Thursday, July 17, 2014

Another summer winding down

I can see the first day of school in the 10-day forecast. The summer break of my year-round school children has dwindled to less than a week left. What began as Camp Fun Mommy has turned to Camp Honey Badger Mommy. The latter just doesn't care.

Your sister snatched the dive stick you threw and forgot about? Suck it up. 

Your brother snatched the dive stick you threw and waited for him to take before you screamed bloody murder? Please. I wasn't born yesterday. You got exactly what you wanted.

Your want to start a fight in my van over a toy? I will stop this van right now. Honey badger mommy put a child in time out on the side of our street this week.

Today we are one week from Fiona's first day of kindergarten (she starts a day later than Danny). So I decided that today would be one of those YES days, where mommy says yes to most requests and adds in a few of her own surprises. After our TV time, breakfast and chores, we did computer time. I finally hit on the way to satisfy three children with computer time: one on the desktop, one on the laptop and one on my phone. We went to the gym, Chic Fil A for lunch and ice cream and playground.

Next stop was the playground adjacent to the pool. The playground they've been begging me to go to all summer. The playground that is in full sunlight with slides that would burn their little buns in the 90-degree heat. Finally, they got their wish. With temperatures in the 80s and cloudy skies, we played for 20 minutes and then mosied down to the pool. The lifeguards just cleared the pool for a measly, distant rumble of thunder. TEARS and HYSTERICS on the part of one rising kindergartner. Back to the playground for another 30 minutes.

We got to swim for 45 minutes. Every time a whistle blows, my 7 year old asks me why. In fact, he's so wiped out tired, that he uses me as a surrogate brain and just asks me what he sees and hears. As we are leaving, I tell him that I do not know the origin or nature of all sounds that he hears.

Next stop was the grocery store to pick up a rotisserie chicken for dinner with three children trailing behind me. As we're leaving, I give orders to fall in behind me and be careful as we're approaching the parking lot. I hear Danny say, "Be careful, guys. Don't step on the cracks." Not exactly what I had in mind. Then I turn to find Owen running into a brick post and bouncing off unharmed.

I prepared myself well for these 5 weeks, mind you. I have a schedule posted on the fridge every day. And for the most part, we've stuck to a schedule with a good mix of routine and excitement and laid back summer fun. We've petted ponies and had picnics and gone to museums and storybook theater and a movie. We've had laid back days and evenings at home, playing in the yard, catching fireflies, eating Popsicles, splashing in our small pool on the patio. We've played with cousins and had cookouts and bike rides. They even had their very own mini mountain vacation with their grandparents and a fun week at vacation bible school.

Now I am done. Exhausted. Tired of driving and packing pool bags. I'm so ready for next week. Next challenge? Managing two children in school. Two school lunches to pack. Two teacher relationships to foster. Two classes to volunteer for. Two take home folders to check. A whole new world.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

On turning 40

Over the past few months, I've watched with contented curiosity as my friends turned 40. Some of these friends I've known since high school, others for most of my life. Today it was my turn. It was a typical, relaxing summer day: pool with the family, Starbuck's frappacino, grilled steak, corn on the cob, potato pancakes, watermelon, and chocolate cake. No big presents or surprises or parties. It was exactly what I wanted and asked for.

Turning 40 used to seem like a bigger deal. I remember in my teen years my parents planned and went to 40th birthday parties with grim reaper balloons and all the jokes about old age and the death of youth, being over the hill with that midlife crisis looming.

Frankly, I've been on a long climb for the past 20 years. I spent half my 20s drunk and the other half in the early stages of recovery. My midlife crisis came when I was 30,  childless, and unemployed. I've spent the past 10 years growing, sometimes painfully, into my role as wife and mother and woman.

Today I'm on a plateau. No downhill in sight. My life is healthier, more content and fuller than it's ever been.

Today I know how I want to be treated and can walk away from toxic relationships.

Today I can ask for what I need instead of waiting to be asked what my needs are.

Today I know that everything works out the way it's supposed to. Every time.

Today I know how to take care of myself, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Today I know that it's no one's job to make me happy or take care of me. People can make happy and take care of me, but I don't demand or expect it.

Today I know that if something doesn't feel right for me, I don't have to do it.

Today I don't compare myself to others. The only person I try to be better than is the person I was yesterday.

Today I know that what other people think of me is none of my business. What I think of myself is what's important.

Today I'm content with what age and experience has taught me.

I also no longer believe the universe is testing me when things don't go smoothly. It's all just life. And it's good to be alive and 40.



Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

This morning, I woke up alone; my husband at work and I left to the wolves, I mean, children on Easter morning. We had breakfast, searched for the eggs we decorated on Friday and now they're sharing their finds with each other and talking about past Easters with their cousins, who could not join us this year.

I went into the dining room to tend our altar, turn our crucifix around to show Jesus once again. A longstanding Catholic tradition dictates that there be only bare crosses in our homes and churches during Lent. All during Lent, Owen would look over to the altar and ask, "Where's Jesus?

As I approached the altar this morning, I noticed the cross had already been turned around. The words to an old Dolly Parton song came to mind (yeah, I grew up in the 70s.):

"He's alive and I'm forgiven. Heaven's gates are open wide."

Today that was a more magical feeling than the promise of hidden eggs full of candy. I hope my children one day feel the same way about Jesus that they do about those candy-laden egg. But my hope and gratitude lies in the knowledge of forgiveness as I struggle and fail. Their innocence protects them from that for now.

Today is Easter and for the first time in many years, I successfully gave something up for Lent. And for me, success looks like a daily struggle and a triumph that I can only attribute to a power greater than myself whom I choose to call Jesus.

Happy Easter. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Two weeks of giving up

When I can't control something, I give up.

Either I give up the fight and give in to whatever I'm fighting in a "can't beat 'em, join 'em" kind of way or I give up the fight and stop engaging with the enemy. The latter takes all my mental and spiritual strength.

What am I talking about? Drugs? Alcohol? Cigarettes? Diet Coke? Sugar?

Yes. All of them.

Each of these substances has effected my life. While drugs and alcohol were the most dangerous, the others took me to the same place mentally and spiritually. It's been more than 14 years since I engaged the first two enemies. As my life got measurably better, I came to the same place with each of the other substances. I used them to fill holes in my emotional life that I was not ready to address with spiritual solutions.

The pattern that followed this realization of addiction was the same for each: a desire, an attempt, and a failure to stop, a spiral into shame, and use of the substance to ease shame. While Diet Coke and sugar don't sound like formidable foes, they became just that for me. I had an endless supply tucked away. My day often revolved around when I could have my drugs of choice. Caffeine and sugar crashes became my new hangover, complete with exhaustion, crankiness, remorse and swearing off of the substance.

I know what addiction looks like. It looks like a bag of jelly beans hidden in the console of the van. A stash of change to feed my need for a Circle K $.79 Diet Coke fountain drink. A squirt of whipped cream straight into my mouth while fixing dinner. An entire box of Little Debbie Swiss Cake rolls devoured in one sitting. Working out and then convincing myself that I deserved to eat that Big Mac.

Irrational thinking. Irrational behavior. Since the beginning of the year, I've known that things needed to change. After each binge, I'd tell myself, "It's only two months till Lent, then I'll give up."

Obviously, step one in this process was to eat as much sugar as possible. You know, so I wouldn't have a stash left in the house. That was my favorite part! My next step was to stop drinking caffeine for 21 days. I did this is February. That broke my dependence on Diet Coke. Now I drink one Diet Coke a week on pizza night and a half cup of coffee every morning. I figured that I totally abstain from enough substances. No need to torture myself, you know?

Now, my husband just happened to be reading about fasting to cleanse your system. Apparently, two days prior to a fast, you should eat nothing but fruits and vegetables to make the fasting easier. So that's what we did. I did well those two days, except that on Fat Tuesday, I ran into the priest who offered me a chocolate peanut butter truffle. Of course I ate it. But Wednesday was coming and that priest-sanctioned chocolate truffle was my final rationalization.

Day 1: Ash Wednesday. My husband and I had agreed to fast this day. By lunch time, I had to eat something. I decided to go with the U.S. Conference of Bishops' recommendations - one meal and two small snacks.

Day 2: I ate a lot of raisins. And discovered frozen banana ice cream with cocoa powder and red tart cherries.

Day 3: It started to get easier.

Day 4: I decided that I needed more protein. I cooked off a pound of bacon and a whole chicken. And that has made all the difference.

Day 5: It's kind of a blur.

Day 6: To avoid dessert, I took the dog for a run after dinner (that was a first!) and still wound up dishing out ice cream to the kids. With whipped cream. It took all my strength to not squirt a little bit into my mouth.

Day 7: One week down. Initial observations - I crave baked goods, candy, and even fruit less and less. I don't eat much after dinner anymore. I no longer feel exhausted by midday. Exercising is easier.

I'm starting week three. I no longer count the days. I no longer crave sugar. I no longer crave food after dinner. I no longer use food as a reward. Things that have made it easier: eating the same thing for breakfast (spinach, mushroom and onion egg scramble with black coffee) and lunch (salad, a half an avocado and meat), eating every few hours, eating lots of raw vegetables and having lots of cooked off protein available (bacon, chicken, hard boiled eggs). 

I also remind myself that I'm not giving up forever, but just for today. 

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Overheard

It's Saturday night, the kids are in bed, the dog's been bathed and I'm sitting here perusing drafts of blog entries started and abandoned. I used to blog at least once a week, sometimes several times a week. Now, not so much.

This entry was started months ago. Owen was still in diapers. Danny was just about to turn 7. Fiona wasn't yet riding a two wheeler. A lot has changed. We'll start with Owen who takes adorable to a whole new level.

I don't have to go pee.
It's time to try.
He sits. He pees. And then he looks up at me and says: You were right.
Me (in total shock): Whaaaaaa?
Owen: You were right and I was wrong. 

I was saying Hi, Owen informs me after he'd opened a kitchen window.
Who are you saying Hi to?
The trees. Oh, of course.

Molly is cleaning my hands, Owen says. Oh boy. Molly is the dog.

Look, mom, Owen says. 
I can't, honey. My eyes are on the road. 
You can see the road from my window.  

I am hungry, Owen says in robot staccato.
You are a robot. You do not require food, Jim replies in the same robot voice. 

He's in love with robots, though.

What's will my pup pup grow up to be, mom? Maybe a robot like me. Yeah. 

My diaper is like a potty, Owen informs me.

And he's still obsessed with his penis.

My penis is touching me, Owen says.

My penis is looking at me, Owen claims as I'm changing his diaper.

My penis is cold, Owen tells me after coming inside.  

And he still sucks his thumb.

I'm not sucking my thumb because there are police officers over there, Owen informed me.

Fiona actually doesn't say much. 
  
Owen, you forgot to find me! I was in the closet! Fiona wails. It's risky playing hide and seek with a 3 year old. We found him in the kitchen happily eating.

Mom, do you want to see my picture. It's Queen Fiona, she says. See? My girl does not do princesses. She knows who's really important.

Danny, you are asking me to do three different projects and I can't keep up with that. I'm going to have an anxiety attack.
Fiona pipes up: And then she'll run away from home. 


Danny is actually kind of fun to talk to these days. He's at the edge of the age of reason. And he gets along better with his sister now.

She's fun now that she's five, mom, Danny says.  

Don't put the peppers in your nose or on your face; put them in your mouth. 
A mouth is part of your face, mom, Danny says.

Now Danny, what are you NOT going to do [to your siblings]? I ask.
Boss them around and spank them. Good boy.

There's only one adult here, Danny says.
Who? Where?
Right there. You.
I'm an adult? How do you know that?
Because your legs are bigger. Oh, of course.

I can get a car when I'm 16, Danny explains.
Oh, how are you going to do that?
You can buy it for me.
Um, how about you save your money and buy it yourself?
Meh. (Seriously, he said "Meh.")

And here's why I dread the day he gets a license ...

That was dangerous, we hear Danny squeal from the backyard. A few minutes later, he came over and explains to us that he rode his Big Wheel down the slide. So we went back to watch this spectacle. I saw one ride down the slide and said: Let's make that the last time.

Jim's response? Let me give you a tip, buddy. Keep your center of gravity low, lean back a little. 

A joke from Danny: Why did the chicken cross the road? 
To get a pickle. 

Molly chewed this one, Danny says. 
That's what happens when we leave our toys on the floor. 
NO. We can change her into a frog. 
How about we just pick up our toys?
Nooooo. 

I've never been 7 before, Danny says.
I have.  
How did it feel? Sadly, I can't remember. 

Till next time ... 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

All of a sudden

A few years ago on Thanksgiving Eve, I wrote a piece titled "One Day." And all of a sudden I find myself living in much of that One Day that seemed so far away as I prepped Thanksgiving Dinner with an sleeping infant in a sling.

All of a sudden ...

I wake up to the sound of our three children happily playing and chatting with each other in the early morning weekend hours. On school days, they are snuggled under their covers till I get them up, of course.

I brush my teeth after getting out of bed and even put deodorant on. There is no longer a stick of deodorant in my car. Some days I even take a shower and, gasp, shave my legs!

I wear one outfit all day long, unless I go workout (which was but a pipe dream all those years ago). No one spits up on me, wipes their face on my shoulder or drools on me.

I work out several times a week instead of getting the bulk of my exercise lifting children and sweeping floors.

There are no diapers or pull ups in my trash can assaulting my senses. And I can finally leave the house with three kids and no diaper bag. 

All three of my children can wipe their own bums. (This morning I overheard the gleeful exclamation from the 3 year old, "Hey guys, I wiped my own butt!")

I no longer have to chaperone bathroom trips or read books to poopers. Fiona now reads to her brother in the bathroom.

At least one of my children can cut their own food, with a butter knife no less.

I cook dinner without a child on my hip. In fact, I have helpers who make salad, set tables and pour their own water.

 ----

But some things haven't changed much. My husband and I still talk mostly about the location of various stuffed animals and kid paraphernalia and the status of the laundry. I still eat mommy treats in the closet. I still find the house in various states of kid-induced disarray. I still don't go to the bathroom alone. I still drive a minivan, a k a the mobile trash can, and buckle at least one child in and out. Under the breakfast table still looks like drunk pigs ate there.

What remains of the seemingly endless childhood stages will likely fly by. In just the past week, my daughter learned to ride her two-wheeler with no help. In six months, she'll go to kindergarten. In a year and a half, my bum-wiping baby will go to kindergarten.

How did this happen so fast? As I've often heard, the days are long, but the years are short.

Indeed.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The road trip rules

Ah, 'tis the season for packing up and hitting the road. Hours in the car with small children have left me wishing for certain vehicle modifications that should come standard on minivans. They've finally started providing an on-board vacuum and a DVD player. Why haven't they installed a privacy window between the front and back seat (think taxi cabs and limos)? Or an electronic bucket line to ferry snacks to the passengers? Or dividers that deploy around the loudest troublemaker in the back? Or low-voltage shock in the seat controlled from the front for scofflaws? Until then ...
 
1. No pointing out anything outside the vehicle. Ever. Here's what happens: Someone shouts, "FIRETRUCK." Delayed reaction time plus 65+ MPH on the highway equals tears of "I DIDN'T SEE THE FIRETRUCK" for the next half hour.

2. Visit the pot at every stop. Period. We have one child who always claims she doesn't have to go at a rest stop. A half hour later, she urgently has to go. We stop. She doesn't go. We repeated this routine a few times before we wised up to these phantom pee breaks. I'm tempted to just put all the kids in Pull Ups. 

3. You are not allowed to ask "Are we there yet?" more than once an hour. I'm being generous here. But unless the car is parked in front of our destination, there's really no need to ask.

4. If you drop it, you've lost it. I am not surfing through the back seat at highway cruising speed to fish your apple or your toy car out from under the seat.

5. No one is allowed to look at, touch, pretend to touch, breath on, or talk to each other at a decibel level over 70db. (I have a sound meter on my phone and I will use it!) You'll be issued headphones for the in-flight movie. There is no need to interact with your siblings. At all.

Safe and happy trails, ya'll!