Thursday, October 25, 2012

Convince Them with Kindness

The mess.  The mess.  The ever lovin' mess.  It's endless, and that's as it should be to a certain extent.  Today's project was to tidy up the basement family room, but Connell's agenda included "Hanging onto Momma for all it's worth".  Kinda made it tricky to clean anything with a 2 month old in my arms.  I did what I could (including a half dozen games of Wii Bowling because he likes to be in the sling while I bounce him and play).  As I nursed him, I perused Pinterest and came across an idea that inspired my newest wall art.  (And by "art" I really mean "Stuff I made on my lap top and printed out and framed because that's really as artistic as I am.")


In other news, I'm on my way to the bus stop because a 6 year old is harassing my 13 and 15 year old daughters on the school bus.  How silly is that?  Only the kid is obnoxious and has serious problems and the girls won't lay a hand on him, even when he smacks, punches, and pulls up their skirts.  SO this will be fun.

Ah, turns out the monster has been removed from the bus completely and I don't have to worry about it.  Phew.  Conflict and confrontation are NOT my strong suits.  It's kind of a sad state of affairs when the kids I took out of public school because of bullying are being bullied by a kid less than half their ages!  



Monday, October 22, 2012

Crafty Tree Art

After my last post, I got my act together and actually followed through!  I took a very cranky baby to Michael's and picked up four different colors of non-toxic ink.  I would have preferred yellow over brown, but even in the more expensive inks I couldn't find yellow.  When I got home, I printed the tree print from One Fab Day on card stock.  I set the printer to a higher quality than usual and it came out quite nicely.


I started with the baby's finger.  It worked well while he was napping and the ink cleaned up nicely with a baby wipe.

Then we added Graham's fingerprint.  He was in a bit of a rush to get out the door to play with "the guys", so I didn't get quite as many orange leaves and I would have liked... but I decided it was more important to let him actually go play in the leaves than keep him inside making fake ones.


The girls finished things up with some brown and green leaves.  I popped it in the frame and it's ready to join the ghost footprint in David's office!




Office Art

A few weeks ago, I felt a little crafty.  So I made this:


There are a zillion ways I could have been craftier with it.  I should have matted it differently and printed the message directly onto the card stock, at the very least.  But hey, I had a seven week old and I was pleased to have finished it at all.  I sent it to work with David to decorate his desk and after Halloween is over, I'll put it in Connell's baby memory box.

I started to look around for something that could involve all four kids and not take up too much space on David's desk.  I'm planning to combine this idea from Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile:


with this idea from One Fab Day:

The plan is to print the tree and have each child choose a fall colored ink to then decorate the tree.  I'll be sure to have them include some on the "ground" for a truly autumn look.  Then I'll actually mat the project and frame it in a frame I already have.  So now I'm off to pick out some ink pads and then hope for some cooperative children this afternoon.  I'll post the results during tomorrow's ten minutes of writing.

In other news (and because I still have 3 minutes left), my Girl Scout troop is working on the Media Journey.  I'm not a huge fan of the Journey program, but I determined to get them through them so they can move on to their Silver Award in the spring.  I've re-written the program a bit by combining a great resource I found here:

with the leaders guide purchased through the Council store.  Hopefully in the coming months, I will write up the details of everything we did, including field trips, and share them here.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ten Minutes a Day

Recently I read that to become a better writer, a person should write for ten minutes a day, every day.  Even if there's nothing to say, ten minutes a day.  In theory, that's great. Ten minutes doesn't seem like much, right?  But as I sit here sit here, watching the clock, I think ten minutes feels like an eternity.  Do you know what I can get done in ten minutes?  I can switch laundry, clear the kitchen counters, get the front hall tidied, and sweep the kitchen floor.  Or I clean off the bathroom counter, put away all the clean towels, and strip two beds.  Or I could clean out the fridge and take out the trash.

Then I start to wonder if that's all my life is right now.  Kids and cleaning.  Kids, chaos, and cleaning.  And then I wonder if that's so bad. It used to drive me nuts when the teens were little.  I felt so unfulfilled, so incomplete.  But this time around, I've dealt with a job and a family and lemme tell ya - it's not al it's cracked up to be.  A double income is nice, but the emotional strain on our family wasn't worth it.  Of course, now we're dealing with financial strain, but we're finding ways to cope.  So maybe my life is only kids and cleaning right now... and in this particular moment, I'm okay with that.  No, I'm better than okay; I'm grateful.

Ten minutes still seems like a pretty long time to do something as selfish as write about my life, though. I'm not supposed to care about my audience (which is fine because I don't have an audience... ) nor am I supposed to make corrections to content in that time.  I'm just supposed to concentrate on getting words on the screen.  Let's see how many days each week I can manage that.

Still, though... ten minutes.   As I type this, I am also staring out the window at the tips of tiny shoes, waiting to see them start to kick.  Connell is zonked out in the van and it's a beautiful day, so I let him stay there.

You know, when I think about 10 minutes of sleep... it doesn't seem like nearly enough time.  So maybe it's all a matter of context.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stuff that Kind of... Sucks.


Ten days ago G(8) came home from school with two letters.  The first one said he needs speech therapy.  Okay.  I can handle that.  The second one said he needs remedial reading help.  Okay.  A little tougher. Then he handed me his graded paper packet.  He also needs to improve the speed of his "minute math".  Can we PLEASE cut the kid some slack?  All in one day?  Was that necessary?

In the past week, he's started his pull out reading help.  I emailed the teacher and learned that they're expected to be at 97 words per minute with 99% accuracy.  I had to remind myself that this is third grade... because quite honestly I don't think I read with 99% accuracy and I've passed college level classes with flying colors!  It turns out G reads 68 words per minute with 91% accuracy.  So the plan for that is to practice as much as we can and disguise it as fun as often as possible.

The math he's struggling with is pretty basic and just a matter of rote memorization.  We'll practice with flash cards and math games.  There are sites he can use online, but I haven't had a chance to sit down and look through them thoroughly enough to know what's involved.  Maybe I'll find time tomorrow.

The big thing, though, is the speech.  I think so much of the academic issues are tied into his speech and that's directly related to his hearing.  I finally broke down and scheduled his corrective surgery for the week of Thanksgiving.  He's dealing with a perforated ear drum from two sets of tubes he had when he was younger.

Hard to say if his sudden academic issues are the result of the hearing problems or the fact that I was checked out for a lot of his second grade year as I dealt with the loss of our baby and the almost immediate pregnancy with Connell.  We're working on a plan to help him catch up.  With a willingness from Graham and help from his teachers, we should be able to over come it all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Photo Session

When Connell was 5 days old, we had a photographer come to our house to take his newborn photos.  I had no idea what to expect when I set up the appointment and I was really nervous about having anyone - let alone a stranger - come to my house when I'd only been home from the hospital for 36 hours.  But Courtney was wonderful and the photo session was incredible to watch.  
I should probably explain how I know Courtney.  My sister, Kristin, is an extremely talented knitter.  She creates adorable baby hats, blankets, and toys almost faster than I can blink.  She sells her creation to photographers to use in their photo sessions.  You can see some of the creative things she's made by visiting her Facebook page.  Kristin met Courtney through her prop contacts and the rest, as they say, is history. 
Back to the photo session.  Courtney showed up exactly on time.  Despite walking into a house full of people (my mother, sister, husband, three older kids, and my father were all there at different points during the shoot), Courtney managed to be unfazed by the chaos. Within a matter of minutes, she transformed the dining room into a photo studio.  The room was warmed up with a space heater and a heating pad was tucked under blankets to keep my naked newborn comfortable and content.  Of course, Connell wasn't quite cooperative, but we managed to work around that with the help of my mother and her well seasoned baby-bounce.  (You don't have 3 children and 10 grandchildren with developing some serious tricks by this stage in the game.)

Now, anyone who knows me knows I'm a little bit of a psychotic nutcase momma bear about my newborns.  I don't generally just hand them over to someone I've just met.  (Well, except nuns, but that's another story.)  But here's the thing about Courtney:  She exudes calm.  And where there is calm, there is immediate trust.  So I handed over my sweet bundle of baby boy and she got to work.


Throughout the session, I was amazed at how gentle she was with every move she made.  She knew exactly how to position Connell so he would stay asleep and feel comfortable.  His safety was her primary concern and I quickly relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed watching her as she worked.

As you can see, the results were beautiful and we'll enjoy these photos for many, many years.  I loved them so much, in fact, that I bought the entire CD.  I couldn't pick and choose.  I've already used them to make photo ornaments and cards through Shutterfly.  This was definitely worth the investment and I plan to do it again when he turns a year old... but I can't even think about that right now!  He has to stay little for as long as he can.

 

 

















Photo Fun!

Photos by Courtney Anton Photography

I'm hoping to sit down and write about fun photo session very soon.  In the meantime, I used the photos to make a quick birth announcement for my mother-in-law so she can show off her newest grandson at work.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Grace

Babies radiate God.
Why can't I?
This was my morning.  This smile.  These bright, blue eyes watching me, learning my face.  My friend always says babies radiate God and I think she's right.

But here's the thing:  At some point they turn into teenagers, stop radiating God, and they start lounging on the couch, soaking up space, and offering nothing in return.  And that's when I lose my shit.

I spent the evening on the soccer field with the boys.  G(8) had practice and Connell was happy to hang out and snooze, soaking in the fresh air and singing crickets.  The girls were home the entire time.  K(12) did do a lot of yard work, but she was being paid for it.  She also left a trail of K offerings throughout the house - fingernail polish, dirty dishes, uniform pieces, everywhere.  The chaos overshadowed the good... or at least, at that moment it did.  J(15) chose not to earn money by doing yard work.  Instead she just sat in the living room with a basket of clean, unfolded laundry at her feet and did nothing but make messes.

My head exploded when I walked in.  Between a fussy baby who needed a bath and the sheer fact that I couldn't walk through the bathroom because of the discarded uniform pieces, there was no way I could even consider giving the baby a scrub.  So, despite my best efforts, I finally started yelling while holding the baby... and he started crying.  I've tried so hard not to raise my voice since his birth and I never wanted to raise it while holding him.  That must have been scary for him.  Tomorrow is a new day and we'll reset the "How Many Days Since I Yelled While Holding the Baby" clock.  Hopefully I can make it more than 6 weeks.

It was a miserable moment and I don't want to revisit it any time soon.  I'm here with the kids on my own this weekend.  David is at a leadership training.  WHY can't they just help out by not creating more stress?  And why can't I dig deep and find the grace needed not to go batty because of it?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

C-sections: 1997 vs. 2012

I had my first c-section in 1997.  It was an emergency surgery after 4 days of labor.  Between the laboring, the medications, and the c-section (not to mention how young I was... a whopping 22 at the time), it was an extremely traumatic experience.  The recovery took months and the emotional scars lasted for years.

In early August, 2012, I had my third c-section.  At 37 years old, I was much more quick to be up front about my needs before, during, and after delivery.  Here's my revised advice for anyone dealing with s planned c-section:

1.  Anxiety.  Own it.  Going into this delivery, my anxiety was heightened by the fact that I was still dealing with the loss of Andrew and I was terrified.  So I said so - to anyone who would listen.  Finally, they were willing to give me something for the anxiety and everyone was much happier.

2.  Fear.  Address it.  After the epidural, I couldn't feel myself breathe.  This happens to some people.  It's rare, but it happens.  Again, I spoke up.  The doctor put his fingers on my chest and told me to watch them for a minute.  His hand rose and fell with a normal breathing rhythm.  Then he turned the monitor and showed me the oxygen level in my blood.  Apparently I took a deep breath (and that made him chuckle) and stopped worrying.

3.  Pain.  Embrace it.  Here's the amazing thing about c-sections in 2012.  Or third c-sections.  Or (most likely) my doctor.  The pain goes away much faster than it used to.  I have no idea what to attribute this to, but it's been my experience that something magical has happened in the last 15 years and this process - while NOT fun - isn't nearly as bad as my previous experiences.  By 6 days post partum, we took the family to the diner around the corner for breakfast.  Then I took a 2 hour nap, but still!  I felt good enough to want to feel the sunshine on my face.

4.  Move.  I know I said to plan to stay in bed for a good bit immediately after coming home.  That was entirely old school.  Be gentle and careful, but moving is good.

5.  Don't overdo it.  I'm guilty of that.  At 2.5 weeks, I thought I'd do a little yard work.  Not the brightest idea I've ever had.  Even if you feel great, try to remember you're still recovering from major surgery.

6.  And most importantly remember that infancy is fleeting.  Sleepy smiles and newborn sighs grow up all too quickly.  Revel in them, enjoy them, and document everything.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

+17 Days. And Life is Good.

Connell James, several hours old.  

Connell James joined us on Monday, August 6.  8 lbs, 2 ozs.  Fuzzy ducky fluff atop his noggin, hazy undefined eye color peeked out from the cradle of his father's arms.  I remember hearing him cry for the first time and I, in my drugged haze, couldn't stop saying, "He's alive.  He's alive!  Make him cry more!"  And as I lay there, tethered to the operating table, strangely aware of the surgery happening on the other side of the curtain, I found myself revisiting the last time I was there and the stark contract between those moments.

In the days since Connell's birth, I've healed in a lot of ways.  I've started to let go of the pain of losing Andrew just a little.  And I've forgotten what it's like to live in a house without the ever present sounds and chaos of a newborn.  The delivery and recovery were much easier than I could have ever dreamed of.  The adjustments have been easy so far, but I'm well aware that the novelty will wear off the the "Bigs" (as I've started calling them) will stop being so wonderful and helpful.

I have a list of things I plan to write about once the Bigs go back to school next week:  I plan to revise my c-section recovery plan (because holy moly, it was so much better this time!), chronicle the joys of finding ways for a family with a 15.5 year age span to operate as a family, the fun we had our with our 5-day-old photo session, the journey to choosing Connell's name... and lots of other things.  But right now we're going to enjoy the dwindling days of Summer 2012 and the early days of what is bound to be Connell's amazing life.


Monday, July 30, 2012

A Pizza of Brownies

G(8): Hey Mom? How do you feel about a pizza of brownies?

Me: A pizza of brownies? How do I feel about it? Like that's probably something God gave us to make the world a happier place. Like He thought, "Hm. What two perfect things can I smack together to bring peace to the world... or at least to a household?" and he answered himself, "Oh! A pizza of brownies! Of course!" and then the angels sang heavenly songs and rainbows formed over our house and leprechauns danced an Irish jig on the rooftop. And unicorns galloped through the yard and zombies.... 

G: Mom? Um. Sure. Let me ask that differently. Do you want a brownie?

Me: Yes, please.

Perspective

It's almost noon.  7 days from now, I will be in recovery, meeting my newborn, and all of the stress of today will seem like a distant memory.  But right now, this stress feels like a kicking, screaming 2 year old in the middle of the grocery store.

The issue is.... the problem is... I don't even know exactly how to phrase it.  The truth is my kids are extremely independent.  They know what they want and the ability to see that reaching that goal can come in many forms is just not within their realm of acceptance.  They see the process of going from point A to point B as a straight line and words like compromise, alternative, and "outside the box" aren't something they are willing to work into their vernacular.

Let's take G(8).  When he was 3, he had his first set of tubes after a long series of ear infections and medications.  He had his second set shortly before he turned 5.  By 7, they were out and we were told he has  a perforation in his left ear drum that will require a surgical patch sometime between being 8 - 10.  He also has a hearing loss in that ear that we monitor on a yearly basis.  He.  Hates.  This.  And I understand that.  It's not fun to have a hearing test when the headphones pinch and it's terribly boring, but the reality is it has to be done.  Part of me wants to tell him he's lucky he doesn't have to have spinal taps and bone marrow transplants and in the whole scheme of childhood illness, he's really getting off easy.  Suck it up, little man.  This is life.  Welcome to it.  Now get in to stupid booth, put on the headphones, stop whining, and shut your pie hole, Momma can't deal with your BS today.  Only I don't do that because I know my kid and if I go the tough love route, he'll completely shut down and we won't accomplish anything.  So that's Wednesday.  Or as I'm currently referring to it "5 Days Until".  I am steeling myself for the battle of wills over the hearing test and praying that he just does what he's told.

And then we have K(12).  Short of writing an entire novel on the joys of raising this child, let me just sum it up... K is the Burger King of children.  She wants to have it her way.  Always.  And that's been K since she was born.  If we put  her in her crib and she didn't want to be there, she'd scream until she threw up.  I remember at one point, she was 18 months old and her older sister fell down and really banged up her knee.  I had to put K some place safe for 2 minutes while I helped J... and the next thing I knew I was dealing with a bloody knee AND vomit on the wall and the carpet and the bedding.  She has been like that ever since.  Today, for instance, she wants to go to the mall.  At 7 Days Until, the last thing I want to do is go to the mall.  I'd rather run my foot over with the van.  She wants to look at video games and earrings.  Well, I need groceries.  So the compromise is for me to not go to the grocery story, but to go to WalMart instead.  (I hate WalMart almost as much as the mall.)  K can look at earrings and video games at WalMart, I can get groceries, and everyone gets *almost* what they want and that should work, right?  I can see the vomit on the wall.... she's going to pout and be angry and most likely refuse to go.  Then I'll leave the kids here, because after all, J is 15.5 years old and can babysit without a problem, right?  Only K will be beastly the entire time I'm gone and I will probably get a crying phone call from someone because of it.

So they're stubborn and difficult and their inflexibility makes it extremely hard to make plans.  But then they do something like this and I realize their determination makes them who they are... and for better or for worse, who they are is pretty damned amazing.


Monday, July 9, 2012

C-section Recovery

I don't want to have a c-section.  I don't have a choice, though.  This will be my third c-section and I'm already starting to feel the anxiety setting in.  (But I'm prone to anxiety in the first place, so that isn't the case for most people.)  So I've put together a bit of a personal survival guide to recovery.  This is definitely not what most people go through and hopefully these tips and tricks won't apply to you.  But here's how I cope:

The Drive Home - Plot your route wisely.  Avoid construction.  Choose the smoothest route available.  Take your pain meds right before leaving the hospital and have a safe, doctor approved  pain med on hand for when you get home and are finally settled into bed.

Stairs - They're just evil.  After my first c-section, we lived on a second floor apartment in California.  There were 48 stairs.  FORTY EIGHT.  It's been 15 years and I still remember that number.  Plan accordingly.  Once you're up there, you're going to want to stay there for a day or four.

Bed height - We have a higher than average bed and I'm most definitely a shorter than average person.  This time around, I asked my father to build me a wide, low stool to help me get in and out of bed a bit more easily.  (Pictures to come once it's painted.)

Room arrangement - Move things around so that you're as close to the bathroom as possible.  The fewer steps you take the first few days, the better.  (Yes, oodles of people will disagree and insist that moving around is better for you.  I respect that.  It's just not better for me right away.)  Even if it's not the most attractive or practical arrangement for your room, it's only temporary.

Speaking of the bathroom - Once you've arranged your room so you're as close as possible, make sure all of your personal needs are within reach.  Wipes, pads, a change of PJs are all good to have on hand.  A small basket with your moisturizer, deodorant, tooth brush, and other vital "clean up" stuff should be handy.  Maybe most people already keep all of this in one spot.  I tend to have them in different drawers and shelves and gathering them up requires a bit more stretching than I'll want to deal with.

Fiber  - The long and short of it is fiber is important.  Fiber chews are good through the entire pregnancy, but make sure to be diligent about them for the few weeks prior to delivery.

Bedside - Be sure to have a table or surface of some sort next to your bed.  You'll want it to be well stocked with the basics:  water, phone, pain meds, and snacks.  Set the baby monitor up so that the folks downstairs can hear you and the baby easily.  It's also a good idea to have a light handy for the middle of the night feedings.  If you're rearranging your room for easier bathroom access, this is easy to over look.

Tray - Having a tray with legs can be useful for eating.  It won't go over your body, but it can sit next to you.

Accept help - It's not always easy to let people help, particularly with the older kids.  But deal with it and let them.  Be grateful for it and plan to return the favor should you ever have the chance.

Portable baby bed - We have a handy dandy Rock 'n Play Sleeper.  I would have loved to have a traditional bassinet, but this is a bit more practical.  It can be moved to either side of the bed and even taken downstairs easily (by someone other than me).  I also like that it keeps the baby in a slightly upright position, as my little ones tend to spit up a good bit.

Clear paths - If you have older kids or an obnoxious Siamese cat, you'll want to clear all hallways and stairs of junk... including the particularly stupid cat.  Walking is difficult enough.  Walking through a child / pet created obstacle course can be hellish.

Pillows - I prefer to sit up to sleep the first few days (or weeks).  A pile of pillows really helps a lot.

Remember you will feel better.  This isn't easy to remember in the middle of the pain.  But it does end and you will feel human again




Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Nursery... on a budget

29 days until our scheduled c-section.  The big kids are mostly settled in their new bedrooms and the focus of this weekend was prepping for the baby's homecoming and my recovery.  I'll write more about my tricks and tips for recovery later.  For now I'll focus on the nursery.

I left my part time job in social services in May.  Because we pay pretty hefty tuition for the older kids to attend Catholic school, it's important to be as economical as we can.  But despite the tight finances, I really wanted to have a cute nursery for our new addition.  So this is how I managed to make it work for about $300.


This is the crib we purchased from a friend.  It converts into a toddler bed and a full size head and footboard.  My friend's toddler used the railing as a teething tool, so I picked up railing covers at a consignment shop for $3.  The crib, originally $350, cost us $100.  The navy blue curtains work very well with the colors of the room and we've had them for years, so I didn't have to buy them.  (Woo!)  A good friend has an extra crib mattress, so we'll be putting that to good use (for free - double woo!).

Sweet Dreams Baby Wall Decals by Roommates Peel and Stick Decor
Paint:  Pineapple Soda by Behr

The only thing I actually saved from G(8) was his bedding, so that wasn't a big purchase.  In fact, the only thing I actually bought in this picture are the wall decals.  I picked them up at Target for $10.  We didn't use the entire decal, actually.  We opted to skip the word "Baby" just to keep it more simple.  There isn't a link directly from Target, but you can find them here.  (Note:  They're more expensive through the website, which seems silly.)  Oh - apparently Babies R Us carries them, too, but again they're more expensive than Target.  They were very easy to put up and there are a ton of pieces left over for another project... as soon as I come up with one.


These shelves are a serious work in progress.  My sister knitted the dinosaur, which I promptly named Sir Englebert VonHossenfeffer.  I picked up the C at Michael's for $2 with a coupon.  (So even if we don't go with our name, it's not a big expense!)  Everything else was left over from the big kids or given to me by friends.  But seriously, this needs work in a big way.

And speaking of needing work... this disorganized mess is the dresser I purchased from the same friend for $150.  It was originally $400.


My sister was kind enough to come over this afternoon and together, we organized the heck out of it.  Definitely a big improvement.  The changing pad was a hand-me-down from my brother and the yellow cover was purchased at Burlington Coat Factory as a repackaged item for $7.  The baskets, which were found around the house, will house diapers and wipes.  I'm sure I'll move things around as we settle into a routine.  And no, the Dyson won't live in the nursery.  (But oooh, do I love that thing!)



The frames and artwork were part of G's room decor before he moved into K's room.  He really loves the prints.  I may buy him some new frames and put them in his new room, but these frames are staying in the nursery.  The holes are already in the walls and I like their positioning.  I think I may use scrapbook paper and velum and create something similar to things I've seen on Pinterest, only more my style.  I'll choose quotes that have something to do with stars and moons.  Most likely I'll start with "I love you to the moon and back" because I say that to my kids all the time.  Now I just need to come up with a second saying.

So that's the nursery so far.  I still want to add a bookshelf at some point.  We'll probably go with something from Ikea.  The older kids have managed not to destroy their Ikea pieces thus far, so that's pretty impressive.  I will work on the wall shelves over the next few weeks and see if I can't come up with something cute to do with it.

And there you have it!  $272 and a ton of repurposed, hand-me-down pieces with - in my opinion - really cute results!

***Update***


Wall art!
$2 worth of scrapbook supplies and repurposed frames!  The paper was left over from Wizard of Oz projects we did for the high school and works perfectly with the bed.  The vellum was really $.60 a sheet, but we'll round up just for the sake of keeping things even.  That takes the final budget up to $274!



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Bully Issue

When J(15) was in 4th grade, we started to get the sense that she wasn't happy in school.  By the end of the year, we were noticing she wasn't herself and friendships weren't coming easily to her.  Over the course of the next two years, we came to the conclusion that she was being bullied and the school was turning a blind eye to the problem.  Our final solution (after NO support from the pubic school) was to take her out and enroll her in our Catholic high school for 7th grade.

J's public school principal told me I had raised my daughter in a bubble, needed to cut the apron strings, and a slew of other cliches that never helped the situation.  In the back of my mind, I really thought maybe I had screwed up.  With that in mind, I made J a deal:  Give the new school a try.  If it was still tough, we'd explore other options.  By the second week of school, she was going to sleepovers and thriving.  In the three years since leaving public school, we have seen a new person emerge.  She's happy, confident, and seems to enjoy school as much as any 15 year old can be expected to.

I've taken several things away from this situation:

- Not all principals are created equal.  I have a great friend who is a principal in another district.  She coached me through dealing with this in a positive, calm way and couldn't understand why we weren't getting results.  She would edit anything I put into writing, making sure I wasn't letting my emotions get in the way of my requests for help.

-  Kids aren't always equipped to fix "these things" on their own.  We tried that approach.  We tried coaching J through things, giving her skills, and letting her deal with it on her own.  Only, when it's one kid facing an entire clique, it's really hard to put the skills, guidance, and advice into practice.

-  In my experience, parents are far too quick to deny their child could be less than perfect.  (One of these days I'll write about how we dealt with K(12)'s attempt at bullying.)  In my opinion, if you don't know your child is doing something rotten, you don't have a chance to correct it... which isn't to say parents should run around tattling.  But parents should be able to calmly say, "Our kids are having a difficult time getting along.  How can we help them with this?" without it turning into a massive ordeal.

-  Schools aren't really equipped to deal with bullying yet.  No one seems to know how to stop it or what skills kids need to cope with it.  And this is a problem.

-  Catholic schools are a blessing even if paying for them is truly difficult for us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

And Also...

... OtHello Kitty cracks me up.  No one else in my house seems to appreciate my humor.  Or my lack of iPhone photo skills.


Kismet

The Catholic high school my daughters attend requires the kids do a specific number of volunteer hours as part of their Theology grade every year.  The junior high requires 12 and the high school expects 16.  My kids?  Over achievers.  J(15) had 125 last year and plans to aim for the same this year.  K(12) is just starting her first year there and her goal is 50 hours.  They're both over 10% of the way to their goal and they still have 11 months to go.

J(15) with her various end-of-year awards, including her Gold Award for 100+ hours of community service.
There were tears - Proud Momma tears.
In support of their efforts, I mentioned their goals on my Facebook page.  I have a bunch of friends who work for non-profits or who are teachers or principals - exactly the kind of people I want my children to be around.  Just a quick note about the girls looking for service hours opportunities and it was met with several offers for later in the summer as friends are setting up classrooms (and also when the girls are going to be on baby overload, so that works perfectly.)

Then my friend Jim dropped me a line.  Jim is the director of development for Olivia's House.  Olivia's House is an organization for children dealing with grief.  It's probably where I should have taken the kids after we lost Andrew.  They needed something more than just a fairly dysfunctional, grief stricken mother and a father wo was holding everything together while still working 50+ hours a week and commuting like a mad man.  But I didn't because I couldn't get out of bed, let alone think about helping the kids face their grief when I was barely able to function through my own.


So Jim dropped me a line.  Olivia's House needs help with yard work and office cleaning - exactly the kind of stuff the girls can do.  The kind of stuff we can do as a family, really.  

Maybe it's time we find a way to honor Andrew in some way other than by remembering him and dusting his urn every few days.  And maybe this is the first step toward doing that.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Holding Hands

Holding hands is a promise to one another that, for just a moment, the two of you won't have to face the world alone.

~Unknown


G(8) won't hold my hand in public any more.  Not when we're crossing a busy parking lot, not when we're looking for a seat in church, and most definitely not when we're anywhere near other kids.  I've spent the last 15 years holding the hand of a child in some capacity or another.  And in a few months  weeks, I'll have two new hands to hold.  But in the meantime, it's a strange, lonely feeling to reach out and not be met by the grip of a sweaty, sticky little hand.

Maybe he thinks he's ready to face the world alone.  I'm not sure sure I am.

G(8) getting his bunk set up at Cub Scout camp earlier today.  He already looks more grown up than I'm ready for.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Goals

I was thinking about the changes we will face as a family once this baby arrives in August.  His birth really decreases his siblings summer by about 3 weeks.  Starting in July, we have the "one hour from the hospital" tether to deal with, too.  I don't want this to be remembered as The Summer of the Baby.  That's probably unavoidable, but I want there to be at least some other memories associated with these fleeting warm days.

With that in mind, I asked each kid what they'd like to do with their summer.  Their answers surprised me.

G(8) was quick to come up with a list.  It was mostly reasonable:  fishing, camping, go on a boat, go to the beach, get a rocket, visit Fort McHenry, and see the Declaration of Independence.  Oh, and become a big brother again.  This boy is obsessed with Thomas Jefferson, so I would like to make the trek to the National Archives to see the D of I.  But between a weekend of camping and a weekend at the beach, I just don't think I can swing that one.  I can tackle a bunch of his other goals, though.  We did the rockets yesterday.  We're going fishing with my brother and Dad today.  He leaves for camping with Cub Scouts on Sunday.  The following weekend, he's heading to the beach for a soccer tournament.  Fort McHenry is only 49 minutes away, so we may try that in July and still safely stay within the "one hour tether".  So I can handle his goals, for the most part.

We found a book on Thomas Jefferson at the bookstore.  He's a happy, happy kid!

K(12) was a little more reluctant to come up with a list.  She wants to go to the beach and camping.  Those are great choices because they are already planned.  Then she completely threw me:  she wants to go mountain climbing.  Mountain.  Climbing.  (Let's switch topics for just a second.  Let me list my fears:  Needles, snakes, MY KIDS IN HIGH PLACES.  I can't cope with them hiking in the rocky local park.  I can't handle high dives.  I panic.  I don't mind heights for myself, but when my kids are in high places, I Freak. Out.)  I think K caught my initial reaction and then threw in "sky diving" for good measure, too.  We settled on seeking out an indoor rock wall.  I'm thinking this place is going to be our best bet.  It's only 45 minutes away, so I'm still safe to give it a try after the traveling at the end of the month.

J(15) doesn't have a list... yet.  She is going to high adventure camp in July where she'll do white water rafting and actual mountain climbing and zip lining.  She's getting a lot of volunteer hours in through church and Scouts.  But as for actual 'stuff I want to do', she hasn't given me a list.  I guess I can't force her to... but I'm hoping she comes up with a few social things to do so she doesn't spend the summer in Cyber Land.

My goals for the summer?  So boring... painting, cleaning, organizing, and sleeping as much as possible.  Oh, and to keep the kids busy, of course!

K(12) caught the tiniest Sunny I've ever seen... and it promptly jumped out of her hands.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Things They Teach

I spent a whopping $10 on a rocket kit for G(8) yesterday.  It covered a Cub Scout elective (probably not as they intended... I'm sure Scouts expected us to do something complicated and spendy, but baking soda and vinegar is what they got.)  And, as usual, Toys R Us completely failed to impress.


It was very nice of J(15) to take time from her busy texting/Facebook schedule to help her little brother out.

The thing is, G wasn't upset with the lack of success.  You can even hear him say, "That was the best one yet!" at the end of the video.  I need to be more like him... more in the moment, happy with his own definition of success.

***UPDATE***

David came home and promptly schooled us in the art of rocketeering.  We didn't reach heights of 50 feet, but we did get a good 25-30 feet, accompanied by a beaming, happy G howling at his father's hatred of vinegar.  I stand corrected!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Use the Force?

A major thing happened last night.  Two major things actually.

First, J (15) spend 5 hours volunteering at the church carnival without either parent being there.  And the world didn't end.  Second, I made the decision to let her boyfriend (who was also volunteering) drive her home.

J is my ADHD kid.  Brilliant child with a bright future ahead of her - honors classes, dedicated to community service, love of theater, just all around interesting kid.  However, every now and then her ADHD rears its ugly head and she makes some rash decisions.  So usually, in an event like the carnival one of us sticks around in the background, keeping an eye out for her inner spaz.  Only last night it was pouring and we were working on the latest bedroom transformation, so I just left her there.  How much trouble can she get in, really?  It's our church, for heaven's sake!  And everyone knows her, right?  So I cut the apron string a smidge.  And I think she felt awfully grown up.

The driving part was hard.  She didn't ask, but it certainly made my life a little easier, so I made the suggestion.  The boyfriend seems very harmless and he had his younger brother with him, so they weren't alone.  We live about 4 minutes from church.  It requires a left-right-left series of turns to get up the hill and into our neighborhood with a top speed of 35 mph.  If it hadn't been dark, she really could have walked.  She texted me before they left and twice in the car:

J:  We're in the parking lot.  Heading out now.

Me:  Be safe.  Be smart.  Wear your seatbelt.  Come straight home.  I love you.

J:  I KNOW Mom.

Me:  You don't know.  You think you know, but you don't know.  SO just listen to me for a change and I will see you in 5 minutes.

J:  Okay, Mom.

J:  We're on our street.

And then she was home and the boy walked her to the door, chatted with me for a minute (nice kid!), hugged her, and was on his way home.... his mother can deal with the stress of highway driving in the rain.

Clearly she's growing up.  Clearly she's dealing with it very well so far.  Clearly I'm not the massive, panicked mess I thought I would be (okay, so I was a little worried) about all of these changes.

But now I want her to go to the library's zoo program with us.  I let her do all kinds of grown up things last night and watched her handle them extremely well... and part of me immediately wants to force her to do something her 8 year old little brother isn't even very keen on.  This growing up process is tough on both of us and I'm not going to force her to go.  I remember reading that teens spend a lot of their teen-time making huge leaps toward independence and then immediately retreating back to their childish pre-teen state.  I didn't realize parents went through the same process.

Sigh.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

All Too Well...

G (8) went to the dentist last week.  I sat alone in the waiting room, paging through magazines designed for housewives and middle aged mothers, calmly thinking how I don't fit into either of these categories.  (Denial.  I haz it.)

Out strolled Dr. B.  Or Jack.  Or Dr. Jack.  I don't know what to call him, so let's go with Jack.  Out strolled Jack.  He looked around and seemed pleased with the fact that we were alone in this media filled waiting room.  And then.  He.  Spoke.

Jack:  How's he brushing?  (Translation:  You're a horrible parent.)

Me:  Oh, well, we remind him to brush twice a day, but I don't hold his hand while he does it.  (Translation:  Dude, I lost a baby in September and I'm pregnant again.  The sheer fact that this kid has a toothbrush is a testament to how much I do NOT suck.)

Jack:  Well, we have some cavities in some baby teeth.  (Cue the dramatic music.)

Me:  Huh.  Well, what're we going to do about that?  (Because clearly, you have the degree, you should have the plans, right?)

Jack:  David is going to bring him in.  *YOU* are not to say the following words to him:  needle, drill, pain, recovery, or trauma.  (In other words, he knows I'm a spaz.  And he's right.  He's the guy who writes my scripts for anti-anxiety meds when I need a filling.)

Me:  Okay.  But when you use the needle to drill into his skull, how much pain will he be in during recovery and will it traumatize him for the rest of his life?  (That took skill, man.  Nailed it.  Hit every single "no" word.)

Jack:  (Smiles and rolls his eyes.)  Seriously, though, this is a Dad thing.

Me:  Sigh.  You guys have all the fun.

Had I had this conversations 18 months ago, it would have been tragic.  I would have probably lamented my failure as a parent.  Oh!  Woe is me!  My darling son has a cavity... or three.  The world is ending.  But strangely, it just isn't that... horrible.  It's life.  It happens.  They're baby teeth and this is a major lesson in his little life.

Plus, I don't have to take him.  Doctor's orders.  Sometimes being a spaz has its perks.

Stuff I've Found to Work

I read another mom blog last night.  I tend to read it because her children are so much younger than mine and it reminds me vividly of what we've gotten though and what we're going to revisit in the coming years.  Her children are bundled together, slightly closer than my three oldest children.  She's currently dealing with what I always called Fibber McGee syndrome and she's Freaking Out Big Time.

Her Freak Out in yesterday's blog got my wheels turning.  We went through that.  We still go through that.  But I've kind of figured it out.  Each kid has a tell.  Typically when confronted and caught in a lie, K can't look me in the eye.  G blushes.  And J is either the greatest liar on the face of the earth or doesn't need to lie because I have no clue what her tell is.  K is the easiest to detect.

So what other tricks have I found over the last 15 years that make life a little easier?  And what do I still struggle with on a regular basis and need to work on?  Hm.

1)  Follow Through.  Don't threaten to do something if you know you can't follow through on it.  For instance, don't threaten to call the school to find out what the homework really is if you know there isn't anyone in the building who can answer that question.  Think before you dole out consequences.  The second a kid detects you're full of BS, you've completely lost the battle.

2)  Ask yourself:  Is this a hill I want to die on?  Only make it a battle if it's truly important.  When J flops herself downstairs wearing what is easily the most ratty, splatter painted, ill-fitting jeans she owns and we're on our way to Mass, it drives me insane.  The easier thing to do would have been to discuss the clothing the night before, but she's 15.  WHY do we have to go through this every week?  So I have to decide - in that very moment - how important is what she's wearing.  I'm probably far too guilty of making this a battle of Devil's Den far more often than I should... at least she's going to Mass, right?

3)  Allow them to fix the problem themselves.  

Kid:  I want a cookie!
Me:  Huh.  Good to know.
Kid:  Cookie!
Me:  I do so enjoy cookies.  (Going about my business.)
Kid:  Can I have a cookie?
Me:  Oh look, your shoe is untied.
Kid:  May I please have a cookie?
Me:  Ooooh, that's what you're making noise about.  (Then either choice A, depending on the kid and the circumstances)  The next time you would like a cookie, you need to remember to ask using your good manners.  You just showed me you have them.  Here's a cookie.  (Or choice B, again, depending on the kid and the circumstances.)  Are you nuts, kid?  You just marched in here and demanded I drop everything I'm doing to give you a cookie?  No, you can't have a cookie, but you can have an apple.  And the next time you want something, start with the decent manners you just proved you have.  It works much better that way.

This allows the kid to recognize the problem and fix it on her own.  I don't have to yell or correct or really get involved at all until they've remedied the situation.  It's important to note, however, that this method has its flaws.  For instance, if you've just gone through this routine 1,346 with one kid and a different kid starts in with the same demand in the same tone, you run the risk of your head exploding.  It's also important to note that you need to spend years 2, 3, and part of 4 starting with the basics and consistently teaching (through modeling) how to ask for something properly.  This method really doesn't work until they're in the late pre-school stages and beyond.


So those are things I think I have a handle on.  Now if I could just figure out how to make K less destructive, G less quick to anger, and J more willing to study, I'd be absolutely perfect.  Oh... and if I could keep my garage clean and the basement from being taken over by laundry and the dishes from piling up and shoes out of the kitchen....


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Changes


8 weeks to go.  Eight.  Barring any complications or other surgeries taking my place, I will see my son in fifty six days.

Um.

Yikes.

There's so much to be done between now and then; it feels overwhelming.  The biggest project is almost finished in some ways, but just beginning in others.  We live in a four bedroom house.  It's not huge and it's not really intended for a family of six.  However, we're going to make it work because it's what we have and it's what we're going to have for many years to come.

Once we knew we were having a boy, we had to settle on bedrooms and shuffling the kids between them.  Finally we settled (and by "we", I mean "I" because no one else was willing to commit to making a decision) on putting the girls in the larger bedroom over the garage.  Together.  My daughters.  Oil and Vinegar.  Day and Night.  North and South.

Again.  Yikes.
The early stages of the project.

Bye-bye little girl pink.


The process of getting the room ready was a month long chore.  First, I let them pick colors.  (Okay, first I picked colors and watched them roll their eyes.  I quickly realized I had to give up control if this was going to work.)  They agreed on purple and orange.  It's just paint, right?  And they're 15 and 12, so I couldn't expect them to like the neutral tan I had chosen.  I removed the pink, floral wallpaper border.  Then David patched and sanded the walls.  The ceiling presented a heck of a problem.  J had plastered it with posters and over the years, the tape and become a gummy, gooey, nasty mess and refused to come off the ceiling without  a serious fight.  An entire weekend was spent experimenting with adhesive removal products.  We finally found that wallpaper glue remover was our best bet.

Hello... interesting... combination of colors.


Then up went the orange.  Holy moly.  Orange.  The purple wasn't nearly as shocking in comparison.  The Pepto pink wasn't giving up without a fight and we still had to use two coats for each color even though we'd gone with the more expensive paint with built in primer.

Our Siamese got in on the act... and we didn't paint over it.  It's our Elliot seal of approval.


Finally we tied it all together with a rather colorful boarder:

Channeling our inner hippies.


Now it's done and the beds are moved.  I ordered matching bedding.  We hung bright curtains.  The beds are on risers so we can have plenty of storage.  So it's coming together and looks really cute, despite the interesting color choices.

Tonight is the first night they'll share their "new" room.  The true test will be to see how they sleep.  K is a night owl.  She has been since birth.  We've actually taken her to Johns Hopkins for a sleep study because at 4 years old she would only sleep 7 hours every night.  They said she's fine and this is just the way she's wired. I often wonder if I had given birth to K first if we would have had more children... she's definitely been a challenge since day one.

(As I'm writing, K just bounds through the front door, yelling and taking over all the energy in the house.  She's been away for 2 days.  She spent yesterday in DC with her Girl Scout troop and today was spent with her best friend at the local swimming pool.  Hopefully she's exhausted and will make their first night peaceful.  Although the girls are already arguing because apparently there's a wet bathing suit on J's bed now.)

J is a sleeper.  She always has been.  She was sleeping 8 - 10 hours a night by the time she was 6 months old.  She woke up starving, of course, but she wanted - needed - to sleep.  Where K is chaos, J is calm.  Where K is noise, J is quiet.  And that's not to say J is perfect.  The girl can shriek like nothing I've ever heard and her tendency toward silly is much greater than average .  But across the board, J has always been an easier kid.

I'm trying to set serious expectations for both of them.  J has to allow K to have some say in what happens in the room.  K has to not destroy things or poke holes in the drywall.  (That's another story.)  J has to understand that K owns half the room now and while it's not easy to give up that space, K gave up her entire room without pouting.  Compromise is going to be key... that and remembering that J leaves for college in 3 years.  (And don't even take me down that road.  I don't know quite how I'll manage to let her go.  I like having her here and the thought of her being on her own already makes me cry.  But another day.)

Tomorrow I will - hopefully - start to work toward moving G into his new room (K's old room).  But we also need to clean the fridges, the basement, put away laundry, organize the garage... I'll never get to all of it.

But we got to this and in that I will find some peace.

Friday, June 1, 2012

IVs and Memories

I have the Stomach Bug From Hell.  It's evil.  I landed in the labor hall for a few hours yesterday, tethered to an IV because I was severely dehydrated and all sorts of other unpleasant medical stuff that I pretended not to hear.

It was extremely busy.  I guess we all know what the whole world was up to 9 months ago because there were nurses rushing everywhere and very few beds available.  I ended up waiting in the waiting room with expectant grandparents for 20 minutes or so before they could even get me into an exam room.  Once they'd gotten me changed and the initial exam was over (no signs of labor.  Woo.), they sent me to the antepartum wing... to the same room... and the same bed where we found out we'd lost Andrew.  And in an uncontrollable flood of chaotic emotion, I relived that entire day in about 3.2 seconds.

The nurse was kind enough to hook me up to the monitor as quickly as she could and within a matter of minutes, this baby (who has a name, but we're not telling) was busy making us laugh with hiccups and wicked soccer kicks and occasionally running away from the nurse as she readjusted the belt.  I still felt the sting of our loss, but it faded a bit over the several hours I was there.

I worry about that happening with Andrew.  His little brother will be our focus, changing our family, reshaping it.  And that's good.  I know it is.  But I don't want to forget the little boy who wasn't meant to be; the little boy who still makes me cry.  I don't quite know how to wrap my head around it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

File Under: Things that Piss Me Off

Apparently, Dan Quayle was right:  Single mothers are terrible people who have no right raising children.

ENOUGH with the mother bashing, people.  E-freakin-NOUGH!  If we put as much effort into lifting mothers up and celebrating their accomplishments as we do psychoanalyzing their "poor" choices (many of which they don't control), wouldn't everyone benefit?  I'm certainly not saying we should sweep poor parenting under the rug, but WHY aren't fathers as quickly bad mouthed as mothers?  Why is okay for the tech guy from my church, of all places, to tout this anti-mother nonsense on Facebook without countering it with anti-father crap, too?  When was the last time he posted anything pro-parent or pro-family?  Pro-mother?  Not that I remember seeing.

I'm not a single mother.  I wasn't raised by a single mother.  Until my generation, the women in my family were all married before becoming mothers.  But that didn't prevent them from marrying alcoholics who disappeared on a regular basis, beat them, and abused their children.  Stories exist on both sides of my family - written accounts in railroad documents or newspaper articles - going back 100 years or more, giving detailed accounts of absentee fathers and severe spousal abuse.  HOW is that better than being a single mother?  And don't tell me that it's because the father contributed financially.  It's hard to contribute financially when your primary role in life is to be the drunk who falls asleep on the railroad tracks and is killed by a train or the engineer who is so drunk he causes an train accident.  (How ironic is that? One great-grandfather was killed by the same train company that employed the other great-grandfather who cause a major accident.  No idea of the two events were related... but ironic, none the less.  Poor DL&W.)  Come to think of it, I'm one of only two women in our family to NOT marry an alcoholic since this family came here from Ireland in the 1880s!

So please, let's stop the single mom basing, the helicopter mom bashing, the attachment mom basing.  Let's just all agree that motherhood in any form is a challenge and deserves to be respected and supported, despite flawed and imperfect sociological studies.  We're all human and we're all in this together... like it or not.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

I'm watching my little guy sleep in the bed next to me.  His 8 year old body sprawled out, lanky and long.  The smell of little boy wafting from him, despite having just taken a shower.  Sweet snoring sounds and wimpers occasionally come from his side of my bed.

He doesn't usually take naps in the middle of a lazy Sunday afternoon and he never sleeps in my bed.  But he camped with Cub Scouts all weekend and came home happy, filthy, and freckled.  And of course, completely exhausted.  As he snuggled with me before he dozed off, he asked me questions about his new brother.

"Will he be in Cub Scouts?"

"Well, he'll want to be just like you, so I think he'll insist on being in Cub Scouts."

"How old will he be when I'm an Eagle?"

"I'm going to guess he'll be 8, just like you are now.  And a Bear, just like you are now."

"Will you buy him a radio kit?  And take him to camp and wear your mom uniform?"

"Probably, but you know, you can do that stuff with him, too.  You'll already know how, so you can teach him stuff."

He blinked.  "I can teach him stuff?"

"Yep.  You're his big brother.  You're the best teacher he'll ever have."

"Wow."  He yawned and rubbed his eyes.  "Better than Dad?"

"Maybe.  Definitely cooler than Dad."

With that he smiled, rolled over, and snuggled against me.  The baby kicked at his big brother.  The kick was met with a gentle poke.

"Love you, brother."  And he went to sleep.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Juggling

You know those moms?  Their hair is perfect, they're a size 2, and they always have beautiful make up?  And their children are dressed in matching outfits, complete with creases from the hours spent ironing?  Everything is organic and whole grain?  The house is beautifully organized, the car is spotless inside and out, and their pure bred pet never ever sheds?  The moms who could have written that entire paragraph without once saying something like, "Dude!  Do NOT put your underwear covered hiney in the window!  The neighbors don't want to see your skinny buns!"?  Those moms.

Yeah, that's not me.  In my head it is.  In my head I have a garage I'm not embarrassed to open and laundry that isn't pouring out of baskets in the hallway.  In my head, my minivan doesn't spawn empty water bottles and occasionally have "My brother eats buggers" written on the dirty window.  In my head, life is perfect.  Too bad we can't live in my head, eh?

So how do I come to terms with the fact that I am NEVER going to be Martha Freaking Stewart?  There's a big part of me that feels like I should live up to these completely unrealistic expectations.  Then there's part of me who wants to curl up on the couch and watch copious amounts of garbage TV.  Right now it's really easy to use the pregnancy induced exhaustion as an excuse not to be more on the ball, but that's all it is - an excuse.  I could should manage my time more wisely.  I just don't quite know how.

Here's the reality, though:  I am an involved mom.  I know my kids' friends.  I know what they're watching on TV (except the super hero stuff.  That's David's domain.).  I know their teachers, schedules, and homework.  I check up on my teen's Facebook account on a regular basis.  I go on field trips, attend the parent-teacher-committee-association-organization-whatever meetings.  I help with graduation slide shows and vacation Bible school.  If there's a school or Scout function, man, I am there.  (In part because if I am there I don't have to be home... cleaning.)

So maybe I've traded Martha Freaking Stewart for... awareness?  And maybe I'm not wired to be both an uber organized mom and an aware mom?  Is one better than the other?  Hard to say, really.  I'm sure it's less stressful to be a Martha than juggler.

Regardless, I should do the dishes and clean the kitchen and do the laundry and clean the dining room before my husband gets home... we have a First Communion party on Saturday and I've been so busy at school today, I haven't do much of anything to get ready for it!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Free Range? Helicopter? Attachment?

What kind of parent am I?  I had the benefit of taking several child development classes in college after having children, so I was able to really apply what I was learning to my own life.  I know I am an authoritative parent with authoritarian tendencies.  On days when I haven't had enough sleep or work is completely overwhelming or something is keeping me from being rational (hormones, anyone?), I become my father.  It's not pretty.  (Freud would love that, eh?)  But generally I like to think I hold my own when it comes to being fair and reasonable most of the time.

So where are the fair and reasonable parents in the media?  It seems like every parent on TV is just nuts.  TV moms range from the Toddlers in Tiaras and Dance Moms types to Parenthood's hyper uptight Kristina Braverman.  Roseanne was fairly reasonable (albeit gruff) in the late 80s through most of the 90s.  So where are the normal moms who deal with laundry and bullies and don't wear make up every day (or any day, if you're me)?  Where are the moms who don't cut each other down or one up each other or any other stereotypically nasty TV mom pranks?  And please don't tell me that reality TV is the answer. Kate Gosselin certainly wasn't.  And as much as I respect Michelle Duggar, there has to be something magical in their well water because that woman is WAY too calm if you ask me.  (Okay, I really admire that about her and wish I had half her calm.)  And I've never watched those "Poorly Behaved Women of (insert state here)" shows, so I can't really comment on them.

Maybe the media doesn't notice us because we're boring.  We all struggle with the same basic issues:  How do I juggle all of my responsibilities and commitments and still get dinner on the table?  How do I keep up with the spotless house next door?  How do I get the kids to listen without yelling all the time?  And, to a certain extent, we all are guilty of listening to the parenting "experts" on various news shows and holding ourselves up to their standards.

What if we rewrote the standards?  What if we ignored the labels and stopped worrying so much about the neighbors?  What if we just focused on what our own standards are and what works for our own families instead of the families the experts expect us to have?

I might sleep better at night!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's a...!

David and I went to Maternal Fetal Medicine late last week.  It was definitely a mixed bag of emotions.  The last time I was there we were dealing with bleeding in the 11th week with Andrew.  At that point we left feeling much happier.  Little did we know what we'd be dealing with several weeks later.

I've spent this entire pregnancy telling myself we're having a girl.  I was afraid to wish for a boy.  I didn't want to replace Andrew or do anything to sully our brief memories of him.  I had convinced myself a third daughter would be wonderful - we'd go through the princess phase again, have tea parties, and learn about dinosaurs (because I am a feminist, after all!).  I imagined pink and tutus and the whole nine yards.  And I loved it.

But when I allowed myself to be honest, usually while lying in the dark and praying, I knew that my heart wanted to hold a baby boy.  I wanted to give G a brother and David another son.  I wanted trucks and dirt and chaos and soccer.

23 weeks.  A perfect smile.
I went into the appointment saying, "I know it's a girl.  I know I'm right".  The tech, in a rather stoic way, told me she'd do her best to tell us what she could see.  First, though, we had to measure everything.  Nearly two hours of measuring the heart and lungs and head of our baby.  When she got to the heart, I found myself in tears.  It was beating.  Strong.  Andrew's had stopped beating and the last time I saw it, it was still and quiet.  As this baby wiggled and rolled, squirmed and smiled, we got a glimpse into our future with this child.  A little mouth opened and closed, an arm raised a finger and pointed.

And at that moment, I didn't care if we were going to be team pink or team blue.  I was firmly and solidly in love with whatever God had given us.  And I was grateful.

I had almost forgotten our request to know what to expect when something flashed on the screen.  I thought I knew what it was.  David definitely knew.  The tech smiled and assured us there was no doubt about it.  This baby is a BOY.  A BOY.  There were tears... bittersweet, happy, grateful tears.

The next task was to tell the kids they were having a brother.  And I'm not one to do things without a little drama.  So I made them this:


Their reactions were priceless.  But more on that another day.