Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Morning After

Bub and Pie recently wrote a post about Bloggers Remorse. And the tendency for bloggers to feel embarrassed after a particularly emotional post. I think I am suffering from a touch of this condition this morning. Your comments on my post were so kind and encouraging and full of prayers and well wishes and I felt, well, foolish. What exactly is wrong with my life? My child has a virus? Being a stay at home mom can be frustrating and tiresome? I am losing the war against my waistline?. None of these seem sufficient to the emotional spewing I did yesterday.

I have always been prone to fits of depression. A condition that peaked after the births of my daughters and subsequently resulted in a prescription for what I fondly call my "happy pills". I am very open about my postpartum depression and my need for medication because I want people to know there is nothing embarrassing about seeking help.
But even beyond that, the all encompassing debilitating darkness that came at those points in my life, I fight a daily battle against a less intense despondency. What I refer to as "the melancholies". They feel a bit like gremlins, hovering in the corners of my consciousness, waiting to pounce on me with the least bit of disappointment, stress, or insecurity. I battle these critters with powerful weapons of prayer, Bible Verses (like the ones I keep on my sidebar), and encouraging friends.

And sometimes chocolate.

And this blog. That's why I named it "Joy in Chaos" because I wanted to document the joy as a constant reminder that it's always there, amid the chaos of my life. I might just have to search for it. But yesterday I succumbed, without much of a fight to the gremlins. I didn't want to feel better, I wanted to wallow. I wanted someone to identify, to sympathize with me, that my life as a stay at home mom of four is hard. And for that, that public self-indulgent whine-fest, I apologize.

So will I now cover up my post with something frantically witty? Or as Bub puts it "off-the-cuff compensatory silliness?" Oh I don't know. I don't do funny well. I wish I did, I am terribly envious of writers that do comedy well because my life provides such great material. But I am not one of them. And I don't think silliness is in me today. I haven't come that far.

So instead I think I will leave you with this. This photo tribute to why I really shouldn't spend so much time blogging and what my little ones find to occupy themselves while I do.

I hope these made you smile. Thanks for being such great friends.
Afterthoughts: If you are wondering why Ben seems to always be in underwear in his pictures lately it's because if the potty-training war we have going on. And Clara is still sick, but slept until 9:30 this morning allowing me time to type this blog. Yay.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

One heckuva downer post

Oh it's one of those days. One of those days. Where I just want to crawl into my bed, pull the down comforter over my head and stay there until 2010. Because really I think I would rather subject myself to a gynecological exam than fold another load of laundry. Or wipe down the counters or a pint sized bum one more time. Or referee another fight. Or try again to convince my three year old why it really is better to pee in the potty than in his underwear.

Or on the floor.

And baby girl has hand foot and mouth disease and is miserable. And she just wants to be held. And that would be fine, I would love to stop and hold her and comfort her, if my life, would just stop long enough to let me do so. But instead she crawls along behind me wailing while I try to get her brother ready for his preschool open house. And change his pants. Again. And remind myself to ask his preschool teacher if it's okay that he is a bit "spotty" on the whole potty training thing.

And the little pink pill that I take every night to help me get through the day, just doesn't seem to be doing it's job today. And it wasn't so hot yesterday either. And I can feel my blood pressure rising.

Oh. Which reminds me. Blood Pressure. Do you remember this post? The one where I kissed Gluttony and Sloth a fond farewell and embarked on a journey towards better health and lower blood pressure. Well it's going great.

~sorry I was waiting for the lightning strike~

Because my two old friends...they haven't left. Of course not. They didn't even get to the front door. They are like a freeloading uncle, camping out with promises to leave on Monday, or after this party, or you year. They keep bribing me to stay with gooey dark-chocolate birthday cake and Friday night Mexican. And Wine. And Huge hot cups of coffee with lots of cream and sugar and caffeine. Because I can't freakin live without caffeine. How does one get through a day without coffee?

I still have no idea.

So not only are they still here but now they have brought friends. Oh yes it's true. Gluttony and Sloth, they know how to throw a party. They've brought everyone with them. Procrastination. Guilt. Self-Loathing. and 4 more pounds. FOUR MORE POUNDS!

And depression.

But he's not really my friend. Although I know him well, and the heavy sinking crawl-into-bed for a week feeling he brings with him. Like a fog settling over my consciousness.

But Him. He's not staying. Because I know how far I have come from where I was last year when Clara was born. The days before the medicine when it was only through Jesus carrying me that I made it through each day. And my friends and my husband telling me again and again I wasn't crazy. That I wouldn't always feel this way. That the love for her would come. Reassuring me that it was okay, even for people who love Jesus, even for those who depend on Him, to get help. And because of them. Because of His grace. I know that darkness is behind me and I know this is just a day.

One bad day. Or maybe two. Perfectly normal. And soon I will be back to normal too. Soon.

But maybe not today. Today, I still just want to run away.

A Nod to a New Blog

In blatant disrespect for the Wordless Wednesday code I wanted to share that my dear friend Chrissy, who has known me long enough to be able to provide you with some serious dirt, has started her own blog today. Tales from the Carpool Lane is quite funny. Funny is not something I do well and she has already put me to shame. Not that I am jealous or anything. Really.

Well, maybe a little. So go on. Click the link. You know you want to.

(The wordless Wednesday post is below. And it garnered some criticism from Allie. I wrote about that here.)

Wordless Wednesday (It's a Hard Knock Life)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Morning Musings.

“Those who can soar to the highest heights can also plunge to the deepest depths, and the natures which enjoy most keenly are those which also suffer most sharply” L.M. Montgomery

I am back to quoting L.M. Montgomery today. I suspect most mothers of pubescent girls would find a strong affinity with these words and I am no different. Allison has always reminded me of Anne with her ability to feel things so sharply. It's hard not to love someone who so liberally expresses her joy in the world around her, but it can become wearisome to ride the waves of her emotions.

This morning started fine with sleepy hugs and preparing for school. But a couple wrong turns and I found her sobbing in the garage over her shoes (they had ants on them) as the bus came down the street. I managed to quickly remedy the shoe situation and barked at her to pull herself together quickly before she boarded the bus. I know I sound heartless but she has been ridiculed for her emotions before. Her fits of giddiness, her sensitivity to criticism and propensity for tears have been perceived as immaturity. And I used to agree. But now I believe they are just a part of her. A part she is working hard to suppress because she is finally aware that the world doesn't know what to do with someone who lives perpetually in the emotional moment.

It's moments like this that I appreciate my oldest son, who takes life in stride. His steadfast, easygoing personality does not show emotions easily. We have often wished he would show more excitement. Like on Christmas morning when the long awaited gift elicits no more than a wry grin and a comical comment. But I have come to appreciate the ease of knowing what to expect. Of not having to tread lightly.

There is much to love about them both. Strengths in the differences of their makings. But I suspect, I always have, that he will find the world an easier place to live in.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A summons

Last week I received a summons for Jury Duty in the mail. The Man opened it and has been hounding me ever since to find out if there is a way out of it. I have been darting snarky looks at him in response and mumbling noncommittally. Oh I know what his point is. I am a stay at home mom of four kids. My husband is self-employed and it would be a financial hardship for him to take off work to be with them for a week and there really isn't anyone else that can watch them. In short, I am invaluable. Do you think the State of Georgia will buy it? I have no idea. And no, I haven't even begun to check into it yet. Because here's the thing:

I don't want to be excused.

Because I believe in Jury Duty. The American Government only works if we do our part. You know: vote, pay taxes, serve on a jury when we are called to.

Okay, that's not true.

Well it's sort of true. I do believe in all that stuff. But the real reason I don't want to be excused from jury duty is because of this one sentence in my summons:


I have to leave my kids at home. All of them. It's a bona fide rule.

So for a day, or if I am lucky, an entire week I'll get to wake up in the morning, have a reason to dress myself in something respectable for a change, pack a stack of books and go sit, without kids. Maybe I'll get chosen for a jury and maybe I will just get to sit there and read to my hearts content. And maybe there will be other adults. And I'll get to have a conversation. Or write a letter.

And they give me money for lunch. Lunch that will absolutely NOT be peanut butter and jelly.

So call me crazy but jury duty sounds kind of like a vacation. Except not like a vacation at all because I won't come home exhausted from lack of sleep and settling fights. And counting heads: one, two, three, four. One, two, three, four...327 times on the beach for three days. And there won't be a car full of dirty laundry and sand in my unmentionables.

It sounds like a rest. A break. Peace. A reason to have a party. A "hallelujah I am headed off to jury duty party!"

Because after all, it is my civic duty. My government NEEDS me. And we wouldn't want to let them down, now would we?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bosom Friends

2007 At Medieval Times for Allie's 11th Birthday

When Shane and I were married, his niece Taylor was at our wedding. She was eighteen months at the time and throughout the ceremony she said my name in a happy sing-song voice that everyone could hear.
"Doy, Doy, Doy...Doy, Doy, Doy" repeated incessantly during our vows.
It's really the only thing I remember about the ceremony and I think she officially captured my heart at that moment. Two weeks later my own daughter, Allison, was born and I had high hopes for them to grow up as friends. I have not been disappointed.
Taylor was Allison's very first friend. Her first sleepover. Her first secret-keeper. Her first girly-spat. She was her first phone, email, and instant message pal. As the years have gone on, Allie has made many other friends. In fact I think she has had a different "best friend" every school year. But when she is giddy, or when her heart is hurting it's Taylor she always calls. And this gives me joy, because with Taylor I know that Allison is her true self. With no pretense or second guessing. And we all should be so lucky as to have such a friend.
This weekend Allie was allowed to chose one friend to go with us to "Medieval Times" for her birthday, and so it seemed only natural to both of us that Taylor be the one to come along. Yesterday I watched them as they walked, looking more like young ladies now than little girls, arm-and-arm through the mall whispering and giggling together. During the show they clung to each other squealed in mock terror that their knight might be vanquished. Then last night they came up in their pajamas and performed songs for me as they have done almost since they could talk.
Finally at midnight, I stood outside the guest room door (just for a moment, I swear) and listened to them whispering secrets. And I felt a burst of giddiness at the hope that no matter where life takes them, this connection, forged in the fires of growing up, will always remain.

"We must join hands--so," said Anne gravely. "It ought to be over running water. We'll just imagine this path is running water. I'll repeat the oath first. I solemnly swear to be faithful to my bosom friend, Diana Barry, as long as the sun and moon shall endure. Now you say it and put my name in."

Diana repeated the "oath" with a laugh fore and aft. Then she said:

"You're a queer girl, Anne. I heard before that you were queer. But I believe I'm going to like you real well." ~L. M. Montgomery

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dear Allison,

Eleven years ago today, I sat in a hospital bed, barely more than a child myself, and looked in your eyes for the first time. And as I held you and gazed, finally, at this tiny person that was you, this person I knew so well, but didn't know at all, I wept. I wept in wonder that I could have been a part of such miraculous perfection.

And I was terrified. Terrified that I couldn't love you enough, that I wouldn't be enough. That I would let you down. That the parent you deserved: the love, the harbor, the wisdom you would need, simply wasn't in me.

And as we have travelled through these last eleven years together, each of us finding our way, I still get twinges of this fear. Fear of my own ineptness, my lack of wisdom, my inability to shelter your heart. I know have made mistakes, more than I can count, but somehow, by only the grace of God, I must have done some things right.

Because you are amazing.

I look at you in a crowd of your peers and I see this beautiful creature, glowing, and self assured in ways I am not even today, and I am in awe that she could be mine. My own gorgeous daughter. Who smiles more than she frowns. Who has eyes full of dreams and a heart full of love. Who believes so strongly in who she can be and what she can achieve. Who fills our life with stories and songs. Oh, the beautiful songs! And I can't believe that I ever wondered if I could love you enough. Because my love for you so permeates me, my breath, my soul, that I know I could not exist without it.

And as I bowed this morning to pray. To pray for my day and for those that we love, I was overwhelmed with the need to simply say, Thank You. Thank you to the Lord for giving me eleven years of knowing you.

Happy Birthday to my Allie-girl.

I love this picture of you, and how you look grown up and yet somehow still like a little girl

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

He said, She said

Yesterday I started watching my two nieces once a week for my sister-in-law who is in grad school. Ella and Chloe are three and two respectively and my children just adore them. Ben, in particular is smitten and, in the way of boys since the beginning of time, somewhat bemused. My nieces are the picture of gorgeous girly sweetness. And Ben is, well, he's Ben. Rough and tumble and mischievous. In short, he's a boy.

Anyone who does not believe that God created boys and girls differently would have done well to be an observer at my house yesterday afternoon. Watching these two obviously different species try to find common ground was a comedic lesson in gender particularities.

At one point Ella put a crown on Ben and told him he was the king. Ben was happy with this arrangement.

"I'm the king!" Ben boasted, puffing out his skinny chest.

"And I'm the princess" Ella replied coyly, wrapping herself in a blanket for a gown.

"You're the princess!" Ben roared again.

"And so we should get married" she said sweetly.

"Married. Okay!" Ben responded, still using his deep shouty voice (apparently this is how kings talk...very loudly)

"So let's get mar-ried!" Ella was becoming slightly exasperated with Ben's strutting.

"Okay" replied Ben, "We're married." Then he struck his best ninja pose, "Now let's fight!"

Hmmmm. Ben's perception of marriage seems to be a bit skewed. We may need to work on that. And poor Ella, she just stood there bewildered. She never had a chance.

Monday, August 20, 2007

132 over 90

My dentist checks my blood pressure as a courtesy when I go in. Isn't that strange? Wouldn't just being at the dentist cause you to have high blood pressure? Maybe they have some kind of referral fee worked out with the doctor across the street.

I have always had very good blood pressure, except when I was pregnant. And then there was something about gaining 50 pounds each time that caused it to go a little haywire. But last month, when I definitely was not pregnant, it was 132 over 90. That was the third reading. The previous two must have been higher. I looked it up when I got home. Borderline hypertension. I have borderline hypertension.

Phooey. (I am trying not to say "crap" anymore. I may think it's endearing when my three year old walks around the house saying "crap, crap, crap" but, I think they frown on this at his Baptist preschool.)

At first I thought hey, I can blame this on having four children! They'd be easy to blame. Just ask any of the dozen people each week that tell me I must have my hands full. And I certainly have many days when the pressure to raise them into God loving, productive citizens pushes me to my limit. But I typically find constructive ways relieve the stress. You know, like locking them all in their bedrooms while I slam things and yell (probably words like crap) like a lunatic. Kidding.

Sort of.

So maybe it's me and the 15 pounds in crap junk-food I have put on this year. And and the fact that I still had 10 to lose from having Clara before that. Or maybe it's that I can't find time to exercise. Scratch that. That I h-a-t-e exercise. That I find it about as enjoyable as as having a bikini wax and those of you who say things like "I had the most wonderful run this morning" make me want to hurl. Kidding.

Sort of.

So I decided to research what I could do to lower my blood pressure. Here's what I found.

  1. Limit your caffeine intake. The caffeine in coffee, tea and sodas can contribute to high blood pressure. Hey. I only drink two cups of coffee a day. Or sometimes three. And maybe a frappacino. And a diet coke.

  2. Limit alcohol intake. Blood pressure increases as your body metabolizes alcohol. Does that include wine? How else am I supposed to wind down from all the caffeine?
  3. Avoid processed foods. These are the biggest sources of sodium in today's diet. I mean honestly, how am I going to cook dinner for my family with Rice-a-roni, or Stouffers? Or Pizza Hut?

  4. Maintain optimal weight. Even small amounts of weight loss can improve blood pressure. My weight IS optimal. Just ask Botticelli. Or Renoir Or my husband. God Bless him.

  5. Relax. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and biofeedback are all relaxation techniques that can help lower blood pressure. See stress-relief habits above.

  6. Don't smoke. Smoking contributes to all cardiovascular diseases - and many other life-threatening conditions as well. Finally something I can do. Don't smoke. Check.

  7. Exercise. As little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, like walking, can lower blood pressure. Haven't we covered this.
Okay, I admit it. I have been living a life that's a bit, um, excessive. Really it's amazing I am able to walk down the street without keeling over.

So this morning I am making some changes. Healthier food, regular walking, more water, less caffeine. I have been gearing up for this for a month now. Putting off the inevitable and the painful like a child that doesn't want to pull a sore tooth. Because let's face it. Excess is fun. Gluttony and sloth? We're old friends.

Friends I must now bid farewell. We've had glorious times together, but I'm leaving them behind. I must make new friends now. Ones that will make my doctor happy, ones that will set a good example for my children. Ones that will make my waistline smaller and my butt less jiggly. And 132 over 90 a thing of the past. But I sure am going to miss those two.

And I'll probably be back now and then, for a visit.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday Sweetness

Look Mommy, I'm a goat!

Me: You're a goat?
Ben: Yes, I'm a scary goat!
Me: A ghost. You're a ghost?
Ben: Yes! A scary gho-sst!
Me: Ahhh. Well you are verry scary! (Exaggeratedly worried voice)

Ben: Oh! (peeking out from under his blanket) It's okay. I still love you, mommy.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A new book!

I started reading a new book today. A new series, actually. I have a rule against starting a series before it is completely written and available in paperback. I chafe at spending too much money on books when I know a more organized person could simply check them out from the library. And I hate to be left hanging. Undoubtedly by the time the last book comes out I will have to reread the previous one(s) to remember where we left off. This gets time consuming. Case in point: the last Harry Potter. So, it was a happy discovery that the an unread Shannara trilogy by Terry Brooks was not only finished but had been out in paperback for a while. I even splurged for it new.

Terry Brooks, for those of you of a less nerdy persuasion, is a fantasy writer. I must confess, I've had a lifelong infatuation with books involving magic. As a child I read Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper over and over until their characters were as comfortable and familiar to me as my own family. Oh I had affairs. A summer tryst with Nancy Drew. Flings with Anne of Green Gables and Tuck Everlasting. But it was the land of the mythical and magical that continued to draw me back again.

And now as an adult, my reading materials are as temperamental as my moods. I attempt to read the Bible every day. I wish I could say I was always faithful to this. I have a handful of popular authors I regularly enjoy. I dabble in the classics and the critically acclaimed to fight my propensity towards stagnancy. I always read chick-lit on vacation. It's a rule. When I am feeling hopeless or discouraged I turn to books on prayer. I have even been know to be frightened by a gruesome murder mystery, or seep into a love story. Well no that's not true. No romances here. I simply can't abide a sappy love story.

But the books that make me giddy, that make me settle in for the day with a quilt and a cup of coffee have always been fantasy. I admit there was a time in my life when it was a closet love affair. In high-school I certainly wouldn't have admitted it. It was too close to being associated with Dungeons and Dragons and Star Trek conventions. But since then, I have embraced my inner geek. And it doesn't hurt that "Harry Potter" and "Lord of The Rings" has made fantasy acceptable, possibly even trendy.

But still it seems a little ridiculous, even to me. A grown woman with four children reading stories about elves and dwarfs and magic in other worlds. But it's the other worldliness that is the appeal. It's an escape. Real life is hard, it's full of strife, and it doesn't always make sense. God is just, but our world will never be. But in fantasy novels things are uncomplicated. And there is always a goal. A clear path.

Oh they have problems, I guess. There's always a quest for something or other. But it's broken down simply into a battle between good and evil. And the evil is clearly evil. You don't have to feel bad about hating them. You don't have that twinge of thinking in another life they could have been you. And the protagonists, while endearingly flawed, are always victorious in saving the world in the end. Good conquers all. Love reigns victorious. Case in point again: Harry Potter.

It's refreshing to me to read about battles fought with magic and swords and knowing who won in the end. It's a nice break from ineffective sanctions and occupancies and conventions. From being inundated with problems that seem to have no solutions. And while it's true I don't come away enlightened or with new insight into myself, or the world around me, I come away refreshed. And pining a little for a world that's fantastical, that's black and white, and always has a happy ending. I'm a sucker for a happy ending.

I'm off to read now. Shannara is waiting.

Oh who am I kidding. It's the middle of the day. I've been blogging for last half hour. I am off to see what my kids have destroyed, fold a load of laundry and make lunch.

It was a nice thought.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Eleven Years

This weekend Shane (The Man) and I snuck off for the night. Okay, we didn't really sneak off, we ran hootin and hollerin with glee, to a bed and breakfast in a historic, and now trendy, district of Atlanta. I started this post there, typing on a computer as antique as the rest of the furnishings while Shane was still in bed, sleeping off a late night.

Friday was my wedding anniversary and Shane and I were fortunate to find a sucker big enough to come spend the night with our four children. The sucker, or saint actually, was my mother-in-law. God Bless her. It was our first time away from our children overnight in two-and-a-half years. Except when we slipped off to deliver Clara, but the atmosphere in those women's centers is decidedly unromantic. We left our cozy suburb with it's mega malls, chain restaurants and respectable school districts and headed into the city.

We treated ourselves to an obscenely expensive dinner. I mean seriously, I think we could have fed a child in Africa for a year on what we spent on dinner. We used our Am Ex. points and I still felt a little guilty about the extravagance of it all. But the food. Oh my. The food was divine.

Then we headed back to the district to walk around to the shops and pubs of the young and hip. We found out we were neither. I could not make myself enter the blues bar, the Irish pub, or the live-band karaoke club with standing room only and people vying for the attention of bartenders and the opposite sex. Instead we settled at a half-full tequila bar known for it's margaritas, where we drank a little and talked a lot.

About our children.

Oh we didn't miss them exactly. 24 hours away wasn't long enough for that. But as we talked about our dreams, our frustrations, our fascination with the diversity of city life, they needled their way in to every conversation. It turns out that for all our excitement at leaving it behind, we genuinely like the life we have built together.

We had a wonderful time this weekend, living the life of the young and childless and savoring each other's company like some kind of exotic treat. And I was so thankful that after eleven years I am married to a man that I not only love, but genuinely like. Who makes me laugh, who puts me first, who still thinks I am beautiful. And that somehow, despite the chaos of our life, despite days in a row without having a real conversation, despite sometimes feeling like we live in different worlds, we still couldn't imagine weathering the storm with anyone else.

And as we headed home the next day, putting back on the mantle of our responsibilities, and knowing full well how blessed we were by the life we were returning too, I still couldn't help but long for a little more time to just be a girl in love.
"Into my heart's treasury I slipped a coin that time cannot take nor a thief purloin" ~ Sara Teasdale

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Almost Wordless Wednesday

(Clara-13 Months)

'Cause this place could use a little happy for a change.

A tale of two kitties

So I have two cats. Two crotchety old man cats, Tigger and Dodger. You know, the ones that travelled from Georgia to Michigan and back as part of a cat-custody agreement. The ones that trashed my first apartment when I was twenty. Their time in my care predates that of my husband or my children. They used to be great cats: affectionate, social, sometimes playful. Now, they are old, and in the way of elderly men cats everywhere, they are grumbley, opinionated, standoffish, and lazy. They don't contribute much to our family anymore, other than a layer of fur on my hardwood floors. But we tolerate them in honor of what they used to be, and what we have put them through subjecting them to half a dozen homes and 4 new children over the years. We figure they have earned the right to be crotchety in peace.

I noticed over the last year or two that they had been losing weight. However, since they have always been on the, well, morbidly obese, side of the cat weight spectrum I figured they had it to lose. I just attributed it to aging and the fact that I purchase the cheapest cat food on the planet. I don't take them to the vet regularly either. They are inside cats so unless something is ailing them, we have an agreement to generally ignore each other's weight problems.

But when I actually stopped to pet Dodger the other day, who ironically I used to refer to as Jabba the Hut, I realized he wasn't much more than skin and bones. After scrutinizing Tigger and discovering he was only marginally better, I started fearing they had some kind of parasite. Ewww.

So last week I shoved them into their crate and toted them off to the vet. $350 later we discovered that Dodger has intestinal cancer, and Tigger's kidneys are failing. My cats, my temperamental furry companions for the last 12 years are dying.


Now I am not going to pretend I was particularly attached to them. Over the years I have added a husband, four children and a dog to my inner circle and as far as my affections go, even the dog ranks higher. But what can I say? She's a great dog.

As for the cats, I am more inclined to grumble about them trying to get on the kitchen table or puking hairballs on my floor than I am to pet them. But still, the news made me sad. Time marching on. Mortality. Change. It's all somber stuff. And it's just weird to think of the cats walking around our home as ticking time bombs. That one day soon, I won't have them anymore. And I find myself snuggling them more, (which for the record, I don't think they actually like) and paying attention to them when I never did. I am glad they are just cats and they don't know that they are so sick. Oh for the peace that comes with a simple mind.

And I can't help but wonder if I will even miss them. Or if I will just miss the idea of them, their story. I love telling people about how they were mine before The Man, before the kids. How my college roommate and I got them when we moved in together when we were barely more than teenagers. The Man never has never really liked those cats and in a way that made them more special. They were a little piece of me from before. There are not many of those pieces left now. They have all been replaced by things we have built together. And that's good, it's as God intends it, I believe. But still there's a twinge sometimes at letting it go. At watching the stragglers of my brief independent youth become just one more story to share.

But, don't be sad for me, and for goodness sake, don't think I am looking for condolences on my old sick cats. I'm not too sad really, but maybe just flinching a bit at such an obvious reminder that nothing on earth is here to stay.

Castles or cats.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Back to Blog, Back to School

I'm back. What a stressful, whirlwind week we have had preparing to go back to school. And then this weekend, The Man and I headed away overnight to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It was fabulous, and I have a post started about it, which I will share in the next couple days. But for today, we have more pressing business...

We're back to school!
Brandon went back to public highschool this morning and he couldn't have been happier about rejoining the masses. And, after five torturous months of homeschooling him, I couldn't be happier either. I am just hoping the homeschooling had it's intended effect of getting his priorities back in order, and his tenth grade year will go more smoothly than the ninth. I'm optimistic. Well some days anyway, I am optimistic.

And Allison started middle school this morning. And, if you want to know why all the photos from this morning are blurry, it's probably because I couldn't keep my hand steady because I have been in tears for the last two hours. I mean really, could there be a more ridiculous sap of a mother than I? I kept slipping off to my room to pull myself together in hopes that Allie would attribute my red eyes to lack of sleep. I have already projected enough of my own middle school anxieties onto the girl, for goodness sake! I really never thought I would be this bad. I only got misty eyed when she started kindergarten. And when Brandon started middle school my anxiety was just a normal twinge.

But's different with her. She's always marched to her own beat, and her heart is so easily bruised. She doesn't have Brandon's thick skin, or his adaptability. And maybe that's a good thing, because Brandon's need to conform to other's expectations is what got him in trouble. But I just can't help but worry if her inability to see why people need to be the same, and why she should be anything but who she is, will cause her to be ridiculed. And I wonder how her heart, which has always seemed to feel things so much more sharply than the rest of us, will handle it if she does.

I know I am worrying too much. I know she will probably be just fine. Also, I'm just sad because elementary school is over, and I don't want her to grow up. Because we've always been so close, and I know a day will come when that will change, and while that is a normal and healthy phase for her, it just plain sucks over here on my side.

So here's one more picture, of Brandon and Allison heading off to school five years ago. She's starting first grade, he's starting fifth. Even here you can see the differences in their personalities. He's ready to take on the world and she's not sure she understands it.
I'll stop now before I start with the boo-hooing again. It's a bit embaressing to be such a sentimental fool.

Monday, August 6, 2007

On a break.

I am going on a blogging hiatus for a few days, maybe even a week. No reading or writing for me. My children start back to school in a week, and I am overwhelmed by all I must accomplish by then. Blogging is an addiction for me, and I am constantly coming back for a "quick fix" when I should be doing other things. And lets face it, those fixes never really end up being that quick. Before I know it, I am reading and linking away, lost in a haze of funny stories, and poignant writers.

I also need to spend some time in serious prayer and research on how to handle Ben's deteriorating eating delay. I feel a tug on my spirit so strong, I must be obedient, and focus on my family. So for a short time, I am unplugging myself from all of you. Yes literally unplugging myself- I have no friggin willpower.

Uh Oh.

So you know that feeling? Where you have just had a long phone conversation with your sister-in-law and you suddenly realize that no one has been hanging on you, or screaming in the background. In fact, you can hear your children giggling happily, in their bedroom....with the door closed. And you jump up suddenly because you know...You know they couldn't possibly have been happy for that long unless they have destroyed something. So you take a deep breath, and you open the door...

and every stitch of clothing your son owns, along with two piles you have just sorted for charity/consignment are now all over the floor. And you thank God for moments like this...

just hours before. Because without them, they may both be dead, or sold to the highest bidder.
And then you take pictures and just two hours in to your computer ban, you run and post them on your blog.
I am so weak.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Am I my blog?

There have been a series of posts making there way around the blogosphere addressing the false sense of intimacy readers can feel through reading someone's blog entries. This discussion was inspired by a post, and I think particularly this quote by Everyday Mommy:
"But, for all our feigned intimacy with the blogs that we read, we’re really only relating to a section of their lives. Blogging is a neatly compartmentalized world. It is life condensed into bite-sized stories which the author crafts from the viewpoint of humor or faith or what have you. They are a snapshot, a glimpse into a life. They are not the embodiment of that life."
and subsequently by the response, "I am not my blog" where the author questions whether we are all our blogs. I found this topic fascinating and have been contemplating for a week now whether or not, you could really come to know me by reading my blog.

There is a lot that one can discover about me from my writing. You will quickly come to know that I have four children that I love passionately and that exasperate me daily. I think you can tell that I have a husband I am sincerely thankful for and that I call out to my Heavenly Father in times of need and self doubt, of which I have many. From my style of writing you may ascertain that I am sentimental and long winded. And that I am serious more than I am funny, although I wish it were otherwise. These would all be me. The stories you find on my blog are one hundred percent honest. What they are not, is complete.

My blog gives me a chance to portray myself in a calculated way. I hate to use the word calculated because it sounds as though my intention is to deceive. While that is not true, I do calculate. Have I whined about my children too much on my blog lately? Maybe I should write something upbeat. Have I been too sappy and sentimental? Maybe I should attempt something humorous or light. If this were truly a journal, to be read by none, other than myself, you would find a different, probably less likable, person painted in my words.

There are also parts of myself, significant parts, that I have chosen not to address in this medium. I have political views that I hold strongly, but you will not find them discussed here. I have chosen not to address controversial topics such as politics on my blog because this is primarily a record of my life with my children. There are plenty of other blogs out there to debate such issues. But does that mean I do not have opinions because I don't mention them? Of course not.

In the same way, there are personal parts of my life that I do not feel should be on the Internet for all to read. My husband and I, while we have a wonderful relationship, do sometimes argue. You will never find that written about here. I will also never write about disagreements I have with friends or family members. That probably makes me appear much more affable and soft-hearted than I actually am. When in fact, it's just that I believe it is harmful to write about those things in a public forum. Unfortunately, I do get angry, spiteful and gossipy. I just don't do it on my blog.

I write much less about Brandon than I do about the rest of my children. Does that mean that I love him less? That he is less a part of my day-to-day life. On the contrary, I think I could fill my blog with nothing but tales of my life with Brandon, but he is fifteen years old and is sensitive about what I write about him for others to see. For the most part, I try to respect that.

In these ways a blog is similar to a movie-trailer. The trailer reveals different scenes from the movie, but often, when you watch the show you find out the scenes didn't accurately represent what the movie was about. I am able to edit, to chose what to disclose, and so in that respect, I may be falsely advertising myself. If you were to get to know me, to come and live in my home, or even just to become a close friend of mine, I think you would find that I am in many ways less, and more than what is written here.

So in this respect, I agree with Everyday Mommy and Hiraeth that my blog is not me. How could any form of writing possibly represent the entirety of a person? But what then, does this mean about the community, the sense of connection and support we feel with other people through our blogs? If we are saying that is presumptuous to assume that you know someone through their writing, is that connection real? Where I believe my opinion differs with these other authors is that I would still like to say, yes.

I often write about the trials of motherhood and I am buoyed up by the comments I receive from others who have walked that same path. I do not think it is necessary to know the depths of a person, to touch them, encourage them, challenge them to think differently. We are connected by the commonality of the threads of our lives we have chosen to reveal. Beit motherhood in all it's beauty and challenges, or simply a love for writing.

In an effort to document the lives of my family I awoke a sleeping dragon. I uncovered a love for writing I am not sure I ever realized I had. More and more now, I come back to my blog, not just to tell about a moment with my children, but to see if I am able to paint a picture, to convey the emotion of that moment with words. I love that I am able to connect to others that share that same passion. I am inspired by their writing styles, by their talent. I do feel a connection to them, just in knowing that they will stop, as I do when they read something beautiful, something perfectly written.

So yes, my blog is only a small part of me, but it is a genuine part. And while I would warn you not to assume you know me based solely on what I write, I chose to believe that the connections forged by it are genuine even if they are limited in their scope. If you feel an affinity towards me because of something I have related, then I am glad. Because what we need is more connections. If you saw the whole of me, you may find that we are actually quite different. But in just seeing this one thread, pulled out of the context of the whole, it is sometimes easier to find a commonality with the threads in your own life. And I think that's a beautiful thing in a way, the sorting of our lives into pieces that others can find kinship with. And for that reason I say:

No, I am not my blog, and I am thankful for it.

And now I pass this torch on to you. Are you your blog?

Saturday, August 4, 2007

This kid, that kid, and the other ones

This morning I took Ben and Clara outside to use the sand/water table Clara received for her first birthday. We have had the thing for three weeks and haven't used it once. It took The Man an entire week to put the thing together and and it has been so blazing hot here, we haven't spent any time on the deck to use it. At 8:30 this morning I decided to break it in, before the heat drove us back inside again. Both kids really loved it. Clara is still only just pulling up and can't even cruise on the thing, but she loved splashing in the water and playing alongside her big brother.

I had to take Brandon for a haircut today. His shag had become so shaggy that you couldn't see his eyes. He has a party this evening and needed to look "swoll". Swoll is one of his new words. The boy requires a translator these days.

I wonder if I will ever get over my fear of Brandon going to these parties. I am one of those parents, who call and drill the party-givers parents on where they will be during the party. I can just imagine the looks when I call with my twenty questions. Like, will they actually be supervising my child, and not camped out upstairs while Brandon spends the evening in their basement doing shots and getting naked. You should see the mortification on Brandon's face during these conversations. Okay, I admit it, I tend to over-react a wee bit on these things. Just wait til your kids are teenagers.

Yesterday, Allison and I headed out alone for the afternoon. We met my mother for lunch and then went shopping for back to school clothes. School in our county starts back next week. Our afternoon was for the most part enjoyable. However, in the ways of mother-daughter shopping trips everywhere, there were still bouts of whiny grumbling when we couldn't agree on clothes, or when to stop for a drink. She ended up with a couple very cute, and appropriate, outfits and she is now really looking forward to starting middle school.

On the way home, I had just gotten off the phone with her father about our dinner plans, and she blurted out, "Dad really loves you!"

"You think so, huh?" I said, "Why do you think that?" curious as to why she had made this random comment.

"Well", she said, with just a twinge of amazement in her voice, "He always compliments your cooking"

"Ah", I said, with just a twinge of annoyance in my voice. "That must be true love indeed."

The roller-coaster of Allison's emotional state, however, is sometimes a tiresome ride to be on. Her elation last night, with her new clothes, gave way to tears this morning when she found out her cousin got a new kitten. Now Allison has been begging us, almost daily, for a kitten for two straight years. However, we already have two old grumpy cats and a dog that she is responsible for caring for, and she doesn't. Care for them that is. Well not in the feeding/litter box sense. Not without constant nagging reminders from me. She assures me that things would be different with a kitten, but I have been a mother two long to fall for that.
I admit, I almost caved in this spring when our vets office had an adorable litter but I had to remind myself that they only stay a kitten for a short period of time and I really don't want another cat to take care of for the next 20 years. Her self-pity and jealousy about her cousin's kitten was more than she could bare and she was was wailing and crying that I was depriving her of her "greatest wish in the world". I have little tolerance for this drama. We had a talk about being happy for other people, reminded her about lapses in her pet-care now, and sent
her downstairs until she could pull herself together. I am after all the worst mama ever.
It's official actually, I won the title for July. I am so proud. Heh. I am sure that Allison and Brandon are thinking they knew it all along.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Perfect Summer Moment

"May we now, and on each return of night, consider how the past day has been spent by us, what have been our prevailing thoughts, words, and actions during it." ~Jane Austin

I am not an adventurous sort of mother. I seldom take my children on hikes to gaze at waterfalls or day trips to visit aquariums and botanical gardens. I have a sister-in-law, who is a wonderful mother and her daughters' summers are filled with outings to museums, and nature centers. Last week she drove an hour to take them to a sunflower farm. She emailed out beautiful pictures of her sun-kissed daughters picking flowers as big as their smiling faces.

And then there's me. I am the kind of mother you find at home. I email pictures of my children in my bedroom surrounded by the three decks of cards they dumped on the floor while I was taking a shower today. When we do venture out, we generally stay within the familiarity of my suburb. We go to the library, to McDonalds, to the park or to the the playground in my neighborhood. There are several reasons for this. For one, I am protective of Ben and Clara's schedules. I am not a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants mama. I like naps, and I like them taken at the same time every day. Secondly, I don't like to drive to places I am unfamiliar with. And lastly, and this is probably the biggie, is with four children, especially with two toddlers, going anywhere for more than an hour feels like an ordeal.

I get that these are all self-fulfilling quirks. My children are not adaptable because I don't require them to adapt. As long as I never drive anywhere, places will stay unfamiliar. Yada, yada, yada. I know am enabling my shortcomings, but I'm mostly I'm okay with that.

I would be lying though, if I didn't admit I occasionally get those guilty twinges, that maybe I am not exposing them to enough. 'Am I keeping their world too small?', I wonder. And it is because of that nagging voice, that every so often I gather my patience and my courage about me and head out to a children's museum or drive into Atlanta for a show. And inevitably Clara cries all the way home, or Ben whines all afternoon and I remember why I like staying local. There is something to be said for knowing your mommy-limits.

So today, in true 'Joy' character, I took my children to the local mall to play in the fountains for our big outing of the week. It's been too hot for months here to do anything outside that doesn't involve water and we have been avoiding the pool. Ben's afraid of it, and while I know we should be making frequent visits to help him overcome this fear, taking a 1 yr old and a crazy-scared 3 year old swimming does not even resemble a good time in my book. So, as Allison and Brandon no longer require my presence to visit the pool (we have a lifeguard), I haven't been in an entire month. And I'm not sorry. I don't think it would be too strong for me to say, I hate the place. Who wants to see me in a swimsuit anyway?

But the fountains. Now that is a different story. Sprinklers for recreation are banned here because of the drought so falling water is a novelty to my children. With much excitement, we packed my backpack with sunscreen, water bottles and a couple spare pieces of clothing. We threw some towels in the car and headed seven minutes down the road to the mall. You could hardly even call it an outing. But as I sat on a bench (fully clothed-Yay!) under the shade of a tree (Yay-again!), and watched my children running and playing together and screeching with uncontained delight, and yes occasionally venturing into the fray myself, I knew that for all summers glorious options, that they were not missing out after all. For what more delight could the day offer than this?

And afterwards as we all sat licking ice cream cones, and watching sticky strawberry rivers run down Ben's bare arm and chest, he looked up at me, and said,

"Dat was bery fun, mama."

And we all laughed and agreed that it was 'bery fun'.

And I felt, in that moment, a taste of the perfect, fleeting joy of motherhood that I am always chasing so earnestly. And I held it in my heart like a breath I was afraid to exhale.

And I was so very thankful.