Saturday, July 31, 2010

Break

Just when I was ready to take a break from this for a while, I can't now. Someone out there is watching me. I've actually been waiting for them to watch me for a while. Hoping they would deem me worthy. To lend some support to the crazy idea that I could ever write and make money doing it.

BlogHer

I'm just so excited about it I can hardly stand it.

I'm nervous about it too.

I was almost looking forward to a little hiatus from the keyboard. Almost. Even the mere thought of taking a break has made my brain start churning out more and more topics than I can normally think of. I have 6 or so waiting in the wings already.

Interesting, my motivation, don't you think?

Anyhow, I'm not about to squander this opportunity to be taken seriously by someone who doesn't even know who I am, who is willing to take a chance on me, who appreciates my writing from afar.

So, I will keep on keeping on.

No break.

Which is just the way my life is anyway these days. No break.

No downtime. No blank thoughts. No free moments. Nope.

One of my random gifts in this world is that I can juggle. I know, right?

Let's see just how much I can keep up in the air at one time.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sees

I watched a movie a few nights back. I knew it was going to be bad. I did. I expected it.

It came in the mail from Netflix while back and it's been sitting on top of the tv. I avoided watching it for a while because I just knew.

It would touch a nerve. A raw one. It would be hard to watch.

It was.

Heartaching and heartwarming, all in the course of 136 minutes.

Don't misunderstand me....it's a good movie. Just hits a little too close to home right now is all.

It's the kind of movie that I think I just might remember for the rest of my life. Not just for the movie itself, but when and where I was when I saw it. What was going on in my world at the time.

There have been other movies like that. E.T., The Goonies, Ghostbusters, Ghost, Groundhog Day, and this one. (And no, I don't think it has anything to do with the unusual number of G named movies, though that is a bit strange now seeing it written out.)

Each of those movies remind me of a time in my life. This one will too.

Everybody's Fine.

Which is so clearly a lie. Everybody is most certainly not fine. Not in the movie, and not in my world. But the point of the film, so far as I could see though my tears is that even with all of our flaws and harsh truths, even with our failures and disappointments, family makes it better. Or at least it is supposed to.

It made me think about things. About my life. About my choices. About my relationships. About the complacency of people with the things that are really important until it's too late. About the consequences of our actions, our words. About what might have been.

It made me think about how I, as a parent, will look back on this time in my life someday and wonder if I did the best I could. Will I expect too much? Will I push them too hard? Will I be disappointed in them? Will they resent me? Am I making the right choices?

Part of the movie that touched my soul the deepest was that the father in the film envisioned his very much grown children as still being kids. He still saw them as children. And I wonder if I will do that myself. And I wonder how old they will be when I envision them that way. I wonder if Aidan is already past the age I might imagine him to be.

Then I wonder, and to some degree I know, whether my own father still sees me that way now. In his eyes, at least sometimes, I am still just a little girl.

Maybe it's better that way.

I think that it is.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Form

Life isn't so much about what you say as how you say it. Or what you are doing when you say it.

For instance, when you ask how someone is, but then are so wrapped up in your own thoughts that you stop listening as they are telling you...perhaps you never really cared how they were in the first place.

Or when you are giving your undivided attention to your cell phone, ignoring the living, breathing human beings around you after you'd told them just a sec, I have to take this.

Or when someone offers to help with something, except when it comes to the details they are suddenly too busy or preoccupied or scatterbrained to be of any use. That's not exactly helping.

Truth is that the vast majority of people don't really care how you are. Or if you need them to be present and engaged in the now. They are all too wrapped up in themselves. Too busy, with whatever else.

And just food for thought...when you say sorry to someone, it should never, ever be phrased as a question. Either you don't know what you are sorry for, aren't sure that you should be, or are just saying it because you think the other person wants you to. Clearly, you don't mean it.

So just don't bother.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Word

It's funny sometimes how kids can make you think.

Think about a lot of things. The questions they ask. The subtle details of life that they see that we, as adults, seem to ignore. The simple truths they point out.

Sometimes they seem to have it all figured out.

Aidan's had a bit of an unexciting summer. It's been basically a wash out. He needs a do-over. I so completely need to make next summer awesome to compensate for the miserableness of this one.

He's had surgery. He's been in pain. He's been unable to play the way he wants. He had to skip swim team. He's missed out on weeks of playing at the pool. He made it to only a fraction of his baseball team's games.

But none of those are the thing he's missed the most.

He misses his friends. The ones that he would be seeing all the time if he was able to do everything else. The ones that have been away on vacations with their families. The ones he's hardly seen since May.

Mostly, though, he misses one of his friends in particular. They have the kind of relationship that ebbs and flows, but is always present. There are times that they talk on the phone daily. There are times they don't talk for months (during the summer, of course). They've been in the same class since preschool. They go to church together during the school year too.

Their friendship has changed as they have gotten older, simply by virtue of the fact that he is a boy and she is a girl. They go through stages where Aidan wants to hang out with the boys and she with the girls. Then they tire of that, and find their way back to one another again.

They look out for each other. They are a constant in a world of change. For each the other represents comfort, safety, and a place where they won't be judged.

Though I lack the power to see into the future, I have a feeling that they might serve that purpose in each other's lives for many years to come.

He's been asking if he can see her lately, been trying to get a hold of her. They've been playing more phone tag than talking and can't seem to figure out a time that works for them to see each other.

So, this morning, he asked me a question.

Mom, can you help me finish this last part?

He'd written her a letter. He figures it will get to her for sure. The call can't get dropped. No one can be too busy. She'll have it, in person.

He misses his friend, and now she will know how much.

He is a smart and perceptive boy, for he knows, already, the value of not just her friendship, but the power of the written word.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mess

I had no intentions of cleaning my carpets today. Did they need it? Yeah, probably. But I wasn't going to do it today. I had planned to take the kids out to do something fun.

Guess what I did though?

An hour and a half of my life I'm never getting back. An hour and a half less of summer to enjoy. It took me an hour and a half.

Aidan is obsessed with completing tasks in his Webelos book. He's made mobiles and stages and books and a terrarium. He likes to get things checked off. Really likes it.

The terrarium was something he had to do to fulfill some requirement in the book, and he spent a good long while last weekend working on it. Ashley suddenly decided that she too needed to make one. I tried to tell her no, since we didn't really have another good container for it. But her Dad said okay. So really, he should be cleaning the mess, right?

I went upstairs today for the pre-fun room inspections and found her terrarium perched on her windowsill. Except it wasn't so much a terrarium as a container of stinky sloshy mud that once contained a basil plant. She'd been watering it. A lot.

Apparently she took Tom's permission to mean that not only could she make this terrarium, she could store it in her room.

It smelled like it was rotting. Blech.

I told her that she couldn't leave it like that and she needed to take it outside and put it by Aidan's. Off she marched down the stairs.

I was straightening the bathroom when she reappeared.

Mom, I dropped it.

My first and only real question was, where?

Downstairs.On.The.Carpet.

Crap.

I took one look at it and knew this wasn't going to be an easy thing to clean up. Besides, I had no real idea what was growing in there. Nasty.

Out came the carpet cleaner. Because I don't have anything else to do.

Fun will have to wait.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Unreal

A friend of mine, and a fellow blogger, recently wrote about labor. About what she expected it to be like, and about how much it wasn't at all like what she thought it would be. And about why she expected it to be so.

Which made me chuckle a little.

It made me remember how I used to torture myself the same way that she did, even after I knew better. How I'd sit and watch those tv programs about pregnancy and labor. How I'd be on the edge of my seat as the mother started to feel the first twinges of pains, how I'd wait through the commercial breaks to see if the baby was okay.

Most women know which shows I am talking about. The ones with the cheesy music and the creative camera angles and the requisite drama in every episode. Those ones.

Here's the thing. Those shows are just that. Shows. Real labor isn't like that at all, even though the shows supposedly are portraying real life. They aren't. They are heavily edited real life, which isn't real life at all.

How do I know? I mean, aside from being a mother who has birthed four children and a doula who has witnessed the births of many more? Well, I know first hand, actually. I was taped for one of those shows.

When I was in labor with Ashley, they were filming Maternity Ward at the hospital I delivered at. I wasn't so much in labor as refusing to leave the hospital until the baby came out, truth be told. I'd been contracting all night and I knew that if I left, labor would fully kick in at any moment, and that when it did, I'd have to be at the hospital already or I'd be giving birth on my bedroom floor or in the car, neither of which sounded appealing.

I'm known for fast labors with insane progression and almost no time pushing. When a baby wants to come out of me, it wants out now.

So, given my history, the doctor opted to keep me there and break my water since that was safer than the alternative. Of course, I was deemed high risk since I had gestational diabetes (diet controlled) and she was a little less than a month early. Que up the dramatic music...will this mother get through labor safely? Will the baby be okay?

I was settling in to my room and not particularly uncomfortable when the producer for the show came in. He was all excited, since my labor was sure to be a dramatic one. With risks and speed, it had to be, right? For some reason I don't fully understand, I agreed to let them film me. Maybe deep down I knew that the shows were misleading and maybe, just maybe my labor could help communicate more reality in their show. Who knows?

The doctor broke my water and not much happened. They hooked me up to pitocin (the devil's contractor, I call it), and within mere seconds full blown labor arrived. I was talked into sitting on the birth ball and was managing the contractions fine. Never mind my friend sitting in the corner eating a sandwich and Tom doing squats at the foot of the bed to make me laugh...they sure weren't helping, those two.

After a short while, the contractions got stronger and closer together. I was still fine. I warned the nurse to prep the room and she looked at me like I was crazy. Then she checked me. And then she believed me. Asked if I needed any pain medication. Nope. Even on pitocin, she asked? Nope.

Chaos ensued. The doctors and nurses came in, the techs prepped all the stuff, the transformer bed transformed and in came the camera crew. At some point, my parents arrived and were trapped in the room by the onslaught of other people. Plus, I'd drawn a crowd. Every free nurse on the floor was peeking her head in the door. It's not every day you see a mom on pitocin go without an epidural.

I remember telling them to hurry up. The baby was coming, and I wasn't waiting to push. I was breathing and talking and not freaking out. I did yell/scream that one time, when she crowned, but that was about it. She was fine, though they took her to the NICU because of her gestational age for observation. I was fine.

Later that day, the producer came in and broke the news. I wasn't going to make the show. Though I'd had great potential, I hadn't come through for them. I didn't scream and carry on like a woman without an epidural was supposed to. I didn't have birth trauma, and the baby was fine. I had a fairly uneventful labor, and apparently that isn't tv worthy.

Normal isn't worth watching, at least not in the eyes of the producers. By extension, the only stories that make it on to those shows are the ones that aren't normal. Think about the ramifications of that for our generation of women, those who have sat and watched these shows with our first babies thinking they would tell us what to expect.

So, to all the women out there watching these shows now, keep my story in mind. The shows aren't really an accurate picture of reality. Normal and uneventful aren't exciting enough to make the cut. It's no wonder most women go into labor nervous and scared. When you look at how it is portrayed as compared to how it really is, there is a huge disparity.

Reality isn't exactly reality. I know, first hand.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Loss

Yesterday, a service was held back home for the baby boy of a friend of mine, stolen in his sleep by SIDS. There is no explanation that can ever suffice for a tragedy such as that. Nothing can make it better.

In my prior life, I worked in risk management at a large teaching hospital. I did a lot of physician eduction. One of the topics I researched for that was antenatal, perinatal and postnatal death of the baby and the traumatic impact on the mother. I found repeated studies citing that the emotional devastation for a mother is roughly equivalent no matter whether the baby passed in utero or within the first six months of life. I can't speak to that comparison personally, and I don't know how anyone could even quantify that kind of thing, but the studies were consistent. Mothers mourn the loss of their babies deeply, wholly, universally.

As a doula, I have helped mothers through losses. As a friend, I have listened as others cried on my shoulder or on the phone. And as a woman, I know how that void in my heart aches.

I've written here about the fact that I consider myself to be the mother of five, not just the four children here with me now. Before all of them, there was another. My first.

As part of the roller coaster that was my life in the year 2000, I lost a baby. At the doctor's appointment that should have reassured me that everything was okay with the pregnancy and the baby was healthy, the opposite was confirmed. A day shy of 12 weeks along, I was told that my baby had died.

My experience with that loss was a terribly isolating one. Even if you know in your brain that pregnancy loss is something that happens often, and chances are that it has happened to someone close to you, it doesn't matter. When it happens to you, you feel like the only person in the whole entire universe who has ever felt this way.

You feel like no one could ever understand.

And there are days and nights when you aren't sure that you can go on. For me, it happened more at night. Daytime was bad enough, but nights were endless torture. In my dreams, I'd hear the baby crying and wake up to the reality that she was gone.

The truth is, every loss is different. Even if two women lose a baby at precisely the same stage of pregnancy, even if they both deliver stillborns, even if they both lose their precious babies after birth, they will never ever experience the same loss.

Every single loss is painful and real.

We might be able to describe how we felt when it happened to us, but we cannot know how someone else feels. We may be able to sympathize with them, but we will never feel the depth of their sorrow.

I know that many well-intentioned people tried to help me back when I was going through it. I wanted to be left alone. I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want people to look at me with their sad eyes. I didn't want people to feel like they couldn't laugh around me. I just wanted to be left alone.

I suppose that the point of my writing this is to give advice to those out there reading. Intentions are all well and good, but please be aware of every single word that comes from your lips. As someone who has been there, I can tell you that the vast majority of things people said to me felt like salt being rubbed into an open wound. Offer to listen, offer a shoulder. But don't offer advice.

When the heart of someone you know breaks this way, there are some things you should never ever say to them.

  • Don't tell them that this is part of God's plan. You might think that, and they may even on some level, but right now they don't need someone else telling them this. It opens the floodgates for all kinds of angry feelings, and questions...like why wasn't God's plan for this baby to be with me?
  • Don't tell them about every person you've ever known who had a loss. They don't care. It doesn't matter right now.
  • Don't tell them it was better that it happened now, versus later. It isn't.
  • Don't tell them that it is good that they are young and can try again. That doesn't make it hurt less.
  • Don't tell them that they will have more babies someday. None of them will ever replace this one.
  • Don't try to console them with medical terminology and reasons why it happened.
  • If you have had a loss yourself, realize that their experience is different. Don't compare them.

If you find yourself experiencing a loss, know that however you are feeling is okay. There are many stages of grief, and none of us spend the same amount of time in any one stage. We all cope in different ways.

If you need help, reach out to someone. More women than you can imagine have been down that painful road.

People really are trying to help, and they don't know the ability of their words to hurt.

Having been through a loss myself, I know that it fundamentally changes who you are as a person. As a woman. As a mother. In some ways I think it makes you appreciate everything a little more, to have lost before.

Understand that men deal with a loss quite differently than we women do. Like, night and day differently. It cannot ever be the same. It isn't their body. And though it may have been their baby, it will never be as deep of a loss for them as it is for you. I found it hard not to be angry about this distinction, but with time I accepted it.

My angel baby would have been ten years old next week. Everywhere I go, she is with me.

In my heart, I am the mother of five.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Over

I am over committed. It's a life-long problem I have.

I also lack the ability to say no. I'm trying to learn, but it's hard.

Usually, it doesn't bother me. I really and truly believe that if you need something done, ask a busy person. I happen to usually be busy, and I usually get things done.

I've put a lot on my plate lately, which isn't really anything new and different.

I'm just in a different place right now. And I don't much care about a lot of the things I need to be caring about. That I'm in charge of. That other people are depending on me for.

I've been this way before, once. I can remember with vivid detail the first day I went back to law school after Tom had been diagnosed with cancer and had emergency surgery. I walked into class, criminal law, and I just didn't care. Life was different now, more important. And the rest of it, the stress of school and everything, it just seemed manufactured and artificial.

I no longer worried about being called on by the professor and not being prepared to answer every single possible question they could have posed. I didn't stress about getting a certain grade. If I didn't get my assignments read, I'd catch up or I wouldn't. But the world wasn't going to stop turning either way.

I got over it eventually, to some degree. I never went back to the person I was before though. And in a lot of ways, I wish that I would have just stopped going to school all together.

That place I was in then, it's a lot like the place I am in now. Difference being, back then all I really had to worry about was me. And Tom. And school.

Now there are so many other things.

And this time, they matter.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Oster


So I'm just about completely in love with my blender right now.

It's a good one.

It's a dual speed glass canister shiny red metallic Oster. Damn.

If blenders can be sexy, and I will make the argument that they can, this one is wearing stilettos.

I got it as my Christmas gift from my brother a few years back when my cheap pathetic excuse for a blender died. It didn't go out as dramatically as my cheap pathetic excuse for a hand mixer....that one was thrown out the door into the snow bank one winter afternoon after it caught on fire.

Lesson #1 to be learned here: don't buy things with cheap motors in them that you plan to use a lot.

Lesson #2 (and no less important than lesson #1): you can put just about any liquor and any juice in a blender with ice and make an awesome drink.

Just sayin.

Have I told you how much I love my blender?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Serenity

I feel like I'm being pulled in about a million different directions right now.

Everyone, it seems, needs something from me. Needs me to do something. To be something. To fix something.

And then there is the matter of all of the things that I wish I had the power to change.

That list, it grows.

I posted on facebook a few days back that I wish that for a day things could go back to the way they used to be. But then I would miss them more than I already do. God, is that the truth.

What I wouldn't give to turn back the hands of time. To un-do things I have done. To un-make choices I've made. To right the wrongs of the world. To warn my past self of the things that would come.

I'd like to have the chance to spend more time working on relationships, some of which have suffered as of late, others which have been made stronger by the cruelness of urgency.

I'd go back and tell myself to worry about the things that matter. Forget the rest.

But I can't go back in time. Even if I could, I'm not sure that I'd want to. Especially if it really was impossible for me to change the course of events. Then I would just miss it more.

My way of dealing with all that I have on my plate right now is to imagine embodying the concept of serenity.

I've been repeating the Serenity Prayer to myself a lot lately. Not because I am a terribly religious person, but because it brings me peace. I think one can be wholly spiritual without the building and rules, but I suppose that is a topic for another day.

God grant me the serenity to change the things I cannot accept, to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Sometimes this comes to me in the middle of the sleepless night. Sometimes as I stare off into the glorious sunset. Sometimes when I am rocking my baby to sleep.

Sometimes it comes to me in peace. And other times I feel like I am screaming it, much like they used to on Seinfeld.

SERENITY NOW!!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5513mXmQbw4

I have to keep my sense of humor.

Serenity now, insanity later.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Creating

I'm sure that I am currently setting myself up for all kinds of trouble. I know that I am, in fact.

If there is one thing I have learned about parenting it is this though: sometimes you just have to do what works for now, and deal with what happens later...well, later.

I can't worry about the situations I'm creating in the future right now. I have to get through now first.

AJ is in a not liking to sleep very much for mommy phase. He sleeps just fine for his father, and it just makes me wonder. Makes me frustrated too. Rather than fighting with him, I've decided to let his naps happen on his terms. Trick him into thinking he's not sleeping on purpose.

I don't drive him around intentionally to get him to sleep, but if we happen to drive home from somewhere, I try to get him nice and tired first. He has to be out cold for there to be any hope of a successful car-to-bed transfer.

He has fallen asleep in his highchair more times than I care to count in the last few weeks, and rather than catch him and his sleepy eyes before he lays his head on the table, I let him fall completely asleep. Then I move him.

I've been rocking him to sleep the other times. Not because he needs me to, but because he wants me to. And I am in a place right now where I am grateful for the chance to still have someone little enough to rock.

I'm rocking myself as much as I'm rocking him.

I know that this might very well come back to haunt me, but I don't much care right now.

I'm doing it with another of my kids too. As if creating one bad habit isn't enough.

Ally has started chewing on things. Fingers, clothes, her hair, toys, even AJ's pacifiers when she can get a hold of them and she thinks no one sees. She is a little ball of anxiety, that girl. She's never had such an oral fixation before, this is a recent development. But I know it's there for a reason.

Rather than get frustrated with her, and yell at her for ruining her hair, sigh at the stretched out necklines and referee fights with AJ when he realizes she's stolen another binkie, I've ordered something for her. A necklace and bracelet specifically made for the purposes of chewing. They are safe, they look like regular jewelry, but they are medical grade safe materials.

www.smartmomjewelry.com

I know that she needs this outlet right now, and I need to give her a way to do it safely. I'll deal with the consequences of it later.

I've got to get through now first.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Simple

I'm a simple girl.

It doesn't take much to make me happy, really.

I'm not needy. I'm not terribly picky. I don't need fancy things. I don't need gourmet meals. I don't need expensive bottles of wine or $10 martinis.

Don't get me wrong, I like them and all. Won't turn them down. (especially the $10 martinis....seriously, they are divine.)

But I don't need them.

Give me a chair and some sun and a nice cold beer.

I'm good.

I got me some of that today.

Simple.

Me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hippo

Many kids have comfort objects. For some it's a special blanket. For others, a stuffed animal or lovey. I've met more than one set of parents who bought those things hoping their kids would get attached to them. That they would find comfort in something cute and intended for that purpose.

Then again, I've known kids with attachments to some stranger things. Towels, burp cloths, socks. I think it's just as endearing, if not more so, when the connection is made with an unexpected item.

I was one of them once, one of the kids with an undying affection for something odd. Back when I was little, Kermit the Frog went with me everywhere. He got dressed up, he attended fabulous tea parties and for a little while I was pretty much convinced that the world just might stop spinning if he ever got lost.

I've never claimed to be normal.

I had to laugh yesterday when Ashley came in from helping Tom clean out the car. Every so often, I make them get out all the treasures from the nooks and crannies in the car. They find all kinds of good things when that happens. Ash found something she missed terribly and was afraid was gone forever, lost in the world alone without her.

It's her lovey. Except it isn't really something you'd associate with being a comfort object at all. It was the free toy she got from the pediatrician's office when she was about a year and a half old. After getting a round of shots including the painful MMR, the nurse walked her over to the drawer where they kept the good toys. (All you moms out there know what I mean....there is the every visit drawer, and the special drawer.)

She dug around in there for a bit, giddy at being granted access to the special drawer for the first time. It didn't take long before she had retrieved her treasure. A teeny tiny little hippo.

She loves this hippo. Always has. He's gone on trips. He's been her show and tell item at preschool. He's rested most of his nights in a drawer in her room or under her pillow. (And yes, it is a he.)

There have been times when we couldn't find the hippo, and she'd often not even realize he was missing until I pointed it out. Which is probably a really bad idea, since I know there is NO way I'd ever be able to find a replacement hippo. If he ever really got lost, I'd be in trouble.

Most recently, he was missing after I helped her clean her room. Poor, sad little hippo, he seemed to be gone. Until yesterday, when he was found, safe and sound in the van.

It's a good thing he decided to be found yesterday. Ash missed him. And she needed to take her little friend with her today. She had a full allergy panel run. If you aren't familiar with the test, it basically involves a whole bunch of pokes in the back to see if you react to the allergens. It requires
sitting absolutely still, even if you are in pain and itchy and miserable.

She was a trooper, and did awesome.

She had a little help from an old friend.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Won't

I love my readers. Can I just take a second and say that? Because really, right now I need every single one of you. In a strange and beautiful sort of way, you all are making me stick to my plans. Making me rack my brain to find something to write about. Making me find the humor in life when it seems to be so terribly lacking. Making me think about something, anything else. For that, I thank you all. I love you guys.

I have only about a million things I want to write about but won't.

And sometimes it's hard to think about anything else.

In the spirit of won't, here's something else I won't do. I won't eat anything without smelling it first. Nothing. Nada. Just. Can't. Do. It.

I think that it's a survival mechanism I developed as a baby. When I was about four months old, I spent quite a while in the hospital. I got food poisoning from a jar of Gerber baby food and just about died. There were many babies that didn't make it.

I say that this quirk of mine is attributable to the food poisoning incident because I have had it for as long as anyone can remember. Like, even as a baby I did it.

It isn't something that I developed when I got older and became aware of food borne illnesses. It isn't something I started doing when I realized where meat came from or when I started cooking for myself, though those are both pretty good times to pick up a habit like mine. I've always done it.

It's something that anyone who has spent any measurable length of time with me has noticed. It's pretty obvious, I suppose. And it's not just the first bite of something, the rest deemed safe in my head. It is every single one.

It's also something that drives my husband crazy. I'm always throwing food out. The second anything upsets my olfactory sensibilities, it's outta here. Even the food that he and his nose deem perfectly harmless. Out it goes.

I know I'm strange. But at least I can make the argument that I have a good reason. I did almost die once.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lies

It's said that the average person lies three time in every ten minutes.

That's a lot of lies.

Or not.

If you really think about it, you quickly realize how much we require lies to function as a society.

Of course, it could just be that I am sitting here watching The Invention of Lying right now. The somewhat amusing premise of the movie is that the world is full of people incapable of lying. No one, no how lies. Ever.

Imagine what the world would really be like if that was the case. Scary, really.

If people asked you how you were, you'd have to tell them. For real. Without sugarcoating or hiding behind fines and okays.

If someone wanted to know what you thought of their new haircut, good lord, you'd have to be honest. You couldn't just say that it looked great while you secretly made a mental note never ever to go to that salon again.

If someone offered you cake at a party and you tried to tell them no, that you didn't really want it because you were on a diet or whatever, you'd instead be cramming that delicious combination of sugar and butter into your mouth. Because you know you want it.

If people asked you to do them a favor and watch their rotten little demon children, you'd really tell them no. And then you'd tell them why.

On a larger scale, we would really know what happens in our government, and those around us. We'd know who did what to who and why.

We'd have answers to all the questions asked by conspiracy theories.

Our history books would actually contain history, rather than the version of events that the writers thought best, or the school board approved of.

The world would be a very different place, that is for sure.

In a twisted way, as this movie points out, lies help our society run a little smoother.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Circus

My kids have never been to the circus. I think as a child I may have only gone two or three times. Once was the Ringling Brothers huge indoor arena show, which wasn't exactly a true circus.

Since we've been in Colorado, it's been in town a couple of times, but we've never really entertained the idea of taking the kids. Back when we were in California, it came around more often, but we stayed away.

There are lots of reasons I don't like the circus, not the least of which is that I don't like how the animals are treated. I suppose that an argument could be made that the animals are used to performing and being poked and prodded, being confined in tiny little enclosures and all that. I'm sure they are used to it. But that isn't a justification in my opinion.

The circus has lots of animals performing silly tricks, dangerous stunts, things that make you say wow. I sensed, even as a kid, that the animals probably weren't very happy there.

There are always allegations against circuses for the mistreatment of animals, and every so often an animal rebels. Like the time that elephant killed her trainer then took off running through the streets of Honolulu. Apparently, she had enough. For a little while, society decides that maybe circuses aren't a good idea. But it seems like people always start to go back eventually.

We humans have terribly short memories.

So I don't much like the circus. As a result, I don't want my children to like it. I don't want them to see what is done to the animals and believe that it is acceptable and normal. I don't want them to think that people should be able to put their heads in lions mouths or that elephants like to dance.

I want them to appreciate the beauty of animals without seeing them turned into sideshows. I want them to learn to quietly watch deer and moose in the mountains. I want them to stare up at the sky in wonder as hawks and eagles fly overhead. I want them to learn about the power and grace of animals as they are in the world, not as humans would make them be.

As if the whole animal treatment issue wasn't enough to keep me away from the circus, there are so many other reasons. So many.

Like the smell.

And carnies.

And clowns.

Seriously, who likes clowns? I mean really, who? Maybe from a distance they can be amusing and silly to watch, but up close...they are just creepy. Even the ones that aren't intending to be creepy are creepy. I've never understood the appeal of them. I don't have an irrational fear of them or anything, I just don't see why they can't be funny without the strange makeup.

You don't need gobs of goo smothered all over your face to make balloon animals, do you? 15 people in a little car is funny just on the merits, so why the costumes? Walking a tightrope takes skill that people appreciate already, why make little kids have nightmares about your face?

There are a lot of people with an actual, diagnosed fear of clowns. Coulrophobia. Experts think that it might be something that starts in infancy or very early childhood. When children are that young, their growing brains are still trying to sort out expressions and human emotions. The exaggeration of a clown's makeup, and the fact that their expression often is the opposite of the emotion they are portraying just confuse babies and kids. The youngest kids know instinctively that there is something very wrong there. It can be downright terrifying.

Sometimes scary people pretend to be clowns, which just lends more credibility to the fear. The Joker portrays himself that way in the fictional Batman stories. Steven King once wrote about a monster named Pennywise. John Wayne Gacy pretended to be a clown in real life.

Clowns are scary. My kids don't like clowns, and I can't say I blame them.

Just another reason not to go to the circus.

Don't send in the clowns. We're good, thanks.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Responsibilities

I am a mean mom.

Or, at least to some people I am.

I make the kids do chores. And I don't pay them.

Thing is, it's a part of living in a house (or for that matter, an apartment or condo). Whether you own it or rent it or just happen to live under the roof, every capable person should have chores.

As soon as my kids have been old enough, they have had their responsibilities. Aidan, being the oldest, gets the most. But it's not because he is a boy. It's really just because he is the oldest. He gets to have the most fun and get the most freedoms, so it's only fair.

Even AJ has chores. Mind you, they are not terribly difficult ones, or ones that I require that he do alone. But he has already been taught that everyone is expected to help around here.

I do the vast majority of the cleaning and straightening and putting away in the house, don't get me wrong. I spend a decent amount of time following behind the chore do-ers and fixing what they've done. There are plenty of times that it would just be easier for me to do it myself. But I don't.

I'll tell you why.

It's because all children need to be taught from a very young age to make a contribution. To give and do for others, not just themselves. To work to make our home, their home, a nicer place. They shouldn't expect that everything will always be done for them, because honestly that is a dangerous precedent to set with long and far reaching consequences.

They need to be taught responsibility.

That responsibility does not begin and end at their bedroom doors either. Though I do expect the kids to keep their rooms reasonably clean, I don't demand perfection. I don't care if they make their beds. They are each accountable for their rooms and putting away their laundry, but also more outside their rooms.

Aidan takes out the trash, brings down the dirty laundry, usually feeds the dogs and puts away the towels when they are clean.

Ashley feeds the dogs the rest of the time, and is the designated chair cleaner in the house. A strange chore, I know, but we have white dining room chairs, which is just a bad idea with four kids. About once a week, they all get wiped down, and she is great at it.

Ally gets the paper, waters the plants out front and is the official diaper and wipes retriever when AJ needs changed.

They all put away the shoes when the shoe bucket is full and gets sent upstairs, even AJ.

The kids do not earn an allowance. They can, by choice, earn quarters for chipping in with other things, but only when I don't ask them. For example, if someone sees a pile of things that need to be taken out to recycle, or milk bottles that need to be put out, and they do it without asking, they earn a quarter. They can also earn quarters for doing the icky chores that Tom and I don't want to do. Like pulling weeds or picking up after the dogs.

I have glass quarter jars for each of the kids on the windowsill in the kitchen.

It's not a one-way mechanism though. If I have to remind them of their chores too many times, they lose a quarter as well.

Aidan has asked for an allowance before, and we did it briefly, but the quarter jars work better. Motivation is far superior to expectation.

Most of the time, though, we don't even use those. The kids just know that they are supposed to help around the house. It's always been a part of being a member of this family.

Comes with the territory.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fine

Four little letters, put in order.

F. I. N. E.

It's not a bad word, but it's about as bad as one could be without technically fitting the bill. It's used probably every day by most of us. It's a harmless little word, really. It's definition conveys that things are okay, that though they might not be great, they aren't terrible either.

The definition is wrong.

When someone tells you that they are fine, they almost never are.

But it's easier to believe that we are. It's easier to let other people think that we are. Life is messy enough as it is, so why make it more so by being honest about how we really are feeling?

Sometimes we are fine. And sometimes we aren't. But we, as women in particular I think, tend to use that word far too often. Someone asks, we tell them. Sometimes we grit our teeth together and hold back tears and we force a smile when we say it, but we say it nevertheless.

Why do we do this?

I suppose the simplest answer is that we do it because we have to.

I have too many little people depending on me. I need to be fine. I need to be okay. I need to function. Even when I want to curl up into a ball and cry until there aren't any more tears left. Even when I want to scream at the top of my lungs and throw things. Even then, I am fine.

I need to be strong and steady and constant. For them.

So I am.

I am fine.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reason

You know, there are people out there who truly believe that everything happens for a reason.

I'm not so sure about that.

I think that particular belief is something that we have conjured up to make ourselves feel better when really terrible things happen. To soften the blow. To make it hurt less.

Here's the thing though, I don't buy it.

Because, honestly, so many things just don't make sense to me right now. And there can't be an explanation in the universe that would suffice.

People I love are hurting and scared. And there is virtually nothing anyone can do about it. What reason could there possibly be for that?

People I love are mourning the loss of a child, which is probably the most heartwrenching thing a human being could endure. There is nothing that makes sense about that. Nothing. I don't care what you say.

I'm in a bad place right now.

Whatever you do, don't try to reassure me right now. Don't try to tell me that everything happens for a reason. It doesn't.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Really?

I'm so not in the mood to write about funny things right now. But I'm going to give the old college try. Life isn't being very kind to people I love as of late, and I feel like I've had about all I can take.

I'm clinging desperately to my sense of humor these days.

Plus, I'm chronically sleep deprived. That sure isn't helping.

So, here's my best attempt at humor for now.

I have been watching a lot of children's television programs this summer. More than one person should ever really be subjected to. The general state of affairs in my house has revolved around healing and recovering more than anything else. And with that comes TV. A lot of TV.

AJ doesn't so much care about TV. He'll watch Elmo and dance along to Yo Gabba Gabba, sure. But he isn't one to watch anything. Unless he's only wearing a diaper and the Olympics are on. Then he's glued to the TV. Avid sports fan, that one.

If it's up to Ally, she will always watch Nick Jr. Except that in her universe, it isn't Nick Jr. The full title of the channel, which she says every single time she asks to watch it, is "Noggin is now Nick Jr.". About a year ago or so, Noggin changed to Nick Jr. At the time, they had catchy songs and lots of promos about the change, presumably to make sure the kids knew where to find their favorite shows. It stuck. It really stuck.

If it's up to Ashley, we'd watch iCarly 24/7. Because if a show is funny the first time, it's even funnier the twentieth time. I don't mind iCarly. But really.

Aidan, on the other hand, likes to surf. He is the master of the remote control, and I swear the child has the schedule of all the kids channels memorized in his head. If you are looking for a channel and don't know it's number, ask him. Chances are he knows.

He had managed to pry the remote from his little sister's hand one day last week and was happily channel surfing. Normally I try to tune out the tv, but two commercials caught my eye. And made me ask the same question. Really???

The first was just funny. Strange, but funny. I love my animals, don't get me wrong. But I don't love my animals. I don't dress them up in clothes, I don't refer to them as my children. You know. I'm not the crazy animal lady. The commercial was for cat food.

Correction.

It was for cat appetizers. Because cats need appetizers. Seriously. Talk about over the top.

The second commercial made me laugh, but in a disturbing way. It is for a game for kids. The ad was running between some stupid cartoon shows aimed at boys in the too old to really still love cartoons category. You know the shows. The ones with constant bathroom humor. Those ones.

Anyway, there was this commercial. For a game. It's not just a game so much as a time honored tradition. But one normally reserved for parties. Grown up parties. It's basically beer pong, but without the beer. Cuponk. Really???

Are game makers so out of ideas that they have resorted to turning drinking games into things we intentionally teach children? Then again, the million dollar game so far on Minute To Win It has always been a particularly difficult round of quarters. Teach em young. That's what I say.

If nothing else, they will be prepared to really enjoy college, right?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Off

I am taking the night off from writing. Not because I am not in the mood to write, but because it just isn't a good idea right now.

I'm tired.

I'm frustrated.

I'm angry.

I'm overwhelmed.

Tomorrow may be a better day. One can hope.

Thanks for understanding. xoxo

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Versus

I got a question today from a reader about sibling rivalry.

Can I just say YAY and thank you!?!? And I love that you even used the little button on the top of the page to do it. :)

So, being as I have a herd of children, I've had a fair amount of experience with sibling rivalry. It's one of those unpleasant realities in life. As soon as you have more than one kid, it is absolutely, 100% inevitable. It just is.

Sure, there are things you can do to make it worse. Things you can do to make it better. But you can't ever make it go away. It just is.

I'd like to make the argument, though, that it is better to have siblings than not. Not just for children when they are children, but for children when they become grown ups. For all kinds of reasons, having a sibling is just a good thing.

Sibling rivalry is one of those things that evolves with children as they age and mature. It ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes. Sometimes it seems to be virtually nonexistent. Other times it seems a constant, nagging force in the universe, persistent and cruel and unfair, dictating everything about their relationship with one another.

Not that I claim to be an expert by any means on the subject of parenting, I have learned some things along the way. I haven't parented teenagers yet, particularly of the female variety, so I know that I will learn many more lessons in the years to come.

Having said that, I am a sibling. I have a brother. Save the 16 months and 9 days at the beginning of my life, I've never been an only.

Here is what I've learned so far.

* You cannot treat children the same. The reason for this is that they are all so very different from one another. What you can do, however, is treat them fairly. It takes practice. A lot of practice. It really is all about perception. Fairness cannot be measure in dollars, minutes or rewards. It's more abstract than that. Again, it's about perception.

* Older children get more privileges and responsibilities. Not because you love them more or like them better. Because they are older. Period. Realize that the more kids you have, the more relaxed you will be about time frames for things with the younger ones.

* Younger children get more attention from mom and dad because they need it. Babies and toddlers aren't functioning independent people. Older kids might not like this reality, but it is what it is.

* Share or put it away. This goes for just about everything. If you bring something out into the common areas of the house, the expectation is that you will share. If you do not want to, go play in your room.

* Each parent needs to have some special bond with each child, independent and away from the others. Whether you have two kids or six, you need to do this. It gets hard when a parent and a child have nothing really in common. This is where you, as the conscious adult, need to find something. Whether it's a hobby, a sport, a craft, a chore, a trip, you need to find something. Then you need to do it. Not just try. Do it. Wishes and hopes and promises are negative in the eyes of a child unless they are fulfilled.

* Spending special time with each child needs to keep happening, even when there aren't obvious tensions between the kids. When the ones not included feel excluded, reassure them that you will have your time with them soon. And stick to it.

* Try not to compare the kids to each other. They are different, and any comparisons just set them up for conflict. Never ever use words like, "Your sister doesn't do this", or "your brother was younger than you when he...". It is one thing to reference their behavior with your expectations for their age or grade, but another to hold them up against one another.

* Give them their own space, and let them use it. My girls shared a room out of necessity for a little while. It was a horrible mistake. They couldn't be more different than night and day. It was bad for everyone in the house when they shared the same four walls. We sacrificed our home office and bonus room to give each of the kids their own room. If you truly have no other options but sharing, make sure to set clear boundaries. What must be shared, what may be kept separate. Ensure that each child gets personal alone time without being bothered by the other.

* Vice Versa. If your kids are engaged in any kind of sports or activities, the others will inevitably spend lots of idle time waiting and watching. Make sure the waiters and watchers aren't always the same kids. Give each child opportunities to participate, and make all of them take turns with idle time. Teach them to watch each other, to cheer for each other's teams, to be interested in what the others are doing.

* Let them sort out their own disputes. Really. Micromanaging is exhausting and pointless. Worry about the big stuff. Set general rules about arguing. For instance, I have a rule that if they can't agree to take turns on the swings, everyone is off the swings for ten minutes. I don't stand there and time them, telling them when to switch.

* Help them help each other. A little sibling might be able to reach something under a cabinet, an older one might be able to sound out big words better. Encourage them to ask one another for help, they will surprise you.

* Don't expect too much from anyone. They are kids. No matter how old they are, they will have times when they don't listen, get moody, and so on. Again, it just is.

* Worry more about teaching them kindness towards one another than anything else.

* Realize that acting out, including towards siblings, might be a cry for attention. Your kids are most assuredly not being bad just for the sake of being bad. Negative attention is attention none the less, and kids often resort to that when nothing else works.

* Understand that no matter what you do, there will always be issues between them.

Even with all the conflict, it is worth it. Even if there are days that you are convinced that they will grow up to hate one another, chances are better that they won't.

Without siblings, we would all be on a journey through life as the only child of our parents. And that's a journey I know that I wouldn't want to take.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sneak

It's green. And long. It squirms all over the backyard this time of year.

Strikes fear into the hearts of grown men.

It's something that can make the most pleasant of backyard conversations come to a screeching halt.

It can break up parties.

Make some people laugh. Make others cry. Some laugh until they cry.

It's something that I swear I put away three times a day or more.

It's something that the kids fight over almost constantly.

It can create rivers and rain and water slides.

It can make bombs to be launched in battle.

Wash the dog. Wash the car.

Water the plants.

Ah, the hose.

Currently the ruler of the hose is Ally, not that this should come as a surprise to anyone who knows the child. She still hasn't figured out how to sneak up on people with it. She's not quite mastered dragging the hose around strategically yet. Tom still can get her tangled up in the swing set with it. She tries to chase them around, but usually gets the hose snatched away...so she's learned not to chase.

Mostly, she stands on the patio and sprays anyone who dares to cross her path.

Every so often, though, Ashley or Aidan will manage to snag the hose at a time she isn't touching it and sneak up on her. She screams, they laugh.

And really, it is pretty funny.

You know what they say. What goes around, sneaks around.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Three

I spend an inordinate amount of time telling people to pick things up. It seems like I've been doing that even more lately.

I know part of it is that we've been cooped up in this house, unwillingly, for most of the summer so far. The kids have had far too much time to engage in destruction and mayhem.

Mostly though, it's that my tolerance of the stuff on the floor has been diminished as of late. And not for the reasons that you might suspect.

It's not just that I'm seeing it more by virtue of being home more often. It's not just that I'm raising my expectations of the kids as they grow older. It's not just that I demand that they be accountable for their things.

There's another reason. One that loves to take advantage of things left where he can reach them. And he weighs about 21 pounds.

You see, I live with a little boy. A crazy little boy. He's earned himself two nicknames and is working on a third. Thus far, he is called Napoleon and Houdini with regularity.

The Houdini nickname is one he's been working on for months. He's like the raptors in Jurassic Park...constantly testing the fences for weaknesses. He is an escape artist. He's figured out how to get out of just about any containment device they can make. And it's not like I'm allowed to duct tape my child.

I have to watch this one like a hawk. All. The. Time.

Then there is the matter of the Napoleon nickname. He's small, and he's mighty. He decides when I get up. When I go to the bathroom. When I take a shower. When I can sit still. When we leave the store. He might be little, but he's definitely in charge around here. Hence, the name of a tiny dictator.

He's on his way to earning another one, I'm just not sure what it is yet.

He got up from his nap yesterday, but didn't let anyone know. Aidan and Ashley were downstairs with me, Ally was sleeping. AJ decided to entertain himself instead of hanging out with the rest of us. I guess that's more fun. Leaves more room for creativity if mean old mom doesn't know you are awake.

Of course, I can't be totally sure that this is how it all went down, this is just my best guess. I need to videotape this child in action, when he doesn't think he's being watched. I just need to see how he manages to do it all.

He snooped in Ashley's room and found a yellow marker (she claims it was all put away....not sure I believe that). And he colored. He really loves to color. He colored all over everything. Doors, cabinets, windows, furniture. Of course it wasn't a washable marker. That would be too easy. Had to find one that adheres to all surfaces and likes to stay there. I haven't figured out how I'm going to get it all off yet.

Sometime after he was done with his masterpiece, he came downstairs all nonchalant. Nothing to see here folks, move along. Gave no hint of the art he'd created upstairs.

A little bit later, his big sister woke up from her nap. Crying. Hysterically.

She tends to overreact. She's what I call a loud crier...no difference between a splinter and someone ripping her arm out of the socket. They all get the same scream. So, as you can probably imagine, I don't tend to jump right away when she cries like that.

I ran up there this time though, thinking that something might be very wrong, but knowing that it probably was nothing. No injury, no sudden illness, nothing big and scary in her room. What was wrong, though, was very wrong in her world.

Someone, something, somehow, had come into her room while she was sleeping and colored her yellow.

And like the walls, it wasn't coming off.

Still trying to figure out a nickname for him that lives up to this story.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Repossessed

I spent the better part of today doing something that I used to do all the time. I didn't miss it as much as I've occasionally thought I did. For sure.

You see, I have this dirty little secret. One that isn't so much going to be a secret anymore once I write it here.

I am an ebayer. I'm mostly in recovery. Once upon a time, I was a powerseller. I used to spend just about all my time finding stuff to sell, listing it, packing it, shipping it.

It wasn't just a hobby that made a little money, it was a lifestyle.

When I was at the peak, I had a whole room full of stuff. Oozing out. I started to feel like I lived in one of those houses that make it onto those hoarding shows. Not good.

The kids made it difficult, if not impossible, to get any of it done. Half the time I'd find something worth selling, and they'd come along to snatch it out of my piles. They'd protest when I wanted to sell their old stuff. They routinely stole my tape and packing envelopes. But I pressed on. I justified it.

Back when I started, it was pretty good. The economy hadn't taken a dump yet. People were happy to spend money on things they didn't really need. Then ebay got really popular. And it became a whole lot less fun.

Buyers started complaining. Shipping costs skyrocketed. Fees went up. And ebay changed a whole bunch of policies. To top it all off, the economy started to tank. And people no longer wanted to spend their money on things they didn't really need.

So I quit. I liquidated my inventory as much as I could. I had a yard sale. I donated the rest. Walked away, and haven't really looked back since.

I've had a whole lot more time with my kids. And my house no longer resembles the ones on tv.

Until now. I'm trying to squeeze some money out of the kids outgrown stuff, and trying to do it before we go on our trip to visit my family. Which means I can't wait until the consignment sale here in town next month. I have to do it now. And the only way to do that is ebay.

I've been sucked back in. With more kids than I had before. And rather than selling random things these days, it's all stuff they know is theirs. Or was, anyway.

Aidan pulls things out, wanting to keep them for sentimental reasons. The girls insist that this still fits. That still fits. And AJ, well, he's in on it too. He saw the pile of stuff from his room and started snooping.

AJ found a baby blanket I was intending to sell. One that he's never really had an attachment to before. But he decided it was worth keeping. And he repossessed it.

He's been carrying it around with him all day, and he's not about to let it go.

If you ever really want to make your children value something, just go ahead and try to take it away from them.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ladies

I have two cameras. One of them is my pride and joy. My digital single lens reflex camera. The one I have the telephoto lens for. The one I wanted for years and years and years. The one I take with me just about everywhere. I love that camera. It's awesome.

The other camera...well, it's not nearly as sexy. It's just a handheld little thing, one reserved mostly for times that I don't want to tote around the big guns. A few months ago, the USB cord for the little camera decided to stop working. I couldn't download the pictures anymore, and so they sat there, waiting, inside the camera.

Yesterday, Tom got them off the camera. Oh my.

Ally is my photojournalist. She takes after her mother, that one. Always watching and observing, capturing and revisiting. She loves to take pictures. She has a kiddie camera, but prefers the real thing. She swipes the little camera with every possible opportunity and takes as many pictures as she can before being discovered.

She took a lot.

Some of them are funny, like the upside down pictures of the dog. Some are interesting, like the angles of the house from down at the level where she sees. Some are insightful, because she takes pictures of the things she finds beautiful.

But some are just downright icky.

She must have had the camera one weekend morning while we were out on the back porch reading the paper and drinking coffee. And she pointed it at me.

Before I'd had a shower.

Before I'd brushed my hair.

Before I'd put on my makeup.

And, before I'd put on a bra.

Good lord.

There is no reason to take a picture of that. Tom laughed when he saw the images pop onto the screen. "Wow, honey, weren't wearing a bra yet that day, were ya?"

Yes, it's that obvious. My ladies are not the young perky ladies they used to be. If there is one thing I truly miss about my teenage years, it has to be my boobs. The ones that stayed where they were supposed to without bolstering from underneath. They don't do that so much anymore.

I don't need them enhanced. Just put back.

These days, I have to wear real bras. The supportive kind. The kind with, gasp, three clasps on the back. The kind that aren't pretty and lacy, unless they can do that and serve their intended purpose for 18 hours too. Pretty and lacy just aren't as important as purpose.

After a long day of chasing and cleaning and cooking, of grooming and wiping and teaching, of guiding and pushing and wrangling, one of the things I look forward to the most is taking off my bra. Of being able to breathe without restriction, or being able to bend and twist without being poked by a wire. Even the best bras get old after a while. And these days, all my bras are old. And worn out. Much like the things they are meant to contain, I suppose.

So, every night, I do a little happy dance inside my head when I can take it off.

And then sometimes I swear that I can hear Charlton Heston proclaim, "Let my people go!"

I don't put one on until I need to in the morning. Sometimes I read the paper, drink my coffee, clean the house without one. I'm okay with it, really, as long as no one else sees it.

And Ally needs to learn that there is no need to capture it on film. Like. Ever.

Seriously. No one needs to see that.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rain

Yesterday we went to a BBQ for the 4th at a friend's house. We ate, drank, were merry. All that jazz. The sky was ominous, the weather radios kept going off. Needless to say, no one was surprised when the clouds opened up and the rain started to come down.

We all drove over to the other end of town, not sure whether the city would go forward with the fireworks show as planned. It was raining pretty steadily.

At some point, prematurely, we decided it wasn't worth waiting since they weren't going to shoot them off. And we left. Of course, we had just pulled away from the fairgrounds when the first one went up.

Rather than just going home, I thought maybe we should try to get a spot really quick up at the golf course. There is a little secluded driveway through it that overlooks the town. It was a long shot, but worth a try. As luck would have it, there was room up there. Technically we were in a no parking zone, but since it was pouring we didn't even turn off the engine, let alone get out of the car.

We sat there, listening to the distant booms and echoes, the rain hitting the roof of the car. For almost thirty minutes. It was beautiful and peaceful, though a little surreal to be watching fireworks in the rain.

I don't know what it is about fireworks. They make me cry. Always have. You should see me at Disneyland. I turn into a sobbing mess. It's that bad.

And this year, like so many others before, I cried.

Sitting in the rain. Wishing that someone far away could see what I saw.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Blow

Believe it or not, my husband is actually postponing his explosions until tomorrow. Tonight we are going to a BBQ and to watch the city's show. It took a lot for him to postpone his annual tradition. He loves to blow stuff up. Seriously, loves it.

It was actually one of the things on his list of reasons to move to Colorado.

I'm not quite sure how fireworks came to be associated with the 4th of July, but it seems the two go together like peas and carrots now. Really flaming hot peas and carrots. According to wikipedia (which I sometimes doubt), they had fireworks at the first Independence Day back in 1777. I guess the men of our great nation have always partnered celebrations with blowing stuff up.

I'm a bit partial to the holiday myself. Up until they banned fireworks in California, my Dad liked to blow stuff up too. Then we would have BBQs and make the trek to the football field at the school. We'd sit and watch the same exact show year after year and it never got old. Same dancers, same music, even the same skydivers. There was the one year a skydiver landed in the crowd. That was different, I suppose.

We'd spend hours standing in line just so we could sit out there roasting in the sun to get the best view of the fireworks. Which, by the way, also was the same show year after year. So much so that the recording got a bit harder to understand each year.

Tom and I met just a few weeks before July back in high school, and I can say with a fair degree of certainty that I fell in love with him on the field that night.

When we lived in San Diego, before we had little people, we did some cool stuff on the 4th. My personal favorite was the year we took a dinner cruise and watched the fireworks from the water. After Aidan came along, we would take him down the embarcadero and watch the fireworks in the harbor. There were about four or five shows, all synchronized to music. It was pretty awesome. Man, I miss San Diego.

The year we moved here, five years ago this week, there was no 4th of July. We had other things to do. That first year after we moved, we were actually back in California for the 4th. And we went to dinner with my family, then we all sat on the top of the hill together and watched the same show we always had. My kids (some of them anyway), saw the show I grew up with. And I cried tears of happiness that night.

Since we've been in Colorado, Tom has gone out to buy something to light on fire every year. Whether we watched a professional show or not, whether we were home or with family or friends, it makes no difference to him. He just wants to blow stuff up.

I swear it must be a guy thing. I just don't care.

His brother, TJ, is a firefighter. And this happens to be his very most favorite holiday. Not because he is getting paid overtime to work today, though I am sure that has something to do with it. He loves it because it's his job to collect illegal fireworks. And all that illegal stuff has to be destroyed by responsible members of the fire department. You get where I am going with this, right?

Even the men trained to put out fires....they still like to light em.

Happy 4th of July. Stay safe. And keep all of your fingers.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Know

I have the kids convinced that I have superpowers. Well, I have Aidan convinced at least. In his world, as of today, I can see all the things they do. I even have eyes in the back of my head. I can hear everything they are getting into. I can heal boo-boos. I know everything.

Nothing is further from the truth.

I know it won't last for long. At some point, my children will decide that the opposite is true. That I know nothing. That they know everything. It's an inevitable part of adolescence, and not one I am particularly looking forward to.

Back when I was in that stage where I thought I knew everything, I was a real hand full. I questioned everything, challenged constantly. I'm sure I drove my parents crazy. I am sure that I looked like a fool back then. Pretty sure I was one.

The thing about life is this: the more you see, the less you know.

Maybe that is why people who've never had kids are so damn good at giving out advice about them. Maybe that is why people who've had very few struggles of their own in life seem to be the most flippant about those that others endure. Maybe that is why it seems like you have to be young to be idealistic.

Once you've been around the block a few times, it gets harder and harder to be that way.

I've seen enough that I have learned to embrace the fact that there are a great many things in this world I don't know anything about. I've learned that all the knowledge in the world sometimes cannot make sense of the things that happen. I've learned that the things I most often know the least about are ones that I once believed I knew.

Someday, eventually, my children will figure this all out. I don't know how long I've got left before they doubt me. Until they decide that I know nothing and they know it all. Probably not as long as I'd like.

Then, for a while, they will believe that they know it all. Until one day they realize they don't. By then, though, they will probably have children of their own. That whole circle of life thing.

I think in a lot of ways, having children has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Someday, for them, it will be too.

In between though, for a while, they'll know everything.

Friday, July 2, 2010

And there was...


Porch

I am alone. Sitting on my front porch right now. Watching the sky as it tries to storm. It's thinking about it. Trying. The rumblings from above gradually getting louder.

My front porch. My refuge these days. I always wanted a house someday with a big giant wrap around porch. The kind with a swing and tables and chairs and plants and latticework. With flowing vines and pitchers of lemonade. Somewhere that I could see myself growing old someday.

My porch now isn't the one of my dreams, but for now it'll do. It has come to serve an important role in my life.

For it is here that I sit, more and more often these days. Alone.

It is here that I ponder my universe. Where I think and over think. Where I try to find answers to problems without solutions. Where I dream of what might be. Where I wish for what should be.

Here is where I have watched a mother bird try build a nest. She moved on from my porch, but built somewhere nearby, and today I watch as she teaches her babies to fly. There are five of them. Oh, that mama bird. Sometimes I think she was sent here for me. I think in some ways she is me.

Here I sit now, listening to the gentle rustling of the leaves. Amazed at how fast this cottonwood tree we planted four years ago has more than doubled it's height. The plants I skeptically put in the earth as tiny bits of nothing now fully grown and mature.

Here is where I am now, alone. Waiting for another storm. The storms that seem to come without regard to what I want or need. The storms that, at least so far this year, have not been followed by a rainbow.

I can handle the storms. But I need the rainbows too.

Here I sit. The wind picking up and changing directions. Swirling around my head. Forcing the mama bird to reign in her babies. The storm that was just trying is now doing. And here I am. Waiting.

I can face this storm. I just pray and I hope that there is a rainbow on the other side.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Throw

Some of the things that have happened since I became a mother, I saw coming. The sleep deprivation, the fact that my time is no longer ever just mine, the ever increasing food bills. I knew what I was in for, at least in some ways.

One thing I have been a little surprised about though. It's probably something I should have seen coming, particularly because I am my father's daughter. The older I get the more like him I am.

And the man loves to throw stuff away.

Seriously, loves it. Back when I was a messy kid, his favorite threat was to bring in the trash bags. He did it enough times that it eventually started to really work as a motivator. With time I learned to keep my room clean. It was never quite up to his standards, and probably still isn't to this day, but I kept it clean enough that the bag stopped needing to come out.

My Dad is a bit of a neat freak. Number one enemy of all things clutter. He can't stand stuff for the sake of stuff. If it isn't being used, get it out. Now.

He's been known to go through the kitchen and donate things whenever Mom left town to visit me.

She, unlike Dad, isn't a neat freak. I won't say that she likes clutter per se, but she enjoys nick nacks. She likes little decorations and baubles. And she comes from a long line of people who would routinely clean by cramming stuff into closets then slamming the door shut. (Love you Grandma Doll)

There are times I like stuff, and there are times I want it all gone. I come by it honestly, my inconsistency.

I am less inconsistent, though, when it comes to the kid's rooms. They are pack rats. All of em. Darn those genetic tendencies. That one could be traced to both sides of the family, bless them.

The kids acquire stuff. They insist that it all is good stuff, stuff that they just can't part with. And, for a while at least, I let it go. I ignore the ever growing piles on their dressers and desks. I ignore the mounds spilling out from under their beds. I ignore it, that is, until I just can't take it anymore.

And out come the bags.

In the last two weeks, I have dragged nine (yes 9!) bags out of their rooms, filled to the brim with trash. Don't feel too bad for them. I gave them more than ample opportunity to clean their rooms first, of course. Between that whole ignoring phase and the trash bag phase is a brief, but obvious clean your rooms now phase.

Aidan didn't enjoy it so much when his room was up. But he did chuckle a bit today when I was cleaning out Ally's. As I dumped her boxes and pulled every piece of stuff from every nook and cranny, he giggled. Funny when it's not your stuff, I guess.

Maybe it was the joy in my expression, the one that screamed silent happiness with the progress of each bag. Maybe that is what gave it away. That tipped him off.

Then he said this, "Wow, Mom, you really like to throw stuff away, don't you?"

And I do. I can't help it. It's genetic.

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