Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blow

You know you are well into parenthood and approaching middle age when you start to relate to just about all the family themed sitcoms on TV.  Either your family, or one you know, seems very well represented on the screen.

We, and when I say we, I mean everyone in the house but my husband who is somehow strangely immune to the vast majority of illnesses that sneak into our family, were all feeling pretty crummy last night.  We ended up watching TV pretty much the whole time.

One of the shows we watched  was The Middle, which is such a funny show that you must watch it.   The youngest son on the show, Brick, is a unique child to say the least.  He whispers to himself all the time.  Last night, he wanted to keep leaves as pets, which totally reminds me of Ashley.  She'd do something like that. 

On the show last night, his parents were trying to teach him how to blow his nose.  Simple enough, right?  No way.  It's one of the things in the fine print of parenthood, that no one ever warns you how hard it is going to be. 

There are a lot of those challenges as a parent.  The ones that seem insurmountable.  The things that you swear your kids are just never going to figure out.  You start to imagine them going to college with snot running down their face, riding a bike with training wheels in high school, tripping over their untied shoelaces as an adult.  Shudder. 

Of course, it depends on the kid.  Some just figure things out faster, some seem to have a hard time grasping concepts that seem like second nature to us as adults. 

Nose blowing is a big one.  Most kids will either suck in their snot or blow out of their mouth for years before they figure it out.  Then when they figure out the whole blowing thing, it takes a while to coordinate the tissue holding and blowing.  It, apparently, is very complicated.

Wiping after going to the bathroom is another big one.  Wiping is one thing no one ever warns you about.  You mean I have to teach them to wipe???  Yes.  And it takes FOREVER.  If you are like me, you have had the privilege of reluctant wipers.  The ones who flat out refuse to do it.

...When they start to wipe, you have to teach them to be thorough without using an entire roll of toilet paper. 

...When they use an entire roll of toilet paper (and they will), you have to teach them to be able to tell when it's going down and when it's not. 

...When it's not going down (and there are times that it won't), you have to teach them to get mom fast and not to keep flushing and flushing and flushing. 

Tying their shoes has proven an elusive skill, as has riding a bike without training wheels.  Aidan just recently figured out how to tie his shoes tight enough that they didn't untie immediately. He's 9.  It took almost two solid years of trying before Ashley rode without training wheels...yet the child taught herself how to use a snowboard without a major incident. 

Teaching them how to hit a baseball is another one.  It requires hand-eye coordination, timing, aim and a certain degree of bravery.  I'm sure there are kids out there that master this one quickly, AJ might be that way, but as of yet, none of the others have been.

I'm sure we have years ahead of us in this department, many more skills to be taught that will make us frustrated.  We still have to teach them how to drive.  I'm exhausted just thinking about it. I remember how my parents would cringe at the thought.  The invisible steering wheels and brakes that appeared in the passenger seat.  The sighs and the cries of brakes, brakes, brakes!!!   I'm not looking forward to my time in that seat.

I'm starting to think that AJ just might be a genius.  He's barely two, and as of this morning, he can already blow his nose.   Here's to hoping he can figure out some of the other stuff fast too.  Even if he doesn't, it's okay.  I'm pretty skilled with a plunger these days.  His dad has spent years running behind bikes.  And we've both thrown what seems like a million balls before a single one was hit.

We knew that parenthood wasn't going to be easy.  We knew there would be challenges. I just don't think either one of us ever realized how hard it would be to teach someone to blow their nose.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bleep

I love music.  I love the expression, the creativity, the way it can penetrate clear through into your soul and being.  I love to watch an artist mature, to watch their vulnerability, to share their thoughts. 

Music really is the soundtrack of our lives.  There are so many songs that can instantly transport me to a time and place in my past, sometimes with unanticipated raw emotions.  Music becomes a part of who we are.

While I was back in Southern California this last time, I was reminded again of how different the music is there.  More people equals more choice.  More choice equals more music.  And more choice, more importantly, equals better music. 

Coming back here to Colorado I noticed something almost immediately.  There is a song that has been in very heavy rotation on the pop stations for a while now, California Gurls by Katy Perry.  It's only the biggest song of the summer, no big thing.  Bet you've never heard it, right?

Anyway....they do something to that song here.  Radio edit it.  They take something out.  And the removal is what offends me.  It is so very wrong on so many levels.  It really doesn't make much sense anyhow as her lyrics are virtually all innocent and suggestive simultaneously...which honestly worries me a little more as a parent than what has been removed from the song.   By the way: I heart Katy Perry, I'm just not sure I love that my daughters heart her too. 

If they aren't taking lyrics like "We'll melt your popsicle" out, then what are they removing, you ask???

Snoop.  They took out the rap portion.

I object to the
De-Snoopification
of my music!

Yes, I did it again.  I totally made up a word.  It's a good one, though.  

Music censorship isn't anything new.  It's been going on for as long as there has been music.  Religion, political incorrectness, politics...the reasons given in an attempt to justify it are many.  Elvis shook his hips too much back in the day.

These days, the FCC gets to decide what you can and can't say on the radio and when.  Specifically from 6am to 10pm, you aren't allowed to broadcast anything offensive or indecent.  Two very vague words, they are.

Most of the music censorship these days is done, not as the result of any rule or law, but because of corporate decisions.  Walmart notoriously refused to carry Nirvana's album in the 1990's until they altered the packaging.  

Some artists choose to record self-censored versions of songs or whole albums for sale or broadcast, but most don't.  Most send their works out there into the world to be mangled by radio edits in the name of protecting us all from hearing something inappropriate.  

Should foul language be edited out?  Yes.  I won't argue that one (at least during the specified hours, after 10pm I'd like to be able to hear music unedited thank you very much).  But what is and is not a foul word is a gray area, subject to the interpretation of whoever has their finger on the button.    

That gray area extends these days to words like "gun" and "joint" and "smoke"...all of which have been removed from popular songs. 

Never before now though, have I heard an entire portion of a song edited out.  I'm curious as to what the justification is for removing Snoop's part.  Is it just because the words are rapped?  No, that can't be it because the station plays hip hop and rap all the time.  Is it because he uses offensive words?  The most offensive phrases in his portion are "squeeze her buns", "no weenies" and "I'm all up on ya".  Frankly, those are mild compared to half the songs on the station.

So then, why?  WHY???? 

Do they just hate Snoop?  What gives?  Don't be hatin.  Give me back my Snoop.  I object.

No

Let me tell you a little story about a boy named No....

Toddler hood is one of those phases that can test even the most experienced parents.  I've long ago learned what it's like to live with a little being full of energy who knows no fear.   Just because I've survived it before doesn't make it any easier when the next kid comes along testing limits.

In some ways it's harder, because they have the bigger ones to teach them things.  Bad things.  Like how to use chairs to climb up on counters.  How to turn on the shower.  Where the glue is hidden.

Many of AJ's adventures are ones he comes up with all on his own though, without any help from the older ones.   Just this morning, he dragged a chair from Ashley's room into my bathroom.  He climbed up onto the counter, unrolled the entire container of dental floss, squirted out half a bottle of my favorite lotion and used up about half of his dad's really expensive talked into by the girl at the haircut place hair product.

He's in this nasty gross shove everything up the nose phase.  Pretty much anything is fair game.  He sneezed last week and out came a huge piece of a blue napkin.  I can't even remember when he was around blue napkins.  At the park he shoved three pieces of mulch up one nostril in the time it took him to climb up the stairs and go down the slide.  Took a while to get those out.  I just pulled out a piece of tape.  The tape he ripped off the back of the remote control while he was sitting all innocently and quiet in the corner.  The remote control that is broken because he likes to throw it.

He's a jumper too.  Blind faith that someone will catch him.  He'll jump off of or onto just about anything, sometimes with no warning.  Tweaked my neck a while back when he jumped on me. 

If you think about it, it might be fun to be a two year old again.  To demand only what you want when you want it.  To know no fear.  It might be fun to be two, but it's exhausting to live with.

I find myself saying no almost constantly at times.  It's obvious, because he's taken on the habit of saying no to everyone about everything.  What do you want for snack? No.  Where are your shoes? No.  What is your name? No.

Reminds me of that quote I see on kid's shirts.  You know the one. 

Grandma calls me Sweetheart, but Mommy calls me No.

I guarantee you that shirt was made for a two year old.

I live with one. 

His name is No.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Unicorns

I feel terrible.  I want to curl up in a ball, remove my entire digestive system from my body and sleep.  That stomach virus I was sure I'd had and been done with last week came back with a vengeance.  At 9:27pm last night.

I didn't sleep hardly at all.  I couldn't find a way to get comfortable.  I kept needing to get up.  I was hot, then cold.  Two of the kids still felt compelled to climb in bed with us and snuggle when the absolute last thing I want in the universe right now is a two year old kicking me in the stomach.

The kids have all had a turn with this one, and when they were/are sick, they get all kinds of awesome attention.  Sprite on call, gatorade whenever they want, complete control of the TV remote, their own bowls and towels to carry around just in case.  If they want to lay down, they can.  If they want to sleep all day, they can. 

Me, though, not so lucky.  Moms don't get a day off.  It doesn't matter how I feel, I still have to take care of everything else.  That everything else that includes a five year old home sick too and a two year old still battling it himself. 

I apologize if I'm not loving my job right about now.  If I seem negative and whiny.  I hurt and I am tired.

Motherhood would be better if there were unicorns.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday

One of my fabulous blogger friends (who was a fabulous friend long before things like blogs were invented) tends to run posts entitled This Is What Sunday Looks Like.  She is a Mormon, and was called to serve in the child care area of the church on Sundays.  Which, if you knew her, you would know that it makes all the sense in the world.  She is honestly one of the funnest people I know, with really amazing accessories.  Seriously, she is a grown up and can pull off headbands.

http://andreaboerem.blogspot.com/

So anyway, she posts fairly routinely about her adventures in the child care room.  And what adventures they are!  Then again, she has a gift with words and can make what is sure to be a routine day seem like the most interesting three hours ever. 

I was thinking about her this morning as I sat here and pondered what to write.  I laughed.  I think people would be appalled if they knew What Sunday Looks Like around here.  And I'd be mortified. 

I will spare you all from photographs...I know that I don't want evidence of my Sundays floating around on the internet. 

Let me set the scene for you:

* Mountains of dishes, in various states of rinse, piled precariously on the counter.  In the sink.  Oozing out of the space devoted to dishes.

* Kitchen table covered with (in no particular order): scattered sections of the newspaper, 3 almost empty cereal bowls, Ally's handwriting notebook, a tray filled with the fake food from the play kitchen and 23 of the 26 magnetic letters of the alphabet.

* Under the table, more fun awaits.  My flip flops, shoved down there by the only person in the house who fits easily under there...AJ.  He likes to wear my shoes.  An upside down empty raisin container.  A disassembled flashlight.  And the plastic top from a Slurpee that belonged to one of the girls yesterday.

* Random pieces of clothing scattered from yesterday's try-everything-on festivities.  Love seasonal transitions around here.

* The hum of the dryer in the background.

* Toys everywhere.  And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere.  Literally.

* The carpet is littered with popcorn remnants from the movie/college football marathon that has been the last two days.  And a faux leather jacket Aidan insists on wearing in the school talent show next month.  Except it's way too big.  More on the talent show later.  Darn you Justin Bieber!

* Two kids huddled under a blanket in the corner with a flashlight.  One with hair that closely resembles a lion's mane this time of day.  The other covered head to toe in marker.  A third child changing her clothes constantly in between dancing to the music on the TV.  Because it wouldn't be a fashion show without loud music.

* Aidan is out at church with Grandma Kathi.  Aidan loves church, not because he loves church but because there are donuts after. 

* I'm sitting here sipping my second cup of coffee, still in my pajamas.

* My husband is out running laps around the neighborhood, training for his relay marathon.  Somehow he got the 8 mile portion.  This morning he asked me if we had Vaseline for his nipples.  If you have to lube up your nipples before participating in something, shouldn't that be a sign that maybe you aren't supposed to do it?  Just sayin.

That's what Sunday looks like around here.  At least I didn't take pictures.

Tomorrow, order will be restored.  Thank goodness.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Jaws

Last night we crammed our six bodies onto the couch, filled bowls with popcorn and watched a movie together.  We usually do one movie night a week with the kids, and almost always let them choose the film.

Usually, we end up watching something we have seen a million times.  Something in heavy rotation in the house already.   The only real rule about the movie is that it can't be something that Tom and I can't stand.  So, you know right there that Shark Boy and Lava Girl will never be screened at family movie night. 

A few weeks back the kids picked Forrest Gump.  We'd been to one of the Bubba Gump shrimp restaurants in California, and they were intrigued by all the references to the movie.  They wanted to know who Forrest was, who Bubba was.  Aidan was fascinated by the historical references in the movie, he wanted to know how they edited everything to make it look like Forrest was really at the White House.  The real pieces of history in the movie have been a jumping off point for all kinds of conversations with the kids, about important things.  Like what war is, why drugs are bad, why it's okay to be different.   Things that it is our responsibility as parents to teach them about. 

I'm sure there are people who will be shocked to know that we let our kids watch that movie already. 

Compared to the movies I saw when I was their age, though, this is mild. 

Last night, I cringed a little when Tom picked the movie.  He wanted to watch it, asked the kids if they wanted to see a movie about sharks.  Jaws.  Yes, it's violent and graphic in parts.  Yes, there is a decent amount of foul language.  I was hoping for something mellower, but Jaws it was. 

The kids got a little scared after the first few attacks.  Ally just kept asking where the little boy on the yellow raft went.  She spent a lot of time hiding halfway under a blanket.  They all calmed down after I told them that almost the entire movie was filmed in a pond in Universal Studios using robots.  It isn't real.  AJ just thought the shark was cool, and kept roaring at it every time it came on the screen.  (Maybe he is a little like his mommy after all.)

I have issues with the movie, but not for most of the reasons that other people do.  It didn't freak me out.  It didn't make me scared of going in the water.  It didn't make me irrationally afraid of sharks.  It did the opposite.  I fell in love with them.

I fell in love with sharks.  Yes...you read that right.

So much so that in college my senior thesis was on the overfishing of sharks in international water, and the harm such unregulated fishing would have on the ecosystem of the entire ocean.  I wrote about how imperative it is that we find a way to get a handle on the situation before the damage done is irreversible.  I wrote this long before it became a topic that was covered much in the news.

Most sharks are fished only for their fins.  The remainder of the animal often thrown back into the ocean.  Shark fin soup is a very high priced delicacy in many countries around the world.  And there aren't enough people out there rallying for the protection of sharks....partially because we humans perceive them as a threat.  They aren't worth protecting, because they want to eat us.  Right? 

Wrong.

Sharks are one of the apex predators of the ocean.  If we mess with that balance, who knows how much we may ruin in the process?  Someday, I fear, we may find out.

Peter Benchley, the writer of the book Jaws, the man behind the movie and the fear that followed, understood that he had given sharks an unfair reputation.  He spent most of the end of his career writing non-fiction about saving the ocean ecosystem.  Two of his quotes follow.

I know now that the mythic monster I created was largely a fiction.

[T]he shark in an updated Jaws could not be the villain; it would have to be written as the victim; for, worldwide, sharks are much more the oppressed than the oppressors.

This movie, a work of fiction, did quite a bit of damage.  It made people afraid of the ocean.  It painted a picture of a dangerous man eating predator.  It made sharks indefensible.  And in doing so, it made them quite vulnerable. 

There are people who believe that movies are just movies and only represent entertainment.  I'd argue that they can be more than that.  Much more.  And in this particular case, a movie very well may have changed the course of how an entire ecosystem is treated. 
 
Rather than allow my children to be afraid of this movie, I told them from the beginning that the shark was a robot in a pond.  I taught them that real sharks, though they may be dangerous, need our help to survive.  And we need them just as much as they need us. 
 
Even if they are a little scary.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Secretariat

I was invited to attend a special advance showing of Disney's new movie, Secretariat, last night.  I dressed my three older children up in nice clothes, combed their hair and urged them to be on their very best behavior. 

As we walked in, we were ushered to the theater for the screening.  My name was on the list, and we were guided to our reserved seats.  Surrounded by reporters and industry folks and bloggers, we waited for the film to begin.  The kids were very impressed that my name was on the roped off seats.

Okay, so really the kids were more amused that Disney invited me to the screening than anything else. 

Prior to arriving at the theater, I'd told the kids only that the movie was about a horse and that it was a true story.  I confess that I read some of the reviews of the film before yesterday.  Most of them were good, with the exception of a few writers who didn't enjoy the unrealistic portrayal of race horse training. 

After seeing the movie, though, I am not certain that there was an unrealistic portrayal of his training.  I am not naive, and I am fully aware of the realities of horse racing and training in general.  However, I can see how maybe this horse, this family, this trainer, this situation was special.  This family loved the animals like their own children.  This horse was unique, one who just loved to run and run fast.  I think a lot of his abilities were the result of good breeding and luck, and rather than try to train that into him, the people around him just provided a forum for him to do what came naturally.

He was an amazing horse, with an unbreakable spirit and a will to win that may never be matched. 

The movie was as much about the story of Penny Chenery as it was about the horse.  She was a housewife in Colorado who returned home to the family farm in Virginia after her mother's death.  She took over care of the farm since her father, suffering from what I have to assume was Alzheimer's, was unable to.  She tried to balance everything, flying back and forth between her husband and four children and the farm. 

In the end, all the risks she took paid off.  The time away from her family, the financial gambles, the eccentric trainer, it all worked.  Secretariat won the Triple Crown and secured his title as the best racing horse ever.  Into the history books he went, becoming a legend in the process. 

Penny Chenery just might become one too through this film.  She is what so many of us women aspire to be.  Grounded, but driven.  Dedicated to her family and the pursuit of her dreams at the same time.

The obvious trouble with that in my eyes is that she was never much like the rest of us.  She isn't much like me, anyhow.  She came from money.  She had the financial resources to fly all over the country at will.  I could be more impulsive, more risk taking, more free to follow my dreams if I had the resources to do it too. 

I don't intend to diminish her success and achievements at all, really I don't.  I would stop short, however, of using her story as an example for other women to balance home and work successfully.  It's a lot easier to do that when you're wealthy to start out with.

All in all, the movie was fun.  It was entertaining.  It was suspenseful, even going into the theater knowing the outcome. It may have glossed over many of the details.  It may not have given a full picture of what the world of horse racing is really like.  It wasn't just a true story, it was the Disney version of a true story.  The nicely buttoned up version.

It was breathtakingly beautiful at times.  From back in my college cinema class days, I love good cinematography. 

One thing this movie did was to solidify my daughter's love of horses.  Not only does she want to ride them...now she wants to race them.  Too bad she doesn't come from money.  Racehorses aren't cheap.

As a postscript....I can't believe that I failed to mention how awesome John Malkovich was.  He played the eccentric trainer, and did a very good job of it.  I have no idea if it was an accurate portrayal of the real person he was intended to represent, but he was hilarious.  Then again, I am just a huge fan of John Malkovich in general

http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/secretariat/?cmp=dmov_dpic_sec_psg_title_secretariat_Extl

My thanks to the people at Disney and BlogHer for this opportunity!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Retire

My name is Kelly and I am addicted to Halloween costume planning.  It's been less than 12 hours since I last searched the internet frantically.

If I had any sense at all, I would retire. Go out on top, like Seinfeld. I don't think I will ever be able to beat last year. I'm fairly certain I won't. It was that good.

But I'm gonna try.

This year the kids had more say in the costume planning than last year. They actually decided, without much input from me, to coordinate their costumes again. They are characters from Toy Story 3. Aidan wanted to be Buzz one last time, Ashley is Little Bo Peep, Ally is Barbie and AJ is most likely going to be the alien. Or Potato Head. Or Rex. Or Bullseye. Or Woody. He's the only one I'm not sure about yet....hence the frantic internet searching.

For the record, Ally was very specific about which Barbie she is going to be. She has to be the one from the third movie. The one in the aqua 80's inspired aerobics outfit. Because it's super easy to find aqua leotards. Rest assured...I found one. But not before I found out that when you search the internet for metallic unitard some very stange things pop up.

I'm not sure that Tom and I will be playing along this time around. Then again, I would have to admit that he is fully entitled to a year off after what I put him through last year.

Yes, he was a flying monkey.

Even if we decide to play along, I'm not sure he is willing to play the role the kids want him to. They want him to be Woody. And he has issues with Woody.

Back when Aidan was a baby, we dressed him up as Dumbo. Tom was a cowboy. Except everyone kept calling him Woody, since, well, he really looked like Woody. He spent most of the night saying I'm NOT Woody!

By the way, I'm in SO much trouble for posting this picture...

So, he's got issues with being Woody. The kids want him to be Woody and me to be Jessie. Not making any promises this year.

Tom's more likely to be Stinky Pete, which would be hilarious.

Is it wrong that a month before Halloween, I am already scheming for next year?

Picture it:

Alice and Wonderland!!! With the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

It's gonna be awesome.

Who am I kidding? I can't retire.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Big

My bad.

Shortly after posting earlier today, I realized what a big whiny baby I was being.

Waaaaahhhhhhh!!!

Life sucks sometimes. It just does. I don't want to be a whiner though.

I have this habit of giving out super awesome advice to friends when they ask for it, then refusing to heed it myself. The piece of advice coming to mind at the moment is a good one, and I need to listen to it.

Put your big girl panties on and deal.

Sure, there are a lot of things going on in my world right now, and I really don't have much control over the vast majority of them.

The simple truth is that being upset about it all isn't going to do me any good. It's not going to fix anything. It's not going to change other people. It won't fix the wrongs.

Plus, it's just really annoying.

Sorry for being such a big whiny baby.

I pulled out the big girl panties today, and I've got them on. I'm not happy about it. They don't fit right, they are uncomfortable and I'd really rather not be wearing them. But I will. Because I have to.

I have to because as I was on the verge of tears today, ready to scream in frustration, I noticed a comment here from my Dad.

I had all the windows open, a gentle breeze blowing through the house. Rain softly falling outside. I read his words. And I knew instantly that I'd been a big whiny baby.

He has far more reasons than I do to whine. And he doesn't. He never has.

He's taught me so much, and today, maybe without even intending to, he taught me more.

Life isn't about weathering the storms, it's about learning to dance in the rain.

Sometimes dancing requires big girl panties.

I love you, Dad.

Bad

I'm in a really bad mood today.

There. I gave you fair warning.

I'm sick and tired of so many things right now and seem to be really lacking in the patience department. Like, as in woefully inadequate.

I'm tired of doctors who place a bandage on a situation and wash their hands of it rather than figuring out what is really going on. There is a reason it's called the practice of medicine.

I'm sick of people not taking responsibility for their stupidity. If you make an ass out of yourself, especially if you are making an ass out of other people in the process, own it. Apologize. Fix it.

I'm tired of fighting with unreasonable people.

I'm sick of walking out my front door every day and cringing because I can't stand my neighbor.

I'm tired of waiting for people to make good on promises they made a long time ago. Promises that got me here in the first place. Promises, that because they weren't kept, have screwed up a lot of other things in my life.

I'm sick of living so far away from where I am supposed to be. Of being conflicted virtually every second of the day.

I'm tired of a lot of things right now.

I feel like I just want to scream at the top of my lungs. If only that would help, I might just try it.

Sorry. I don't mean to be such a downer today. At least I warned you all that I am in a bad mood. That should count for something, right?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Success

80% of success is showing up.
~ Woody Allen

I was reminded of this quote today. I thought about it in the context of marriage, but I'd suppose that it could be said to pertain to just about anything.

Marriage is as much about being there for the other person as it is about them being there for you. Or at least it is supposed to be. Sometimes we ask a lot of our spouses. Sometimes we need a lot. Sometimes we ask and ask them to give until they have nothing left. Other times, though, all we ask is that they show up.

Sometimes it is enough to know that wherever we are is important enough. That whatever we need them to be there for is worth showing up. That all the other things they could be doing, the other places they could be, the other people they could be with come second.

Sometimes all you have to do is show up.

This quote pertains as much to parenthood as it does to marriage. Really.

Take a journey with me down memory lane. Not mine, but yours. Look back on the times that you were disappointed. That you felt you weren't important enough. I guarantee the times you remember are the times someone wasn't there.

Kids don't remember all the times you showed up. They remember the one time you didn't.

What did you show up for today?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Might

Inspired by and borrowing from a comedic genius...

If you've spent more money on one tiny pair of shoes than all the clothes you are wearing right now, you might be a mom.

If you've successfully negotiated a hostage release from a bathroom, you might be a mom.

If you've walked out of the house knowing you had spit-up, snot or slobber on your shoulder, you might be a mom.

If you've chosen your outfit based on whether you could whip your boob out of it inconspicuously, you might be a mom.

If you've responded to a question with the answer just because, you might be a mom.

If you've injured yourself chasing a child, you might be a mom.

If you've bought Magic Erasers in bulk, you might be a mom.

If you've realized that you can't understand the new math or lamented that Pluto should still be a planet, you might be a mom.

If you've been up half the night baking cupcakes, you might be a mom.

If you've woken up at 4am the day after Thanksgiving so you could get all your Christmas shopping at once, you might be a mom.

If you've driven around for an hour when you had nowhere to go because someone was asleep, you might be a mom.

If you've mopped your floor at 11pm just so it could stay clean for a few hours, you might be a mom.

If you've screamed at a child at the same time you were hugging them, you might be a mom.

If you've eaten cold macaroni and cheese off a plate that didn't belong to you, you might be a mom.

If you've hidden candy in your own house, you might be a mom.

If you've uttered the phrase "when your father comes home...", you might be a mom.

If you've spent more money to go see dancing stuffed animals on stage than you did on your last real date, you might be a mom.

If you've road tested furniture before buying it, you might be a mom.

If you've actually licked your hand to clean someone's face, you might be a mom.

If you've cried watching a baby take their first steps, you probably are a mom.

And if you've stayed up all night long watching someone else breathe, you are a mom.

Thanks to Jeff Foxworthy for the inspiration, thanks to my kids for reminding me every day to find humor in the chaos, and thanks to all the moms I've known. Your stories, our stories, they are worth telling. Thank you for sharing them with me.

Mine

If you scroll down to the bottom of my page, there are a few tickers.

One of them hit a milestone today.

Ten years. Ten years.

It's been ten years since last I was the only inhabitant of my body. For every day of the last decade, I've been pregnant, nursing or both.

It's a little overwhelming when I see it put that way.

Someday I will be the only one relying on this being for sustenance. Soon, most likely. AJ is down to nursing once a night, so it's just a matter of time. Two of the other kids were done by now, Ally was just a bit older than he is now.

And, then, there will just be me.

This phase of motherhood has been a long one. It's been a demanding one. It's been exhausting and draining.

But it's been worth it.

As crazy as it may sound, I set this goal for myself. Once I realized how close AJ's second birthday would be to the 10 year mark overall, I figured why not go for it? I wanted to nurse for at least two years anyway, this wasn't far behind. I made it.

Aidan ~ pregnant September 2000 - May 2001, nursing until July 2002.
Ashley ~ pregnant June 2002 - February 2003, nursing until December 2004.
Ally ~ pregnant August 2004 - April 2005, nursing until December 2007.

AJ ~ pregnant December 2007 - August 2008, still nursing.

Someday soon this body will be mine again. Just mine.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rest

Sunday, the designated day of rest.

Good thing it is.

My body doesn't seem to want me to do much today, it's willing me to stay put on the couch.

Seems I have a stomach virus.

Why did I teach my kids to share again?

I'll be back soon enough to writing.

Just not today.

Today, I rest.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Over parented

This generation of kids may very well be the most over parented in the history of time. I see signs of it everywhere I go anymore. Parents hover and watch and guide and limit. They spend all day hanging out at school. They micromanage every single detail of their kids lives, some into the teen years.

I know it wasn't like that when I was a kid.

Time Magazine had a cover story on it last year. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1940395,00.html

I took AJ to the park a few days back and saw it again. More like was smacked in the face with it.

A woman arrived at the park pushing a double stroller, with a few toddlers tagging along behind. She let the older ones start playing, then took the two little ones out of the stroller. She brought the little girl over to the area where AJ was digging in the sand and proceeded to nudge the child almost constantly to stand up and climb up the stairs. She really just wanted to sit down and play in the sand.

She was adorable and AJ was intrigued. He doesn't get to play with little kids much, and was instantly drawn to the little girl. The woman asked me how old he was, I asked how old the little girl was. She'd just turned a year old. Then, without me asking, she replied that she does daycare and just watches this little one.

She kept urging her to stand up and walk, to climb up the stairs. The little girl had no interest. She just wanted to play with the stick she'd found. Eventually, the girl put her knee up on the stair and climbed up, to much celebration by the woman. She told me the little girl was physically delayed, and that they were there to meet her therapist.

What???

Since when is a laughing, babbling, just barely one year old who sits up and climbs and stands holding on to things physically delayed? Once the therapist arrived, she expressed great joy that the girl had taken a few steps the previous weekend at home. So she's walking too, yet somehow physically delayed?

Mom was there, at the park. Hiding behind the bushes, watching the therapist and the day care lady. She didn't come out until about twenty minutes into the session, but she was there the whole time. Paying two other people to care for her child, and hiding so she could supervise them.

I spent almost an hour at a park this week with a beautiful little girl...one already labeled by her parents, care provider and therapist for having something wrong that she does not seem to. I am fully aware that I don't have the entire picture here, just a small view into the life of this little girl. It just seems wrong. And I can't help but wonder why.

What is wrong with this generation of parents? Why are we so controlling and neurotic? How did we get this way? Yes, when I say we, I mean all of us. Some clearly more than others, but even the relaxed parents of this generation are more controlling than in years past.

What are we doing to our kids as a result?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Harassed?

If you have been watching ESPN this week, and I know some of you have, you've seen the story. C'mon, I can't be the only woman who catches Sportscenter on a regular basis, right? Right?!?!

There is a female sportscaster named Inez Sainz, who is claiming to have been harassed by the players of the New York Jets. She alleges that they were throwing balls in her direction intentionally at practice, and that there were inappropriate comments made when she was in the locker room after a game.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/commentary/news/story?page=hill/100914

Wait a minute.

I'm a progressive woman. I'm a modern woman. I believe in equality. I believe in fairness. I also think that women are a valuable part of the sports reporting industry, perhaps because they can offer a different perspective.

But in the locker room? I don't think so.

Entertain, just for a second, the idea that the roles were reversed here. That a male reporter had been granted access to a women's professional team locker room. He chose to wear clothing that was snug and showed off his assets instead of a suit. He chose to flirt with the players as a routine way of interviewing. Then, one day, he claimed that they said inappropriate things.

Sounds pretty ridiculous, right?

Mostly it sounds ridiculous because a man would never be allowed in a women's locker room for interviews post game when the players are walking around naked. It just wouldn't happen. Period.

Truth is, she is beautiful. It's not her fault, and she shouldn't be punished for that. That's precisely how she got where she is...her looks. Last time I checked, men tend to like looking at beautiful women.

Truth is, she dresses completely inappropriately. She looks more like she is headed to a party or a club than like she is working in any professional capacity. That, she definitely has control over. However, she has chosen to dress that way, and her employer hasn't stepped in and required more professional attire. Presumably because it makes the players more likely to talk to her. Again, men like beautiful women. And men especially like beautiful women wearing tight clothes and showing cleavage.

That's just the way it is.

She has used her appearance and style of dress to advance her career, but now has decided to cry foul when it got her too much attention. I'm just having a hard time getting behind her on this one.

It's hard to take someone seriously when they are making an argument for professionalism while wearing a midriff baring shirt.

I don't think women belong in men's locker rooms, just like I don't think men should be in women's locker rooms. Sorry, call me a prude if you will, but that is just my opinion. There are just boundaries that shouldn't be crossed.

Women cannot demand equality in one hand, then refuse it on the other. We can't say you have to let us go here, but you aren't allowed the same privilege of access. It just doesn't work for me.

There is an argument to be made that women like her aren't advancing women's equality at all, in fact they may be only serving to prove the point that there are indeed places that a woman should not work.

And maybe this is one of them.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Deadly

I had plans to write about something else today, but I can't. I'm a little in shock at the moment.

Excuse me.

I don't understand.

In the last 12 hours, I've learned of two things that are so terribly wrong that I can't even fathom how someone could do them.

People can be so blinded by their selfishness. They can conjure up lies, they can deceive those closest to them. They either ignore or don't care about the collateral damage their actions will inevitably cause. They do what they want without regard for what happens to anyone else.

The root of these particular deceptions: one was greed, the other lust. Two of the seven deadly sins. I guess the offenders aren't concerned about the consequences of their actions in the next life either.

I know that what goes around comes around. I know that karma is a real bitch. I know that someday, they will pay the price for their lies.

I wish that people I love didn't have to be hurt in the process. That they didn't have to suffer at the whim of selfish people.

Apologies this morning. I am angry.

Post script: I am okay, really. Just angry.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nice

There is a commercial running right now, I'm sure some of you have seen it. An iPad user asks a Kindle user how she can read it in the sunlight with the glare. She replies back that there is not glare (or something like that), and that it's only $139, and she spent more than that on her sunglasses.

That's about where I laughed out loud.

I don't get the iPad. I am slightly opposed to everything the Kindle stands for. It wasn't the pieces of technology intended to be the focus of the commercial that grabbed my attention.

It was the idea that someone would spend $139 on a pair of sunglasses that made me laugh.

I know people who pay that much for sunglasses. I know people who pay more. Me? Just.Can't.Do.It. No way, no how.

I can honestly say that the most I've ever spent on a pair of sunglasses is probably about $25, and that was a splurge. I knew when I bought them it was money poorly spent. They met the same fate as all my other sunglasses.

They were lost or sat on or pulled apart or scratched or dropped.

They always are.

I just can't have nice things.

I just can't have nice things, primarily because I have children. If they aren't doing the damage directly to them, they are inevitably distracting me so that I don't notice when I leave them somewhere and walk away.

It doesn't matter what I do. My sunglasses never last long. I'm currently in search of the pair that went missing some time last week. I probably won't find them. God only knows where they are.

I have about six pairs of sunglasses here that I could wear if I really had to. Except that I won't. I'm picky. And for whatever reason, my sunglasses must meet two requirements in order to be worn. They must fit my oddly shaped face, and they must stay on the top of my head when I put them there. Not many pairs of sunglasses fit the bill, and none of the six here will work.

Yes, I said it. I have an oddly shaped face. I do.

Please don't all start staring at my head now!!!

I have a tiny little head, so small that children's hats fit me. The bridge of my nose is too narrow from breaking it a bunch of times when I was a kid. Then there is the matter of my ears. Not only do those bad boys stick out, but they are uneven. One ear is higher than the other. It's not like OMG her ears are funky uneven, but it's enough to really affect wearing glasses. I know. I'm just strange.

I really need to accept that this pair is gone and get some new ones. It takes me a while to find sunglasses that meet my requirements and are cheap enough that I will actually walk out of the store with them.

It's a good thing the ones I most recently lost only cost me $9.99. Let's hope the new ones do too.

Maybe someday I will be able to have nice things. Maybe.

The Thing That No One Talks About

I think I am ready to write about this.

Wait.

Deep breath.

I'm not at all sure that I am ready to write about this.

I think it is time.

I guess I am just going to have to take a leap of faith here. Not many people know about it, almost no one really, and it's something I have a very hard time talking about. Mostly, I just don't talk about it. Pretend it doesn't exist. That it didn't happen to me.

Because it wasn't supposed to. Not to me. I was way too smart, too strong, too versed in the signs, too prepared for it. It wasn't supposed to happen to me. But it did.

I can feel my chest tightening up, which says to me that even though it's been years I am still very much not over what happened. I don't know that I ever will be. That I will ever really feel in control again.

You see, once something like this invades your life, it changes you. You don't just one day get better and go back to being the person you were before it all came crashing down. You instead are always looking back, wondering if you've done irreparable damage, thinking that you did. Wondering if it will sneak back into your life. Wondering if it might be here right now.
Knowing that it very well could be.

I had postpartum depression. And it damn near ruined my life.

I'm a doula. I'm trained to recognize the symptoms in other women. I should have known better. I suppose that on some level I knew, I just thought maybe I could handle it.

There was the slightest hint of it when Ashley was a baby. She was colicky though, and I dismissed it as normal frustration. It's only reasonable to get frustrated when your baby cries for six hours straight, right? It passed though, and I didn't think much of it.

Then Ally was born. Things were okay for a few weeks. Really. Then we moved away from our family and friends. We moved away from comfort and safe. I don't know that the move was the straw that broke the camel's back, but it sure as hell made it happen faster and more catastrophically.

I was alone. Stuck in the house all the time with three kids. I didn't know anyone. I didn't know where to go or what to do with them. Slowly the panic started to set in. Then, maybe a week or so after we got here, it hit full force.

I had a version of postpartum depression (PPD) closely related to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I started to have intrusive thoughts. I would envision myself hurting the baby.

The most frequent thought was that I would see myself drop her down the stairs. The house we were renting at the time was a ranch with an open stairwell to the basement. And I can tell with full honesty that there were entire days I sat and stared at those stairs. I hated to walk past them. I'd grip her tight to my chest every time I had to pass them.

I'd take the kids out for a drive and find myself out on some mountain road, then picture the car sailing off the cliffs.

I'd put her to bed and see myself smothering her.

I was afraid of what I might do. Afraid I might do what I saw. Afraid that I was a horrible mother. No one in their right mind thinks these thoughts. I mean, I knew that I would never hurt my baby....but why was I thinking like this?

It is absolutely terrifying when you are not in control of your thoughts.

The thing with this form of PPD is that it only gets worse with denial, as I learned. I hid it well though. No one knew, not even my husband. To the outside world, I was totally fine. Functioned normally, did everything I needed to do, put on a happy face. But inside I was at the mercy of unrelenting horrible thoughts.

This went on for months, getting progressively worse.

Until one night, just before Ally turned a year old. I was sitting in bed, reading a book before I tried to sleep. I won't mention the name of the book, mostly because I don't want anyone to think poorly of it or that it had anything to do with my condition. By then, I had gotten to the point that my mind internalized everything I did, saw or read and distorted it into some sick and twisted way to hurt the baby.

In this book, a family went to the zoo. Upon reading that, my mind immediately shifted to me, throwing my child over the fence to the alligators. I slammed the book down and started to sob uncontrollably. I knew then that I couldn't take it anymore. Whatever was wrong with me was something that was only getting worse and I couldn't hide it anymore.

I was powerless to stop it.

My husband was, of course, in complete shock. His first and most legitimate concern was whether I was homicidal or suicidal. I wasn't. I just knew that there was something very wrong and I needed help.

I cried myself to sleep that night, my husband's arms around me. He was scared. I was terrified.

The next morning, I called a midwife friend, one I knew to have personal and professional experience with PPD. She was worried. Told me to get help. Now.

I called a therapist and met with her that day. After talking to her for a few hours, she came to the conclusion that my self diagnosis was spot on. She thought I needed medication. I told her I would do anything to avoid it. She said sometimes there is no other choice. I said I knew.

I did know. That's the problem. I knew and I still hid it.

Then something happened. I could breathe again. Turns out that in my case, telling someone was enough to stop the downward spiral. Hiding it only made it worse, and admitting that I had a problem, not just to my husband and friend and therapist, but to myself was the best thing I could have ever done.

I had to face the truth that I needed help. From that day forward, I would still think about things, but in a different way. They weren't the brutally violent and vivid visions anymore, more like hazy memories. With time, they stopped completely.

I did a lot of research on the subject once I admitted to myself what was going on. Turns out I fit the description almost perfectly for women who suffer from this version of PPD. Intelligent, balanced, in control.

I was too smart for this. Too aware. Too on top of everything. Or so I thought.

It took me months to tell anyone besides my husband. I didn't want anyone to worry. I didn't want anyone to think less of me as a mother, as a woman, as a doula. I felt shame not just for having it, but for not getting help sooner.

I feel like the entire first year of Ally's life was a blur. I don't really remember her being a baby. I look back and I wonder what kind of mother I was when I was in that place. It can't have been a very good one. I feel like I've done a disservice to my kids. With time I have somewhat forgiven myself. I know I need to be better about that.

When Ally weaned, I feared it would return. In some women, PPD resurfaces when nursing ceases, since there is a dramatic decline in hormones when that happens too. I never had to cross that bridge since I ended up pregnant almost immediately after she weaned. Again, I feared it would come back with AJ. It didn't.

But he's still nursing. I have another bridge to cross yet.

I know there are many who read this that will probably be shocked to hear my story. Who had no idea. I hid it well. I know there are some out there who question whether this is a real condition. I can tell you first hand, it is. I am sure some people will wonder why I am writing about it now.

I guess I am writing to be honest. I am scared it will come back. I am better equipped now to recognize it and I know to get help right away if I need it. That doesn't take away the fear.

Mostly, though, I am writing this for all the women out there who know where I've been. Who may be there now. If you need help, get it. You may need medication, and that is okay.

If you know someone who needs help, please make sure they get it.

There is a more severe condition known as postpartum psychosis. Before I dealt with it, I thought the mothers who drowned their children were just using that as an excuse. Today, I know that left to it's own devices, the postpartum brain can turn dark and evil. I know the path those women walked. I can see what happened to them and their children.

For more information, please see:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/postpartum-depression/DS00546

http://www.postpartum.net/

http://www.postpartumdepression.net/index.html

I'm not afraid of storms for I'm learning to sail my ship. -Louisa May Alcott-

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Too Busy

I'm just too busy.

I can't begin to tell you how many times I have heard that one lately. It seems like with each passing year I hear it more and more often. Parents are less and less willing to help, but still want their kids to experience everything. They aren't any less demanding though, which is super fun.

Everywhere you go anymore, every after school activity, every sports team....it's the same group of parents running the show. It's like we just move from one activity to the next because we know that if we don't do it, no one else is going to step up and offer to.

And I'm tired of the excuses.

I have four kids, but I help run the popcorn sale for Cub Scouts and am a newly anointed Daisy leader. I volunteer at school, often from home since I have a toddler. My husband works, but he is still the Cubmaster, Webelos Den leader, and an assistant coach for baseball. We're busy. But we still do it.

We are so busy here between the actual time spent at the kid's activities and all the time spent planning them since we are in charge of so many of them, we hardly have any down time.

And yet, I found myself entertaining seriously in my head the thought of volunteering to teach religious education last night. Fortunately, I didn't offer my time to anyone before the rational part of my brain kicked in and told me to keep my mouth shut.

At church, as with everything else, there aren't enough people to volunteer anymore. In some cases, the classes have been combined. The kids stuffed in the rooms like sardines.

I really was thinking about helping, but I have a two year old with the shortest attention span in the history of time. I'd have to find someone to watch him every week, which is asking a lot because he is a handful. If I had to pay a sitter, even occasionally, it would end up costing me more than the money I'd save in free tuition for the classes.

To be honest, I am not sure I can handle any more responsibilities at the moment. My sanity is worth more to me than trying to save a few bucks on the classes at church. Plus, though it was a long time ago and at a different church, I've paid my dues. I taught religious education for four years already.

Besides, I'm just too busy. Except that I really am.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Apples

This time of year always makes me think about apples. It's nearing harvest time for them back where we used to live, and the last year we were there we started what was sure to be an annual tradition of going to pick them in the orchards. And then we moved. So much for that. Sigh.

I've been thinking a lot about apples as of late for a completely different reason.

I know that I have mentioned before how much Ally is like me, how similar Ashley is to her father. Aidan and AJ are like other members of our families, but the girls are more like us for whatever reason. Which is a blessing and a curse.

Ally is a very smart little girl, very determined to get her way, very stubborn and very prone to drama when things don't go how she wants them to. I dare say she is even worse in that regard than I ever was. When she antagonizes her older brother, poking and prodding him until he can take no more and lashes out at her, I know better than to rush to her aid. I know she is the one that started it in the first place. I was her. When she refuses to do what they tell her at school, knowing in her head that she already knows how to do it and why should she be expected to perform on demand, I will tell her she has no choice but to. I know better. I was that kid. When she pesters her little brother and I hear him yelling at her, I know that her naughty giggle is sure to follow. Again, I was that little girl.

Ashley is sensitive and sarcastic. She has her father's sense of humor and attention span. She's got his temper and twirls her hair the same way he does when he's stressed out. She often doesn't think through her choices completely before she makes them, much like him. She loves to pick on people but can't take a joke herself. She struggles with paying attention for long periods of time, especially for things she isn't terribly interested in. You can probably guess who gets frustrated with her more often and more easily, mostly because they are so much alike. Her father. On the flip side, he also lets her get away with a lot more than the rest of the kids for the same reason.

Pretty much every parent I know can relate to this. I have a friend who is a yeller, and she's got a son that yells back. They had such a huge argument once that she ended up taking everything out of his room. I have another friend with a daughter that gets her sass, stubbornness and attitude directly from mom.

It sucks when you make little people just like you, since you have no one to blame but yourself.

Those apples don't fall far from the tree.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bunk

Though taking a nap is high on the list of things I would like to do today, it probably won't happen. I'm tired, it's true. There is no denying that.

Then again, I'm tired a lot. And I manage to function. At least I have an excuse on this Sunday afternoon for my sleepiness, aside from insomnia and children.

I spent the night at the zoo last night. Literally, not figuratively as my brother assumed I meant. I actually slept there. On purpose.

Ashley's Brownie Troop went on an overnight trip as their reward for selling as many cookies as they did last year. 9 girls, 9 moms. 18 hours of awesome.

I knew that I'd have no choice but to make a conscious effort to remember the things that happened last night and this morning once one of the moms, an avid reader, asked me the following question as we walked in the gate:

Please tell me that you are going to write about this, right?

Of course I am. And of course I brought my camera and took pictures. Not just for my sake, but for the sake of the moms who inevitably forget their camera or batteries or memory cards. They know I'll bring mine because I always do.

I should have brought a little notebook and a pen to write stuff down. There was that much good stuff. I don't generally travel with pen and paper 24/7. I mean, I know this guy who does and I love to give him grief about it....I can't very well take his idea and run with it now can I?

Anyway, the night began. We were off on our tour of the zoo, guided by a feisty female docent with many years of service. She reminded me of the old lady that hand whistled on this years America's Got Talent, for those who saw the show. We immediately got the sense that she never had children and didn't really know how to deal with them....which just begs the question of why?

Among the ridiculously funny things she said over the course of the night:

- After the sun set, we went over the lion area to use the night vision goggles. There were only two pairs of them, and she told the girls they would have to share. One girl expressed disappointment that they would have to share, and she just looked at her and said: Well, we don't have to share. I can just put them away and then no one can use them. How about that? Well then.

- Shortly after that, she realized that the girls couldn't use the goggles there anyway because they aren't tall enough to see over the glass. As she announced that we'd have to go try somewhere else, she piped in, I forgot you were all short.

- Over near the large cats, she opened one of the super secret locked boxes so the girls could feel the pelt of a leopard. Except she just started talking without telling them not to touch it first, and the girls did what you would assume girls would do. They touched it. She shooed them away, telling them get your greasy hands off it!

- She took out a snake for the girls to touch and offered to answer questions. One of the girls asked why the snake's head and tail were so skinny and the middle was fat. Our trusty docent's answer: Because that is just the way it is. Code for I don't know.

- By far the most entertaining thing she said of the night was something only a few of us heard. She was talking about the musk odor of the wolves, which logically led to her talking about adopting a baby skunk. And wanting to nurse it. I cannot make this stuff up. It is just that good.

The entire night was punctuated by soundbytes of comedic genius. That, and our other guide's proclamations that the next animal was uber awesome. Apparently when you are 20, a lot of things are uber awesome.

I was reminded of some of my favorite movies during the course of the night. Troop Beverly Hills came up first, since one of the other troops could have been in the movie. Really. I like to people watch. What can I say?

One of the moms, who will of course remain nameless, kept going around telling the rest of us that her water bottle was cracked, and that is why she kept drooling all over herself the whole night. Kinda like the girl with the braces in 16 Candles.

Or the other mom, telling a golf cart versus human story...which of course made me ask the question of whether she took it off any sweet jumps. Love Napoleon Dynamite.

Some of the funniest things of the night were said by the girls themselves though. Like the one sharing what her father had taught her about snakes. Something about how you have to buy baby hamsters and give them a hug and kiss goodbye before feeding them to the snakes. (Anyone else slightly suspicious that father just didn't want a snake as a pet?)

Or the girl who had to tell everyone that her dad has a leopard print pillow as they were touching the pelt. Again, no names. You know who you are.

The food was marginal at best, to be enjoyed while sitting on concrete floors. And you'd better not be thirsty, because it seemed the lemonade was rationed. 4 ounces per person. The popcorn snack was in a huge bowl, and the girls from another troop pushed more out of the bowl than they got on their plate. The solution? Just pick it up with your zoo hands and put it back in the bowl. Zoo hands. Blech.

In the end, the girls had fun. They got to experience things they wouldn't have otherwise and learned some new tidbits about the animals. And that is all that matters.

Us moms learned a few things too. An overnight trip doesn't necessarily equal sleep, bad coffee is still good coffee and don't stand downwind from cape buffalo.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remember


A dear friend of mine posted this on her Facebook page yesterday.

Though I am usually not at a loss for words, I am right now as I look at this picture. Or maybe it's just that there are so many things that this image makes me think about that I can't focus on just one of them.

Anyway, sometimes you don't need words. Sometimes the picture is enough.

For the souls that were lost that day, and all those who were lost because of it, I promise to remember.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Permanent

I was talking to a friend a few days ago. Her oldest child isn't exactly a child anymore. She is a young woman now, in her first year of high school.

I'm not really looking forward to those days, and I am fully aware of how fast they are coming.

With young adulthood comes two things for most kids.

1. The need to feel accepted

2. The need to demonstrate their independence

Sometimes those two needs align, sometimes they conflict. And sometimes they can get a kid into a whole lot of trouble.

With youth comes rebellion and impulsiveness.

Anyway, we were talking about all the things she's going to be dealing with in the coming years. And somehow, however it happened, we ended up talking about body art.

You know, piercings, tattoos, hair experiments. The stuff that proclaims to the world who you are. Who you want to be. Or at least, who you think you want to be at that moment in time.

I'm pretty liberal in this department. Hair is hair. It grows, you can cut it. Anyone who's seen the wide variety of hairstyles my girls have already been allowed to sport would know that I have no reservations in that area.

I have no issues with most piercings. Honest. You want 8 rings in your ear? Fine. You want a nose ring? Gross. But fine. Just be careful with it. You want a belly ring even? I would probably be fine with that one too once the girls are out of high school. I'd have to draw the line at tongue bars because of the very real health concerns. I wouldn't be okay with those.

I am completely not a fan of high gauge ear piercings. Once your earlobe is stretched out, there is no going back. I have a hard time picturing little old men walking around with holes in their earlobes the size of quarters. (And no, I'm not entertaining any thoughts of my kids ever having other piercings.)

As for tattoos, I can't really say much there. I have one. I want another one, already know what I want and am pretty sure where I want it. The tattoo I already have was a few years in the making. My dear friend Blythe wanted one, and wanted me to get one with her. I actually spent a lot of time trying to talk her out of it. Years later, I got one and she never did. You owe me a tattoo. :)

My tattoo was carefully chosen, something I will never outgrow or fall out of love with. The location one that no one will ever see unless I really want them to. Restrained, thought out, self expression, it is. I didn't get my tattoo until after I was out of college, until after I was married. I was a grown up. It was something permanent, and I had to be sure.

And really, that's how tattoos should be. At least that is the argument I will make to my children if the time ever comes that they want one. Grow up first. Figure out who you are first. Decide if it is really something you want forever first. Then, if you still want it, fine.

One rule: Just don't do anything permanent when you're feeling rebellious or impulsive.

And if you want to know how much getting a tattoo removed sucks, ask your Uncle Gary.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

An Interview with Aidan

1. What's your whole name? Aidan Thomas DeBie

2. How old are you and what grade are you in? Mom, why? 9 and 4th grade.

3. What is your favorite color? Pink

4. Who is your best friend? Ummm, Holly.

5. What is your favorite sport? Baseball.

6. What do you want to be when you grow up? A toy maker.

7. Name one thing you are really good at: I'm good at building LEGOs.

8. Name one thing you know you need to work harder on: Reading and doing a test after I read....I forget what it's called...oh, yeah...reading comprehension.

9. If you could have one thing in the world, what would it be? Hmmm....um....every LEGO set in the world.

10. What is your favorite tv show? SpongeBob

11. What is your favorite song? Grace (LEGO Rockband version)

12. What is your favorite movie? Transformers

13. If you had a whole day and you got to decide what to do, what would you pick? Um....I don't know....I would go to Disneyworld.

14. What is the messiest part of your room? Under my bed.

15. What did you learn how to do this year? Use a pocketknife.

16. What do your parents do? Dad plays tennis. Mom plays bunco.

17. What do you like to learn about the most at school? Science.

18. What do you like to eat? Sushi.

19. What did you do for your birthday this year? I had a LEGO party.

20. Who is the most important person in your life? Why? Mom, because you are my Mom. (awww, he is a sweet boy)

An Interview with Ally

1. What's your whole name? Ally DeBie

2. How old are you and what grade are you in? 5 and Kindergarten.

3. What is your favorite color? Purple.

4. Who is your best friend? Erik.

5. What is your favorite sport? Umm, swimming.

6. What do you want to be when you grow up? Ballerina.

7. Name one thing you are really good at: Swimming.

8. Name one thing you know you need to work harder on: Homework.

9. If you could have one thing in the world, what would it be? To make cards for Grandpa.

10. What is your favorite tv show? Yo Gabba Gabba.

11. What is your favorite song? Mamma Mia.

12. What is your favorite movie? Barbie Rapunzel.

13. If you had a whole day and you got to decide what to do, what would you pick? I don't know...go around the whole world.

14. What is the messiest part of your room? Bed.

15. What did you learn how to do this year? Cartwheels.

16. What do your parents do? Daddy gets us Slurpees. Mommy cleans up rooms.

17. What do you like to learn about the most at school? Going outside to play with my friends.

18. What do you like to eat? Macaroni and cheese.

19. What did you do for your birthday this year? I got an owl on the beak. (She had an owl party)

20. Who is the most important person in your life? Why? Erik, because I am going to marry him. (5 going on 25, this one)

An Interview with Ashley

1. What's your whole name? Ashley Danielle DeBie

2. How old are you and what grade are you in? What are you doing, Mama? 7 and 2nd grade.

3. What is your favorite color? Pink.

4. Who is your best friend? Paola.

5. What is your favorite sport? Tennis and soccer.

6. What do you want to be when you grow up? Babysitter.

7. Name one thing you are really good at: Reading.

8. Name one thing you know you need to work harder on: Spelling.

9. If you could have one thing in the world, what would it be? A real hippo.

10. What is your favorite tv show? SpongeBob.

11. What is your favorite song? You're Not Sorry, Taylor Swift.

12. What is your favorite movie? Tinkerbelle and the lost treasure.

13. If you had a whole day and you got to decide what to do, what would you pick? Go to a movie with Paola.

14. What is the messiest part of your room? Closet (giggling).

15. What did you learn how to do this year? Tell time.

16. What do your parents do? Throw stuff away in our room.

17. What do you like to learn about the most at school? How to make boats.

18. What do you like to eat? Macaroni and cheese.

19. What did you do for your birthday this year? Ice skating party.

20. Who is the most important person in your life? Why? Mommy. Because she takes care of me. (awww, I love my kids)

To Poke or Not to Poke

....that is the question.

It's that time of year. One that I always sort of dread. Flu season.

Or, more correctly, flu shot season.

Up until the last few years, we religiously got our flu vaccines. Once we had kids, we figured it was just safer to do it, trusting that they would work.

A few years back, there was a shortage of the vaccines. People were afraid of huge epidemics. My kids were on the should get it more than other kids, but not on the absolutely needs it list, so they didn't ever get one. The clinics ran out before our number was called.

No one in my house got the flu that year, though we went bare. The epidemics they warned of never materialized.

Then two years ago, we all lined up for the poke in the arm. The kids giggled when Tom and I got our shots. Months passed. Winter was just about over, another flu season almost over, when it hit. Ashley woke up one morning totally fine, and by 9:30 a.m. had spiked a fever over 105. Holding a vomiting child in the bathtub, calling the hospital and being told to get her there now isn't my idea of a good time.

She had the flu. Even with the vaccine, she got it. Because of her history with asthma, we got the antivirals. Over $200 worth of medication which arguably did nothing. She was down for weeks.

Then last year happened. I saw H1N1 coming months ahead of time. Having a background in public health is a blessing and a curse sometimes. Once the WHO issues statements, people like me tend to listen. And they did.

Trouble was, not enough people took those warnings seriously. At least not seriously enough. There was no vaccine available for this strain of the flu. By the time the schools bothered trying to contain the virus, Ashley's class had less than 1/3 of the students well. Everyone else was home sick.

Many got sick, some got very sick. Ashley, again, was the sickest in her class. She almost ended up hospitalized from the pneumonia that attacked her after the virus.

A few months later, a vaccine came out. I found it funny that so many people urged everyone to get the vaccine. We had the disease by then. It was too little, too late.

I've made a choice as a parent to be cautious with vaccines and my youngest. He's reacted every time he has had shots, and as a result, we are spreading them out. At his last appointment, his doctor informed me that the flu vaccines this year are a combination vaccine, with H1N1 included.

Isn't that great? (insert sarcasm here)

Personally, I don't think so. I hope that they have vaccines available that don't include H1N1. I've struggled with whether we will even bother at all anymore. The vaccines have failed us before.

Then there is that whole the flu vaccines contain thimerosol thing. If you can manage to overlook the fact that the symptoms of autism and mercury poisoning are almost identical, you can believe that there really is no link. Yes, I know that it's never been proven to be a cause.

The CDC says it is safe. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/thimerosal.htm

I'm a footnote reader though. And I want to know where they get their information from. Turns out the last study they are citing as proof of safety is 8 years old. With my background in health research, I know all too well that it's possible to prove or disprove just about any hypothesis, and the vast majority of health studies are funded by....wait for it....pharmaceutical companies. You know, the ones that manufacture vaccines and antivirals.

I'm a skeptical person. And I don't happen to think anyone should be injecting mercury into their bodies. But that's just me.

So, we have to decide, yet again, whether we will do it or not. I'm leaning towards not.

To poke or not to poke....how do you answer that question?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Different

I hate it when I wake up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea for a blog post, don't write it down, go back to sleep and wake up in the morning having totally forgotten it.

Whatever it was, it was going to be awesome.

I might remember eventually, but chances are I won't. There is far too much stuff fighting for space in my brain these days. Too many things to remember, too many things to think about.

Until and unless my brain remembers whatever it was, whatever else I come up with will have to suffice.

Apologies. Really, it was awesome.

Mostly right now all I can think about are baby toes. Well, not actually baby toes. Toddler toes. The ones currently residing three inches from my face. Stinky toddler toes.

As I am looking at his toes, I see all the signs that he is no longer a baby anymore. Each foot has at least 3 scrapes or scratches on it, proof of his adventures. His toenails have dirt under them. He has the feet of a little boy now.

By far the cutest thing about his feet are his middle toes. On both feet, his second and third toes are crooked, the third bent underneath it's neighbor. They straighten out when he walks, you can only see it when his feet are relaxed.

I decided that I should take a picture of them, his crooked little toes. Just in case one day he wakes up and they have changed.

Though I don't do it nearly as often as I'd like, I do photography. I've had more than one parent specifically ask me to avoid taking pictures of their child's birthmarks or injuries or imperfections or flaws. For the most part, I humor them. I position the child to avoid whatever the parent wants avoided. But I always, always take some pictures with whatever the parent wants to avoid. And I always take at least one specifically of the thing they are trying to avoid.

I tell them that someday they will want that picture.

Every one of my kids has had some physical abnormality. Something that makes them different. Some have obvious birthmarks, some have moles, some have crooked toes. But rather than hide it or pretend it's not there, I learned a long time ago to embrace it. Some of my favorite baby pictures of Ashley are the ones that showed her hemangioma.

We are all unique, some more obviously than others. Different is just different, not better or worse. No one is perfect. I love them, all of them, flaws and everything.

And, I think, this might one day be one of my favorite pictures of AJ.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Smoke

Though I'm far away from where I used to call home, it sure feels like it around here today. Back in the place I grew up, this time of year brought some certainties. Heat waves. Wind. Fire.

Of the things that I miss about California, this isn't one of them.

There's a fire nearby.

It started when the winds whipped up yesterday, whistling through the canyons. The humidity levels were in the single digits. Some preliminary reports have said there was an accident with propane tanks, but the investigation as to how it started can't even begin until the fire is out.

Homes have burned to the ground. Thousands of people have been evacuated, some only given a few minutes to grab their most precious belongings. Animals left behind, no time to get them out.

Here where we are, we are safe from the fire. It's on the opposite end of the county, virtually the whole city between here and there. My home is not in danger. I am not in a rush to grab what is irreplaceable. I'm not putting the dogs and the kids in the car and driving out of here.

I've been closer than this to fire. I've stood on a rooftop with a hose before. I've packed my things. I've been evacuated. I've watched the hills burn around me, hoping and praying the winds would shift. I've stayed up all night, waiting.

I've been afraid before.

The fire isn't what I am afraid of this time. This time, the real danger is the smoke. The billowing gray beast of air that shifts and moves however the wind wills it to. That is what scares me.

Smoke and asthma don't get along.

I feel like someone has been sitting on my chest since yesterday, and my little girl isn't faring any better. I know not to go outside, she doesn't. I know to watch for early symptoms of an attack, she doesn't.

She's 7 years old, and she's at school today. At the mercy of a sky full of smoke, she is. I've asked that she be kept inside today. I hope that they listen.

Being a parent is so hard sometimes. I have to trust other people to care for my babies, and days like today make that trust hard to come by.

Wish her luck.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fiddler

I spent a lot of time doing something I am really bad at yesterday.

Something that my husband keeps telling me I need to take classes for.

Something that gets me extraordinarily frustrated.

I fiddled with this. Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle.

You see, everything that appears on the screen here is dictated by html code and site feeds. There are templates and backgrounds and widgets. There are wrappers and column widths and buffers and linked images.

It's way scarier than it sounds.

It took me weeks, literally, to decide that I didn't like any of the three column backgrounds I could find (and realize that I wasn't comfortable downloading one from some third party site). So, I, Kelly DeBie, did the unthinkable.

I wrote html.

I took a few computer programming classes in college. I passed them, but I will be the first to tell you that my C- was completely a sympathy grade. My teacher felt so sorry for me and my pathetic attempts at code that he passed me. I'm fairly sure he also was partially afraid I'd have to repeat the class if I didn't pass and he might have to try to teach me again.

I'm that bad at it.

But after hours of editing yesterday, I did it. I conquered the html beast. I fixed my template, I uploaded a background to accommodate the new width. I even found images for post breaks and tags, which requires a whole lot of editing and linking.

I did it.

It's not perfect. I could fiddle with it more, for sure. Seeing as my head almost exploded yesterday and my wrists are sore from my carpal tunnel acting up because I spent so long on the computer yesterday, I will leave well enough alone.

For now.

I'll be back to writing tomorrow...but first, my hands and my brain need a break.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

This Generation

Aidan asked me last week if he could have a Facebook account. He's 9.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that my answer was a resounding no.

The world my kids are growing up in is such a different one than I grew up in. Every generation claims that, I know. Every set of parents always thinks that it's harder to have kids in the time they exist in than ever before.

And I'd make the argument that every set of parents is right. (Well, maybe except for the Depression generation....it had to be pretty awful to raise a child back then, and compared to those times, the next generation had it easier.)

The truth is that science and technology has always outpaced the ability of humans to deal with it. We come up with bigger, faster, better before we quite know what we are going to do with it. And we raise our children in an environment of constant evolution and adaptation.

Think about it....think about all the things that our kids have become accustomed to that didn't even exist 10 or 20 years ago, or if they did, they weren't in wide use by masses in society. The personal computer, internet, cell phones, satellites, DVRs, ipods, gaming systems, GPS navigation systems, social networking, ebay, craigslist.

When I had a report due for school and it had to be typed, I actually had to type it. On a typewriter. At some point, I had a fancy word processor machine. I finally got a computer in my junior year of college.

When we were kids, if you wanted to get a hold of someone, you had to have access to a land line. If you were out, you had to find a payphone and actually have change in your pocket. If they were on the phone, you got a busy signal. If they weren't home, you could leave a message only if they had an answering machine. You couldn't just call them 24/7.

We only had the tv channels 2-13 when I was a kid and I was the remote control. If you missed seeing something live on tv, you missed it. Period. Music came on radios and cassette tapes and eventually CDs. You listened to the same 12 songs over and over, your CDs skipped when you tried to exercise with them.

We had Commodore 64s and only if you were really lucky, an Atari. If you were driving somewhere you weren't familiar with, you took a map with you. If you wanted to chat with friends, you had to do it in person. If you needed to sell some stuff, you had a garage sale.

It is an entirely different world they live in.

Everyone it seems is instantly accessible now. It takes far less effort to stay in contact with people than it used to, which definitely has pluses and minuses. Everything you do anymore is out there for the world to see. Your accomplishments and your mistakes, public information.

The thing about technology, at least in this moment in time, is that it makes communication easier, but it doesn't actually make it better. Texting will never be as good as talking. Online chatting will never substitute for an actual conversation. It seems the more connected we are, the less in touch we are.

In some ways, all this actually makes us more isolated.

Adults have a hard enough time grasping that. And kids, our kids, are growing up in a world where this is the norm.

I want my kids to develop their personal interaction skills before they delve into the world of leading virtual lives. Before they become always accessible and instantly connected, I want them to figure out that sometimes being away from that all is better.

Sometimes you don't want to be found. Sometimes you don't want everyone to know what your status is. Sometimes you don't need to share that all with the world. Sometimes you need to learn better first.

This world we live in today is a hard one because I have to raise my kids at home and in the public eye all at once. They have to grow up both as individuals and as members of a constantly more interconnected society. They have to be infinitely more aware of everyone and everything around them, because someone is always watching.

I know that at some point, I will give in to the world we live in. I'm not delusional. I know already that Aidan is better at using a lot of this new techonology than I will ever be. It's second nature to him, to the children of this generation, because they have always had it. At some point, my kids will have cells phones and email accounts and Facebook profiles. First though, I think I'll let them just be kids for a bit longer.

I'm a mean mom. I told him no.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Flat

There is one school project that I look forward to with the kids more than any other.

If we were still in California, I already know that it would be the 4th grade Mission project. For those from the golden state, they will probably remember it from their own childhoods or from the schooling of their kids. Whether your Mission was built out of sugar cubes or clay, popsicle sticks or styrofoam, you had to build it. Of course there were always the kids who so clearly got a little more than help from mom and dad, and these days they sell easy build kits in the stores. Kits! Just seems wrong. I built Mission Santa Barbara, by far my favorite. My poor kids don't even really know what the Missions are. Sigh. Maybe someday we will take them.

In second grade here, the grade that Ashley is now in, they do the Flat Stanley project. Except that it's not the Flat Stanley project really. Two years ago it was the Flat Aidan project. Now it's the Flat Ashley project. The first week of second grade, they read the story about a little boy, smashed flat by a bulletin board. Since he's flat now, he can travel the world pretty easily. He fits in envelopes.

So, that first week of second grade, the kids make themselves flat. They draw their bodies, decorate their clothes, and in Ashley's case color their lips red and give themselves huge eyelashes. Then they give the flat versions of themselves a hug goodbye and put them in an envelope, mailing themselves around the world.

The hosts of the flat children are supposed to take them places and do things. Take pictures and write about their adventures together. Then they mail that to the school and the class shares together. They are also supposed to forward the flat kids on to someone else, for a new adventure.

Eventually, the flat kids are supposed to be returned to school at the end of the year.

Back when Aidan was flat, he went to some pretty cool places. He went to see Auntie Blythe in Hawaii. He went to the beach with Grandma and Grandpa in California. He went to Disneyland with Uncle Gary and Aunt Gretchen. He went to Iraq with Uncle Tim. He went to Florida and met the Power Rangers. Then he got forwarded to someone we don't know and he never came home. Sad face.

Now it's Flat Ashley's turn. One of her little selves is leaving the state as I write this, driving cross country. She decided a road trip would be fun. The other one will get mailed to Uncle Gary and Aunt Gretchen, then off to Las Vegas to visit Uncle Tim. I'm thinking a trip on Uncle TJ's firetruck might be required, maybe even a stroll around Central Park in NYC. She will surely be going to Washington DC next month with Grandma Kathi and Papa. She's just dying to go to Hawaii to see Auntie Blythe.

It's amazing the places you can go when you fit in an envelope. We'll have to see where her travels take her...she has eight months of adventure ahead of her.

I'm crossing my fingers that Flat Ashley finds her way home, unlike her brother. He, apparently, really likes to travel.

For more on the project:

http://www.flatstanley.com/

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