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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Road Trippin part II

We were greeted by Don's brother and we walked into the house. The boys were very excited to see their cousin and their new cousin who is just a week older than Oscar. His cheeks proceeded him when we met. He looks like a cherub, kind of what a baby is suppose to look like. Our babies never look like babies, but more like old men without wrinkles.  Cute old men I might add.  It took an hour or so to take all of our stuff and baby gear into the house. It felt so good to have a home cooked meal that night.  The boys swam and all was right in the world. It wasn't until the next day that I started to wonder if it was a full moon.  In the course of a 2 hour time span, Parker discovered a lumpy substance at the bottom of the pool, Jack denied the substance to be his poop. Don put a scuba mask on to confirm it was indeed poop. The evacuation of the pool caused major disappointment and blame spread fast.  Jack was an outcast. What I didn't realize is that once this happens, the pool or in our case, the hot tub, needed to be drained.  It took a four man assembly line, but they were able to drain the hot tub, sanitize it and scrub it down with in an hour or so.... Don's brother had to go to the pool store and get chemicals that had to settle for 48 hours.  So one 3 yr. olds accident cost quite a bit of $$ in the long run.  Lesson learned. Swimmer diaper.
Jack must have been so distraught that while speaking with his other uncle he leapt from the couch into the corner of the TV case and split his head open. Just as that was calming down Oscar projectile puked.  The great thing is that we were with family. Family who understands that a little poop and puke can't ruin Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Road Tripping Part I

The Road trip is an annual event for us...is it because we enjoy the extreme closeness of each other? Not so much. In a word, money. We cannot possibly afford to purchase 5 airline tickets for a five day visit, plus a rental car to hold all of us which we would need to rent car seats to go IN the rental car, as you can see $$$. Plus, where would we put all the Christmas presents my mother-in-law gives us to bring back?  So we pack up the car with snacks galore and set our sights on a 22 hour trip in 2 days.  We always have the best intentions to leave at a certain hour, but I know by now that its always 2 hours past that time..( another reason we don't fly) plus the last time we flew was in 2005 to Arizona, back then we only had 2 kids...ah amateurs and we were "randomly" selected for a security search where I watched a guy pat down Fin's diaper... " don't touch my junk"
So we left our home at 4 a.m. Saying good-bye to our loyal lab, who will not sleep the entire time we are gone to uphold his duty to guard the house. When we return he always has puppy bags under his eyes. Without fail as soon as we get in the car I crave chees-its. I don't know why.  And coffee, lots of it.  Most of our boys do very well, and who can blame them?  Our car is stocked with two dvd's players 2 dsi's and numerous books, toys, animals, candy and cd's.  Since when did adults care about a kids boredom? I can specifically remember that concern being at the bottom or not even ON my parents travel list.  It seems like everyone is so concerned that their kid might get bored on a road trip that they spend a lot of money and effort on avoiding it.  We drove in the dark and the freeway is illuminated by the light of in-car televisions, we spotted a showing of Barbie, the Incredibles and our car which was a double feature of  Yo Gabba Gabba and Scooby Doo. I hate to sound like a grumpy old man, but I remember bringing a walkman with tapes that I recorded of television shows. I would hold the recorder up to the tv and hit record and LISTEN to it. That was my entertainment.. second hand recordings of You can't do that on Television. But in all honesty, I wasn't strapped to a car seat. I had full roam of the car, floor boards and cargo space. We got as far as two hours before we needed to take a potty brake. I have a weird issue with co-ed bathrooms, so much so that I will not use them, (possibly the people I have seen come out of them.) That happened to be the only one available at our first stop so we had to go to a different one at Mc Donalds, by this time it is 6 a.m. and what we saw at Mc Donalds before sunrise on a Saturday morning was a dozen old men have breakfast.  I guess I had always heard about this type, but never saw it with my own eyes... its true, these men do exist and seem remarkably happy to be eating foam pancakes.
So as we traveled to each state we like to celebrate it by yelling the name of the state, for our own amusement because the boys are in a techno-coma. This proved to be very difficult when we crossed from Tennessee to Georgia and back to Tennessee. Our eyes are then continually harassed by old signs advertising Ruby Falls? I swear there are at least 25 1970's looking faded signs saying it is the best family vacation spot. By the 25 one I actually want to go to Ruby Falls but Don reminds me that we must not let silly propaganda get in the way of our final destination. Fast forward to Georgia where we noticed a huge temperature increase and the locals attire decrease. I saw a girl wearing  boxer shorts with bed head  at a Dunkin Donuts where she was flirting with the dunkin donut guy and I was virtually invisible..I was going to get a latte, but seriously questioned the ponytail donut guys ability, so I just got a large black coffee instead.  The signs du jour are for "spas" and I wonder how such a beautiful thing as a spa could become a pseudonym for sex? And 50% of my boys can read and kept asking what
"we bare all" meant or "strippers, need we say more,  trucks welcome!"  As we cross into Florida, clearly their billboard bread is buttered with pro-life billboards, and photo's of fetuses. Maybe its a sort of consequence of the Georgia billboards... Tennessee and Kentucky are also states we pass, but at that point I'm in a travel trance.
We announce everything we see too. Cows! Horses! Hay! and every state line we pass.   It makes for one crazy ride in our party bus. By the time we reach Florida, we are so excited that the we get an added shot of adrenaline.. except that we run into a car accident and are stopped on the freeway. Talk about a buzz kill. We are going at a snails pace for what? An car that had caught fire at least 5 hours prior and everyone is rubber necking. And so it goes.
Once we arrive I feel like we have a van attached to our rumps.  Its all excitement and chaos and immediately our tidy quarters have been violated by our explosive suitcases. Our 22 hour journey has concluded and we are ready to kick back and relax.. or so we think.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Elf on the Shelf saved my life.

This is one of those phrases that you never can actually see yourself saying. But this morning as Henry, (our elf's name) sat on his perch in the kitchen, I felt that perhaps, this was just the parenting ticket we needed.  My girlfriend Talia came for a visit, by visit I mean for two nights, but you would have thought she was packing for a 12 day trip around the world.  Bags and Bags of food, shoes, clothes and who knows what else. She is a smart girl, she also brought a six pack of imported beer for Don, and once he saw that his "beer vision" didn't allow him to notice the six bags on our porch and the the fact that we stay up until midnight watching Oprah and pausing it to discuss, sessions.  But more importantly she came bearing a gift for the little boys too, The Elf on the Shelf.  For those unfortunate parents that are not aware of this genius product, it is a stuffed little elf that watches over your kids and gives daily behavior reports to Santa each night when he magically flies there.  If anyone touches him, the magic is gone and Christmas will be present-less and filled with despair.  I wasn't sure if they were going to buy into this one, but I hoped. They all fell for it, hook line and sinker. Parker was a little disappointed that Henry didn't jump out of his box on his own, but he obediently went to bed under Henry's watchful plastic eye.  Finegan was a little skeptical, but he is not going to test it, for the possibility that it may be real.  Jack doesn't get it, and wanted to take it upstairs with him.  Under the direct threat and Parker punching his hand with his fist, he told Jack that if he touched the elf, he was toast.
The Elf Tao is that he moves to different locations each night to get a new perspective on naughtiness. Finegan was the first to find him this morning.  It is only day one, and we will see how this plays out, but at least the threat of Henry is mine, all mine, for as long as it works. 
Although Don is buried in work, I still made it mandatory for him participate in the Family Elf ceremony. When the story was read, Don said with as much enthusiasm as a monk, "wow. its a magic elf" took a sip of his beer and walked back to his laptop.  Do you ever wonder if kids pick up on your blatant sarcasm? Don is a trained actor, and I was very disappointed in his performance, but the boys didn't seem to pick up on it. 
I wonder if we just didn't feel like spending money this year if we could just put Henry on the ground and play a Survivor  game of "who touched the elf we better be good". I won't try that this year.
I have no idea what ploy were will use when Henry travels back to the North Pole after Christmas. Maybe a Jesus doll, to report back to God on their behavior, but rather then a sad Christmas as punishment, they would have hell to pay! On second thought....

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Losing" Jack

Yesterday was an ordinary Sunday. Housework, church, yardwork etc.  The boys had been in and out of the house all day.  We have a fenced in backyard that is securely locked to keep them from getting out.  The day was winding down and I needed to get dinner ready (pizza) but it is so much easier to do without a kitchen full of boys. So I told the boys they could watch Toy Story 3 ( a new dvd) in the basement while I prepared dinner.   All was quiet and calm. Don and I had sat down on the couch to talk and wait for the pizza to be ready. It was almost time so I called down to the boys to come upstairs and wash their hands for dinner.  I heard the thumping of their feet climbing the stairs but noticed that only the 2 older boys came up.   I called down to Jack, "Jack, come upstairs!" He is our 3 year old and is usually the first one at the table.
No answer.  I called again, it was then that Parker said that Jack wasn't with them  and he had thought he had come upstairs a "long time ago".  As a parent, I was slightly worried, but went downstairs to check, sure enough, he wasn't there. I called to Don who was already starting to panic and repeat, " this is not good, this is not good" as he went upstairs to find him. He wasn't upstairs either. And with that, our hell began.  I cannot explain what it felt like other than,  my heart  felt like it had sank into my stomach. Surely he must be in the backyard?  He wasn't there either. It was then that Don and I noticed the front door was open.  We live in a sidewalk lined, relatively safe neighborhood, but unless that neighborhood is in a snow globe, anyone can roam through it. We both took off out of the house. Screaming Jack's name over and over. I ran to the neighbors to see if they had seen Jack. I just wanted someone, anyone to say they had seen him go this way or that way, but nobody could give me that answer.  I ran back home where Fin was standing there watching the baby. Tears are streaming down my face as I called 911.  Giving a description of my son has never been so difficult.  They responded quickly and sent 2 police cars over.  I must have been quite hysterical because by this time our streets were lined with people, all searching for Jack.  I sat on our front steps and heard far off voices screaming Jack? Jack?  I thought at one point that this could not be happening to me.  I couldn't bear to go inside without him. It was getting dark.  Every car that passed I ran in front of to ask if they had seen my little boy. I was not what you would call, calm and collected, but even my neighbors without children were concerned and the panic amongst us was palpable. I have never been in a situation like this before, and until yesterday I didn't know how I would react.  It is in these moments that you discover how your body and brain work.  I told myself to calm down, I spoke ( yelled) at God to not let this happen...and I started wishing. Wishing that  I had a power to stop everything and everyone. I wished that kids had some kind of gps inside of them, so I could know their location at all times. I wished it was just a dream. When the police arrived they asked permission to search my house. I told them to just find him! When they emerged, they hadn't found him. They asked me to come inside and find a picture of Jack. I grabbed every picture of him that I had on the refrigerator, and that is when reality set in, was this going to be the picture on the news? I threw up in the kitchen sink.
I felt emotionally exposed. The fears that had been hidden in the depths of my body had all risen to the surface.  I try and maintain a confident and competent demeanor and in this moment it was me..just me raw.
I didn't care who are what was there, I just wanted Jack to be home. I have four boys, not three and the table is set, and we will not be eating until Jack is in his seat.  I listened as the officers called in the report, white male, 3 years old, Navy shirt that reads Big Bro, jeans with rips in the knees, and white socks... My baby was such a trooper, thankfully he had been fed previous to the chaos and he was just kicking away in his bouncy seat, watching police men, me, everyone run back and forth. My older son was circling the block and Fin was more concerned with my tears then his brother. At one point he asked to continue watching the movie, and I snapped. What I didn't take into consideration, is that in his 6 year old mind, the worst thing that could happen was he was lost. In my 33 year old mind the worst thing that could happen is a laundry list of images and fears of the unspeakable.   The police sat Fin down and questioned him about the last time he saw Jack. My parents arrived. My dad was taking care of the search and my mom was taking care of me.
As they began to leave, one of the officers stopped. He looked at me and said,  "I just have a feeling he is in the house, can we search again?" Yes I said, but felt like I wanted them out finding the person who had taken him.  I know my son, and I know that he is not a mischievous three year old. If he did go outside, he knows his limits ( we go over them constantly) and I knew that if he had been gone for
 (by now it was 45 min.) someone had him. I allowed them back inside and I heard one of the officers yell "we found him!" I ran downstairs to see Jack, groggy and sweaty, sleeping under the cushions in the couch. The couch that 6 adults and 2 kids had already searched.
I didn't run to his side with glee.  As much relief that I felt, I also felt that he had no idea what was going on and to see me crying would have freaked him out  and even more, having 4 enormous armed men in uniform staring at him.
The word quickly spread that we had found him, at this point the only one who didn't know was Don.  A neighbor had found him. He had been sprinting, screaming and searching for the past 45 minutes. I have always viewed Don as an emotional rock, today was the first time I saw him shattered.  He returned, hoarse, sweaty and with bloodshot eyes.
A cruel evening in terms of discovering your inept ability to deal with such an emotion.
The what-ifs have not stopped. Questioning my parenting has not stopped.  What it did, was it brought me down a notch. I'm humbled, grateful and truly blessed to have neighbors who really care.
The longest hour of my life, but we had the best possible outcome and I know that we are lucky.
Last night I slept in Jack's bed, I just wanted to be sure that when I did wake up in the middle of the night I didn't need to run upstairs, I could just reach over and feel his face.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A dog tribute

We had a child out of wedlock. He is our bastard child and he was born to a real bitch. His name is Graham and he came to us from a breeder in Northern California.  Its a big step for a couple to get a dog together. I wish more people took it as seriously as we did. We did all the things that expecting parents do. We read the dog books, we researched breeds, and I even went to the bookstore and searched through baby name books to find just the perfect name. Finally on a warm day at LAX our baby arrived.
I choose the name Graham because it was a Scottish surname that meant homestead. Unlike a baby, you can choose the sex and the breed. I choose him because a. I love chocolate and b. he is cute. Little did I know he would be the foreshadowing of things to come.  
Having a puppy teaches you a lot about your relationship. I had gotten a puppy with a previous boyfriend. Ironically it was also a chocolate lab, but when we realized that not only were we completely irresponsible, poor and on shaky relationship ground, having a puppy did not fix things. In fact it will test things.  Poor Java Bean ended up living with his parents after our breakup. 
I remember the first night I had with Graham. I settled him into his cozy new crate, gave him a toy, put the lights out and was ready to go to sleep.  That is when the crying started... and it didn't stop.  Didn't he understand that I had class the next day?  By 3 a.m. I seriously considered leaving him on a leash tied to the stop sign  knowing that someone would pick him up and give him a new home. I have felt so guilty about that ever since.  Things did get better, but who knew how expensive this was going to be? Shots? Food? Removal of his balls?  Potty training was a shitty experience all in itself.  Did I mention that dogs were not allowed in my apartment?  So if  I were to leave and have him cry, I would get evicted.  I specifically remember visiting my neighbor upstairs to explain that we had a dog and if he heard crying that is what it was, and to please not tell on me.  He happened to be in a wheelchair, and an insomniac and there were times that  I think he fell out of his chair and flopped around like a fish, because the noise was as loud as a construction site.  He understood this, and said mums the word. Did I mention that he wasn't wearing pants when he opened the door? That is an entirely different post all together.
When I wanted to go out one night, I realized that this chocolate ball and chain would not let me. I called a dog sitter. To my dismay, they were not like a baby dog sitter,  they didn't come over for an hour or two and babysit so you could go out, they took care of your dog while you were AWAY.  Bummer, and I'm sure the guy I spoke with thought I was a real lunatic. 
So Graham and I became very close very fast. There were tears and laughter. I'm a habitual dog dresser upper. Graham has worn veils, shirts, hats, shoes, antlers...you name it and he has not only worn it, but it has been documented with photos. 
When my boyfriend proposed and we made plans for our honeymoon, I could not let Graham be alone. So my maid of honor and I drove 2000+ miles to Indiana. Once we were married my husband and I  drove from Indiana to California, and stayed at dog friendly hotels.  Once we got to LA we dropped him off at an approved cage free doggy care center ( $$$)  and went to Sonoma for a honeymoon without the baby :) I wonder if the people at our wedding knew there monetary gifts would be going to our dog? 
Lets fast forward 10 years.  Graham has been around for each and every son we have had. In fact I think he knew I was pregnant before I did.  He would become a little bit more protective of me while I was prego.  When I had a miscarriage and couldn't bear to get out of bed, he stayed, didn't even get up to eat. 
With each son he graciously welcomed them with a gentle, non jealous demeanor, knowing very well that he was now not even in the backseat, he was in the trunk when it came to family hierarchy. When we brought our 4th son home, I swear he looked at me with a look that said "seriously?" 
Make no mistake, Graham is a strange dog, he is not your typical lab. He isn't overly friendly to strangers, he has an uncanny judge of character. He also has a french accent when he talks.. He seems to have an iron stomach because he has eaten at times, an entire loaf of french bread, numerous diapers 
(the brown variety) an entire pizza cooling on the oven, a box of chocolate, friendship bread, cheese, and whatever the boys don't want to eat for dinner.
But lately I have noticed that Graham is slowing down a bit. He is 77 in dog years and will turn 84 in February. I'm realistic in knowing the life span of a lab. We are lucky right now to have him at 11.
He is still loyal and I cannot go into the bathroom without him following me. But I know our time is limited. 
Graham taught me how to be a mom.  He taught us how to be a couple, and he showed me what true unconditional love is. So with this post I honor my canine son Graham and hope to be able to celebrate his life now and make his silver years his very best.  He has been our silent anchor always greeting us at the door with a wag. The least we can do for him is let him do his job a little longer.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Talent Co-op anyone?

I blame my parents. When I was a kid if I showed the slightest interest in anything, they were on it. I was taking lessons, or on a team in a matter of weeks. It was great. It allowed me to excel in what I was good at (acting/soccer) and fail at what I wasn't (gymnastics).It was really not a good fit for me. First of all I get terrible motion sickness and secondly I wasn't limber. In fact,  I was recently told by a physician that I have the flexibility of an 80 year old woman, and it was the worst he had ever seen in anyone in their 30's even 40's. But I at least got to try to do the splits and participate with other gumby little girls. I didn't feel poorly about that  because I knew I was good at other things.
I want the same for my boys. But I had no idea how expense exploring my youngsters interests could be! So far, I have taken our two older ones to tennis lessons, soccer, t-ball, pottery and now tap dance lessons.  Yes I know, tap dance lessons?  Both Don and I have always admired a good tap dancer, it combines just the right amount of athleticism and grace. It also is a fantastic thing, in my opinion, to have in your talent repertoire. I'm the type a girl that finds a guy who can dance, and (doesn't do the sidestep in the edge of a dance floor) very attractive. Even if a guy gets out there and just has a good time is already 3x more attractive than a guy who is better looking and standing there with his hands in his pockets.
So today we embarked on this tap endeavor.  We arrived and I had quickly forgotten how the smell of lycra can just make my muscles ache.  The woman was all business too.  Having me sign my boys tapping feet away for the next 7 months!  She called it a "semester". Wait a second...I don't remember this when I was a kid.  She then whisked the boys off to the "shop" and had them fitted for tap shoes.  All the time the boys are doing what they think are tap moves, which looks a bit more like a riverdance combo with the Russian guy dance.
Slowly I felt my purse being tugged and tugged again.
$ shoes
$$ registration fee
$$$ tuition up front
Before I knew it, I had spent a mortgage payment on something that I don't even know if the boys will like. They just said they thought it would be fun...well, wait, maybe I asked them if they wanted to learn, I'm so baffled and I just don't know anymore. And I just realized that this will certainly cut in to their baseball season and I can be pretty sure that their dad isn't going to have them miss a couple games for a tap recital...just a hunch.
The rest of the students arrive and it takes all of 2 seconds for them to both realize that there is not a boy in sight..except for a little girls brother, and I sensed a bit of hesitation.  But I explained that this was really a cool thing for them to know, and that I was proud of them. Then they are herded away to a secret room that I cannot observe except on observation days.
Do I think that in the next 20 years they will be starring on Broadway as Billy Elliott?  No.
But maybe? Would my brother be a Grammy award winning opera singer if my mom hadn't put him in church choir when he was 9? Maybe but doubtful.
Would I be an Oscar award winning actress if my mom hadn't enrolled me in the local Shakespeare camp? Wait a second... but I'm still a more well rounded person who can do a killer Lady MacBeth impersonation because of that experience. And if I were to be frank, there were a cupple of little pork chops taking the same class, who clearly don't have the bone structure for dance. Softball?  Maybe.
But why should it cost an arm and a leg to let the kids experience something just to see if they like it?
I think it would be great if parents got together and figured out what each of us is great at. Not good, not expert level, but great enough to show newbie kids the gist.
For example, I'm a pretty good ice skater... I would be more than happy to take a few kids on Saturday mornings to the ice rink and teach them the basics.  I know someone must know how to play the piano, cello, violin, etc. well enough to introduce it to a group of kids without me purchasing the instrument and the lessons only to discover that my son is not the next Yo Yo Ma.
Is it really any wonder why the arts are dying a slow death amongst our youth?  If I had to choose between feeding my kids belly or talent, I would, of course, choose belly.
So finally after a long 30 min. which if I calculate the cost per minute I would probably fall off my chair, the boys emerged from the dance studio.
Were they filled with inspiration and glee? Hardly. Parker said, that was hard. Finegan said, that was too fast and the girls were better than us.
This road to SYTYCD may be a long one, but someday, when they are giving their bows on stage they will look at me and mouth "thank you mom". and it will be all worth it.