Tuesday, December 30, 2008
It was challenging in that all, yes all, my guys were sick. Strep throat, flu, and gout all conspired to keep my active family down for the count. I have remained the lone bastion of health in the midst of all the tissues, vicks and antibiotics. It is possible for humans to subsist on jello, milkshakes, ginger ale and juice.
It was funny in the memorable moments. My son, running about like a loon when spying his holiday loot under the tree. My toddler, running around like a loon because, well, it's what he always does. My father and husband looking forward to getting their welding gloves so they can really burn some stuff. My son screeching, pooping and splashing so loudly and broadly at the Children's Museum that we had to leave. Funny in watching my mother in law grow increasingly festive for Margerita Mexican Night.
It was infuriating to navigate the holidays with no budget and little income. We've set aside the comfort of the credit cards and in turn are at the mercies of circumstance. We are on public assistance for health care. Public assistance. Ain't that a kick in the pants? It was infuriating as well to never-get-a-break. Ever. From cranky, incapacitated husbands to cranky demanding children to creating some kind of holiday fun in the midst of it all.
It was wonderful to watch my son's eyes light up with each new treasure found. Wonderful, too, to share the day with my brother via webcam. I watched our video footage and it's classic.
It is wonderful that it is now over. As if I have some promise that tomorrow will be easier. I delude myself into thinking the next week, next weekend, the next moment will bring some kind of breakthrough, some kind of release. Some relief.
It may or may not. The question remains. Is it over yet?
Monday, December 15, 2008
Pappy and my first born were having this conversation. I silently sat. My dad would glance at me to see if I would do my usual, "Santa isn't real honey. He was real. But now he's dead and mommies and daddies and pappies and nanas work real hard to buy you the Christmas surprises you like so much."
Merry Christmas kid.
I might as well give him a pack of smokes and yell at him for spilling paint in the garage. (Blatant Breakfast Club reference. Sigh, a moment of admiration for John Hughes.)
A friend, my sister/mother/faith/home school goddess, suggested bridging fantasy with reality by having santa work with mommy and daddy. This way we share the credit.
I'm still struggling. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
"Daddy, you don't have to come into the party with me. I don't want you to come in."
So, he spent 2 hours, sacrificing the first quarter of the Stiller game so that our little guy could party Burger King style.
"Mommy, I am closing the door so you can't see my pee pee." 'Nuff said.
My father and husband are addicted to fires. They burn anything and everything not tied down. For a holiday surprise I am looking for 'flame' related gear.
This search took me to an Outdoor Sporting Goods store. At the door is a sign stating that all weapons and bows would have to be discharged prior to entering the store. My question, so it can be loaded and ready in the parking lot? Oy.
Is it wrong to think monkey butt powder is a hilarious purchase from the aforementioned store?
The baby grabs anything within reach. When there is no adult present, he seems to grow 4 inches and grabs things we deemed impossible. His grabbing proficiency is demonstrated with messy and funny proportions.
-grabbbed steak knife off table and ran out of the room giggling as he headed towards the dog
-grabbed a coffee cup and proceeded to shlep out half the contents, was unable to take a nap later
-grabbed spaghetti spoon from the MIDDLE of the dining room table, rubbed it across the carpet, the wall and then waved it to me at the top of the stairs
-grabbed ladle covered and filled with tomato sauce and rubbed in hair and across eyes (getting mad when it began to sting)
-grabbed dog by the neck and lifted him from Pappy's lap
I see him as a menace. My husband sees him as a future offensive lineman for the Steelers.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Bah-humbug. No, really, bah-humbug. Okay, I don't want you thinking I'm a Scrooge. Christmas is a time for family, friends, faith and giving. Not getting, gorging and getting some more. I adamantly oppose the blatant commercialism and 'hallmark-edness' of the holiday. I don't just gruff at the selfishness this year as my budget is, well, very budgeted. For years I have fallen into two camps. 1) Charge! Get all you want when you want. or 2) Martha on steroids, make it all homemade and share your feelings. Somewhere in the middle of the two camps has got to be someplace I can light my candle and place my gift.
Yes, my dear agnostic and atheist friends, the holiday isn't really Jesus birthday anyway and the Christmas tree is actually a paganistic symbol of the winter solstice. So, how dare I have any puritanical views on the holiday? If I go the less commercial route then it all has to go! Off with Santa's head.
I once read in a book that if we as parents 'lie' to our children about the tooth fairy, Santa Clause and the Easter bunny then we are affecting their ability for faith. If we have lied about those folks you can't see then how can they believe us about God and Jesus?
However, is it lying to our kids to allow them some fantasy and imagination? Keeping it grounded doesn't mean throwing out the cookies with the milk? Or does it?
In the end, isn't it the powerful and real working of our faith that will make it far more real to my boys than just telling them about it? Isn't the example their father and I set far more influential than a story they believe in for such a short time? And, isn't growing up hard enough without a little dreaminess?
Santa Clause is coming to town. He brings with him a bag full of holiday mothering questions. The answers to which may change as my boys grow. Truth doesn't change. What we do with that truth, how it becomes real in our lives, that changes and grows with us and our understanding.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
As one who is overcoming depression and anxiety, joy is a scary, wonderful, elusive gift. When I find it, I hold it, pat it and call it George (sorry, references to classic cartoons often don't fit...when they do...you gotta go for it!)
This weekend, as I said, I reconnected with not one, but two joys.
12 years ago we were privileged to serve a small faith community as their youth ministers. We were young, my husband and I, full of zeal and only a little wisdom. We didn't understand how not to give our full hearts, our full spirits and our full selves to those entrusted to our care. And so it was to this little, quirky, beautiful, creative bunch of young people that we became the 'youth group leaders'.
They were all unique. Each was a strong individual, finding their way. They were all principled young people, in no small part due to the strong, prayer soaked parenting they received. They were beautiful. No, really, they were all beautiful in their own ways. (Names are indicated by letters as I didn't ask their permission to blog about them.)
D, who was not only my youth group kid, but one of my students (and in reality my first 'daughter'), had eyes and a soul as deep as a river.
L, was a quiet, intense young man who had so much to share, but not yet the bravery to share it.
L and her sister A were two sides of the same coin, each unique in their own ways, yet inextricably linked.
S, D's sister, was bright and bubbly, learning how to be her bigger than life self.
M, the pastor's daughter, was finding her way under her parents wings, ready to fly on her own.
There were more. They were ours.
We saw them again this weekend. As I walked into the room, I was speechless. They were the same. They looked exactly as we had left them. Oh, some were a little rounder, as they were mommies and married now. Yet, they were still themselves underneath it all.
D's daughter, with the stunningly beautiful name Felicity, shared her mother's eyes, deep and dark with a sparkle and wisdom at only 4 months.
Sadie, spirited and always moving, was as scrumptious little elf with the perfect blend of her mom M and dad B.
I met the husbands. The long suffering ones, the quiet ones. The ones learning how to hold a baby and hold onto their wives and hold onto themselves.
I lost my breath at them.
I reconnected with the joy of knowing these young people. I reconnected with the joy of watching them take their own memorable journies. I reconnected with the joy of the sheer privilege God gave us to have a moment of these wonderful young people.
Some are local. We'll see them again. What a joy it will be to meet them as wives, husbands and parents. However, I will never cease to see them as the wonderful, awkward and uniquely funny teens I knew so long ago.
Glenn Beck is a conservative radio talk show host. He is also one of the most profound example of faith in the public square I have ever been privileged to hear, see and meet.
This weekend we went to see his show, "The Christmas Sweater". The story is too much to write, and besides, you should get the book, it will change your life.
One of the many themes was joy. In the midst of tragedy, and he experienced much, was understanding it wasn't stuff that brings joy. His mother said to him, "Son, you are my joy."
So much of my own parenting has been clouded. (You can read about it in the older posts...too much to write here.) Last night, as my five year old snored his way through the finale, I reconnected with him, who is my joy.
My sons have been both a blessing and a challenge. They have made me who I am today. They will play a role in who I will be tomorrow.
When they are challenging, screaming in a tantrum, kicking and banging, they are my joy.
When they are arguing and refusing to wear corduroy pants because they feel funny, they are my joy.
When I don't know how we will afford school, food and clothes, they are my joy.
When they are sick, on me, they are my joy.
When they eat dog food with a grin and a crunch, they are my joy.
When they crawl into my lap, exhausted by play and needing to reconnect, they are my joy.
They are my joy. It is that simple. They are my joy.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
I am thankful for...
...laundry in piles all over the bedrooms, it means we have something to wear.
...dirty dishes and various plastic containers of leftovers in the kitchen, it means we have something to eat.
...unmade beds, it means we have somewhere to sleep.
...messages on phones, it means we have friends who remember us.
...children alternately annoying and filling my heart, it means they are well and healthy.
...messy crafts, it means I have made another memory with my son.
...paper turkeys adorning the table, it means I had time to cut google eyes out of construction paper.
...web cams, it means my brother can see I still haven't returned to bangs and my 80's hairstyle and how big his nephews have grown.
...fathers, it means I am not an orphan.
...boxer shorts in a pile behind the bathroom door, it means my husband is still here, still messy and still mine.
...this blog, it means I have somewhere to dump my thoughts, just for me and maybe for you.
I have never been at this place before. Unemployed. On the verge of financial crisis. Living with my dad. I should be bereft. I should be riddled with anxiety and incapacitated with worry. I should...I should...I shouldn't feel this grateful. I shouldn't be this thankful. I shouldn't want to spend this day again, so I could live every moment, every hug, every smell, every smile. I shouldn't, but I am.
I am thankful for what is and I am thankful for what will be. For with God nothing is impossible. Right now I am in the land of impossibility. Go God. And....thanks.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
But a slow mooooo-vin' dreaaaam.
Cue the smoke. The sparks fly as the welder accurately welds two ginormous pipes together.
In a world made of steel...
Made of stone.
Cue drum beat. What's this? The welder is a gorgeous woman. Not only a hottie, but a driven, ambitious, young dancer.
Unfortunately my welding experience wasn't nearly as cool as Alex's in the movie Flashdance. It's not that easy. It's hard. Really, really hard.
I got dumped from my job. On the last day I decided to do all the things I have never done that my company does...or did. Get it? So that's how I ended up clad in thermo-wear, head squared by a hood, shaking with a gazillion degree torch in my hand. It turns out I am the worst welder in the history of welding. Thank goodness I am a writer instead.
I also drove a multi-million dollar vehicle. Details I have to keep out of the public, suffice it to say, it's fast, it's quiet and it's AWESOME.
These two experiences almost, almost, make up for losing the gig. Almost.
To lose financial security and health insurance all a week before the holidays. What a feeling.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
It was inappropriate. And no, I shouldn't have flicked him in the head (it was a good one with some resonance off his melon). However, I had to do something to express my frustration. Frustration I felt at the dining room carpet being painted pink with strawberry applesauce. Painted pink because he, for the millionth time, wasn't sitting straight at the table and knocked it down.
I know. In the grand scheme of things spilled sauce ain't so big a deal.
I fell in love. I fell in love with a bunch of messy, loud and very energetic ankle biters. Surprisingly, I fell in love with my Sunday School class.
It's a surprise because little kids give me the hives. I taught high school because the thought of being locked in a room with 20 smelly, talkative, busy, whiny little humans gave me anxiety attacks. Give me an attitudinal adolescent anytime.
So when church had opportunities to serve my husband and I signed up. I thought I could teach my eldest son's class every coupla weeks. Ron would help once a month for special Jubilee Sunday.
My first class was exhausting. I have 4 years old through to kindergarten. There is one child in each developmental and age level. They are intimidating. They are honest. "Is this story over yet?" They are messy. "Wook, I got glue in my hair!" They are bossy. "Give me the purple scissors!". And now they are mine.
I actually am a little bummed I don't have to teach until December. How did that happen?
The election is mercifully over. The battle for the soul of America is only beginning. Why am I already tired?
Why did the networks get rid of the blue swish to follow the hockey puck during NHL games? It made it almost bearable for me to watch. Now I have even less of an idea what's going on and I didn't have much to begin with.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
It is the dawn of a new day. There has been a 'historic', 'one for ages', 'ground breaking' election. For the first time in history, a black man holds the highest office in the land. The next leader of the free world will be very brown.
Since the end of slavery, since the passing of the voting rights act, there has been a struggle for identity for black americans. How can they truly be american if their ancestors were forced to come here in chains? Is this really their country?
For the first time, they can say it is. I wonder what those who have made it their business to trumpet the cause of the oppressed (and make loads of money and gain fame while doing it) will do now that the White House will become the Their House. We'll see. A very smart lady, who was a successful technology salesperson, once called them, "poverty pimps". They worked to end poverty while never really affecting any change and then blaming their ineffectiveness on 'the man'. Well, 'the man' is now going to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
I am proud that we as a country have buried hatred and bigotry to vote for someone of a different race. I am proud we are able to move ahead.
However, will we really move ahead? It sounds like the 1960s all over again. The country is in an unpopular war (wars really). The economy is in shambles. Corporate greed has gone unfettered and indeed financed by our tax dollars. Personal responsibility has given way to "Choice" as in choice to have a baby, choice not to work or pay the mortgage on a house we really couldn't afford in the first place because the government will just give us the money.
I actually heard a woman gush as she left the polls that she never thought this day was possible. It wasn't a black man as president to which she was effusive. It was that she no longer had to worry about how to pay the mortgage or put gas in her tank because President Obama was going to take care of everything.
It is the dawn of a new day. I'm not convinced it isn't going to be raining. And raining very soon on this "Yes, we can!" parade.
As the bible says, it rains on the just and the unjust. Get your umbrellas kids and brace yourselves.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
It began innocently enough. I found my son folded into an empty cardboard box. As we are still in the 'Movement' there are many laying about.
Then he asked me to build a 'jedi fighter' for him. B.G. is obsessed with the mind numbing, drool inducing, kid cartoon, "The Clone Wars". He has been taken over by the latest marketing gimmick by the Lucas franchise.
He asked me to build a jedi fighter. Not a plane. Not a space ship. A jedi fighter. Oy.
To stall, and hope I would benefit from five year old amnesia, I asked him to find me a picture of what he wanted. He did. I still had no idea what I was going to do.
Thankfully with packing tape, the remnants of other boxes, a couple glue sticks and some aluminum foil one can make a five year old very, very happy.
The magic happened while we watched him 'fly' around the house. He wasn't the quirky five year old with the crooked teeth and funny lisp. He became a jedi warrior shooting down dinosaurs and other 'weally' bad guys. He looked taller. He looked older. He looked intent. He WAS a jedi warrior, until, of course, it was bed time. Then he was having a tantrum, that's another story.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
My baby. My first born, IS READING! He's five. For some of you, that isn't remarkable as your little prodigy was reading a long time ago. For us, it's been a product of hard work, bribery and lots o' cheering. It's a miracle.
How did my little guy. My sweet baby B.G. grow into this funny, quirky little boy? Where did the baby go with the cheeks and the drool and the smile that could light a room? Oh, the baby is now the lean fella who doesn't drool unless eating cereal and a smile that lights a room and highlights delightfully crooked baby teeth.
The L.G. or little guy? He is a baby who already lectures us regularly with gestures and speeches. Okay, he lectures the vacuum more than us but that's hardly the point. Where did the Anne Geddes baby go? The one I had to buy nearly preemie sized clothes for? He's been replaced by a rough and tumble giggle box.
It is the blessing and the burden of mother hood to be at the mercy of time. So often we are rushing people out the door to be 'on time'. We have to get up 'on time' and get children to the bus stop. We have to be 'on time' to client meetings. We have to put in 'time' to managing the finances and the house and the bills and the endless list of to dos for which there never seems to be enough 'time'.
We are also blessed to see our children grow over 'time'. We see the struggles, the victories, the tears, the smiles and the growth 'over time'. We have the privilege of standing in the church and seeing our babies walk down the aisle, taking their first steps into 'their time'.
I am making a promise to myself today (for today is the only day this week I have 'time' to make new promises) to take some 'time' to stop and watch and listen and cuddle and maybe, cry.
I'll take some time, before it becomes just a story of, "Remember that time?"
Monday, October 6, 2008
I tried not to take offense when I saw, "AMA" splashed all over my obstetrical charts. AMA is advanced maternal age. It means any woman over 35. It means dire warnings, lots o tests and sometimes looks by younger mommies at PTA meetings.
I can handle AMA.
I can handle meeting former students who are now parents, business owners and fellow grocery shoppers. I can handle they were born in the late eighties.
I cannot handle being called Ma'am.
Ma'am is what I call my own mother (where she and I to actually speak).
Ma'am is what I would call my grandmother or some other octogenarian.
Ma'am is how you refer to someone who is OLD. I AM NOT READY TO BE OLD.
I will be 38 on my next birthday. There I said it. The earth didn't collapse (though if my 'girls' droop any further I'll be in real trouble!).
However, I just want the cute, young, italian college kid working at Starbucks to NOT CALL ME Ma'am.
I am MATURE (NOT OLD) enough to know I cannot do anything about it. I will not become like one of those mothers who shop at the same stores as their teenage daughters. I will not be like the women who inject, slice and dice their way into pinched youth. (Though I wouldn't rule out one of those micro-lifts....).
I will not rage against the inevitable march of time (too much). I'll take it like a woman.
I will begin to be one of those women who is aging gracefully. I will smile, my best, "Aren't you adorable?" smile at those that insist on calling me Ma'am.
Monday, September 29, 2008
I knew even then, how important a miracle reading and learning were. I began to play 'teacher' to my little brother. He liked it better then being my living baby doll (at some point the photos will surface of my sweetie sibling looking lovely in a pink nightgown). Eventually his teacher sent a note home asking my mom for me to stop teaching him how to read, as I was doing it wrong.
I learned how to do it 'write' and became an English teacher. I recently found pictures of my students and lived again the life of 'Mama Ro', the crazy, involved teacher who adopted as much as she instructed.
As my own son is now in his first year of school, this miracle of reading and learning has taken on a new meaning. It has also taken on a new weightiness and pressure.
My son doesn't know all his letters. He can only write his name with regular clarity. He struggled so much with a reading assessment that no assessing could be done. It is impossible to know whether he can or can't learn to read and write. He is already a child on the edge of being left behind.
However, he has a young, energetic teacher with the patience of Job. He attends a school where the classes are small enough and teachers are committed enough that he will get individualized literacy support. He has parents who will do anything to see him succeed and hold his hand if he doesn't.
My first reaction, as with most things, was to attack it with every resource we have. I am in the process of setting up an incentive/learning center and bought some letter puzzles, magnets and fun games. I am ready baby.
My mother/sister/friend and home schooling goddess, Beth, sent home with Ian a magical book.
She also gave me a long list of ideas around the book. She gently, and in her usual grace filled way, reminded me of the miracle of reading and learning. Tonight the miracle began to come true.
I wish I could blog that he magically could remember his sight words, or that he recognized more letters. He didn't. He will. Just not tonight.
He was swinging his legs in his feetie jammies, noshing on a blueberry muffin top. Recovering from a chest cold, I was glad to see him eat and drink. We reviewed sight words. He knew 3 of the 9. It was time to read.
I read with no agenda other than to enjoy the story of this wonderful little boy and his dog. I put in every bit of expression and mother goofiness I could muster. I read for no other reason than to share this moment with my son.
Peter is trying to learn how to whistle for his wiener dog Willie. He tries and tries and tries again. Finally, he tries one last time and is able to whistle! At the high point, I whistled in jubilation along with Peter and my darling son. In the story, Willie the Wiener comes running to Peter. In our kitchen, Frankie the Wonder-Wiener-Dog, came running too! We laughed so hard I thought my baby would fall out of his chair. Frank just snuffled under Ian's chair looking for a muffin crumb.
"Read it again! That was g-weat!" (Rrrr's are a challenge.) So I did, reminded once again what miracles are reading and my little whistling sweetie.
Friday, September 19, 2008
I was in the grocery store, for a few of those blessedly unencumbered moments a mother enjoys. I was looking for dixie cups for my son to rinse out the 'tooth-taste' after brushing. I could only find the plastic version. I put the package back as I knew it would take a bazillion years for the cup to fully not be impacting the earth.
Please understand one thing. I think humans were created to care for, steward and use all the earth has to offer. This includes meat. I love a good steak as much as the next gal. This includes drilling wherever we damn well please to get the oil we are sitting on-instead of paying countries that harbor and train terrorists. In essence we are paying people to plot to kill us and end our way of life because we can't dig in our own backyards. It's much like sitting on the lid of a water well and burning to death because we don't want to take the lid off because, well, it might hurt something. Sorry, political tangent. Short of everyone riding bikes and learning to rollerblade, things ain't realistically gonna change in the near (or far) future. And if any fellow Greenies tell me I should trade in my SUV for a smaller, hybrid, they can come and tote my family (and the ten tons o' gear) around for a week and then get back to me.
All that political tirade aside, I do believe in our responsibility to steward the earth as we have been given it. If we can do something cleaner, cheaper and better, we should. It's why I am so excited to be working for an environmental solutions company (http://www.missioncriticalsolutions.com/). They manufacture electric vehicles fast enough to be used by law enforcement. These aren't those little scooters that only go above 5 mph when going downhill. These are real cars, with real power.
I am excited to work for a pharmacy services company that installed geothermal heat without help from the government. They did it because it made business sense. It cut their heating/fueling costs dramatically. It was expensive and risky. It was a brilliant move.
I have the luxury of thinking sustainable and environmentally friendly because I am not fighting each day to simply make it through the day. It is through the business lens I look into the Green Movement. If we can do things in a way that uses less energy, creates less waste and is healthier for us I say, "Hooray!".
As the mother of a five year old, I am often privileged to tote him to the drive in for a kid friendly movie. Mostly, I try to read a book and not fall out the back of the truck. Sometimes my husband and I cuddle and sip our favorite beer, drifting off for a quick nap while our little is enthralled with the latest kid-merchandising opportunity. However, for the Pixar movie WALL-E, I couldn't look away.
It was a morality tale for grown ups. It posited that we could consume ourselves out of our very humanity. Can we? Probably not. However, it does ask the simple question of, "How much is too much?" Who gets to determine that shifts with every administration and political action committee. Some think we should return to the days of walking, living in caves and not shaving. Others buy their way out with manufactured morality by purchasing "carbon" credits from some underdeveloped hell hole which would use the same petroleum based vehicle if they weren't so busy killing each other.
I just say I can do a little. I did my part today. I put back the plastic sippy cups.
What will you do?
Thursday, September 18, 2008
The laundry is never caught up. It seems just when I fold the last pair of tidey whities emblazoned with a spiderman or transformer, I glance in the corner and there is a dingy sock.
The house cleaning is never caught up. There seems to be a conspiracy between the dust bunnies, the dirt and the toys. All three are never really eradicated from any room. And let's not even begin to approach the reality of living with three potty trained men.
The shopping is never caught up. Children grow. Mine especially fast. The seasons are changing and the checkbook isn't. Yet, shoes need to be bought, warm and cozy clothes secured and I can't find any dress clothes in all the moving madness.
The work is never caught up. I am a pseudo-independent contractor working from home. That is code for never really stopping work. I now have a blackberry and know what it is to be truly plugged in-it means never to be truly unplugged.
The writing is never caught up. I set a goal to blog at least three times a week. In the grip of recovery I wrote more than that. Now, when I almost completely own all my time, I write way less than that.
Time with my husband is never caught up. Ever.
I live my life never caught up.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Disclaimer 2: I still love my mother-in-law.
My husband and his family are of Scottish descent. They are proud of their Scotch heritage and often rely on it for supporting their tempers, fierce love of family and imbibing of 'adult beverages'.
I, on the other hand, am Italian, German and tad Welsh. Ain't a whiff of scotch about me, except for that one time on a business trip. I support their pride (who doesn't love plaid?) I supported them right through a flood.
Ligonier PA hosts the Scottish Highland Games every year on the weekend after Labor Day. It's usually blazingly hot. Picture big men in skirts throwing telephone poles while people cheer from their lawn chairs raising frosty glasses o' Guinness.
We couldn't wait to go. We couldn't wait to show off our firey haired babies and join the madness.
True to their Scottish lineage, when the weather showed for rain, MIL and my husband were game to go. "The kids will love it!" they exclaimed. "It will be magical." I bought it, hook-line and sinker.
When it started to sprinkle, I was okay. It could have been the Guinness, who knows. When the deluge opened up, I wasn't so okay. It was so wet, I could wring out my shorts. My five year old took refuge under an awning. The baby? He was in his glory, holding his little feeties into the rain, giggling the whole time. His face crinkled when dripped on, mouth wide to drink the deluge.
We stayed as long as we could. Our exit card came when the five year old began to turn blue and screamed, "I hate the Scots! I wanna GO HOME NOW!" This while we were standing under some trees in a vain attempt at shelter. Our shelter mates? Scots. We weren't so popular.
What made it magical and bearable and not another painful MIL event was her. She had a smile as wide as her face at the children. She couldn't wait for them to see, hear, taste and smell everything. She showed the oldest the Scottish breeds of dogs and explained what colors were in our family tartan. She told me I was 'close enough' to the clan by just having Welsh in my blood (no offense to any true Scotswomen).
Her joy was infectious. We began planning next year's event already. She complimented my wardrobe (a first) and even complimented my mothering to some friends she met unexpectedly.
I watched as the cold rain soaked her through. I knew she must be shivering. Since her transplant six years ago she has always had a challenge keeping her body temperature under control. Yet she still kept the umbrella over the baby and ignored the river flowing down her back. As we slogged through the mud and muck and rain back to the cars, she stopped to make me listen to the plaintive sounds of the bag pipers getting ready to compete. "Isn't it magical?" she whispered.
And it was. Because of her. That's the dichotomy of mothering. Challenges and magic all at the same time.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
(Many, many, many apologies, first born children, clothing gift cards and near eternal servitude to our friend Lisa for the tale of tragedy I am about to share!)
As usual, I had a brain burp on Friday and decided to have a small picnic on Monday to celebrate the end of the summer season. Of course, today it's hot and humid, so it is all relative.
I called up a few people I like to frolic with (read: people who are way cool and whose children play nice with mine). We all planned a low key festa of burgers, dogs and various salads. We've all been healthfully influenced by our friends who have worked miracles with their health and waistlines. No longer are our buffets full o' fried, fatty goodness--veggies and fruit are front and center.
We ate. We played. We had a full contact game of Boccie ball. It was fab-yoo-lous.
The fire in the pit was gorgeous. It burned down to warm and cozy embers. We roasted some corn and chatted about God, the election, kids, cheese, whatever and nothing. It was glorious.
I love to entertain. I call it channeling my inner Martha. This is the first time I have truly had a space to bring people to and feed them in. With my type A uber-host father, having people over is an exhausting and awesome time.
We laughed. We ate some more. Then, well, the fireworks started. Literally.
My husband has a not so secret pyromaniac streak. It's not enough to warrant treatment, however, it does warrant the hose and some neosporin. (To protect us from potential prosecution I will now switch tenses in my blogging. It's illegal to have fireworks in our state. It wasn't us. It was the...ummm....Shecky family....yeah, that's the ticket.)
So anyway, the Sheckies, (anyone else giggle at that? i just did.) sat down to enjoy a few harmless, bright and stinky fireworks. We, I mean they, were scattered in comfy lawn chairs around the fire pit and under the gazebo. Children were in laps. Claps were offered for bigger, louder booms and oohs-aahs-and ohs were emitted too. Mr. Shecky was in his glory.
Then the unthinkable happened. One fell over, shooting firey rockets not into the beautiful night sky but right into the gazebo where we sat.
Picture a scene from "Saving Private Ryan" where everything is in slow motion and people are ducking for cover. The missiles weren't shells, but rather brightly colored greens, blues and pinks aiming directly for our heads! I ended up in the wood pile. Friends ended up under tables and in the bricks. Lisa ended up on fire.
When the sulfur laden smoke cleared Lisa was stopping, dropping and rolling. Her shirt suffered a direct hit. My dad, I mean Mr. Shecky Sr., quickly lept into action putting out the fire. Mrs. Shecky grabbed the nearest fire device I could find, a handful of ice from the cooler, and threw it on her.
You really can tell a true friendship by the way you collectively handle near tragedy. We were thankful and breathed a sigh of relief the only real casualty was Lisa's shirt. We laughed the nervous laugh of a group of people thankful not to be sitting in the ER.
Later, when Lisa stopped shaking and I stopped wanting to kill Mr. Shecky, we did what we always do in good times and bad. We prayed. Mr. Shecky prayed for Lisa, as he should.
And, as sometimes happen, in good times and bad, we ended up laughing. We laughed from our spirits, our hearts, our mouths and smiles. We laughed in thankfulness at no casualties. We laughed at having a friendship now forged in real fire. We laughed because we could.
I'm planning a BYOBS picnic when the weather is cooler. (B: bring, Y: your, O: own, B: bowl, and S: spoon) will have huge pots of wedding and other soups, warm bread and spiced wine. It will NOT have fireworks!
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I couldn't walk away. They were in love.
I am unabashedly squishy. I cried during Juno and every time I see the new version of Pride and Prejudice (despite my visceral aversion to Keira Knightly...Matthew MacFadyen is truly a yummy Mr. Darcy and don't even get me started on anything Hugh Grant.) Oh, I can come off as a tough broad, but on the inside I'm really a cream puff (one of those chocolate ones with pink coconut). I love-love.
The couple must have been in their 80's. Their frames, shrunken with age, leaned into one another, and not just for support. They were nose to nose discussing cereal bars. It could have been a hearing challenge, for a moment I thought to help them decide between the oat clusters and the bran. However, I soon noticed it was love.
As they walked away towards the juice aisle I saw he grabbed her and gave her a little squeeze. She leaned in, a smile on her face. The same smile she had when he grabbed her off the dance floor over 60 years ago. The same smile she had when she walked down to aisle, her eyes never leaving her uniformed husband to be. The same smile she had when he came home from the wars, almost in one piece, knowing she could put his heart back together. The same smile.
I am the product of a broken home. Dad left Mom when I was 24. I now know, and kinda did then, it should have happened much, much sooner. My husband and I are the oldest married couple of either of our parents. So, of late, I find myself watching and admiring love in its fullest and longest versions.
I love my husband. Some days I even like him. We have been married 14 years. We'll celebrate our anniversary by going to the Steelers home opener and staying the night in da 'Burgh. We take turns planning anniversaries for each other. It has fallen by the wayside of children, however, this year I reinstituted the plan. I planned for him. (Thanks dad for scoring the free tickets!).
When I watched that couple in the grocery store I smiled too. I smiled because I know, somewhere in a deep part of my heart and spirit, I'll be leaning into my husband 46 years from now. I know I'll smile that same smile when I see him put on his Steelers jersey to go to the game. I'll smile when we try to decide between the oats or the bran.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
"How did your first practice go tonight, dear?" (In my head the dialogue is similar to an episode of 'Leave It To Beaver'--dunno why.)
"It went super. Except for this one boy," he says, removing his cleats and putting on his slippers (brown corduroy of course).
"Tell me about it dear," she replies while handing him a cocktail, sitting beside him to enjoy one herself.
"Well, he kept making super-hero flying noises and gun shots when kicking or running. And when he made a good shot, or kicked the ball further than two inches, he would stand," Coach said, consternation crinkling his kind eyes.
"Golly, he would just stand there?" wife replied, sipping her cocktail and marveling at what a concerned and wonderful coach her man is (while also admiring her fresh pedicure through her cute and comfy peep toe pumps).
"Yes, he would stand there with his hand in the air waiting to do a high five. After every, single, long kick. He's shaping up to be quite a character!"
Sip, sip. Hug, hug. and SCENE.
Yes, my five year old entered the world of organized sports. I said to the other Mommy present, "Today is the first day of a life time of practices, games, sports, uniforms, equipment, fund raisers, etc."
I was on the sidelines with the whole fam. Dad, me, Pappy and the baby all stood watching our little quirky five year old make his sports debut. And what a debut.
He only made one of the children cry. This is an unfortunate side effect from playing full contact soccer with Daddy for years.
He only fell down once. With aplomb he got right up and promptly ran over the ball.
He made sound effects. For everything. RRRRRRRR-BOOM-NEEE NER, NEEE NER.
He drank his whole water bottle, after 10 minutes of practice.
He only grabbed his pee pee twice. As opposed to the every three minute check he normally does.
He insisted on hugging the kid who made a great goal.
He was scared of and run over by the 'big girl' (i.e. the first grader who was a couple inches taller than him and quickly earning the moniker "girlie Pele").
The soccer insanity has begun.
Friday, August 15, 2008
This disclaimer being shared, even I can tell those elves with grins on the Chinese gymnastics team aren't even close to being 16. It's also obvious to me there's just something a little misogynistic in the uniform choices (and obvious disparities) between men's and women's beach volleyball. Check out the President's lovely photo op with one of the women's finer assets.
There have been two moments that struck a chord as to be memorable to this mama. The first surrounds the swimming freak Michael Phelps, or rather around his delightfully round and expressive mom.
He is a swimming freak. Literally God built this boy to be a swimming machine. He's the darling and mythic hero of this year's games. He wins. He wins sometimes from sheer athletic prowess and sometimes by a fingernail. Nevertheless, he wins and America loves a winner. We need a winner.
Tonight he won a seventh gold medal and tied Mark Spitz. The race was one by one one hundredth of a second. When he won, his mother went from clutching her daughter's hand to disappearing in a slump to the chair. She became invisible as the crowd cheered around her at this history making moment.
It was memorable to this mama because I can figure out what she must have been feeling. While the rest of the world was celebrating his victory, she was remembering and celebrating the journey. She was there when he made his first splash, as an infant in the kitchen sink. She was there when he wanted to quit because he couldn't break his time any faster. She was there when he moved across the country to be with his coach instead of his mama. And she was there for this moment. The beauty in the moment was that she would be there even if he came in seventh place. She would have been there if he was a pool cleaner instead of a King of the Chlorine.
The second moment came just a few minutes later. Dara Torres was stepping up to compete in the 50 meter freestyle. She's a 41 year old mother swimming in her fifth Olympics. Uncharacteristically, she deviated from her pre-race routine and went to talk with an official. She spoke with all the other competitors, many of whom could have been her daughter. It turns out she was stalling to give her fellow competitor some time to replace a ripped suit. She was delaying one of the biggest races of her life to allow someone to have the chance to beat her.
Afterwards my husband said, "You know only a mother would do that." He was right. Only a mother would take a moment to make sure everyone has a chance. Because only a mother knows that if you give someone else's baby a chance, someone will give yours one in return. She said in an interview, "In the water these women are my competitors. Out of the pool, they are my friends." They said it was an unprecedented show of sportsmanship. I say it was a show of leadership only a mother can demonstrate.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
It wasn't difficult. Navy or khaki. They also were kind enough to have a section labeled, "School Uniforms" so I know I won't make any nuns mad with my son's sartorial decisions.
What was difficult was watching my son struggle to buckle his pants. It was difficult because it made the trying on/sizing/length checking un--believe----ably---s--l--o--w. It was difficult because I knew he had to be able to undo/redo his own drawers because I wasn't going to be there to do it for him. I-will-not-be-there.
I will not be there when he is bullied for the first time. I will not be there when he trips in the hall and the class laughs. I will not be there when a girl chases him down at recess and kisses him. I will not be there when he can't remember what sound H makes. I-will-not-be-there.
Buying big boy pants while still waiting for my first paycheck was hard. Not being there is even harder.
I will be there. With red rimmed eyes and wet kleenex, I'll be there to greet him as he comes home from the bus. I'll be there to hold him and tell him how fearfully and wonderfully made he is when others may not agree. I will be there to put the special Cars Movie tattoo band aid on boo-boos so minute as to be invisible, yet still a bruise to his soul. I will be there to reassure him that girls are indeed yucky and that he won't like them for lots and lots and lots of years to come. I'll be there to help him remember what sound H makes. I'll be there to help him to always remember, always know, always count on-I-WILL-BE-THERE.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
I also really like being with my little guys. I like knowing where everything is. I like having that Mommy sense to know what the baby is crying for even if he doesn't. I like being able to clean an entire house AND play with the kids at the same time.
Tomorrow I am back in the saddle of work again. My time will no longer be exclusively my own. I will be accountable to yet another set of humans.
I am excited to start a new career I know is only the beginning of my next professional life. I look forward to building someone else's business so eventually I can build my own. I am so blessed to be given the opportunity to work from home and own my own schedule. I am ready.
I am also sad to miss the morning cartoon battle with my five year old. If someone mentions they are hungry at my morning meeting I will have to fight the urge to search out some fruit snacks from my purse. I'll call home at least once and not speak to anyone (my husband is mystified at how to multi-task with the kids present---you mean you can talk on the phone, feed a baby AND make mac-n-cheese? Naw.)
With my first son I went back to working 50-60 hour weeks when he was just 10 weeks old. I cried as I pumped. I was depressed. At the time there were no other financial options. I made the best of it. I was heartbroken.
With my second son, I have spent the majority of his first year of life with him. He was in care, but only for about 24 hours a week (!!!!!!!) and not until he was close to 6 months. While there were still no other financial options, there were work schedule options.
Now their father is at home (for now), I define my own schedule. I work for a man who coaches little league and wants some of my time to be devoted to finding resources for the school his (and now my) children attend.
I am ready to be back in the saddle. I will be more than ready to get out as soon as I can tomorrow. I'll be ready to play baseball in the back yard with my little A-Rod and have the back of my calves munched on by the baby as he struggles to teeth and pull himself up.
I'll be ready to work the second shift of my day. The Mommy shift. Only now I don't want to ever punch out as I am discovering how amazing it is to punch in.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I am a product of Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS) mostly overseas in Germany. I attended no less than 8 different schools before graduating high school. I did not have the typical American school experience.
My husband, on the other hand, attended the same school system with the same class from nearly birth onward. He experienced bussing integration and a school's shift from largely middle class white to largely middle and lower class African American.
I taught in the public school system for over 6 years. I have worked at the public state education agency level and been involved with implementing No Child Left Behind legislation in Washington DC schools. I am an advocate for public schools in that they take everyone. Charters, private and other schools do not take everyone. These private schools are self selecting or their tuition does the selection for them. I believed they did not welcome nor choose to support children with learning or behavioral challenges.
I also know public schools are a black hole of fraud, waste and abuse. I have witnessed an urban junior high school resemble more of a prison than a place for learning. I have attended meetings on curriculum/programming/anything and never heard the words 'student' or 'learning' be uttered.
My first baby is going to kindergarten. My husband and I are committed to faith based education. Faith based meaning a school interested in not only test scores but in the spirit, character and integrity. Unfortunately, the public schools are neither interested in nor choose to spend any of my tax dollars on building the whole child. They will, however, build a new field house for a losing football franchise. They will, however, fire an entire department despite demonstrated results for kids and families. They will, never, have the opportunity to educate my sons.
So we are in the midst of the Movement. Refugees not yet settled on a home or neighborhood. Yet, the hands of time march on and we must make a school decision. Fortunately we can make a choice. We can cut into the budget whatever it takes to pay for the best opportunities for our kids. A new car can wait. The new house can wait another few months. Learning cannot.
We are charismatic, apostolic, prophetic protestants. We are sending our son to a very, very, very catholic school. It is has the best in education, enrichment and spiritual nurturing we have ever seen. The school adminstrator held my son's hand as we toured, and he let her. My husband, ever mindful of the checkbook, was ready to sign him up immediately after the tour. It costs as much our car payment. It's worth it.
It may cost us in other ways. We go to a very conservative church. The majority of parents home school or send their kids to a conservative protestant school. They will not understand how we can send our protestant baby to a catholic school. As if the Virgin Mary will rise up and grasp our son in her clutches. Oy.
This part of the Movement has been the most difficult. It means my mothering is now changing. I must share my beautiful boy. I will remain his first and best teacher. However, someone else will become his teacher too.
I know, he's been in childcare before. At 10 weeks he was in 40-45 hours a week. I surely shared him then. It's different now. I am only beginning to embrace this mothering role of mine. I am only now feeling less like a woman trying to walk across the rocking deck of a freighter and more like I'm on solid ground. I want another chance to get it right, to do better.
The truth of it is, I do not have another chance to get it right or to make up for the mistakes of PPD past. I can only do what my LaMaze class coach advised us so many years ago. She said, "You do the best you can with the information and resources you have at the time. When you know more, when you have more, you will do more."
I am doing more than ever. I'll learn more as the school bells are ringing.
"I wike dat school. It has toys!" he said when I asked.
Friday, July 25, 2008
I was more prepared this time. I trusted my own body more. I knew I had time. I took it.
My husband was sleeping in the bed in front of me. Periodically he would raise his head and say, "You okay babe?". I would answer with a quiet, "Yes."
I was okay. I was in pain. The worst pain I ever experienced before or since. It can best be described as your legs being shot from your hips by fire. That was my labor.
In my head, as the hormonal and muscular wave swept over me, I would hear my husband's calm and soothing voice. "You are at the top. You are doing good. You are coming down now. The worst is over. Keep breathing." I believed him, because it always did become better. It always did end, only to wash in again ten, five and then three minutes later.
I would rock in between contractions, sipping water from a mason jar. It was dark in our little bedroom. The nightlight shone on the pack and play, the changing table, the baskets decorated in blue; all was positioned to welcome the little person making his way along the shortest and most important journey of his new life.
I drank of the quiet. My older son was asleep in the next room, the only sound a slurp as he sucked his thumb. The air conditioning hummed. My husband quietly snored in harmony to the dog. I rocked.
I thanked God for this moment and all the moments to come. I prayed for the doctor and the nurses. I even prayed for a good parking spot. I prayed to be brave through the pain. Then I slept.
I slept for minutes, then seconds, between contractions. How? I still do not know. I did. It was if my body knew these were the last moments of peace for a very, very long time and I should drink them in like a woman finding an oasis in a desert.
The morning came. We called Aunt Barbara to come and stay with our son. I took a shower, stopping every three to five minutes to clasp the wall and just breathe. I could still hear my husband's voice every time. I was walking down the hall when I knew we couldn't wait for Aunt Barbara. I knew because I couldn't move, couldn't breathe, couldn't think during the contraction. My husband's voice was silent. It was time.
Earl, the Pastor/Maintenance/Best Friend, came to stay with my still sleeping first born. I barely said good morning before rushing down the hall. I stopped at the elevator, again clutching the wall.
On the way my husband hit every pot hole, every bump, every jolt he could or so I felt. I grasped the door handle and his hand, holding on with every ounce of strength. I would not, could not, give birth in a car. I would not, could not, go that far!
I reconnected with my "I am Woman, Hear Me Roar" self and told my husband to park the car. I could begin the journey upstairs to L&D myself. I could do it myself. Right. Sure. The kids in the elevator only stared as I deeply breathed through two contractions. Their eyes as wide as saucers. They were thinking, "Oh no she isn't!" I wasn't, but I was close.
I only made it a couple steps through the mother/baby ward when a young nurse pushed a wheelchair under my now immobile form. I couldn't move another step. The fire was close to sending my legs crashing through the walls!
At registration, this crazy, stupid-girl kept asking me questions. I had to close my eyes to keep from either stabbing her in the eye with her Bic or telling her what I really thought she could do with her forms. A veteran nurse said,"She can't answer. She's having a contraction. Give her a minute."
In the room we waited anxiously. It was only minutes until I was undressed and trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey to the monitors. I was AMA which is the medical-ese term for old bitch giving birth. Really it's Advanced Maternal Age. I was also expected to deliver a ten pound plus baby. They were pulling out all the stops. I hoped they were pulling out all the drugs.
I had to wait for the doctor. When he said I was 5 cm (that's more than halfway there for the un-labored) my husband and I cheered. "You did it!" he said, "I am so proud of you." I was proud of myself. I had labored as long as I wanted to...now where was that damn anesthesiologist with my damn epidural???? Things were down to minutes now and I needed a little pharmaceutical assistance....stat.
While she was putting the needle in my back I had another contraction. I had to remain still when everything in my body screamed, "MOVE!" Mary, my goddess of a nurse, rubbed my sweaty neck. "You are doing great. Think of the beautiful baby you'll be holding soon." And I did.
As the drugs seeped in everything went quiet and calm again. My husband sat beside me, clutching my hand with an awestruck look of pride and panic. We rested. The contractions continued.
I was dehydrated and laboring too fast. I also needed at least one course of antibiotics before delivery. So things had to slow down. We kept resting. The contractions continued.
It was time. It only took 7 minutes. Seven minutes for a skinny, squalling, bloody bundle to land on my chest. He was so small. Much smaller than they thought. For me, for my husband, he was large enough to fill the room.
I became a mother again that morning. I didn't know then the tough times ahead. If I had, I still would have done it.
Today he is more boy than baby. Learning to walk, loud and eating everything within arm's reach. He wraps his arms around my neck and plays with my hair. He cuddles. His screams can peel paint from a wall and clear a restaurant. He is a pain in the ass. He is the son of my heart.
I still struggle with what it is to be a mother. I just realized, he has never struggled with what it is to be my son. Maybe I should take notes from him.
Happy Birthday Baby. I love you.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Now, on to Mother-In-Law camp.
I have discovered a new law of the Universe. As unchanging as gravity, as permanent as the day is to the night: No two mothers can peacefully coexist and be in charge, in the same vicinity, at the same time over the same children. If the law is broken, the explosions will be cataclysmic. How do I know? Read on.
In the course of The Movement, I and the children spent two weeks at NaNa's house. She and my father-in-law invited the 'zoo' to join them as we transitioned to the next stop in The Movement. A near five year old, 11 month old and 30'ish year old (and all the accompanying stuff) moved in to the custom built home for what promised to be a fun, family summer vacation in the 'Burbs.
Now, NaNa is the poster child for grandmothers the world over. If there is a sweet treat to be consumed or a cartoon to be giggled at, NaNa is the first to make it happen. No child should want for anything. Ever. No baby should cry. Ever. And 'No' isn't a part of her vocabulary.
So instead of controlling the erratic, loud and obnoxious behaviors and demands of her grandchildren, she decided to control the next closest person. Me.
It wasn't pretty. At some points, I preempted her comments by filling in the blanks myself. "I know my hair is boring, however, this is how I am wearing it today. I know you hate this shirt, however, I'm wearing it. Don't criticize, plenty of people wear black. And I like this purse even if you think an old Bubba would carry it. I know I am over weight, however....I know...." However, I didn't know how tough it would be to have two queen bees from two separate Mothering planets attempt to co-exist. It wasn't pretty, it was nearly Medea in the 'Burbs.
In the midst of the passive aggressive war going on inside the perfectly decorated home, something remarkable was happening. My urbanite little boy charmed his way into the training wheel circuit of the neighborhood. To say my boy has concrete and traffic in his blood is an understatement. He actually, for the longest time, thought any house with a yard was a farm. He wouldn't get out of our car in the dark woods for fear of bears and beavers biting him. He would ask for sanitizer after playing outside. This was soon and quickly to change.
I answered the door one evening (a rum and coke in my hand, to soothe the latest battle wounds in the 'Mommy Wars') and before me stood two tweens. They were simply standing there, smiling with their braces and fiddling with their sparkly barrettes. I asked if they were there for the Queen Bee. They said, "No. Can Ian come out to play?" Two girls. Stopping by to ask if my boy can come out. He's five.
Nearly every night my little fella would be racing and chasing. He was sought out and was asked over for play dates. He learned what it was like to play with other Daddies and Mommies. He learned, for the first time, what it was like to live in a community of families. He learned dynamics and how we were different or the same as other families. While NaNa and I were having our own little internal family drama, he was having a family revelation.
At NaNa camp, my sons developed whines at a pitch only discernible to canines. They learned arms raised and pouty lips gained them a hug and a gummy dinosaur. Sleep became secondary to cuddling for hours on the couch. And there is nothing better than a bike race in the setting sun around the cul-de-sac.
At Mother In Law camp I learned I am overweight, have boring hair, can't dress and don't keep my children fed or clean enough. I also learned the fierce love of a Mother for her son doesn't change after marriage and children. It only deepens. It deepens enough to keep everyone else as the interlopers. Guests at this buffet of family love.
Had I still been in the throes of PPD, I wouldn't be blogging right now. I would be in the hospital or jail. However, I am not still in the throes of PPD. I am in the midst of my healing, my overcoming, my freedom. Surviving MIL camp helped me to see how far I have come and how far I have yet to go.
The best thing about Mother In Law Camp was her Pomegranate martinis, carefully measured and shaken into a Starbucks mug. To make amends for my role in the battles, I'm sending her a real martini set.
She was tough. I was probably just as tough. Well, maybe not just as tough.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Of late, my own mothering moments have been shaped by my recovery from PPD, moving and the subsequent journey of self discovery. As I often, and sometimes painfully, examined my own moments, I became an avid observer from the Mother Deck of others. From glimpses and glances I began to construct a clearer picture of this job, this calling, this thing of being a mom.
Ronald Reagan had a foreign policy of 'peace through strength'. Some mothering moments are only possible after a display of a deep seated and almost epic source of strength. It only manifests in battles both won and lost.
As I left my Peep Jamie in her hospital room, I witnessed one of those moments of peace only gotten through strength. She lost as many battles as she won in her journey to deliver her miracle J.B. As I quietly exited her room, I saw a look of peace on her face only partly from the post-Cesarean narcotics. She stared at him on her lap, asking me, herself and God, "How did I get so lucky to have him? I would do it all again in a heartbeat to have him." She meant it. What is it about a mother that we forget the pain, the heartache-the blood, sweat and tears on the way as long as the destination is good? It took a deep strength for Jamie to endure the long years of disappointment and pain on the way to this little grunty bundle. He was worth it.
It is that strength I call on to get through this move. To over come fully the PPD, to gain the freedom to be. To be the mother, woman, wife, sister, daughter and friend I was created to be. To have peace even when I have to be strong.
Another moment occurred last night. We were out late. Dinner and shopping got us home far past the baby's bedtime. He was wailing in fatigue. The car was packed with bags, the five year old was running around in joy because Star Wars was on, the dog was barking hello and the fridge had no room for groceries. It was the definition of chaos.
In the midst, NaNa was a bastion of mothering bliss. The baby only needed a quick face wash, jammies and a bottle. I didn't think he would tolerate any more on the way to bed. As soon as she got him upstairs I heard the opposite of the expected howls. I heard belly laughs.
I peeked into the bathroom. My five year old was naked and explaining to NaNa how you have to flush after you pee and aim for the water so it makes the tinkle sound. The baby was in her arms splashing his feet in the sink, now full of water. He was happily munching on the soap until I replaced it with a dixie cup. His red rimmed eyes were now crinkled into a smile as he looked in the mirror at his grandmother. Still in dress clothes, NaNa was smiling too, exhausted from a long day at work and an even longer night shopping with two kids and a daughter in law. They were all in their element. The children were happy to be splishing and splashing. NaNa was happy to be giving of her last iota of energy to care for these little miracles in front of her. It was beautiful to see the complete example of joyful, in the moment, mothering.
My moment now? A stinky dog at my feet. A nearly 5 year old slurping his thumb in a vain attempt to avoid a desperately needed nap. A peacefully slumbering baby. A warm laptop under my wrists.
Oh, me? I'm unexpectedly content. Surprisingly, at peace. And only a little late to get the laundry out of the washer.
Friday, June 27, 2008
This post will be short. It's length crushed by only 2 hours of sleep. At 4:30 a.m. I took it as a sign from God that I should stop packing when I ran out of boxes.
I, my babies, and sick husband (yes, he dared to get a serious chest cold right in the middle of moving!) are relocating to another state. It's not just another state. It's another life.
For weeks now I have kvetched over all the details of the Movement (it's capitalized because I'm tired and it's really, really hard to move with two kids!). I have wrung my hands in maternal consternation at how I would ensure my nearly 5 year old and 11 month old could make the Movement (for the other 'movements' try popcorn and/or raisins....works everytime...but I digress). I bought a Movement planner with tabs duly noted with the myriad of informational bits I simply had to capture or they would be forever lost in the Movement ethersphere!
Now, the Movement has finshed Phase I: Packing. The truck is full, as is my Tiger Woods Suv. The apartment is wrecked, appearing more like the aftermath of a MegaDeath concert than a place once resided in by a loving family. My husband, whose own Movement is slightly delayed by work for another week, will have the envious task of cleaning the place. It's his turn anyway.
Phase I largely escaped my children. The baby liked to chew on the errant strand o' packing tape sticking out of a box. The 5 year old planned where he would like to live. "In a town, Mommy, with stores and a Starbucks!" They remained placidly oblivious to the chaos of the Movement around them. So did my husband, but that's for another blog.
So here I sit in the hotel room, 1/3 of the journey complete, wrung out and feeling flattened by the steamroller of the Movement. The children remain oblivious. They are only experiencing the joy of being completely catered to by their NaNa.
I wonder where this Movement will take me in my mothering? I don't know. I...really...don't know. Surprisingly, not knowing is okay.
I know for certain where the Movement will take me in just 1 minute....to sleep.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Without hesitation my happy day came to mind. It took place in a dimly lit delivery room. The weird windows faced not outside but to a faux courtyard in the middle of the hospital. It was midday and I had just given birth to my second son.
It was quiet. Ron was out calling friends and family, exiting the room with a combination of, "You should see him he's so small!" or "She was so tough. She only took seven minutes to get him out!". The nurses had taken my tiny bundle to the nursery to get a bath and get checked out. I lay, legs numbed by the epidural, in a semi-conscious state. I felt the fatigue of a marathon runner, as I had labored through the night. I felt the confidence from his latching on immediately after birth, slick, small and beautiful. I felt hungry, when would that darn lunch tray be delivered? I felt peace.
To have this be my happy day snuck up on my heart and psyche. I have only recently emerged from the grip of post-partum depression. The only vestiges remaining are the bottle of Lexapro and a mental-healthier commitment. My mothering has, of late, been so intertwined with pain, guilt and regret. Only recently have I truly learned to experience the joy of my children. As if the smoke from the fires of depression only sunk in on the surface, to be aired out by my babies belly laughs and my own smiles.
I almost wept in the middle of the stinky, sweaty exercise class. I wanted to cry because without my knowing it, in the midst of the sadness I had my happy day.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
It's been almost a year since my son was born. A year of opposites. I was thrilled to have an easy delivery (easy meaning I labored as long as I wanted then blessedly welcomed an epidural!). He nursed easily and quickly in the delivery room. He slept. I felt amazing, ready to go home the first day, yet staying to enjoy the quiet.
Shortly, the PPD gorilla moved in. He snuck in the back door behind my Super Mother facade. My naivete at believing "I did this once, surely I could do this again!" quickly was shattered. The demands of a 4 year old, a newborn, work and life reduced me to a weepy, screaming, unwashed mess. The gorilla spent much of his time reminding me of my failures, what could go wrong and what a terrible mother I was. (See previous PPD Chronicles Chapters)
I got help. I got to praying. I got better. Slowly, I learned to ignore the gorilla. I have learned the echoes of his recriminating shrieks are only hormones or stress or too much sugar. This hard won peace isn't going anywhere.
If it does, I know to start back to group and therapy. I know I will not stop my medicine for at least 3 more months and only if I don't need it anymore. If I need it, for awhile, for forever, so be it.
I am thinking about next steps. I am standing at the base of a very tall and winding staircase. The staircase leads to my future. On one landing is the opportunity to do a job in a very different field with shifting boundaries and huge potential. On another is the security of continuing to work in youth development. I took the stairs less stepped upon. The Gorilla took the opportunity to stand on the safe stairs howling. "Remember when your car was repo'd? You can't afford to change your career now!" I can and I did.
On the next landing is a commitment to mental, spiritual, and physical health. On the other is the continuance of ignoring self to serve everyone, except self. "Therapy is a self indulgence," the Gorilla whispers as I ponder which tread to put my foot, "Taking medication is a crutch. Can't you just pray yourself better? And let's not talk about the number of oreos you've consumed or cokes you've knocked back." I shake him off. I have a ways to go in the diet department. I know that. I get it. So Oprah, back off, I'll live my best life in a little while. As far as my mental and spiritual health is concerned, I've tasted freedom and wholeness. I have learned what it is like to laugh and feel the joy seep into your heart. I have learned the cleansing of tears as liquid prayer. I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. With a deep breath, I step towards the commitment to me.
I see other landings above me. They are a school for my son and a neighborhood in which to raise him and his brother. I can't see much further than that and somehow, someway, it's okay.
I kick the gorilla in the face and send him tumbling back down the stairs. He claws and tries to climb back up and finds the steps have turned into a ramp. I watch as he slides further and further out of sight. "Who do you think you are?" he howls, "You need me. You know me. I am you."
Not today. Not anymore. Not again. Who do I think I am? I don't know. But I am willing to take the next step to find out.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I am unemployed. I am looking to move my children, my husband and a cranky dachsund to another state. I am going to be joining a church for the first time in nearly 8 years. I just emerged from two weeks of illness for my children and I. I haven't really cleaned my apartment in too many weeks to count. My mother doesn't speak to me unless I call her first. My father is going through a messy divorce. The t.v. networks and movie studios have yet to recognize how brilliant an actor is my brother. The baby stopped sleeping through the night because he would rather smash his ankle into the bars of his new crib. My four year old has decided he is smarter than me and doesn't hesitate to let me know. And yet, I am okay.
Is it the talk therapy? My CSW is so patient. I have missed/rescheduled more than I have attended. Last time I talked the entire appointment.
Is it the medication? I am on the lowest recommended dose.
Is it the exercise? I have missed two weeks because of viruses, ear infections, strep throat and a rescheduled trip to celebrate Mother's Day with my Mother In Law.
Or is it, I'll whisper so I don't wake the Gorilla sleeping in the corner, that I am okay. Perhaps I am further on the road to recovery than I realize. Maybe, just maybe I am walking away from the PPD Gorilla once and for all.
Oh, come on. Be serious. Have you seen my apartment? The dust bunnies are banding together with the discarded sippy cups under the couch and are planning a coup. The 'talk therapy'? How long can I continue to poke at old wounds? They'll only heal if you leave them alone, right? And please, let's not even get started on the whole working thing. I got fired. Face it. So now I am right back at the beginning of the Mommy Guilt, shouldn't I be staying home and caring for the children?
And yet, I am okay. I'm still tired, though my bones don't turn to water so often in caring for the children. More days than not I manage earrings (my own personal 'word up' to freedom) AND a shower. I talk to friends and share the reality of my life, the good, the bad and the ugly. Heck, I even have a Margerita-Mommy-Movie night scheduled.
Maybe, just maybe, I am a few blocks down the long road to recovery.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
I have spent the past two days vainly attempting to block out the noise of my four year old and 9 month old fussing, wrestling and destroying my husband and apartment. One interesting side effect, besides slurred speech and swollen glands, was my husband's new found depth of appreciation for the actual work in motherhood. He was always involved, sometimes at the periphery, often in the middle, of the chaos of two children under 5. However, these past few days he was it. For better or worse their every need, and his survival, landed squarely on his shoulders.
I laughed as I vacuumed the crumb strewn carpet, in a vain attempt to recapture some semblance of order. Dripping with fever sweat, I picked up toys sticky with goodness knows what. I remembered last weekend. He was down with an ankle injury. Seated in the recliner, a cool drink in his hand, he never once thought to vacuum or pick up a toy. I, however, couldn't take it anymore. I simply had to straighten, soothe or care for something, someone other than myself.
This Mother's Day I had a lot of time to think. It wasn't quiet time. We live in a very, very small apartment, so I can still hear every move, every toy beeping and every 9 month old grumbling and fussing. However, with the fan running and a cd in the player, I could almost imagine true peace. In the peace I found out a few things about myself.
I found out I ignore myself everyday, a hundred times a day. I was coming down with this mac truck several days before I got fully run over. Had I taken a nap, some extra vitamins and tylenol could I have avoided this complete hijacking of my ability to breathe, eat and sleep? What would happen if I spent just one minute a day listening, instead of silencing?
I also learned how to turn off my inner guilty voice. Like an 80 year old Yenta, she chatters in my ear saying things like, "Look at you, Queen Mother, laying around. Suck it up. You gave birth--this, this 'little cold', is nothing! It doesn't matter you can't breathe, swallow, eat, see straight. Get out there and read to a child for goodness sakes. Well, in my day..."
The PPD Gorilla began to growl from the corner. He reminded me exercising and resting were key 'treatments' for my 'condition'. I reminded him to shut the hell up and let me sleep.
Finally, I learned a hard truth about mothering. Short of natural disasters and other accidents we dare not name, my kids will be just fine if I check out for awhile. They'll eat (though who knows what). They'll sleep (not in naps, but exhausted from overplaying, face down in their own drool in the exersaucer). They'll play (giggling at their silly daddy or at how the baby likes to gag himself on whatever is handy, a toy, his bink, the dog, etc.). They'll be fine. The days will pass on just like any other.
On this Mother's Day I am okay with missing a few moments with the baby where he learned he liked lasagna. I am okay with not having the conversation with my 4 year old about why lint on his pee-pee isn't a disease. I am more than okay with the spa gift from my husband and dad.
Surprisingly, I am okay with having checked out for a few days. I think I'll do it more often. Only next time without viruses and antibiotics (though maybe not sans the painkillers!).
Thursday, May 1, 2008
When you looked at me with tears in your eyes and said, "I am so sorry I didn't know how bad it was for you. Can you forgive me?" My heart broke just a little more. I didn't realize until that excruciating moment I wasn't the only casualty in the PPD war. The Gorilla had stomped on you too, using my shoes.
I patiently explained the 'syndrome' using words I only recently acquired. Like a toddler learning the word for juice, I stumbled and mixed some things up. The Gorilla howled beside me, "It only confirms my existence! This only reminds you that you are sick! You are a sick mom! You are a broken woman!"
You listened and asked questions, pausing and sighing at all the right times. You said, "I know that's not you. I know you acted (or didn't act) because you were stuck." The Gorilla huffed into a corner.
Seeing the concern in your eyes, I reassuringly said, "If you had seen me everyday you would have known." Living four hours away from a BFF is convenient for the Gorilla. At a distance it takes less energy to hold up the thin wall of normalcy.
I am a wall professional. I had a broad panel in front of my 'reality' that was pathetically only 1 mm thick. I held it up proud, ignoring it's transparency in places, the cracks in others. I went to work. I bathed my children. I made dinner. I got up in the morning. I made it through the day. Depressed people, weak people, mentally ill people don't do those things. I was strong. I could hold it up. Until I couldn't.
Friend, when I began to make plans and didn't call it wasn't because I forgot your number. It was because I forgot myself. I didn't abandon you, I abandoned anything requiring effort beyond holding up the wall, as thin as veneer. In your graciousness, you said, "I'm glad you're back." I just realized I went somewhere. I went behind the wall and it fell on me.
I e-mail now. I plan playdates as accountability to get together. I write your names down in my calendar. I call for no, and sometimes, good reasons. It's because of you, friend, that I can put the Gorilla in a corner, get out of bed and hike with you and the children. It's because of you I remember how much I really like Jazzercise. It's because of you I know that peace isn't the absence of work or strife or hard times it's the ability to be calm in my heart (and the ability to laugh at random putt-putt jokes). It's because of you that I can be brave and tell my heart to beat again.
Now that the wall is down I can look into your eyes. I can see myself reflected there. I can see someone I am only beginning to know. A mother who will give you a high five when your son cares for his lovies and who will cry with you as our babies hold hands to navigate the scary woods. A sister who will roll under grape laden tables in laughter, soul and spirit deep. A girlfriend who will delight in cheesy eighties movies and John Cusack obsessions. A buddy who can plot and play endlessly over scrapbooks. A ya-ya who can laugh about talking on the phone in the only peaceful and kid free space in the house-the bathroom. I can see these things-because you are still here.
Dear friend, can you ever forgive me? You already did. Because you are still here.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
We were free to be women and worshippers in an environment without the distractions of family, work and life.
I enjoyed the time. I welcomed the opportunity to seek God in the quiet places of my heart. I had a great slumber party with my BFF Shel, talking long into the night about life, love and education. (She's my hero in a number of areas!) I won the purse game for having the highest number of items in one bag (not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing). I was touched and changed by the speakers and know I will never be the same.
It was a surprise to discover it wasn't what I received that was the most powerful, but what I realized I was missing.
When Melodye was speaking she talked about allowing your heart to beat again. To be brave, to believe again in the goodness of God and the possibilities of life. To this heart, accustomed to missing beats due to depression and circumstances and life, it was indeed time to beat again.
Kathy spoke on allowing God to heal and fix those broken and missing pieces in our emotional lives. At the point of great emotional pain, distress and/or abuse we lose our ability to move on. For example, she shared a situation from her first marriage where she had to take a ton of abuse and had no way out. Years later, in a new marriage and with plenty of emotional and spiritual support, she found herself overreacting. Upon reflection God showed her that the past was encroaching on her present with residual pain.
What missing pieces of my past are encroaching upon my present and causing me to miss out on my future?
My heart missing a beat, missing out on a future of possibility. There was indeed much missing from my life. One last missing piece was discovered. I desperately missed my boys. I felt as if a part of me was missing.
When the gorilla of PPD was howling at his loudest (see PPD Chronicles), I would have given the children away in exchange for a little sleep, a little shower, a little peace. On my commute to work I drove past a Fairmont hotel. When it was particularly dark for me I would plot how I would check in and disappear for a few days. I would free myself from the boys and all the depression, pain, and despair attached to mothering.
So it was a surprise the depth to which I missed them. I counted the miles to the nearest convenience store for diapers. I looked for a refrigerator in the room to put a sippy cup. I sized up the dresser to see if it would suit as a changing table. I kept track of where the hospitals and/or clinics were in case we needed to do a middle of the night ear infection run. I would need none of these this trip.
When a person loses a limb, it is said the nerves to the brain 'remember' the feelings even after the flesh is gone. Phantom limb pain. Pain where none can possibly exist. I had phantom 'kid' pain. The pain of separation reverberated in my now well rested brain. Nerves once raw with the daily demands of care and feeding now pulsed with a desire to know what they were doing, eating, seeing, feeling at that particular moment.
I missed them. I missed who I was becoming with them. I was missing a piece of myself.
I realized they weren't breaking me into pieces. They were the catalyst to put the pieces back together. They were both the hammer and the glue of my heart and psyche.
Monday, April 21, 2008
-5 1/2 hours earlier-
To cross the Sousa bridge, I live in the DC area, I had only to travel 8 miles. 8 little miles. An hour later, I just crossed to the other side. I was so desperate I called my brother in L.A. to get on Mapquest and get me out of there. It seems my directions were missing any details on how I could go around the construction with the signs warning, "25 minute delay ahead". Like the levels of hell in Dante's Inferno, the signs detailed my stay in the purgatorially slow traffic on 295. "20 minute delay ahead" (this just an hour from my home). "15 minute delay ahead" You get the picture.
-3 1/2 hours earlier-
Baltimore and its suburbs, I am sure, are beautiful. A great place to live. Why, oh why, did ALL the people that live there take off early THIS particular Friday? And why, oh why, did they ALL need to go in the same direction as I did? No, that's not me banging my head against the steering wheel, that is some other pathetic travelin' soul.
-2 hours earlier-
Harrisburg. The land of the lost. The lost being me. I am lost in a sea of stalled traffic wherein 6 lanes must merge into one. Though the 2 miles of scrap yard were fun to look at, I was reminded of the Transformers Movie, my son's current obsession. As I crawled through traffic, apparently every commuter in Harrisburg likes this back road too, I imagined Bumble Bee rising from the pieces to bat away all the cars stopped in front of me. No banging this time, just a few choice words and several loud renditions of the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. I will love you.....Until my dying day....or when I get out traffic, you get the idea.
-1 hour earlier-
The sign read, "slow 20 mph" with an arrow pointing right. Thankfully I did slow as the road before me simply ended. It was the tightest curve I had yet to navigate in the SUV and the steepest cliff to my right. I can handle 8 lanes of beltway traffic moving at 90+ miles an hour but this country road with the cliff to the right made me sweat.
Apparently the yet another missing piece on this journey would be from my carefully Googled directions. Did you know most roads in this part of the country are named after the family living on them? Did you also know my B&B is not on the Amish farm into which I pulled in (falsely) ecstatic to have arrived? My first clue things were wrong, the children running barefoot through the mud. My first suburban, modern mom thought, "Those children really will have a hard time getting their feet clean tonight before bed." Thought #2, "I am really not in DC anymore!" In calling the B&B they too had no idea where I was. However, if I just continued to drive down the main road (the only road), I would come by the place. I would know it by the black cows grazing in the front yard. Cows.In.The.Front.Yard.
-Destination, Part Deux-
Ah, here at last. I love the smell of fresh manure on a fine Spring evening. I also love the view of a shirtless farm hand. I don't love the view of said shirtless wonder's 'Pa' bending over to fix the tractor....shudder. In my room, a very coordinated boudoir(by very coordinated I mean EVERY SINGLE SOLITARY THING had a peachy color to it), were warnings not to touch the electrical fences and to look carefully before pulling out because tractors do drive everywhere.
Epilogue to the Travelogue
I'm here, but my soap is in my bathroom 5 1/2 hours away. Great. I shower with the sample size bottle of baby soap I find in the deep recesses of my travel bag. I now smell like Grins and Giggles. Before leaving my room for the first session of the conference, I check the directions from the B&B to the church. What if they too are wrong and are missing pieces of roads?
As I remove the dead, ginormous bee from my front seat (dear God, even my car is a haven for living things on this stinky farm!), I hear horns blaring from the road. Speeding past at 100 miles an hour is the caravan of people I know attending the conference. I burn rubber, scare the cows and peel out of the driveway to follow, narrowly missing Pa in his tractor. I don't want to be later than I already am, there are too many missing pieces to find.