Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Ten As We Go Into 2010

Top 10 Lessons I Am Taking Into 2010

10. Cash is king.
This debt free lifestyle is hard. No is a word I don't like but have to say to myself more often then not when I want (not need) something. However, to know that someday, sooner than later I hope, I will be the mistress of my own financial destiny and not some credit card company or bank is priceless.

9. Kids are the best and the worst.
Depends on the day. Depends on the perspective. Depends on level of sleep deprivation.

8. Husbands are an investment with guaranteed returns.
If I invest, time, attention, space I gain a return far greater than I imagined. Of course, he's a good guy, which helps.

7. Family is the best and the worst.
See #9.

6. Cheese goes well with everything.
Had to be said, you were thinking it too, you just wouldn't admit it.

5. My perspective of God doesn't change His perspective and passion for me.
Alternately blows me away and makes me cringe at the enormity of that reality.

4. A good book, a warm beverage, a comfy chair and a boo boo blankie are necessary for mental and emotional well being.
My books always have some sort of super-natural element. The beverage is often caffeinated. The comfy chair varies. The boo boo blankie is a hideous orange and brown thing from Korea that weighs a ton but keeps the warms in and colds out.

3. I am worth it.
Coming to grips with what that means and how that affects #7 and #9.

2. Just because 2009 was awful doesn't mean 2010 will be too.
I am not alone in nearly breathless anticipation for 2009 to end. Many people have expressed it's time to get the year over. As if a date will miraculously wipe away months of toughness and pain. Maybe it will. Maybe it won't.

1. Despite the challenges, lack and often hilarious ridiculousness of my situation, I am truly blessed.
Blessed beyond measure. Blessed beyond what I deserve. Blessed by a loving God. Blessed to have a husband who still pinches my, well, assets. Blessed to have children who run into my arms at the end of a long day. Blessed to have family and some friends who look me in the eye and love me despite what they may see there.

Blessed too that you read this and smile or tear up or smirk.

Goodbye 2009. Hello 2010.





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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holiday Madness

Christmas was a hurried, hysterical and overwhelming affair this year. The Christmas spirit never really hit me. However, there's still more than enough to write about.

First, never understimate the power of the 'semi-homemade' treat. A little of this, a little of that added to some random box of goodness and voila! I have amended my definition of home made. I made it at home. Thus.....

Second, Wii is the coolest gadget ever.

Third, vegetarians make killer crown beef roasts.

Fourth, sleep is gone. My bags have luggage under my eyes.

Fifth, magic and fantasy is the sixth food group to a six year old. Deer made tracks in the snow at the house. The tracks led right up to the window where the Christmas tree is set. We told Ian that Santa's reindeer did a dry run to get ready. All night he kept peering out that window to see if it was time. It was precious!

Sixth, not all babies like to rip open presents. Caden simply stacked, restacked and then threw every package he could get his hands on. Nothing broken, thankfully.

Finally, it's our first Christmas since our 'plastic-ectomy' (i.e. no credit cards for us). It was the leanest on record. Of course family helped. Yet, each gift was more meaningful as I knew it was the only one they would open. The gift is ours as we will not, as in every other Christmas, add to debt and our stress.

We are at the NaNas. A beagle puppy is alternately trying to eat Moms dog and the baby's diapers (while still on his bum). Step brothers and sisters are watching the kid/dog chaos with alternating horror and amusement. Ham and roast are on the menu. Gift wrap is everywhere (even the puppy's mouth). We are all shouting over the t.v. blaring "Christmas Vacation" and the baby 'singing' with his new guitar. Nana is randomly hugging/kissing everyone. Sister in laws (I have a gloriously awesome SIL) are kibbutzing while scrubbing pots. It's heaven.

I have lost much in these last years. I am just beginning to realize I have gained so very much more. As Dave Ramsay says, "I am doing better than I deserve." I agree.


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Friday, December 18, 2009

Auntie Ellen

There are subjects we avoid with our kids. It's our attempt to protect and nurture them in the so swiftly dissolving bubble of childhood. Sometimes, however, it's necessary to talk about one of those in a way that builds resiliency and strength. Death is one of those subjects.

When the legs and body exploded apart from the hermit crab, it was tragic, it was a death, but it wasn't really-real. It was a crustacean. (Or a reptile?)

When the Beta fish (of whom the pet store said were 'indestructible') began to spawn a disease akin to radiation burns and he, well, melted. It wasn't a death.

Aunt Ellen's passing to Heaven is a death. It's a death to someone we love. It's the end of an era when parents stayed married, grandmothers baked and family actually spent time together.

I told my six year old that Daddy and my heart was heavy. We were sad because Auntie Ellen went to be with Jesus in Heaven. I explained she had been very sick and she had lived a very long time. He asked me how old she was. I told him. Then he asked how old each of his grandparents were. It took until the third grandparent age request until I realized he was 'checking in' on when they too would go to Heaven.

My mother in law had a kidney/pancreas transplant 7 years ago. It saved her life. It may take her life. It's a paradox bearable under the incredible joy she brings to all our lives. At times like these, when death is a palpable visitor, we worry a little and hug a lot.

I assured him, with a lump in my throat, that we would have lots of time with each grandparent. We will. To him, any time is lots of time. To me, today, it's never enough.

He paused. I waited. Here's how the rest of the conversation went,

"Oh that's why the sun is so brighter today!"

"What do you mean sweetie?"

"'Cuz Jesus is so happy Auntie Ellen is with him today!"

My bubble of maternal explaining super powers burst and I began to cry.

The sun is so brighter. Auntie Ellen, we'll see you when we see you in the brightest place of all.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

The Sound of Silence Part Two

"I wonder what vision will be planted in my brain when I again have the sound of silence?"

In January of this year I closed an entry with this statement. I have now found out.

I am unnerved by silence. Completely at a loss with what to do with myself in the void of silence. I am talking about silence where there is nothing that must be done, no thought that must be thought. True silence.

I am a gutsy broad. For most things I charge ahead, consequences be damned. Drop this often misunderstood warrior chicka into silence and I am undone.

Discovered this the other night. The kids were asleep. The chores done (relatively speaking-the constant mess and chaos of the house always cries for more cleaning/decluttering). The husband was happily seated in his recliner, a laptop connected to his favorite sports/news site, Fox news and ESPN programmed into the remote. I went upstairs, got on my jammies and sat at the edge of the bed.

I could have turned on the t.v., but I didn't. I could have put on a cd. I could have read a book. I just sat there. And it was awful. Truly awful.


It may have been another one of those lovely holdovers from my childhood. There was a lot of silence in my house. It was more often than not a function of someone being mad at someone else and everyone else running for cover. There were weeks that went by with little more than perfunctory communication.

It's almost as if I couldn't stand to be in my own presence. Weird. I know. The best I can to describe it.

There's more to come on this, I am sure. However, right now, I have to turn up the radio on the laptop and turn down the t.v.


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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Plastic Free is Truly Free

This is our first 'plastic free' holiday season. And it's awful. And it's wonderful. Let me explain.

It's awful because the list of what I have wanted and did NOT purchase far outweighs that which I have actually bought. I really, really, really, want an inflatable manger scene for the front yard. (You know the one where Mary and Joseph are cutie patootie round figures and Baby Jesus is only a head with a blankie.) I actually googled it. It was $200. Too much.

There's the super fun techy gifts. They cost, well, a lot.

And then the toys. The glorious, bleepity, blaring boy toys. There's the bike the baby can ride to play his own toddler version of playstation. Too big. Too loud. Too much.

It's wonderful because I know that what is purchased won't be paid off over the next 10 years and at 27% extra. My pride has continued to be deflated by receiving so much family support. Less pride=more peace.

It's wonderful too, as it has forced me to be a shopping laser beam. I'm focusing on the one or two special things. I am an online force to be reckoned with. With my fellow online shop-a-nistas (thanks Shel), I am determined to do 99% of my shopping from the comfort of my recliner.

I am focusing on time. Time to bake. Time to decorate. I actually took days off work to do, well, nothing. Nothing but make some memories with the kids. To do cards. To decorate. To write.

We are plastic free because it's better. We've been ruined by the hope and promise that we can live today like no one else so that later we can live like no one else can. (Thanks Dave Ramsey). We are still on the first baby step. We have a l-o-n-g way to go. But we will make it.

Stay tuned. There's 15 days left.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Minor League Mommy Moments


I made a penultimate mommy sacrifice last night. I sacrificed a night with a friend scrapping to sit in a freezing arena to watch minor league hockey. Though my knees still ache today, it was worth it.

Let me be very upfront in my sports interest and prowess. I possess neither. Thank God my children have inherited my husband's gross motor skills. I truly am the Bella Swan of calamity on any sports field or arena. (For those un-Twilighted basically it means I am a danger to the public when involved in sports. I'm long on enthusiasm and way short on talent.)

I became a Steelers fan to stay married. He bleeds black and gold. So, love him, love the Stillers. I only watch them. I only pretend to know things about that one team.

Any other sports rank a really far, far second to a good book, a quiet afternoon, a cup o' Earl Grey tea and my boo boo blankie.

My 6 year old has sometimes struggled to find his place in the world. He's smart. He's adorable. He's got a vocabulary and an attitude and he's not afraid to use both. He's also shy and more than a little self conscious in certain situations. So, when he began to show real interest in hockey, we decided to support it wholeheartedly.

Hence, me sitting with aching knees, freezing my keister off watching a minor league hockey game. It's loud. It's fast. It's pain-ful. Truly pain-ful to watch. Here's a few highlights:

  • Shouted from the top row, repeatedly, "Dowgie! That's a great shot! Way to play Dowgie" (insert deep, western PA accent here). I only discovered in the second period the "Shouter" called all the players Dowgie and that every play was good one.

  • Not a mullet in sight. Not a one. Bummer.

  • One of the players was named Couch. To pass the time, I began to nickname all the players after furniture. I started to join in, in my head of course, with the Shouter. "Good play Ottoman! What a pass Settee'! Oh, get that rebound Barcolounger!".

  • Food is w-a-y cheap in our little arena. So I got to eat every period. It wasn't good food. I consumed it with my germophobia suspended. But it was food, nevertheless.
  • It was over in under three hours. Woo Hoo!

My little fella couldn't wait to wear the free t-shirt they handed out as we entered. He watched every play and even joined the Shouter. He was bouncing on his seat when they were in front of us and craning his neck when they were at the other end. He ran down to slap hands to greet the team as they reentered the arena after one of the halftimes, or breaks or whatever. He proudly, quietly and enthusiastically stood in line to get Barcolounger and Daybed to sign his shirt.

There are four years and thirteen days between my sons. I cannot recall life without the both of them. I can't remember, until, it is just the three of us, like at the game. For four years it was just my little guy. We shlepped him everywhere. He knew how to eat in restaurants. He ordered dinosaur meat (steak) at our former favorite restaurant in DC. He knew how to behave at a public event, going to concerts, movies and shows. Our lives are so different and less financed that we don't get to do as much. (That and the baby is crazy. I don't risk him too often in public.)

It was awesome to watch my little/big man in the cold arena. I loved giving and receiving full attention. There were no interruptions. It was 3'ish hours of us.

It was three hours of Minor League Mommy Moments.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankfullness for Fullness

Golly, I haven't written if f-o-r-e-v-e-r! Sorry to any and all who check in with this regularly. Thanks for hanging on.

I got sick. Really, really sick. I can handle a sinus infection. I can handle bronchitis. I can handle infections in both eyes. Just NOT at the same time. My six year old asked me, in the midst of the sicky-ickies, "Mommy, why are your doing everyfing? I worry 'cuz you are so sick." At the time I wasn't doing much except refilling my ginger ale. It made me think, how sick did I look when my six year old begins to worry?

I was so sick I got sick of being sick.

Now, two weeks and one course o' antibiotics later, I am ready to tackle the holiday madness. The NaNa will descend tomorrow. In what fevered haze did I think it was a good idea to invite people to a house I haven't adequately cleaned since, well, forever? Oh well, love me-love my mess!

This Thanksgiving, I am full. I am full of thankfullness. Thankful to see the light at the end of the depression/anxiety/therapy tunnel. Thankful to be able to get through most days with my sanity and spirit intact. Thankful for kids, whether they be healthy or hacking, messy or clean. Thankful that just last night I kissed my husband and felt that familiar and awesome flutter in my heart. He just looks too good in a tie! Some folks are Team Edward or Team Jacob. I am firmly Team Ron.

I am full of anticipation. Anticipation for a new year. A new year of opportunities and grace. A new year of leaving the past behind to revamp and rev up towards the new thing!

I am thankful for mommy friends. Those unsung heroes of ovarian greatness who encourage me by their very existence and with just a word, smile or pack o' coupons.

I am thankful for you, reader. May you be only one or number in the hundreds. I thank you for walking a step or two on my journey with me. Let's keep walking shall we?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.


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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Little Big Shadows

I surprised my son and picked him up from school early yesterday. I wanted to take him to go buy minor league hockey tickets for the special Veteran's Day game next week. My little loves hockey! He plays it constantly in the back yard and even has intelligent comments while watching a game with his dad. I see a potential future of freezing my dupa off while sitting in a cold ice rink for practices. :)

We exited the car. It was a sunny and clear day (a rarity in this season for my little corner of western PA). As I walked I instinctively reached back to grab his hand which was already waiting for mine. I looked down and saw my big and his little hand in a shadow on the concrete.

I was struck by how little his hand was and how big mine was in comparison. I thought ahead to when his hand will dwarf mine with it's grown up boy-ness.

I was blessed that he was reaching as I was reaching. I was blessed that in spite of the little big shadows I and the family have been walking through we are still holding hands.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Broke Down

I will be 30-something-ish in January. I am too young to be this broke down. Went to the Dr.'s yesterday and left with no less than 5 slips of paper. One for a neck x-ray and the rest for various pharaceuticals. I am too young to be this broke down.



It seems like my body has revolted against me. Darn it.



So what if my diet has consisted mostly of pop, chocolate and McDs? What does it matter if I only sleep a coupla hours a night? Stress is a fact of life and I should just get over it. Nope. Not any more.



I have blogged before about embracing getting older with dignity and grace. (See Crossing the Ma'am Divide blog from 10/6/08).

Forget it. Nothing is graceful about being broke down. I am whining. I know.


Maybe, just maybe getting broke down is the time to get full of grace. Maybe there is a greater measure of health ahead if I make the changes I now realize I don't have a choice about making.


Or maybe I can just go shlep another pepsi and call it a day. After all, I need something to drink to take my next pill.



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Monday, November 2, 2009

Confessions of a Semi-Reformed Halloweenie

I don't like Halloween. It's scary. It's commercial. It's just plain icky.

My husband and MIL, however, L-O-V-E it. To them it is a fantasy day wrapped in sparkle and coated in chocolate. Yay!

So, when my six year old looked at me and asked, "Mommy, why don'tchoo like Halloween? Daddy and NaNa and I do!"

I explained I don't like it because it's scary. I don't like to be scared and I don't like him to be scared either. And then there are the spiritual implications. That is what started the campaign-the conversion of Mommy to no longer be a Halloweenie.

Every time we came upon Halloween decorations, and in my small western PA town, they are EVERYWHERE, he would point out the ones that were scary and those that were cute. "See, Mommy!" he would explain,"that's just a cute orange something or other. It's not scary!".

I'm politically savvy. I can read the polls and I was down. So I did what any self respecting Mama would do-I gave in. I gave in with caveats.

First, we would not decorate or watch or consume anything scary.
Second, we would only trick or treat once in NaNa's neighborhood.
Third, I would NOT dress up.

I bought the kids costumes. I packed the car. I drove to NaNas.

The MIL was ecstatic. She recounted tales of her own boys dressing up and eating so much candy they threw up! Such fun. Yay.

If Norman Rockwell had painted in the new millennium, he would have painted NaNa's neighborhood. It's a 'planned' community, with street lights and houses just different enough to feign uniqueness and similar enough to keep a common aesthetic. There are children, lots o' children. As we drove into the plan, the place was lit up with orange lights and decorations everywhere. It was like a pumpkin threw up on the place.

I was a little hesitant. It was raining. I wasn't sure the baby would wear the pumpkin costume (the only one in his size I could find at such a late date). I wasn't sure how this would all work. After all, I grew up overseas. We didn't really trick or treat. In high school we drank and threw up but that's another story.

MIL set the timer for the start of trick or treating. I am not kidding. The timer. Tick-tick-tick. It kept reminding me that I was a quitter. That I had given in. That I had compromised on the spiritual/economic/social boundaries I had hoped to set for my kids. Then it happened.

Ian got dressed as Spider Man and promptly began showing me his super hero "moves". The baby did indeed reject the pumpkin costume, which was a good thing as it made him look like he had a mini-baby, orange beer belly. He became, with a little black makeup under each eye and his jersey, Hines Ward. (For those of you not in PA, he's the best wide receiver in the NFL.)

The timer went off and so did we. Spiderman kept randomly running into things as he couldn't see through his mask. It kept getting 'steamy'. The baby just chased his brother and did what he did.

The baby and I came back to help NaNa hand out candy. In the cold darkness, we sat, a mountain of candy beside us. He kept whispering, "Come! C-o-m-e!" It was as if he was calling in the children. He passed out candy with a big grin. When a little purple fairy came, he gave her not one but two pieces of candy!

It was a magical night. The boys had a great time. The neighborhood came alive with children and families, laughing and having fun. There wasn't a bit of ickiness in sight.

Do I like Halloween? Not really. I do like, however, sharing a magical moment with my boys. I will forever remember a whispered call into the cold night by my sweet two year old. I will think of my little super hero when he is old enough to conquer his own enemies.

And maybe next year I won't be such a big Halloweenie.


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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Digging New Wells

Yesterday was a very shallow serotonin day in my emotional swimming pool. It felt as though someone had opened the drain and didn't tell me. It was also a day I had both kids at home.

Shallow pool + energetic kids=cloudy day with absolutely zero chance for meatballs!

At one point I was randomly cleaning and kept repeating this mantra, "At rest time I can cry. At rest time I can cry. At rest time...". I also got the urge to rearrange the furniture in the living room, with disastrous consequences. It ended badly with my 6 year old pushing up the t.v. I was barely holding, preventing it from crashing to the floor.

I put on some music. I sought the comfort and measure of grace imparted by singing to the One who made me. I couldn't remember the words. The kids did, so I sang along with them.

Rest time did indeed arrive. I showered, an attempt to wash the negativity and 'cloudiness' from my brain. I napped in the recliner as my oldest played on his DS game system. I didn't cry.

I was itchy on the inside. Or is it twitchy? I just needed to move. I needed to do. I needed something.

There is a bird bath sitting atop a large, rectangular flower bed in the front of my house. Once adorned with purple and pink pansies and other little flower thingies (a green thumb I am not), it became a pile of weeds and brown yuck. Every time I looked out the window of the living room/home office, I saw that pile of overgrown nothingness. Everyday I was reminded of the nothing.

Carrying a hoe, a shovel and dragging a wheel barrow, I tackled the bed of weeds. I hacked away, surprised at how deep the virulent, ugliness went. I was stung, literally, by the branches as I reached to pull them out. The twitchy/itchies went away, run off by hard labor.

My sons orbited around me. Wielding shovels, rakes and any tool I wasn't using, they dug in the newly turned dirt. The two year old had a running commentary of baby babble. It was if he was describing this very important project of digging and pouring the dirt on the other side. The six year old complained, and dug, then complained some more. He is on the varsity team of complaining.

Me? I kept digging. I was finally doing something. I was doing something with real results I could immediately see.

Hours went by in an instant. People came home ready for dinner, which I hadn't started yet. I was still raking and digging and hacking away.

I stopped and looked at my handiwork in the dimming daylight. My oldest took on the task of smoothing the dirt. The youngest was digging new holes. I had a thought.

It was these children who were the catalyst for the weeds growing in my emotional garden. It was these same children for whom I began the task of 'hacking' away at my own dysfunction. Often I am struck at the depth of the roots of my challenges, deeper into my childhood and very sense of self than I ever wanted to acknowledge. I am mystified at how a seemingly nebulous occurrence, such as seeing mom in a grocery store, could pack such a sting. I am cleaning out my own internal spiritual and emotional garden.

Could it be that they, too, will be the ones to smooth out the rocky places? Are they part of God's strategy to bring me into wholeness, healing and peace? Can they be the ones who, in my parenting of them, will help dig new, healthy wells from which living water can flow?

Deuteronomy 6: 10-12 "When God, your God, ushers you into the land he promised through your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give you, you're going to walk into large, bustling cities you didn't build, well-furnished houses you didn't buy, come upon wells you didn't dig, vineyards and olive orchards you didn't plant. When you take it all in and settle down, pleased and content, make sure you don't forget how you got there—God brought you out of slavery in Egypt. "

God is bringing me out of slavery. I am promised to walk into a land of emotional and spiritual wholeness not entirely of my own making. I just need to walk into it. Then I need to take it all in, settle down and be content.

He, and the babbling, complaining angels in my life, are digging the new wells.


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Monday, October 19, 2009

Off the Rails to Get Back on Track

So, dear blogfriend, I haven't written in awhile. I have been completely off the rails. My eating plan of late? Eat as much as possible and wash it all down with Coca Cola. My exercise? Stretching to search through the cupboards for those cookies I KNOW I bought and hid a month ago. My sleep? In the chair while the kids watch toons. My poor husband has to suffer through my mood swings. I have been experimenting with all aspects of my temperment lately, and often at the same time (poor guy). I swing from being a marshmellow with a spongey center to being Hillary Clinton on steroids. Oy.

I've also been engaging in my favorite sport of late: depression fueled, anxiety driven, self-reflective navel gazing! My favoritest ever! It's that time in therapy/overcoming where we now are ready to tackle (drum roll please) MOTHER ISSUES!

How cliche. I mean really. However, one of my core issues deals with madness from the Motherland. If you have read this blog at all you would have noticed that indeed Mom and I aren't exactly doing each other's nails or sleeping over in fuzzy jammies. She ain't fuzzy and I often feel like nails on a chalkboard.

But it is time. It is time to overcome that aspect of my brokedown psyche/soul and move on.

Here's my newest and most precious revelation. It came to me in church yesterday. I had to go with only my oldest son, as the baby had a fever and weird goop in one eye. That combined with an early Steeler game and my recent loveliness of temperment, made my husband a more than willing stay at home dad yesterday.

So there I sat, beside my mother-goddess friend/island of serenity and sanity, Beth. The sermon was good. It was even great. My revelation, however, didn't really relate to that. Sorry PB.

It was this. Stay with me on this for a mo'.

Maybe, depite all the evidence to the contrary, the tough emotional history, the apparent lack of seratonin in my emotional swimming pool, the rejection from my mother-maybe, just maybe, I DON'T HAVE TO BE CRAZY. Maybe I can be normal, whole and healed. Maybe I can, and should, be an overcomer of all that nonsense. Maybe I AM NOT REALLY THAT DAMAGED LITTLE GIRL. Maybe I am a whole, strong, woman who happens to need a little fine tuning. Maybe, just maybe, underneath the veneer of craziness, is a person God created to be whole, happy and, well, ME.

Ironically, it sounds a little crazy to only now discover this seemingly obvious truth. To those of you who said, 'duh!', I understand. For me, it's the first time I really truly BELIEVE it. I can't yet see who I am on the other side (though I've had glimpses from other people). But I BELIEVE there is a ME inside there.

It only took me going off the rails to get back on track.

Stay tuned. It's gonna be an exciting ride!


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Thursday, September 24, 2009

THE QUESTION

Before going to sleep my son and I have some quiet time. We talk, pray and just reconnect in the quiet darkness. Sometimes we giggle at the baby singing to himself his favorite "Poop" song. Most times I ask him what his favorite part of the day was. I want the last thought before going to bed to be a good one. And sometimes he hits me with THE QUESTION.

THE QUESTION is the one I am never prepared for and don't really want to answer. Last night it was about, the 'girls'.

Here's how it went down (and I mean really downhill):

Squiggle, adjust, cuddle. Sudden flip over to face me. (Uh oh...here it comes...THE QUESTION.)

"Mommy?"

"Yes, buddy."

"Why can't we touch girls chests?" (OMG. Really?)
Pause.

"Well," stammer, gather, think,"because it's not appropriate to touch a girl's chest." (Wait...does he even know what inappropriate really means?)

"Why?" (Oh boy...here goes.)

"Because you are a big boy and you know how to act. Only babies can touch their Mommy's chests." (His future wife will thank me for his enlightened and supportive stance on breastfeeding. You are welcome future daughter in law.)

"Because they are babies they don't know nuffin. Right?"

"Right," (Brainstorm!)

"You know babies run around naked sometimes?"

Giggle, "Yeah! Like Caden before a baff."

"Yes, that's right. Do you ever see Pappy or Daddy run around naked?"

Bigger giggle, "Nooooooooo!".

"That's because they know it's not appropriate. So that's why they don't do it."

(Score one for the mommy. Shoulda stopped there. Didn't. Shoulda. But didn't. Had to throw the next thing in. For whatever reason I cannot come close to fathoming. Oy.)

"And when you get married, you're wife will let you touch her chest."

"Oh." Roll over, squiggle and go to sleep.

I think I have figured out where THIS question came from. He is tall enough that when he reaches up for a hug that his hands land, well, on my 'girls'. I politely take his hands and put them around my waist and encourage him to not do that. On one hand (no pun intended, really) I don't want to discourage affection, on the other I don't want him to think he can just grab any significant woman in his life.

Anyway you look at it, I hope our discussions about the 'girls' is over. Until the next time he pops THE QUESTION.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Only Thing That Never Changes

The only thing that never changes is that everything changes. In just a week everything I thought was up is down and down is up.

The Depression Gorilla has moved back in. (Please see PPD Chronicles.) He's not howling night and day, but he's brought some luggage for a bit of a visit. I didn't notice him lurking in the corners until I slept through an entire day. I also began to forget what I was doing, why I was doing it and stopped caring if I did anything ever again.

When the therapist did a depression assessment, I was confident I would score well. I was working. I was taking care of the kids. I was surviving. I scored nearly as high as I did when I was in the depth of post-partum, unable to get off the couch. Nearly as high. Really? Yep.

When the therapist did an anxiety assessment, I was confident I had it under control. Sure I didn't sleep most nights. Those chest pains out of no where were just from caffeine. The racing thoughts were just because I have a full schedule. I scored high enough that the kind Dr. took a deep breath before giving me the score.

When the therapist did a stress assessment, I was confident I was in control. Sure we have moved, gained and lost a total of 4 jobs in the past year. Sure our income has been cut by 75%. But I was in control. Normal stress is 300. I am at 536. High enough that the good Dr. recommended I get pharmaceutical help.

In one day, everything changed. It was if the scales fell from my eyes and I saw the light. I saw that I am white knuckled, grasping the edge of the cliff, wishing I could fly. I had to fully grasp the ginormous stop sign in front of me before I hit it headfirst.

The depression gorilla has moved back in with some luggage. With prayer, a skilled and empathetic therapist, a community of believers and a little bit of chocolate, I need to unpack those bags. Then I can evict his hairy butt once and for all!

Instead of being down that the game has changed so suddenly and completely, I am encouraged. Instead of being ashamed I need help from so many for so much, I am filled with thankfulness and gratitude for those who stand with me.
Instead of wallowing and being stuck in this mess, wrestling with the depression gorilla until exhausted; I am filled with a strength in knowing that greater is He that is within me than ANYTHING that which stands against me.
Instead of fearing the future, I am hopeful. When one has flirted with the bottom, the only direction to go is up.
Instead of being ashamed that I am a mother with challenges, I am joyful that I have children who want to make meatballs with me and can't go to sleep without hearing me sing and squiggling in for a cuddle.

The only thing that never changes is that everything changes. And for that I am truly thankful.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Burrito As Big As My Arm

So I finally made the life altering decision to take off a little (okay, a lot) of weight. I have shed so much emotional 'weight' in the last couple years that it was time.

I am, what I like to call, substantial. I have a coffee mug someone thought would be cute to give me which reads, "I'm not fat. I'm fluffy." It bears a rather large cat with a grimace. That's what I did when I received it, grimaced.

People say, "She has such a beautiful face. If she could just lose a few pounds." Really?

My whole life I shopped in 'that' section. You know the one, in the back, where the clothes resemble feed sacks and contain a lot of denim and really, really large print.

I don't want to shop in that section anymore. I don't want to be in the back. I want to be in the front, I think. At least I would consider being in the front. In the front of my emotional, spiritual and 'real' life.

I'm in day 10 of the Curves weight management and health plan thingy. It has meant great sacrifice. Sacrifice of sugar. Sacrifice of convenience. Sacrifice of being full in my tummy to be full in my heart.

That is why I ate half of a burrito as big as my arm. The burrito was a reward, a break and a victory. A reward for sticking with it. A break from counting, weighing and recording. It was a victory because I know I can go right back to taking care of myself and back on plan. Before I would have felt guilty and would have given up. Not anymore.

I can eat half a burrito as big as my arm and still win the battle. The battle of the bulge. The battle to keep whole, sane and happy.

It was a darn good burrito. It's a darn good life.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Hamburger Helper Hill

"Hey Mom!"

"Yes, sweetie-petey," I got a bazillion nicknames for my little guys.

"Do you wike guns?"

"No, not really."

Pause.

"Do you like pistols?"

"Nope."

"Do you like bazookas?"

"No."

"Do you like grenades?" (Sheesh kid!) "Everybody likes grenades!"

"No. I really don't like things that kill people or animals."

"Rillwee. Hmmm..."

"You don't even wike blowing up fings?"

This was a conversation in the quiet evening hours with my six year old. Really.

It occurred hours after a rather unfortunate shooting incident at the Wal-Mart. Okay, before you check your headlines to see if I was involved in a shooting, it was at the video arcade.

My six year old is actually quite a fantastic driver for video games. These are so high tech and real I was yelling and dodging imaginary obstacles while I watched him play.

As a reward for letting me get a long shopping trip done, I bribed him with the promise of two games at the arcade. Most of the time it's a no to any arcade. He's six and most of the games are definitely to violent or babe-filled for his age.

He wanted to do the safari game. It was a shooter game. We pressed the wrong buttons and he couldn't do it. Being the budget conscious chick I am (now), I didn't want to waste the two quarters by not having the game played. So I began to shoot virtual wildlife on the African savanna. It was gross. It was bloody and I flinched with each shot.

Unfortunately, I am, quite by accident, a good shot. Early in my marriage I shot a finch from over 100 yards from my father in laws porch. I'm a regular Annie Oakley, sorta.

I am all for the second amendment. I don't think the government should prevent someone from owning and properly using a gun. I do think you should have to wait a little to buy one so they can check out if you have a few screws loose. I, as a personal preference only, choose not have guns in the house. I don't like them. I especially don't like them around children.

In a previous life, when I had too much time and too much 'book' knowledge instead of hard earned Mommy-wisdom, decreed we would have a gun-free home. That our little haven would not have fire arms of any sort. Yeah, right.

If they don't have the gun to shoot with they'll find something. Even my littlest guys does. It comes with the territory of birthing and raising boys.

A friend told me a story of a friend of his who absolutely prevented any guns and/or gun references or gun shows from being displayed in his house. They didn't even call them guns, but shooters. One night over dinner, their little darling picked up a floret of his organic broccoli, pointed it at his dad and announced, "Look dad! It's a shooter!"

Maybe the point isn't to make them gun averse. Rather, should I ask him why he likes guns/pistols/bazookas/grenades so much?


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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An Open Letter to My Mom

Dear Mom,
I saw you a couple days ago in the aisle of the store. You were motoring by the paper products in one of those scooters. Your oxygen tank was in the basket along with two, green cans of decaf coffee.

I walked up to you and wrapped my arms around your shoulders and held on. They were bonier and sharper than I remember. I cried. You sat there.

You look more tired and sick than over a year ago, when I last saw you. You handled my son's fear of the cart and oxygen tank by explaining what they were for. He said, "I renember when you didn't have dat."

Do you remember when you didn't have dat? It was when we talked. It was when you actually would return phone calls and even, periodically, initiate a call yourself. It's when you remembered who we, your children, were and where we lived. It was before.

Before what, Mom, I cannot figure out. I have worked for the last year to forgive and understand how you exited our lives practically and emotionally. Please forgive me, for whatever sin, whatever slight I have committed.

I don't want to walk down that same aisle and have a stranger walk up to me and offer their condolences. Offer their prayers since you are gone. You would be gone and I wouldn't have known and wouldn't have been there. I want to know. What you are doing, where you are. Not because I want anything from you. For one simple reason, you are my mom.

I hope to see and talk with you again. not by accident, but on purpose.

Please take care,
Your Daughter


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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Happens in Baseball Stays In Baseball

I live in a house full of men. A Pappy, a Daddy, two Hooligans and a male weiner dog named Frank. I am swimming in a sea of testosterone fueled nuttiness. At times I feel as if I am in a scene from the Animal House movie.

Here's the conversation between my Dad and my six year old last night while watching the Pirates baseball game.

"Why do dey do dat?" asks my inquisitive and observant six year old.

"What?" Pap responds, around a mouthful of ice cream sammich (he doesn't know I traded them out for 100 calorie pseudo-healthy ones...shhh...don't tell him).

"Grab der pee pee."

"Oh, grabbing your weiner and spitting are okay in baseball. Everyone does it."

"Weally?"

"Yup. You are almost expected to be a good weiner adjuster and spitter. Look, the pitcher just spit."

"Ewwwww! He spitted a big black fing."

"Yup," munch, munch, munch.

"Wook Pap!" -spitttttt-, "I can spit too!"

It was then I heard him call my name. To get some wipes. For the couch. From the spitting.

Fortunately there was no 'weiner adjusting' going on. At least not from my dad.




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Monday, August 17, 2009

Kid Bits: The Bridges Are Out

In a moment of maternal madness, I decided to take my 6 year old and his 7 year old friend to Idlewild. it's a mecca for clean family fun in our area.

Here's a few kid bits from their conversation from their booster seats in the back. Every effort has been made to transcribe the conversation in its entirety and without exaggeration.

"Dude!" their standard greeting for one another, "I have a whole castle in my basement."

"Dude, I like legos too!"

"Dude, I mean a real castle with a moat and some swords!"

(! points are added to indicate this is all said at the top of their lungs. Apparently at ages 6 and 7 they can't hear unless shouting. A fact which nearly caused me to cry on the way to/from the park. I actually considered pulling over and getting out just for a moment of peace.)

"Dude, when I get big I am going to drive a tractor trailer around the world!"

"Dude, then you better get ready to get wet."

"Why? I'll just drive my ginormous tractor trailer all around the earf."

"Dude, you will get to Hawaii then-SPLASH!"

"Dude, why?"

"Because, dude, the bridges are out."

Indeed.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pulled Back From the Finish Line

Things have been crazy. Really crazy. On every front I am economizing. I am cutting back on anything taking my energy that isn't exactly and absolutely necessary. I thought cancelling this blog was one way to make my emotional and creative life more efficient. I was so wrong.

I got a comment on one of my older entries. "Just Five Things" was written early in my defeating PPD. It was written as an homage to wisdom gained from my support group leader that changed my life. In short, there are just five things a new mom has to do to care for herself and her baby. The comment was from a new mom of a 7 month old. She thanked me for sharing the wisdom that helped her get through her own stormy time.

I cried. I cried alot.

I cried because I now know how my support group leader felt when I thanked her for sharing her own version of the Just Five Things. I cried because I know what the woman was going through. It was less than a year ago I was in her shoes.

I cried too because the day before I received the comment, I had decided to quit this blog. I was walking across the finish line without understanding the race is only half over.

I started this blog as a tool to overcome PPD. It became a way to process and share my mothering moments. It became an excuse to merge my two passions-writing and my children. It took on a life of it's own.

I am crying now because I almost allowed life's rollercoaster to take away something that means so much more to me than I ever imagined it could. And maybe, just maybe, it means a little something to someone else.

Thank you Mommy M for pulling me back from the finish line.




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Monday, July 27, 2009

Bye Bye

Bicycle helmet swallowing his head, the baby turns to me. "Bye, Bye!". He then toddles over to his three wheeler and begins, yet again, the thousandth circle under the picnic pavilion. Each circle is punctuated by a screech as he hits the same chair, at the same place, at the same time as he did the last bazillion runs.

Periodically, he'll walk up and give me his 'lovey' and bink. "Bye, Bye!" and walk away. Intent on some journey or another, he goes forth.

He turned two this past Sunday. More little boy than baby, he is my little dynamo, always moving and grooving. He dances to his own beat and often sings songs right from the bottom of his little, cutey belly.

"Bye, Bye!" is what is happening to the babies in my house. There are none, save for the whiny meltdowns when tired or hungry. The days for diapers are numbered (a sure sign potty training is close is the glee he shows peeing in the tub). He prefers a cup (usually of Pappy's iced tea or pop). He eats grown up food and despises baby or toddler food (he even likes burritos and chinese food). He can tackle his brother and lay him flat (a little payback for the inevitable big brother tease not caught by mom).

I am thankful for being able to count on sleeping at least a few undisturbed hours each night. I like being able to pick up and go with just some wipes and a diaper. I appreciate the baby googler conversations I have with my now two year old. I like to see him discover new things (tonight he bit into a tomato I harvested from our topsy turvey and promptly spit it out, eyes wide when the seeds/juice popped through). I like singing and humming with him each morning.

I will, however, never forget the 'squishy' time. My strongest memory of my first son was laying beside him as a newborn. He fit between my elbow and hand. His little feet fit barely made a dent in the palm of my hand.

My strongest memory of my second born, my now two year old, was minutes after being born. I wanted to strengthen our bond and lay him on my chest, skin to skin. It had been a relatively easy birth, as he was 4 pounds lighter than predicted by the multiple ultrasounds for this 'older' mom. I was a little nervous to try breast feeding, as it was a struggle with my first son. Tentatively, I tried to feed him. He looked up at me with his beautiful blue eyes and he nursed. No struggle. No problems. As easily as he came into the world, he connected deeply into mine.

As you are walking up to get your diploma, as you wait at the altar for your heart's desire, as you hold your baby and look into his eyes for the first time, know that I will still be waving, "Bye, bye!" to my sweet baby boy.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Noodles of Discipline

I bought four of those neoprene, plastic, foamy noodle thingies for our trip to the beach. At first they were to be placed under the sheets to keep the almost two year old in the bed.

On an attack of, "What if he climbs out of bed and wanders through the house at night?", we opted to bring the pack-n-play for sleeping. The noodles then reverted to their original purpose, to float, splash and be, well, noodles.

However, in the four days the noodles were in the house they became (ominous music here) "The Noodles of Discipline". Here's how it went down.

I told my almost 6 year old to leave the noodles alone. At first it was the calm, mommy, behavior management voice. "Honey," make eye contact to demonstrate respect to the little person, "please don't take the noodles off the porch, fold them in half and beat your brother. We are using them at the beach for the baby."

Next(after 4 or 5 noodle incidents), it was more stern, again reasonable and with eye contact. "What did Mommy tell you the first time about those noodles? Use your remember-er (my word for memory). Patiently await an answer for at least 5 seconds to ensure child can process request. "That's right honey now go put them back where they belong."

The next 6 or 7 times, "Sweetie, put the noodles away." No eye contact this time, as the noodles were now stuck in the doorway horizontally as he couldn't figure out they were too long to fit through sideways.

Let's take a pause to discuss childhood behaviour management. I am not one of those 'nuts and granola" mommies. You know the ones, who think children are full of goodness and light and can do no wrong as they strum their harps and teach us all about love and fun.

I am also not one of those mommy's that has to have a perfect child. Perfect outfit, perfect behavior, perfect manners. Children are to be little adults and should act accordingly. Children are no more angels than they are adults.

I do, however, think that I have the job to build within my children the ability to control and understand their own behavior and the consequences it can bring (both good and bad). All behavior has consequences, like ripples in a pond, it affects everything around you. My job is to help them understand how not to completely splash the pond dry.

Now the noodles were being used to chase the dog, "If you don't put those noodles away," loud tone,"you will get a spanking!" In my head I am thinking, "Please don't do it, buddy."

A word about spanking, I think it's a bit superfluous. -Smack!-"Stop hitting your brother or I'll hit you!" Makes sense, huh? What happens when no one is around to do the smacking? Does the kid go buck wild? On the other hand, there has to be a consequence that is, well, consequential enough to deter bad decisions. For my sweetie son, spanking might be that consequence.

Another aspect of child behavior management is to always follow through on what we say, both positive and negative. Not only does this instill security and predictability in children's lives, it builds character in parents. It makes our "Yes" be "Yes" and our "No" be "No".

So, on the fourteenth time of telling him to leave the darn noodles alone, I had to do it. I had to spank. I couldn't back down. I looked him in the eye and asked him how many 'spanks' he deserved for being 'sassy' (my word for rebellious). Tearfully, he choked, "Fiiii-vvvvee." I told him I wasn't mad at him, but wanted him to understand that he should listen to Mommy and Daddy. After the 'spanking' I held him and told him I loved him. I asked him what he would do differently. He responded,"I wouldn't -sniff- play wiff da nooooo-doooools."

What would I do differently? I would have put the darn noodles in the garage and been done with the whole thing. However, there were still important lessons as part of the "Noodles of Discipline".

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Field of Dreams

"If you build it, he will come." The pseudo-creepy, dream voice whispers to Ray Consela in the classic movie, Field of Dreams.

I am sitting in the recliner with my sons. Watching the movie and explaining how sometimes dreams are whispered in our ears. And we have to sacrifice to see them come to pass. And, I asked, what would happen if he had not followed his dream? With a serious face, and a final hand gesture, my son said, "Nuffing woulda happened."

That's it. Nothing. I have next to nothing right now. So, what do I have to lose by following the dreams God has whispered in my heart?

I have nuffing to lose. And every-fing to gain.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Act My Age

I was standing in the aisle at Sheetz, waiting to buy my hot dogs, hefting my ginormous jug o' Galliker's iced tea when I had an epiphany. I will never be a dancer nor learn how to dance.

(For those of you who know me personally, I'll wait for you to stop laughing at the thought of me as a dancer.)

Done? Not yet.

Okay, on with the blog.

I realized that I, a 'fluffy', 30'ish year old white woman would never be able to 'jate or pas de burre' with any skill. (I can spell 'em, I just can't do them.)

My epiphany was two fold: #1-there are things I now know I will never do in my lifetime, #2-I am close to middle aged.

#2 first (blogger prerogative). I am of an age that if I double it, I am close to when I might be near the end of my life. This is based on the average life span of women of 77.8 years. That means I am now middle aged. The problem? I don't feel like I am middle aged.

I feel like the 19 year old traveling from Berlin, Germany to a state college in a town with only 1 stop light. Unsure, excited, with endless opportunities and challenges ahead. Part two of the problem-I ain't 19...not even close.

#1 Dancing isn't the only thing I know, miracles notwithstanding, I probably will not do. If I don't get on with it, I will not write a book/screenplay/poem/song. I'll not learn how to roller skate/ice skate.

This epiphany makes me want to figure out how I really do feel. How to walk out this maturity and make the most of the time I have left. I know, fatalistic to be sure, but also realistic. I want to do things only dreamed of, to walk out journeys only whispered about in prayer, to be who I was created to be.

I need to learn to act my age. Whatever that means.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Random Blogginess

Laundry

You know you are chugging through some serious laundrage when you have a load of wet stuff waiting on the dryer while another load washes. Oh, to have one of those ginormous washers/dryers like in the commercials. Some day.

Smelly Superb Teens

I became a high school English teacher on some misguided notion that I could change the world by teaching poor kids how to read. I did an 'urban' student teaching experience (the toughest choice I could have made at my little state school). I drove kids home so they wouldn't get in a fight with their gangs. I took in a kid to class who was recently parolled and still had a few months before he turned 21 and phased out of school. I meowed with a 300 pound girl when the class got too tough (she was one of the first of the 'crack babies'; that is children born to crack addicted mothers). That particular young lady had a habit of becoming a cat when times got tough. I, in my Laura Ingalls dress (yes, it had lace on the collar) would dutifully sit on the floor with her and meow until she was ready to read again.

Quickly, the system, the union, seniority, Vice-Principal antagonism and standardized testing ground out all idealism. It was replaced with a resignation to do what I could. If told no, there was no money, I would write the grant and get the money myself. I did exactly what I was directed to in the ubiquitous 'scope and sequencing chart of objectives and outcomes' just in my own way. Then Columbine happened.

I was Mama Ro to the same kind of kids who shot up their school. My classroom was the one the kids came to when they wanted to "f*ck up" another kid. My room, and I, were their haven. Once, when the crazy Vice Principal yelled at me (for the hundredth time) in front of my class, a young man offered to go to his truck, get his gun and take care of things for me. Things had definitely changed in my teaching world.

I left. I worked for one of the worst school systems in the country, DC Public Schools. I got away from directly dealing with kids. Until now.

I just chaperoned a group of 12 smelly, rude, loud, stupendously gifted and wonderful teens to a Christian Youth Conference. ETE Metamorphosis. (Empowering The Extreme).

I watched young people throw away years of pain, oppression and silence. They raged through the worship at their circumstance, much out of the unfortunateness they were born to. I saw some smile, for the first time in a long time.

I fell in love, again. I fell in love with the potential, the power, the rawness of adolescence. (Though I did not love the smell in the boys van...ew.).

We'll see where this love will take me and them.

Big Bertha

I am on a pseudo-health kick. Pseudo, in that, I am exercising but haven't significantly changed my eating habits. I know, not a recipe for success. I just want to make one small change at a time.

I've decided to adopt Ruby's term for the 'junk in my trunk'. Henceforth, it will be called Bertha. My son used less femininely friendly terms when discussing my rear self. He told his Pap that while he had a skinny backside that his mommy had a 'gigantic backside'. Thanks Bug. Really. Thanks.

I said something similar to my mother when I was a bit older than my son. I asked my mom how her 'big butt' fit on the little seat of the bicycles we were riding. She cried, yelled and didn't talk to me for days.

When my life came full circle and I heard my son's comment, I laughed. I laughed because it's true...hold on...gotta finish the last bite of this chocolate no-bake cookie....okay, now I can finish this blog. I laughed because it's true and because nothing could keep me from talking to my little guy, even a little pain.

Extreme Internal Makeover Edition

I ended up facilitating/preaching/teaching a session to my entire Wednesday bible study on sexual restoration. Take the minute you need to digest that then I'll blog on. You good? K.

After that study, I got to talk and pray with some dear friends who are also, conveniently, my Pastors. When we prayed (as common as ordering dessert when we have a night out together) they shared something I'll chew on for the next coupla weeks. They said that I was in the middle of a quick "Extreme Internal Makeover Edition" in my heart, mind and spirit. They said soon I'll say, "Move that bus!" and won't believe the awesomeness of who I will be.

I've blogged about my struggles to find the 'authentic' me underneath layers of depression, masking and other yuckiness. I know things are changing at a warp speed pace. I can't wait to see what's behind the bus.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Random Bits

It's early. The scent of BBQ pulled pork wafts from the crock pot. On my printer is a pile of seeds. I brace myself to check on the baby to confirm what I already know, he has pink eye. It's another random day in my life.

My almost six year old has lost his first tooth. I cried. He looked at me funnily. He comforted me. With this indisputable confirmation of babyhood gone bye bye, I keep watching him. There are times when I see his father in his walk. I see his Uncles in his attitude. And I see God in his uniqueness. I also see red when he is sassy and picks on his Pap, but that's for another blog.

I put his tooth in a little box that looks like a jewel (a random keepsake from the kids toy box). Somehow, in years to come, I'll come across that box, sit on the edge of the bed and have a little mist.

The baby is awake. Gotta go clean some eye goo and coax in some drops. More later.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Mathematics of Wholeness

The past few years have been marked by divisions. We divided ourselves from control and manipulation, starting over in a new state, with new careers, believing we had a new life. We believed making money, having high speed careers and living inside the Beltway was our proof we had 'made it'. What we came to realize was the division caused a subtraction of security, relationships and trust-of God, our family and sometimes ourselves.

We relocated almost a year (!) ago back to Pennsylvania. We again divided ourselves from the life and friends we made in DC. We subtracted stuff as we added ourselves to my Father's life and home. We moved for a job. I was let go just short of three months. It took my husband over 8 months to find a job. It seemed as though our bank accounts and our spirits couldn't get any more less than zero.

We added ourselves for the first time in just short of a decade to a church family. This has brought a multiplication of challenges and blessings-sometimes all in the same day. Whereas before we had a small circle of people to share our small apartment and even smaller amount of free time; for the Memorial Day dessert party, there were 21 people (a function of only 4 families being invited) and we talked in the driveway until close to midnight.

I've added my own consulting business. Though it's less than a formal company, I'm working on a website and letterhead, it still calculates into the family budget. My own business equals time with the kids, a semi-flexible schedule and I get to pay some bills. Not bad.

In my own soul and spirit, there has been much subtraction of ideas and assumptions. I thought I was a bad mother, a function of the PPD to be sure, but my belief nevertheless. Shared smiles, giggles, hugs and messes are all factors in my new mothering equation. I assumed success was based on my own calculations and not on submitting to the One who knows the total before the opportunity even presents itself. I have divided myself from the rejection from my own mother. She is losing exponentially with each passing day, as the children grow at the speed of light. I no longer will lose because of her, though my heart aches for a mother of my own.

There is a mathematics to this wholeness in our lives. The right subtractions and the right additions at the right time have added up to so much, it takes my breath away. I love and even like my husband so much more than I ever have. I see him in the pulpit and in the office and in the yard with the kids and I see who he was created to be. I have whispered conversations before bed with my oldest son about who he will marry and how she will think he is awesome. These conversations and connections were simply unimaginable when our lives were ruled by commutes and commitments. I have joined the Mommy Mafia and seen friendship and care of me, my family and my spirit grow three fold. I see myself in my toddler's smile and know, even on my worst day, that he loves me and that everything will, eventually, add up.











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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mother's Day Meanderings Part II

I know it was days ago, that hallmark holiday of holidays. I was given a certificate for a massage. NICE!

I was also given a sheet of paper with an interview on it from my 5 year old. It's like a kindergarten level mad lib. My mommy likes to, my mommy does...that sort of thing. Here are the items that made me laugh and cry at the same time:

I like when my mommy sings-----at church (now keep in mind at church he is either playing air guitar in the corner, transformers with his friends or sleeping-I didn't know he even noticed I am up there singing).

My mommy knows------everything (you betcha, tell all your friends!)

My mommy works hard on-----her projects (the gift/curse of being the child of a tellecommuting professional, he was mimicking checking e-mails at two and often will work on a "report" at the same table I am working)

Last night was the kindergarten celebration. In lieu of a formal 'graduation' children sang songs. On one he had to sign language I love you. He did so, looking right into my weeping eyes. I wept harder.

On another, he had to act out what he wanted to do when he grew up. He kept saluting. It occurred to me later, he wants to be a soldier. As an Army brat, I know, first hand, the cost, the pride and the challenge a soldier's life presents. I lived it during the cold war. He is living in the very hot, and very real, war on freedom. Inside I cringed, thinking of my baby, joining the thousands of other mother's sons, giving their lives in some desert, town or cave so far away. Outwardly, I saluted back. He'll never know the pain that choice would cause me. What he'll know, is that his mother loves him, is proud of him and would move heaven and earth to support him becoming who he was created to be. I can cry in private. I will cheer in public!

The last song they did was called, "Big, Big, Dreams". I thought of my own dreams for that handsome squirrely fella (who untucked his shirt halfway through to give his tummy a good scratch all while standing in the front row of the chorus!).

I dream, for him, and for my toddler son, that they would always know they are loved.

I dream of their wives and children hearing the wisdom, mistakes and victories that they experienced with their own mommy.

I dream of hearing their giggles and seeing their wiggles in my heart forever.

I dream of being their biggest champion, their biggest fan, that they would see themselves the way that I see them-full of potential, powerful and awesome young men.

That someday, if given a chance to mouth something into a camera, they would both say, "I love you Mom!"

Thank you Ian and Caden for making me a mommy. Thank you for taking my life and giving it back to me fuller, tougher and better than I could have ever imagined. Thank you for making me into the woman God created me to be.

With love from your Mommy.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mother's Day Meanderings Part I

Mother's Day for me is a study in contrasts.

While I have come to embrace this call to mothering, I also recognize the need to sometimes not pick up the phone. For Part I, I'll dial in.

The other night we had friends over. We were mentally, spiritually and emotionally spent from a long weekend conference at church. Our lives were enriched and our hearts encouraged by the weekend's events. It was a little bit of insanity to get the families together. It was a LOT of insanity.

I let my five year old sweetie stay up way too late. It's my personal 'big up' to the oftentimes stranglehold 'school' has on our schedules.

So it was past nine, the livingroom was full of humanity. On the cozy couch our friend was playing the remaining 4 strings on the baby's guitar with a rendition of "Mr. Sunday" (an ironical twist on all things Sunday school ish). My husband and our other friend were having a discussion of Batista, Che Guevera and....can't remember, as I tuned out. I was responding to and answering random questions from various 5, 6, 7 and 9 year olds. We all were commenting on a certain noxious smell and how 'tremendous' (my son's favorite descriptive word) the waffles were for dinner. We also paused to wonder which child kept farting and could it be the baby's diaper? I started to laugh. Not just laugh but howl! I was laughing until tears misted.

I laughed because my heart was so full. It was full of the mess, noise and wonder of this mothering moment. I laughed because this room and all the muddy footprints and farty smell was a million miles away from the life I once lived. I was an entirely different woman, mother and friend that wasn't stressed by the messy mass of humanity, rather I reveled in it.

At the church conference the night before, some of our girls came late. Nothing new for teens right? Except these teens came from their prom. They left their prom and came to church. Before you scoff, keep in mind these are young women who could have done anything else (and in their past had indeed done everything else). They chose to come share their night with us. The Pastor, who is the only father figure in these awesome girls lives, called them up to honor their coming. Me? I cried. I cried like it was my daughters with an updo standing there in sparkling finery. I took pictures. I hugged them and cried some more. I may have two sons, but God is giving me many daughters (and I don't have to pay for college!).

Last night I was cuddling with my 5 year old before bed. I talked to him about his future wife. He looked at me and said, "She'll look at me and smile and I'll look at her and smile and she will think I am AWESOME!" He sucked his thumb a minute and said, "We'll have 20 kids and then you'll be like my NaNa!" I asked him if I would make a good NaNa, and he said yes.

It made me stop and think of the speed at which this mothering is traveling. Soon, too soon, I'll be seeing my boys in a tux at their prom. Too soon I'll be the NaNa.


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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Clean Up As You Go

I was whacked out on muscle relaxers and in the throes of PMS so I decided to make a gob cake. Nothing takes away muscle pain and Aunt Flo unhappiness than yummy chocolate.

Of course, as my back was out I had to use the mixer with my left hand causing chocolate batter to splatter all over the kitchen. It was fun to lick it off.

As I was baking, I instinctively put things away as I finished using them. My mother's voice echoed in my head, "Clean as you go. It makes it easier when you're finished."

Clean as you go. Isn't that what we should do in life? Clean up our own messes and maybe, just maybe, be privileged enough to help others clean up theirs.

Clean as you go. Taking personal responsibility for the messes, even the non-yummy ones, and wipe them up with an apology, making amends.

Clean as you go. Putting away what we use to get through so it's out of the way of everyone else.

It makes it easier when you finish: a relationship, a job, an experience.

I cleaned up the flour, sugar, coffee and other key ingredients for the absolutely scrumptious gob cake (thanks DB for the recipe). It was easier in the end.


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Monday, April 13, 2009

Warning: May Cause Drowsiness

It's early Easter afternoon. We arrive at NaNa's with a flurry of food, kids and sweet treats. The sun is shining. The world is filled with the promise of a new day, a resurrected day.

Me? I had a very bad spring cold.

"Warning: May Cause Drowsiness" the cold medicine package read. I didn't bother to check, as I was so miserable and snotty and hurting and needing some kind of relief. It's hard to be friendly and 'family'ish' when you feel like your head is going to pop off.

If a medicine is going to make one hyper or sleepy I am that one. I should have known. I should have braced myself.

Awhile later, after sampling some western Pennsylvania holiday goodness, I was ready for a beverage. It should have been juice. It should have been milk. It should have been anything other than what I really drank. It was a margarita. Normally, margarita mixes are weak and more fruity than 'festive'. Normally. However, this is a mother-in-law margarita mix with a little extra 'something'. That something was extra tequila. Lots of extra tequila. Because of the cold, I couldn't really taste the drink, or anything else for that matter. Soon I was not only unable to taste anything, I was unable to feel anything.

My first clue should have been when I was really, really, really interested in the Masters golf tournament. I was into it, baby. I even had pithy comments (or so I thought) about the players and the shots. I was on a roll! (I don't like golf and have never watched it for longer than five minutes.) But today, golf was better than gold!

My second clue should have been the effort it took to walk the three steps from the couch to the recliner. It was so far. It took so long. It was e-x-h-a-u-s-t-i-n-g.

The final clue, that my family Easter celebration was about to go very wrong, was saying aloud, very loud, how much I needed to take a little rest. For three hours. Mouth agape. Snoring. Sweating. And according to my husband, smiling.

I awoke. Decongested and refreshed to rejoin the party as if nothing happened. Because to my drug and alcohol marinated brain, nothing did happen. In fact, I thought I had only slept a minute or two. I couldn't understand the odd looks or the whispered comments. I just chalked it up to 'family weirdness'. It was a holiday after all, and it ain't a holiday until someone gets angry or gossips.

On the way home, it hit me. In the darkness of the car, a memory flashed. Here's how the conversation went.
"Honey, can I ask you something?"
"Sure."
"Did I really get drunk and drugged and pass out in the livingroom?"
"Yep."
"Dear God! Please tell me I didn't snore. Just tell me I didn't snore!"
"Okay, you didn't snore. (snicker)"
"I snored."
"You snored."
Groan.
So now I am 'that' relative. You know, the one with a story about 'that' time. There is no recovery. There is no making it better. It is what it is.
Nothing celebrates the resurrection of our Lord better than a drunken stupor.




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Friday, April 10, 2009

Strawberry Pieces

"Mom, wook! I put the strawberry back togever again!"

Out of all the pieces of cereal in his bag, from the entire box, he was able to find the two halves of the same dehydrated strawberry. It was a minor, very minor miracle.

It got me thinking. Isn't that what children do for adults? They put the pieces back together.

As babies, we come into the world whole, unspoiled and unmarred by life. Sometimes we get pieces taken out of us early, some not until the turmoil of adolescence. All of us have pieces taken out. Some have entire chunks of themselves heaved away by circumstance, pain and dysfunction. Others have scrapes from tough words or missed opportunities.

As adults we believe another will complete us. We marry. We have children. Then we become the caretakers of their wholeness.

This morning I realized, my children have been the stewards of MY wholeness. They have forced me to look into the mirror and really see what is reflected. They have been the reason I faced the ugly, brokeness in my heart, spirit and mind. It was in their eyes I began to see myself again as a woman created and called and equipped to care for these little miracles.

I know my pieces are put together finally and forever. The work is done. There will always be little adjustments. A little dusting off and a little shoring up here and there. A little tweaking.

This morning, in the rush to work out, shop and get home again before the washer gets repaired, I was reminded that God reached down into the mess and found the pieces. He put them back together.

I was supposed to be working this afternoon. I was rushing to the laptop, because the baby finally was quiet, desperate to get some real work done. My five year old, sleepily wandered to my side, "Mommy would you cuddle with me on da couch?" I did. And slept for an hour. Content. Whole. As whole as a strawberry from inside the cereal box.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Fork in the Road and A Stain in the Carpet

I stand at a fork in the road. In reality, I stand in my dining room staring at the stains in the carpet (curiously they form a 'purple dot road' which my toddler seems to take with every sippy he is given).



Metaphorically, I stand at a fork in the road. I have a business idea. I think I have a market. I am only contracted to work 20 hours a week, leaving the other 20 to build my own business. So, one lane of the road is towards committing to building a business while simultaneously not tearing down my family, sanity and life. The other lane is to go get a 'normal' job. You know the kind with health benefits, a regular schedule and mind numbing routine.



Either way will be fine. Either road will have benefits and deficits. For the first time in my life, I get to choose. There is no super urgency (aside from the dwindled financial resources) for me to choose one over the other. However, I have to choose.



I have been so far out of the 'rat race' that I don't want to go back. Most days I don't even get dressed beyond the stay at home mom uniform of comfies and some type of fleece. I like not knowing where my makeup is most days. I like not buying panty hose.



However, there is a restlessness starting to emerge. As I have recovered and been redeemed from the clutches of depression and PPD (see earlier posts), a new strength and 'go get 'em' has emerged. Can I still be the mother I want to be and be a woman with a business?



Feminism taught us one thing. It was only about one thing. Get out and make your mark on the world. They forgot to teach us how to mother in the midst of making our marks.



I can make no greater mark on this world than to raise the next generation to be the men God created them to be. Men of character, heart and strength (who by the way love their mother!). Men who will be good husbands, friends, and brothers.

However, is part of that mark, a piece of it, just my own? Can I really do this?

I have to decide which direction to take in the fork in the road. But first, gonna get out the stainbuster carpet scrubby thingy, these stains are crazy!





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Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Grandparent Circus

Once upon a time, there was a mother, a father and various children. There were two sets of Grandparents. All formed a familial community in which to raise and nurture the next generations.

Enter feminism, post-war consumerism, and the sixties. Now we have mothers raising children alone while fathers date/marry/divorce new 'mommies' half their age. Grandparents are no longer married, deciding after 20+ years that it's time to be done. And the familial community is no more.

It is into this reality that we are navigating. Today my father-in-law and one of his "special friends" (the non-commital euphemism I use when describing whoever the grandparent is dating at the time-seeking to ascribe no special status as they may never show up again), took my first born to the circus. In another city, for the entire afternoon. Without us.

We are trying to navigate the uncharted waters of complicated and complex grandparent relationships. We support their right to time, access and relationship with each of our sons. We get it. Yet, it's still tough.

The 'special friend' isn't very friendly to us, preferring to use passive agressive comments in lieu of mature relationship building. We get it. You are the girlfriend du jour.

So, when he called to take our sweetie to his first circus, it was with trepidation. If the special friend doesn't respect mommy and daddy, what comments would be made to our little? Could we trust him to really care for a curious, talkative, energetic little fella?

We let him go, because he needs to know his grandfather. He needs to build memories with him that he will share with his own kids. He needs it. Pap Pap needs our little too. No amount of passive aggressive relationship messiness deniest the genuine love and pride he has for 'his boys'.

My five year old just called. He recounted how he saw 'real' lions, tigers and monkeys. And how this lady shot out of a cannon. And how these guys did the most dangerous thing of all-they hung upswide down by their feeties. And a dog trainer. And an elephant ride (that was stinky). And....and....and...."daddy, I can't tell her everything now. I'll finish when we get home."

My sweetie didn't remember any passive aggressive silliness. He'll remember the silly clowns. He won't remember his mommy checking the clock every minute to see when he would be back. He will remember every minute of the magic of his first circus. His face will be sticky with cotton candy and smiling at the guy who "ran on da rings faster and faster when we clapped faster and faster and then swower and swower when we clapped swower". He didn't have to face the complicated, Grandparent circus. That's our job. Is it too late to turn in our tickets?


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