. Walking.

I am walking to remember the fight my husband fought all those years ago. Ten years he's out now. Healthy and strong. The father of four children he was never supposed to have. He will be out there walking all night too, holding the hands of those four kids with me.

I am walking to remember the man that suffered from the same disease Tom did, that friend of the family who lost his battle with cancer and succumbed at far too early of an age. He is now and will forever be an angel to our family. Though he is gone, his illness did one thing that I will always be grateful for. It made Tom check. It made him call the doctor right away when he felt the lump. It made him realize that being young doesn't mean you are invincible. We miss you Jeff. And we will always, always thank you for the gift you left behind. Knowledge.

I am walking to support my friend, Kerry, who is in a very similar place in her world to me these days. Her experiences so often mirror mine anymore. I think that maybe we found each other a few years ago because we'd need each other now. I hope she can make it out tonight. As with everything it seems though, she might have somewhere she needs to be more right now. And no one could possibly understand that more than I can. She is so strong. Stronger than she thinks she is. Stronger than she sometimes wants to be. I walk for her too.

I am walking for the friends and family who have lost their fight. Not just my family and friends, but all the lives it has touched, whether I've ever known them or not. Cancer does not discriminate. It does not care how much money you make, what color your skin is. It doesn't care how old you are, how much life you have ahead of you. It doesn't care who needs you. Through my experiences, I have learned so much from others who have been down this road before. I am grateful for their knowledge. For their understanding. For their shoulders to cry on.

Mostly though, I am walking for the strongest man I know. For the man who refuses to give up. Who wants to keep fighting. Who isn't going to let this disease define who he is. Who inspired the name of our team. Who really is the Tooth Fairy. The man who held me in his arms as a baby. Who used to let me dance with my feet on his. Who spent endless hours playing catch with me in the backyard. Who taught me how to ride a bike and taught me how to drive. Who walked me down the aisle. The man who I think about only a million times a day.

Dad, I'm about to spend hours doing something you love the very most in this world. Making a left turn. (A little NASCAR humor thrown in there to make my Daddy smile.)

Fight the good fight, Daddy. I love you.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Twelve

This weekend is shaping up to be a busy one. And it is sure to be an emotional one as well.

I figure that I'd better write about this now before I get so caught up in thinking about other things. I get distracted easily.

Our anniversary is this weekend, among all the other things happening. Twelve years.

We got married young. Really young. Like, so young that I don't think I'd ever want my kids to get married at that age, young. We were only 21. Right out of college. And so sure.

Turns out that we weren't just crazy in love, in a hurry and jumping in to something we weren't ready for. Turns out that we'd need each other in ways we could have never imagined. Turns out we were ready to handle what life threw at us. Turns out that maintaining a long distance relationship all through college wasn't even close to the hardest thing we'd have to face. And it turns out that we have been able to weather some storms.

Our relationship has changed as we have changed. It's grown as we have grown. And it's matured as we have.

The songs that define our relationship have changed as well.

When we first started dating, our song was one of infatuation. Obsession. Total preoccupation. You know, new love stuff. "I'd Die Without You" by P.M. Dawn. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWdg2QsrYrI

In college, the song that resonated the most for us was "When You're Gone", by The Cranberries. 121 miles between us for four years, not that I counted or anything. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUmdWdEgHgk

The song we danced to when we got married was "Still in Love", by New Edition. A song about a couple who had been through trials and made it through, stronger than ever. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RT1MAzyUkJE

And now, this song seems to speak to my soul all those years later. About how even though we are grown and have been together for a long time and have little people who depend on us and have settled into life....maybe just maybe, someday we could still do amazing things.

Like teach the kids to fly.

Here is where we are now. And where I hope we can be, together, in the future.

"You & Me", Dave Matthews Band
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kD9CrZODlNA

I love you Tom. Happy Anniversary.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sometimes

You know, sometimes I regret ever making this whole blog post writing thing a daily endeavor. There are times that I have a hard time coming up with a topic. There are times that I really want to write what I want to write but I don't. Like now.

I follow some blogs that have one, maybe two posts a week. And I think about all the free time I'd have it I did that. But then I remember why I started this as a daily project. I don't have the patience to stew on one topic for a week at a time. I am already so bad about editing that I spend more time fixing my posts than writing them in the first place. Can you imagine how much time I would spend editing if I only had one post to deal with for days?

I wouldn't spend any less time on the computer, I assure you.

So I write every day. Which means I have to come up with something to write every day. It's not as hard as you'd think, really.

It's not like I've ever been at a loss for words in my entire life.

Living with five other people generally provides something to ponder. Something to laugh about. Some story that can serve as a warning to other parents. Some stunt the kids pulled that needs to be documented so that I can tell them about it one day when they have children of their own.

I've been lucky to have some amazing friends, some crazy adventures, some stories worth telling.

For me, this blog is a way for me to think out loud. It's a way for me to reflect on what I see. What I feel. What I live. To share a little piece of myself with you.

I wanted to thank you all for reading. Whether you've been around for a while or are fairly new, I appreciate it. Really. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Little

Today is my little brother's birthday. I'm not sure why I still refer to him as my little brother. I mean, we are adults and all. Both of us parents to other people these days.

But he's my little brother now and forever.

I guess you don't ever outgrow that.

This past year has been one of highs and lows for us all, for him even more. Coupled with everything we've collectively been through, he also became a father for the very first time. Fatherhood is a journey he is just beginning, but he seems to be enjoying the ride so far.

I thought that instead of writing gooey sentimental things about how much I love my brother (though they are true, don't get me wrong), I thought maybe I'd write something else. He's not the gooey sentimental type anyway.

Over the past weekend, my husband was fighting with the door handle for the bathroom. It seems that the handles installed on our home are universally defective. None of the locks work. Ever.

He was fiddling with it, trying to get the lock mechanism to engage. I asked him why he suddenly cared so much about getting them to work. We've been in this house for close to five years, and they've never worked before.

But then I figured that maybe, just maybe, he was doing it to preserve the privacy of the kids. Aidan at least is getting to the age where he doesn't want to be interrupted while in the bathroom. The girls still mostly don't care, but he does. And the girls know that he does. And they have already started torturing their brother the way I used to do to mine.

They open the door when he's sitting there, pondering the universe, and laugh at him. He yells at them to close the door. They point and giggle. He flails his arms helplessly towards the wide open doorway. It works best upstairs in the kid's bathroom. It's all about proximity of the toilet to the door and how long the arms of the sitter are.

To my little brother (who swore to me he wouldn't read this anymore, but I know that he will), Happy Birthday.

I'm pretty sure this is an old Irish birthday blessing...

May your arms be long enough to shut the door

Love you.

Suck

I find it rather ironic that I spent over an hour this afternoon taking the vacuum cleaner apart.

Today sucked.

(insert laugh track here)

Rather than write about all the things that made today suck, I will write instead about my battle with the vacuum cleaner. It's far more entertaining anyway.

I don't vacuum upstairs nearly as often as I should. I vacuum downstairs ALL the time. Upstairs, not so much. I justify it because the dogs don't go up there, no one ever wear shoes up there and food and drinks other than water are forbidden. Plus, the kids rooms are their own private sanctuaries, and I let them get away with having messy rooms far too often.

I only have one vacuum. And I don't want to haul it up the stairs all the time. Okay, so that's probably the biggest reason I don't vacuum upstairs enough.

We built a house here. Not this one, but the one right behind us. We designed that house from the ground up. And do you want to know what it has in it??? A central, whole house vacuum cleaner. With ports upstairs and down, and a kick plate in the kitchen. We changed houses at the last minute because this one was done already, had a bigger garage and a bonus room. Better house overall, but no central vacuum.

I'm thinking I got screwed.

Anyway, after forcing the kids to pick up all their stuff, I hauled the vacuum upstairs and got to work. I started in Aidan's room, which is just a bad idea. For many reasons. The kid has a ton of toys with teeny parts and a loft style bed with a curtain he can pull shut to create the illusion of cleanliness. He's a magician, that one.

I was in the zone, trying to vacuum his room fast, before the girls had a chance to mess their rooms up again. I get very short windows of opportunity to vacuum. Very short.

I got to the edge of the dreaded curtain and heard the characteristic noise my vacuum makes when it isn't happy. Like a drowning cow, sort of. Not pretty. But, at least you know something is wrong right away. You know, before the motor starts to smell like smoke. We had a vacuum without an early warning system before. It didn't end well.

I sighed, turned off the vacuum. Then turned it back on real quick after crossing my fingers that it would magically get better. No luck. I unplugged it and called down to Aidan to get me a screwdriver. And a trash bag.

I could have waited for Tom to do it, yes. But, he was at work, with a tennis match afterwards. And has something to do tomorrow too. If it was going to get done, it wouldn't be until Thursday night, which wasn't going to do me any good. So I started taking out the screws. Tried to take the bottom off. Said some bad words. Took out more screws. Pulled out the guilty clogger. A tiny plastic bag from one of Aidan's LEGO sets. Stupid LEGOs.

Then, after the dust cloud cleared, I set about putting the vacuum back together. Except it didn't want to go back together. More bad words. Bigger dust cloud.

Then I sat there, almost defeated by the vacuum, realizing that Tom would just come home and laugh at me if I couldn't get the damn thing back together. Then he'd pat my little female head and remind me that such tasks were meant for men alone. I couldn't let that happen.

So I did what I had to do. What I've seen Tom do. I manned up. I hit the vacuum until it went back together.

And it worked.

Though there was that little entertaining break, the day promptly went back to sucking.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wish

In a few days, my husband and I will celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. We were together for six years before that. Seems like we've been with each other forever.

We did meet when we were 15, so it's pretty close.

I'm sure that many of you know the story of how we met. We sat next to each other in Driver's Ed for the entire semester in tenth grade and didn't speak to one another until the end of May. He never once acknowledged my existence. Just sat there, eyes straight ahead, bored to tears for months. It's not like I talked to him either, at least not until I had to.

The guy sitting in front of me was annoying. Really annoying. But, it's because of him that we are together, so I guess it was a good thing. I finally had enough of him and turned to the next closest person, Tom, trying to get some distraction from the annoyance.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Our story isn't that exciting I know. It's cute maybe, how we met in high school and all. But not exciting.

There's another piece of the story though, one that not as many people know. It involves my father. And fate.

Before I met Tom, I was on a boy crazy stretch. I think at one time I was sort-of seeing 4 guys simultaneously. Immediately before I met Tom, there was another guy. An older guy. A much older guy. Who had a job and a car and an attitude. My dad was not a fan. At all.

Dad knew though that he couldn't ever let me know how much he couldn't stand this older guy, because that would only make me like him more. (I was also in a rebellious stage...okay, decade...) So, he didn't.

One day, Dad came home from work and told me a story. About how he'd been at one of the dentist's office that day and saw a nice, clean cut young man sitting in the waiting room. Dad described what this guy looked like. He seemed well mannered, sat and talked kindly with his mother. And he looked like he was about my age.

Dad wondered aloud why I couldn't just date guys like that. Then he sighed and shook his head at me in his silent disapproving way.

Less than an hour later, the doorbell rang. It was Tom. His mom had brought him over to the house for the first time (remember we were only 15 and couldn't drive yet!).

As soon as he walked into the house, I thought Dad was going to fall over. Tom was the guy in the waiting room that he had just seen that day. The one he had decided would be perfect for his daughter.

Call it fate if you will. We've been together ever since.

Sometimes as a parent you have to be careful what you wish for. Anytime Dad ever gets frustrated or annoyed with Tom, which truth be told, hasn't been often, I just remind him.....it was what he wanted. And he has no one to blame but himself.

Love you Dad.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cop

Monday. I think that about sums it up, right?

Even if you are like me, a stay at home mom with nowhere you need to be since school is out for the summer....Monday is still Monday. Monday, Monday.....

Secretly though, I find myself looking forward to Monday. Especially on Sunday afternoon. Anyone with enough kids and a husband like mine will understand exactly what I mean. I know some of you do.

During the week, I am the supreme leader. My way or the highway. I tell the kids that if they make a mess, we won't go anywhere or do anything until it's cleaned up. No one sits around in their pajamas until 3pm. Stuff gets picked up. Dishes get washed.

Weekends are different. I figured out why.

It's because even though the Tom is supposed to be the one to rule with strong words and strict enforcement and consequences, that's not the case. The kids still haven't figured this out. They think he is the bad cop. That he's the enforcer. Nope.

Clearly I am.

He is the fun parent. The one who throws rules out the window. He is the one who lets them play videogames in their pajamas and make a mess. He will still take them out for bike rides, feed them ice cream and go to the park. Even if they are bad.

Yesterday he taught the girls how to slide down the stairs with cardboard boxes.

I've given up cleaning on the weekends. It is just not worth the energy. The other parent is always distracting the kids from what they are supposed to be doing with some new fun adventure.

I wait until Monday. When I once again reign supreme. When what I say is the law of the land. When I can justify cleaning the floor because I know it just might stay that way for a few minutes. When I can pick up the toys and make the kids help. When I alone have the power to decide when the videogames and tv get turned off. When I can dictate what the requirements are for doing anything fun.

I can be the good cop too, but someone's gotta be the bad one. And that someone isn't who the kids think it is.

This bad cop takes the weekends off.

It's Monday. The good cop is back at work and I've got a house to clean.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Peek

I'm about to let you all peek into my marriage for just a bit.

Don't worry, it's nothing you have to read without the kids in the room or anything nearly that exciting. I have way too many family members that read this for stories like that!

I spent all day in the bathroom. Not like you think though. We are remodeling it, and the tile is done and grouted now. But that's about where my husband stops. He isn't a detail guy. Just as a general rule.

Maybe that's why public accounting is so appealing to him. He audits financial statements, and part of auditing is making sure that their money is where they say it is, went where they said it went. And along with that comes the concept of materiality. Essentially, he is only concerned about items about his predetermined dollar amount cutoff. Little deviations from the expected he ignores. He's worried about the big stuff. It is the thousand dollar mystery transactions he cares about, not the $4.27 ones. Not so much about the details.

It works for him.

His avoidance of detail also gets him out of a lot of work around the house. He does the big stuff. The heavy lifting. The flooring. The baseboards. The tile. I do just about all the rest of the projects. All the little stuff that comes afterwards to make it pretty.

I fill the holes, patch the walls. I touch up the paint, caulk the gaps. Do all the clean up.

I don't know if he's bad at it on purpose. Could be. What's the term for that, again? Learned helplessness. I don't think it's that though. He's tried to do all the detail work before. He has. And between you and me, it's just better that he doesn't try anymore.

There is a reason I do all the painting. A reason why he isn't allowed to touch the caulk gun. It's easier for me to just do it than come behind him and fix what he messes up.

We have our roles when it comes to home improvement. We are both well aware of them, and have long ago made our peace with it all.

It's good that we complement each other this way. We'd never get anything done if neither of us was willing to do the big stuff. And we'd never finish anything is neither of us was willing to do the little stuff.

Besides...I like to paint. I really like to paint.

And it just seems wrong for a man to play with the caulk. ;)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Healing

I just spent about an hour reorganizing the medicine cabinet. I have to do that at least once a month. You know, if my kids didn't have allergies and asthma, there would be a lot less stuff in there. A lot.

But there would still be bandaids.

Ahhh, bandaids. Of course, I use the term loosely, since we have bandages from all the major companies in the house. They are just universally bandaids to the kids.

I'd love to be the guy who invented them all those years ago. It's such a simple idea, really. Just some plastic with a pad attached. That isn't what makes them special though. The magical mystical healing power is what makes them awesome.

Sometimes the kids beg me for bandaids to heal wounds that aren't even bleeding. I oblige. Because, really, the bandaid isn't about covering and protecting a wound. At least not the kid sized bandaids. They are about something completely different.

For some kids, the bandaid is about you taking the time to calm them, to carry them inside and sit them on the counter and hug them and make it all better. It's more about kissing the boo-boo than covering it in the first place.

For other kids, they just want permission to get the bandaid. And they want you to help them, but not help them too much. They want to try to fix this themselves. Sometimes it takes a few extra bandaids. Sometimes the tape folds over on itself when little fingers are trying to open the package. Sometimes the bandaid misses the mark or ends up upside down. Sometimes three just work better than one. That's why they come in boxes of twenty or more.

For still other kids, bandaids are just super awesome stickers. I've found more than one of my children with an entire leg covered in bandaids before.

I buy a lot of bandaids.

We have them in all different sizes and characters. We have waterproof ones and breathable ones. We have specialty shapes and nice generic plain ones for the grown ups. I buy a lot of bandaids. And a lot of bandaids take up a lot of space.

I finally consolidated them all into one container. Not that I honestly believe for one second that they will all stay in there. Or that it won't be emptied that much sooner because of the ease of access now. For the moment at least, they are all happily contained in one place.

I'm sure that the combining of the bandaids is a bad idea for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that my husband will very likely need one at some point.

I doubt he wants to walk around with Buzz Lightyear or Barbie on his cuts...even if those kid sized bandaids really are coated with magical mystical healing power.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Woosh

So I have this friend. She gave me permission to share these stories though asked that I not give her name. Except that anyone who knows her will completely know these are about her. She has the best bathroom stories. Seriously. Since she doesn't have a blog, I feel compelled to share them here.

Let's be honest. Anyone with a kid over the age of three has a bathroom story or two. I have a few. I'd share my bathroom stories, but I don't really have any that come close to hers. They pale in comparison.

Well, except for the one time I heard one of my daughters calling her big brother in to admire her creation. That was pretty damn funny.

My friend, though, she has some great stories.

There was the time she called me and asked how bad it is when the light fixtures on the main floor are dripping water. My obvious first question was, why?

Her youngest had been upstairs in the bathroom all alone. He was the culprit. He was awful proud of himself for attempting an unassisted wipe, though a little frustrated that his efforts didn't seem to be getting the job done. The only solution, of course, was to use more toilet paper.

Sometime after he'd done his business and used a ton of toilet paper, he did the unthinkable. He sat there and he flushed.
And the water came up and up and up.

He pretty quickly realized that it wasn't going down on it's own, so he did the only logical thing to solve his dilemma. He climbed up and tried to shove it down, hanging on to the towel bar for support. It might have worked, at least in his four year old mind, but the towel rack ripped off the wall.

So here he was, with an overflowing toilet and a towel bar ripped off the wall. He sat back down. And yelled. MOM!!!!

And my friend, my dear friend, walked into her carpeted bathroom to discover the horror of the situation. Her little boy just looked at her and said,

"But the good news is, when the water came up...it cleaned my butt!"

Suppressing her laughter and overwhelmed by the situation, she got to fixing. Wiped the boy, plunged the toilet, started using towels to soak up all the water on the carpet. By the way, who the hell ever thought it was a good idea to put carpet in a bathroom????

Eventually she made her way downstairs and not long after that the drips started. All the recessed lights in the ceiling under the bathroom were dripping. And they were dripping toilet water. That's when she called me. And being the good friend I am, I tried really hard not to laugh. There was so much water it was trapped between the floors and the only choice she had was to shut off the power and wait for it to all drain out.

At least the water cleaned his butt, right?

This has been a favorite story of hers for a while now.

I got another phone call yesterday. From her. Another day, another toilet. More toilet paper, except this time it was in the basement and gravity wasn't going to help. She tried everything she could think of, even busting out the drain snake. Then she felt like she had to soak her entire body in bleach afterwards. There's just something about doing battle with a toilet that makes you feel icky for days.

Finally, she'd had enough. After six hours of fighting with the toilet. She did what I would have told her to do had she just called me sooner. Except she had to resort to online searching to find it.

The tip she found told her to pour liquid dish soap into the toilet. A lot of liquid dish soap. Let it sit, then fill up a bucket and drop the water in from waist height to force the clog out. It worked.

She called, all excited to tell me of her victory. How she had conquered the toilet. I laughed at her, but I tried really hard not to because I am a good friend.

And then I told her I was soooo writing about this.

Me

For those of you who don't know me well, let me introduce myself.

My name is Kelly. I was born and raised in Southern California and moved to Colorado almost five years ago.

I could bore you with all the little details about the things I've done, but I won't. This isn't a job application, and I don't think any of you care about my resume.

I have an almost completely wonderful husband. I have four kids, two boys and two girls. I also have an angel.

I have two very badly behaved dogs.

I love to write. In case you couldn't tell. I just started writing a third book. You know, in my free time.

I'm a doula, though I hardly get to work as one. When my kids get older, I hope to do it more often.

I'm a pain in the ass. I like things the way I like them. I tend to get my way.

I'm a perfectionist who has a problem with procrastination.

I'm a pretty tough chick, at least on the outside.

I'm a daughter and a sister and a wife and a mother and a friend (among other things). Sometimes those roles conflict with each other. They've been doing that a lot lately.

I call it like I see it. I won't hestitate to tell you that you are wrong. If you piss me off, you're going to know it. I don't do passive agressive. I've been told I'm scary. When one of my very best friends in the world got engaged, her fiance was afraid to meet me. Either she portrays me unfairly, or I really am that scary. Not sure which.

I love conflict. I think it's healthy for the soul. Think how much easier everything in life would be if everyone could just lay their cards on the table instead of playing games all the damn time.

I know a lot about a lot of stuff. Some is useful, some isn't. If you ask me a question, I might have an answer. And if I don't, I'll find you one. If I can't find an answer, I'll find someone who can.

If you need something and you ask me, chances are I will help you. I struggle with saying the word no.

I have an insanely sarcastic sense of humor. Laugh, dammit. Laugh!

I am who I am and I make no excuses about it. I guess some people find that intimidating. Or annoying. Or whatever.

It just makes me me.

Take it or leave it. Cause I ain't changin. :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Never

I think as women, we all have an idealized version of ourselves we aspire to. We want to be a particular kind of wife. A specific kind of mother.

I know I had visions of grandeur.

Make that delusions.

When we got married, we received two crockpots as gifts. I promised myself never to use them for anything but chili and meatballs. I swore I'd never make boring things for dinner like casseroles and stews. I vowed to never ever put fruit into a jello mold. I swore I'd never spend entire days cleaning the house. I promised to fold the socks.

We'd be gloriously happy and share hobbies. We would go for long walks with our well behaved dogs and talk about everything we did and felt and dreamed of.

Back when I thought about what kind of mom I would be someday, I had many ideas of how things would go. I'd have immaculately clean children. My kids would never have snotty noses and unclipped fingernails. They would always be dressed in unstained, matching clothes.

I swore I'd never have the family room cluttered with toys and rocking horses and ball pits.

I'd never let my kids watch tv. They'd be constantly enriched with educational games and toys. I would have playgroups and mommy and me classes. I would breastfeed for precisely one year, never allow pacifiers and take away all bottles at the times I was supposed to.

Clearly I was delusional.

Not only do I use my crockpots all the time, I have to confess to using both of them at the same time on several occasions. I make a casserole at least once a week. There is jello with fruit in it in my fridge now. I pretty routinely spend all day cleaning the house. And I don't fold the socks, at least not until I really, really have to.

My husband and I have almost nothing in common. We don't go on long walks and our dogs are not the kind you ever take out in public.

I tried really hard not to have dirty kids for a while, but with four I just can't do it. I can't keep them all clean all the time. It just is impossible. Even when it was just Aidan, he always had a snotty nose. The kid had clogged tear ducts and chronic sinus infections. Part of the reason I always keep wipes in the car is for the last minute oh crap we are going somewhere and you are all gross moments.

I have a five year old girl who insists on wearing whatever she wants, and trust me when I say it's just easier to let her than argue about whether something matches or not.

I've learned there is a difference between clean clothes and unstained ones. Big difference.

My kids love tv. LOVE it. I try to limit it, and there are days that it's never on. But then there are the other days...

I gave up buying educational toys, at least the ones marketed that way. They never play with them. But give them some bubble wrap and toilet paper, now that is a guaranteed good time.

I stopped going to playgroups when my second was born and none of the groups allowed older children. All those first time moms, delusional still, they wanted their little babies to be protected from the bad influences of the big kids. Someday they'd have more kids, I laughed. Someday they'd learn. Someday they'd be like me, lost in the sea of boredom with too many kids to ever be welcome anywhere again.

I've nursed all of my kids for as long as they wanted to. My almost two year old is walking around with three pacifiers as I type this. And he's carefully maneuvering around the piles of toys in the family room.

I could go on for days about all the things I swore I'd never do. Motherhood teaches you a lot about who you are, as opposed to who you thought you would be. And it teaches you a lot about life in general.

First and foremost, never say never.

Reason

The tale I am about to spin is a disturbing one, all the more so because it's true. Rest assured that no actual children were harmed in the events that I describe here. The names have not been changed to protect the innocent. Well, because they aren't exactly innocent.

This is just one of those stories that helps explain things. Provides a reason.

This is why men don't have babies.

A little after noon last Sunday, I put AJ down for his nap. After I was sure he was asleep, the other kids started to whine. They were hungry. They were driving their father and grandfather crazy. The two of them were busy putting in the tile in the bathroom, and didn't want to be bothered by playing games of 20 questions. They were tired of constantly telling the little helpers they didn't need help.

After some debate as to where to get food, I took the older three and left. AJ was nestled, all snug in his bed. The two responsible adults slaving away in the bathroom downstairs.

I went and got lunch and came home. I was gone less than 15 minutes. When I got home, I grabbed all the bags out of the car and started setting the kids up with their tacos and burritos. AJ came around the corner, said "Hi, Mama!" and sat at the table.

Not long after he made his appearance, the other two showed up. The grown ups. The responsible adults. I knew immediately something was amiss. They just had that look on their faces, you know the one. The I'm SO going to get caught and I might as well just fess up to it now look. That one.

My dear father in law then asked me if I wanted to sit down before he told me. Told me what, I asked?

He stammered and stuttered a little. I secretly think he's a little afraid of me, especially right now. (can't really say I blame the guy) Finally, out came the story, at least the part of it he could tell me. Truth is, neither one of them really know for sure how it all went down. Which is the problem.

All they knew is that they were busy working on the tile when they heard a knock at the front door. Unsure of who it might be, they opened the door. And standing on the front porch, sleepy eyed, a little confused and wearing only a onesie, was AJ.

The only logical explanation for how he got there is this: he woke up, climbed out of the crib, came down the stairs all stealth ninja like so as to not be noticed, climbed out the dog door, went into the garage, went out the open garage door and came around the front of the house.

And the two responsible adults didn't notice until he knocked on the front door.

I'd prefer to ignore the possible things that could have happened if he wasn't smart enough to realize he shouldn't have been out there alone. If he'd just started walking. But the one year old figured it out.

Thank goodness.

My boy, he scared the pants off those two. Tom immediately turned the alarm back on for the doors and windows. He started putting the slider in the dog door and locking all doors that would let this child out of the house. He now knows that I am not overstating the exploits of this child.

They both have a greater appreciation for what it is that I do. If nothing else, at least now they have a little bit of an idea of how hard it is to be the mother of a boy like him. A boy who aspires to be an escape artist. This kid will keep you on your toes. 24/7.

Told you there is a reason.

His name is AJ.

As a postscript to this story, I must tell you all that I have also lost one of my children. I once had an entire store on lockdown looking for Aidan. None of us are immune from the antics of children all the time. And, really, this story was written to capture the humor in the situation, not point fingers. AJ is safe, and we are all just a little more vigilant about keeping both eyes on him. So there. (I know, it's less funny with the disclaimer...)

Pants

Last week I took the kids to the pool one afternoon. It was cloudy but not stormy, and I figured that it probably wouldn't be too crowded. It was a spur of the moment trip to the pool, since I wasn't sure we'd ever get time to do anything that day.

AJ is fighting his naps now that he knows he can get out of the crib. As much as he may think he doesn't need to sleep, he does. It just might take hours to get it to happen. His timing of this new skill is just about the worst possible. He had to wait until right after school got out to do it. Had to wait until right before he was scheduled for surgery to do it. Sigh.

Anyhow, he'd finally given up and slept that day and we had enough time to get to the pool. I had the kids pack a change of clothes quickly so that we could go run some errands after we went swimming.

We got to the pool, and it was great. No crowds. Plus, as a bonus, some friends were there too. We were able to swim for over an hour before the pool closed and we had to pack it up.

The kids went into the locker rooms to change afterwards. AJ protested. He did not want to be held anymore. No way, no how. He was changed and ready to go. Trust me when I say that he isn't one to go quietly. If he wants down, he'll let everyone know. And he's already figured out that bathrooms are a great place to scream. The acoustics are awesome.

We went out to the front to wait for the other kids to change. It took a while. Ashley came out and told me that Ally had a little problem. She forgot her pants. She forgot her what??? Clearly you can't go run errands without pants. Ally came out with a towel wrapped around her waist, and I promptly turned her around and told her to go put her swimsuit back on.

While we were waiting for Ally to change again, Aidan came out with a towel around his waist. He was missing something too. You guessed it. Pants.

I'd suppose that next time we head to the pool, I need to give them a little more warning to pack their bags. I probably should also check to make sure they all have pants.

Pants are kinda important that way.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Junkie

I have a bit of a problem, I know. I'll admit it. I'm a junkie.

I'm obsessed with the weather this time of year. Wildly obsessed.

I check the radar almost constantly. Find myself peeking out the windows in every direction several times a day.

I blame it mostly on the fact that I was once stuck outside when the sky turned an eerie green color. I've looked up at the swirling clouds above my head and wondered what if.

Up until that point, I thought that we were safe here. That tornadoes couldn't happen in this area.

Here's the thing though. It didn't really freak me out. In fact it has done quite the opposite.

I find myself mesmerized by the cloud formations. How they can start so small and grow so fast, reaching for the heavens above. The wall of rain that can come in an instant. The way that the hair on the back of your neck stands at attention when the lightning is too near. How thunder sounds when it bounces off the mountains.

These storms, as powerful as they are, are a magnificent thing to behold. Though most people are afraid of them, I can see what draws some to them. What makes people want to study the sky, chase storms.

It's the adrenaline rush. The thrill. The mystery of it all.

Keep an eye on the sky. I know I will.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Blank

I feel like my brain has turned to mush. It's gone blank. I've sat here for what seems like forever trying to think of something to write. Nothing.

I have this great way of putting on a tough exterior when I am really just a complete mess on the inside.

I took both my boys into the operating room yesterday. Carried one, held another's hand. I've been inside an operating room three times in the last few weeks. I'd be okay with not seeing another one for a while.

It's the control freak in me. I long ago realized that life is a journey, and one which we have very little actual control of. You can make all the plans in the world, you can set goals and work towards what you think you want, but ultimately if those things aren't destined to come to fruition, they won't. No matter what you want. No matter what you do. No matter how tightly you try to hang on to them.

You'd think I would have learned better than to try by now.

And yet I do. I want to believe that I can help. That I can make things better. Especially for my children. I need to believe that when something is wrong, I can fix it. And usually I can. But there are times, like yesterday, where I am helpless as a mother. When there is little I can do to make things right, except carry them and hold their hands.

The nurses commented on how composed I was, that I didn't cry when they each slipped off to sleep. AJ looked up at me with his sleepy blue eyes and snuggled his head onto my chest, wrapped up in the blanket he loves the most, one which used to belong to his big brother. Aidan hid his nerves well, like someone I know. But they finally got the best of him, and he started to cry just before he fell asleep.

I think that if I was there with just one of them yesterday, I would have at some point lost the ability to control my tears. I would have let my fears and my anxiety out. My worries. I would not have been so calm and composed. But they were both there. Literally as Aidan was going in, AJ was coming out. I walked from the OR directly to the recovery side. I didn't have time to cry. Someone always needed me.

I'll eventually get back to thinking of funny and sarcastic things to say. I'll amuse you with my wit and humor. Tell you funny stories about the kids. I'll start writing my recipes again. I will.

First, though, I think I need to let those tears out somehow. I just have to wait until no one needs me for a few minutes.

Sigh

Though the boys have days or weeks of healing ahead of them, the worst is officially behind us. Their surgeries are over. They went well, with a few minor changes from what we expected. They both needed a little more, and a little less, done than we anticipated. Luckily for them, they are none the wiser.

At least for now.

Eventually the anesthesia medicine will wear off completely. Eventually they will realize what hurts and where.

Soon the bandages will come off and the wounds will heal. Scars will replace the tender incisions. Aidan can go back to just being a kid. Soon.

For now, we rest. I can sleep.

Sigh.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Jello

Do not ever underestimate the power of Jello.

Though AJ is blissfully unaware of what is about to happen to him, Aidan isn't. He knows what he's in for today, though I am certain he really doesn't know just how it is going to be. He's been nervous and scared and antsy and even sometimes a little excited about today.

Mostly though, he is just ready to get it over with and get on with his life. He knows that this needs to be taken care of, and he knows why. He knows that he is going to hurt for a little while, but that after he heals he shouldn't hurt anymore. Like he has been.

He is ready to go back to just being a kid. No longer does he want to be one who is constantly wondering if he's going to be able to play soccer with his friends at recess without hurting. He's done with needing pain killers every time he does something he shouldn't. He's tired of other people asking him why he needs to go to the nurse's office all the time at school.

He has his worries. Will the needle hurt when they have to put in his IV? Will he wake up during surgery? Those are mostly the things he is concerned with about the surgery itself.

Then there are his other concerns. The things he is worried about for afterwards. The things to keep him busy when he won't be able to do too much. These are the things that are motivating him right about now. He has brand new still in the box LEGO sets waiting for him. He has library books checked out. He has his eye on a video game, already told his Dad which one he wants to rent. He wants to watch some movies he hasn't seen yet. And he wants to eat Jello. Like a lot of Jello. We have at least six different flavors in the pantry awaiting him.

I'm not quite sure why, but he's looking forward to the Jello.

Ah, the power of Jello.

If you've got a few seconds to spare this morning, send your thoughts to my boys. XOXO

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Close

It's getting closer and closer. Too close. The big day.

Surgery for both my boys.

I think I'm more nervous than they are. As a mom I've only ever really had to deal with scary medical situations twice. Once when Aidan was born, the other when Ashley tore open the roof of her mouth.

This is different. This is planned. Those weren't. Those were things I didn't see coming and didn't expect and didn't have time to prepare for and worry about. Back when Ashley hurt herself, I didn't freak out. Not even a little. There was blood everywhere and I didn't know what was really wrong or how bad it was. I had two other kids I had to get taken care of and I needed to get her to the hospital. And I did. I carried my scared baby girl into the operating room, and only after she was asleep did I let myself be afraid.

I do well in a time of crisis. Seriously, if things go bad, you want me in your corner. I'm calm and collected and can think things through. I climbed over huge piles of rubble in the middle of aftershocks to get out my brother's medication after the earthquake. I calmly grabbed my children and sought shelter when the sky was falling. I carefully packed my most precious belongings when we had to evacuate our home because of a wildfire. I managed to avoid a huge collision in the fast lane of the freeway only months after I got my license. I've talked someone out of suicide. I've fought off an attempted rape.

I can handle things when they happen.

What I don't do as well with is the anticipation of them.

I know in my head that everything will be fine. That my boys are in the most capable hands they can be. That these procedures have to happen, and we've run out of time to wait. I know that even if there are complications, they are in the best facility to take care of them. I know these things in my head. I do.

But that doesn't make me worry less. It doesn't make me less nervous. It doesn't help me sleep at night when all I do is stare at the ceiling and worry.

I can't show my worry, can't let my anxiety out. I can't do it because I'm a mom. I'm their mom. And they look to me to be steady and strong. It's my job to reassure them, to calm their fears. To tell them that everything is going to be okay.

I'm good under pressure, but a nervous mess waiting for it. The longer I have to wait, the more I worry. I'm glad the waiting is almost over. I think.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Balance

Back to normal. Well, normal for me anyway. Not that it's normal.

Okay, so back to my normal. My sarcastic, brutally honest self.

I ordered a bike for AJ for his birthday. Which just seems wrong on so many levels. We would have never contemplated getting any of the other kids a bike for their second birthday. No way. I mean, he isn't even two. What business does he have thinking he can ride a bike? Not to mention his, ahem, petite stature. He's a teeny little guy, though he's done a fair amount of growing as of late. Up but not out. Just gets skinnier and skinnier, that kid.

We saw a bike very similar to the one I ordered a little while back. A little boy, not much older or bigger than AJ, was cruising around the park, keeping up with his bigger siblings. And AJ had him a big case of bike envy. I had to stop the mom and ask her where she found such a cool bike. I was immediately convinced that this was what he was getting for his next birthday.

So I was ordering this bike. It's not a regular bike. It's called a balance bike. Essentially it's a toddler size bike, but without pedals and training wheels, and the frame is a little lower to the ground. They are popular in Europe and gaining here, especially in bike obsessed Boulder. The idea is to have them master balancing and steering before being bothered with pedaling. Makes sense to me.

Plus, this is about the only bike the kid has a prayer of being able to ride for a while. It's not like they make infant sized bikes. Because, well, infant sized people aren't supposed to ride bikes.

I got the bike at a pretty good discount, through one of my mommy websites. http://www.mamabargains.com/. They have an application on Facebook that posts their new deals for people of the world who lack the discipline to check the website constantly (myself included).

Along with the post for the bikes, came the obligatory comments. Moms happy they were selling these again. Moms who had to rave about the bike they bought for their toddler before. Moms who had to ask questions about the bikes. And of course, the moms who had to complain. They didn't like the bike. Didn't like how it looked. Didn't see the point. Thought the shipping was too high. Blah, blah, blah.

Whatever happened to the old adage If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all?

I guess that rule doesn't apply to impossible to please women with too much time on their hands and a chip on their shoulder.

I just don't get it. If you have a real critcism, fine. If you tried the product and it didn't work for whatever reason, that feedback would be fantastic. Shipping costs really are expensive, and I can tell you they aren't padding their profit much in that respect. I guess I've shipped too many things to get upset about that. But just whining for the sake of whining? I guess I just don't have the patience I used to. Or I just have too many other important things to worry about.

I'm sure these women can't understand why their kids whine so much. I always think it's funny when people complain about the personality traits they so clearly passed down to their kids. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.

As for me, I'm waiting for a bike for a little boy. I'm sure that my only comments will be glowing reviews, about how awesome this bike is and how much my little boy loves it. I ordered the one that is designed to look like a teeny little motorcycle. It's pretty cool...and it's not even here yet.

He just might get it before his birthday.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Leak

Forgive me while I change gears for a minute. I'm about to be real and serious and not at all funny.

I feel compelled to write about this. If it wasn't for the fact that I am so completely entrenched in my own reality, I'd be a lot more outraged about it than I am. Mostly though, I just don't have the energy to devote to being upset about it.

The Gulf. BP. The massive oil leak.

To me, the oceans are sacred. For the longest time I wanted to be a marine biologist, but for some reason I opted to be more practical and go into law. Lot of good that did me. I've always been drawn to the ocean, which makes living in the middle of the country a challenge.

Part of it is that I was born in southern California, a place where proximity to the pristine beauty and overpowering nature of the water is a given. Where you get so accustomed to seeing the ocean, breathing the smells of it, that it's just ingrained in who you are.

My love of the ocean is deeper than just an ordinary affection.

I wrote my senior thesis in college on the overfishing of sharks in international waters. Even though I went into public policy, I wrote about my passion. At the time, it was nowhere near the public problem it is now. It's a topic that has gotten more attention in recent years. Shark fin soup has always been an expensive delicacy in parts of the world, but the demand was growing. And the power of greed drove men to the oceans, to prey on one of the only apex predators in the seas. Messing with the food chain at any level is dangerous on a large scale, particularly when one aims at the top. Not only do they kill the sharks, they do so in a horrific manner, wasting the entire carcass. All they want are the fins.

And out there, out far in the oceans, away from the coastlines, there are few laws. There are few protections. And, it seems, there is a lack of respect. Not just for the animals, the other nations, the people of this world. There is a lack of respect for Mother Earth.

As huge and vast as the ocean is, it is fragile as well.

Greed can drive men to do great damage. To endanger ecosystems, to destroy life. And here we are now, with a well off our coastline spewing oil with no end in sight. Death and destruction in the path of an ever growing suffocating mess. And they, the men whose greed drove them to dig this well, cannot seem to stop it. What now?

Maybe this is a sign that we, as a nation, and as a world, need to stop relying on oil. It's a beacon of our waste and excess to the rest of the world. Of our recklessness. Our carelessness. Our greed. Maybe this is a sign that offshore drilling isn't merely an eyesore, but a real and true threat to our way of life. Maybe we need to stop being so short sighted. Maybe we need to find an urgency for the development of clean energy.

Or maybe, just maybe, this is the work of our Mother, tired of being raped and pillaged for the benefit of man. She's pissed and she is fighting back. And she's teaching us a lesson.

I don't pretend to know how to solve this problem. How to stop this leak. You would think that is one of the things they would figure out how to do before puncturing the ocean floor, just in case it ever went sour. Apparently not.

How do we stop our reliance on oil in the first place? How do we change our nation, and those around the world? How do we make people think about what they are doing to the Earth their children and grandchildren will someday inherit? How do we stop the greed?

This catastrophe, as terrible as it may be, might just be what the Earth needs. What we all need.

A wake up call.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Potty, Part II

Of course after I wrote the first potty post, I realized that I left out a bunch of stuff. Good stuff. Important stuff.

For instance, don't ever try to potty train a kid right before you go on a vacation. Trust me when I say you'd rather deal with diapers than be constantly looking for a bathroom in an unfamiliar place.

I have talked children into wearing diapers after they were potty trained for long car rides. Not that I expected them to use the diapers...just in case we didn't find a rest stop or non-gross bathroom in time.

Once you feel confident enough with potty training progress to venture into the outside world, bring extra clothes and a plastic bag with you. Everywhere. You. Go. The one time you don't is the one time you'll need it.

Remember that your newly trained toddler still has a tiny bladder. They have to go more often than we do.

If you mention the word potty, know that you have just put them on notice and the clock is ticking. Do not ask them if they have to go unless you are within a few minutes of a bathroom. The power of suggestion is strong.

Even if you have a bathroom tourist (I have two, who have to go to the bathroom everywhere we go, even when they just went), take them. They could be telling the truth. And you don't want to be on the wrong side of that judgement call in the middle of a restaurant.

Don't bother trying to potty train a toddler who is about to become an older brother or sister. If you've got less than 3 months before the arrival of the baby, do something more productive with your time. Regression is common, and you don't want to go through all that only to have to do it again.

Discuss how to handle accidents with every adult your child is with. Consistency and patience are more important than anything else. Floors can be cleaned, clothes can be washed.

Just because a child is potty trained doesn't mean you are off the hook. You have years of wiping ahead of you. Years.

Buy a plunger if you don't have one already. Once they start trying to wipe, most kids use way too much toilet paper for any conventional toilet to handle.

All my kids trained immediately after I opened a huge box of diapers. Never when you are on the last few. That's just the way it is.

There are occasionally easy trainers. The kids that just wake up one morning and decide it's time. Don't count on your child being one of them. Sure, you might get lucky. I did once. But don't count on it. Having said that, if you do happen to be lucky enough to have one of those kids, and they are ready and willing, it is in your best interest to help them learn. Even if you are planning to leave for vacation in a few days.

Just don't forget to bring a change of clothes.

Trust me.

Potty

Ask and you shall receive. :)

Cue dramatic music....

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to train an uncooperative child to empty their bladder and bowels into a functioning toilet with predictability. This message will self destruct.

Potty training. Let's all just have a collective sigh, shall we?

It's not one of the fun parts of motherhood, I can tell you that much. A necessary evil. It is indeed something which children must learn to do in order to eventually become independent, functioning members of society.

Unless you manage to pawn it off on someone else, that is. I came across a mother who actually did that a few weeks back. I was picking up a screaming child from the gym childcare, and a women walked in with her 3 year old daughter. She clearly had just picked this kid up from her regular daycare on her way home from work. As she was signing her little girl in, she handed the childcare workers a bag with a change of clothes and spare diapers. She apologized for the fact that her daughter was in panties, she just wasn't sure what her daycare lady was thinking. The gym employee, clearly familiar with the little girl, just replied back that it wasn't a big deal. The girl had been using the potty there without help for months. Months? Was this mom really that clueless?

She must live in the fantasy world all the rest of us dream of.

Back to reality. That isn't an option for most people. And really, I had a hard time holding back my laughter when it all happened.

So, anyway, how do you potty train a child? I've done this quite a bit, and am about to embark on the adventure again. I should know what I am doing by now, right?

Rather than bore you all with the things I specifically did with my other kids, I'll just give some pointers on things that worked and didn't work. Keep in mind that every single child is different, and I lay no claim to guaranteed success.

* Toddler pull-up disposable diaper pants are you biggest enemy. Don't buy them. Ever. They lure the child into a false belief that they are indeed making progress, when really, you are just buying more expensive diapers with some new cartoon character on them. And they are harder to change. The biggest problem with them, as with disposable diapers in general, is that they are super absorbent. If the kid doesn't feel wet and gross, they aren't going to be in a huge hurry to do anything about it.

* If you can swing it, get some cloth diapers for potty training time. Again, the wetness cue is important. There are also thicker training pants, some with plastic covers. The accidents aren't fun to clean up, but they will make training easier.

* If possible, wait until the kid shows signs of interest. If they aren't ready, you are just wasting your time. Taking off diapers all the time does not necessarily equal interest, though. It could mean the kid just likes to be naked. Or figured out how to take off a diaper. Or figured out how to push mommy's buttons. Or needs clothes that are just harder to get off. It may mean they are ready, but isn't a sure fire sign. For me, signs of readiness are the following:
- Increased curiosity in bathroom affairs (beyond unrolling the toilet paper).
- Ability to hold their bladder for longer periods of time. If your toddler is waking up from a 3 hour nap bone dry and not peeing immediately upon waking, he or she might be ready.
- If they start to hide when they need to poop, or come and tell you they did. Signs they are either embarrassed to do it in front of others, are uncomfortable sitting in it, or both.

* If none of the above signs are present, really, just don't bother. Unless you have a looming deadline for preschool enrollment or something, it isn't worth forcing the issue. Trust me on this. I've been down that road. There are a lot of accidents and frustration on that road. It's not worth it.

* Stay calm, be consistent, be disciplined. If you are making progress, keep going with it. This is as hard for us as it is for them, I think.

* Don't listen to other people. Truth is, every kid is different. And no, your toddler won't go to college in diapers.

* Don't be afraid to give up. If it isn't working, stop cold turkey. Wait a few weeks, then try again. Don't torture yourself or them by continuing something that isn't working.

* Just getting some kids to sit on the potty is progress. Some kids are afraid of it. Be leery of public toilets with automatic flushers. They terrify little kids, especially ones who happen to be sitting on the toilet when it goes off. If you are in one of those bathrooms, cover the sensor while they go. (again, trust me on this one)

* Be prepared to dedicate a few solid weeks to perfecting potty training. Some kids get it quickly, others need more time. If you have lots of things to do or places to go, now is not the time to try.

* Some boys do better learning to pee standing up from the beginning. Messy, yes. But whatever works.

* Don't waste money on expensive floating things to get boys to pee. Cheerios are cheap.

* Buy the flushable wet wipes. But hide them from the kids unless they are being used for their intended purpose. They are expensive!

* Choose your potty carefully. One piece potties are ideal. Do not buy a potty that has a drawer to catch the pee and poop. Um, because, well...just don't. Trust me.

* They make toilet seats now with an integrated kid seat. I'm so getting one of those when AJ starts. Kids have a hard time learning to use the big potty if they feel unsafe up there. (try to imagine yourself feeling comfortable going if you felt like you'd fall the entire time) If you use an inset kid seat, make sure it is stable.

* Don't get frustrated. They aren't doing this to make you angry. They are learning how to do this for the first time, and you are learning how to teach them for the first time. Even if you've managed to potty train other kids before, you haven't potty trained this one.

* It's fairly common for kids to be trained for either pee or poop, but not the other. I knew a little boy who asked for a diaper to poop until he was almost 5. Stayed that way until he got diarrhea when he was sick once, and that was the end of that. Making them feel bad about it won't fix it, in fact it usually makes it worse. Again, they won't go to college in diapers.

* If something worked for you other kids, it won't necessarily work for this one. Remember that. And don't compare them.

* I'm not above bribery and rewards. They work. The trick is finding what works for this kid. For my oldest, mini M&Ms were the trick. Ashley needed a sticker chart and fancy panties. Eventually you have to phase out the rewards obviously. I mean, I don't get candy every time I go potty. ;)

* Timers. When they get to the point of going on the potty, set a timer. 5-10 minutes at first, lengthening the time between. Big deal every time. Big.

* Naked parties. Seriously. If it's warm enough, take the little potty out back and have a naked party. They will know immediately when they start to pee or poop that something is amiss if there is no diaper to catch it. Plus, there's a hose out there.

* Accidents happen. Some kids have accidents occasionally for a very long time. Some never have them at all. Every child is different.

* Nighttime training is a whole different animal. Bed wetting has other causes, most of which have nothing to do with daytime training. If your child has more accidents at night, use diapers or pull-ups only then. You can do all kinds of things like limiting drinks before bedtime, waking them up to go, setting alarms, etc. But really, none of those will address the reason and I highly recommend you not do them. If they are thirsty, give them a drink. If they are sleeping, don't wake them up just to use the bathroom. If you have concerns about it after they have been daytime trained for a while, discuss it with your pediatrician. Really.

That's all I know about potty training. Once other people know you are potty training, be prepared for unsolicited advice, and lots of it. Ignore it. You can buy books and listen to the advice of so-called experts, but really, no one knows what will work for you and your kid. You know him or her better than anyone else does.

The only things you really need to master potty training are these: time, patience and wipes. You need a lot of wipes. Oh, and maybe some carpet cleaner.

Good luck!

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