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Sunday, February 26, 2012

I survived winter break!


It all begins with childbirth. The only thing that gets you through the torturous hell of some evil demon trying to rip you in half is knowing that you will be meeting your little angel at any moment. When you're in the thick of it, you swear to God that you will NEVER DO THIS AGAIN! And when it's over, and you are face to face with the angelic little devil, you thank God for this little blessing and for getting you through it and for (hopefully) overlooking that
"never again" thing.

And then your little angel learns to say "mama" and it is the most angelic little sound you have ever heard. I swear I heard harps playing the very first time I heard my angels say "mama". But then "mama" becomes "mommy", and that doesn't have quite the same heavenly ring to it. Somewhere around the the 3 millionth "mommy" of the day I start to feel like I am standing at the threshold of hell. Suddenly it gets REALLY hot in here and my little angels are growing horns. With four little angel, there doesn't seen to be any gap at all between the "mommy, mommy, mommies"! I'm pretty sure that sometimes, they just say it out of habit, and if I answer, they have to think quick of something they can make me do for them. AND THEN THE SOUND OF THE THESE LITTLE DEVILS TORMENTING YOU WITH THIS ONE SINGLE WORD EVERYDAY ALL DAY HAS YOU THINKING ABOUT WRITING TO THE MILITARY AND SUGGESTING THAT THEY USE THIS TECHNIQUE AS A TORTURE TACTIC! Come 5 p.m. (and 45 million "mommies" later) on any given day of motherhood, I will break any allegiance I have ever had in return for an hour of babysitting.

Truth be told, almost any heavenly moment of motherhood really does come with a pinch of hell. This week, my children had the week off from school which meant it would be just me and the angels/devils, all alone, all day, all week. Hell. That sounds harsh, I know but there are four of them and one of me and...do I really need an "and"? But, I made it my mission for the week to not only survive, which is usually all I pray for, but to enjoy.

One day, I took my little angels bowling, along with a couple other little angels from next door. That makes 6 little angels, but who's counting (ME!). When I walked into the bowling alley, the two people working there looked at me with great confusion and pity.

"Just you with all these kids?"

"Yes just me."

"Are you all from a school or camp or something?"

"No. Four are mine and two are our neighbors. I'm pretty sure if we were from a school or camp, I would have been legally obligated to bring another chaperone along."

Right away, all hell broke lose. I tried to sit down to put my bowling shoes on and next thing I knew there were bowling balls bouncing of the floor or rolling down lanes we weren't even using, a two year old running down the lanes, boys fighting over bowling balls and dropping them on their toes, a baby crying, waiting impatiently for a bottle, and four little devils already whining about being hungry and thirsty.

And then there was the thousands of "IS IT MY TURN?!" "HEY THAT'S MY BALL." "HE'S TOUCHING MY BAAAAAL!" "I WAS GONNA USE THAT LANE!" "WHO'S WINNING?" "AM I WINNING?" "HOW COME I'M NOT WINNING!!!!!!" "I WANTED TO WIIIIIIIIIN!!!!!!!!!!! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!"

And did I mention the broken glass?

After I loaded all of them into the car to go home, the little angels said "Thank you for taking us. That was so fun." And you know what? It was. Heavenly, even.

The next day, I took my two oldest angels skiing. It was the first time for both of them and it was the perfect day; warm and sunny. I had to lug multiple sets of skiis and poles all over the mountain, not to mention the occassional exhausted 4 year old angel who refused to rest because he was having so much fun. And again, I heard multiple, unsolicited "thank yous" and "this is so much fun!" from the angels. Heavenly!

And then we had to leave. I had to get home to relieve the babysitter who was home with the littlest angels. And the two little devils had simultaneous melt-downs that were so bad it was as if they were competing to see which one could be more evil. Leo was all at once, furious that we had to stop skiing, and so tired that he could not form a single excruciating sentence. And Madeline, who had had a wonderful day and spent the whole morning asking when we could come back again, had one bad run right at the end and was now swearing off skiing FOREVER!

"I'M NEVER SKIING AGAIN! I'M THE WORST SKIIER EVER! WHY DID YOU MAKE ME COME HERE! I HATE SKIIIIIIIIIIIING!!!! STOP CRYING LEO! YOU'RE SUCH A BABY!"

"YOU STOP CRYING MADDIE! YOU ARE THE WORST SKIIER EVER!!!!!!!"

Those first ten minutes with those evil little devils, on the ride home from our glorious, heavenly day together -pure hell.

And the next ten minutes, when both of my new little skiing angels fell fast asleep and I reflected on our day...heaven.

I could go on and on with this heaven and hell thing. In fact, I think all of my stories about motherhood reflect this. It is truly the hardest job you could ever love. But it's true what they say:

Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Anything worth having is worth fighting for.

No pain, no gain.

I often feel like my children have been possessed by Satan and are trying to throw me into the fiery pits of hell. But at the end of every day when I do that final check to make sure the little devils are tucked in nice and warm, I can always see a bright halo over their little sleeping heads (sleeping children are especially angelic). And as that painful little knot in my neck begins to loosen and my migraine begins to subside, I lay my head on my pillow feeling just a little bit like a warrior.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Baby Ginger is 1: A fresh start for an old soul

The Stork Story, (an excerpt)

You know the stork brings babies,
But did you also know
He comes and gets the older folks
When it's their time to go?...

Their memories are all removed
And they're shrunk down, and then
The stork flies them back down to earth
As newborn babes again.

~ Shel Silverstein


A few months ago, my brother Mark, shared with me, a conversation between he and his 4 year old daughter Ava;


Mark: "Do you remember Grandma Ginger?"

Ava: "I remember that she died, and now she is a little baby."

Even now, I can't type this story without tears. The thought that my mother's soul is behind my beautiful baby's eyes is...comforting. When I look at her, or say her name, or hear someone else say her name, it heals me. My heart is mending. It's not broken anymore. It's just forever scarred.

When I found out that baby # 4 was on the way, I was...surprised. I spent nine months telling myself that "I am going to have FOUR kids. FOUR. KIDS!" It made me chuckle really, at the thought of how in over my head I was about to be. But I have faith in God and the universe and I was not scared. And now, as we celebrate her first birthday, I can't believe I ever considered our family complete without her.

We have a habit of going right down to the wire choosing the perfect name for our children (having had four kids I can actually use the word "habit"). It's nerve wracking. A name will inevitably evoke something in others when they hear it. We also have a habit of honoring family names. Each of my children share at least one name with a loved one. So for at least one special someone, it evokes love and honor.

Ginger Jayne is a beautiful collaboration of my late mother, and Darren's mother. Once we found out that we were having another girl, we decided that we were going to use my mother's given name, Virginia, as the baby's middle name and had no idea what the first name would be. Then one day I was searching through my mother's cookbooks looking for the her buckey ball recipe, the candies she notoriously made EVERY year for Christmas, millions of them. Ok, probably not millions, but it seemed like they took over our lives for a few months. Eating one (out of obligation) was like pulling out a gray hair; suddenly seven more appeared in it's in place. We all grew to loath them but that never stopped her from painstakingly making them "for us". So it only makes sense that I have to continue this tradition in her honor. And I vow to do so until my children grow to loath them too and hope that one of them will do the same for their family someday, in my honor. What better way for a loved one to live on than through millions of nauseatingly sweet, chocolate covered peanut butter balls?

Anyway, while looking for this recipe, I found this one page of a journal entry from over 20 years ago. It was the very first page of my mother's new journaling venture (no doubt, a homework assignment from her therapist) and she was just introducing herself to...herself:

"I'll use my real name-my only name: Ginger. That would have been fine enough as an identity. Why they formalized the name, I'll never know. I guess it was the proper thing to do. Hence, Virginia. So unbefitting. I hated it. No one ever used it except school teachers and others who knew me not. Always an embarrassment to say it. To hear it. I am Ginger. GINGER! Short, cute and good enough."

That's when Darren and I both agreed that we preferred Ginger too, rather than Virginia. That is also the moment when we both knew that Ginger might possibly make a great first name. Darren would like full credit for pushing for this idea. He's right, he was the first to mention it, and after doing so, he looked at me and said, mockingly, "I know you think finding this journal entry is a sign or something". He was right. And I knew he did too, but he would never admit it because it's silly or something.

I loved the sound of it, but I was a bit worried about that little bit of momentary heartache that I was getting every time I heard someone, including myself, say it out loud. How long would that last? Could I handle it if it never went away? Could other's handle it? I decided that I thought I could (it was an oddly pleasant heartache after all), and hoped her other loved ones could too. (And not only have they handled it, but they cherish it.) I decided all of this within about two minutes of reading that journal entry, and it only took a few more weeks to convince that little aching piece of my still healing heart that it would be ok. Her name is Ginger.

I can't say for sure if baby Ginger is in fact the beautiful little baby version of Grandma Ginger, but I can tell you, for certain, that she is VERY happy to be here with us. She is ear to ear smile almost ALL the time. When she opens her eyes in the morning, she is beaming even before
she has lifted her little head. And all one has to do is glance at her, and she will smile in reply. She is happy.

I know my mother's regrets, the ones that matter anyway, and not the ones she un-deservingly riddled herself with. She just wanted to be "good enough" to everyone. And in the end, she may have regretted being so hard on herself. This fresh start for an old soul will always know that she is good enough...and then some. She is Ginger Jayne, and "that would have been fine enough as an identity", especially to all of us who loved her namesake. But she is indeed, "and then some". This soul, by any other name, may not have been quite as sweet.

And if it's true (and I prefer to think that it is), that I am now the keeper of the keeper of my mother's soul, I intend to make sure that that smile never goes away. I will give that soul the happy, peaceful, childhood she always yearned for. I will praise her and smother her in hugs and kisses and love. I will teach her that her imperfections are inevitable, her obstacles are surmountable and her mistakes are forgivable.

Little Ginger is one year old. She is "short, cute, and good enough" (perfect actually). She is carrying on my mother's name in her honor, and carrying my mother's soul in her eyes. And when her name is spoken, it evokes very special memories, and a very bright future.