Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas!

My words have not escaped me, but my time has.  I will be back to blogging on a more consistent basis.  I am so sad I've been so lacking on updating for my kids.  My goal is to document pieces of their lives and share the insight that I've gained in raising my amazing kids.  My reality is that managing life with three kids has also come at the expense of my ability to multi-task, do it all, and keep afloat.  I will get there.  I'm praying for it each day, and aside from a random 'blip' day here and there, I can see a checkpoint on my life's marathon where I can refocus and re-establish my purpose.
Until then, from our family to yours, our wishes for a blessed holiday season and a healthy new year.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I want my mommy!


My goodness...the past few weeks in our household have been thoroughly exhausting.  At this point, I can't even recall the order of events, but I know that we've experienced ear infections (single and double), head cold(s), stomach bug, pnuemonia, RSV, and the.worst.sinus.infection.ever.

Most of this, of course, occurred in the midst of an incredibly busy time in Randy's work schedule, which means he was not home.  I can't imagine working the schedule that he does...especially when he had about two dozen jobs in two weeks.  Ex-hausted.

Thankfully, the baby's RSV/pneumonia combination that hit late at night just-so-happened to be in the small pocket of time that Randy was home and sleeping, so I was able to just take her to the ER, rather than drag the circus along with me.  We're also thankful that the baby's illnesses were not severe enough to be hospitalized. 

Once all of the kids started getting better (fingers crossed), the delightful little germs that were festering in our house (despite the cans of Lysol and containers of disinfectant wipes) found their way to me.  And they were not nice. 

The past week has been quite a fog, courtesy of the sinus medicine, Mucinex, cold and flu caplets, and NyQuil I have consumed.  Saturday morning was my breaking point.  I awoke to the feeling of wanting to rip the right side of my face off.  I simply could not take the false sense of relief provided by the OTC meds any longer, and needed the assistance of some prescription miracle. 

Shockingly, Randy had to work.  Added to the mix of *fun things* I had to deal with, was snow.  I bundled the three munchkins into snow gear, wrapped myself in a scarf and coat, threw a hat upon my unwashed head of hair, ran the mascara wand over each of my eyelashes, and headed out into the white and slippery abyss. 

The kids were under strict direction to 'not-touch-anything!' while at the doctor's office.  As Gavin put it, 'our house has enough germs, we don't need any more'.  Amen, sweet boy, amen.  Shortly after we walked in the door, a man walked in, and I overheard him telling the girls at the front desk that he needed stitches--somehow he had put his elbow into the snowblower.  Needless to say, his stupidity (I'm sorry, curiousity?) took presedence over my swollen face. 

Sidebar: this *near* exact same thing happened a year ago.  I was in the exact same waiting room, awaiting relief from a sinus infection, when in walks a man who informs the front desk that he needs stitches--apparently he stuck his fingers in the snowblower. 

Am I joking?  No.  Did I think I was on some hidden camera show?  Yes.

We waited about 30 more minutes, the baby was screaming, Brynn was whining, and Gavin kept dropping the Legos I let him bring to play with (in his lap), causing me to use all the hand sanitizing wipes I had in my purse.

Our next stop was Target, to fill my prescription, and shop for some necessitities.  The snow was not subsiding, making the trek through the parking lot *delightful*.  By the end of the trip, our cart was overflowing with everything that took up an exorbitant amount of space (paper towels, toilet paper, multi-packs of tissues, and diaper boxes), which made that trek throught parking lot even more *delightful*. 

Our journey was only half over.  A quick lunch and a basketball game for Gavin still loomed on the horizon of my rapidly increasing sinus-pain-and-pressure filled day.  All I wanted was the medicine to kick in.  A nap.  And my mommy.

Before I began feeling sick last Monday, I had been coping.  We had made last-minute doctor's visits, late night doctor's visits, even later night pharmacy runs, and middle of the night emergency room visits.  We had been through about a dozen different medicines, some OTC, some prescription.  We had had sleepless nights filled with discomfort and tears.  We had missed days of school and work, hastily written sub plans while simultaneously keeping a baby from screaming and helping a 5 year old as he gets sick into a trash can.  We had to clean up the floor at our friend's house after an upset tummy became *really* upset.  Twice.  (Sorry, Sue!)  We had exhaustion and uncertainty, fevers and chills, running noses and horrible coughs.  And through it all, I pretty much kept my cool.  Ok, sure.  I did let the tears flow while waiting at the pharmacy one late night, thus giving opportunity for the pharmacist to show compassion and fill my order within minutes and hand deliver it, along with my credit card receipt, to me as I sat in the chair, after having collapsed in sheer exhaustion.  But I got myself together and got my children all home and safely tucked into their beds.

Then, my nightmare-ish week of cold/flu/sinus disaster began.  And, for some reason, I couldn't handle the pressure.  I became grumpy and short-tempered.  I was distant and whiny.  I was weak.  Why was I able to handle the gamut of sickness that had been thrown at me by my children, yet my own sickness appeared to be my own un-doing?

Thankfully today, I began to experience the joy of sinus pressure relief.  Feelings of normalcy began to overtake my being, and I finally finished the Christmas decorating that had been staring at me from across the room all week long as I lay on the couch, near death. 

I can't help but think how selfish I've been in the past week.  My miserable attitude was a completely unnecessary added *bonus* that Randy had to deal with, in addition to trying to re-cuperate from an insanely busy stretch of work (just in time to go back on call and start the whole routine over again). 

I know that Randy's schedule makes it a challenge for me to be able to rely on his help on a consistent matter.  And, because of that, I need to be stronger, be able to manage, cope, and keep calm. 

But sometimes, a girl just needs her mommy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sick day

Recently, I've been struggling to feel like I'm staying afloat while staying sane.  Hence the large lapse in my posts (which, of course, brings on more guilt that adds to that drowning feeling).  The purpose of my blog is to document memories for my kids, and unfortunately I've been allowing the madness of life to take over the desire I've had to write for them.

We've been coping with busy schedules, ear infections, pink eye, tummy viruses, an overcommitted mommy, and the general goings on of life.  In the past week and a half, It seems like each time I'd get my schedule in order and begin to make headway, a kink would knock me off balance for a moment and test my patience, and my sanity.

The most recent twist came last evening, when Gavin came down with a stomach virus while we were at our friend's house for an early Thanksgiving celebration.  With Randy's challenging schedule, I was the one to stay home with the troops and play the various roles so all the needs of all three kids could be met. 

At one point this morning, I was in the kitchen baking (shocking, I know), and the kids were finishing Disney's Cars on DVD.  They were playing 'restaurant' duing the movie, as it was approaching lunch time, and Brynn wanted to take orders for mommy, the short-order cook.  Gavin, who was starting to feel better late morning, was playing the role of waiter, when he handed Brynn a 'menu' (one of my old magazines). 

I couldn't see, as the kitchen is around the corner from the living room, but I could hear their entire conversation.  It went something like this:
Gavin: "Here's your menu, lady."
Brynn: "Thank you, waiter" (pause....pause...pause--I assume she was flipping through so she could 'decide').  "!" (audible gasp)
Gavin: (whispers) "You'd better say sorry"
*it was at this point, that I assumed that Gavin meant Brynn should apologize to Santa, as they are already brilliantly aware that 'Santa is watching'
Brynn: "Why, Gavin? Is God a bad word?"
Gavin: "It's not a really bad word, but you can't say 'God' to God"
Brynn: "Oh. (pause...pause...pause...) I'm sorry, God.  Don't be mad at me.
Gavin: "Brynn, God doesn't get mad."
Brynn: "He doesn't?  Will my Grandpa get mad?  He's with God"
Gavin: "No, God and Grandpa don't get mad, but you just can't say their names like that, ok?"
Brynn: "Ok, Gav, I won't.  (pause...pause...) I'm sorry God and Grandpa".  Then, (to no one in particular): "Grandpa is with God now.  I 'weewly love my Grandpa.  Grandpa is an angel.
Gavin: "Brynn, we know this."
Brynn: "Yeah.  He is with God but I want to see him."
Gavin: "Brynn, just go look at a picture.  He's right over there in the picture."
Brynn: "No, I'm going to have a dream about him.  I like to dream about Grandpa". 
Gavin: "Brynn, you can't say what you want in your dreams.  Dreams are when you're asleep."
Brynn: "Soooo...I can dream about him.  He really loves me.  And Raegan.  He loves her a lot.  And you.  He loves all the people in our home."

Brynn was quiet for a while, and then said, "Gavin, I told Grandpa to make you feel better so we could play.  I don't want you to be sick, I want to stay home with you and play".

Brynn has been telling me a lot about her Grandpa recently, asking a lot of questions, and telling me how much she loves and misses him.  The funny thing is, Brynn met Grandpa once, when she was 4 months old.  Shes been telling me he has a beard and his face looks like daddy's.

At this point, I walked into the living room, to see Brynn's face through all this.  She looked matter-of- fact.  She was staring off into space, but had a beautiful smile on her face. 

So, I asked her: "Brynn, are you happy Gavin is feeling better so you can play?"
She responded, with a smirk on her face, "yeeesssss" 
That smirk meant something, as if she knew a secret.

A little later this evening, Brynn was helping me with dinner, being my sous chef and chopping zucchini really small.  She kept asking, "mommy, are you so proud of me?", as she chop, chop, chopped.  I told her I was very, very proud of her, and so thankful for her being such a wonderful helper today.  She said, "I know, mommy...I didn't get sick so that I can be your helper.  Grandpa doesn't like me to be sick, so I'm not sick". 

I put my knife down and turned to my daughter.  "Who made you not be sick, Brynn?" (I know, the grammar is terrible, but that's how she sometimes understands what it is that we're saying).  Brynn responded, "God, mommy.  I told Grandpa I don't want to be sick because that's not fun for me.  So, he made me not be sick.  I wanted to stay with my brother today."

And just like that, the three or four 'to do' lists I have going on, the stress I let compound as this past week became more and more complex, and the frustration I was experiencing this morning as I bounced a sobbing baby on my knee while cuddling with a feverish five year old all while trying to put together coherent sentences for my sub plans suddenly melted away.  We stood there, mommy and daughter, chopping veggies and scooping meatballs for dinner.  Sure, I accomplished a few odds and ends today, but I got to stay home with my kids--and be their mom.

I was just reading a book not too long ago when I came across this: 'no matter how well we do in one area, we always feel that we're falling short in another.  Seconds, we continually look to the wrong places to feel valuable.  We look at how well we perform at various functions rather than accepting that we are valuable simply because we are our kids' moms and we are loved and needed because of that'.  Ask me yesterday if a sick day was an ideal or desirable thing to experience, and my annoyance with even the premise of it would have been written all over my face.  But today, I got to be mommy, nurse, circus entertainer, comedian, singer, short order cook, waitress, cuddler, nurterer, boo-boo-kisser, snot wiper, and the recipient of many amazing hugs and smooches from my three affectionate kiddies. 

Usually, the large number of roles that I fill increases my level of stress, as I have a hard time saying 'no', and therefore I become overcommitted.  Today, while we were snuggled on the couch in the morning to watch one of 'their shows', I made a decision to put the 'to do' out of my mind for the day, and to spend some of my quiet time reflecting.  I've been praying for my father-in-law, and especially my mother-in-law, as the holidays approach.  I wish I 'talked' to him the way it seems Brynn does.  And with the holidays approaching, and that ever growing 'to do' list that I simply cannot ignore, I will take the inspiration from my daughter, and ask my father-in-law to watch over me so I don't wind up sick, like the rest of them!

Thank you, Brynn...for your willingness to share, talk, question, and be open.  Your free spirit reminds me of what my heart had been overlooking as my mind spun out of control when things went wrong.  In all your adorableness, and your spontaneous and genuine've re-centered me, at just the right time of year.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The age of innocence

I've had people ask me what is my 'favorite phase' of my experiences in motherhood.  It's a hard question to answer, because every age and phase has its own unique set of characteristics that you love and cherish (of course, there are also characteristics of each phase that aren't so thrilling and adorable--i.e. the random level 6 meltdown that Brynn has been known to demonstrate in the middle of Target or the grocery store).

One of the coolest characteristics of the kindergarten age is the perfect blend of 'knowledgeable sponge-like pupil' and 'sweet, innocent child'.  When I pick Gavin up from school, he and I have the opportunity to share about 15 minutes of peace and special conversation.  He shares what he's doing in school, what his teacher has been teaching him, and what events transpired during recess or BASE (before/after school).  It's adorable to hear him speak of Mrs. Irwin as though everything that comes out of her mouth is gospel.  I know he listens very carefully in class, and he's learning the art of being intuitive.  Just the other day, he told me his entire daily routine.  After he was finished, I told him I was amazed at how much they did, and how I would be so tired after a day of kindergarten.  He proceeded to tell me how his teacher is never tired, even with all the kids she has to teach, questions she has to answer, and directions she has to repeat.  In one instant, he went from being the 'knowledgeable pupil' who knew the ins and outs of how he's learning in kindergaren, to an 'innocent child' who lives under the impression that his teacher is similar to a superhero.  (I shared this story with his teacher, and she was tickled by his interpretation of her energy level :)


There's something about Gavin's age that I'm not a fan of--loose teeth.  I'm not in love with the constant wiggling, and the concept of the tooth falling out reminds me of a recurring nightmare I've had several times where my teeth crumble and I spit them out continuously (gross). 

This morning, while brushing his teeth, Gavin realized that his once unbelieveably wiggly tooth was no longer in the place where it had been patiently waiting to be freed from its temporary home.  Needless to say, he was concerned.  First, he thought it was in his bed.  Then, he thought he swallowed the tooth in his sleep, or with his cereal.  That's when his little innocent mind began processing at a faster rate--a more profitable rate. 

His concern shifted from the potential 'lost' tooth to the potential of lost profits.  "What will the Tooth Fairy do about my tooth?!", he pondered.  "Will she even come to visit tonight?", he asked quizzically.  "Oh no! What about my money?", he asked, frantically.  I assured him we'd get it straightened out in the evening, you know, when we don't have about 3 minutes to get out the door and on the way to work on time in the mini-blizzard-like conditions we were having at that time of day.


After basketball practice ended, we came home and went on a tooth hunt.  We searched the sheets, the floor next to the bed, and underneath Eeyore's tush.  No luck.  I could see the concern washing across his sweet little face.  Quickly, I scurried him down to the dining table and set him up with a pencil and paper.  He proceeded to compose a letter to explain his current plight. 
I asked him what he wanted to say, so I could scribe it for him to use as a model for his own work. "Dear Tooth Fairy,

I lost my tooth and can't find it.
Can I still have some money?
Love, Gavin

During his entire letter-writing experience, he was bouncing back and forth between teaching me all he knows about the words and letters he is writing, and the innocent child, desperate to make his plea to the Tooth Fairy in neat handwriting.  Brynn wasn't making the experience any easier, as she taunted Gavin with the possibility that the Tooth Fairy would say 'too bad, Gavin', and ignore his request (another one of those *fun* characteristics of a 3 year old girl that I just *adore*--and will absolutely not miss when it has passed!).

In the end, the letter was completed, and he went to bed as a trusting and innocent five year old, anxiously awaiting to reap the benefits of a very kind and understanding Tooth Fairy.  Good thing for him, we're blessed to have a very kind and understanding Tooth Fairy (and, double bonus--he will get to taunt Brynn as he drops his new coins into his piggy bank tomorrow morning!)

Innocence...a characteristic that has breached so many of the ages/phases that we've experienced so far.  As Gavin develops and learns in school, I know that the trusting innocence of a child will be replaced by the knowledge of a very knowledgeable and sponge-like pupil.  I pray for that innocence to hang on as long as possible...we've got a lot more teeth to lose in this household....

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Inspired to LOVE

This morning, as my alarm broke the silence of my peaceful--albeit short--night of recuperating sleep, I said a quiet and short little prayer that when I peered through the blinds, I'd see that our trusty weather people had accurately predicted the forecast.  I knew it was a long-shot, and that the next sound I'd hear from my phone wouldn't be one of my colleagues calling with good news, but rather from the second alarm I set on my phone as a 'just in case'. 

As much as I didn't want to, I exited the warm cocoon of my bed to peek through the blinds.  As predicted, the snow dance I assigned for *extra* homework didn't work, and I crawled back in bed for a glorious 10 extra minutes of 'me' time, before the second alarm began blaring. 

Of course, now, I couldn't seem to find that magical little pocket of time between asleep and awake; the time when you can fall back into the dream you left behind in the violent wake of a ringing alarm.  Instead, I rolled over to turn on my phone and check my email. 

One of my emails was a notification from a blog that I follow, GraceFULL Home.  The blog is written by two amazing women.  They are both moms of students where I teach, and I've had the priviledge of teaching two of Amy's three children (if you count directing them in drama club, I've worked with all three of them, as well as had the opportunity to have Jen share her talents in photography when she shot portraits and candids of my cast).  I've enjoyed reading their blog, as they both provide inspirations for developing and strengthing my faith and relationship with God.

This morning, I read an entry written by Amy entitled "How Well Do You Love?".  I had never read that variation of 1st Corinthians 13 before, but immediately began drawing parallels with my own life.  Of course, there are parts of that version that don't yet apply to my life, which is why I was inspired by the challenge Amy presented, in re-writing a version that reflects where I am in my life now.  Despite the non-stop pace of this day (and so many more before it, as well as those to come), I found myself thinking about this post.  The hour is late, the science tests that rode home with me sit unscored in my work bag, and the laundry needs switched (sidebar: the washer buzzed just as I typed that...a little extra reminder from God, since laundry is, in my opinion, the worst.chore.ever.??).  All of these factors aside, I feel compelled to take on this challenge tonight.  I know it won't be my 'ideal', but that illustrates just how organic motherhood and womanhood can be--tomorrow, this whole thing could be different.

Here goes...

I can sing the theme song to Spongebob and recite The Little Mermaid by heart, but without love, I am merely a car alarm going off during naptime.

I can change the diaper of a squirmy baby in ten seconds flat while watching a three year old's impromptu dance routine and listen to my five year old read a book for his homework  I can chop veggies so fine they can't pick them out of the sauce, while making a grocery list complete with a stack of neatly trimmed coupons.  I can hold a conversation with a magical fairy princess and a Storm Trooper from Star Wars while tossing a football and blowing bubbles, but without love, I am nothing.

Love is patient while listening to the minute-by-minute account of a fight, told by a frustrated child who wants validation in their decision to show their anger toward their sibling with their fists.

Love is kind even when I'm overwhelmed and exhausted, and I've heard 'moooommmmy....?' for the three thousandth time in the tone is nuturing and calm.

It does not envy the mommies who somehow have time to work out, have standing pedicure appointments, or a wardrobe from stores I can only dream of shopping in...but trusts the Lord to provide me with my own joys and pleasures as 'treats' for myself.

Love does not brag about the blessings which have been bestowed upon us.  Love rejoices in the blessings God bestows upon our friends and family.

It does not boast, when I've come home from a full day of work to prepare a healthy and well-rounded dinner for my family when my husband's 'chef's special' incorporates peanut butter and jelly with bread.

Love is not rude, even when other customers at the grocery store are oblivious to the family circus I am trying to keep under control, and run into my children with their cart in an attempt to be first in the check out line (despite the screaming baby in my carseat)

It does not immediately seek after glory after I've unloaded the dishwasher, or folded the laundry.

It is not easily angered by other drivers who *love* to drive in my blind spot, or by an endless slew of red lights on mornings I'm already running late and evenings I

It does not delight in evil when I'm obviously right, but rejoices in the truth...that I was right. (room for growth...I know!)

Love does not give up hope when you're supporting your best friend through the fight of her life.

It always trusts God to watch over my husband when he's driving in the middle of night on limited sleep, to keep my children safe when I can't be there or can't put my 'mommy bubble wrap' around them.  It always perseveres...through 3 kids in 5 years, thousands of miles from family, non-traditional work schedules, crying babies and tears, angry outbursts and tragic loss.

Love never fails.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Brothers and sisters

I always knew that when I became a mom, I'd want my children to have the kind of relationship I share with my brothers.  My mom did a fantastic job fostering the love/not-so-love relationship we value so highly today.  In our adulthood, we've moved away from the 'not-so-love', as that mainly existed when we were younger and fighting over toys, privacy, bathroom/phone usage, or just being around each other far too much.  Without those little speed bumps in our feelings toward one another, however, we wouldn't have been able to develop the closeness we share today. 

My brothers are both busy and well-established businessmen, both of whom are engaged to be married next year to women who I am honored to be able to call my sister-in-laws.  They have busy schedules and other priorities besides catching up with their oldest (and only) sister, yet at least once every week or two we'll find a pocket of time that works for both of us to catch up on things, share a laugh, or have the kids get a chance to say hi to their beloved uncles.  Our conversations may not be as often as I'd like, but I treasure each of them, along with our silly inside jokes that we share via text message throughout the week.  They make the distance between Colorado and Pennsylvania seem a little less; a little easier to handle.

When my 'baby' brother called me this past spring to tell me he was going to propose, I was so thrilled to be one of the v-e-r-y few who knew of his plans.  When my middle brother called to tell me he was proposing, and when I had the opportunity to actually watch that proposal via FaceTime (thank you to my future sister-in-law!), the tears of happiness I shed were not pretty.  They were definitely from a place of happiness, but they were not pretty.  I was a blubbering mess (and extrememly grateful that the phone froze and disconnected in the frenzied excitement of her response to the proposal, so as to not subject anyone else to the emotional mess I'd become).

Next year, I'll have the honor of standing up for each of my brothers in their wedding as a bridesmaid.  Being asked to be a part of their day in such a way means a great deal to me.  I am already practicing making a more attractive 'trying-not-to-cry' face, so as not to mess up any candid shots from the ceremony that might extend to the bridal party.

Having such a close relationship with my brothers has helped shape the person I am today, and especially contributed to the way in which I raise my own children.  Granted, I have the 'opposite' of what my mom has (2 girls and 1 boy compared to the 1 girl and 2 boys), but the approach is similar.

I encourage love.  mutual respect.  fun.  laughter.  apologizing when they're wrong.  giving each other space when they need it, and hugs when they need them.  fun.  laughter.  game playing.  book reading.  teaching each other (good things, and ornery things, too).  empathy.  being sick together (so as to streamline the number of days I miss work--a skill I learned from my mom).  running.  playing pretend.  rescuing the princess from the castle.  going into battle together--nerf guns a-blazing.  helping each other in any way necessary--whether it's opening the snack cupboard or coming up with an excuse for not eating their veggies.  forgiveness.  appreciation.  cooperation.  standing up for and looking out for one another.  love.  love.  love.

The relationships that exist between my three kids are still in the developing phases.  They have many years of fights and hugs, tears and laughs ahead of them.  The important thing for me to remember is to keep the 'finish line' in mind.  While my brothers and I aren't at the 'finish line' by any means for our relationships, we have both experience as well as expereinces that we've been through together that allow us to have the closeness that we share today. 

Maya Angelou has said "I don't believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at."  I want my children to grow up sharing brotherhood and sisterhood in the way that their mom has been blessed to experience.

with my 'baby' brother, summer 2011
my middle brother, summer 2010

sisterly smiles

compassion, love
fun and learning
teaching his baby sister about T. Rex
being sick together.  for days on end.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Peas and Carrots

While feeding Raegan tonight, I seem to get Forrest Gump's quote about peas and carrots out of my head. 

Randy and I met 9 years ago.  We were randomly assigned to the only dorm on PSU's campus that boasted co-ed floors.  At the beginning of the semester, he and his best friend (and roommate) were making their rounds on the floor, introducing themselves to everyone on the floor (and, as it turned out, scoping out who was old enough to become their own personal beer supplier).  A few weeks passed by, several encounters in the hallway, and a few smart-alec comments (made by...guess who?), and before I knew it, we were chatting it up. 

 It's around this time of year that I remember back to the first few weeks when we had just met.  We were both involved in different relationships, but the physical distance, coupled with a plethora of other factors lead to their ultimate downfall. 

Out of the ashes of our long-term/long-distance relationships emerged a fast-moving and *adorable* friendship that morphed along the way into yet another long-distance relationship.  The attraction between us was obvious, however we were still not ready to fully admit our feelings toward one another.  Fear of commitment, unwillingness to give a name to what was transpiring, or just plain 'smitten and slightly shy'...our friends all saw what we were too hesitant to declare.

I remember getting ready to leave for fall break.  I was driving home for the weekend, with a friend of my brother in tow.  Sneaking away from the roving eyes of a curious 'spy', I found a moment to steal a hug and smooch before spending three hours in the car cautiously skirting around the obvious connection my brother's friend witnessed between myself and the tall mystery man.

Over the course of the semester, our connection was deepening, the time we spent together became greater and greater.  In the late hours of the night, I'd lay my head on his chest and say, "tell me a story".  In these hours, we traversed through the uncertain land of 'new relationship', even if we didn't want to admit it at the time. 

Getting to know someone, learning all about them, takes a huge commitment.  It's a scary and uncomfortable place to be.  You feel vulnerable, uncertain of what the other person is thinking about you as you share the pieces of you that define your being.  Randy and I spent many hours learning about each others' pasts; tales from our childhood and high school years that were cautiously selected so as to not give the other reason to reconsider moving the relationship further along.

As the time approached for Randy's 21st birthday at the end of the semester, I realized we were getting ready to cross the bridge into a whole new territory.  We'd be a part of a large group of friends hanging out at our favorite bars; dancing, laughing, and enjoying the ambiance of a college bar scene.  The comfort of others in our group took some of the pressure off our 'yet-to-be-defined' relationship, but the need to give some sort of identity to our feelings became prevalent early on.  Even before he donned the 'black x's' of a brand-new-21-year-old, the social scenes we participated in gave opportunities for us to test the waters of our "relationship status".  When we walked in to a party (and later, bar), hand in hand, we thought the message was pretty clear.  However, there were those ocassional times when curious members of the opposite gender would sidle up next to one of us in an attempt to see what could possibly transpire.  Despite their best efforts, Randy and I would inevitably leave hand in hand--still avoiding the blaring truth that was staring us in the face.  We were obviously 'together'.  What took us so long to define it, I'll never quite figure out--but in the scheme of things, it doesn't really matter. 

9 years ago, I met a boy.  He was tall and cute, and had a great sense of humor.  I loved the indentation of his hip bones, the way he looked in his favorite hoodie from his high school basketball team, the way he'd let me borrow that same favorite hoodie.  I loved the countless hours we spent getting to know each other in the dim light from the glow of the computer screen or the solo string of white Christmas lights that lit the tiny dorm room.  I loved the night we were heading out with a group of friends, and he reached out to hold my hand for the walk there, despite the snickering comments made by our friends who were following behind.  I loved those beginning weeks and months, when we had no idea what the next decade would bring, but we were drunk on the smitten feelings we had for one another.  We had no idea that in 9 years, we'd have 6 years of marriage under our belt and 3 kids running around.  We were just in the moment.  Together.  Like peas and carrots.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Behind the curtain

Last night, I hurt my back doing the most basic of all things...getting up from the couch.  Thankfully, the kids were in bed and I had already laid Raegan down in her crib for the night.  This happens every so often, thanks to not only the *delightful* aging process, but the degenerated discs in my back and years of issues with that.  I'm sure many people can relate.  Needless to say, when mommy is knocked down a few pegs in her abilities to 'do it all'...the usual flow of life is slightly interrupted. 

This morning, while attempting to get the kids ready for school, the pain I was feeling caused me to become upset with Gavin over something that, in the scheme of life, is a miniscule and forgettable event (as I type this, even, I can't really remember what it was--but I remember my reaction.  And I'm ashamed.).  Getting the girls in to daycare shifted slightly for me as well.  Squatting down to release Raegan from her carseat was an impossibility this morning, so my final morning squeeze n' smooch from my munchkin didn't happen.  Minor detail, but it was major enough for me to notice, and be upset by it.  Teaching proved to be a challenge as well today, as the non-stop slew of questions, visits to my desk for affirmation, and one-on-one assistance gave my swivel chair quite a swiveling work out today, compared to 'normal' day, when I'm able to just turn at the waist.

And then there was our evening.  I try to plan out in my head, a skeleton set of plans for our evening in my few moments of solitude as I drive from my school to Gavin's.  Tonight's plans included: me, not cooking dinner, and bathtime for the kids.  I knew Randy would be home for a pocket of time, so I had a good idea that my skeleton of a plan would soon come to fruition, and I could go to bed feeling somewhat accomplished, despite my inability to do much else. 

I should have known. 

The weather has been pretty cooperative, and very 'un-fall like', so the kids played with some neighbors from the minute I turned off the car in the garage.  Score.  Playing with Raegan was more 'up my alley' with my extremely limited mobility...although, she's quite roly-poly nowadays, so I was forced to try and contain her a little more than usual. 

Randy was puttering around online, looking at houses (typical), and I was trying to contain a little munchkin while keeping my movement to a minimum.  Dinner time approached, and I had previously announced my plans to not cook dinner.  Perhaps I should have been more explicit.  I assumed that the whole 'I can't move' thing would have been an indicator that I really didn't even feel like standing in the kitchen to heat up leftovers much less chop, dice, or sautee anything.  Silly me. 

In the end, I wound up heating up dinner and shuffling it over to my hungry brood.  Randy had gotten a call for work and was trying to coordinate the other guys going on the rig with him.  Hungry kids don't wait.  I winced in pain as I spooned pureed squash into a wiggly baby girl's mouth because the angle at which I needed to sit gave me a feeling simliar to that of someone strumming my spinal cord like a guitar string ( was that pleasant). 

Randy leaving meant my back-up, my 'kid bathtime giver' was leaving as well.  I knew that kneeling in front of a tub to suds up the kids was not going to happen.  Gavin is pretty independent when it comes to taking a shower, so I had that going for me.  Just a few reminders to actually use soap, wash behind his ears, and stop dancing in the shower, and he'd be set. 

The trouble was Brynn.  She is p.e.t.r.i.f.i.e.d. of the shower.  But, for as scared as she is, her ego is far more important to her.  She couldn't be 'the girl afraid of the shower' in this house--or in public, either.  (If you don't know...Brynn has a 'public'.  It's anyone and everyone she comes in contact with who has the slightest potential of complimenting her in some way, shape, or form.)  So, I had to problem solve in a way that would leave me with a clean kid and a mom whose back has not been further injured by a three year old who manipulated things to get her way. 

The solution?  Well, she wants to be just like her brother in just about every way.  If Gavin shares something about school, Brynn has to have a story that either is equal to or greater than the interest level of his story.  (It makes for a *fun* and very competitive car ride home.)  I used this to my advantage and had Gavin 'teach' Brynn what to do when we take a shower.  He described the steps for her, and after observing her still-uncertain-face, asked her if she'd like company so she wouldn't be scared.  In my eyes, they're still young enough to make this be ok, especially since it's just for the sole purpose of me having some relief in my mommy duties.

My allowance of 'shower sharing' this evening will pay off in the long run.  As it turns out, Brynn apparently has never been afraid of the shower, because when I was getting her jammies out, she proceeded to say, "Mommy, showers are fun...I want to always take showers".  When I pointed out that not 14 minutes prior, she was having a mini-meltdown over the prospect of running water hitting her, she laughed a ridiculous laugh and said, "ohhhh, mommy....that's crazy". 

The laughs and giggles, splashes and shouts coming from the shower gave me reason for pause...but I was in too much pain to do much about it besides lay on the bed and take pictures of Raegan.  But, before turning the water off, I had to capture a memory (of course).  Thankfully, my kids are well-trained by now.

Hopefully the rounds of heat and ice, coupled with a few stronger-than-usual medications with help reduce the inflammation in my back well enough for me to become a better-functioning momma.  The laundry, dishes, cooking, and pretty much anything involving Raegan will greatly appreciate it.

oblivious to mommy's pain

no tubby time tonight...just a quick sponge bath for my chunk-a-loo!

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Tonight the older two are each hosting a friend for a sleepover.  They have been unbelievably excited about the entire concept for the past week or so since we've made plans.  I'm currently listening to the boys down in the basement up to some sort of little boy mischief (most of which is being taken out on the blow-up spaceman Gavin got at the fall fest a few weeks back), and the movie Tangled (for the 137th time).  The girls are starting to lose a little steam, and I'm sure they'll be heading up to bed shortly after the credits roll.  Even Raegan, who normally thrives on extra-special cuddle time with mommy, is upstairs snoring softly in her nursery.

And so how to I take advantage of this delightful pocket of time for myself?  Well, I should be doing some work, as I have a few things going on this coming week at school that need require my attention (aside from the usual lesson planning, that is...).  But instead, I take a mental time out and remove myself from the reality of my non-stop life for a little 'check in' with me.  And boy, does it feel good!

Earlier this week, Gavin had a splinter in his finger.  A certain casualty of war thanks to the swing set in our backyard so desperately in need of an upgrade.  When it happened, and during the process of removing the miniscule shard of wood, you would have thought we were severing his finger without the assistance of numbing medication.  Based on the fact that daddy was simultaneously holding a squirmy baby and using tweezers to extract the splinter, and that mommy was running downstairs to grab the camera (then back downstairs to grab the camera card) so I could try and snag a photo or two of Gavin's 'ordeal', Gavin should have figured out that it wasn't that big a deal and we could quickly remove the splinter if he would stay still, calm, and patient.  Unfortunately, his inability to cooperate made way for the splinter to break and half of it stayed in his finger.  I tried to convince him to let me get the last part out, that he'd feel so much better in me doing so, but he wasn't on board with the idea.  On the positive side, he got the chance to sport an awesome Star Wars band-aid.

the (barely visible) culprit

the (unused) tools

the happy patient (it's all about the fashion statement)
Randy was mildly annoyed by not only my incessant photo-taking, but also my need to remove the rest of the splinter.  He told me to just leave Gav alone, that it would come out on its own when he was in the tub or washing his hands.  Because Gavin was obviously on his dad's side, and was absolutely unwilling to cooperate with me, I was left to feel a little unfulfilled. 

I'm the type of person who thrives on that feeling of relief one gets when something unwelcomed is removed.  Splinters in fingers, eyelashes in eyes, dirt under fingernails, weeds from gardens, items from 'to-do' lists, etc.  You get the idea. 

Today, I cleaned and rearranged the snack cabinet--a task that was long overdue.  Simple things such as combining two opened bags of animal crackers, throwing away tortilla chips that were stale because 3 year olds do not know how to properly clip the bag, and putting all the fruit snacks into a canister just so I can toss the box all gave me such a sense of relief.  I realize, that sounds sad.  The joy I felt as I manuevered the large trash can lid open and disposed of unnessary items should not be so fulfilling, but it is. 

I've been working hard on feeling 'ok' with the fact that the house will be cluttered.  The dishes might sit.  The dog hair may accumulate longer than I intend.  The laundry won't get folded (ok, so that one's a lie...laundry has ALWAYS been an area of weakness for me--kids or no kids). 

There are these little 'splinters' that we encounter often.  They're different for each of us, but they're purpose it to cause us a bit of discomfort until we figure out the way to extract them, thus enjoying the relief. 

The problem with extracting a splinter, however, is that it leaves behind a small hole.  Over time, depending on the size, this hole closes, but there is always that vulnerable time when the hole could be filled with something else unwanted, like an infection.  But, if you're pro-active about it, you can find something to prevent that from happening, whether it be a band-aid or positive thoughts and dedicated behavior.

So, going back to the events of my'd assume that my need to remove 'splinters' would have paved the way perfectly for  me to spend my evening researching the PLC working enviornment or creating gift bags to thank the classified members of our staff for their hard work and dedication...but no.  I blog.

I indentified what 'my splinter' was this evening, and as fate should have it, my splinter came in the form of a noisy, busy house.  Even though Randy was fantastic and kept Raegan at bay while I made pizza dough, cleaned the kitchen, organized the snack cabinet, and looked after the four older children whose volume grew as the evening moved foward, I still was ex-to the -hausted.  Removing the need to relax from my list of things to do meant I'd be left behind with a hole and feel vulnerable (sidebar: is it sad that I have 'relax' on my list of things to do?!).  See, the splinter of my lesson plan book/standards/and PLC professional development plan I need to work on is pinching me with an increasingly more obnoxious manner the closer I am to the conclusion of the weekend.  

I guess I could take a lesson from Gavin, however.  If I can only remove part of my splinter now, and rely on soaking and/or hand washing to help remove the other part, I should absolutely take advantage of that.  I often times become so overwhelmed by the enormity of each of my 'to dos', that I have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees.  Trees, that ironically enough, are the source of the actual splinter.

On a side note...this post isn't happening until 11:15 at night--long after the girls went to sleep...however there were a few little minor speed bumps along the way--bathroom, read stories, whispering eyes have been fluttering, only to be opened by the splintering need to finish the sentences (and the ocassionaly snort from the sleeping pugs in the kitchen).  And now, the  most piercing splinter I could experience when I have a quiet house full of sleeping children...a screaming baby.  Off to deal with that, and full the hole that remains from an incomplete night of sleep with several catnaps tomorrow, while trying to find the time to somehow complete the tasks that I now realize I should have just bit the bullet on and completed tonight.  Thanks, splinter *nice* of you...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

a bump in the road of mommyhood

I made myself a promise for this weekend.  I.will.resist.Target.  I love Target.  Well, it's a love-hate, really.  Like nearly everyone I know who frequents this delightful little establishment, I simply cannot make it out the door without over-spending by at least $50.  And that's on a good day.  (Sidebar: for those of you who have yet to experience the marvelous appeal of a SuperTarget, be warned.  Any hope you have of 'keeping on budget' dissolves at an even faster rate.  Think SuperWalmart, without the Walmart.  I know, I know...that fact alone intrigues you enough to Google Map the nearest location of this money-sucking gem of a store!)

So, while I *adore* Target, I really needed an intervention.  Weekends are such precious pockets of time, and now that the school year is underway, I am treasuring every blessed moment of them even more.  Why spend a 2-hour chunk of time torturing the kids (and testing my sanity) by dragging them from aisle to aisle?  Did I mention our SuperTarget recently underwent a renovation?  (So now I have *no* idea where anything is, thus adding a good 25-35 minutes to my recent trips--and therefore adding at least another $25-$35, plus an inevitable trip past the toys because I can never remember what is in the area adjacent to them and therefore feel compelled to cruise down each aisle, making sure I'm not 'missing out' on anything.  Yes.  I'm aware.  I have problems.)  It's a small bump in the road for the next few trips to Target, until I'm able to navigate the store with a little more ease.  But I'll face the bump with a positive attitude, despite the fact that I'm beyond frustrated while in the midst of my fourth or fifth pass across the entire length of the store all in search of dryer sheets and night light bulbs.

This weekend, however, I have decided to take a trial separation from our weekly ritual of a Saturday trip to Target.  I know it will only be a brief separation, as I don't have the willpower at this time to call it quits completely.  But, in an effort to be a more efficient and effective momma, I've decided to cut down the number of trips I take into the 'bullseye of doom'.

The kids and I were on our own today, as daddy had a long day at work.  It started out in the usual 'lazy day Saturday' sort of way...Food Network and a small latte treat for mommy, mashed bananas and endless attention while rolling about on the floor for Raegan, playing and the occasional bicker for Gavin and Brynn.

Around 11:00, I decided we needed to 'tune out' of the digital/electronic world for a while.  TV, video game, and cell phone--off....outside, togetherness, and (of course) camera--on.  (Ok, I know.  My DSLR has the word digital in its name.  I made an exception for the purpose of capturing memories.)  So, off to the park we went...

lunch in the shade

posing...'s what these two do best's what Raegan does best!


little miss bright eyes

learning to smile for the camera at an early age
(good thing, since I love taking pictures more than I love Target!)

is it obvious my kids have their picture taken a lot?

always ready for a photo-op!

So...I managed to eliminate the 'usual Saturday trip to Target' from our routine for this week...and lived to tell the tale.  Lunch, the park, ice cream...all these things happen often in our household, don't get me wrong.  It's not as if I have recently *discovered* life outside of a store.  It's more like now that I'm back to the daily grind of 'working-out-of-the-house-mommy', I'm remembering the need to streamline errands, be thankful for online shopping, and live by a stringent-yet-flexible schedule (oxymoron, I know.  But, moms...back me up on this.  Routine is important, but flexibility is essential.  You never know what's coming down the pike when you're in the trenches of mommyhood.  Read on, and you'll see what I mean...)

A lunch-date at one of their favorite parks, an enormous ice cream cone, and no trips to Target (lovingly regarded as 'SuperBoring' by Gavin) to drain my energy, sanity, and bank account.  All in all, a great day.  I couldn't leave well enough alone, though.  Apparently, I was going for some sort of 'Super Mom' honorable mention award from the kids today as I suggested a stop in a local gift shop for a candy treat (not to eat right away--they did just have ice cream, afterall.  An after dinner treat was the intention, and the kids knew that going into the store).

Both kids chose small candy treats; Brynn, a few chocolate kisses, and Gavin, foil covered chocolate sports balls.  Gavin was excited to find footballs in the mix of treats, and plopped two of them on the counter.  Imagine his happiness as the clerk informed him that they were 3 for a quarter.  Faster than my bank account is emptied by a Target trip, Gavin was back at the basket, digging for another chocolate football.  He returned to the counter, triumphant, yet demure, and placed a third brown football on the counter.  With purchases made, candy in bag, bag in mommy's secure grip, we headed for the car.

In the car, donning my aviators, Gavin was unaware of my field of vision.  As I peeked into the mirror to make sure everyone was settled, I saw it.  A small, yellowish-green sphere that represented a new frontier in my adventures in parenting.

Now I know I've been stricken with 'mommy brain' more times than I can count in the 5 1/2 years I've been a mommy...but I know for a fact that the candy I had just bought my son not two minutes prior was not wrapped in foil looking anything close to the color he held in his hand. 

Interrorgation, tears, and a disappointed tone filled the next few minutes.  And I use the term tears loosely.  We're talking all out, drag out tantrum.  As in, I was fearful passersby would think I had severely injured my son.  Truth is, I didn't even touch him.  I sat in the driver's seat, mentally spinning the rolodex of mommy-isms and 'how to's' filed under the "My Son Just Shoplifted, Now What" section.  Gavin was in the far back of my 'mom mobile', tears flowing, feet stomping, pleading apololgies tumbling from his mouth by way of unattractive strings of drool. 

What do I do?  How do I handle this?  The disbelief of the situation took over as I turned the key of my car and began driving.  I was mindlessly maneuvering out of the shopping center parking lot, reprimanding my obviously distraught 5 year old.  The enormity of what happened hit Brynn as she put the puzzle pieces together and began pleading with me to not tell the police officers what Gavin had done.  We continued down the road another minute or two, until my once sweet-and-innocent son calmed down. 

I turned into a restaurant parking lot, put the car in park, and had a moment of clarity.  I knew from the moment I started driving away that he needed to go back into the store.  But, I also knew that for the lesson to be meaningful and effective, he needed to calm down enough to understand what I was explaining to him. 

Within another two minues, Gavin and I were walking back into the store we had just left, only to be met by a confused clerk.  I told him that my son had something he needed to say, and then urged Gavin on with a touch on the shoulder. 

Hearing him say, "I'm sorry, I took this from you", as he looked at the clerk out of the tops of his sorrowful eyes snapped me from the fog I was functioning under and into reality.  My son had stolen.  Sure, it was a piece of dime-store candy.  But it was still 'stolen goods'.  Tears stung at the corners of my eyes as I listened to the clerk tell Gavin pretty much the same message I had: he was very disappointed that Gavin decided to take something without paying, but he was proud of him for owning up to his error in judgement. 

After the clerk finished speaking, Gavin turned on his heel and headed for the door.  I looked back at the clerk, and mouthed the words, "I'm so sorry", and "Thank you".  He smiled, and responded back in the same silent-speaking way, "No, thank you.", and "Good job, Mom".  His tone wasn't condesending or sarcastic.  It was genuine.  He was complimenting my decision to take what I viewed as a horrifically embarassing 'moment in mommyhood', and turn it into a life lesson.  He knew as well as I did that there are people who would have simply expressed their distaste with their child's actions and punished them in some disproportionate way.  What good would that have done?  Gavin would have had guilt for a fleeting moment, but would have still felt like he'd 'gotten away with it', even if I did send him to his room when we got home.  His solo time in his room would have given him oppourtunity think of ways to be 'sneakier' the next time.  And there would be a next time. 

But facing his transgression, owning up it, and verbalizing his contrition gave him perspective on the serverity of his action.  Dime store candy or not, the message is clear for Gavin.  And the message is clear for me, too.  There are bumps in the's in how you approach them.  I'm proud of my son for owning up to his error, and proud of my decision to give him the oppourtunity to do so.  If I can face this bump in the road with a level head (albeit tears in my eyes and a heavy heart), I can face the bump in the road of a Target rennovation with a lot more grace, and a lot less annoyance.  That is, the next time I make a trip to Target.  (curse you, SuperTarget...and the allure of your convienience--and lack of foil covered chocolate sports balls!)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Seussify my life

I am mom.  Mom I am.

That Mom-I-am, that Mom-I-am,
I did not like that Mom-I-am!
When I cannot run the fam.

Do you want to run the fam?
I do so want to run the fam,
I do so, do so Mom-I-am.

Would you, could you by yourself?
I have to, have to by myself!
Not all the time, just when he's gone,
The double-duty can make me yawn!

Would you, could you when you're sick?
I have to, have to when I'm sick!
Would you, could you have a job?
I have to, want to have a job!

You have a job and run the fam?
Yes I do, Mom-I-am!
My schedule's packed, my house a mess,
The laundry pile has me stressed.
I try to keep my mood in check,
Even when I am a wreck.

Could I, would I read a book?
Could I, would I bake and cook?
Do I want to fold the clothes?
I do not like to fold the clothes!
Could I, would I play a game?
Could I, would I help write a name?
Do I like to scrub the tub?
I do not like to scrub the tub,
I'd rather have a nice foot rub.

Do you want to run the fam?
I do so want to run the fam,
I do so, do so Mom-I-am!

There's lots to do as moms, you see
Especially when there's children--three!
Your time is precious, your temper, short.
You make up for it by building a fort.
Mac and cheese will win their heart,
Bath, book, and cuddles--each do their part.

That Mom-I-am, that Mom-I-am,
I'm angry at that Mom-I-am.
I'm angry when I loose my cool,
In the morning, on the way to school.
It starts the day in a negative way,
My heart and conscience have to pay.

The day was long and filled with stress,
I was a 'bad mom', I must confess.
The good news is my kids forgive,
I'll do my best so we don't relive.

I am mom, Mom I am.
Tomorrow I will run my fam.
I will not let my stress run me.
I will be strong, you'll see, you'll see.

Would you, could you run your fam?
I GET to, GET to Mom-I-am!

~For my kiddies...mommy's so sorry she lost her cool this morning.  You're little and loving.  You're just kids.  You're trying to help and for that I love you more than the moon!  Thank you for being so sweet and adorable when I picked you up today.  I loved our evening, and our bed time book.  The memories are precious to me!  Sweet dreams, my loves...xoxo...mommy

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years

Today is a day of rememberance.  A day of gratitude for those heroes who lost their lives both as innocent victims and as courageous rescuers who gave their lives while selflessly trying to save others.  The day the world stood still, and the day our world changed forever.  Today is a day about stories.  We all have one.

The setting for my own personal story was nestled in central Pennsylvania in a place referred to as 'Happy Valley'.  I was a junior at Penn State, living in an apartment building just off campus.  It was early morning, and I was getting ready for a day of class, and lunch with a friend from high school.  My roommates had just left when I turned my attention to The Today Show.  The scene of a burning tower in lower Manhattan filled the screen.  I ran to the window to yell out to my roommates what I was seeing on tv.  No sooner did they turn the corner to continue on their walk to campus, did I look back at the screen to see the second plane as it descended upon the second tower.  This time, I did not run to the window.  This time, I sat down in the middle of my bedroom floor, the wind knocked out of me.

At one point or another, I managed to peel myself off the floor and get myself across campus.  I don't remember the walk itself.  I remember getting to class, however, and my professor meeting us at the door to excuse us for the day.  I meandered across to the HUB, the student union building in the center of campus, to find a spot to sit in front of the television.  On any given day, the HUB is a bustling and lively building, a dull roar filling the atrium and hallways.  On that day, however, there was an eerie silence.  It wasn't an empty building by any means, quite the contrary.  In fact, it was a lot busier than normal.  But there was a hush over the crowd as tears, hugs, and stares of disbelief were exchanged by the students, strangers, staring at the screens that dotted the building.  I quickly realized we were literally witnessing history being made, and a shift in the way in which we view the world.

The rest of the day and that evening found me planted in front of the television, huddling with my roommates, tears streaming down my face and disbelief in what I was watching.  I'd occasionally try to make a phone call home, but the service was limited and spotty, (and the cell phones weren't quite near the calliber they are today). 

Over the days and weeks that followed, I, along with the rest of the country was mourning, coping, struggling to understand.  I witnessed the phrase 'e pluribus unum' ring true in the weeks that followed 9/11. Out of many, one. 

Fast foward ten years to this morning.  I woke before the kids for once, so I carried Raegan downstairs, and turned on the television to a channel that wasn't cartoons.  The images that filled the screen instantly took me back to that apartment; filled me with the apprehension and disbelief that I'd felt as I watched the scenes unfold ten years ago. 

At some point, the kids came stumbling downstairs and plopped next to me on the couch.  Normally, they immediately ask to watch 'their shows', but not today.  It was as if they could read the look on my face, know exactly why tears brimmed in my eyes.  We sat quietly for a while and the kids watched as the bell rang to mark moments of silence.  They listened as the names of the victims were read, and watched people make rubbings of names on the memorial that surrounded the footprint of where the Towers once stood. 

After several quiet minutes, Gavin asked me what I was watching.  I had become so captivated by the images on the screen, as I had been 10 years ago, I didn't register that my kids were watching along with me.  I was grateful the scenes from the memorials this morning weren't of the tragic images from that horrific day, but focused more on the healing process, the moving forward, and the honorable remeberance of those thousands of lives lost. 

I guess he wasn't satisfied by my silence, because he asked again.  I put on my 'kid gloves' and began to explain.  I wanted to keep things as basic as possible, remembering that they're just 5 and 3.  I think my explaination appeased their curiosity enough, because they bounced up from the couch, and asked me if they could go in the basement to watch Spongebob so I could watch 'my show'.

As much as I want to explain the significance of 9/11 to my kids, I know what I would want to say is beyond their level of comprehension.  Some day, I will explain it to them.  I will let them see the images from that day, and will share my story with them. 

As I sat and watched the coverage today, the memorial shows sharing stories of firefighters, wives, children, husbands, and Americans who were there that day; I thought about the ways in which 9/11 changed me. 

Some of those changes didn't come full circle until I became a mom, and I began realizing that I am responsible for teaching my kids everything.  I knew I'd have to teach them things along the way, but as they get older, it's interesteing to realize all of the things I'd never thought of before.  Beyond the ABC's, colors, and shoe-tying, there are things like compassion, empathy, and helping others.  They need to learn social skills, forgiveness, gratitude, and sacrifice.  The values I instill in my children have been shaped and formed and refined by the events of 9/11 and the time thereafter.  My mom instilled countless values in me as I grew up, however as I sat in the HUB some 10 years ago, I transformed.  I witnessed events that are etched into my brain, experienced feelings I never wish upon my own children, and watched as a nation came together, united in one cause and one feeling of overwhelming patriotism.

I'm not unlike Americans who are still deeply affected by the images from that horrific day.  I'm not unlike Americans who still cope with the loss our nation endured.  I'm not unlike Americans who give thanks to the heroes who gave their lives that day and who are grateful and support the loved ones of those heroes as they moved foward in their lives.  As unique as we all try to be, it is days like today where we realize just how similar we all are, how similar human nature behaves.  It's day like today when we realize how important it is to put differences aside, to join together for one purpose, and to never, ever forget.

E pluribus unum...and God Bless America.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Balancing act

The school year is in full-swing we're making the transition from a care-free and virtually 'timeless' summer to a life seemingly dominated by the rotating hands on the clock, but not without some minor revolts (mainly from the oldest and youngest members of our household!).  Each school year brings the opportunity to set goals, and I am not one to forego such an opportunity. 

There are plenty of *little* goals that I've set...being more thorough in my lesson plans, making more effective use of the little planning time I do get, communicating more with parents by way of the 'just because' phone calls I have left by the wayside since having little ones running (and shouting) around the house.  There are also goals I've set for myself in 'mom world', 'wife world', 'friend world', and the other 'worlds' in which I dabble.  But the overarching theme for these 'mini goals' centers around one word:


Seeking balance amongst all the various roles that I play has always been this just-out-of-reach dream that keeps me awake at night (in addition to the occasional *surprise* from a baby girl who likes to keep me on my toes).  With the re-introduction of the role 'out of the home working mommy of 3' finding its way back into my life, there are times when I fear the number of plates I have spinning in the air will outweigh the 8+ years of waitressing experience I rely on to keep things going (I also rely on this same experience to make dinner set up and clean up a far more efficient experience ;)

School days begin at 5:00 am (earlier if Raegan decides...), and wind down sometime between 10:00 and 11:00 pm.  The amount of work that I can accomplish in that window of hours can astonish (and exhaust) me as I sit back and think of it.  The fact that teachers are *on* is an exhausting and overwhelming concept in and of itself.  Add mommyhood and a household to run, friendships and relationships to maintain, along with the odds and ends of life...and you're left with very little time (if any) for yourself.  There's a new movie that I saw advertised this weekend called "I Don't Know How She Does It", that pretty much is the epitomical mantra of women--all women--mommies or not, working from home, away from home, and every combo in between...all women balance. 

My focus has shifted from not just 'balancing', but to achieving a more purposeful balance.  The pockets of time that I am blessed with each and every day to spend with my kids, my husband, my colleagues, my class of students, my friends...all are deserving a better *me*, a more present *me*. 

Too often it becomes easy to allow the clock to dominate our world, and of course there are times when it is absolutely necessary to 'live and die' by the ominous ticking, but in those (few) times of my day when the time doesn't necessarily matter, I've been working on focusing my energies in a more positive way--focusing more on being 'present'--rather than focusing on what's to come. 

Sounds like common sense, right?  It really is.  Each day, each moment, is a gift from God, so why not live it with a purpose, live it with appreciation for what it is. 

Reflecting on the mommy I have been, and comparing it with the mommy I strive to be, I find two varying schools of thought.  Every mommy has those moments of 'idealistic vs. realistic'.  I think the Realistic mommy showed her face far more in the past than the Idealistic.  Realistic mommy is a necessary side of motherhood, but if left unbalanced can rear her not-so-nice head and do some pretty regrettable things.  Snarky comments, being 'too busy' too often, discovering that 'shhh, mommy's on the phone' is in your repitoire a little too much, punishing without listening to the whole story, and generally exhibiting the idea of 'because I said so' are just a few examples of the downside of Realistic mommy.

Realistic mommy lives in the real world of motherhood.  The 'trenches' of mommyhood can be a scary, dirty, noisy, and lonely place.  Realistic mommy sees the practical side, responds with the quick-and-fast solution, and often times thinks about it afterwards.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Realistic mommy has a negative connotation--she definitely is a necessary side of the multi-faceted mommy coin. 

But what mommy-to-be didn't spend those blissful months of pregnancy envisioning what kind of mommy they'll be, catching mommies in action at the grocery store making on-the-fly (and often times not-so-great) parenting decisions and thinking to themselves (or verbalizing to their husbands) "we will never do that when we're parents".  I know I did. 

Enter children.  Enter reality.  As the years passed and the madness grew to a level that at times is far greater than I ever imagined for Randy and me...Realisitic mommy began to rear the less attractive side of her gray-haired and crow's feet speckled head--and far too often for my liking.

I spent a lot of time this summer gaining better perspective on my role as a mommy of 3, a working mommy of 3, and most especially a balanced working mommy of 3.  That leads me Idealistic mommy.  Idealistic mommy is the mommy you read about in the parenting magazines.  The mommy who creates decoupaged catepillars from old magazines and egg cartons while simultaneously vacuuming, makes homemade scented and edible play-doh, bakes fresh cookies three times a week, folds and hangs laundry the minute it exits the dryer (every.single.time.), and is basically the mom that Realisitic mommy loves to hate. 

But Idealistic mommy also realizes that Realistic mommy is validated in her decision to use apps on her iPhone to distract the kids so she can get just 5 minutes to use the bathroom without company, to set the clocks an hour ahead so you're only 15 short minutes from bedtime because your kindergartener can now tell time, and to offer to pay your daughter a dollar for each day she doesn't wet her pull-up (only after deciding to do this does Realistic mommy do the math; thus realizing single Pull-ups cost half that and therefore she's losing even more money--refer back to those on-the-fly decisions that are commonplace in Realisitic mommy's world).  And if  you're wondering?  Guilty.  On all three charges--and many more for that matter!

But I want to be better.  I want to be a mommy who appreciates the present, rather than reacts from it.  I want to be a mommy who is focused and balanced in her daily activities, who slows down and even stops from time to time to smell the roses.  I want to be the mommy who knows that yes, the 'to-do' list is a mile long and 'oh crap we just ran out of milk and I so don't feel like putting all three of them into the car for just a gallon of milk so I'll let them have soda for dinner', but is able to smile through it and cope.  I don't want to react.  Life happens, regardless of what you do, and it's the positive outlook, the ability to smile through it all, and be grateful for the small and insignificant 'woe-is-me-first-world problems'. 

My balance last week (and this) came in the form of my children (shocker, I know).  Last year, I'd get home from work and immediately begin the preparation for bedtime routine.  Dinner on the stove, cleaning up messes, de-cluttering, planning and stressing about the day yet to come.  Too often, I didn't sit.  I didn't play.  I didn't realize that bedtime was hours away, and my kids were craving attention from the one person who was busying herself with less important things.

Sure, things come up.  Phone calls happen.  Laundry needs to be switched.  Mail needs to be read and paperwork for school signed.  But it's the prioritizing and balancing and idealizing the present that is what I'm working on.  Notice I said working.  A work-in-progress, probably never to be perfected.  In the past, just saying that statement would have sent me into a mini panic attack, a tizzy, and possibly elevated my typically low blood pressure.  But it's ok.  The goal of 'perfection' is a non-entity.  "Balance" is my new mantra.

Bugga's into her oatmeal (I swear, don't let the face fool you!)

Dude is into his dinosaurs (and it's written alllll over his face!)

Princess is into be a mini-mommy (yet more inspiration for a more balanced mommy)

Legos dominate our after-school play

Baby sis looks on...

Snuggles from daddy (in our house, that's slightly better than snuggles from mommy)