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Friday, January 27, 2012

Chicka the China the Chinese Chicken

Disgust. Anguish. Shock. Dismay. Agony.  These are all emotions that my boys have expressed when learning what we are having for dinner. That doesn't stop them from eating it however. Each night when they learn that they are not going to be having pizza or macaroni and cheese its as if I have taken the wind out of their sails,  ruined not only their day but their life.  Like any good mother, I don't enjoy seeing my children experience such heartbreak so I decided to publicly post our dinner menu for the week. That way they could air their complaints and begin to face the harsh reality that we will be having Chinese Chicken on Sunday.  My son recently complained to me that I was a health nut. I asked what he thought a health nut was. "Someone who doesn't eat junk food and doesn't pack Doritos in my lunch" Yep. I guess I am a health nut, but what he doesn't know is I eat ice cream most every night that has been conveniently  hidden under the frozen Brussels sprouts after he is in bed.  I'm not closet eating, I just don't want to share it. He said that his friend Kaden always has good lunches. Like, ho ho's, chips and kool-aid. I asked if his friend was tubby, and by the look on his face I knew he was. I'm not only a mom but I'm psychic too.
In the boys opinion they have lost in the parental lottery when it comes to food. My husband may also feel that way too.  I prepare healthy meals that always have a vegetable, protein and healthy carb.  I flourish the name of the meals like "Chinese Chicken" when the only thing that makes it Chinese is the soy sauce I put on their brown rice which is buried under the steamed broccoli and chicken.   I have gotten better though and have been incorporating an enticing dessert only to bribe them to finish. But little do they know its also healthy. Parfaits, apple crisp..you get the idea.
As long as I am cooking thier meals they are going to be healthy, and by the looks of their attendance record, they are too.
My 4 year old, Jack, thought he had found an out to this prison of "gross" dinners. He told me he was a veggie-tarian.  I asked him what that was and he explained that he won't eat animals. So he can only eat pasta, cookies and ice cream. So for clarification purposes I reminded him that veggie-tarians eat VEGETABLES and asked him if he was a vegan. " What is a vegan?" Well, a vegan doesn't eat anything from an animal, milk, eggs or cheese. I think I shot myself in the foot with this one because he seemed appalled when he learned that milk comes from a cows utter. This traumatized him and reminded me of when my brother told me I was eating a baby cow when I had a mouth full of veil.   To this day, I have never eaten another piece a veil.
Jack quickly decided that he would stomach the Salmon Asparagus Tuesday in order to not eat only vegetables for all eternity and this morning he had oatmeal with milk, so I guess he got over the thought that a milk is a cow's pee. But he did say he would only eat the chicken that is round and not the animal kind.  I let it go to not repeat the veil trauma.
My crusade may be a bit selfish or better yet time saving. Don and I have agreed that we will never make more then one dinner per night. Because we want to eat adult food and we are the ones that shop for the food and prepare it, I feel that I  have earned the right to be the Commander of consumption.I will over look the treason that I find in the form on McDonald's wrappers in Don's car.  We are a united front..or at least appear to be.
Perhaps this will backfire.  Being the youngest I grew up in the car and we had a lot of fast food dinners on the go. Thankfully I was athletic, but if I wasn't I could see where it may have resulted in me looking like Natalie from the Facts of Life.  As an adult, I decided to take the opposite approach.  My best friend was brought up on carob rather than chocolate and rebelled when she was in high school. In an afternoon trip to the gas station one day after school she picked up a chocolate milk, m&m's and a cookie just for the ride home.
I do allow my boys to indulge every once in awhile as a reward an to redeem a positive  approval rating.
We teach our kids what is right and wrong and it is just as important to teach them good from bad food. I ate well when they were inside of me, why would I stop wanting to when they are on the outside? All I want to do is provide the foundation for them so that they can grow up to be healthy men. And don't think the only reason I eat clean is to look good in jeans...although that is important, my greatest motivation is that I  want to be around to see them become men, even old men. 

So, when you see one of my boys eating a turkey sandwich with carrot sticks for lunch remember that their mom may be healthy, but is certainly not a nut...at least when it comes to food.

Monday, January 23, 2012

How did I get here?

The other day I zoned out. I don't know if it was complete sleep deprivation due to my recent obsession with the show Homeland and my decision to watch an entire season in 24 hours or the fact that a night has not gone by in 8 years that I have slept 6 hours in a row.  As I looked beside me I watched Don as he ate a bowl of ice cream.  It was as if the past decade had just flown by so quickly and I had abrupt realization of my current situation. My mind started wondering all sorts of things, but mostly how did I get here?

How did we meet at just the right moment?
How did we make it home on most nights?
How in the world did we plan a wedding?
How did I graduate college?
How did we manage to put useless gifts on our wedding registry?
How did we get a mortgage?
How did we end up in the midwest?
How did this living being get into my womb?
How did I become worthy enough to become a mom?
How did my skin (among other things) stretch that far?

How did my entire outlook on everything change when I met the person who had been kicking me for 9 months? 

How did I learn to sleep sitting up?
How did my boobs become an all night milk bar?

How did I learn to love the sound of baby snores?
How did the number 102.5 cause me to call a doctor in a panic?

How did we survive the first 3 months?
How did all my clothes shrink?
How did I become a homebody?
How did my shoe size go up 2 sizes?

How did a fruit loop get in the tub?
How did crayons get in the heating vent?
How did the dog get a play-doe beret?
How did a sharpee get in the dryer?
How did a dvd get stuck in the piano?
How did I get so desensitized by poop?
How did I become over sensitized by any child in the news?
How did a superhero get in my slipper?
How did a puzzle piece get in the toaster?
How did a diaper get into my purse?

How did all the door knobs get so sticky?
How did we go through 8 gallons of milk last week?

How did I know to marry a guy that would morph into such a good daddy?
How did the liquor shelf become the formula/bottle shelf?
How did a paper full of scribbles become my prized possession?
How did I become ok with driving a minivan?
How did my lap become a hot spot?
How did my house seem empty when only 1 child is in it?

How did I get so lucky?
How did my heart get placed on the outside of my chest?

Within moments of these thoughts Don turned to me and asked me why I was staring it him. I just smiled and said " I just was going to ask you a question". Before I could tell him what it was he was getting me a bowl of ice cream.  And with that, my questions were answered. How did I get here? I just went with the flow, I didn't fight where my life was taking me.  There are times when I felt that things were happening that shouldn't have, but looking back a result of those things brought me right here.
My safe haven.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hoarders gives Mothers Hope.

Yesterday morning as we were getting ready to leave I noticed that the house was unusually quite. I could hear the faint noise of the ending credits of Yo Gabba Gabba and as if DJ Lance himself was summoning me to the kitchen I entered with caution.  There, I discovered that the baby had taken an entire bag of  Bob's Red Mill Flax seed and spread it along the floor. As I went to the garage to find a broom (unsuccessfully) I discovered I didn't need one. Like white on rice our lab had devoured every last seed.  I think he has been anticipating that opportunity for, well, a lifetime. He is a water dog after all, and we all know flax seeds are packed with Omega 3 fatty acids.  He exceeded the equivalent of an entire school of fish, actually, he ate a University of vertebrate.
I wish I could have warned myself of the result of his overindulgence but it was probably best that I didn't know.  It was just one of those days that I felt that our house must be on a fault line and slightly shifted causing everyone to spill everything.  I left the house a mess and closed our front curtain, just in case the mailman peeked inside.  When we are gone, I suspect the papers in our house mate and have clutter babies. Bowls are horny little buggers to and by the time the boys go to bed we have enough dirty bowls to fill a soup kitchen.
By 8 PM on any given school night you cannot see the wood on our dining room table. It is covered with crayons, superheros, permanent markers or as Jack calls them "kermit" markers. He also calls hand sanitizer "hannatizer" and we continue the facade so much that our other boys are unclear of its correct name, just because we can.
When I finally collapse on the couch, I turn on the TV. Don and I sit like zombies.  After 10+ years he has surrendered the remote to me and as a result he has become very familiar with the OWN and TLC networks with E! being a close third.
I turn to Hoarders. As much as I want to turn away, I cannot. We bond over our disgust and we openly judge these people. How can you not know your beloved cat has been so dead that it mummified itself underneath the pile of the drink carriers you have been saving.  Suddenly we look like neat freaks.  As I walk to the kitchen to get another glass of wine I am in awe of the fact that I have a clear path and I don't have to step over a pile of diapers or cat feces.  A good housekeeping point for me.  Next up is Supernanny.  I suspend my empathy just long enough to see a little boy launch a chicken nugget at his mother's face. Next a father who is allowing a girl to color on the walls and this is after they refused to eat anything other than fruit snacks. We give each other a glance as if to say "amateurs". Without this window into others homes we would feel like we were failing. Just the other night it occurred to me that the our i-son4 has evolved. He has built an immunity to discipline and at 21 months he couldn't care less if he is scolded for feeding the dog his lunch. I think he waits for us to see him, maintains eye contact and drops the broccoli right into Grahams mouth. I think I just realized that our dog eats healthier than we do. There are nights when my attempt to make healthy eatable meals fails and results in a dinner of hot dogs, green beans and pasta wheels.  But seeing these decelerated parents actually makes us feel good.
Hoarders is a show that with every episode fuels my self esteem and makes me feel like a modern day Clair Huxtable. I suppose these people are desperate for help and that is why they contact the show producers. I cannot deduce because I have actually contacted Supernanny. It was a low point when I had 3 boys under the age of 4. And guess what? They called me back. But when I told Don he was violently opposed to inviting strangers into our home to film our parental short comings. Especially since he is a teacher and felt that if it was exposed that he couldn't control his own kids how could parents have confidence in his teaching their own plus an additional 29 kids?
Reality tv is as real as a real housewife's marriage, and not any more realistic than friends or strangers putting on appearances or worse, facebook that their homes are harmonic.  What you don't see is the effort that goes on to make it look like their home is organized and their kids love each other.  There is a reason that our Christmas card this year didn't feature all 4 boys sitting in a row smiling. It wasn't an artistic choice, it was because it was not possible. Instead I took an action shot of them walking down a hill (fun!) and individual shots. What you didn't see is Don losing his temper because someone was tattling, Parker doing his fake smile where he squints his eyes and shows his teeth, Fin pinching Jack, Jack crossing his eyes and Oscar running for the hills. ( hence the hill shot) and me tearful asking if it was too much to ask for just one good photo.
Once in awhile its just nice to feel that we aren't doing so bad, even if it takes a bratty kid chucking a chicken nugget or a 40 year old cat woman who hoards Q tips.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A soft place to fall.

As far back as I can remember I have been a sounding board.  By this, I mean that friends, family and even strangers confide in me.  I clearly remember being in preschool when the boy sitting next to me spilled his gut over the anguish he was feeling about a fellow student's resistance to share any other crayon then the white one.  We all knew that the white crayon didn't work, and it hurt his feelings.  I listened, and traded my crayon with his and made a nice invisible drawing on white paper.  In grade school I needed tutoring and by the end of the hour, I knew more than I cared to about the teacher including her spouses name and husband's daily ritual of leaving the shampoo lid open in the shower.
Cyber space isn't big enough for all the information I have soaked up in my sponge.  My problem is, is that I cannot just wring out everything I have heard.  When I was 13  a my "boyfriend" told me that he loved my eyes because they reminded him of  big brown cozy sofas.  I think he was right, and so comfortable that people see them and want to take a load off on my face. And they do.  It can range from useless information from the checkout person, to a deeply personal crisis from the Starbucks lady.  My mother has told me it is a gift, but if that is the case, there are days I would like to return it.  Is there a group for over-empathic's? If not, I may start one, but then again we may never leave the church basement.
Just today (and its only noon) I have had an email therapy session with a friend, heard about a my son's pre-school teacher's struggle with dyslexia, my mom's distress over her friend who is old and dying and her kids won't care for her, (my mom also needed cell phone assistance to set her phone to vibrate). An exhausted friend sought "veteran" mother advice because her son won't sleep through the night.  A co-worker who was at the receiving end of our bosses wrath needed reassurance that he did not deserve it. The lady who walked in ahead of me this morning shared her distain for the sidewalk salt and lastly I listened to a friend who just two months ago lost her 11 year old daughter.
This is where my "gift" becomes more of a curse. I don't even know if I would have called her a friend prior to this conversation.  She is a woman who works at a place that I get coffee everyday. She just returned from a bereavement leave.  I cautiously approached her to acknowledge that she was back and that I was happy to see her.  There was a brief moment when I was teetering on the next question. Her eyes seemed to be pleading with me. So rather then avoiding a huge elephant in the room, I asked the dumbest question I could. "How are you doing?"  What a stupid question.  Obviously she couldn't answer me and asked if we could go talk somewhere.  Prior to this I had only spoken to her for 5 minutes at the most. I followed as she lead me to a table.  Like some people view men who have been prisoners of war and returned, I view her as someone who is experiencing a hell on Earth, which is also my biggest fear. There is a sick curiosity that I need to know how she is still surviving, because she has been to a place that I don't believe I could go and come back alive.  As she was sharing how angry she was I could feel her pain.  I wanted to cry too, but I felt that I had to be a sponge and absorb her anguish, in hopes it may give her some reprieve, even just for a moment. I had a flashback of the way I felt when I thought I lost Jack and how the hug of a neighbor had made me feel a brief solace. That was nothing like this and I soon realized that there was nothing I could say that would give her any relief and that my purpose was just to listen. I lost track of time and 30 minutes had passed, it would have gone on but I told her I needed to go back to my office. She understood and I left, now with the elephant that was in the room, sitting on my chest.  I felt guilty that I would get to go home and hug my boys and she couldn't.
What do you say to someone who has lost a child? I thought back to another friend who had a lost a son at an early age.  He was an adorable toddler when he died in an accident.  I remember avoiding her because seeing her caused me so much pain. At one point I had pulled the car over and sobbed because I couldn't imagine how she was feeling, especially because my first son hadn't been born yet.   Finally, after several years we sat down and talked.  She told me that she knew I had been distant. She moves through life now on a day to day basis, has faith that God would not give her more than she could handle, and she is certain she could not handle losing another child.  Her strength was admirable and I think of her as a solider also, but fighting extreme despondency that could never be measured with rank.
I didn't want to be distant this time, selfish because the mere thought of losing a child made me feel uncomfortable. Like the hug from my neighbor, nothing was spoken but standing heart to heart I knew she understood. And that is the simple reality.  There are no words that exist that could console someone dealing with such a tragedy and there is no reason to try and find them. Its far better to just be there and listen.
Sometimes gifts don't fit, or you don't like them, but in my case some people just need a soft place to fall and I will offer my cozy brown sofas any time.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Purging out the busy body

The great thing about my job is that I get a week or more off for Christmas. I rounded it up to two weeks because I found it useless to go to work when there was nothing for me to do but play cards with my co-workers... and I don't play cards so I would be double-y useless.   Don is a teacher so he had the time off too. So here we are two weeks of togetherness, with nowhere to go. I even cancelled piano lessons, Karate and the cleaning lady (I kind of regret the last one) and we settled in for a nice time at home.  
What I realized in the first couple of days is that I do not know how to 
a. relax and 
b. be with my boys.
It sounds terrible but it is true.  When you go from spending 5 1/2 waking hours with them to 12+ waking hours with them you learn a lot about each other. Things that you should know, but don't.   Don and I got some kind of crazy bug that caused us to organize everything in the house.  And I mean everything. Purging old clothes, toys and finding the long lost elephant puzzle piece that we had been missing for five years.  Its hard not to be a bit nostalgic when going through boxes from when we moved here from California (11 years ago) and when we were childless. It took hours to go through all of our possessions.  The result however is an ├╝ber- organized home that we can find everything.  Don took on the hallway closet, the closet that housed towels, t.p and pretty much everything else. 
He was flustered at the boxes and boxes of things I "have for my vagina" as he so bluntly put it. "Stop buying these things!, we have enough to last you through menopause!" Little does he know. I must give him a break, being one of 3 brothers with no sisters, going to a military high school and then joining a fraternity, he hasn't had much exposure to menstruation. But, he did organize the boxes by flow, and I'm proud of him for that.
Once the house was organized I still had the problem of relaxing.  When you are on the go all the time, its just so hard to sit.- Just as I wrote that I got up and made an Americano. ( We finally found the Starbucks espresso pods we had been looking for). 
In the time of this vacation, we watching a movie every single night and played a board game, as a family.  I cannot begin to express the complete feeling of wholeness these simple activities have given me.  It occurred to me that we have never spent this amount of concentrated time at home together as a family..ever.  We usually go to Florida to visit Don's family or Illinois to visit my brother's family. But after last years road trip we needed an entire year brake. 
I discovered that I take really good care of the boys but in doing that, I have lost who I'm taking care of.  Our oldest is changing, and I know its just a matter of time before he learns about the two S's. Santa and Sex.  I don't know which one I dread explaining more.  He actually likes to do things for himself, if I would just let him.  Our 2nd son is very smart, but emotionally still just a 7 year old and can take losing a game of Uno as a personal attack on his character.  Our 3rd is following everything that they do, but can hold his own in creating imovie's. They all find the word "ass" to be very funny and say things like, " I like to feed my big fat ass hay"  They learned that word, believe it or not, from church. I also came out of a fog and realized that my husband can still make me laugh hysterically, when I listen to him.   Lastly is the baby.  I haven't spent this much time with him since he was nursing.  We had been concerned that he wasn't talking, that he was still drinking from a bottle and that he wasn't sleeping well at night.   We even contacted an outside therapist to address the speech issues. By the end of this vacation, he is now saying several words, drinking from a cup and sleeping through the night, and on many occasions, singing.  Maybe our presence and attention is what he was lacking. And I think I had missed him just as much. For a baby, he can be pretty funny, he must take after his daddy. 
Granted, I have eaten more than my weight in chocolate and could be found in my pajama's at noon. I watched the Today show until the end every day. ( That's four hours folks)  I also learned that the boys eat and eat and eat. And after days of eating junk they craved fruit and even made me a fruit salad (hint hint) They called me out by saying things like, " I haven't seen you wearing your work out shoes lately" That is the only way they know I work out because they are asleep and when they wake up, they see that I have my Nike's on. 
In all the organizing that I did, I discovered what we have and how much stuff we don't need. Its actually quite alarming when you discover that you are contributing to the epidemic of hoarding.  Tomorrow I go back to work.  Its something that needs to be done, and I'm sure I will fall into the same pattern of the non-stop busy body. 

If I learned anything, its that I actually have the capability of not doing a thing, and can add that to my growing list of talents. More importantly, after days of going through stuff, it actually took away from what we really do have. If our home burned to the ground I can honestly say that would still feel like I possess everything.  
That, and I can play a pretty mean game of Headbands.