Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Heartstrings

There are only about a million Christmas songs that make me cry.  I am sure a lot of them are written that way on purpose, to pull at the heartstrings, to remind us of what we are missing and what we wish for.  To celebrate the season, yes, but also to remind us why it is so hard to live through December sometimes.

The older I get, the more bittersweet the holidays are.

I'm going through the motions this year like I did last year.  This time around, my husband refused to give me a choice though, he forced my hand in the matter.  He knew that if he hauled all that stuff up and out of the basement I would have no choice but to put it up. 

To put on the show. 

I have to.  For the kids.  And for me.

He's tried to turn on Christmas music a few times already, and I fought him.  Four weeks of it is more than sufficient, and right now I don't really want to hear it anyway.  Sunday, though, I stopped fighting him.  It's useless to bother trying once the tree is up.  He loves Christmas, and it's not fair for me to take that away from him.

He still loves Christmas because he doesn't have a reason to hate it yet.

I do.

Anyhow, the music was on and the tree was up and I was putting the lights on in my obsessive way when this song came on. 

A song from a mother to her child, surely intended to be a positive one, but for me it's hard to hear.  It's about how she had lost the joy in the holiday, how it wasn't fun anymore because of all the realities of being a grown up.  About how she now can relive the wonder and blind faith of the season through her child. 

To watch them this time of year.  To pretend, if only by extension, that everything is new and perfect.  That magic can happen.  That miracles can come true.  That no matter what you ask for, no matter how big, your wishes can be fulfilled.

For my babies, I am grateful.  They give me this perspective. 

I just have to let myself see it.

Until I had you I did not know
That I was missing out
Had to grow up & see the world
Through different shades of doubt
Give me one more chance to dream again
One more chance to feel again
Through your young heart
If only for one day help me try

I want to see Christmas through your eyes
I want everything to be the way it used to be
Back to being a child again thinking the world was mine
I want to see Christmas, Christmas through your eyes

I see the rain, you see the rainbow hiding in the clouds
Never afraid to let your love show
Won´t you show me how
Want to learn how to believe again
Find the innocence in me again
Through your young heart
Help me find a way, help me try

I want to see Christmas through your eyes
I want everything to be the way it used to be
Back to being a child again thinking the world was kind
I want to see Christmas, Christmas through your eyes

Gloria Estefan, Christmas Through Your Eyes

From the Mouths of Babes

There are times that I need to laugh.  Times where is seems like there is not much in my world that makes me want to smile.  Yesterday was one of those days.

I went to pick up the kids from school, plus a few extras.  As they all piled in the car, my oldest and his buddy started to talk about what they were doing in math. 

They are learning ordered equations right now.  Parentheses and all that loveliness.  I asked the other boy if they were using brackets too or just parentheses, and he looked at me with a confusion that told me they hadn't talked about brackets quite yet. 

Then, being the dorky mom that I am, I started to talk about how useful math is and how important it is to pay attention and learn it well.  I'm actually excited that Aidan is learning things like long division now.  I can explain that a lot easier than simple addition and subtraction. 

Then I said this:  Aside from the usefulness of it, math is super fun!

This sweet, always well behaved child shook his head at me.  He sighed.  Then he replied.

Oh, please no sarcasm today.

Not only does this little boy know me well (maybe even a little too well), he made me laugh from my toes.  I needed that. 

I really needed that.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas OCD

Today is going to be one of those days. 

I need to be kept busy today.

I have a few errands to run, a kitchen to clean and a mountain of laundry calling my name.  For all that, today, I am grateful.

I don't like days like today.

Here's my best attempt at humor today...

My name is Kelly and I have tree light installation OCD.  Like so many other things in my life, I am an admitted control freak about the lights on the Christmas tree.  In fact, I can't ever remember a year that my husband put them on the tree. 

I have a special kind of crazy.

Of course, we elevate decorating for the holidays to a level that most people wouldn't fathom.  We honestly put away almost all our typical year round decor to make room for the boxes and boxes of stuff in the house. 

You know that picture I posted yesterday with the stuff in the yard?  Yeah, well, there's even more of it out there now. 

I blame two things for the decor obsession.  1) Family tradition and 2) The first real neighborhood we used to live near.  When we got married, we lived in an apartment for a few years, then a condo.  There really wasn't much to decorate back then, certainly nothing outside.  We started to acquire indoor stuff years before the outside decorations.

Then we bought our first house.  Our neighborhood wasn't one full of millions of twinkling lights and yards full of inflatable cheer, but the adjacent one was.  It got to be such a tradition over there that just about everyone in the entire neighborhood put up elaborate themed displays.  Hand painted wooden cutouts, reindeer on the roofs, flood lights as far as the eye could see.  We walked that neighborhood at least once every year, my husband giddy with excitement at what his yard would someday look like. 

The first year in the house we got the giant inflatable Santa.  Or as my neighbor at the time referred to it, the beacon that let him know he was almost home from over a mile away.  That was the beginning of the end.

Yesterday, we finished the decorating.  He put out all the stuff in the yard he swore to me that he wouldn't, then he put up the tree.  I immediately dropped whatever I was doing (unloading the huge mound of boxes for the decorations inside the house) to put the lights on the tree.

I want to say there are 12 strings on it this year.  It's a 6 1/2 foot tree.  Yes, I know that works out to roughly 2 strings per foot.  I methodically wrap every branch.  I squint and stand back to check for uniformity throughout the entire process.  It really is ridiculous.  I lost a string of lights this year, half of it wouldn't light up.  There is one less on there this year than last, and though I am sure I am the only one who sees it, I do.

It's part of the Christmas OCD thing.

Admitting you have a problem is.....well......admitting you have a problem.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reindeer Down

Yesterday was the day.

Competition man day.  Who can put it up the fastest?

Boxes came out of the basement.  The broken and burned out were replaced.  Sophisticated wiring diagrams used. 

Men found themselves perched on rooftops, forgetting just how steep it is up there.

Inevitably, those men didn't carry enough of the necessary items with them to complete the task at hand.  That would make too much sense. 

Need a little help here.

Oh, of course.  You mean, you want us to do something other than hold the end of the string of lights in some kind of official capacity?  You mean standing on the sidewalk laughing at you all nervous like on the roof isn't funny? 

It is funny, actually.

But it's done.  Well, it's mostly done anyway. 



There are boxes of stuff that didn't get put out yet, he swears they aren't going out this year.  I've learned not to believe him when he says things like that.  There is no such thing as too many lights. 

Can't quite see us from outer space yet.

We lost of few of our most cherished decorations yesterday.  One of the reindeer didn't make it out.  The stands on the back have been broken for years, but now there is a short in the wire somewhere and the head doesn't light up anymore. 

You don't want headless reindeer lighting up your yard.

It scares the children.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Wish for You

Today is my Dad's birthday. 

I actually managed to get his gift finished and delivered in time this year.  But I'm not there.

Wish I was. 

These days, I wish for a lot of things. 

Today, though, is not my day for wishing.  Today, my only wish is for you, Dad.



I wish for you joy and happiness and love.  I wish for you peace.  And I wish for you health.

I wish for you everything and anything you want. 

Happy Birthday. 

Love you.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I really wanted those boots

It's 8:30 am on the holiest of all shopping days, Black Friday.  Normally, I am out.  Normally, I have sets of lists, stacks of coupons, copies of the ads and a game plan. 

To achieve success on a day like today, you have to have a plan.  I usually decide where I am going to go and in what order.  I've learned to avoid getting a cart if it is humanly possible.  I've learned that there are some stores that you will spend an hour just in line to checkout, so that time better be worth the savings.  I've learned that it isn't even worth going to some stores because they stock so few of the items they advertise.  I've learned to just avoid the electronics section at Walmart. 

I like my life.

People are crazy out there.  I've seen arguments and shoving matches, I've seen people ramming each other with carts.  I've seen people steal things out of other carts when they weren't being watched.

I've scored a lot of good deals over the years, it's true.  I've kept going for hours and hours thanks to coffee and the euphoric high that comes from paying $5 for something that should be $30. 

Not this year.

I'm pretty much done with shopping already.  I did pretty good, most of the stuff I've already bought either isn't in the ads for today at all or the prices weren't far off.  It's not worth fighting the crowds to save $2 in my opinion. 

I have a friend here from out of town, and it seems that we'd rather stay up late talking and drinking than get up early for shopping strategy sessions.  That's just fine with me.

There are a few things I contemplated going out for this morning.  I still may go to the mall to try and get a cheap coat for AJ when they open.  Most of the other stuff that looked appealing was actually stuff I wanted.  And I'm not about to 1) spend money on me this time of year or 2) get up early to do it.

I did really want those boots though.

Oh well.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful

I am thankful for so many things today that it is hard to put them all into words.

I am thankful for my husband, the one who is braving the grocery store this morning just to get bacon.  I love that man.

I am thankful for my children, each one a unique blessing in my life.  They challenge me, they make me a better person, they give me their unwavering love. 

I am thankful to be sharing my home this morning with a friend I haven't seen in too many years.  Waking up to the sounds of five kids playing is better than four.

I am thankful for all my friends, near and far.  For those who have been there through everything, those who just recently re-entered my life, those who are new.  Every single one of you enriches my life.  My world is better with you. 

I am thankful for my family.  For the one here and the one there.  For the one I will sit around a table with today, and the one I wish I could do that with.  Someday science will perfect cloning or teleportation, but until then I will not be able to be in two places at once.  I love you all.

I am thankful for the doctors and nurses who have cared for my father, but especially for the respiratory therapists and phlebotomists and male nurses.   They made the hardest days of this year more tolerable with their patience and kindness. 

I am thankful for so many things I took for granted before.  Each day is a gift.

Though no holiday ever seems complete in my heart and the distance between where I am and where I want to be is great, I am thankful this morning.  I am thankful for the trips I have made, five this year in all.  I am thankful for all the people who helped to make those trips possible, even when they were sudden and scary.  Even when I didn't know how long I would be gone for. 

To every person in my life, you have touched my soul whether you know it or not.  I am far better at describing my gratitude here than I have ever been at saying it in person.  I love you all. 

Thank you.

May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with friends, family and food. 

Kind and Generous, Natalie Merchant

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I watch an angel as she sleeps

I woke up this morning a little later than normal. 

Laying next to me, out cold, was Ashley. 

I laid there for a while just to watch her sleep.



In her sleep, she is calm.  She is at peace.  Her life isn't filled with all the chaos and unfairness that accompany her during her waking hours. 

Life is just harder for her.  It always has been.  And it breaks my heart.

It seems like no matter what, it is always just different for her.  She had agonizing colic as a baby.  I tried everything I could to make her world right back then, and none of it worked. 

She was misunderstood by just about everyone as a toddler and preschooler.  She had anxiety problems, she was shy.  She would crawl into her tiny little shell and shut herself off from the world when it got to be too much.  She still does that sometimes. 

Unless she is completely comfortable in her surroundings, she will withdraw.  Even if she knows everyone in the room, if something doesn't feel right, she's just not all there. 

She has imaginary friends, for they don't judge her.  They don't laugh at her when she spills her milk at lunch.

Sometimes it seems like she isn't comfortable in her own skin.  She fidgets and flits.  She can't just be. 

She acts out, she can't control her behavior sometimes, and she is often absolutely mortified by the way she acts.  She can't stand to be in trouble, but there are times she can't stop herself. 

She.just.can't. 

And no one understands. 

There are days I pick her up from school and she cries.  I can usually tell when it's been a bad day because one of two things happens.  Either she is silent or in a rage, there is nothing in the middle on those days.

As if the fact that she can't control her behavior isn't enough, she often can't control her breathing either.  Asthma and hyperactivity do not friends make.

I took her in to get her eyes checked a little while back.  Her vision is okay, though she will need glasses at some point in the near future.  The bigger problem though, her eyes have to work harder than most people to focus together.  It's something that she will hopefully outgrow, they say.  Do you know how many times I have been told that about her?

At her annual physical last year, the doctor noticed something.  A slight curve in her spine.  With a family history of scoliosis on both sides, all we can do is hope it doesn't get worse.

We have already spent a small fortune on her teeth, and it appears she has a long road ahead in that department too.  Her mouth is tiny like mine, her teeth even more crowded than mine ever were.  Braces are a certainty, whether she needs extractions and spacers will remain to be seen. 

Then there is the matter of her hearing.  It's going too.  The doctor hopes it can be reversed by treating her allergies more aggressively, but it's looking like surgery is in her future.  Removing her adenoids, putting in tubes will probably be tried.  Whether that will be enough, we don't know.  She's lost all low decibel sounds, at least temporarily, in both ears. 

My sweet poor girl.  She has so many struggles in this life.  So many things rest on her shoulders more squarely than other kids.  Her siblings all together have fewer challenges than she has alone.  It's possible that her behavior problems can be attributed to the vision and hearing troubles she has.  If we can get those right, maybe she can be in more control of her being.  Maybe.

I hope, oh how I hope, that life won't always be this cruel to her.  That she will be able to overcome the challenges placed before her.  That she will find her place in this world and thrive. 

She is a beautiful soul.  She is an amazing child.  She is fragile and strong, all at the same time.  I just adore her. 

I hope that she knows that.

I watched an angel as she slept this morning.  Sweet dreams, my sweet girl.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dancing with the Stars?

In a little over an hour, the season finale of one of my favorite shows will air. 

Dancing with the Stars

I've watched almost every episode of every season.  There is something about watching people out of their element struggle to learn a new skill on such a public platform.  Like most people who watch the show, I usually have predetermined favorites.  I have the people I am rooting for and the ones I am watching just to witness the train wreck.  Every year there are surprises, people who you don't think will be good who turn out to be.  And those who are blessed with the physical assets that should make them good, but are far from it.  Kim Kardashian, Audrina Partridge, anyone?

This season, like every other before it, included questionable people in the lineup.  The ones that are clearly put there for ratings, or who you just know aren't going to take the show very seriously, or who are too old to move quickly let alone dance, or who aren't even celebrities.

Like her.  You know who I am talking about unless you've been under a rock for the last few months.  Bristol.

Last time I checked, being the daughter of a politician does not a "star" make.  When they introduce her, they describe her as a teen spokesperson.

For what, exactly?  Hypocrisy? 

Don't do what I did, don't get pregnant as a teenager.  I mean, it didn't work out for me at all.  I haven't been on tons of magazine covers.  I haven't been asked to be on a prime time reality tv show.  I haven't been blessed with this awesome platform.  Totally, abstinence is the way. 

Because clearly all that abstinence only stuff worked for her.

So here she is, in the finals of the show.  The network executives just now admitted to flaws in the voting system, weeks after right wing websites told people to vote, weeks after bloggers bragged about sneaking in hundreds of votes per line, weeks after it became obvious that she had overstayed her abilities.

Yeah, she is not a dancer.  You can make that argument with me.  So what?  She's improved a little, but hasn't improved nearly as much as other contestants have over the years.   She's been at the bottom in terms of scores for what seems like forever, yet she stays. 

The results will be on here soon enough, and I have a feeling she's going to win.  Not because she deserves to.  Not because she should even be categorized as a "star" and on it in the first place. Not because of any of that.  Because of who her mother is.

As frustrated as I am with the show this season, and the manipulation of the voting, I am more amazed at the fact that no one seems to have addressed the issue of what is really going on here. 

Bristol is being used.

By the network for ratings. 

And by her mother for free publicity.

Bristol doesn't seem to realize it at all.  After all, she's just a "normal" girl.  In a lot of ways she is right about that.  She's naive, and she's being thrown to the wolves and all the criticism of the public eye and she doesn't even see it.

It's one thing to go on a show like this for shameless publicity for your own purposes.  It's another for her to be there, claiming to be passionate about her hypocritical platform, when really she is just a pawn for the older and the wiser Palin.

Makes me almost feel a little bad for her.  Almost.

My husband, a gun and other signs of the apocalypse

We have a problem.

In the garage. 

Little furry rodents have for whatever reason decided that our garage is a cool place to hang out.  I know what drew them here in the first place.  Bird seed and dog food were both stored out there without hard plastic containers for a long time.  For years we didn't have problems with mice, years! 

When we had our cat, she was a mouser.  And a bird hunter.  Anything came anywhere near the house and she'd make sure it paid the ultimate price.  It was nice not having to worry about the mice, except of course for the occasionally disemboweled carcass I'd find somewhere.  I could have done without the bird hunting...that was just gross.  I didn't even realize she was doing it until Ashley screamed in the backyard one day because there was a bird foot under the swings.  Shudder.

The cat is gone though, still a sore spot for me.  It is just better that I don't talk about what may or may not have happened to the cat.  And who may or may not have been involved. 

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  For all the time in between, we hadn't had mice.  Then, one day, they were back.  It was getting colder and they were looking for food.  We had a bunch of it, and they went to town.  Tom realized they were in there again when he was rearranging the cabinets and found piles of droppings. 

As I mentioned before, my husband does not like mice.  Not many people do, I suppose.  But he has a particular hatred for the little vermin.  Plus, they totally freak him out.  With their little mouse whiskers and their beady little eyes and their sharp little claws.  He's convinced they are out to get him. 

My brave protector he isn't, at least not when it comes to mice.

While he was cleaning the cabinet to move it, he realized there was a mouse.in.the.cabinet.   Right there.  To preserve my dear husband's manliness, I will tell you all it was a huge beast of a mouse with fangs and claws.  I was trying to catch it, and he was just getting in my way.  Finally, I just told him to get some traps and be done with it.  Chances are if there is one, there are a few anyway, I said. 

He put out a trap that night and killed one.  He left it there a good long while to make sure it was totally dead.  You don't want to deal with any half dead mouse zombies.  Trust me.

He had conquered the mouse.  He declared victory.  He was premature.  I was right.  There were more. 

He got more traps, killed more mice.  And then last night happened.

He went out to throw away another used trap and dead mouse and found a second mouse in the cabinet.  Alive.  He freaked declared war.

He did what he had been talking about since the day of the garage rearranging.  He got his gun. 



Okay, so it's just a BB gun, not a real one.

He's fed up with them, they are slowly driving him insane.  So he did the only logical thing in his mind.  He decided to go hunt mice.

I was making dinner with all the kids in house asking me why Daddy had a gun.  He was out there shooting BBs at the cabinet randomly.  He's lucky none of them ricocheted and hit him. 

He finally got the mouse.  Again, he declared victory. 

I just shook my head at him and his ridiculousness. 

We're taking bets on whether another one shows up.

He seems to think he has intimidated all future mice from coming into the garage.  Him and his big scary BB gun.  Never mind the fact that we have put all the dog food in hard plastic mice-proof containers now, and they are still coming in.  Or that he's killed four of them as of last night. 

He's declared victory. 

This guy declared victory once too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Excuse me while I attempt to pry my eyelids open...

You ever have one of those nights where you just know there isn't going to be much restful sleep going on?  When one kids wakes up sick and you just know that that's only the beginning? 

I had one of them last night. 

I have mountains of laundry this morning to wash, all the beds but one have been stripped in the wake of our early morning stomach virus.

I had delusions of grandeur for this week.  For this time off from school.  I had plans, big plans.  We were going to do all sorts of fun stuff, me and the kids.  Ice skating, pottery painting, maybe even a trip to the dreaded money-suck Build A Bear.  For now, though, that's all on hold. 

I've got one kid that hasn't thrown up yet. 

Am I tempting fate by waiting for what seems inevitable?

You'll have to excuse me if I am a little cranky this morning. 

I'm going to brew and drink at least one pot of coffee right now.   Then I am going to pry my eyelids open and keep going on the laundry that started over an hour ago.

So much for a fun, relaxing break from school.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Brave

I tease my husband incessantly for his irrational fears of small animals.  He doesn't much like mice or anything that flies and can sting him.   Okay, so that is a vast understatement.

I'll spare him the teasing this morning though. 

In fact, if anything, the guy has earned major brownie points today.  He's brave.

Assuming he makes it home with all the children alive, that is.

He took the older three to church.  Alone.

I'm sitting here with my baby boy watching Yo Gabba Gabba and drinking my homemade pumpkin spiced latte.  He is sitting in a church pew with three kids, one of which has inevitably asked to go to the bathroom at least four times already.

I didn't ask him to go.  I'm not a big church person these days, for lots of reasons, which I have strangely never delved into here.  Maybe someday I will write that post, but not today.

My mother in law usually takes Aidan, and from time to time the girls will tag along.  Aidan goes for the special time with grandma.  He also goes for the donuts.  The girls, well, they just sense they are missing out on something because Aidan always wants to go. 

Grandma isn't going to church today, they have family visiting from out of state. 

I'm not quite sure what came over my dear husband, but he asked the kids last night if they wanted to go today.  You have to understand, he is a seasonal churchgoer.  He goes for major holidays and things of significance, that is about it.

When we were planning our wedding, he wanted to get married on the beach.  He didn't get what he wanted, we got married in the church.   I half jokingly told him back then that the only way I'd change my last name was if he agreed to at least baptize the kids.  He was even less a fan of the Catholic church than I was back then. 

And all these years later, on an ordinary Sunday with no special significance, he is at church with his children alone.  I didn't ask why, I just wished him luck.

You don't think he's just going for the donuts too, do you?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Compliance

I've been thinking a lot about compliance this week.  For a few reasons.

One, my poor husband has been working so hard to prepare for his peer review this week.  Basically, when a bunch of auditors show up and audit another auditor, it's going to be nothing short of a festival of nit picking.  He passed, it's over for another three years.  Sigh.

Talk about stress. 

I can't really imagine how stressful it is for him, to be honest.  In the times in my life where I have been gainfully employed, I've been subject only to the criticism of my employers.  Never to other people looking in from the outside, objectively deciding whether I am doing my job right or not. 

When he said he was heading to happy hour last night, I wasn't surprised.  Can't say I blame him.

The other reason I've been thinking about compliance lately has to do with a certain five year old living in my house.  The one of the female variety who only wants things a fifteen year old would ask for this time of year.  A cell phone, clothes, purses, makeup.  I don't want to buy her the things she wants.  I want her to be five.

I've been struggling with this a while now. 

I don't want to be the parent who refuses to allow her children to want what they want without diminishing their dreams.  She's been a fashionista for as long as she's been walking.  Started carrying a purse by 18 months and could go up and down the stairs in dress up shoes by the time she was a year old. 

One of the first posts I wrote here was about her.  You can read it here.

I can't change who she is, and I know that I need to stop trying.  I need to help her understand that though she wants to wear makeup, she is too young to wear it every day.  For fun, fine.  But it's not going to school.

I need to communicate to her that while she may want a cell phone, she isn't getting one until she needs one.  And she sure isn't getting one until her older siblings do.

As much as I want her to be five, I can't make her.

Yet, this week, there was the slightest hint of five in her.  She mentioned wanting a Barbie.  Not just any Barbie, of course.  The fabulously awesome, and insanely overpriced, Barbie that you dress up then put in a little glitter booth thing so she can become glitterized.  That Barbie.  The most fabulously fashionista Barbie that ever lived.  The Fashion Fairytale Glitterizer Playset

You know I jumped at the chance to get her something age appropriate that she actually wants, right?  Even if it is a waste of money.  Even if it breaks the third time she uses it.  Even if she gets glitter all over the house. 

She finally asked for something a five year old should.  And I complied. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Give

As we come fully into the holiday season, I wanted to write about something close to my heart.  Something that I have always tried to do in some way since I was a child, and something that I have taught my children to do.

Give.

It's so easy to get caught up in the wanting of the season that the giving can be overlooked, especially for little ones. 

It's important to teach them the value of helping others.  Of selfless acts.  Of kindness. 

Every year since we have been married, I have given to an angel tree somewhere.  You can usually find them in the mall.  At school for a few years, there have been sponsored families in need.  Though we don't have much extra around here, and sometimes we squeeze every drop out of the pennies we have, we have vastly more than many other people do. 

My children need to understand that.  I think that they do.

The older three gave up all of their Halloween candy for the soldiers overseas.  Every bit of it, save the few pieces they ate that night.  Even AJ, the candy lover that he is, he grabbed some of his candy and put it in the boxes.

Last year, Aidan's Cub Scout pack did their first real giving since he'd been a member.  Tom set them up to sing Christmas carols at a nursing home in town.  I think that the boys understood that night how something as simple as 30 minutes of their time singing could mean to others.  That the simple gift of their time could brighten the day of someone else.

Ally's Daisy troop just did a food drive.  A little one since they are a little troop filled with little girls, but a food drive none the less.  We donated over twenty five pounds of food to a local assistance group. 

Last night my husband picked up two turkeys for a drive at work, and this morning we left early and got another one for a drive at school.  Aidan picked out the turkey, and Ashley jumped at the chance to turn it in. 

We were looking at Christmas cards last night to pick out which we will send this year and noticed that some of them are charity cards, with a percentage being donated to an organization of your choice.  Tom quickly noted that we'd be better off to get cheaper cards somewhere else and give the money directly to the charity, since we'd be able to give them more.  Our charity, The American Lung Association.

I got my first email for the Relay for Life 2011 yesterday.   Ironically, Ashley was just asking me about it a few days ago.  She wants to know when we can do it again, and what other fundraisers we can do.  This year, she wants to make tooth fairy wands and sell them at the Relay, turning over the money to the American Cancer Society.

My kids will get just about everything on their Christmas lists this year.  Before they do, though, they will fill their stockings on Christmas Eve with toys for Santa to take to other children who need them more. 

They get it.  They understand. 

Give time.  Give money.  Give help.  Give.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~ Aesop

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Things That We Do

It's getting close to that time.  Where kids will finalize their lists, decide what they want the very most in the world, sit on the lap of a man in a red suit and ask.

Every year, there are categories of the things my kids ask for.

The unattainable, like a pony.

The silly, like a wheel of cheese.

The practical, like socks.

The thought provoking, like the set of encyclopedias.

The popular, like Monster Dolls.

This year, Ashley has decided she can't live without Monster High Dolls.  Unfortunately, there seem to be lots of other little girls who also can't live without them.

She got one a few months ago and fell deeply in love with them.  I should have been tipped off then, considering that the one she got was the last on the shelves.  I'd never heard of them before that day.

Of course, now they are sold out online.  Hard to find in the stores, and you pretty much have to be there when they are stocking to get them. 

Not that this is anything new, of course.  Every year there is something.  A few years ago, it was the Tickle Me Elmo.  I got up at 4am to stand in line in the toy section to get that one.  The kids still play with it, which is nice.  All that time and effort wasn't for nothing.

The following year, Aidan was obsessed with Diego.  That year, Diego was all the rage, the newest show.  It was so new that there weren't any toys out for it at all.  And he wanted a Rescue Pack.  Let's just say it took me a long time to find an orange messenger bag, a logo to download and print and iron transfer and sew on.  It never got played with.  I'm still a bit annoyed about that one.

Then last year came along and the tiny little battery powered hamsters were all the rage.  They were hard to find for sure, and if it wasn't for the many, many sets of eyes out there looking, many kids would have had fewer hamsters under their trees here last year.  A group of us moms agreed to look whenever we could, buy whatever we found, and share the goods with each other.  It worked. 

It got to the point of being comical, since we couldn't talk about what we were really looking for whenever the kids were around.  We started to talk about hair products instead.  Hard to find hair products.  Turns out that hair products aren't so hard to find when you've got a bunch of moms looking for them at the same time.

I have a feeling the Monster High dolls might be the HTF hair product this year.  Or at least I hope so....I could use a few more sets of eyes. 

Happy hunting!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's Alright

Not many people around me will understand the significance of today in my universe, but a few might.

Today is one of those days that I am thankful for a lot of things.  I am thankful for time.  For love.  For miracles.  For being so busy that I hopefully won't have a chance to think about it. 

Today is a big day.  Huge.

I found it only appropriate that there was a bizarre sudden storm that rolled through yesterday afternoon.  From out of nowhere, with no warning at all, we were in the middle of swirling violent winds, the house being pelted by rain, ice, angry leaves and an occasional snowflake.  I had to batten down the hatches, so to say.  The hatches that hadn't needed much battening this year. 

This was the most powerful storm we've seen around here in a while.

Winter's version of a micro burst thunderstorm.

As fast as it came it was gone.

This morning, I woke up to a sky full of blue, sunlight streaming in through the windows.  A view of the most magnificent snow capped mountains outside.  The air is crisp and still. 

I stepped out into the world, the warmth of the sunshine on my face and cried. 

Something told me that it's going to be alright.

I love you Daddy.  Keep fighting the good fight.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Evolution of Bathtime

I just gave one of my children a bath.  One. 

Ally just took a bath all by herself.  Whole big bathtub of bubbly warmth, just one little body swimming around.

I can't honestly remember the last time that happened.

When Aidan was little, he was the beneficiary of all the perks of only childhood.  He didn't have to share.  He got to stay at the park as long as he wanted.  He took his naps in peace, never having to wake up to go get anyone else. 

And he got to take baths.  All the time.  By himself.

Then the girls came along. 

And along with the girls came shared bath time.  Multitasking.  Less time to just sit around and splash and play...there were more bodies to wash now in the same amount of time.  You've only got so long before the water gets cold and the little teeth start to chatter.

By the time AJ was born, Aidan had long since graduated to showers.  Ashley wasn't far behind him, and Ally's never ending quest to be older meant she would start to ask for a shower too.   Most of the time, AJ gets washed in the shower with one of us.  It's just easier.

Occasionally he'll get a bath, and most of the time Ally will hop in too.

These days, bath time isn't about laughing and splashing, it isn't about playing with toys and sitting there until the water gets cold.  It isn't about blowing bubbles in the water and pretending there is a shark in there.  It's not about fun or special bonding time with them anymore.

I don't have a single picture of AJ playing in the tub.  I could wallpaper my house with pictures of Aidan doing it.

Bath time has degenerated

It's just about getting people clean. 

Is it strange that I hadn't really noticed how much it had changed until today?  That it didn't really occur to me how different things are for number four than they were for number one in this area? 

Sure I am busy.  I have a lot to do.  I need to be efficient.

Today, though, I realized that I need to slow down and let the kids play in the bathtub a little more often. 

And I need to take some pictures of AJ in there. 

They are little exactly once.  That once should include lots of time splashing.

My to-do list for tomorrow just got a little longer.

Until

As of right this second, there are only

38 days
15 hours
35 minutes
and 5 seconds

until Christmas. 

I remember back in the old days where I would pride myself on being completely done shopping before Thanksgiving.  Now, not so much.  I pretty routinely find myself out with the massive crowds the week of Christmas. 

Then there is the matter of Black Friday.

I have a friend who wants to go with me this year.  I told her she is more than welcome to tag along with me on my crazy mission....provided she adheres to three rules.

1. You go where I say we are going
2. You don't waste time window shopping
3. You don't whine

I take my Christmas shopping very seriously these days, mostly a by product of the fact that I get so little time to do it without trying to sneak stuff into a cart while the kids are with me. 

As they get older, my ninja skills aren't enough to hide stuff anymore.

You're down to

38 days
15 hours
31 minutes
and 9 seconds.

What are you waiting for?  Get out there!  GO! GO! GO!

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Outlet

I just have to share with you all what my Dad said today.  For a few reasons.

One, I love that he actually reads this.

Two, I love that he actually gets my sarcasm, even in written form, and doesn't ever take me too seriously.

Three, I love that he appreciates it.

He said that it's probably a good thing I have this outlet to get it all out, because I sure have a lot of it to share with the world.  Oh yeah, he gets it.

I have this friend, who actually may be as sarcastic as I am. 

She sent me this, one of my favorite quotes, along with several others.  I find it appropriate for today.



Some people don't get me.  My dad does, not like I ever gave him a choice.  If it's possible, I think I may have even been sarcastic as a baby. 

Sarcasm is my way of making sure that I never take myself too seriously.  If I ever lost the ability to find humor in life, I think I might just go crazy. 

If you find it hard to laugh at yourself, I would be happy to do it for you. ~ Groucho Marx

Bender

I feel like I'm about to go on a bender.

No, not that kind.  Good lord, I'm not drinking anything with alcohol in it for a while. 

Another kind of bender.   Coke.

No, not that kind of coke.  Jeez, people....

The kind of Coke that comes in a beautiful red can.  Bubbly sweet goodness. 

I generally avoid soda, trying only to drink it when I eat out.  If I buy it for the house, I always buy diet.  The only real exception to that is when we are having a party or guests over and I buy something with actual sugar in it. 

Even the diet stuff, I try not to drink much of it.  All kinds of studies have found all kinds of bad things about diet soda, especially the ones with phosphorus in them...the calcium leeching wonder that it is.  Women in general, really should avoid soda.  But I digress.

I try to be good. 

But if I am at Sonic, with their awesome little crushed ice balls and full array of flavors to infuse into your drinks, I will admit to getting a cherry Coke.  The full octane stuff.  If you're gonna add syrup to your soda, it might as well be the regular stuff, right?  It's not like I drink it that often anyway. 

I've completely eliminated soda in all forms from my diet at times in my life, and always been glad about it.  It literally takes only a few days for you to stop wanting it.  Even the diet stuff, it's addictive, I tell you.

I made my husband go to the store when I was, ahem, under the weather yesterday.  One of the things I told him to get was Coke. 

He called me from the store. 

Him:  You want Diet, right?
Me: Nope, regular.
Him:  Really?  We never buy regular.
Me: I know.  Just buy it.

He brought home a 12 pack.  12 red, shiny cans of happiness. 

He doubts the medicinal value of Coke.  I swear by it though, and it has to be the regular.  It can cure headaches and settle upset tummies....not that I had either of those yesterday or anything....

I had me some of it yesterday, just enough to take the edge off the pounding in my head and queasiness remaining in my tummy.

And then it crossed my mind.  I could go off the deep end.  I could drink the rest of that 12 pack.  I could stay up all night from caffeine incited insomnia.  I could get the jitters from the sugar high.  I could go to the store and get more.  I could.

Those cans, they are sitting in the fridge.  Can you hear them?  I swear they are calling my name. 

I could go on a Coke bender.

I could.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Leadership Rant

My head hurts less today, so I guess I can write this.

I'm annoyed. 

Pissed off is more like it.

I'm sick and tired of people who make commitments to kids and then bail on them.  I'm sick and tired of people who volunteer to help lead then halfway through the year decide it's too much.

Really?  Spending 2-4 hours a month to be involved in something that your child is benefiting from is too much?  Really?

Maybe it is just an "off" year.  I don't know.  But this one has been rough with getting people to commit to doing anything.

The kids in danger of losing their activities here are not mine, this is true.  It's for one of the other age groups.  Aidan's group is fine.  Oh wait, that's because my husband took on Aidan's group and is already the Cub master.  No one else would step up.  Because we refuse to be the parents that let other people's lack of commitment affect our kids. 

Pile it on.

So now, halfway through the year, we are left trying to find someone else willing to half-heartedly lead.  Someone else who will put in the minimal effort required and leave at the first opportunity.  Someone else who doesn't understand that their own kids are missing out because no one is willing to help them.  Someone else who is too busy.

The kids get bored waiting for someone to step up.  And they lose interest.  They want to quit.  And their parents, the ones unwilling to help, they let them.

And  they wonder why people with the best of intentions get burned out. 

Rant over. 

Carry on.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hanging

Feeling a bit like these guys today.  At least I didn't lose anyone or pick up a baby named Carlos.



It's been a long time since I have made these promises in my head. 

That I will never do it again.  Never be so stupid.  Never make such bad choices. 

I like to believe that I am old enough now and mature enough now that I should not be placing myself in these situations. 

That I know where my limit is and stop.

Turns out that when you have a really crappy week and a bottle of rum and no intentions of self policing your consumption of said rum, you can over do it.

And I did.

It has been a very long time since this happened last.

And I am promising myself it will never happen again. 

Now everyone, shhhhhh.  My head hurts.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Season's End

Last night we celebrated another season coming to a close.  Another year of new skills, of improved teamwork.  Another year of the girls together. 

Ashley's last soccer game of the season is tomorrow.

The girls have been together long enough now as a team to have grown and matured into a fairly cohesive group.  They are learning to be better players in general with each passing season, but more importantly are becoming better team players.

With each season, their legs get longer.  With each season, they run faster.  With each season, they become more invested in learning the game.  In mastering it.

Over the years, some new girls have been added to the team, only a few have left.  The team seems to grow bigger each season.  Fortunately as they get older, more players are on the field at the same time.  Our team had twice the number of players as the opponent last game.  It is definitely an advantage to always have five sets of fresh legs sitting on the bench.

Why do we have so many girls?  Why do they come back year after year?  Why does the team keep getting better and better?  Why do we lose so few players? 

The reason is a simple one. 

Him.

Coach Hector

This man, this coach.  He is the reason.

He doesn't just teach them to kick and pass.  He doesn't just make them run. He teaches them to think about the game on a level far beyond what other coaches require.  He demands their best effort and will accept nothing less.  He expects greatness, and he usually gets it.

He starts holding optional practices weeks, sometimes months, before the season officially starts.  In his world, there is no off season. 

You know he is fired up when he starts to yell at his daughter, also a player on the team, in Spanish. 

He puts his heart and soul into coaching, and then he leaves it all on the field.

A lost game is in the past.  A win last week means nothing today.

He will hold practice in the rain.  He doesn't believe in snow days.  Back when he was Aidan's coach, they took their team pictures in the snow.  Red cheeks and bare legs, the boys were all grinning from ear to ear.

He is a different coach with the girls than he is with the boys.  He understands that little girls need to sing and dance, and so he sings and dances along with them.   He knows that they are more sensitive.  He isn't any less demanding with them, but he gets them too.

At the end of every game, rain or shine, win or lose, the entire team joins hands, walks across the field and claps for their fans. 

He teaches them to respect the game.

If ever there was a man born to be a coach, it is him. 

He can turn a child into a player, a parent into a fan, and a group of kids into a team.

Over the years he has become a very good friend.  Our families are close, our kids have grown up together.  We've shared late nights around fire pits and marathon dance contests.  This probably makes me seem biased, I know.   To be honest though, our friendship has nothing to do with why I am writing this today.

He will know better than anyone that I am not one to bestow praise lightly. 

Plain and simple, he is the best coach my kids have ever had.

This season is done, but the preseason practices will start in a few short months.  Ashley's cleats will be waiting. 

I've learned not to bother putting them away.

Thank you for sharing your gift with us all, Hector.

Go Pumas!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wishing

I'm sitting here looking out the windows.  Fresh snow on the ground, gray skies overhead.

Finally the sweaters have been pulled out of the drawers, the blankets brought up from the basement. 

Winter is here.

But instead of thinking about all the things I love about winter, or about the celebration ahead tonight for my little girl and her teammates, or the big changes that I hope are coming in our lives soon, I am sad.

I want to wrap myself up in one of those blankets my mom made and cry.

I want to be home for Thanksgiving, but now I know that I won't be.  Wishing that I could won't make it so.

I am thinking about all the things that I am missing in my life right now, at the top of that list are the people that I love back there.

I miss them.  All of them.

I miss my nephew and his deliciously intoxicating baby smell. 

I miss stolen glances of shared sarcasm with my sister in law.

I miss my brother and his laugh.

I miss my Mom.

And I think most of all, I miss my Dad. 

A little piece of my heart is always there, and you all know it.  I just wish it felt like enough.

Giant

Birds freak me out.

I'm not irrationally afraid of them or anything. I'm just not a huge fan.

Growing up we had cockatiels and parakeets. Those birds I can handle. Parrots are amusing for a little while, until you realize that they cost a fortune and live forever. I just can't stomach that kind of commitment with a pet.

Pretty much all the rest of the birds in the universe freak me out. I love to watch them fly. I think they are blessed to have that ability. It really would be amazing to fly.  We usually have several different species around here, from the little finches, to the seasonal geese, all the way up to the hawks and eagles.  I do love to watch them soar in the sky, fly in formations, build nests and raise their chicks. 

But I don't want to be right up close to them.

Some birds freak me out more than others, especially at the zoo.  There is one bird in particular that is possessed.  I'm not even sure what it is called, as I try to avoid the exhibit.  All I know is that they have the enclosure set up so the birds are eye level with the kids behind glass.  And when they get annoyed, they peck at the glass.  Secretly, I think they want to eat the kids.

Mmmmmm, kids.  Tasty.

Peacocks are free to roam the zoo, too, walking around amongst the people.  Most people are intelligent enough to leave the birds alone.   Unfortunately, not everyone is.  And like the aging cocktail waitress in a shady Vegas hotel, they just get tired of being chased.  They don't want people to touch them.  And they are snappy.  One of the peacocks actually bit a kid last year.  Can't say I blame the bird, to be honest.  Then again, I'm not about to try and touch them.  Because, ewwwww.

The zoo is home to many native species too, the birds who live here anyway and are smart enough to figure out that if they hang out there, people will feed them.   Ducks fill all the ponds.  And pigeons.  There are pigeons.  I don't like pigeons.  They are the greedy, socially inappropriate bird, wholly incapable of recognizing boundaries.

I was chatting with a friend a few days back, one that I need to mail something to.  It's a big something, fairly heavy.  I asked how she wanted me to send it, and she jokingly replied that I could send it by carrier pigeon. 

If you know how my crazy brain operates, you know what happened next.  A vision popped into my head.  One that I haven't been able to get out since then.

I started imagining giant pigeons.  Pigeons like this.



A sculpture of a giant pigeon in London.  Why?  I don't know.

Huge, like twice the size of people, pigeons.  Pigeons big enough not just to invade your personal space and try to peck at your shoes....big enough to eat you.  Shudder.

Thanks a lot.  As if I didn't like them birds enough already.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Every Month

There are times that I think I am ready to write about this topic, and then there are all the other times. There are times that it resonates so clearly even after all these years, and then far more times where I feel unworthy of writing about my experience with it.  I look around at people I know who have struggled far longer and endured more heartbreak.  And then I deem myself vastly unqualified

This is something that people ask me about because of my experience as a doula.  Something that I have helped clients with.  Something that I have listened to friends cry on the phone about.  Something that I had to confront personally, albeit relatively briefly.    It is something that you never think will happen to you.  Until it does.

Though no one who knows who I am now without knowing who I've been before would think it, we once struggled with infertility.  It's hard to believe it was a struggle for us, especially given that we can't seem to stop having kids these days. 

That wasn't always the case.

There was a time when we were told we would never be able to have children without a lot of medical assistance.  There was a time when we were told to give up and wait a few years.  There was a time when we didn't know if we'd ever be able to have kids at all.  There was a time when we pooled resources to investigate fertility options.  There was a time.

People who see my children today and don't know the whole story tend to be skeptical.  Surely, there is no way we struggled.  And yet it is the truth.

The hard and painful reality that many couples learn is that getting pregnant, having a baby and forming a perfect little family often doesn't happen the way you envisioned it.  Infertility is one of those things that young people are peripherally aware of, if at all, and assume will never happen to them personally. 

I know that I never thought it would happen to us, certainly not before we were even attempting to get pregnant in the first place.

Our children arrived earlier than we had ever intended, but for a reason.  We had always planned to wait a few years before even starting to try, always assuming that it wouldn't be a big deal to get pregnant.  Then, one day, cancer showed up.  And years before we were even contemplating starting a family, we were being told that there may never be a family at all.

It's not a good place to be in. 

If you are anything like me, having someone tell you something may not be possible only makes you want it more.  We were determined to do everything in our power to try and make it happen.  I was determined.  It worked.  Until it didn't.

I got pregnant, but I didn't stay pregnant.  I lost the baby just shy of 12 weeks.   And then, for a long time, nothing.  That could very well have been our only chance, and it was gone.

Overall, we had about 9 months of trying to get pregnant after that, all the while knowing that it probably wouldn't work.  He'd had radiation treatments which come with a high chance of permanent sterility, but we refused to give up.  Technically, we only had a few weeks of formal infertility.  Of an official diagnosis.

I would never ever want to go back to the place I was in for those 9 months and three weeks.  This is what that time was like for me.

One thing that no one ever warns you about when you are young and in love and idealistic is that sometimes life is cruel and unfair.   Sometimes you can't get pregnant.  And when you want to be pregnant and you aren't, it seems like every other woman in the world is. 

Everywhere you go, all you see are bellies and babies.  Why can they do this?  Why can't I?

You have a friend who gets pregnant.  Or a family member.  Or a co-worker.  And they don't tell you because they don't know how.  You find out eventually.  You smile because you are happy for them, really and truly happy for them.  But inside, you are crying.

You spend too much money on pregnancy tests.  You think this new one that says it can test a few days earlier might be better, so you spend even more on it.  You pee on them and there is nothing.  Every day. 

Every month. 


And then you don't need to waste the money anymore that month.  You bleed. 

And you mourn the loss of something that was never there.

Every month.

Every single month.

You resolve yourself to try again.

You hope.

You chart.

You schedule things that shouldn't be scheduled.

You hope.

Eventually, you buy more tests and start the morning ritual again.

You start to hate your body.

You decide it has failed you.

You decide that maybe you aren't meant to be a mother.

You cry.

You pick up the pieces and do it all again.

You start to feel nauseous and can't decide if it is all imagined in your head or real.

Every month.

Until one day when you swear you see a line.  Except it isn't. 

You get your hopes up, then they are crushed. 

People tell you to relax.  You want to tell them to shut it, but you smile and thank them for their advice.

You cry.

You have dreams about babies and you wake up and there is nothing.

Every month.

I've often wondered what the purpose of the trials of infertility are.  There are plenty out there who believe that everything happens for a reason, but I struggle to see how this could be reasoned. 

Some people get pregnant without trying.  Some people try without getting pregnant. You just don't know in advance which category you will be in.  Until one day when you find yourself justifying buying the 3-pack of pregnancy tests in the drug store because you know you will use them all.

This is a topic that I could write volumes about.  The things we went through, the things people I love have been through.  The things some of my clients went through to get to the point where they hired me.   Every story is different and yet we all share one thing in common.

We know how it hurts to want something you can't seem to have.

Today I am not going to write about all the reasons for infertility or the treatments,  how we eventually had babies or how it shaped our roles as parents.  Because that isn't what today is about. 

Today is about trying to communicate what it was like for me when I was in that place. 

About letting other women who are in that place know that though their struggle is uniquely theirs, they are not alone.

And today, even though it's been more than ten years since I was there, it still hurts.

It still hurts.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Other People's Children

I have spent most of my life surrounded by children. 

I was born near the middle in a long line of cousins, and growing up we spent a lot of time together.

I  babysat and tutored younger kids as soon as I could.

I taught religious education through all my years of high school.

I worked at summer camps in college.

I volunteered in hospital nurseries. 

All before I had kids of my own.

Since having mine, I've still been surrounded by other people's children.

Play dates and birthday parties.

Scouts and sports.

Volunteering at school.

Neighborhood families.

It seems like I have always spent a lot of time with other people's children, in just about every capacity one could imagine.  I've taught, I've led, I've cuddled.    If I ever tried to come up with a number as to how many there have been, it would be a big one for sure. 

I must say that all the years I spent with them before my kids came along helped to prepare me somewhat for the realities of parenthood. 

There are a few kids from back then that stick out in my head as special.  The little boy who struggled with his parent's divorce by acting out all the time.  The girl who lived with only her father, she'd crawl in my lap every morning and ask me to brush her hair.  The babies in the nursery, the ones left there alone, mom too strung out on drugs or in jail to care for them.  I always wonder what happened to them.  They would all be teenagers or adults by now.   What kind of people did they become?

I learned so much from them.  I hope that I was able to teach them a fraction of what they taught me. They made me become a better mother.   They all did.

Then there are the kids, the other kids, in my life now.  The other kids I feel some kind of responsibility for.  Some by choice, some by necessity, some just by mere proximity. 

They make me a better mother too, those kids.  Their struggles are different than those of my children.  Their gifts and talents different too.  They teach me.  I hope I teach them.

One thing that doesn't change is that kids are kids.  They always have been.  They always will be.  This world they are growing up in now a very different one than we grew up in, than the kids before in my life grew up in.  Their parents all have different worries and fears than ours ever did. 

At the end of the day, though, kids are just kids. 

And raising kids, whether they are your own or someone else's, isn't easy.  It is most assuredly a labor of love.

I firmly believe that it is important to spend time with children who aren't yours.  For them and for you.  Nothing wrong with a little perpective.

If you ever need a reminder of how good you have it, spend a lot of time with other people's children.

Trust me on this one.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Early

I got up at 6:17 A.M. this morning.  Sigh.

I suppose that I should provide you with some background here.

I don't get up early, at least not that early, unless I have a good reason. 

The kids don't start school until after 9, so I rarely do. 

I was joking with a friend this weekend that I will wake up early voluntarily for three things:

1.  Vacation
2.  Surgery
3.  Black Friday

That's about it.  I am not a morning person.  Never have been, and don't have any intentions of ever becoming such.  I stay up late and wake up only when I have to. 

But this morning, I was wide awake at 6:17. 

It's not like my body had received it's 8 hours of restful sleep and was refreshed and ready to go or anything.   By the way, I can't remember the last time I got 8 uninterrupted hours.  Maybe someday that will happen again.  Maybe.  I didn't go to bed until almost midnight and had  a hard time falling asleep.  Add in two middle of the night guests to our room, and I can guarantee you that about five hours is the most optimistic estimation of the amount of sleep I actually got.  So it's not that.

It's not like I had set my alarm to wake me up for some compelling reason.  Nope.

It's not like the kids were up and causing mayhem and destruction.  They were all asleep still, two of them snoring next to me.

Why then? 

There is only one explanation, and it's the same one that led to me ask this question last night:  Wait....it's only 7:30?  Why isn't it later?  WHY?

Darn time changes.

I'm not much a fan of the time changes.  My husband, even less a fan.  This week will be a hard one for him.  It makes him sad when it is dark by the time he leaves for work.  No fun, no play on weeknights anymore.  Not for a while.

We'll adjust, eventually. 



It's funny because even though this is the change where you get an extra hour, it never quite seems that way.  At least not in this house.  The days are shorter, the nights longer.  The kids are cooped up inside for longer in the afternoon and evening.  My husband trapped indoors for all the daylight hours.  Sure you get another hour, but that hour is in the dark.  And that doesn't do us much good around here.

We never have as hard a time adjusting to the change in the Spring.  Take away an hour, we are fine with it.  Just give us back our daylight. 

On the upside, it's just barely 8 now.  The kids are all up, dressed and fed.  They are doing chores, and I am done writing for the day. 

I guess it's not all bad.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Switch

I have two girls.  Smack dab in the middle of my family, in between the boys.  They are a little over two years apart, and couldn't be more different from one another if they tried.



Ashley is almost 8.  She's currently eating me out of house and home, which tells me that another growth spurt is sure to come soon enough.  As if she hasn't had enough of them this year.  I swear the child has grown like four inches since her birthday.  She's earned a new nickname, the toothless wonder, since losing four of her front teeth in the last few months.  She's feisty and has more energy on any given day than I can ever remember having in my entire life. 

Ash is slowly outgrowing things, but fighting it with every ounce of her being.  She would be perfectly content to go back to Kindergarten, to spend half her time at home with me.  She'd be content to be five most days, I think.   Not in a hurry to grow up at all.  She's asked for a Barbie Dream House for Christmas this year.  The rational part of my brain knows that is a complete waste, because she is this close to outgrowing all that stuff entirely.   But then, I don't know that she really is.  

She still snuggles up on my lap whenever she can.  She still wants me to paint her toenails, even though she can do it herself these days.  She still wants to hold my hand.  She still asks for help with things she knows she can do.  When I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she doesn't know.  She doesn't want to think about it.  She's fine, just fine, being a kid.

And though I know that the inevitable day will come when she will grow up, I think that she might avoid that for as long as she can.  At least, she is going to try.  She can't deny that her legs just get longer and longer with each passing day.  She can't deny that her hips are what caused her to outgrow all her jeans a few months ago.  She can't deny that her feet are too big for all those shoes she loves.  But she will try. 

Then there is Ally.  A little girl wholly in denial of the fact that she is little.  She'd be thrilled if she could make the clock run faster.  Ready for high school, that one is.  I'm not really sure what happened with her.  When she was a baby, she was mellow and peaceful.  Calm and ready to go along with whatever else we were doing.  Then something happened and she figured out that she had a little thing called free will.  We've been struggling with her independence ever since.

There are plenty of times that I tell myself that it's my fault she is the way she is.  She is far more like me than anyone else.  I keep telling myself that her assertiveness and intelligence will only benefit her in the future, even if it does drive me crazy now.  And it will.  I just have to survive her childhood first. 

She urges her body to grow.  She insists she needs bigger shoes.  She wants to be bigger, older, faster.  

She taught herself to ride a two wheeler yesterday.  She taught herself to ride a tricycle when she was 18 months old.  She potty trained herself at two.  Taught herself to swing without help by 2 1/2.  She's so stubborn and independent that it's almost not worth trying to teach her to do anything.  She'll do it on her own terms eventually.  And when she does, she will be great at it, what ever it is. 

She runs ahead of me, she pushes the envelope all the time.  She doesn't want dolls for Christmas, she wants makeup, purses and a cell phone.  She doesn't want to hold my hand, she doesn't want to need me.  And there are times when it seems like she is right.  Even though she is only 5, she isn't.  I swear this one has been here before. 

I have two girls.  Two very different girls.  One who is 5 going on 25, the other perfectly content to still be 7. 

Two girls that would willingly switch places if they could. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Reveling in the Misfortune of Others

My husband has an evil laugh.  Most people have never heard it.

It came out to play last night.

The scene unfolded like this. 

A boy, one unfamiliar with the intricacies of the challenge before him, determined to run with the big dogs.  Across the table, all mysterious and darkly convincing, his father.  Shady deals take place.  The boy thinks he has the advantage.  He is wrong, but he doesn't know it yet.

The little women leave the room.  They've grown weary of the details. Lost interest in the subtle nuances of the fight.  

The man, the one with the evil laugh, he starts to smile.  The corners of his lips curled just so.  He topples the other pillar of strength in the house, stripping her of everything she holds dear in the process.  She is left with nothing to her name.  But he can't take her pride.

She resolves herself to try and help the boy. It is of no use.  The boy asks her how to beat the man.  She doesn't know.  She's never succeeded. 

The man is too strong.  Too driven by greed.  Too relentless.  Too lucky.  He revels in the misfortune of the boy.  He is merciless.  And, in what seems like a heartbeat, the boy is conquered too. 

The man rejoices.  He laughs his evil laugh. 

He celebrates.

Another game, another victory

When Tom wonders why no one wants to play Monopoly with him, there are reasons.  Many valid reasons, and most of them involve hotels.

He has never been one to humor the kids, to let them win.  He might occasionally bend the rules for Monopoly, but never until it is past the point where his victory is certain.  He's good.  That good.

I can beat him at just about any other game, and almost always do.  In fact, there are games he is so bad at that he won't even play them.  Yahtzee is one.  A game of chance, so really there is no reason that he should forever be on the losing end...and yet he is. 

If you ask him, he has beaten me at chess twice.  In a row.  With the same move.  He enjoyed those victories.  I like to think I just wasn't paying enough attention that fateful day.  In all the years I have known him, the only time he's beaten me at that game of strategy is that one day.

Another game of strategy, Monopoly, is a whole different story.  He fancies himself the king of the game.  I wish I could argue his point.  But I can't.

Now the kids know that they can't trust a thing the man says when the board is on the table and he's laughing his evil laugh.

He's not their father when they are playing.  He's a heartless, greedy opponent.  And he will win.

Oh yes, he will.

Don't worry, the kids still want to play with him...even though he always wins. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Time Management

One of my dearest readers has asked me to write about time management.  Ask and you shall receive, G.  Good luck with the move.  xoxo

In any given day, I have what seems like a million tasks to complete.  It's okay though, I do better busy.  Really.

I always think back to when I was in college.  I don't honestly know how I got everything done that I did.  The only possible explanation is that I was young and thrived on four hours of sleep.  I worked, volunteered, took a huge course load, went to the gym religiously, laid out by the pool at least once a week and spent almost every weekend with Tom.  Like I said, I didn't sleep much. 

These days, I need to sleep more, at least in an ideal world.  I want to sleep more, not that I necessarily do. 

I reason that I could do as much as I did back then because I wasn't constantly preoccupied with children.  And, in all honestly, I'd suppose that I probably am actually busier now, even if my daily accomplishments never amount to anything momentous.  Being a mom is not a glamorous job.  There are no accolades, no awards, no celebrations.  Just sticky kisses.  Those are even better, though, I think.

So, the question is: How do I manage my time?

1.  Lists.  These days, I have mommy brain.  I used to be able to remember everything.  Now, not so much.  I learned a long time ago that I need to write stuff down if there is any chance of my remembering it.  So I have lists.  I have long term lists and short term lists.  I try to set goals for each day of what I want to get done.  I used to laugh at the women of older generations who had set schedules for chores....you know, laundry on Monday, floors on Tuesday, etc.  But as I have gotten older myself and had more children, I can see the value in that kind of organization.  It makes the housework more manageable and less overwhelming if you see it as daily tasks instead of a constantly growing chore.

2.  Keep Going.  I also have no down time.  Like, ever.  If there is any hope for me to get everything done in a given day that I need/want/expect myself to, I have to keep going.  Pretty much from the time I wake up until I go to bed, I am doing something.  I can't remember the last time I sat and read a book just for me, though it sounds lovely.

3.  Multitask.  I have elevated multitasking to an art form.  A few days ago, I was cooking dinner, helping the girls with homework, typing a post here and chatting with a friend on Facebook simultaneously.  That is the only way I get everything done.  I am so accustomed to doing it that there are times I have to force myself to slow down and focus on just one thing.  If Ally is struggling to sound out a word or Aidan needs help to learn long division or Ashley wants me to help her find something...I have to force myself to stop everything else and be wholly present for them. 

4. Give Yourself a Break.  I schedule days of non-activity on purpose.  I intentionally have at least one day a week that we have nothing planned.  It's the slow down and catch up day.  The kids need unstructured time to just be kids too.

5.  Bulk.  I try to make huge dinners so there are leftovers.  For example, when I make soups, I freeze enough for a meal.  It saves time later on for a little more work up front.

6.  Tidiness.  Clean as you go, that way you hopefully avoid big messes. 

7. Embrace the Chaos.  At the same time, learn to live with imperfection.  I sweep the kitchen floor every day, but I only mop it once a week unless I have a really good reason. It's not worth doing more often. 

8. Organization.  If everything has a place, then you know where it goes.  It reduces clutter at least in theory, and you spend less time putting stuff away.  Then again, I have an unusual affection for containers.

9.  Prioritize.  If something is not really that important, then you have to decide if you will bother with it at all.  For instance, I don't care if the kids make their beds unless we have visitors.  I don't expect them to make them, and I certainly don't do it. 

10.  Coffee.  Lots of coffee.  Lots.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It Gets Better

I wrote about the tragic suicide of Trevor Clementi a while back.  He isn't the first gay youth to commit suicide after being tormented and bullied by other people.  And, sadly, he almost certainly won't be the last. 

His death has not been in vain though.  It did not happen one day and was forgotten the next.  He has been an inspiration to so many in this country to take action.  To speak out.  To take a chance and boldly tell the world about their experiences, to speak to the young people in the place where Trevor was, to tell them that it gets better. 

And, from the people I have known in my life to go through the process of finding themselves, confronting that and going public with it, I can tell you that it does get better.

Like so many things in life, sometimes you just have to get through it.  Because it does get better.

A friend of mine, one who struggled with his reality in college when I first knew him, volunteered to be a part of The Trevor Project's It Gets Better campaign. 

Words cannot express how proud I am today.  Of him.  Of who he was and who he is and what he is doing.  Good job, Mike!

The video is linked here

To find out more about The Trevor Project, click here

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Scatterbrained

Today is one of those days.  I can already tell.  I am going to have a hard time focusing today.

Sometimes I swear I have adult onset ADD....I get distracted by shiny. 



Squirrel!

If it wasn't for the fact that I really am thinking about 1.3 million different  things, I would be worried.

But I am.  And I'm having a hard time concentrating on any of them.

My kitchen is a mess, my laundry room about to be swallowed up whole by the ever growing mound of clothes. 

I have things to deliver to a pregnant mom at school, in an attempt to simultaneously help her out and get the stuff out of my house. 

I have 3 of the kids home right now since it's a late start day, though 2 of them will be on their way shortly.

I have no idea what I am making for dinner tonight, since I failed miserably at making a meal plan for the week.  This would be why I always have frozen vegetables, rice and chicken in my house. 

I am trying half-heartedly to lose weight, and have succeeded at exercising on a regular basis this week.  Yay me.  Too bad there is that bowl of Halloween candy that seems to be following me around where ever I go.  I swear it grew legs.

I need to figure out what I am doing for Thanksgiving, but that whole holiday is in limbo.  As is just about everything in my universe right now.  Waiting.  Tick tock.  Tick tock.  I want to believe I am a patient person, but I know that I am not.  I need to work on that.

I need to start budgeting for Christmas and make lists.  I hate that.  Just one year I want to be able to go and buy gifts for anyone and everyone I want to, and I want to buy them what I want to buy them without worrying if it's too much.  Without wondering if this is going to screw the family budget for the next three months.  I liked Christmas a lot more when I wasn't the one paying for it.

I need to do these things and about a million others.  But I'm too busy.  I have a Daisy meeting and soccer practice today.  Then I have to make something for dinner. 

And then I get to get up and do it all again tomorrow.  

I get an extra hour this weekend when the time changes....I'm going to have to use that hour wisely.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Democracy in America

There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.
~Alexis de Tocqueville

One of the books that I've read over and over again is Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville.  The first few times I read it was by force, not choice.  It was a prescribed book, required by my professors in college.  I majored in Public Policy and Management, which is essentially like a combination of Political Science and Civic Management.  We learned not just about the government and political system of the country, but also how is is run on a day to day basis. 

As with so many things I've read, this book was something I read because I had to the first time around.  Then it was something I read with interest again.  It's fascinating how astute the observations of this man were about our system, particularly given the fact that he was a Frenchman, foreign to our version of democracy.

One of his key observations was how much religion and politics are intertwined here in this country, and how unusual that is when compared to European nations.  On the other side of the pond, religion and politics are more likely to exist independent of one another, often at odds with one another.  Here, they can't be removed from each other, they are so deeply interconnected that most people can't fathom it being any other way. 

He wrote of his observations over 150 years ago, and yet it's almost as if he could be writing about some of them today. 

I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of how our system came to be, why it is the way it is now.

Today is Election Day, and I urge you to vote.  More than that, though, I urge you to be an educated voter.  Learn about the measures and candidates before you.  Do your own research.  Don't rely on what some commercial or some print ad or someone standing in a pulpit tells you.  Your vote is yours alone. 

Don't be ruled by fear.  Don't be led.  Don't make decisions in haste. 

Don't be fooled into thinking that the problems of our nation can be solved in a day.  Don't be short sighted.   The pendulum swings far too much with the economic cycles in this country, and it's hard not to see how that can be counterproductive. 

Elect people willing to solve problems, not create new ones.  Elect those who can work together, not those who will be divisive forces.  Elect those who can be a source of positive change.

And beware, beware, beware the tyranny of the majority.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hallowhew

If your town is anything like mine is, by the time Halloween actually rolls around, you've had your fill of it all.  You've worn your costumes a few times, been celebrating for what seems like forever.  It all started a few weeks back with our trip to the farm.  Then last weekend was the Boo Bowl for girl scouts.  Then this week were the class parties, then the Fall Ball.  The parade on Saturday, then the celebration of the actual holiday yesterday.  Whew.

It's a good thing I really like Halloween.

Toy Story was the theme.  This year's costumes were months in the planning, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my mother in law.  She made three of them.  She rocks.  She created Buzz, the alien and Little Bo Peep.  All I had to do was find the leotard and leg warmers for Ally's Barbie costume, which was no small feat.

I did get Tom into the Woody costume for the parade, and I quickly put together a borderline scandalous Mrs. Potato Head costume.  Which I really didn't think about until it was too late.  Honest.

He decided to change it up for trick or treating....mostly my fault because I caved and bought him the fake tattoo sleeves he's been talking about for over a week.  Me thinks he enjoyed his fake ink a little too much.

Since he wasn't going to be Woody, I changed my costume too.  I went trick or treating as something inappropriate.  Octomom.  I crammed 8 of the girls baby dolls into the sling.  The kids didn't really get the costume.  They kept saying I was an octagon.  Or an octopus. 

The littlest one here trick or treated for as long as he could.  AJ filled up his bucket to the top and refused to let anyone carry it for him.  He ran as fast as his little martian legs could carry him in an attempt to keep up with the big kids.  He is a trooper.  And he really, really, really loves candy.

Ally spent all night pushing a 3 foot tall stuffed penguin around in a stroller.  Lucky her, she was picked this week to take home the class mascot.  Awesome.  Because trick or treating with 4 kids isn't enough, I needed to take a 3 foot stuffed penguin along too.  You should have seen my neighbor freak out when Ally took off like a bat out of hell pushing the stroller racing down the driveway.  She thought AJ was in there.  It was pretty funny. 

This would be the penguin
Ashley branched out last night, and for the first time really took off with the big kids out there.  Up until this year, she's always hung back with the parental units, a little unsure of the whole thing.  Not anymore. 

And Aidan had a ball, like he always does.  We don't call him holiday boy for nothing.  Unfortunately, holiday boy fell ill overnight and is home from school with a tummy ache today.  I wish I could blame the candy, but eating too much candy doesn't give you a fever.  Sigh.

This morning, I took it down.  Halloween will soon be tucked into boxes and put away for next time. 

And next time is going to be awesome.  Yes, I've already started planning.  I'm crazy that way.

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