Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Not for the boys

This morning I went to my past-due annual OBGYN visit. Nothing says Happy Halloween like freezing your tushie off for 30 minutes naked on a table while waiting for the doctor to get around to seeing you. Good times.

Since I had a tubal when Clara was born I have not had much need for this doctor in the last year. However lately I have developed some troubling woman problems (NOT going to expounding on that further) which I wanted to see someone about. Also I am having hot flashes.

I'm 32.

So I am sitting there naked trying to remember all the things I wanted to mention to her. Which leads me to ask: Why can't they come in and talk to you about these things BEFORE you take your clothes off? Does anyone else find it impossible to have a rational thought while trying to strategically cover your breasts and fat rolls with a large sheet of tissue paper?

Anyway, I tell her about my problems, about my hot flashes and for good measure I throw in the fact that I am perpetually exhausted, although I am pretty sure this is from having four children and eating crap constantly. She peppers me with a few other questions?

Doctor: Are you irritable?

Me: mean when I am not sitting naked on a table?

Doctor: Any weight gain?

Me: Does 20 lbs this year count?

Doctor: Any problems sleeping?

Me: Nope. Sleep fine. Even in the middle of the day, when I am say...playing with my kids. Or driving.

She looks at me sideways and says that all my symptoms could be related to a thyroid problem and she wants to run some tests.

What? Wait. You mean grouchy, lazy and overweight may not be my natural personality? I am still reeling at what this could mean.

Not telling the family yet though. I am not sure I could stomach their excitement. Plus, I wouldn't want them to go buy party hats prematurely.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A post about shoes, lost children and grace.

This morning the weekids and I took an inpromtu trip to the mall. Clara had ruined her white Robeez at the Pumpkin Farm this weekend, and I decided to continue my quest for the elusive brown ones I have been coveting for fall. Clara feels the same way about hard soled shoes as she does about hair bows. They are off her feet and flung across the room before I can even pick up her diaper bag.

So Ben, Clara and I headed off to the mall with promises of playtime and lunch at "Old McDonalds" if they would just oblige me my errands. We hit Norstroms first and, while we still did not manage to find the pink and brown Robeez, we ended up with these shoes instead, which may just be the cutest things ever.

Notice the polka-dots. These shoes were made for us. And they have soft soles so everyone was happy.


Then, after a romp at the playplace, we headed to the foodcourt for lunch. It was this point that things started to deteriorate.

The line was long and I stood there for quite a while trying to pacify a Clara who saw other people were eating while she was not. She sat crying in her stroller while frantically making the sign for "more food, more food" to everyone around her. That girl is passionate about eating. Can't imagine where she gets that from. By the time I finally ordered our food, I was frazzled and irritated. I stepped aside to wait and turned around to ask Ben to hold his milk.


I didn't see him. The panic wasn't immediate. I glanced around expecting to see him standing just out of view behind another stroller. But after a moment of searching my stomach turned upside down. He was nowhere to be found near the McDonalds or any of the attached restaurants. I realized I couldn't remember exactly when the last time I had noticed him standing beside me in line. I had been preoccupied with his sister. I grabbed Clara's stroller, with her still whimpering, and started combing the area while calling his name. A minute ticked by, and then two, and suddenly I was in a full out frenzy. It was the first time in my life as a parent that I actually feared someone might have taken one of my children.

And then I spotted him...sitting contentedly on one of those mechanical cars that you feed coins into. The whole episode couldn't have lasted more than 3 or 4 minutes. But still my relief was overwhelming. I can't imagine what it must feel like to have your child missing for an hour, or a lifetime. Tears stung my eyes while I ran and scooped him up hugging and scolding him in intervals, while he squirmed in confusion at my manic behavior.

I headed back to McDonalds while pushing Clara in the stroller with one hand while keeping a pincer grip on Ben with the other. We picked up our food and I was forced to let go of Ben to carry it. Giving Ben a stern command to hold on to the stroller we started shuffling, mom balancing bags, cups and stroller and attached boy, towards the mob of people and tables at the center of the foodcourt. At this point, Clara managed to finally wiggle her way free of her stroller and slide halfway out onto the floor. I, of course didn't notice this until I started running over her. I thought about it for just a second and transferred our food and drinks into the stroller, picked up a writhing, wailing baby and continued the awkward migration towards the relative sanctuary of food and seats.

Once we were seated the children settled happily in to a greasy munch-fest . They had failed to substitute apples for fries in Ben's Happy Meal as I had requested, but I certainly wasn't going to attempt the trek back to rectify the situation so fries it was. The weekids at least, were thrilled with their fried windfall.
Sitting there catching my breath I started hearing bits of conversation from the table near mine.
"Bless her heart, she sure has her hands full"
- Suddenly mortified, I realized they were talking about me. I covertly checked out the women talking. There were three of them. Moms if I had to guess, but with no children anywhere to be seen.
"Yeah, I remember that, having two so little, so close together. Those years were really, really, hard."
Awww, well at least they are being kind after watching my less than graceful trip past them to my seat. Mommy grace. Gotta love it.
"Yeah, I was about crazy then too. If I hadn't asked for help eventually, I think they would have had to take me away somewhere to wear a white jacket."
Wait! What? Crazy too? Oh, I'm not that bad. And I don't think they even saw the lost kid incident. Besides I think I have moved past the white jacket stage. I actually enjoy my kids now. Well most of the time.
They talked on after that going into their own stories about their children being young and I eventually tuned them out. But my face was still burning. I know I should have just been happy to have witnessed such a wonderful of example of the grace I am always preaching about, but I just couldn't get over the humiliation of needing to be the object of it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Clara Elizabeth at 15 Months

Clara was 15 months last week. I know it doesn't seem like much of a milestone, and this post is going to be the epitome of self-indulgence. Long and picturey. But I feel the need to stop and record exactly the way she is right now, because it seems like she is different every day and her babyness is slipping away.
Clara really wants to communicate with us now. She will nod her head vehemently "yes" or "no" to a question, and if she doesn't understand the answer is always "yes". The kind of yes that would give anyone over age 3 whiplash. She knows about 15 words (or word-like-sounds) and a couple basic signs like "more" and "up" and "bye". I think sometimes this bit of knowledge is even more frustrating than before. She will often make the sign for "more food" when I have nothing to offer, or for "I want up" when she is in the car-seat. And when we can't comply, boy does she get mad. She has a temper that girl and has already started yelling and hitting when she doesn't get her way.
It is already clear to us all how different she is than the rest of our children. For starters, her favorite foods are fruits and vegetables. Honestly, she eats like a rabbit. Cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, peas, carrots and tons and tons of fruit. Shane and I just stare in amazement. Also, she has this schizophrenic personality where she is cuddling you one moment and smacking you in the face the next. She's can really be a bruiser and takes be tackled by her brothers without a whimper. She has none of the fear or sensitivity of her siblings.

She is still not walking although she can stand alone now and she took her first independent steps last week. However, she is not letting her lack of upright mobility keep her from being more determined and mischievous than I remember any of our other children being.
Oh, and she drives her brother, Ben, crazy. The sound of "Cwara-NO!" rings out dozens of times throughout the day. She's always messing up his toys, turning off his television shows and grabbing his hair, clothes and face. Ben loves his sister though, and really wants to include her in his play. He just becomes frustrated with her more bulldozer like qualities.
I can't help but wonder what kind of child and eventually adult she will become. As much as I would love her to be girly, the signs of a rough-and-tumble personality are already there. We are already fighting the battle of the hair bows. I put them in, and just as quickly she rips them back out with a determined grin. Then she hands them back to me with a look that says "Go ahead. Give it your best shot." And I do.
I have found this hairstyle to be particularly successful though. So much in fact that I almost changed her Halloween costume to "Pebbles".

She has 9 teeth now and I must say that first molar made her a tyrant for a month straight. We got her back to her sweet self for a few weeks and then started in on the next one. It's almost through now. When she's not teething though, she has a mostly very sweet temperament. (ya know, when she's not beating people up). She loves music and the people in her Gymboree class call her "The Dancing Queen" because even though she can't walk, she boogies all the way through class. She also attempts to sing a handful of songs. She is particularly adept at our bedtime song where she sings "Night-Night" to the different members of our family.
It melts my heart every time.

Over all, I have to say...She's a blessing beyond measure.

And if you are still here, reading this til the end, you deserve a gold star, or a chocolate cookie, or something.
Because this was mostly for me. To help me remember.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ramblings of a Chaotic Mind

Random things on my mind this morning.
  1. Where do Allison's socks go? I wash them, give them to her, and they are never seen again. It's one of life's great unsolved mysteries. Like the Bermuda triangle.
  2. I hated my last post. I changed it 3 times after I hit publish and I still hate it. It just feels corny to me. So now I have to rush and post something else so it slides on down the page.
  3. Why do I continue to feel that there is a better version of myself stuck inside me? A version that has found the key to this self-discipline thing and can stick to a diet, an exercise plan, a Bible Study routine, a housekeeping schedule. One who's always put together and not still in her Pajamas at 10:00? If she's really there, how do I make her come out and stay?
  4. The Office was such a better show at 30 minutes. It drags at an hour. They should change it back.
  5. Allison wants a bigger dollhouse for Christmas. Why do I cringe when she says it because I know if she tells the girls at school that's what she got, they will make fun of her. Why do girls walk into the halls of a middle school and feel the need to immediately become teenagers in waiting. I read this post and I am convinced once again that media and materialism are ruining our children.
  6. Why can't they make just the inserts for the Nuby sippy cups? Why do I have to buy a whole new cup each time my kids chew up the silicone part? Isn't that wasteful.
  7. Why would anyone ever reject Slouching Moms articles? Did they read them? She's the best writer I know.
  8. Why am I such a comment junkie? Is my self-esteem really that dependent on external support?
  9. I took dozens of pictures of Clara for her 15 month post. I wonder how many I can post without boring everyone to tears. I just can't get over how cute that girl is.
  10. Bill Cosby Rocks.
  11. This is my 100th post. One hundred posts about me, my family, my thoughts on life. How is it possible I could think I have anything new to offer? Isn't it a bit egotistical to think people care about any of this?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fill me up, Baby.

I often imagine that I start each week with a jar of patience. It's full of kind words, encouragement, and tricks to hold my tongue. It's full of deep breaths, and smiles and "Oh, that's okay honey"s. And the ability to speak softly. And hope. Hope, when I need it, for a better next day, next hour, next minute. I can imagine it sitting on my counter, this jar, and it's bright and cheery and polka-dotted. So I can find it easily. And because something as whimsical as a jar of patience would just have to be polka-dotted. That's what I think.

And each day, goodness each hour, I scoop a bit out. To referee an argument, to refold the laundry Clara has dumped all over the floor, to calmly explain to one of my children why I have to punish them for speaking to me disrespectfully, to clean the poop out of Ben's underwear, to tell Allison for the 327th time to practice, or Brandon to take out the trash. To help me not explode when someone says "I don't like that" about the dinner I prepared while Clara cried. Like she does every. single. night between 5:30 and 7:00.

And then sometime during the week, usually around Thursday, I reach in to find myself scraping bottom. And that's when I start to slip. Yelling a bit here. Slamming a bit there. Sending kids to their room or telling them they can. not. speak. one. more. word. or. they. will. be. grounded. all. weekend. long.

And I know it's time. Time to find a way to get away. Alone. To visit with a friend. To go wander through a bookstore. Even just to take a bath or pray or read. And that's why my dear husband lets me leave him alone with the kids almost every Friday afternoon. So I can fill back up again. A new supply for a new week.

But last week, because of his knee surgery, my outing was rightfully postponed. And that combined with the fact that I have been running and fetching nursing The Man back to health and well...there's no patience to be found around here.

Not a drop.

But tomorrow. I am back out the door. Freedom is only hours away. Okay like 18 hours, but who's counting?

I'm just so thankful for a husband who continues to espouse my need - for everyone concerned - to escape and replenish my jar.

The one with the polka dots.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


The Man is recovering from ACL Surgery this week. Clara is recovering from a disagreement with her lower-left molar.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


We arrived too late to the first location. We were misinformed of the time. The group had already left to catch a reservation; an inauspicious beginning to an evening already ripe with nervousness. Driving too fast, we followed her father's directions to the restaurant. We were both rattled by the change in plans and didn't speak much. He fidgeted with his tie. The few words we exchanged were brittle with feigned optimism.

We pulled into the restaurant and saw the group of gangly teenagers at once. The girls, like colorful birds, flitted about showing off strappy heels and inappropriately deep necklines. I couldn't help but notice how they were constantly touching each other in the way we only do when we are young. The boys slouched in starched shirts and neckties attempting to pull of nonchalant confidence. All of them covering their their awkwardness with silliness, and sarcastic barbs delivered without malice.

I noticed her immediately. He told me she would be in red. A pretty little girl in a shiny red dress. Her overdone hair and make-up beguiling her fifteen years of age. We got out of the car and approached her. I could feel the insecurity radiating from him. I tried to will confidence into the tall boy beside me. She greeted us with a grin and reached up to hug him. He patted her back uncomfortably and then she turned to me. We introduced ourselves with overbright smiles. Each of us assessing. Evaluating.

Then, in an awkward gesture, my son shoved a clear plastic box into her hand.

"Here's your flower."

I laughed as gently as possible, attempting to ease his tension and said, "No silly. You can't just give her the box" I removed the corsage, red to match her dress, and handed it to him. He looked a little stricken and she stepped in to rescue him.

"Will you put it on me?" She proceeded kindly to show him how it went on her wrist. Obviously more familiar with this routine than he was, she did her best to make him comfortable. I could have kissed her.

I asked if I could take their picture, as we had missed the photo time earlier at the house. I snapped a couple shots and then asked some questions about how they would be getting to the dance. She indicated two of the slouching boys and pointed out their luxury cars, obviously borrowed for the occasion.

My heart skipped a beat.

We had talked about this. He had assured me adults would be driving, that no one in their group was old enough to drive. He knows my rules. Was he lying to me or was this this just another last minute change? I stammered a moment and was unable to catch his eye. His awkwardness got the best of me and I nodded. I told them to have fun, reminded him to call me when the dance was over, and went back to my car.

And I sat there.

What had just happened?

I am not the mother that wavers on my rules. I call and drill other parents before parties. I drive to the football games to pick him up when the boy across the street could have driven him home, because he has only had his license for 6 months. And yet, in that moment. I couldn't do it. I knew what it would mean to him, singling him out in that way. Forbidding him to go with the group. I caved. Was I showing grace or weakness? I still am not sure.

I drove home praying all the way. For his protection. For his choices. For his heart.

He called me when the dance was over and I went to pick him up. His date had gone on without him to an after-party. He had asked on the phone if he could go as well and I said no. It was already almost midnight and we had never met the parents. He acquiesced without a fight.

When we arrived home he immediately went downstairs to change. Then he plopped down in the chair in the living room, dressed again in his familiar t-shirt and basketball shorts. His foray into the world of dating and adulthood over, for now.

And I think it's possible we were both relieved.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A moment to remember

I was sitting in the doorway to my bedroom, just inside the threshold where the carpet began and the hardwoods ended. My legs spread in a vee. Clara was standing between them holding onto my shirt, and I was, as usual, trying to convince her to let go. To attempt to balance herself for a few seconds. She understood what I wanted, but was being characteristically stubborn. Defiance sparkling in her pink face, as we went through our familiar routine. I removed one chubby hand from my shirt, and she giggled and grabbed hold with the other. All the while bubbling up belly-laughs. Incapable of resisting that delicious sound, I was giggling as well.

And then with a look that said clearly "Look. I could do it if I wanted to" she let go. She stood frozen in time for half a second, then took a step. And then half of another before she toppled to the ground and crawled away delighted with herself.

I gasped. A first step. Elation immediately filled me like a balloon and then, just as quickly, a bit wheezed back out again, deflating.

A first step.

My last child's first step.

Excitement and sadness had a little cat fight in my chest. Excitement won, hands down.

But it was left somewhat subdued by the vision of time passing before my eyes. Like the leaves just starting to turn vibrant shades outside my window. A breathtaking harbinger of the end of a season.

I exhaled. And began clapping and "whooping" happy cheers for Clara. She laughed and clapped in response. Then I scooped her up and ran downstairs to show her father.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Monday, Monday

It's Monday morning in our home. All the telltale signs are there. The laundry I put off over the weekend is piled to precarious heights in the hall. Because our home doesn't have a laundry room per se, it has a laundry closet. A closet that is just inside the entrance from the garage. This is a serious flaw in a home otherwise designed to accommodate a pack of kids. Inevitably everyone comes in through the garage and has to navigate baskets and piles to reach the rest of the house. And on Monday it's the worst. A veritable obstacle course requiring weaving and jumping and wading. Sometimes while holding your nose. It could be a new Olympic event. I'd win.

Allison woke up surly and whining about not wanting to go to school. This has happened every Monday since school began.

I overslept a bit because my Sunday afternoon nap kept me from falling asleep last night. You would think I would learn about those Sunday naps. But each time I have the opportunity to climb into my bed on a Sunday afternoon, I succumb. The luxury of that rare daytime sleeping winning out every time against the inevitable night-time wakefulness. I'm so weak.

There are no groceries in the house. Not even milk.

There is a list on the desk of 5 places I have to call today to make appointments.

It's Monday.

And yet, I refuse to give in to my typical Monday melancholies. Because I have much to be grateful for on this way-too-warm-for-freakin-October morning.
  1. I went and had dinner and girl-talk on Friday night with 3 friends who have known me since I was a child myself. We laughed, reminisced about first loves, and pondered the mysteries of our great big God. I just have to say, I have the best friends ever. I'd be lost without them. And besides, there was chocolate cake. I'm just sayin.
  2. Ben pooped on the potty of his own accord. There was potty-dancing and singing and extravagant rewards. Because really, is there a bigger day for the mother of a 3.5 year old than when you get to stop cleaning poop out of his underoos? I think not.
  3. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back at Starbucks. And nothing says autumn like an orange $5 cup of coffee.
  4. I won a Praise Baby DVD from Bloggy Givaways. Do y'all (yes it's true. I say y'all. For real.) know about this fabulous site? They give stuff away, like every day. Just for leaving comments. I put it in my Google Reader and when I am interested I pop on in and follow the instructions. And I finally won something. Which I just knew I would eventually. And then I did my WOO-HOO-I-just-won-something-dance (which is totally different from my potty-dance by the way). And I can't win again for another month, so I don't mind sharing my secret with you.
  5. Clara started saying "Hi" to everyone she meets. And it's just too cute for words. She says "Hhhaaaahh" all drawn out and dramatic. Because she's southern too you see. And social. And quite proud of herself.
  6. Open play at Gymboree from 1-4 on Mondays. Enough said.
So now, my question is: What are you thankful for this Monday morning? Or, ahem, Tuesday morning, since it took me an entire day to write this because of my new blogging time restrictions.

Discipline stinks.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

On blogging and balance

The last couple days I have been creeping back tentatively into blogging. Lurking quite a bit, commenting occasionally, writing not at all. There were many things I wanted to accomplish this week, on my blog-hiatus: Getting my home back to some semblance of order, decorating for fall, catching up on the two time-intensive Bible studies I am involved in, and most importantly - being less distracted with my children.

My home is still an epic disaster, the boxes of autumn decorations are still in the attic, but my Bible Studies are caught up. And my children? My children and I have had a great week.

We went to the park, the playground in our neighborhood and "Old McDonalds". We visited Gymboree and the playplace at the mall. We went on a leaf hunt (which was difficult since the leaves in Georgia are still only hinting at changing colors), we did puzzles and built train tracks. Ben worked on his cutting skills and we made artwork with paper-shapes. I took Allison shopping for new accompaniment tracks and a new Bible. I slept more and thus had more energy and was a bit less snarly.

Granted, some of these things would have occurred anyway, but without the blogging moratorium others would have been neglected. The inevitable result of morning hours slipped away unnoticed, as I attempted to pacify my children between my efforts at introspection and wit.

I know this is true, because it is happening now, as I write this. My littlest ones are being bribed with Sesame Street and sugary snacks in hopes that they will give me 'just one more minute'. Time to finish my thought, find that elusive word. And then the next one. Until eventually they will be hanging at my knees. Only then will I get up, irritated and reluctant, to get what they need, which is so often, just me.

But today, contrarily, I don't feel guilty. Because it's Saturday. And because of the wonderful week we spent together. And because making them wait occasionally is easy to justify. I certainly wouldn't want to raise a pack of narcissists just because I jumped each time they asked me to. Because I had the nerve to not be interested in anything but them. Ha.

But neither do I want them to remember me as a stay-at-home-mom that was always distracted, disinterested, or perpetually yearning towards more than mothering them could offer. Always wishing I was doing something other than simply enjoying this fleeting time together.

This parenting thing is a bit of a tightrope walk, isn't it? And I guess what is required is balance. That's the key to so much of life.


And therein lies the problem. I've never been good at balance. My self-discipline is flighty and ephemeral. And so, in what was sadly predictable, my blogging got too big. The minutes I could carve out for 'my hobby' didn't come close to covering my new desire to write, and read, and write some more. Each day I was inundated with new post ideas and continually frustrated with my lack of time to write them.

Darn those four children and their need for perpetual attention, and bathing, and chauffeuring, and listening, and reprimanding. And food. Turns out I am supposed to feed them too.

So I stole the time. A few minutes here from my children. Some there from my husband. From my Bible Studies. From Oprah. From my sleep. From my housekeeping. Okay not really from housekeeping. We all know I didn't actually spend any time on that.

But in my week off I realized that it was just too much. Too many minutes. Too much stress and guilt at things not done. Too much sacrificing. And this is why I have been reluctant to return. Because I am not sure how to fix that, and find a balance in it all.

But I am going to try.

Because I love this hobby that has allowed me to feel creative, connected, smart and even occasionally funny. Attributes I would never have ascribed to myself before. I am just going to have to try to do it in a smaller, less time consuming way. And so I will be reading less, commenting less, and yes, writing less. And I ask you - you crazy people that come here and read the blather I put out - to understand. And to not take it personally if I don't come by your place quite as often as I did. Or if I am a bit quieter when I do.

And to know that I am just trying to find a way to keep all the balls in the air so I don't have to drop this one completely. Because I have become quite attached to it, and it's little voice. And to you that bother to listen to it. And all of your unique voices. And the oddly magnetic cacophony we make together.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Please. Stop and read this post.

I am in from my hiatus at the request of another blogger. Jenn at Serving the Queens lost a family member last weekend. Sgt. Matthew Blaskowski came home from Iraq today. He died serving our country. A picture of him and Jenn's heartbreaking words are found here. What Jenn asked me to do; what she asked many of us to do, is invite people to leave comments on a tribute she is creating for his parents, Terry & Cheryl Blaskowski. She would like everyone to go to his page and post their words of support. The funeral is Thursday and she would like to present them with a card containing these comments at that time.

This is not about how you feel about the war. This is not about the place to take a stand. This is about a man who signed a piece of paper to serve his country, our country, no matter what, and the family that lost him. This is our chance to stand together and show them our love, our God, our support for their son, who is a hero for doing what so few would.

So please, go to this page and leave a comment. You do not have to have a blog of your own to leave a comment.

And if you feel lead, and I hope that you do, share the link to Matt's page on your own blog, or by email. I want Mr. and Mrs. Blaskowski to be blown away by the people that want to honor their son and the sacrifice he made for us all.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Here I go again.

I love blogging.

I love having a place to record my thoughts, to experiment with different types of writing, to share the funny stories of my children. And the community, I have been overwhelmed by the community I now feel a part of. The support and perspectives I received on my post about Brandon blew my socks off!

I rarely feel that blogging is a burden. In fact, I get frustrated that I can never seem to find the time I want to spend on it. So many posts, that start in my head, never see the light of day. Because I can't seem to find the time to write them.

Because I have children. And people expect me to raise them or something.

But unfortunately, I need to take another break. There are some things I need to focus on here at home, that I have been neglecting. Because as usual, discipline in my life is something I struggle with. And I spend time reading and writing that I really should have been spending in other areas of my life. And so it's obvious to me now, that I lack the discipline to be able to juggle everything at once. So I doubt I will post much this week. And the same goes for reading and commenting. But I'll be back next week.

Because I love blogging.

And in the meantime, read this post by the incomparable Veronica Mitchell if you haven't already. Because it says what I am really going through better than I ever could. Except the PhD part. And because it's fabulous. Like her.

See ya soon.