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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Leo vs. Santa

Two years ago, I was able to use Santa Claus and his magical powers to potty train Leo. I told him that Santa doesn't bring toys to almost 3 year old boys who poop in their pants. Sure, looking back at it now, it seems a bit drastic. But it worked, instantly.

But Santa seems to have lost some of his pull around here. At least for a now four year old Leo who clearly still believes in Santa and has given his always growing Christmas list to at least five different Santas this year. I can tell he's a little worried about his chances of being on Santa's nice list. He should be. He's going through his "Let's see just how much I can get away with around here" phase, combined with his "I am NOT taking naps anymore, I don't care how tired and miserable and grumpy and rotten I am every day by 4 p.m." nap boycott. He can be just a little bit of a great big ass sometimes. And I am his favorite target. He know exactly how to push my buttons and gets the biggest kick out of doing so. It's how he entertains himself all morning.

So, for three months now, I have been reminding him OFTEN, that he better watch out, he better not shout, cry, pout etc. because Santa Claus is coming blah, blah, blah. But he just can't help himself. He's just a spastic little four year old with more energy than he knows what to do with and no matter how hard he tries, sometimes it is "just too hard to be good". Like when everything does NOT go HIS way ALL THE TIME! That is NOT FAIR! Or when he is expected to SHARE his toys. That too is SO NOT FAIR! Or when I wrestle him into a shirt that he DOES NOT LIKE! NOT FAIR!

He's a typical little four year old. There is no logical explanation to combat his illogical rationale. I remember this with Madeline when she was this age, but she didn't have the stick-to-it-iveness that he has. She was a fast learner. One time, when my father was with us, she and I were having a small disagreement about something. We went back and forth for a bit and I finally simply reminded her that I will always win these arguments because I'm MOM. My father loved that line and he's always asking me if I'm still winning all the arguments. I am. But with four kids now, there is A LOT of arsenal on their side. And the four year old is their secret weapon. He is the indestructible one, the one who is immune to all of my secret weapons, even Santa.

So this year, I've brought in back up-the Elf of the Shelf. I figured maybe little mister smarty pants has convinced himself that there is no way Santa can see him all the time if he can't see Santa. So I thought, perhaps if we had a sneaky, creepy little elf spying on us and staring at us every second of the day with a sinister little grin on his face, who's job it is to report back to Santa every night, Leo might once again be scared straight. Hardly.

I like to see Leo sweating it out a little. I see him flashing our little elf his "what exactly did you tell Santa last night" glare and his "please help me get on the good list" eyes. "I know I've been naughty, but look how sweet I am right now with my big blue eyes. Can't you pull some strings for me? Put in a good word for me? Please."

And I always know when he his fretting about the naughty list. Suddenly I'll hear a sweet little voice-

Leo: "mommy?"

Me: "Yes"

Leo: "I love you."

Me: "Oooh, thank you. I love you too."

Leo: "Do you think Santa heard me say that? Do you think I'm on the good list now?"

Let's be honest. Little Leo is going to have a great Christmas, because, bottom line, he's a special, sweet, wonderful little boy who is just, a little boy. Santa has faith in Leo. Santa knows that Leo is going to snap out of this "little ass" phase and grow into the caring, kind, helpful, thoughtful, fun little boy we all know he is in spite of himself. Santa could never break Little Leo's heart on Christmas morning. Santa...is a sucker.

But I wouldn't be surprised if little Leo finds a little coal in his stocking this year. Just a little warning to let him know that Santa has him on his radar.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Return to Church

I've started going to church. I went back to the church I was raised in. The one my mother devoted so much of her life to. The one I resented all those years, because it was violating my weekends. The one that I turned my back on the moment I turned 18 and had the choice. And the one that I delivered my mother's eulogy in, and had not been in since.

I was so torn about going back there. I couldn't imagine worshiping in any other church. But I was nervous to go back to the place where I had last seen and said a final goodbye to my mother. Granted she was in a closed casket, but through the powers of my grief induced x-ray vision, I could see her, beautiful, and resting in peace.

The first time I went, I was welcomed by so many people confirming how very happy my mother would be to see us there. I think our being there filled a void for my mother's church family, just as they did for me. One woman sitting behind me asked me if it was strange or comfortable to be back there. I said "it is strangely comfortable." That it was. I felt a noticeable absence without my mother sitting next to me in our usual seat (which I was so relieved to find seemingly reserved just for my return). And I even missed her embarrassing tummy growling at the most inappropriate moments that always gave us the very embarrassing and inappropriate giggles. But...she was there. I could feel her, so glowingly happy and proud to see me there by my own choice, with my own children. And I sat with a lump in my throat and tear brimmed eyes the entire time.

But I don't go just to make mom happy (although that makes me happy). And I don't go just because it is the one place I can go where NO ONE is aloud to speak to me for ONE WHOLE HOUR, other than God (although that makes me VERY happy!).

I go to God's house because it gives me a peace and calm and solitude that I rarely get in my own home which is bursting at the seams with children and their boisterousness. I pray for an ounce of this peace in my home...this week.

I go because I am blessed with a house full of healthy, happy, boisterous children. I pray for that to last...forever.

I go because I am exhausted and perhaps a tad resentful from slaving away at my thankless job as a stay-at-home mom all week. I pray for one thank you...this week.

I go to thank God for blessing me with the amazing man who loves me and works hard to provide for our family so that I may stay home and raise our children. I pray for the strength to be worthy of this task and to remain loveable to him...this week.

I go because only God could make sense of all of this.

I go because I don't have to explain myself to God. I don't have to whine and vent and complain for him to understand. I don't have to say a word. And yet he answers me:

"I know it's hard, giving everything you've got, every second of every day, and feeling like it's not enough. I know it seems impossible to handle all that you have taken on. I know that you want only the very best for the people you love so very much. I know that you sometimes feel neglected while you are struggling to love and care for everyone else. I know that sometimes, you just miss and need your mother. TRUST ME, I know that unconditional love can be very trying."

"I know that this world scares you sometimes. I But stay focused on your children, and I will stay focused on mine. TRUST ME, it scares me too sometimes."

"I know that you are under the spell of good intentions. Everything you do is for the good of your family. Even those screaming fits you have and instantly regret are only because you are momentarily convinced that repeating yourself LOUDLY and scaring the hell out of your children may have a better outcome than the first 50 times when you asked calmly and nicely. I get angry too sometimes. It's ok. TRUST ME, I know all about unruly children."

"I know that you are still the patient person you wish to be. But I also know that you are the mother of four, and you are only human. TRUST ME, I know that human beings are not perfect."

"I know that when you say 'Lord help me' a million times a day, it's because you genuinely need a heavenly hand, and not a sarcastic plea for pity.

"I know that when you ask one of your children 'WHAT IN THE NAME OF GOD ARE YOU DOING?!' you know that even I may not have the answer to that."

"I know that you do not need to hear 'thank you' to know that they are thankful for you. TRUST ME, I know all about seemingly ungrateful children."

"TRUST ME, I know this parenting thing is hard sometimes. You are doing well. You are loving and you are loved. You are blessed and you are thankful. You are here today, and I am with you, always. And you've made your mother very happy. TRUST ME."

"Go now, in peace (at least for the moment)."

It's amazing what you can hear when there is no one around to ask you for some juice every 15 seconds. And somehow, I feel a little less crazy and overwhelmed, at least for the next few days, until we meet again.

Amen.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Children at play...baby on board...kids crossing...BEWARE OF CHILDREN!



I often wonder just how crazy I look to my neighbors when I dare to take all four kids outside to "play". Last week, I finally got Madeline riding a two wheeler. I've tried the previous two summers, but I was (WAS!) always pregnant and a pregnant woman running behind and holding up a teetering child on a bike is not effective...and just plain ridiculous. But something clicked the other day, and now she is a two wheelin' bike rider.

And now Leo MUST be a two wheelin' bike rider too. So I ventured out just before nap time with all of them, including a tired and cranky, but stubborn and insistent 4 year old who would half-assed attempt to coast down the hill trying to strike a balance, but no way in hell was he dragging that "dumb bike" back up the hill to try again. But he WAS going to DO IT AGAIN(!) so would I "PLEASE JUST BRING THE DUMB BIKE BACK UP THE HILL!" for him? With that kind of enthusiasm and those good manners, of course i will.

And while I'm carrying his bike, I'll continue to intercept the out of control 22 month old on the battery powered, 5 mile an hour tractor as he is sort of getting the hang of it and screaming at me to BACK OFF so he can do it himself (loosely translated), even as he keeps driving off into the forest and then screaming in frustration until I rescue him. And then I will go peel Madeline off the pavement and break up the fight between her and her bike which she now "HATES!" and she "HATES BIKE RIDING TOO! IT'S HORRIBLE!" and she will "NEVER DO IT AGAIN!" because she is "THE WORST BIKE RIDER EVER!" And as I pour on the "ya gotta get back on the bike, honey. Falling is a part of learning. But you gotta get back on!" inspirational speech, I can hear the FORD F-150 slowly coming down our quiet, dead end, family friendly street. And by the time I turn around, the truck and my toddler on a toy tractor are now playing chicken in the middle of the road. Fortunately, my stone faced, unflinching kid is winning, or at least my neighbor has been kind enough to stop his vehicle, give me a patient wave, wait for me to drop the two bikes I'm towing, dust of my daughter, scan the road for Leo who is sitting in our driveway and being NO HELP AT ALL, and a baby in a stroller (who has been no where near the the road and resting contentedly under a shady tree with a rattle and a smile, but just in case she too lost control of her vehicle...), and drag toddler and tractor to safety.

I realize this entire experience sounds a bit out of control and riddled with anxiety, but it was great fun. And rest assured, anyone who turns down my street while we are in the middle of it could not possibly miss my family and our convoy of vehicles, bicycles and strollers up ahead. In fact, it is quite possible that my kind neighbor began to yield when he surely heard the whining and bike bashing and felt the the earth shaking stubborn, frustrated foot stomping from miles away.

Anyway, my whole hearted, exhaustive efforts earned me a bike rider last week, an eager to learn soon-to-be bike rider and an almost two year old who held his own in a conversation today, in which he told me "no", he did not need a diaper because he "didn't poop" and insisted his room "doesn't stink", so "come on!"

They are all growing up, and it is all worth it! I think lil' baby Ginger's face, in the midst of all this cautious chaos, summed it up perfectly...a silent smirk and laughing eyes..."my family is crazy...and I love it...and I love them."

Friday, August 12, 2011

my cup runneth over

It's not easy to give every ounce of love that a mother's heart can hold to five people every single day. And I don't want to divide it up and dole out shares. I want each of my babies and the love of my life to have it all; to be smothered and drenched in my love and adoration for them. It's one of my greatest daily challenges...to love my family enough.

In spite of the fact they spend a lot of time annoying the hell out of me (I can look past that thanks to a little gem called "unconditional love". I think that most children would be in big trouble without this. I'll be the first to confess that I would have been utterly un-lovable without unconditional love.) I love these wonderful, rotten, precious little monsters more than I can even handle sometimes. And while I am sure they know this, I also know that they can't possibly really know.

I love them so much that I have nightmares and sleepless nights at the thought of all the terrible things that could happen to them.

I love them so much, that twenty minutes after someone has given me a reprieve from them as I have dreamt about all day long, I miss them and worry about them and want them back and I consider never letting them leave the house again for fear of one of those terrible things happening to them.

I love them so much that I want them to have everything in the whole wide world that they want. I love them enough to NOT give them everything they want.

I love them enough to want to spend every single second with them, making them laugh and smile and enjoy life. And that is EXHAUSTING.

I have almost come to terms with the simple fact that I just can't do it. It cannot be all about them and never about me. I almost don't feel guilty going to dinner with friends and leaving my family to fend for themselves without me, poor things. Almost. But I need to laugh with the girls and at the girls and at myself once in a while.

I almost consider not going for a run the moment Darren walks in the door, costing me those few, precious moment I have with my love at the end of the day. But it's crucial to my mental health to take a few evenings a week to run AWAY from this house for 2 miles before I finally start to miss all the little monsters and loop around to go back home. And no matter how taxing my little (big) family has been that day, I ALWAYS loop back around and go home.

I am only one person. Granted, I'm a mother of four, so I'm kind of super-human, but still...even as a super human, I struggle. But it's ok if I'm not smothering them with my love every single moment of the day, it really is. And truth be told, they can be rotten and sometimes they don't deserve to be smothered in my love.

But when they do...

I really try to seize the moments. I have come to know the pure joy of the simple pleasures in life, thanks to my little monsters...I mean muses.
Last night it was a heart to heart with my beautiful, smart little seven year old. It was the first one that I do believe she genuinely listened to and contributed to and...took to heart. She wants to be good and kind, even when others aren't. She thinks it can be hard sometimes, to be GOOD and KIND (it can), but it's what she wants. She is "REALLY gonna try". I can see her good, kind soul in her eyes.


A few days ago, I went out for an escape, I mean a run. The kids had been especially evil that day and I couldn't wait to ditch them when Darren got home. I also had to stop next door at my mother in laws to feed her animals because she was away. I thought to myself:

"Perfect, I'll swim at her house after I run, ALL BY MYSELF in PEACE and QUIET. Because if I go home to swim, those little psychic, swarming vultures will surely spot me the moment I get back and insist on swimming with me and invading my alone time. "

Two minutes later, I caved...I mean, I changed my mind, and decided maybe Leo would like to swim with me. Yes, Leo would like that. I went home, jumped in the pool (without telling a soul that I had returned) and right on cue, came my little Leo. He stood at the glass door with his hand on the knob thinking once (not twice) about disturbing me, and came out with a little grin on his face, knowing that I had missed him while I was gone and was ready for him to torment me and love me again. We swam and splashed and jumped and cannon-balled and laughed, just the two of us. Perfect.

I've been taking Lennox on long bike rides with me. I have always loved doing this with my kids. But there is something extra special about whisking away child number 3 and taking him out for a solo adventure. People always think that #3 becomes the forgotten one. I could never let that happen to little Lennox...well, there was that one time...but never again.

He sits in a little baby seat right in front of me, between my arms, so it's like I'm giving him a hug the entire time we're riding. He usually eats a juicy peach while we ride and the sticky peach juice pours down my leg, and he hums Twinkle Twinkle the entire time, only pausing to use his few words, pointing out any truck, tractor, choo-choo, dog and a few others that I can't make out at all although he seems certain of. He loves it, I love it, he loves me, I love him. It's magical.

It's the simple, intimate times; the ones that catch me off guard at exactly the right moment, the ones that remind me how special and awesome each one of them is in their own special and awesome way; the moments when I can just stare at one of them, frozen in a love trance, and they'll say "I know, I know, you love me." The moments that I will never take for granted, because no matter how many I am blessed with (and I am very blessed), it will never be enough.

Simple pleasures. My cup runneth over.






Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pregnancy Perils

Pregnancy Perils



Disclaimer: I love, love, love my children. I would have ten of them if I did not have to grow them inside of me for nine months. But I do, and it’s hard. And it gets harder every time. So hard, that I spent a week after finding out about #4 wondering if I could possibly survive another nine months of this again, as if I had a choice.

For me, it’s not so much about the physical hijacking of my body, despite the unimaginable discomfort, months of sleepless nights and a new painful ailment every month. My challenge is with my mental health; I struggle to remain recognizable and loveable, or at least tolerable, to my loved ones…and myself. Last night, Darren asked me what I was writing about. I said “pregnancy” and he said “are you writing mean things about me?” Poor guy. He deserves better than pregnant me. Our babies are my very best attempt at a peace offering; Thank you for putting up with me. Please accept this gift as a show of gratitude…and remorse.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I would bash those women who use pregnancy as an excuse to bitch and whine and make everyone around them miserable unless they are constantly catered to. Not me. I was blissful. Ok, that may be a stretch. Someone will surely call me on that, probably my sister-in-law who tells me that she knew I was pregnant due to the amount of sleeping, eating and whining I was doing. I suppose I wasn’t quite myself, but to the best of my knowledge, I could not have been happier. I remember the way it would suddenly strike me that my baby was growing inside of me, and I would smile and feel warm and tingly. I felt honored and blessed. And when someone would ask me how I was feeling I was always “great”. Never mind that I was puking every twenty minutes or so morning, noon and night, or that I was painfully tired but I couldn’t sit or lie down for fear of my body bursting into flames from the heartburn raging through my entire body like wildfire. “Great. I’m great. Thank you for asking.”

By my second pregnancy, I was still blissful and honored and blessed blah, blah, blah. But I quickly discovered that, ironically, pregnancy and children do not mix. This time around, I did not have the option of sleeping my way through my body’s inability to function sanely and rationally. Instead, I had to keep up with a three year old. I had to be alert and creative and patient and fun, in between all the puking. Have you ever tried puking with a three year old in your face asking you why you’re puking and “could you please stop and get me some juice”? Yeah, blissful.

Pregnancy #3; the novelty has worn off. We found out I was pregnant this time during our family vacation in Disney world. I was already well aware of it as the revolting signs that a baby is inside of me, sucking the life out of me, had now become unmistakable (to reiterate, I love, love, love my children). But I kept it to myself until Darren returned one morning with a pregnancy test (I guess he has his own unmistakable signs). It was an amazing and unforgettable trip, and despite my unbearable exhaustion and perpetual nausea , I spent the week dragging myself through every amusement park at Disney with a smile on my face, because, let’s face it, you can’t walk around being a miserable bitch in the happiest place on earth.



But once I was out of Mickey Mouse’s site and back to reality, I started to become a bit unglued. Now I had two demanding children to fend off, I mean take care of, despite my anguish. I also had a house with walls that were closing in on me at mere thought of an addition to our family, and a mother on her death bed whom I had to accept would never get to meet her latest grandchild and I’ll never even know if she heard me tell her the news that day when she was fighting for her life and they told us she might not make it through the night. It was too much. Certainly enough to break a lesser woman, but I was about to be the mother of three which meant this was no time show fear. And to be honest, I was truly afraid that if acknowledged every emotion that was threatening my well being at that time, it would have been harmful to my unborn child. But this time around, when someone asked how I was feeling, I was “Miserable! I’m over it! Screw you for asking”, more or less.

Considering some of these extenuating circumstances, which I have only just put into perspective as I write this, I feel somewhat justified in confessing that I did, in fact, unleash the beast during pregnancy #3. I remember quite a few episodes that left me wondering who this crazy fat bitch was that was running my life and praying that my loved ones would forgive me or assuring my children that their real mommy would be back soon. Like when we were house hunting and the crazy fat bitch demanded that my very kind, generous and obviously patient boyfriend “get me that house or I’m gonna be really pissed”, or when I started growling almost everything I uttered to my poor kids through clenched teeth just because they had the nerve to touch me or call me mommy. I wasn’t even aware of the teeth clenching thing until one day I heard Darren warn the kids not to make mommy use “the scary voice”.

And now, pregnancy #4. I have a pack of birth control pills in my cabinet that I requested after #3. I decided against starting them when Darren reminded me that they make me a little crazy. Neither of us anticipated we would be dealing with drastically crazy again so soon. And while life in general is far more manageable this time around, with a big, beautiful new home and my mother now at peace, most of the challenges and joys of pregnancy remain constant, and my sanity remains…hanging on by a thread.

As usual, I had just gotten back into my skinny jeans when I found out I was pregnant again. As usual I am forced to choose between not eating and dealing with the puking and migraine consequences, or eating and instantly feeling like my insides are a raging inferno. As usual, I am in a love/hate relationship with my children; I love, love, love them, but I hate the fact that 95% of their sentences begin with “mommy, I want…” “mommy I need…”, “mommy, where is my…” “MOMMY, MOMMY, MOMMY!!!!!!!!!!” As usual, I am wrought with guilt over not being able to “play” to the best of my ability or lie down with my daughter at night because laying down is not an option until around 11 p.m. when the heartburn has fizzled out. As usual, my brother and father are left speechless over the news of another child (anything beyond two is just inconceivable to them). As usual, I have baby mush brain which leaves me struggling with everything from a simple game of Candyland, to the basic “why does Cookie Monster eat his cookies like that?” type questions who’s answers once seemed so obvious to me. As usual, I find myself simultaneously snapping at my children and wanting to kick the crazy fat bitch’s ass for talking to my kids that way and putting that fearful look on their innocent little faces. And despite believing that I had held off on the crazy clenched teeth growling for much longer than usual until the other day when I snapped and then turned to Darren and proudly stated that that was the first time I had unleashed it, he was quick to point out, “No. No. You’ve been doing it for weeks.” And these days, if you ask me how I’m feeling, I can usually muster a “pretty good”.

It appears that writing this has been therapeutic as I awoke this morning with a renewed sense of calm after writing late into the night. While helping my daughter get ready for school today, Darren asked, “wait, where is all the yelling and arguing this morning?” I told her that I was sorry for being so grumpy when I’m pregnant and reminded her that it would help us both if she could be a bit more cooperative. She suggested that it would be even more helpful if I would say things like “Madeline, you don’t have to clean your room the whole time I’m pregnant.” Ah, the six year old art of negotiation.

Pregnancy is hard. Four pregnancies in seven years are downright agonizing. Those nine months are so seemingly eternal that the idea of the unbearably excruciating pangs of childbirth is eagerly anticipated. I genuinely enjoy labor because as soon as that first contraction comes on and I feel the familiar anguish of my body being ripped apart, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. About 8 hours and several secret thoughts of removing my (or Darren’s) reproductive organs with my own bare hands later, I will be holding my precious child in my arms and anticipating eating anything I want with no threat of heartburn. I will also have almost entirely forgotten what was so bad about it all in the first place. I’ll be a mom, again. And every time I meet one of my children, I feel like the luckiest person in the world. Who wouldn’t want that four times over?

Friday, June 3, 2011

My Daughter...The Bully (sigh).

I've been hesitant to write this story, and I'd like to say that's it's fiction or purely hypothetical. But alas, it is not. However, the tears have been shed and consequences and apologies have been accepted. But first, I must document it in my written world of lessons (hopefully) learned.

To begin, I must assert my disgust for bullies. I think they are the pathetic assholes, to put it mildly. If you spend your youth picking on the shortcomings of others you clearly don't have what it takes to overcome whatever it is that has you feeling so bad about yourself that you so desperately need to steer the negative attention toward someone else. You will surely end up the fat, bald, drunken low life loser that no one feels sorry for because you deserve it. Anyway...

My daughter got off the bus smiling, making no mention of the terrible news she knew I would be receiving from her teacher. "How was your day?" "Good." Nothing. She really should have warned me and spared herself the public humiliation she would soon endure.

There I was, sitting at her softball game watching her play, so innocent. I had recently been bragging about what a good girl she had been lately; cooperative, pleasant, helpful. I was glowingly proud. And then...her friends mother came over to me:

"Did Madeline tell you that the girls got in trouble at school today? My daughter said they were picking on another girl, calling her fat and telling her she should go on a diet. Ms. Welcome will be sending us an email about it."

I was crushed. I felt like a parental failure. My proud glow had now turned into a flaming rage. This did not sound like my daughter. We have had the bully discussion many, MANY times. "If you have nothing nice to say, SAY NOTHING. Bullies suck and you are a nice girl. I know you would never be a bully, I'm just saying... And when you get picked on by a bully, shake it off, because they are just picking on you because they know you're awesome and they are not."

And then I was PISSED! The little girl they were picking on was on the same team, as was the other little bully. I had seen all three girls hug and play just before the game started, so clearly the poor girl had forgiven the two bullies. NOT ME! I was just getting started plotting my revenge on her behalf.

I looked out at my little short stop and seriously considered storming onto the field to begin torturing her, but my mother-in-law was there with me and I didn't want to mortify her by beating her grandchild in public. I waited until the inning was over and pulled her aside to ask her what happened, praying that there had been some kind of misunderstanding and that she was not one of the assholes in this situation. She was. She confessed, sadly. I was dumbfounded. I just stared at her for a minute trying to imagine my sweet little girl being such a little bitch. "I am...UNBELIEVABLY...DISSAPOINTED...in you" I stuttered. I walked away and left her crying her eyes out.

By now, her beloved Poppy (step-grandfather) was also there. So here I was with a devastated seven year old and an audience of two of her grandparents, other parents, two softball teams and their coaches, and the other bullies mother, all of whom were looking at me wondering what I had just silently done to my poor, poor child to cause her to be so upset that she had to sit out the whole next inning while she pulled herself together. I heard her coach tell her to "pretend the ball is your mother" during her next at bat, and even the little girl that she had picked on looked at me like I was mean and crazy when Madeline gave her a hug and apologized again. I was now, very thankful that I resisted the urge to storm onto the field, rip her off by her ponytail and beat her with her own softball mitt. I was actually more satisfied that it took nothing more than my obvious and genuine disappointment in her to bring her to tears, lots of tears.

The lecture was long. It went on for days actually, as I was haunted by the thought of MY daughter, the BULLY, and had to make certain we were CLEAR on how this was ABSOLUTELY NEVER EVER TO HAPPEN AGAIN! Some highlights:

"No one likes a bully. Bullies have friends only because their "friends" are afraid of being bullied. And eventually, when everyone gets older and wiser, those friends are no longer afraid of the bully and suddenly realize that they actually don't even like the bully. Now the bully has no friends. Let me tell you how the universe works. The kid that gets picked on for being ugly, will one day be beautiful. The kid that gets picked on for being a nerd, will one day be rich and successful. The kid that gets picked on for being fat will one day be thin. And the brat that picks on all these kids, will be one day be the fat, dumb ugly loser with no friends."

She was sorry. Genuinely sorry. She has assured me that it will never happen again, and I am quite certain it won't. Her teacher had also assured me that she had never seen Madeline behave this way before, and she too, believed she was very sorry.

I suppose that every parent will stumble upon the bully issue. I was always just so worried about my kid being bullied and having to fight the urge to walk into school one day and beat the hell out of the asshole bullying my kid, that I was not prepared for my kid being that asshole.

I believe Madeline has grown from this experience (and not just out of fear of what I may do to her next time). She has learned something about the power of words; that they can really sting, and the value of her parents opinion of her. She may have preferred a beating over the heartbreaking look of disappointment in her mother's eyes.

It's over now. We have agreed to move on and never speak of this again. And I am back to feeling like an awesome Mom (for the moment).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lennox: "You're not leaving me behind!"

Lennox still isn't walking at 18 months. I'm quite certain that he can walk, he would just rather not. He'll stand up and walk with someone holding onto just a little pinkie finger, but he will not let go. I think he might be worried that if he takes that final step and lets go to take his first step, he's going to be left behind;


"If no one has to carry me everywhere we go, how can I be sure they'll remember to take me with them. Am I really ready to fend for myself?"


Quite frankly, I don't blame him. I can understand his concern and I appreciate his strategy. But...it's getting old, and now he's just mocking me. Every time I think he's going to take that first step and my heart starts pounding in anticipation, he just plops down on his chubby little butt and speed crawls away, thinking he's funny and clever.


Today, I decided to suck it up and give it my very best super corny, exhaustively spastic, i-pray-no-one-is-watching-me, display of encouragement, with that nauseatingly cheerful, high pitched voice that annoys even me as I speak it. I pried my pinkie from his super grip and stood in front of him, putting on my best super annoying performance. He stood tall, all on his own and watched me with a great big smile which he was kind enough to disguise as "laughing with me" and not "at me." He let me go on for quite a while as he stood there, wobbly legged, appearing to at least consider taking a step and divulging his secret in appreciation of my efforts. And just as I was about to jump out of my skin with excitement...plop...giggle, giggle.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Two years and a Baby Ginger later...

"She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts." ~George Eliot

I wish. It's been two years since the worse day of my life and not only am I still wrestling with the grief, but it still has me in a pretty tight choke hold.

How can it still hurt so much? How can it still feel like it was this morning at 5:56 a.m. that she took her last breath? Life without her is...different, and I can't seem to adjust to it. I'm not angry and I harbor no resentment towards those who could not save her, nor he who chose to take her away. But it still feels so very wrong.

Baby Ginger is my saving grace today. She is all smiles, more so than usual, and offers great reassurance that her namesake is still here, smiling on us. I get the subtle hints. I went to bed last night, thinking back to that horrible, long torturous night two years ago when we sat by my mother's side watching her chest move up and down, knowing each breath could be her last. And when I woke up four or five times throughout the night to check on my sleeping baby and watching her chest move up and down, I could hear my mother telling me to focus on my hope-filled future Ginger, rather that dwelling on the nightmares of that frail, fading Ginger. And as I hold baby Ginger in my arms (I can't seem to let her go today) and I watch her smile as she drifts off to a peaceful sleep, I feel a gentle reminder that her namesake is also at peace.

The pain of my mother's death feels dark and endless. Baby Ginger brings a very bright hope for a future filled with peace and healing. It's not just her name that she is carrying on, it's her quiet beauty, her curious expressions, her love filled eyes, her hopes, her journey. My mother's work here was not done. She wanted, more than anything, to watch her grandchildren grow. Baby Ginger is here to see to that. Why else would her perfect little name have chosen her. She is a fresh start with an unfinished agenda.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hide and Seek...

Or in this case, hide and watch Mommy have a nervous breakdown.

It is a gut wrenching feeling when you don't know where your child is. Even if it's only for 10 seconds; When you have looked everywhere you know to look, and they're not there. Those first ten seconds will be the worst ten seconds of your life, filled with horrible visions of all of the worst possible scenarios; kidnapped, ran down the street into the main highway, eaten by a bear, fell in an abandoned well...and so on.

When I left him, Leo was in his brother's crib "reading him books" before nap time.
I had only been on the phone for a few minutes, but in that time, Leo decided to play a little hide and seek with mommy. Not only did he not tell me that we were going to play, but ironically, this would be the first time in the history of our hide and seek games that he didn't tell me exactly where he was going to hide just before he hid there.

When I went back to tuck him in for his nap (which, by the way, was the rebellious reason for his panic attack inducing trickery), he was no where to be found. I called for him, he didn't answer me (also a first in our hide and seek history). I tried to bribe him out, he didn't take the bait. I used my very best angry, threatening voice, he stayed hidden in fear.

Now I had to expand my search to outside. I spent about .2 seconds contemplating whether or not I wanted to be the crazy, lunatic mother running frantically through her quite neighborhood screaming for her missing four year old. And while I was spastically doing so, I floundered between hoping none of my neighbors were home to witness this and surely think to themselves "this poor woman can't keep track of all those kids", or wishing that they were all home and about to come out and form a search party to help me.

I did three laps through the house and neighborhood and each time I came inside I tried to sound more frightening and serious to convince him that I was NOT AMUSED! By the fourth time back inside, I found his precious little pain in the ass standing in the middle of the living room giggling and boasting about his clever hiding spot (which I'm still not sure of, to be honest). I couldn't speak. I picked him up, hugged him, and locked him in his room where he screamed and cried for ten minutes and then slept for two hours.

Two hours later, he came out and we had a long talk about how ABSOLUTELY NOT OKAY IT IS TO SCARE THE HELL OUT OF YOUR MOTHER LIKE THAT (basically), AND THAT IT IS ABSOLUTELY NOT FUNNY!

I explained to him that I was so terrified that I almost called the police.

Leo (with fear in his eyes): But if you call the police and they find me they will put me in jail!

Me: That's right! Remember that next time you think you're so funny.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Natural chilbirth. (it may sound like I'm bragging here, but that's only because I'm awesome.)

"This is gonna be fun." That's what Darren woke up to at 4 a.m. on the morning of baby Ginger's birth. I had been laboring for four hours by then and he knew the moment he rolled over and saw me smiling from ear to ear and heard me say those words that this would be the day. He thinks I'm a little crazy for enjoying labor so much. But I'm sure he takes some comfort in knowing that I have it all under control. I don't even bother to wake him anymore when that first contraction comes. I know exactly how it's all gonna go as each of my pregnancy and birth experiences have been exactly the same. So I also know that there is no reason to wake him up just to have him follow me around timing my contractions and asking "was that a big one" after each one (it's a contraction, they are either big or even bigger). It's nothing personal. I really don't care to have anyone near me while I'm laboring. Baby and I can handle it.

I never had a "birthing plan". The very idea amuses me. It's an oxymoron, to say the least. Unless of course, you are the pampered, wimpy, celebrity type who really cop out by scheduling a c-section for no health related reason (If you can't tolerate a moment of childbirth, good luck with the child-rearing). Nothing about labor can be assumed or anticipated. However, if you feel the need to create a plan, you should plan on your plan going right out the window at any moment.

I don't know really know why I was so hell bent on natural childbirth. "Natural" just sort of implies that that's the way to do it. It's what we are built for. It's the single greatest claim which only we (women)can stake, and it should be celebrated as such. It's only natural, naturally. That being said, it hurts like hell. Seriously HELL. During each of my labors I questioned my stubborn insistence to do it "naturally". But that was always at that final and far too late moment when I knew the little (but seemingly GIGANTIC) head was about to rip through me. They call that moment the "ring of fire". Need I say more?

The key to my successful natural childbirths was trusting my body and listening to it every step of the way (though I did have some trouble hearing my body over the the screaming voices in my head cursing at me; "Seriously? Again? What the hell is wrong with you?") When I arrived at the hospital the fourth (and FINAL) time, I told the doctor I wanted to start walking my usual laps through the halls, and I would call her when I was ready for her. The birthing center was full with five or six other women in labor, and I was the only one up and walking (rookies.) I was also the first one to give birth. (Pro).

After each push I would collapse and convince myself that I had nothing left and could not push anymore. I never said it out loud though, as even I did not want to hear it. Instead, I kept my mouth shut and listened to the whispers of my body (when I wasn't screaming and cursing in pain). "You CAN do it. You ARE doing it. Giving up now is not an option. You are a mother, you cannot give up on yourself or your child." And with each contraction came a surge of strength and determination I was certain my body was not capable of again. As a parent, I knew, with each child, that I was facing challenges that I could not even begin to imagine, and this unimaginable pain I was not only enduring but charging my way through was only the beginning of the battles that lie ahead. If I could get through this, I can get through anything. Not to mention that when it was over I could finally eat again and the crazy fat bitch would be on her way out.

And when it was over, it was truly over! The very second I laid eyes on my babies, I forgot about the agony that only seconds ago, had me swearing I would never do this again (all FOUR times). I didn't need painkillers to shield me from the tears and burns that were still stinging; I had my baby in my arms. As I held and studied my firstborn, I felt such utopia that I didn't even notice my midwife's arm up inside of me and her fist pushing on my stomach trying to stop the hemorrhaging. In my new world, with my new family, and my new empowered self, everything was perfect.

Giving birth naturally included the rebirth of my self. I have always considered myself a strong and capable woman. But I knew that I would need to delve into the very core of my being to pull this off. And when it was over, I was reborn a warrior, armed with the strength and confidence of a million men (not one of whom could have endured what I just did). Four natural childbirths later, I feel invincible (and not a moment too soon as I now have an army of children to battle...I mean raise.)

I cherish each one of my birthing experiences. They were all strikingly similar with uniquely precious results; they all took about eight hours. All of my babies look like the same person when they come out, and yet they are nothing alike. My brother asks if I am in my "usual room" when he's coming to visit. Madeline does "this little piggy" as soon as she meets a new sibling. The staff feels like family and Darren makes his usual joke to them as we leave with our newest addition; "see ya next time." They used to chuckle. Now they just nod in agreement. And Darren handles his role with devotion, admiration and ease. A lesser woman may curse him for appearing so relaxed and calm while she is laboring tirelessly and painfully. I take great comfort in it. He has great faith in me.

Being a mother sometimes makes me feel like I am in a war zone. Numbing my self to the inevitable occasional pain and suffering is not an option (although the occasional alcohol induced buzz is genuinely helpful). But with each of my natural childbirths, came the birth of a stronger, more confident woman. I want my children to know that I am willing to walk (or push) through (a ring of) fire for them. The agony I endured built me a suit of armor that will surely deflect every agonizing temper tantrum and painful adolescent "I hate you" that my children will certainly pelt me with (though I do wish it had a thicker layer of patience). Sure, they will bruise me at times, but I will forever remember what I went through to bring them into this world. And while their attacks may be even more painful than labor, I will know I have the strength and will to survive it, and see us all through it!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

four kids and seven days later...

Maybe it's too soon to declare this, but I do believe I've got this mother of four thing under control. It really hasn't felt much more challenging than having three kids. And not being pregnant anymore makes me feel like I could take on the world! I'm feeling new and improved, equipped with super powers that have enabled me to leave the house on two occasions, get kids off to school on time (and bathed), provide snack for Leo's pre-school class, help Madeline complete a 100 day of school project, cook a few meals for my family, continue waging the laundry war, squeeze in the occasional shower, get all the kids to nap at the same time everyday, spend hours on the floor playing (because I can finally get down to the floor comfortably) and still manage to feel pretty well rested. The crazy fat bitch has NOTHING on me!

I hated being pregnant(could you tell)? But all along, I kept reminding myself that one day it would be over; the crazy fat bitch would be gone and life would return to normal...with four kids. I anticipated labor more than a kid does Christmas. Darren tells the story about waking and finding me in labor. He rolled over and saw me laying there at 4:30 a.m. wide awake with a big smile on my face (between contractions)and all I could say was "this is gonna be fun!" I had just completed my fourth pregnancy. Childbirth and four kids would be a peice of cake.

Yes, four kids seems a bit daunting in theory. In fact, it seems to be the point in which people seriously start to question your sanity. I'll never forget some of the priceless moments during my pregnancy when I would tell people about baby #4, like the oil man who came to fill our tank and upon realizing i was pregnant again, told me so (literally as if I didn't know) and looked at me with a fear in his eye that had me reassuring him that he was not the father. Or the priceless look of astonishment and speechlessness on my brother's face when he heard the news. Or my father's genuine concern after sharing our news "are you...ok?" Or our waitress who was about to offer us some parenting advice until she heard it was our fourth and quickly realized she could teach us nothing. Or the co-worker who told me that he thought I was the "hottest chick" there until he found out how many kids I had. Or the handfull of strangers who would politely ask if this was my first child and then rudely respond "why?" when hearing it was my fourth. (Why not?) And finally (for now) the lawyer who is drawing up our wills who told us that we're pretty "standard", other than having four children. Yes, the only person to take it all in stride was Darren...seriously, he didn't even flinch.

There have been only brief, fleeting moments of panic and adjustment so far. The day I got home from the hospital, I immedietly took a shower while the baby was sleeping and the other kids were still with their grandmother. While I was showering, the kids came home. Lennox went down for a nap before I could even see him. Hours later, we had a visitor. "Where's Lennox?" she asked? "Oh shit...!" Yes, after months of hearing his grandmother jokingly say that we were going to forget about little Lennox, and reassuring her that that could never happen, we forgot about him. I don't know how long he had been awake and crying in his crib, but he looked pretty pissed, so it could have been a while.

There have been only one or two moments when two or three kids are crying at once and I freeze, momentarily, and stammer "oh God, oh God, oh God!" Yes it's more of a state of panic, but it's also a sincere prayer for the strength to survive the moment.

I've only been nearly sufficated a few dozen times when all four children sworm me at once the moment I sit down, because if mommy is sitting down, they must know why I'm sitting and when I plan on getting up again to meet their every need.

There are daily pleas to the oldest children begging them to try their very best to listen, cooperate, try to get along, and try to do for themselves. An almost 4 year old Leo always offers his very best assurance that he will be the very best boy, but seems to forget about his good intentions the moment he walks away, and 7 year old Madeline insists that she will try, but cannot make any promises. Points for honesty.

She remains my biggest challenge. She is the one single factor that can make me channel the crazy fat bitch. I happen to know that she is far more capable than she prefers to let on, and I find it infuriating. I know this because she has slipped up a few times and proven herself. Last month, for example, she kept her room perfectly clean for nearly three weeks(I have never kept anything clean for that long). But there has to be something in it for her. Asking her to do something simply because it is her responsibility and she is perfectly capable and "I HAVE FOUR KIDS TO TAKE CARE OF NOW! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE HELP ME OUT A LITTLE!!!!!doesn't get me very far.

I suppose I should give credit to the calmest, most content baby I have ever given birth to, and they've all been pretty mellow babies. I know that a constantly screaming baby in the background of a house with four children would be a total game changer. I am lucky. Her guardian angel hasn't stopped hugging her since she was born. She is peaceful and angelic, always.

I have always, at the end of every single day of motherhood, thanked God for my children, even on those days when I had to shut them in their rooms two hours before bed just the get them away from me. I have added a special thanks this week, for knowing better than I did, that I was meant to be a mother of four.

Darren likes to joke about us having more. He even sent me the perfect text while I was in the hospital with baby #4 that almost melted me into thinking about #5; "I like having babies because I have them with you." He's right. It's special. Our family is big, and would be incomplete without any one of us. He is my partner. We may not be married, but nine years and four children later, we are still genuinely in love. I can't imagine a stronger bond.

I feel incredibly blessed. Sometimes I wonder how everything could feel so perfect when I just lost my mother (and yes, it still feels like I "just" lost her) and she isn't here to share all of this with me. But in the words of Charles "Pa" Ingalls, "how can you ever know true happiness if you've never known real sorrow?" I have known both, and one does indeed teach you to fully appreciate the other.

Leo: If Santa brings another baby brother or sister, can we keep it?
Me: Heck yeah! If Santa brings it, we can keep it.

I'd be up for one or two more under those circumstances.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Queen and the Crazy Fat Bitch

I've been trying to get my children to take it easy on me, just for these last few weeks of my pregnancy. It's for their own good, really. I don't want the crazy fat bitch terrorizing them anymore than they do. And while I can see the light at the end of this looooooooooong tunnel, I am also at the end of my rope.

Entirely unlike my usual self, I am impatient, intolerant, and irritable, to say the least. And while I am riddled with guilt over not having to super human strength it takes to be super mom to three little ones, I am done trying for the next few weeks.

A friend suggested that I ask my children to treat me like a queen now. I knew it wouldn't be quite that easy, but I make a heartfelt plea to my darling children:

Me: "I just need you to take it easy on me now, to be gentle with me. Try to remember that I am very big and uncomfortable and I have an actual little baby inside of me who often feels like she's trying to kick her way out of me. Keep in mind that it's very, very hard to bend down, and it would be very helpful if you would not leave a trail of your stuff everywhere you go. Try to pick up after yourselves so that I don't have to do it all day long. And then, if you pick up your own stuff, maybe you won't have to come to me a million times a day to ask me where everything you want or need is when you want or need it.

And when you do want or need something a millions times a day, perhaps you could ask your dad, rather than walking right past him and searching the entire house for me just to make me do it. He can do most things almost as well as I can.

Or, maybe you could even try doing some things for yourselves once in a blue moon. Perhaps you could move an item or two and look around a little when you can't find your mitten, boots, book, toy, shirt, homework, brother, sister...........!

It would be nice if you could try not to fight with each other too because the whining and blood curdling schreeches kind of make me feel like my head is going to explode.

Maybe, on the rare occasion that I ask you to do or get something for me, you could do it without the dreaded MOMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! and the angry foot stomping.

If you could try not to follow me into the bathroom every single time I have to hide, I mean use the bathroom, that would be nice. That twenty seconds of alone time would be very useful right now.

And finally (for now), if you could please remember that I am very fragile right now, and please not run at me full speed when I'm not looking and fling your little body into me just because you "love mommy sooooo much!", that would probably curb my urge to want to body slam you. A gentle hug would be very nice (if you insist on touching me at all).

Basically, just treat me like a Queen right now, ya know, like I've been doing for you every single day of your lives?"

Madeline: "But Mommy, I'm just going to look at you and see that you are CLEARLY
NOT a Queen."

CLEARLY, I'll just have to suck it up a bit longer.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ma'am who?

I don't care for Ma'm. And I don't think it's the hormones talking. Don't get me wrong, I've used it plenty, on women my age i'm sure (when i was NOT my age). But now that I have become a Ma'am target, I would like to apologize to all those women.

Bottom line is, it implies "older". And who needs that implication thrown in their face. I'm well aware of it already, thanks. I have no problem being older. In fact I quite prefer it and wouldn't change a thing. But I am MISS Castle, and if you don't know my name, you can call me "miss" for short. It just makes more sense. As one fellow Facebooker pointed at in the midst of todays Great Facebook Debate "Ma'am or Miss", it's not "Driving Ma'am Daisy." That's just wrong. Just as calling me Ma'am is wrong.

Other Facebookers suggested that women are too sensitive about their age if Ma'am offends them (mostly men, obviously). While others claimed it is said out of respect. Trust me, no woman is going to be called "miss" and feel insulted. No woman is going say "excuse me, that's rude. It's MA"AM, not miss." No. In fact, they're going to walk away from that conversation thinking "Wow,what a sweet kid."

I can tell you that I do NOT feel like I have been granted some higher social status because some 17 year old kid called me ma'am. And to be honest, it wasn't THAT long ago that I could still make a kid like that nervous and tongue tied just ordering a cup of coffee from him. Now i'm ma'am? I certainly don't long for those days, but isn't there an in between that allows me go out into society and not be slapped in the face with the obvious? And why do men get the timeless "Sir"? Why don't they get a special title out of "respect", for their aging process.?

I am quite certain that every woman who hears ma'am for the first time (or even the first fifty or so times, or is that just me?)is going to instinctively look around for some other "ma'am" And will, in turn be baffled that it's her.

Regardless of all of this, one thing is for certain, "ma'am" is entirely innapropriate for a 30 something,even if she is driving a mini-van with 3.5 kids in tow. In fact, especially if she is has 3.5 kids in tow. Clearly that woman does not need another reminder that she is no spring chicken.

Call me miss until the day i die. I won't think you rude or be the least bit offended by it, I promise.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Madeline and the Red Ryder BB gun (or Easy Bake Oven, same thing)

Madeline and her friend wanted to use her easy bake oven just as i was about to go take a shower while the boys are napping.

Me: Not right now. I'm going to shower and I don't want you doing it by yourselves.

Granted, the thing bakes by the light of a 100 watt light bulb. Seriously, that's all you need to cook your disgusting little cake. But they are still "baking" and I can't help imagining all of the things that could go wrong if i leave two seven year olds alone with a lightbuld powered "oven". I guess i better lock them all in a room with no lamps while i shower too.

The girls emphasize that it is called EASY BAKE because it is EASY and kids can do it all by themselves. I have no energy or desire to debate that kind of logic, so, I left them alone to" bake" so i could go enjoy a relaxing shower. I reminded them to just unplug it when they are done (and make sure all the lamps are off too, i guess) and walked away thinking "they're never going to remember to unplug it", and suddenly i could hear those wicked ladies from A Christmas Story, only instead of "you'll shoot your eye out" they were heckling "you'll burn the house down, you'll burn the house down." I couldn't relax in the shower because the whole time i kept listening for smoke detectors or screams from second degree burns, or a child trampling through the house screaming "fire!".

Madeline walks into the bathroom in tears.

Me: What? What happened? You burned yourself didn't you? See! I told you...

Madeline: NO MOMMY! I BENT DOWN TO UNPLUG IT AND WHEN I STOOD BACK UP I BUMPED MY HEAD REALLY HARD!

I felt so bad for immediatly assuming that, as usual, I was right, and she indeed could not handle cooking by lamp light. Not only did she handle it just fine, but the only injury that did occur was from her obeying my one request to unpulg it when she's done, so let's be honest, it's my fault.

But I am again reminded of the kid with the Red Ryder BB gun who did, in fact, nearly shoot his eye out with that thing, just as his mother had known he would, and then concoted the phony story about the icicle falling down from the house and smashing into his glasses. It would be just like Madeline to make up that story about hitting her head just to avoid confessing to my being right, again. And she is just clever enough to find that one version of the story that makes it all my fault.

But I have no proof yet. So I kiss her little head a few times and tell her that I'm sorry (because it's my fault and all), and send her on her way. I'll be on the lookout for burn marks. And if I find any, I guess I'll have to confinscate her lamps and the sconce in her room too. Oh, and her new lava lamp. Who knows what damage a seven year old can do with one of those things if she can't even handle an EASY bake oven.