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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Belief In More Than Santa

We were on our way to church when Parker asked us (and the entire van) if Santa was real.
I may be alone on this, but on the day he was born, I voiced this as one of the moments I was dreading most. I am still recovering from when I was nine and cornered my mom demanding the truth. She thought she would deliver the bundle package and include the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy in the discussion for good measure. My world changed. Being the youngest, I felt like a fool and that I had been lied to by everyone who I cared most about.
I didn't want Parker to feel this way and he was becoming more and more articulate in his accusations. Later that night, Don and I agreed it was time we told him the truth. I did online research. I came across a cute letter that a mom had written to her daughter which explained that Santa is real, but only in spirit and that parents help him spread his cheer by delivering his gifts. In the end it congratulated the girl for being part of a special club to extend Christmas cheer.
It seemed perfect, so I copied it and added a few threats to make it applicable to our family. Bold type which said, "You must never tell your brothers this secret or the Christmas spirit will be lost."
That might have been a bit much.
The opportune moment presented itself as two of his younger brothers were upstairs playing and the other was downstairs.
I told him I needed to see him in our bedroom to put the acid on his foot. He has a persistent wart he has eagerly declared war on. Don followed with the letter. As I put the medicine on his heel, Don started reading. I couldn't look at Parker. Once I did glance up, I saw confusion on his face. I instantly regretted opening this topic.
Finally when he did speak, he was argumentative. Years and years of convincing had apparently been successful and he was not only defending his Santa, he was angry that we would slander his name. He hopped around on one foot and told us we were wrong and that he had proof, reciting all the evidence (we had left) that he had accumulated to defend his argument. In the past few years, we have gone a bit over the top in an exaggerated attempt to keep their belief in Santa alive. I'm sure inflicting physical pain along with his emotional pain wasn't my best choice. And I'm also now wondering why we worked so hard to protect him from the truth.
I was sliding down a slippery slope and the next thing out of his mouth was, "Whoever wrote this letter sucks!" I told him I did, and he just stared at me. I got his drift.
Don took this opportunity to leave. Once the door was shut Parker crumpled into a ball and sobbed. I now know more then ever that he is truly my son. I felt his pain. He is our oldest and takes his role seriously, he feels that he needs to be strong and never cries, but right now, you wouldn't know it because he was crying so loudly.
I felt a bit of his innocence drift away. This is on the heels of one of our nations worst shootings. I have been an emotional wreck. The magnitude of what has happened and the reality of it has rocked the foundation of our nation and certainly my faith in humanity.
Between sobs, Parker asked me if God was real. I said yes, but I'm reluctant to say, with a little hesitation. He asked if Jesus was real. I said yes.

"But you just told me Santa wasn't real and I can't see him. I can't see Jesus or God, so they must not be real either."
I explained that in this case, just because you can't see something doesn't mean you stop believing in it. When you stop believing, you begin to lose faith -- and sometimes faith is all we have.
This conversation had gone much deeper than I was expecting. After a brief pause he asked if what happened to the kids in Connecticut was because they stopped believing.
There it was.
This wasn't just about learning the truth about Santa, it was learning the unspeakable truth about the harshness of life, something I couldn't protect him from. He had learned about the shootings when he came downstairs late Friday night and witnessed his parents crying while watching the evening news.
We were honest, but vague and it seemed that he handled the news well. A few days had gone by and it occurred to him that one of his younger brothers is the same age as the kids that were killed. In his young impressionable mind, he worried that if he stopped believing, it could happen to us.
At this point, I started to cry, too. For a few minutes we just laid there. I remembered how only nine years ago in this very same bed I would lie next to him and stare at his little face for hours and pinch myself that I was so blessed to have him in my life. And after the events on Friday to still have him in my life.
I told him that God was too good. He believes in us even when we fail to believe in him. I told him he was safe, in an effort to believe it myself.
He cuddled up next to me and asked if he could still believe in Santa. Whether or not he does, it is a metaphor for believing in goodness he can't see and an attempt to remain innocent in a world that right now feels anything but. I squeezed him a little tighter.
When I was nine, I had felt my reality changed, but as I look at Parker at the same age, a haunting reality exists which includes innocent lives being taken. He is empathetic to his colleagues of his generation. Our world has changed. When I questioned humanity, I didn't realize that I was jeopardizing my own faith. The answer was looking at me with watery eyes. I have infinite belief in my son and the goodness in children who will have grown tired of violence and who will move toward peace as the only option to restore faith in our world. How can I question humanity when we look into the eyes of our kids.
Just like Parker, I will choose to still believe. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Lifetime Movie

Lifetime was put on this planet for it's holiday movies. With creative titles such as Christmas Eve, Eve was the young ingenue's name, (of course). Or, It's a Wonderful Lifetime.  Despite my efforts, I find it impossible to turn away.  Can my fascination with these movies be traced to a deep hope that they are based on a true story?
Most Lifetime movies have one woman who is an ad executive or a party planner and is intimidated by her high power female boss. In order to make a successful movie, there must be at least 2 very attractive men who the woman can't decide between.  Acute dog is a must.
As well as a fall on the ice, which results in a coma where eventually she will wake up and realize it was all a dream.
What does this say about American Women? That we all strive for a job in the middle (at best) of the pay scale, we can't run in heels, and we hope a modelesque man will rescue us from it all? Ok, Guilty as charged.
Why isn't my life made into a Lifetime holiday movie? My name does, after all, mean Christmas.
It could start off with my husband and I discovering that it is Dec. 1 and we haven't been shopping for anyone, so we drop the boys off at Grandmas and head to Toys R Us. There, we are stuffed in an overcrowded, overheated fire hole arguing over how many presents Santa brings vs. Mommy and Daddy. After an eternity, we have gone way over our budget and go home to wrap gifts from Santa and sign his name with our left hands.  All in an effort to suspend the belief that we would allow an old fat stranger into our house while we slept. Have they not noticed how many times I lock the doors and set our security alarm at night? I won't even mention how many times I have woken up in a panic because we have forgotten to move Henry, our damn elf on the God damn shelf. Excuse my cursing, but last night was one of those nights and I am tired.
The next morning wasn't much better.  It came as a shock to me that it snowed, despite numerous posts by friends, and the weather channel. But when I needed to get the boys in their boots I had to dig in an area of the basement that I would rather not set foot in. I found what I could and managed to convince the boys that the only reason their boots were tight was because they hadn't worn them in a while.  I sent them all to the garage and gathered my coat, coffee and keys. I was in the house long enough to witness our dog throw up, and now I know where all of our missing socks have gone. I picked up the regurgitated sock and threw it outside, with every intention to deal with it later.   By the time I got into the van they were laughing hysterically at a phrase they had made up. In the time it took me to get out the door they had said "Big Fluffy Donkey Dick" what I would guess, 400 times.  I really don't know and don't want to know, if they know what a dick is, and I waited until we were 1 minute from school to tell them to never ever repeat that at school or our elf will tell Santa.  The first thing Jack said to his teacher as she got him out of the van was, you guessed it, "Big Fluffy Donkey Dick". She looked much less alarmed than I would have expected. Next, I was on my way to drop off Oscar at his school.  He is not the most articulate 2 year old, but you wouldn't have known that by how clear he said "Big Fluffy Donkey Dick". Just prior to getting out of the car I realized that I had put all of his winter gear on, hat, gloves, heavy coat, and I had completely forgotten socks and shoes.  Barefoot in the middle of winter in the Midwest. Now that I think of it, that might have been the sock the dog puked up.  Thankfully they had an extra pair of socks at school and they don't ask questions.
Now that is the nitty-gritty stuff that would give actual life to Lifetime. 

That evening was the holiday party where instead of a cute designer mini dress (no Lifetime movie is complete without one), I wore a sparkly sweater that I found on sale at Forever 21. Admittedly, I have NO business shopping there.  I was really enjoying myself at the party until my boss showed up.  He made a bee line to me and seamlessly continued a conversation we were having at the office 4 hours prior.  Except, by this time I had consumed at least 3 vodka tonics and my classy filter quits at 5 o'clock, resulting in several F-bomb drops and me telling him what I really thought about gun control.  Note:  The topic had nothing to do with gun control.

To be honest, I find the holidays kind of sad. I love the songs, the decorations, friends and family, but somehow there is a undercurrent of nostalgia that gets swept further away as every year passes.

By the time our holiday party was winding down and I had graduated to Sangria,  I was approached by a decent looking man. (Remember, no movie is complete without at least 2.)  He told me that he had been wanting to talk to me all night. I had met him casually before, but I couldn't' have told you his name (thanks to the moonshine, I still can't).  He told me that our boys walk past his house all the time and wanted to tell me a story.  Oh no....I almost blurted out "Big Fluffy Donkey Dick" just so I could say it before him. Thankfully I didn't, he went on to say that they were two of the most polite boys he had met. Not only that, the oldest one looks out for the younger one when they cross the street. He went on to tell me at least 3 or 4 stories of how the boys have entertained their  toddler daughter, warned them about their backyard gate being open, or offered to help carry in groceries.  With each story I found the tears building and building and I was fighting back the urge to creep into the ugly pride cry.
As a parent, you don't get a performance review. You are your own boss, and this is scary when young lives are on the line.  After the morning I had had, I am pretty sure Parenting magazine won't be asking me for a cover shoot.
But to hear this, from a neighbor I hardly know was enough to give me the confidence that I'm not doing such a bad job. Even more than anything it gave me the confidence and enormous pride that despite what happens at home on any given morning, the boys behave like little gentleman even when they know that Henry the elf, or I can't see them.
I don't expect a call from a Lifetime movie director either, but if they would just take a chance, it may turn out as the best lifetime movie ever made, that is unless this is a dream and I'm in a coma, if that is the case, please don't ever wake me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Going Home

It has been about three weeks since my uncle passed away.  I have found it difficult to grieve in front of the boys. When they notice I am down, they innately, want to cheer me up. Knowing that this is not possible, I try and avoid it all together.
A common question when someone dies is "Was it sudden?" "Were you close?"  I am guilty of this too. It's the living's way of finding comfort in the answer.  If it was sudden, then it seems that anyone of us could be victim to it.  If it wasn't, then somehow it must have been easier to prepare for. If you were close, then one assumes it was harder for you.  The truth is, death is the one thing we all have in common. We can't avoid it and eventually we will all experience it.  Some sooner than others and most of us will or have dealt with it by losing a friend or family member.
I grew up on the outside perimeter of death. I was the youngest grandchild on my mother's side and the second youngest on my father's.  My mom dragged me to so many wakes and funerals as a kid, I can't even keep them strait.  It was her way of supporting a friend who lost a mother, or a distant family member I had never met.  I'm not blaming my mom, but it really screwed me up.   As a kid I would sit in a funeral parlor in a big stiff chair watching people sob and talk, all in front of a casket. I would avoid that side of the room at all costs, but through the people and flowers I could always see the body.  When the thriller video came out in 1983 I had my first heart attack.  My second one came at the release of the Sixth Sense.  I can trace my fear of ghosts and dead bodies right to its source.
So when I heard my uncle was in the hospital I left it to my mom to send my well wishes.   My uncle was an adventurous fun loving guy, he took risks... a lot.  Since I was a kid, he has had 2 motorcycle accidents and several other near death experiences with his job. In fact, one of the accidents he had as a teen he actually did die for a few seconds.  When I heard he had fallen off a boat in Arizona I can't say I was too concerned.  I may have been more concerned if I hadn't heard of him doing something crazy.   The fall actually gave him 2 staples in his head and he was back on his bike.
It wasn't until he flew to Indiana that something happened.   He had flown home for a funeral of a friend. He had gone to the funeral but collapsed shortly after.  They found him and rushed him to the hospital.  They assumed it may have been a little stroke, but kept him for observation. That is when my mom visited him.  He joked that he was knocking at the pearly gates, but they didn't answer. He had openly expressed that when he had died, it was the most peaceful experience he had ever felt. He often said he was not afraid of it, and his lifestyle supported his claim. Don't get me wrong, he loved his family and his life, but he also had a strong faith in what happens after you die.  He was scheduled to have an MRI. He said he would talk to my mom when he got home.   As they were taking him to the test he got very sick and they realized his brain was hemorrhaging.  They rushed him to emergency surgery and with that, we learned that blood had consumed his brain and he was now on life support.
So to answer the question if it was sudden, yes, I guess so.  My mom called and told me the news.  This time I felt an overwhelming pull to be with her.  He was in a hospital about 45 minutes away. I found myself within minutes picking up my bags, leaving work and driving there.  I was nervous. I hate hospitals, the smell reminds me of my mom dragging me to nursing homes as a kid.   I know I am painting her as a morbid person but even her own child wasn't going to stand in the way of her enormous heart. So along I would go.  But this time, as an adult, I was choosing to go, maybe in all those years she taught me compassion.  I walked into the waiting room just as my mom, cousins and aunt were learning that there was no hope.  Doctors don't sugar coat things.  I sat with my mom as she shook.  Now the decision was upon my aunt as to when to remove life support.  Obviously, that is a lot of news to take in at once.  The family decided to say their goodbyes and remove him the next morning.  At this point I hadn't seen him.  My mom took my hand and walked me back to the ICU.  I hadn't been in one before and depressing is an understatement. Tubes and beeps and rhythmic breathing. All rooms have the door open and are all glass. I couldn't help but be a voyeur in other people's tragedy.  I saw someone who looked like they had been in a horrible accident, but as my mom lead me in that direction, I realized it was my uncle.
I immediately regressed to being a 5 year old and felt the urge to flee, but the tight grip of my mom's hand changed my mind.  I said, what I thought was my last goodbye, awkward and painful, and couldn't wait to just go.  My mom and I walked back to the waiting room as the others said their goodbyes.  I stayed with my mom until dinner time and asked when she was going to leave, she said she wasn't. And I wasn't going to argue. This is her only sibling, her little brother and she wanted every last minute with him.  They removed life support early Saturday morning.
After I woke up, again I felt a pull in that direction and again I found myself driving there.  What I noticed was that each time I drove there I heard the same song, sometimes on 2 different stations and always as I was in route. It was Home, by Phillip Phillips.  I like that song, but when a song plays at an influential time in your life, it almost becomes stamped into memory and a soundtrack that you can never forget what you were feeling when you heard it.
He survived for 48 hours after they took him off. And my mom never left his side, and I only left hers to go home to sleep and change.  I brought her a change of clothes. She wouldn't leave him even to go to the bathroom unless I was on "watch". This was something that we established after I had had a baby.  She would hold the baby so I could sleep and be on visitor "watch". It was the only time I actually got some sleep in the hospital.
I found comfort in sitting with him. I became glued to his monitors, and my mom and I would go on a roller coaster of emotions ranging from hope, doubt, sadness and for me, fear.  At one point I saw my mom whispering in his ear and giggling.  They had declared him brain dead, but whatever part of the brain controls your breathing and heart, was still very much alive. I saw a glipse of their childhood and couldn't help but feel tremendous anguish for what she was going through.  Both of my grandparents were gone and she and her brother were all that was left of their little family. I don't know what she said.   She told me she felt guilty because we were waiting for him to die, but I quickly assured her that we weren't waiting for him, we were waiting with him.
Friends and family visited at all hours and I learned more about him on his death bed then I knew about him alive.  He had touched so many people.  On the last night I asked the nurses to bring in a reclining chair for my mom so she could get a little sleep, she only said an hour, but I let her sleep as long as she could.  I held my uncles hand and wished I was a better niece, wished I could have said things I should have. Because it is still so fresh I can't bare to go into the details, but I can say that death isn't pretty. It isn't peaceful and it isn't what you see in the movies. At least this experience.  There were some really intense moments that were shared between my uncle, mom and me.  But in this dark cold room, with the glow of the monitors there wasn't anywhere else I wanted to be. I had put my hand under his because he was my space heater and it was freezing in there. His temperature hit a high of 107, but had come down. He was stable.  I even asked the nurse if there was a chance that he may come through this.  She just looked at me and said that miracles have happened. In retrospect, he was on a constant morphine drip and I was tired. But my mom and I both felt he might dodge death yet again. I will value those hours as the finest hours I had with him. As crazy as it sounds I felt like we were communicating on a level I can't even describe. So to answer the question if we were close, well, not until this point.  In the early morning my mom woke up and I left. I planned to return later in hopes that a miracle would happen.  I woke up to a text. My mom had said he had a good night.   I decided to get ready for work, but when Don came into the bathroom with the phone, I knew something had suddenly changed. She read me his stats, numbers that a week prior would have meant nothing to me. I knew I had to be there for her. I arrived and was shocked at how a few hours changed his appearance and when I looked at the monitors that I had been staring it, I couldn't believe what I saw.  What were triple digits were dropping to double digits and now single digits.  I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I immediately stood behind my mom to give her physical strength because I knew I didn't have any mental strength left to support her with.
At 8:45 as my mom and I held each of his hands and his best friend stood at his feet, my uncle died.  My mom had never left his side and even though we knew what the outcome was, it still felt shocking, and way too soon.  She gave him a final kiss and it was over.
I realized my role in his life wasn't until the end.  I have to hope he knew I was there. I certainly know he knew my mom was.
When I left I felt like I had run a marathon. I worried about my mom. Her pain was palpable as I watched her get into her car.
I got in the car and again, the song that kept playing came on yet again.  This time the words meant a bit more.
Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

 This time when he knocked on the pearly gates, they finally opened, and he was home.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The little tuxedos

About six months ago we were delighted to learn that Don's younger brother was going to get married. To be honest, we had always hoped for this but never really thought it would happen. Not because he is ugly or a player, he is just a loner.  So we (especially my mother-in-law) were thrilled to learn that not only was he getting married, his future wife was awesome and a perfect match.   I don't recall the day that I learned that she wanted all four boys in the wedding, a wedding four states away and a 12 hour car ride. I could have, quite possibly, blocked that out of the forefront of my mind.  I think I still had PTS from our Arizona trip.  Eventually the time came when we had to get them fitted for tuxes.  I have to admit, it was a big huge pain in the butt, but once I saw them sporting a black suit and tie I melted.
We called in their measurements to the tuxedo shop and hoped for the best.
I took a week off of work. That may sound excessive but packing for a hotel stay for 6 people (yes I pack my husband's stuff too) is panic enduring. Who else would coordinate all of our outfits?  I tried to think of every possible scenario, blood, food, shart, which intuativelly all happened.  Road trips have changed since I was a kid.  My parents would set up a bed in the back seat for me, which covered up all access to seat belts.  After learning I couldn't read in the car, I usually brought along my walkman and the cassette tape I had made by holding it up to the TV during several shows like "You can't do that on Television".  After about an hour I wanted to die and I made sure to let everyone in the car know that.  My boys had their iPod touches, personal movie screens and any snack or drink they could ever want. Not to mention all the toys I let them pack. (Parker may re-think his lego set next time).
Don and I even joined the 21st century and bought a adapter to our iPhones.  When the guy at the Apple store asked me what kind of car I drove, I actually turned red and whispered "mini van". He asked me what year. I asked him, "Does it really matter?"  It was compatible.
It was easier than one would think, at least for the kids. For the adults, not so much.  After about 9 hours we were going crazy and decided to get a hotel. Despite our efforts we can never drive strait through.  I think its an urban myth that Don has created in his mind.  We have never done it, regardless to what he thinks.
Unloading all of our stuff requires two of the little hotel carts. Why? Because at least one child insists on riding on one.  Once in the hotel room, they do what every kid does, stand in line to poop.  Once that is over, they jump on the bed and want to go swimming.  I conveniently forgot my suit but remembered to pack Don's. ;)
After a sleepless night with some kid sleeping horizontally on the bed, we went down to the free hot breakfast. Parker had to hold his glasses up because he forgot to put them on the nightstand and Fin rolled over and smashed them.  I feel that we are a side show. People stare at us and I honestly don't know why. I  made my way to the coffee first, while Don searched for a high chair which was never found.  The sweet southern lady said " I see you have four little blessings".  I laughed. First because it sounded so cheesy, second because I was slap happy, and third because at that moment they felt more like a curse.
After they loaded their paper plates with food they wouldn't eat we sat down to a family breakfast.  It isn't hard to notice that we never do this. We sit down for dinner together, sometimes lunch, but never breakfast and now I know why.  Maybe its the early morning or the excessive togetherness, but the boys are fighting over bacon and cold hard boiled eggs.
Don seems to be ignorant to the yelling and whining and decides to make himself a waffle. He doesn't even like waffles, but that waffle maker gets him every freaking time.  He returns only to set a frenzy of waffle envy and 4 little mouths that also want waffles and guess who got to make them?
Once we made the 45 minute task of getting back in the van, we eventually made it to our destination. First we had to stop at the mall to purchase new glasses for Parker, which naturally were not under warranty and we couldn't "tape" them for the wedding.  The brides mother had prepared for us. She had a hospitality suite with every food they could want and games and toys.  Oscar preferred to run up and down the hall ways and despite my pet peeve for children who do that in hotels, I let him.  He loved it, and only got on a vacant elevator and pressed the up button, once.
The next few days were a blur. The rehearsal went as I expected it to. If I had a dollar for every dirty look my father-in-law gave the boys I would be able to support my Starbucks habit. Now I know where Don gets that "look" from and even I was a bit intimidated by it…unlike my sons.  After watching them skip, hop, moonwalk down the aisle in rehearsal I was worried about the next day. Very worried.  I wondered if she now regretted her decision.  My mother-in-law decided to have the rehearsal dinner at Dave and Busters. Good idea..in theory.  This place is like an adult Chuck E. Cheeses.  I don't possess the strength to keep the boys away from the hypnotic pull a video game has. And I am talking about Don too. * I will touch on this in a second.
Finally the wedding day came. We decided to have the little boys try on their tuxes. Jack's was ok.  Oscar's pants were more like capri pants.  Back to the mall we went.  What is odd, is that he isn't really in the wedding, he is only in a tux for the pictures, seems like a lot of work for a picture.
Prior to the wedding, we had several pep talks and at this point I was promising them anything they wanted. A new $500 app? Sure! Build-a-Bear? Absolutely!
I hired a sitter to take care of Oscar during the wedding and reception.  The best decision I have ever made in my life. I was able to chat with Don's best friend and Fraternity brother and learned some things about Don that I wish I hadn't. * In college, he did a 3 day non-stop video game playing binge only to stop to tie his bandana tighter around his head and to pee.  I also learned that no matter how convincing I think I am, Phillip was not going to fill me in on the secret fraternity handshake either. The wedding was outside on a beautiful golf course overlooking homes you only see in movies.  I was seated in the second row, conveniently located right behind where the boys would be seated.  The music began. Don walked down second followed by the other groomsmen and bridesmaids. I must admit, my husband looked pretty hot and I kind of regretted flicking him off at the free hot breakfast this morning when he decided (yet again) to make a damn waffle.  I suddenly had butterflies as there was a brief pause in the procession. And then I saw them. Single file, each holding a ring bearer pillow. I was overcome with emotion. They looked so handsome and they were doing such a great job. Nothing like the rehearsal. By the time they reached me Parker glanced up and winked and I simultaneously started crying.  It hit me that in just 15 or 20 years that could be them.  That can fly by. It has been 12 years since my wedding and I can tell you every detail, including what my Dad said to me right before we stepped out, or the feeling I had when I met Don by the alter.  I wondered if they would still get excited to talk to me after school or in that case work. How will I feel when there is another woman at the top of their list?   All of these thoughts clouded my mind and before I knew it, the wedding was over and they were headed back down.
The reception was great. Fin was the first one on the dance floor and the last one off.  Oscar did his version of a moshpit with a woman's leg which resulted in a bloody lip, and a bloody tux.  Jack fought with Parker and Fin about who got to slow dance with me first.  Jack won and we danced, which is more like a hug but rocking back and forth. I made a couscous effort to never forget this moment in time when I can hug them in public and when I am their leading lady.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see my mother-in-law dancing with the her youngest son who was now married. They too, looked like they were hugging more than dancing and I saw how happy she looked.  There seemed to be a sense of pride and contentment in her smile as she realized that her work was done. The long hours, or homework, baseball games, road trips and a million lunches has brought her to this point, dancing with her son at his wedding and retribution that it was all worth it. She doesn't have any doubt that her son will treat his wife with respect and unconditional love. Her second son certainly does.  It is a love he is familiar with because she has been showering him with it since the day they met. A day, to her that seems like yesterday. I glanced down at my youngest who, at this moment was seated at a table with his brothers eating cake. I took a snapshot in my mind so when its his turn to take a bride I can revisit this moment. Confident, knowing that if he brings her just a quarter of the happiness he has brought me, she will be the luckiest girl in the world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ain't nobody happy.

I noticed that I have been losing my cool a lot lately. Frankly, the boys have really been pissing me off.  Is it ok to say that about your kids? I know they are cute, but cuteness only gets you so far, trust me.
Last night I asked the oldest to do something, (now I can't even remember what it was).  He ignored me, so I did the logical thing. I yelled it at the top of my lungs.  Brace yourself for this, he walked away and said "shut up".  And if that isn't bad enough, I said "excuse me, what did you say?" and he repeated "shut up". Before my eyes my little boy, turned into a smart mouth asshole.  Sorry again, that is totally not appropriate, but accurate.
I stood there shocked. I had memories of my mom slapping me across the face, for my smart mouth.  I wasn't about to do that, but what is the befitting punishment for this?  I resorted to the only thing I could think of, I sent him to the naughty chair.
The naughty chair is a tiny black chair in the corner of our hallway.  I got it at Ikea and it is about to collapse from over use.  He made a bee line for the chair knowing he had really crossed the line.  I walked away and saw my oldest, 4 years too old for that chair sitting with his head down.  I decided I was going to leave him there until I cooled off.
Ten minutes later I was ready to talk.  Not in these exact words, but basically I asked him WTF?  His answer, not in these words was "stop busting my balls".  *See previous post for origination of this phrase.  He said that I didn't need to yell. I agreed. He apologized. I apologized. We hugged. We ate ice cream.
I hate it when I lose control like that.  Some days that would have gotten less of a dramatic reaction from me, but unfortunately today was not one of those days.
The phrase when "mama aint happy, aint nobody happy" besides from being a grammatical disaster, has a lot of pressure attached to it. Sometimes Mama just isn't happy and sometimes she doesn't have the energy to pretend that she is.
We have started a new school this year.  So far it has gone well, but because it is a private school, more of our time is required. Since Don is teaching there, I feel like the boys should be on their best behavior.  Mainly because I know if the boys act out at a school function he is not going to discipline them in front of his students and especially not in front of his student's parents. I guess its his way of keeping his "private life private" or something like that.  At the class pot luck we decided to be the only family at a Montessori school to bring styrofoam plates. Being a "waste-free environment" I should have known. Leave it to me to bring the most un- planet friendly plate ever created, I don't even think they make these plates anymore and now that I think of it, I think my mom found them in my Grandparents house and thought we could use them. My grandparents died over 12 years ago.  Don was mortified, I offered to wash them but he didn't take me up on that.  As the prayer was being said, our two year old was on the run.  We should have named him Forrest because if we let him loose he would run across the country and back without a second thought, just like Forest Gump.
Maybe he had had a bad day at pre-pre-pre-school, who knows,  but he was not in the mood to behave.  He took off right across the room near the table with the crock pots on it.  I envisioned him pulling a power cord and lentils falling on top of him scalding his entire body.  I tried to run after him without being obvious, which looks more like the pink panther running and draws even more attention. I scooped him up and not only did he scream, he slapped me across the face, hard.  In any other situation I probably would have been a little bit more forceful, but I could feel eyes upon me and I cooly growled "noooooo" and gave him my angry pack master face and walked outside.  Once outside I let him loose like a greyhound from the starting gates.
This school is nothing but friendly, and I thought I was over reacting and nobody probably noticed anyway.  Except today when I took my son on a field trip, a mother said, "Oh, were you the one chasing your boy at the potluck? Was he hungry or tired or something? " I felt like I had been slapped in the face yet again.  I felt like I needed to explain that he is  2. He is a big kid and most people thing he is 3, but he is in fact 2.  After a few minutes of incoherently babbling I walked away.  There really isn't a good answer to that question.
There are two places that I really want the boys to act a certain way,
1.in public and
2. in my in-laws presence.
It is clear that this is an unreasonable request.
Perhaps my expectation is that they actually act like little adults.  How can I have that expectation when just last night they were farting in the freezer to see if it would make fog.
Plus, what kid should act like an adult? You are only a kid for 12 years.  I must admit, some of my best memories are between the ages of 6 and 11.  Before I became self conscious.  Before I cared what other people thought of me as I pretended to be an GI Joe in the woods.
Perhaps I have it backwards. I need to spend more time being a kid and less like an adult and less time striving for my kids to be adults.
I'm sure my super secret bunker made of twigs is still behind my parents house, I may need to retreat for awhile to remember how important just being a kid is.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Be Happy.

This morning may have taken the cake as the all time dysfunctional ways to get your kids out of the door in our history. Its a Friday which is weird because usually these things happen on Mondays.  I had everything laid out just like every other day. It seems like our family was hit with a snack tornado because every single boy had to bring snack to his class this week.  So I was feeding not only my broad but the entire nations.  I went to the store last night to pick up snacks to make and ended up getting a bag of pretzels. When I returned home I was reminded that in addition to snack, my oldest son also needed something for school. I went back to the store.  When I returned and was cleaning out the fridge of food that has gone bad (i.e. carrots, celery, anything remotely healthy). That is when I discovered that we were out of trash bags.  That is one thing that we cannot go with out or by the time tomorrow rolls around we will have a counter full of garbage. So in the mini van I went, BACK to the store to pick up stupid trash bags and while I was at it I even drove through Dairy Queen.  I guess its better then smoking or drinking or taking the first flight to Vegas. DQ takes me back to my roots.
I have my brother to thank for this one. On one particularly bad day he was having he asked me to go to Dairy Queen with him. Of course I went. He was 16 and I was 9. We sat on the curb eating dilly bars and listening to "Don't Worry, be Happy" on the radio. Now whenever I am having a bad day a magnet is activated in my belly that pulls me towards a blizzard.
By all accounts everything should be going well.  I am the first one to recognize that I have nothing (ligitimate)  to complain about. I have a job, I have a husband, I have money in the bank, I have healthy kids, I have shelter. But those are all the things that I'm not happy with right now.
Yes, I have a job but some co-workers are unbearable at times.  I have a husband but at this moment even he is unbearable, I have money, but not enough, I have healthy enough kids that eat too much and I have a house that needs to be cleaned constantly.
By the time I arrived home everyone seemed to be sleeping.  We have elected to go screen free two days a week. The reasoning behind this was to disconnect technology and reconnect with each other. As soon as we knew the boys were asleep, the laptops were open, and the tv was on.  Yes, it is important to communicate but on this particular night, that would have caused more harm then good.  It is no secret that I love my husband but sometimes I want to kill him.  I hope this doesn't come up as evidence in a trial someday. I want to kill him so much that I tell him I do. And I even tell him how, and he listens, and responds with the fact that he is sorry to hear that, and reminds me that I'm not the only one who would like to kill their spouse.  At least we can agree on that.  If you have never played this game, its really fun.  We even discuss how we would dispose of each others bodies.  If I ever come up missing be sure to check for new concrete in the basement, just FYI. But then those darn kids come up, and we both realize that we would not only hate to raise them alone, we probably couldn't and it would be sad to have them lose a parent.  I guess we are stuck with each other.
In school I read a short story by Edgar Allen Poe called The Tell-Tail Heart. It follows a man who murders and old man and puts him under the floor boards in his home.  Ultimately, the guy goes crazy because he thinks he can hear the mans beating heart and his guilt slowly makes him go insane.
I mention this because our bad energy is the dead man and as much as we try to it ignore it, it lingers into the next day and its beating heart rattles everyone, even the next day.
Hence, this morning.  I only have myself to blame, well, and Don.
If I would have woken up in a better mood, I would have politely asked them to get dressed rather then using threats to get them dressed. But to my credit, I slept with Jack's elbow penetrating my jugular all night.   I would have just poured their cereal rather then having them pour it themselves and spill enough on the floor that our dogs could never eat again and still not starve.  I would have persuaded them into the car rather than push, carry or pull them.  I would have ignored their fighting.
But alas, I didn't.  I sent them to school with a thorn in their side.  They may be angry and they don't even know why.  I must remember that you are always responsible for the energy you bring into a room. You can choose for it to be positive, or you can chose for it to be negative and cast a cloud  that will follow whoever it touches.
Don't worry. Be Happy.  Perhaps I missed the lesson when my brother took me to Dairy Queen. Naturally, what I took away from that experience was when you are stressed, eat ice cream.
Like Bobby McFerrin said, in every life you have some trouble, when you worry you make it double, or  in my case quintuple.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bustin' Balls

I never thought of myself as controlling, despite my OCD diagnosis. My issue is obsessing over certain thoughts, not obsessively controlling other people. I always have thought that diagnosis went a little overboard, however, the amount of time I spent thinking about it probably proves it is accurate. It is kind of hard to control people if they don't listen to you.  So I have found creative ways to subliminally implement some sort of order in our household, because frankly, if I didn't do it....I shutter at the thought.
Two years ago I went to Australia for 10 days and when I returned the house was spotless (on the surface), but soon I discovered the cupboard and the fridge were filled with things that STILL wouldn't have expired.  Picture the food pyramid flipped upside down, and that is what the mom-free menu looked like.
So in order to create a liveable environment, I frequently implement scheduling sessions where Don and I sit down and compare schedules. Thanks to icloud, this has made my life a bit easier. As long as we both check it..
This past weekend when I was finished adding everyone's events I discovered that we will not have a free weekday evening until 2017.   Despite my planning, we didn't plan on that. Call me naive, but when we decided to have four babies, we (I) didn't think past the baby stage, followed by college. I seemed to have mentally blocked the formative years.
We had them close in age because I grew up the youngest by 7 years and I thought that sucked.  Hindsight is 20/20 eh?
The last time Parker told me he didn't have anyone to play with I quickly reminded him that I gave birth to not one but THREE additional playmates for him that live in our very home, so stop complaining.
Maybe my parents were right (I hate it when I say that) but they were in regards to spacing their kids. I still don't know if that was intentional, or if I was an "oops" but I choose to think it was the first one.
Now that we have a 9, 7, 5 and 2 year old they all have activities.  And not even serious ones like travel teams, just soccer, speech therapy,karate, football, dog training, piano and swimming.
Sometimes I hear them complaining that they don't want to go to something, usually after I have just paid for it. I don't want them to be quitters, but sometimes I secretly do.  I don't know how many more practices I can sit through before I stab a fork in my leg. Yesterday I had to listen to two women discussing the personalities of their numerous cats. Isn't  it necessary to be a person, to have a personality? It took all I had to not turn around and scream, your cat is witty? Really? Your cat has quick wit?
I don't want to meet new "mom" friends. It sounds harsh, but after working all day, eating a cold dinner in the car and sitting for an hour plus in a sweaty dojo, I am really not in the mood to discuss how many teeth your child has lost.
In order to make all of these things work there must be some sort of control.  As the boys get older I am starting to realize that either I need to loosen the grip on my rope, or someone is going to get strangled. 
Parker came downstairs wearing a button down shirt, shorts, Hunter boots and his hair spiked in a faux hawk.  Clearly this was not the outfit I had laid out for him.  Yes, you read that right. I lay out their clothes every single night, in the order they will put it on. I also lay out their pajamas.  I asked Parker why he was wearing that, and he said it was because "he wanted to".  THE NERVE!!!
Following this Jack took the vitamin off of the spoon I had set for breakfast and threw it in the trash.  This was after I was told by Finegan to please stop saying "night night" because it makes him feel like a baby.  And the icing on the cake was this morning when I discovered a stash of  candy wrappers on my husbands passenger side seat.  It was my breaking point. Maybe I am too controlling to the point that they have to hide things from me.  No grown man should eat THAT amount of candy, but if he chooses to have a cardiac arrest due to a sugar overdose then who am I to stop him? When confronted, he said what seems to be something he says often in a joking/serious way. "Stop busting my balls." What the heck does that mean anyway?  His balls are the last thing I would want to bust.
As trivial as it sounds, it really bothered me. All of those things. Things I have been doing for 9 years.  Things I started doing to show that I love them. Things that I thought were helpful were actually turning harmful.  How is Parker going to figure out that a flannel shirt and rain boots are too warm for summer if he doesn't wear it outside? How will Jack know what its like to get sick and cough up a lung unless he experiences it and sees the importance of taking his vitamins? And how will Fin recognize that my "night night" makes him feel comfort rather than a baby? Ok, I admit, the "night, night" is more for me.
If I want to raise confident boys I need to have confidence in them.
These are trivial decisions but with time will morph into something significant.  Like, what college to go to, whether or not to drink and drive or God forbid choosing a significant other.
Being indecisive leads to feeling miserable.  Unless of course, you are my husband, who was extremely confident in his decision to eat 6 reeses peanut butter cups in one sitting, and ended up being miserable all on his own.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Week of Saturdays

My husband and I have our summers off.  It sounds dreamy doesn't it?  It does to me too ten months out of the year.  During those ten months I think of everything I would like to do in the summer. The list includes, re-organize the entire house, write a book, cook, go on several field trips to enlighten our sons,  and to do at least one project from Pinterest. So far the only thing we have managed to do was a short field trip to my brother's house where the only education was how to scream explicatives when lighting off explosives (like their father). The last thing I expected to explain to a four year old was what an ass-cap was.  Come to think of it, I don't even know.
Another educational moment came when we had to explain why our puppy was getting neutered. I have never seen more empathy exude from my sons than when they learned that Wally would be having his balls removed.  I have had major surgery where they dug into my abdomen to yank out a live baby, and when I got home they wondered why I wasn't making them pancakes. They didn't let Wally lift a paw.  Inevitably, this was a nice segue into the statement that if boys couldn't have babies or puppies why it was necessary to remove his private parts. Which is a true statement, but trying to explain how was just too much to wrap my mind around. Plus, as my oldest pointed out, if he did get a girl dog pregnant, she isn't our dog so it wouldn't be our problem. I must make a note to revisit this topic when they are in high school.
I have a couple of weeks left and in a last ditch effort I am trying to make the most of my summer.  I have been making lists for each day so that we don't find ourselves at 11:30 in the morning saying "But I thought you fed them breakfast?"
The list included chores as well as fun adventures such as "take a walk".  Much to my surprise it hasn't been as accepted as I had hoped.  In fact, I think I'm the only one who has been following this list anyway. That was until yesterday when Don noticed an appointment to go see Magic Mike with girlfriends.   He explained that I would freak out if he called all of his buddies to go see a movie about girl strippers.   I think once he said it he knew that this was going to cause a minor outburst.
"Excuse me?" I said.  What he seemed to have overlooked, is that he is going to his younger brother's BACHELOR PARTY in a week.  I explained that although I'm going to a fictional story with male actors, (some of which have been classically trained by the way) about male strippers,  I will only be paying $6 for my ticket where last time I checked (which was never) lap dances don't have a matinee rate and I'm going to go out on a limb and say they are NOT classically trained. And while on the subject, I decided to express my disgust that our hard earned money was going to end up in some girls underwear.  It was then he decided to share that they don't wear underwear.
That is an image I didn't need and it didn't really help Don's argument anyway.
Before this summer is over we were determined to have a date night.  Date nights sound good in theory and from what I understand are crucial for a healthy marriage and we obviously needed that (see above argument). It always seems fun until the night actually rolls around.  I'm standing in the bathroom trying to dry my hair in a steamy room because  Don got to take a shower first.  The humidity does not help my attempt to un frizz my hair. Plus the mirror is foggy and I have a two year old trying to brush his teeth standing in front of me. Not only that,  we don't want to spend money because we will be paying our babysitter at least $50. We try and avoid eating dinner out and because of this, we decided to drink our dinner instead.  When its time for us to leave,  I say a little prayer for the babysitter as I sneak out the door. She is left with 4 over excited boys, and 2 dogs wearing e- collars (or better known as cones).
We try and make a point to not talk about our children on our dates, its like talking about work and nobody wants to talk about that when you are trying to relax and have fun.  Speaking of fun, I wanted play an honesty game and asked Don to tell me honestly if I ever do things that annoy him . If you ever think this game is a good idea, let me tell you first hand its not.   I just thought he would say a few little things, like the way I load the dishwasher, and it would give me the opportunity to say something like, how I he avoids laundry like the plague. But the conversation took a wrong turn and he told me some things that were honest, but after a few drinks really hurt my feelings.  For example, that I make healthy substitutions in every meal and that some of time it results in our meals tasting like cardboard.  Or that I never finish the books I start.  I was trying so hard to be the cool girl I was before I was his wife and so when Don mentioned he wanted to go to the Tilted Kilt, I agreed.  This is a girl who never stepped foot in a Hooters.  Now I found myself walking into a place where "T" is the special of the day and "A" is the vegetable.  Not only that, I was the only female. LITERALLY the only female in this establishment that didn't work there.   We sat at the bar and I ordered a beer.  Again trying to be the cool girlfriend.  "Kelly" was the bartender and she was on me like a bee to honey.   I think she found solace that Imaintained eye contact with, well, her eyes.  I did however look at her playboy tramp stamp when she turned around.
She had a playboy symbol with some kind of trellis around it and it got me to thinking, when Kelly told the tattoo artist that she wanted this, what was her motive?  I mean, real playboy bunnies get a diamond playboy necklace and they don't even scar their body with a tattoo that they can't even see.  Or did Kelly think that by having this tattoo that it would be the edge she needed to get her foot into the playboy mansion? This complex inner dialogue was saving me from watching one of the 400 televisions that had baseball on them.  I digress.
Perhapes it was the beer, Kelly or the fact that my Scottish heritage was being mocked by waitresses in infant kilts, but Don's comment about my cooking had been able to simmer and now I was mad.   This came as a complete shock to Don and he thought the guy next to me who had told me his life story had said something to bother me.  I just wanted to go.
Thankfully after so many years my husband knows how to get me out of a funk. He asked me if I wanted to take a dip. This is his cheesy way of asking if I want a dipped ice cream cone. I said no and he ignored me and took me right to McDonalds. By the time I was devouring my ice cream I had forgotten what he said and decided to not ask him if he thought I should get a tramp stamp.
When we got home the boys were fast asleep.  That in itself is worth the $60 we spent.
So this summer hasn't exactly gone the way I had planned it, but when I laid down that night with a killer headache ( I think Kelly roofied me) I got a little excited.  Excited that the next day was Saturday (ok, Wednesday) and we could sleep in, have a lazy morning and snuggle on the couch and do what we please.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Camp Pick Up!

What a long week it has been.  Its hard to explain how missing one child can set me off balance and shake the foundation of our entire home.   With Parker gone, we distracted ourselves with a short road trip to my brother's. Oscar stayed with my parents.  It was like a vacation, not having to run after a two year old for two days. I'm not exaggerating, if Oscar is out of our house he is on the go, and I am chasing him in stores, restaurants, malls and cemeteries, if he is not contained he is running for the hills. We spent our vacation laying by a pool eating good food and drinking good drinks.  Jack belly flopped out of a tree but made sure to scream "I'm Ooooo. kkkkkk on the way down." We let them drink soda and stay up until midnight.  I enjoyed myself but I could' t help but wish Parker was there.
The camp system had a feature that allowed you email your camper. I sent him a few emails (everyday), some a bit mushy due to the alcohol.  A friend of mine wants to invent a breathalyzer on any communication device to avoid embarrassing over indulgent emails and texts.   I only got a little too deep when I wrote , your bed is cold and your room is dark, the house isn't the same.. to a nine year old.
Eventually the pick up day came.  The night before I felt like a house guest was coming. I did all of his laundry, cleaned his room, made a cake, got food for his favorite dinner. I couldn't sleep and woke up early. If this is how I feel after a week of camp, I can't imagine what college is going to be like.  I always thought is was sad when women said that they were nothing without their kids. I never felt that I was a nobody before kids, and I'm certainly a somebody after kids, however this somebody was a pathetic shell of a mother who whined all day and yelled at her husband for letting their first born go to camp.
I wasn't that I just missed him, it was the circumstances that I left. If he would have shown any signs of enthusiasm to go its one thing, but when he is pleading with me to not leave him. Don and I have agreed to disagree on this subject. He said he never said that, but I said he didn't need to because his eyes said it for him.   At least he had a close friend with him.
I pulled up to the cabin at 8:45a.m. , the pick up time was 9. It was a ghost town, apparently they were eating breakfast.  I took that opportunity to go into the cabin and see what it looked like after a week of camp.  It looked like 15 nine and ten year olds plus 4 teenagers who didn't have their mothers cleaning up after them would keep their rooms. I will leave the gory details to your imagination.  I went to Parker's bunk.  His bed was made and his photo album was placed on a shelf.. next to about 4 or 5 skittles wrappers.  I got a letting choked up.  I noticed his friends bunk was empty and figured his parents had been early.   I decided to wait outside for him to arrive.  Another mother had showed up and I could tell she was as anxious as I was.  Her son's cabin came down first. She actually jumped up when she saw him and waved. Her son resisted the urge to run, and cooley sauntered over and gave her a long hug.  I took her as an example.
Parker had been along with these "guys" for a whole week and established his mojo, and I wasn't going to bust it by calling him peanut and picking him up.  I was going to go off of his cue as to how I greeted him.   A few more cabins came down the hill.  I was a mess of butterflies and excitement, kind of how I felt as I waited his birth, minus the killer contractions.   I saw a few familiar boys. I knew the boys in his cabin because they had posted pictures on Facebook of the group, none of which Parker was smiling I might add.
I saw a version of what my son looked like when I left him, except he was about 2 shades blonder, and 4 shades darker.  He saw me and ran towards me screaming "mama!" and almost knocked me down when he hugged me. I lost it.  I tried to hide my tears behind my sunglasses.  I hugged him as long as I could and then took an inventory of his appearance. His clothes were clean, his body...full of poison something and heat rash and I have never thought he looked better.  He said, "I had so much fun!"
The week long of worry was a waste of time.   We went to collect his belongings in  he cabin and he said goodbye to his new friends. The one he came with went home after the second day because he was homesick.  I couldn't believe it.  He was the reason we came to this camp! I felt bad for him, but felt even more proud that Parker stuck it out.
Getting out of camp is a long process, but it gave us time to talk. And by talk I mean ask him questions and getting one word answers.   He had money left over from his store account.  He only spent $26.  I was impressed until he told me that he only got sodas from the store and they were $1. 26 sodas in six days. His pride was that he got bit by a leech and the camp counselors had to burn it off. If that wasn't thrilling enough, he jumped over a snake pit, saw a frog that was bigger than his hand and caught a fish. He also swam, climbed a rock wall, went tubing, shot a rifle and bow and arrow (wait what?) and ate pizza for breakfast (again, what?)
The bottom line is that he had more fun then he has ever had and it didn't include any electronics whatsoever. More importantly, he found confidence in himself that allowed him to try new things and succeed at them only holding himself accountable for his success.  Something I wish I had the confidence to do more.
He told me he won the "coolest middle name award" which happens to be my maiden name. And that the kids in his camp called him by that name all week.  He said he tried to get his friend Joe to stay, but he missed home too much. I asked if he felt homesick and he said only when he thought of us, and so he decided to just not think of us at all.
When we got home he was thankfully for air conditioning and excited to see his dad and brothers. But, more excited to see his dogs.  He took a shower (my strong suggestion) and laid down on the couch.  He fell asleep until dinner, maybe it was lack of caffeine or just the comfort of being home.
As much as I think I need to take care of him, he proved to me that he is fully capable of taking care of himself, and if I think about it, that is what we have been striving for all along.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Camp drop off

A few months ago my oldest son asked me if he could go to camp.  I said no. I didn't even think about it, it just came out, "no".  He sulked a bit and walked away.  A few days later his friend Joe called and said he was going and Parker could be his bunk mate.  With this new knowledge Parker asked Don if he could go and he said yes, it just came out "yes".  Joe is a good friend of my son's but I also know that Joe is the youngest of three and has advanced street smarts when MY son isn't even allowed to cross the street, he is so smart about.  He also has a lot more freedom and the last time I picked Parker up from a playdate they were jumping from a tree house onto a trampoline which had a sprinkler under it. Not only that, this was an ancient trampoline from before my time with rusty springs that were exposed and don't think for a second there was a safety net around it. So when I think of Joe, safety is the last thing that comes to mind.
I made sure to share this info with Don as we whisper argued in bed.  We always whisper in bed even though the boys rooms are on a different floor. I'm even uncomfortable with THAT distance.  Don said he had always wanted to go to camp and his parents didn't let him (my mother-in-law has never looked so wise) and that I had spoken fondly of my camp time.
I guess I was around the same age when I went to the same camp that Parker wants to attend.  Sure I spoke highly of the camp fires and horse back riding, what I failed to mention is that I wore my bathing suit the majority of the time, didn't shower , slept with my camp counselor because I was afraid of the dark and pooped in the lake because I had held it so long for fear of pooping on the camp toilet.
Nope, I hadn't mentioned that.
I reluctantly agreed only because I didn't want to spoil a great time on account of my selfish need to tuck him in every night.   I spent a few days packing his suitcase. I packed an outfit for every day.  Underwear, shorts and a t-shirt ( in that order) tied with a string.  That way he matches and also, I know if he actually changed clothes because he has to untie the string.   PJ's, a couple flashlights, a photo album with pictures of us and his beloved chocolate labs. Bug spray, a body wash-shampoo-conditioner all in one and his stuffed rabbit.
We arrived and discovered that they didn't open the doors until exactly at 2 o'clock, the assigned drop off time.  Despite being on a lake in a very wooded area, we managed to stand for 30 minutes in the direct sunlight on the hottest day of the year.  Welcome to camp kid.
It was miserable.  I could feel the sweat dripping down my chest across my stomach which was stuck in knots.  I looked around.  A lot of little kids with their parents who seemed eager to drop their kids off and run. I on the other hand was plotting an escape with my son and didn't care about my husband. He was a rockstar there, it appeared that he had taught 75% of the campers at one time in their life and every other minute someone was screaming his name and he would give the same smile and wave, even if he knew them or not.  So naturally he thought this camp was awesome.
We were finally allowed in and by that time my shirt was completely stuck to my body and felt so pretty as I met the bubbly teen camp counselors.  I thought I would share that I was an alumni of this camp but realized it was 25 years ago, which is 10 years prior to their existence so I opted to keep my mouth shut.
Parker had been talking for weeks about some swimming test that campers do to assess their level. Yellow is beginner Blue is intermediate and Green is advanced. I think this a fantastic idea because once assessed they wear the color bracelet the entire time.  We walked down to the lake and as I saw the other swimmers doing backstroke, breaststroke and knew he was in trouble. He eased in to the same lake that only 25 years ago his mother pooped in. He did the first lap fine, but he has never even heard of backstroke. I saw him flailing and gasping for air screaming to the lifeguard. It was at that point she told him to stand up.  He didn't realize he could touch the bottom.  I knew this was bad. He had his stone face on which meant he is one crack away from a reluctant breakdown.  He didn't finish the test and returned to us with a yellow wristband which he has to sport the entire week screaming he sucks. He was devastated and couldn't fight back his tears. He may be our oldest, but without his younger brothers around he let his vulnerability show. This is not a good start.  We told him that it didn't mean anything and he argued that a rock could swim better than him, and honestly I had to agree.  I hugged my soaking sobbing son and wrapped him in a towel glaring at Don.  I mouthed "good idea ass hole" Ok, I didn't mouth ass hole, but he got my drift.
We took the long walk to the cabin where we were greeted by four young guys who god bless them,  are going to have quite a week.  I'm coddling my tearful son and I'm sure they could see the helicopter swirling over me and labeled me right away.  I didn't care if they thought I was a hover-mom, I was about to leave my first born in the care of these hormone raging non-maternal "kids".  The camp guy asked how the test went, how do you think it went Mr. Obvious?   Don was trying his best to make Parker feel better who had now declared that he didn't want to go to camp,  and wanted to go home.  Before I could say ok and run, Don was hugging him goodbye and grabbing my hand to go.  I tried my best to break free of his grip, but he is stronger and I gave one last hug to my poor baby whose eyes were now bigger than any puppies pleading with me to not subject him to this torture disguised as camp.
I looked across the lake where there are multi-million dollar homes and wondered if they would rent me a room with a view and a set of binoculars for a week.  As we walked up the hill to our car I had to fight every urge to turn around.  I think that is why Don was walking behind me.  I fought back tears.  We are paying a fortune to leave our son at something he doesn't want to do.    Before I left, I took a care package to the office to be delivered in two days.  Unfortunately one of the items was goggles.  Way to rub salt in the wound mother of the year.
Once we got in the car I kept saying on repeat that this was not a good idea. I stopped the car and said that my intuition was telling me that I needed to go back and pick him up and Don said my intuition had been suffocated by my mom-tuition and that he was going to be fine.  We took a wrong turn to get out and I again reminded Don that this was a sign.   As we got on the main road my ovaries where straining in their magnetic pull toward my baby.  It started to pour down rain.
"Oh great Don, our son will spend his first night away from home, in a torrential downpour which will lead to a tsunami and our son's cabin is right on the lake" TURN AROUND!"
Don was now trying to suppress a laugh as he continued to drive in the wrong direction, which was any direction that was not towards our son.  That made me even more mad and I told him that this was all his fault and we are causing serious damage by abandoning our son. He said that damage pales in comparison to the damage our son would endure if his mommy ran back to his cabin and swaddled him in to a beach towel burrito and bolted.
I guess he has a point.  It has now been five hours.. I don't know how I'm going to last another 148 hours until we pick him up.
I can't call, he can't call me and now I'm wishing I had gotten him that  iphone he has been wanting since he was 7, again bad bad mommy.
This is a lesson for both of us I'm sure, I just haven't figured out which kind.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

72 hours for a 5 minute conversation

I have been attempting to have a conversation with my best friend for 72 hours.  It is not even what I would call a gripping  or even relevant conversation, its just a chat that prior to having kids I could have had done and over with in 20 minutes.   I am off of work for the summer. (Amen)  I have an outgoing message that reads:
            I will be out for June and July. I will return on August 1. I will not be checking my email.  
I have received not 1 or 2 but 10 emails from my boss asking questions that he needs answers to immediately.  Surely there must be a glitch in my out of office reply so I tested it. Within a second I have my strait forward message in my inbox. He is ignoring my side of the conversation, which in all honestly is how most of our interactions go anyway.
I have been off for almost 2 weeks and it has been anything but relaxing.  It feels like Saturday every day and that is not good for my psyche. I want to sleep in, I don't want to work out and I don't want to cook. I want to graze all day, stay up late and drink a bottle of wine.  It only took about 3 days to discover that wasn't going to work.
Back in January I thought it would be a good idea to schedule everyone's doctor appointments for June.  I would like to slap myself for that.  I have been to the doctor 4 times, had one child have a surgery, dental appointments and my dog is going to get neutered.   I tried to explain it to the boys.
"They cut his penis off?"
"No, but he won't be able to have puppies."
 "But he will still be able to pee right?"
"Yes! They don't cut his penis off they remove his balls."
"He is asleep, won't be in pain but he will need to relax for a couple days."
I discovered the one way to silence my 2 older boys is to talk about castration.   Later that day Fin asked me if Wally's balls were gone would he still be able to love?  Ahh, the age old question, similar to, if a tree falls in the woods.... I guess guys really do think (and love) with their penises.
Between baseball games, karate and other non-interesting things I tried to give my friend a call because she has a new love interest.  Do you know how exciting that is for me? I live vicariously through anyone who dates. It has been so long since I was in that world and it fascinates me.  So as you can imagine I want to know details.
I always call her in-route to another event. I know I shouldn't talk and drive, but I am careful and its better than texting.  By the time I get to the good part, either someone in the back has hit someone or something has been thrown out the window.  I sometimes think they run out of things to argue about so all I hear is "NO!" "YES!""NOOOOO!" "YES!""NOOOOOOO!" "YES!" back and forth until I am forced to end the 30 second conversation. Talking and driving is not going to kill me, its driving with kids that will.
On the way back from the pool the other day I was so tired of the constant back and forth nonsense that I pulled over and screamed at them.  SCREAMED.  I had reached my boiling point.  As much as I scream on the inside, I very rarely, if ever, let it actually become audible.  I was hot, tired, hungry and just sick of it. I just howled " STOP IT!" The looks on their faces were as if I had somehow morphed into my husband. It freaked them out and I saw my 7 year olds bottom lip start to quiver. Usually this would make me feel bad, but in this case it made me feel victorious.  That was, until I realized that I had pulled over into someones yard who also happened to be doing some planting and was now watching me.   She must have sensed the primal tone in my cry because she didn't look at me with disgust, but a more empathic look.  She knew I was exerting my alpha status in my pack and respected that.
 Rather than talk, I turned up the radio and pulled away, even if they did say something I couldn't hear it.  When I did turn the radio down because of a commercial, I heard a sheepish "mommy" and I turned it right back up. I was closed for business.
That was obviously not the time to pick up on the conversation with my friend.  I really wanted to know more about this guys abs. I know, it sounds so petty, especially when I have four mouthes to feed and no clue what to feed them, but at this given moment that is all I cared about.
When we got home the three older ones each apologized to me as that got out of the car, and then I was overcome with tremendous guilt and the realization that I have probably caused permeant ear damage , not to mention longterm psychological distress and I suck as a mom. Ok, guilt pizza and ice cream sundaes for dinner tonight
In entering the house all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and stare at Bubble Guppies, Oscar's favorite show and coincidently mine too.  And THAT is a perfect example that contact with the outside world is so crucial to my existence.
The next day, she was able to reach me and I got the next 3 minutes of the story before I had to watch my son, who was up to bat at baseball.  The one thing I won't be is the parent who talks on their phone during games.  That is just rude to everyone who has to listen and I wouldn't be able to concentrate, so that deletes 2.5 hours of talk time.
On the way home I called her and  learned of what he wrote to her in his recent text.
Flirting is an ancient language form that seems to have died in my world. It might as well be in Latin.  I just don't remember what it was like and by God I want to KNOW what he texted her at 11 p.m on a school night! And further more, back when I was flirting, texting wasn't even invented yet.
But after several failed attempts that have spanned over 72 hours I have just given up.  I know it was a stretch for me to think that an actual conversation was even possible. Its not like the good old days when I was at work and had hours of time to talk. Now I'm deep in the trenches and not sure if I will ever be coming out alive.
For all I know, she could move on to get married and start their saga together and I will still be stuck on the pilot episode, watching late at night and pausing my dvr every minute because someone needs a drink, needs a hug, needs to poop or my favorite," I need to tell you something REALLY important...my rabbit, today, um, she, um.. I forgot"
Like a vampire needs blood, I need girl time.  My mind craves conversations about stupid reality tv and deep conversations about what guys really mean when they say, " I owe you one".  
Not that all girl time is filled with unimportant jargon, but sometimes that is the only language that I seem to understand.
My girlfriend sensed my battle cry and she is doing what only a good friend would do.  Knowing my husband will be out of town this weekend and she is going to take a 10 hour road trip to visit.  That way, even if our conversation takes a little longer and we veer off topic 40 times, I will be able to finish this damn conversation.  I may even get to hear what she texted back.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Run for your life

Our city has an annual race every June.  I first became aware of it twelve years ago when I was planning our wedding. In short, the weekend we wanted to have our wedding was the same weekend of the race and therefore we were unable to.
That was the first time I cursed this race.
We ended up getting married the following weekend. I had blocked the race out of my mind.  Until we got our first house.  On our first weekend in June I discovered early one Saturday morning that we were prisoners in our own home because this race ran right by our house. As early as 7 in the morning I could hear cheering. This was before children, when 7 a.m. was considered early.
That was the second time I cursed this damn race.
The following year I had a 3 month old and since we weren't sleeping in, we sat outside and watched as the runners went by. I ate my husband's famous french toast and watched as insanely fit people ran by our house.  I looked down at my puffy jelly donut belly and for the third time I cursed this stupid race.
I watched this event 3 more times and finally 12 years from learning about it, I decided to participate.

I had seen an advertisement in January about it and decided that 6 months was enough time for me to train for it.  I mentioned it to Don.                          I added this big long space to represent what he said (nothing). After carefully choosing his words, he said, "but you hate to run, and come to think of it, you hate that race".  Not exactly the support I was looking for, but I took it as a challenge and began training the next day.  By the following week I had quit.  My husband is right.  I loath running. I think it has to do with years of playing soccer.  When we had to run, it was at practice, and it was usually because a teammate (not me of course) running her sassy mouth to the coach.  It was punishment and so began my hatred or better yet, fear of running.

I still vowed to do it and focused my daily workouts on anything but running.  I can't even look a treadmill in the eye without getting ill.
I asked myself why I wanted to do this if it was causing me such anxiety? I talked to anyone and everyone about it, and frankly, I think my friends and family were tired of hearing about it.   I had their support and if anyone knows me, they know that once I commit to something , there is no stopping me.  I told my oldest son.
"Do you win anything?"
"No, well the winner does."
"Are you going to win?"
He gave me a look of "then why run it?" and moved on.
Again, why do I want run it? I learned it was because I knew it was a big challenge for me.  Deep down I wanted to discover a love of running, although that may be a bit lofty.  I didn't think I could give birth, but I did that. I need goals and I need to push myself in order to make my life worth living. I find that every day I do the same thing, I leave my house at the same time, drive to the same places and have the exact same conversations along the way. Before I know it, days become years and I realize that another year has passed of the exact same thing. This was a new focus and a very big step out of my comfort zone. It made my life a bit more exciting.
The day finally came. The race started at 7:15 and I arrived about an hour early. I had made a new playlist filled with motivational songs, like Marlyn Manson, Rage against the machine, Cake and last but not least, System of a Down, just your typical pick me up music.
Since the race runs through my neighborhood, (they switched the route away from our house a few years ago) They said they got some angry letters from a resident. (totally kidding.)  But the route takes us to the street behind our house.
It was a very cold morning. I had my number pinned to my shirt and found comfort in a local cafe which also happens to specialize in chocolate.   I didn't know where else to go so I gravitated to my comfort zone, chocolate. I could see the runners getting ready. You could tell which race one was doing by the color of the number pinned on their shirt.  5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon and marathon.  The thought crept into my mind "what if I go the wrong way and end up with the marathoners?" I decided to walk off my nervous energy. I went to the hallway and paced, then decided to return to the cafe.  I was watching a group of 1/2 marathons doing high knees in the parking lot and failed to watch where I was going and walked face first into the glass door. I felt the glass cool on my face. I glanced around, stunned hoping nobody saw it, but the loud bang of my knee hitting the glass drew a crowd.  I. Was. Humiliated.  I made some joke about needing coffee and decided it was a good time to go outside. I could hear the people letting out their laughter when they thought I was out of ear shot. Very polite of them,  but if I had been in their shoes I don't know if I could have contained my gut wrenching laughter.
I searched for a familiar face.  I can't go anywhere in this town without seeing someone I know, but apparently everyone I know doesn't run races.  Finally I saw a friend and stood with her until we were called to the start line. I tried to tell her that I suck at running but she stopped me in my verbal assault of myself and told me I was going to do fine.
I lined myself up in the middle of the crowd, listened to a horrific version of the National Anthem, the kind that gets all flashy in the middle. I took that as a sign to turn on my iPod.  The heavy beat of Maryln Manson violated my ears " The beautiful people, the beautiful people, The beautiful people, the beautiful people" And then the crowd started moving.  I had made a decision to go at my own pace, not push it, so that I need to walk, but to get into a nice stride.  I found my pace and stuck to it. I was getting passed by kids, fat people, old people and an amputee, but it didn't stop me, I just kept going.  At one point in the race, I was at the top of a hill, running down. It looked like a sea of heads making waves. It was beautiful. It was such a sight that it gave me goosebumps and I got a little teary eyed, that I was really doing it.  And I was fine. I guess all the exercising and soccer I have been doing, actually prepared me and I was surprised that I didn't hurt.  Towards the middle of the race there is a steep hill.  I watched as one of the over zealous fat women who had passed me earlier was vomiting on the side of the road.  The old people were walking and the amputee, well, she was still way way way ahead of me.  At the top of the hill is my neighborhood. I knew that my husband and four sons would be waiting on the corner, possibly holding a sign that would read " Go Mommy!" at the top so I kept going. I was worried that I would cry at the sight of it, so I tried to hold back my tears and focus on getting up the hill.  I approached our corner, and I could see, nobody, No husband, no kids and no sign.   I wondered if they were further down the street and kept going. Nope they weren't.
Apparently my husband timed it in thinking that I would be running a 20 minute mile.  Um.  In other words, they missed me by about 20 minutes. I discovered that I didn't need their or anyone else's
validation. This was completely all about me. When was the last time I could say that? I don't even remember it has been so long.
As I finished mile two and started the final mile I felt a high. A high that consisted of complete self love  for pushing myself and for knowing that I was going to finish without problem.  The race finished at the 50 yard line of the Notre Dame football stadium.  I saw walkers deciding to push themselves just to finish strong as we approached the tunnel.  My iPod started playing Moby, we are all made of stars, and I patted myself for timing it just right.  I easily glided across. the finish line.
I returned home to a 4 year old who was very worried that they missed me and that I had died.  But thankfully I hadn't. Don was upset he missed me and usually I would have been upset too, but I didn't run it so that people could see me, or to get a great time or place in the top, 2000. I ran just to prove to myself that I am just at the start of my life race, and no where near the end.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Magic Camp

Summer is just around the corner.  It must be a very large corner because I have been ready for about 3 months now.  Don and I are fortunate enough to be home in the summer. I often day dream about our summer days, especially on a day like today. The very first thing that my boss said to me as I walked in the door was " I have melanoma, come look at this mole!"  I prayed that it is in a place that is typically not covered by clothes and I thought of about 400,000 other things I would have preferred to look at.  Begrudgingly I abbliged and if that wasn't enough, he google imaged cancerous mole and showed me.  I guess I can add that to my list of things you should never google image, right under "rash".
As I try un-see what I have just seen, I make my way into my office.  My blackberry chimed a reminder entitled "Magic Camp".  I knew my mind would subconsciously suppress the reminder and that why I added it to my calendar.  As much as we love summer, experience has taught us that after about 5 days of family bliss we will be wanting the boys to get out of the house.  That is why some genius invented summer camps.  There are several local camps. science camp, wilderness camp, soccer camp, golf camp, baseball camp. But my son doesn't want any of those. He wants Magic Camp. * note I am
jazz-hands-ing in sarcasm whenever I say it.  If he didn't look exactly like my husband I would think he was switched at birth.  I don't have anything against magicians really, but when I think of one, I recall waiting for a table at the Outback Steakhouse and one coming over to pull a hanky from his wand..or maybe that was a clown? I digress.
So I go to the website for the local Magic camp. It is 5 days a week for one week from 8- 1.  That is an awful lot of card tricks. And if that info wasn't enough, it shows a picture of previous magic camp attendees. Magic Alumnus if you will.  I know all kids are unique and special and all that, but these two boys are about 57 pounds and 5 feet tall. As pale as a white rabbits and wearing tiedye.  I have a hard enough time getting Fin out of the basement as it is. This may be the slippery slope deep into never-get -a-date-ville, and if that is the case, he WILL live in my basement forever.   As I perused the website I discovered that the minimum age is 8, Finegan is 7. Eureka!  I decide to email the guy just to be sure.  I don't know if its a magic trick, but I got the email returned instantly. Undeliverable.  That means I have to call him. Ugh. Thankfully I got an answering machine.
Hello you have reached the bla bla residence and also STEEEVVEEE the MAAGGICIAN! Please leave a message.  Of course his name is Steve.  Other than David Copperfield and Criss Angel I think all magicians are named Steve.  And come to think of it, David and Criss don't even call themselves magicians anymore, they are "mind freaks". I leave a message and hope I said my number too fast.  I didn't. He calls back while I'm in the shower and Don answers.
Don seems to miss "major issues" that are going on in our family.  I know I have told him the age dilemma crisis regarding magic camp, but its seems that he put on his autopilot face and stored way way back somewhere in his brain. Right next to a few other key things that make our family function.  I actually said this very sentence to him this morning,
" If I just decided to take a break from my daily house hold duties we would have starving, dirty, rabidness naked kids running through the house" I was referring to the fact that for the past few days I have been the only person who has grocery shopped, planned meals,  cooked, cleaned, did laundry and got our dog immunized.  But who is keeping track right?
So when the person on the other end of the phone line said, hello this is Steve the magician returning your call, Don was dumfounded and was waiting for the punchline.
Cue Don entering the bathroom to interrupt my glorious shower with "Did you call a magician?"  I wanted to say yes, so I could magically turn you into a husband who cares!  But I didn't. I knew he was holding the phone and that our conversation could be heard so I gave him the look. The look that says
 HELLO?  Have you not overheard our son's monologue that has been on a loop that goes a little like this, (Have you called the magician? Have you called the magician? Have you called the magician?")
Women underestimate how well we communicate with our eyes.  It was then that Don awakened from his coma and started talking to the magician and thankfully left the bathroom so I could finish my shower.
 Two minutes later , cue Don entering the bathroom AGAIN. He said that the magician had agreed to let him attend the camp even though he is 7 only if Don could vouch that he is serious about magic.  Don confidently did and now our son is on the list, and a very short list I'm sure.