Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Reflections

It's New Year's Eve and I can hardly believe another year has come and gone. It's been quite a year for our family, with some big changes.

I spent pretty much all my free time over the last 2 days putting together a photo montage. How is it that setting photos to music makes me cry? Anyway, this is the best of 2008, from our family to yours.

**Disclaimer: It's long - about 15 minutes total! Enjoy :)

View this montage created at One True Media
Reflections of 2008


I am happy. I am in the best place I've ever been in in my life. I enjoy a wonderful marriage to someone who is probably one of the last "good guys." We have a house full of kids who have brought more love into my life than I ever dreamed possible. This is the good life.

As for 2009? Who knows what it'll bring. I've learned to expect the unexpected.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Love and Marriage

This morning Michael sent me an email totally out of the blue. It was very sweet, just a very short note that said "I just wanted to tell you that you're beautiful and I love you." It made me all teary, it was so unexpected.

I've been thinking lately about our marriage and how good and strong it is. This past year has certainly been filled with change and trial, but I honestly feel like this has been the best year of our marriage yet.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Techie

Michael got me an iPhone for Christmas, and I am having way too much fun with it. It's really pretty sad, though, that this is what it's come to: carrying a mini computer around with me.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Potty Training Lilah: A Milestone


No accidents today!!!

She peed in the potty! She pooped in the potty! She wore the same panties from morning till night! She woke up from her nap dry (although I did put a Pullup on her for her nap). She even used the potty at the restaurant when we went out to dinner tonight!

Trying not to count my chickens before they hatch, but WOO HOO!!

This is an entire year and a half sooner than any of my other kids were potty trained! In fact, it was only earlier this year that I finally got the twins potty trained.

Yayy Lilah!!


Now let's see how tomorrow goes ;)

Potty Training Lilah: Status

Yesterday, with all the chaos of the holiday, we slacked, and as a result, Lilah had accidents all day long. We were having her sit on the potty, but not at regular intervals, and she was becoming resistant to the whole thing. Honestly, I was at the point of thinking it would be easy to throw in the towel and just put her back in a diaper. But, I know that this is going to take some determination and stick-with-it-edness, so we're back on track today. And so far, no accidents today - woo hoo! Setting the kitchen timer and letting her hear it go off every 20 - 30 minutes seems to be key right now. We'll see how the rest of the day goes.

More Thoughts on Birth

The article my friend sent me the other day has had me contemplating my own thoughts on birth again (this subject has been a passion of mine for a number of years), and I wanted to add to what I posted the other day.

The thing is, it's not just a matter of overhauling maternity care in the USA. It's got to start with changing people's - and especially women's - attitudes and feelings about birth. In western culture, birth is something that people fear. It's become, in people's minds, this dangerous process, a catastrophe waiting to happen. And the pain of giving birth - it's something that the majority of women seem to be terrified of. (And I feel that I am justified in making a judgment here since I was one of those women at one time.) Women are all too willing to hand over responsibility for their birth experiences to medical professionals, who in turn are all too willing to feed women's fears by propagating the notion that birth is inherently dangerous. How sad that so many women embrace the opportunity to disconnect from the process rather than allowing themselves to experience the primal force that has the power to change them forever.

So it has to start with changing people's attitudes about birth, because no matter how many midwives there are, no matter how many out-of-hospital birthing centers, no matter how willing insurance companies might become to pay for out-of-hospital births, the birthing market as it stands today is merely feeding a demand: the demand to have medical professionals handle the birthing process for women so that women can avoid as much of the fear and unpleasantness as possible.

One of my greatest hopes is that my daughters grow up aware of how amazing their bodies are, and feeling confident in the strength and power their bodies possess. I hope with all my heart that my daughters do not fear giving birth when it's their time, but embrace what their bodies were made to do.

*Sigh* All this birth talk has me feeling that old longing . . . .

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Scenes from a Christmas

It's hard to believe that 24 hours ago Michael and I were scrambling to get the last of the gifts wrapped and brought upstairs to put under the tree, and now it's all over - 364 days before we have to do it all again. The house is quiet, the kids are all in bed after a day of gluttony and excess, Michael's even in bed, so I'm enjoying a few minutes to myself to reflect on the day.

After all the gifts were opened, we had our traditional big breakfast a la Michael (I helped . . . I made french toast using egg nog and cinnamon bread - something new; it was pretty good) and spent the majority of the day putting new toys and gadgets together. For dinner Michael grilled steak and I made cheese fondue with apples, potatoes and bread for dipping, followed up by chocolate fondue for dessert. This has become our traditional Christmas dinner, and the kids look forward to the fondue. Fondue, if you've never had it, is a very social and interactive food. It's fun.

Then there was the clean-up, getting everyone to bed, and here I am.

Two things that stand out:

~ A phone call to my grandma. I called her to wish her a Merry Christmas and we had a nice chat . . . that is, until she first told me that my mother reads my blog (this isn't news to me; I am very well aware that she reads it and it's really neither here nor there to me. I only hope that she appreciates this window into my life), and then she told me that my brother is apparently "missing." Without going into a whole lot of history and detail, I have two brothers, one two years younger, and one 10 1/2 months older (yes, 10 1/2 months). I am estranged from both, as I am from my mother. My younger brother and I actually used to be very close, but that was a long time ago, and it really doesn't have anything to do with this. It's my older brother who my grandma says is missing. I haven't laid eyes on him for over 15 years, and it's been 13 years since I last spoke to him. He's led a very messed up life from what I know - could never hold a job, in and out of jail, drug problems, etc. Last I heard, he up and moved to Idaho several years ago. And now he's "missing." I'm not sure what that means exactly. And I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about it. I've often wondered how I would feel if I learned that something happened to one of my estranged family members, and I've never come up with an answer. My brother is an utter stranger to me. I feel a sadness that something might have befallen him, but it's the sadness felt for a stranger that you feel completely disconnected from. I have terrible memories of him, horrible things he did. I don't know how to feel.

So the phone call with my grandma kind of put a damper on the day for me.

~ Random acts of kindness: there is an elderly man who lives behind us. He lives alone. His kids are all grown and gone, and his wife passed away shortly before we moved into this house almost four years ago. Every Christmas that we've been here, he has quietly left something on our front porch a night or two before Christmas: gifts for the kids. And the gifts have gotten progressively more thoughtful and extravagant each year. He does it quietly, without ringing the bell, without any fanfare. And every year I am surprised because it's just not something I expect. We've done nothing to earn his kindness and generosity, and honestly I feel very undeserving. We are friendly to him when we run into him outside, but we've never gone out of our way to be extra neighborly to him or anything, and yet, he shows this kindness to my kids every Christmas, and I am so moved by it. So Michael opened the front door this morning to bring wood in for the fireplace and found a huge gift bag on the porch from "Santa Al," with musical instruments for the kids, Hotwheels, and a stuffed bear with some baby blankets and a bib that says "My First Christmas" on it for Finn. Really, I'm just speechless. It's not the gifts that bring me close to tears, it's the thougtfulness and kindness behind the gifts.

So that was our Christmas, and now some photos:

The whole bunch of them

Annabelle in her new robe, which I had to wrestle her out of later in the day



Kevin got a skateboard, among other things


A new baby for Lilah


Did I mention the gluttony and excess?


The girls' new dollhouse


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A subject near and dear to me

A friend sent me this article: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-block24-2008dec24,0,102434.story

Having given birth to 6 children, 4 of them in a hospital setting and 2 at home with a midwife in attendance, I can say with absolute certainty that I would never choose a hospital birth again unless there was a clear medical necessity. It's not about being brave (giving birth sans drugs hurts like a mofo!), it's about making choices that are in the best interests of me, my family, and my baby. And OB/GYN care just can't compare to midwifery care. All my prenatal appointments took place in my home, my midwife got to know all of my other kids and husband, and by the time I was in labor, it was like having a friend here with us - in fact, we have become friends. My homebirths definitely left me feeling more positive and fulfilled about the birth experience than any of my hospital births.

But aside from how happy I was with the experience, there is no denying that my homebirths cost a fraction of what my hospital births did, and I received better, more personalized care from my midwife than I ever did from an OB. And after having had to fight the doctors off of me with their scalpels for the birth of my twins, I have no doubt that Lilah's birth would have ended up a c-section after a week of prodromal labor had she been born in a hospital. I shudder to think how things would have gone with Finn had he been born in a hospital - he would have been whisked away from me the moment they suspected Down syndrome.

Comment

Michael said this morning, "Have you ever noticed that 'blog' sounds a lot like 'blab'?"

Umm . . . yeah. And your point is?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Potty Training Lilah: Day 2

Today went much like it did yesterday: she wore panties all day, sat on the potty willingly, and had three accidents - one poop and two pee. I still think that's not bad at all. We all piled into the truck to take Kevin to the orthodontist this morning and were gone for about an hour. For the trip out, I put a pull-up on over Lilah's panties, and when we got home, she was dry. I did the same thing for her nap - pull-up over panties - and she did wake up wet this time. She seems very proud to be moving up to being a big girl. I think it's all going to be just a matter of sticking with it.

Progress

Kids' Christmas gifts wrapped . . . check.

Christmas tree decorated . . . check.

Food bought for Christmas day . . . check.

Still to do: wrap Michael's gifts, which I'll do tonight since it's his night out.

Can't say the holiday spirit has struck me, but I'm feeling a bit less stressed and pressured.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Recap

Real quick because it's 11:30 and I just finished wrapping all the kids' xmas gifts and I'm pooped, but wanted to document a couple things for posterity:

~ Lilah wore panties all day today. She had 2 pee accidents and 1 poop accident, which is way better than I expected. All accidents took place before noon. I set the kitchen timer and had her sit on the potty every 20 minutes and she was very cooperative about it. Unlike the other kids, I am skipping the little potty chair and putting her right onto the big potty, and she's fine with it. Only problem is that it's hard to tell if she's actually peed into the big potty because of the water in the bowl (i.e., you can't see the pee). However, I have to assume that she did pee in the potty since she only had 2 pee accidents and they were both this morning. I put her in a diaper for her nap and she woke up dry. She is thrilled to be wearing big girl panties! It's so funny to watch her pulling them down and up - I swear, my chubby little girl's big butt gets in the way!

I am attempting potty training with Lilah much earlier than I did any of my other kids. The others were all past 3, and aside from Kevin, they were nightmares to potty train. At 2, Lilah seems interested and motivated, so I'm thinking this is my window of opportunity. Stay tuned.

~ Kevin acted as babysitter for the first time today. Lilah was napping and I left him home with the girls and Joey while I ran to Costco (I took Finn along). I was gone for an hour and I left explicit instructions about allowed activities. Kevin is very responsible, so I really felt okay about it. He'll be 12 in a couple of weeks. Does this make me a bad mom? Seriously, him being able to watch the younger kids for short periods like that is going to change my life.

G'night.

The Holiday Spirit

I'm just not feeling it. In fact, I can't remember the last time I felt it. Maybe it's the lack of religious affiliation? Or the lack of snow? Or the lack of extended family? I don't know. All I do know is that this time of year is usually not a time when I'm reveling in the goodwill of mankind, but rather, feeling pressured and stressed about getting gifts for my kids that I think they'll enjoy and wondering how the hell we're going to pay for it all when Christmas comes right on the heels of paying an insane property tax bill.

We finally got a (real) Christmas tree yesterday - four freaking days before Christmas. It's sitting in the middle of our "music room" (deemed that by the previous owners who made their piano the centerpiece of the small room, so we followed suit) in front of the bay window. However, it has yet to be decorated. I did no baking this year (unless you count the premade refrigerated dough I used to make sugar cookies with the kids last week). I haven't done baking in years. There was a time when I would spend a week making dozens and dozens of fancy holiday cookies and treats, but who has the time anymore? I finally have all my gifts bought and started the process of wrapping them last night, but I have a long way to go on that. I have not watched It's a Wonderful Life, something I like to do this time every year to remind myself how wonderful life is (plus, isn't Jimmy Stewart incredibly handsome??). My kids haven't watched a single holiday movie - no Charlie Brown Christmas, no Rudolph or Frosty. What's wrong with me? When Michael brought the kids' stockings up last night along with the tree ornaments, I actually felt frustrated because I failed to get any stocking stuffers this year and was therefore planning to skip the stockings and hope nobody noticed, but now the kids have seen their stockings and the expectations are there. Ugh. I haven't gone to the market to get all the trappings for our traditional big Christmas morning breakfast and fondue dinner - and if I don't get to the store somehow today or tomorrow (with 6 kids home on winter break), I'll fail on that count too.

Happy freaking holidays. I can't wait until it's all over.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Angry and Bitter

That's how I'm feeling about a certain someone right now. Someone who used to be a huge part of my life and an important part of my kids' lives, but who chose - that's right, chose - to no longer be a part of (most of) my kids' lives about a year or so ago. Someone who volunteered to take on a special role with my kids, and then just when Joey got attached and began having expectations that normally and understandably go along with the role she volunteered for, decided the role was too much for her, c'est la vie, thank you very much. She's caused so much hurt in my family and this weekend it was all brought right back to the surface once again.


But I'm going to be a bigger person and not drag her through the mud (like how I did that?).


Instead, I'll comment on what a nice time Michael and I had last night. We had a "date night" and went to one of our favorite restaurants and enjoyed good food, good drink, and good conversation.

The restaurant is up on a hill overlooking the city. Not the best photo, as it was taken on my phone, but you get the idea:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cookies











What I want to know is . . .

. . . exactly how much hair can a person lose before they are considered "balding?" Seriously. Well, sort of seriously. I am still in the throes of postpartum hair loss which set in about 3 months after Finn was born, and it is unbelievable the amount of hair that has come out of my head over the last almost 3 months. Every time I wash my hair and subsequently unclog the shower drain and then comb through my hair and pull gobs and gobs of hair out, I wonder how much longer this can go on. Well, many more months if this time is like the last few rounds of PP hair loss I've suffered through. I keep telling myself that I never went bald the other times I've been through this. But still. In all seriousness, I bet I've lost 1/3 of my hair volume over the last 3 months, no kidding. It's crazy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mommy Guilt: Pile it On

I love having a large family, I really do. I love having all these kids. Yeah, they drive me up the freaking wall sometimes, but we have a loud, busy house full of love. I've always maintained that having so many siblings enriches each of my children's lives far more than it forces them to sacrifice, and I really do believe that to be true.


But.


Today when I dropped the twins off at preschool, one of the teachers cheerily said to me, "So we'll see you for the class Christmas party at 10:45?" Umm, no. The truth is, I didn't even know it was today. I vaguely remember seeing a sign-up sheet for a potluck some time last week, but I ignored it, knowing that I wouldn't be able to come to the party (and I assumed the party would be on Friday, the last day before the kids' winter break, but that's neither here nor there). Why? Because I have two little ones at home with me: Lilah and Finn.


When I picked the girls up from preschool, Annabelle said to me, "All the mommies and daddies came to the party today. How come you didn't come to the party Mommy?" So I explained to her that Finn and Lilah are home with me and I don't have anyone else to take care of them so I can come to their class party.


A couple weeks ago, Joey had a field trip at school. He spent about a week before the field trip insisting that I had to go along as a Parent Helper. I explained to him, over and over, that I couldn't because I have Finn and Lilah to take care of. He wanted Daddy to stay home from work to be with the little ones so I could go on his field trip, but Daddy couldn't stay home that day. Joey even suggested that we have Grandpa Joe fly out from Florida to babysit so I could go.


This is one of the few areas that I carry some guilt about as far as the sheer number of kids we have. I've never been able to help in any of the kids' classrooms, or participate in class parties, or go on class field trips, because I always seem to have little ones at home. When I first quit my job after Joey was born and became an official stay-home-mom, I envisioned myself doing all of those things, and yet it's never come to pass. And I feel pretty awful about it at times. Like today.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Togetherness: Too Much of a Good Thing . . . or Why I Don't Homeschool

It's not their fault that they've been sick, or that it's been wet and cold and dreary outside, or that because of those things, they've been cooped up inside for days on end. But. They are driving me crazy and I've just about reached my limit.

Joey went back to school today, but the twins were home. They don't normally have school anyway on Tuesdays (they attend preschool 3X per week), but usually when they're home I can send them outside to play for good chunks of time - which is good for them and good for me. But it's all muddy outside because of all the rain we got yesterday, and they're still battling colds, so we all had puhlenty of together time again, indoors, today. Ugh. I can't even get them to nap.

By this afternoon they were literally stampeding through the house, chasing each other, and screaming like lunatics. As they pass me, I sternly point my finger at whichever one is passing me by and yell "STOP IT RIGHT NOW!" They respond with maniacal laughter. I don't scare them. They've completely trashed the house. I am only able to sit here right now and pour out my frustrations because they are watching Dora on TV (yes, I use the television to calm the beasts - sometimes it's the only way to get some peace and quiet around here. Sue me . . . or report me, or whatever).

They are so going to school tomorrow, colds or not. I need a break from all this togetherness.

I've been told . . .

. . . that I'm fabulous! Or, at least that my blog is ;)

Thank you, Liz!



And now I must pay it forward to 5 bloggers I find fabulous, and name 5 things I find fabulous. (Really, if I could send it back to Liz, I would, because her blog is fab - check it out if you haven't yet!)

5 Blogs I Think Are Fabulous:

Bitchin' Wives Club - need I say more?

The Seal Bark - I love Heather because she has a wonderful blog, she's the mom of 6 kids (like me), and she has a little one with Ds (like me). And she's really, really nice :)

The Way It Is - Kristin is funny and real.

What a Trip - you think your hands are full? Try raising triplets!

Unringing the Bell - Well. I just think Tricia is the most fab!

5 Things I Think Are Fabulous:

Ice Cream - can't live without it. I've tried.

Starbucks - see above.

Flannel sheets - I sleep on them year round. Try them - you'll never go back.

Writing/blogging - my therapy.

My husband - really and truly.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Artificial Christmas Tree Warning

This year we decided that we were going to do the earth-friendly thing and buy a fake Christmas tree. I've always been a die-hard fan of live Christmas trees, but my guilt has been getting to me.

So Michael brought home a fake tree tonight and discovered that it says on the box to wash your hands thoroughly after handling the tree because of lead in the plastic of the tree! I found this info online: http://www.christmastree.org/faketrees.cfm and http://www.checnet.org/healthehouse/education/articles-detail.asp?Main_ID=700.

Our tree is going back and we're going to get a live tree.

It's raining, it's pouring . . .

. . . and I'm home with sick kids, again. Blah. Saturday nobody even got out of their jammies. By Sunday, it was clear that Lilah and Annabelle still had colds, but the worst seemed to have passed, so we took the kids to a much needed outing at the park (actually, I dropped Michael and the kids off at the park while I ran some errands), which was good, as everyone was getting a little nutty with cabin fever. Then yesterday evening Joey developed a fever, which he still has this morning so I kept him home from school (which reduced him to tears - he LOVES school and wishes it was a 7-day a week arrangement). Daisy was again running to the bathroom every 10 minutes, so I kept her home as well. And since she and Annabelle are a package deal at this point, Annabelle is home too.

And it's raining. A lot. It started sometime shortly after I went to bed last night and hasn't let up. We need it, that's for sure. I guess it's as good a time as any for the kids to be home sick - at least we don't have to be out and running around in the rain. I'm generally not a big fan of rainy weather - it tends to get me down. But today it feels nice to be cozy in our warm house while the rain pounds away outside. I think I'll make some hot cocoa for the kids and maybe we'll make some sugar cookies later.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sometimes I'm not a very good mommy

I'm not the most patient or tolerant person in the world. I'm a little on the short-tempered side. These are shortcomings that I am fully aware of and despise about myself. And yet, they're hard to overcome.

I think I need to try harder with Annabelle. She's our little mischief-maker. I get angry at her a lot. And I know that if I don't find a better way to relate to her, we're going to end up with exactly what I feared about having daughters: a shitty mother-daughter relationship just like I enjoyed with my own mother while I was growing up.

A perfect example: she has this thing that involves sucking her fingers on one hand and simultaneously twirling/twisting her hair with the other. She's done this since she was an infant. The two fingers she has sucked all these years are now bumpy and the nails are malformed. The hair twirling has evolved into hair pulling. As in pulling out. (Am I freaking you out? It freaks me out.) I can't stand this habit of hers anymore. It drives me crazy. I. Want. Her. To. Just. Stop. It. So I'm constantly on her case about it. And I get mad at her for it. And she can't seem to stop, so it's turned into this battle ground between us, and a vicious cycle at that.

Tonight I was sitting on her bed reading bedtime stories. She starts with the finger sucking/hair yanking. I reach over and swat her hands away from her mouth/hair. She goes right back to it. I tell her to stop. She stops. Then goes right back to it. I get mad. I stop reading the stories. She goes to bed in tears. I feel like shit.

Michael says all she needs is lots of love. He's probably right. I suck. I need to try harder.

Friday, December 12, 2008

This is a nightmare

I am living in the House of Sick, and it ain't pretty.

Right now, all three girls are sick. Lilah is getting over a stomach bug that resulted in diarrhea, but now has a fever and a barking cough. Annabelle had a stomach bug over the weekend that had her throwing up. She got over that but now has the diarrhea. Daisy has the cough, fever, AND the diarrhea. I have the twins in pull-ups because they can't stop pooping :(

I am washing my hands raw.

This sucks.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Homegirls

I belong to a book club. We started as a group of only a handful of women who love to read, a little over 5 years ago. We've expanded to a group of 20-something over the years (although the core group that meets regularly is a bit smaller than that). Some of the original members have dropped, and we've added many new faces. We are comprised of housewives, attorneys, teachers, a college professor, and an actuary, among other callings. These are my special friends: fellow mothers and wives and lovers of books.



Last night we repeated a tradition we started last year: skip the December book discussion and go out for a nice dinner and gift (books, of course) exchange instead. Most of the group made it last night, although some were missed.

Clockwise from bottom left:
Monica, Jodi, Lisa B., Julia, Laurel, Wendy, Mary, Robin, Sheryl, me, Karyn,
and standing behind me and Karyn are Chris and Varsha
(yes, that's a slight . . . err, wardrobe malfunction you're seeing on me . . . oops)

. . . and the same people from the other end of the table:

We went to a fondue restaurant. The food was delish, the conversation (okay, gossip) stimulating, and I enjoyed the tastiest caramel apple martini . . . mmmmm!

Ladies, I hope we're still doing this when we're all old and wrinkled :)

I can't figure her out.

Daisy. I've mentioned her phobias. I just can't figure her out, though. The list of things she's afraid of has grown to the point that we've kind of figured out that it's ridiculous to even try to get her to get over these fears, but that it's more a matter of teaching her how to manage her fears. I've spent so much time lately being stressed out about her phobias, because they interfere with normal activities.

But then she goes and just surprises me and I don't know what to make of it.

She remains terrified of animals. That is a constant. It's been a terror of hers since she was 18 months - 2 years old. When she encounters an animal, she gets hysterical, to the point that I worry she might pass out (she never has).

She's afraid of public restrooms and refuses to use the bathroom at school, so will hold it the entire time.

However.

This last summer she also developed a terror of bugs - especially flies and bees. And she would react with the same hysteria that she does with dogs. But now she seems to be over that. She still doesn't like bees or flies, but she doesn't come completely unglued. Hmmm.

This morning was very interesting. Daisy and Annabelle both had their 4-year well check with the pediatrician. When we pulled into the parking garage there, Annabelle became afraid. And there was Daisy, telling Annabelle that there was nothing to be afraid of. Huh? Also, Daisy used to be terrified of elevators - she would freak out whenever we had to get on an elevator. We have to ride the elevator 4 times when we visit the pediatrician: one down from the parking garage, then one up to the dr.'s office, then down from the dr.'s office, and finally back up to the parking garage. Well, guess who isn't afraid of elevators anymore? Guess who actually laughs on them and thinks they're fun? Daisy. Seriously.

They both had to get shots at today's appt., one in each arm :( Annabelle was first, and cried (so did Mommy). Even after seeing her sister get shots and cry because of them, Daisy was raring to go for her turn - and she only flinched a little. She didn't cry, and she was so proud of how brave she was.

It all seems strange to me. But it makes me feel hopeful, too, that maybe over time she'll learn to deal with her other fears.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sometimes, a little thing is a big thing.

Joey came home from school today and proudly announced that he has his very first loose tooth. He's nearly 6 1/2 years old, so for months now, I've known this was going to happen any time. And, too, I've been through this countless times with Kevin, obviously. But there's something about that very first loose tooth. When he told me, and with this big, proud grin on his face, I got all choked up. I had to hug him just to compose myself.

Where did my baby go?



Monday, December 8, 2008

The kind of guy he is

My husband, that is. He stopped on his way home from work tonight and bought a flower for each of his girls.



I think I'll keep him.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ten Years

On December 7, 1998 my dad died. It was very sudden. He was only 51 years old. He died of a massive heart attack while sitting in his favorite chair at home, alone except for his favorite cat that his wife found curled on his lap when she arrived home and found him.

I can hardly believe that it's been 10 years. In the beginning, when he died, I remember the distinct feeling of suffocating, of literally not being able to breathe. In the days and weeks that followed, my grief was profound. I had never lost anyone close to me before, and I felt as if a part of me had died with him. I couldn't imagine ever being able to smile again, and I couldn't understand how the sun could keep rising and setting every day, and how people could go on with their daily lives as if nothing had happened, when my whole world had been turned upside down.

~~~

My dad, Joseph Ernest Hammers, was no saint. The truth is, he was a pretty crappy father when I was growing up. He was only 20 when I was born, his second of 3 kids that were to come in the span of 3 years. He and my mother were so young and clearly not ready for marriage or raising a family. He was an alcoholic since before I was ever born. He was abusive and absent a lot. I grew up being afraid of him - his temper, especially when bolstered with alcohol, was a truly frightening thing to behold. But I was also in awe of him. He seemed bigger than life, and I wanted his love and approval, I think, more than anything.

In my teenage years, we went through a few bouts of not speaking. Somehow, though, in my adulthood, he and I made peace and managed to forge a friendship, and we became very close. I really can't say how it happened. I know he became reflective when he got a little older, and he had a lot of remorse about the kind of father he had been. It's not too hard to forgive someone who sees where they've messed up and genuinely feels sorry for it.

So for about 10 years I had a really good relationship with my dad. He never overcame his drinking problem, but at least he no longer became violent and mean when he drank. He turned into a sloppy, emotional drunk. But he was my dad, and he treated me with kindness and respect, and actually was my biggest fan for a good chunk of time. We talked on the phone at least a couple times a week. He would drive down from Santa Cruz and visit us, and he would buy a plane ticket for me to fly up to visit him, and we would hang out, cook, eat, ride their horses, and he even taught me how to shoot a gun.

Here are some things I remember about my dad: he was sarcastic and could always make me laugh. He always told me how proud he was of me. He loved a good dirty joke, and had no qualms about passing them on to me. He was extremely bright but very down to earth. He was humble. He never tried to impress anyone, and was never impressed by anyone who boasted or put on airs. He was kind of a throwback to the 60's/70's . . . an aging hippy sort. I always thought my dad was way cooler than other people's dads because he was young and handsome and he rode a motorcycle. He had a beautiful singing voice and could belt out Elvis and Roy Orbison tunes like nobody else. He called me "Lolly" from the time I was born until he died. He was a huge fan of Laurel & Hardy and The Honeymooners. He could fix or build anything, it seemed. He taught me how to ride a bike. Family lore has it that he potty trained me when my mother couldn't. When I was a kid, he used to pay me a quarter to walk on his back. His presence filled the room even when he wasn't saying a word. His hugs felt like they would swallow you up. He was the only person to support me when I continued to nurse Kevin past a year. Everyone else was giving me a hard time about it by then, so I went into hiding with it and became a closet nurser. My dad was down visiting us and he caught me hiding upstairs and nursing Kevin and he said "You don't have to hide that from me, and you don't have to explain yourself to me. I know you're doing what's best for that little boy." He hated all the feuds going on in our family and his greatest hope was to see everyone mend fences, which, sadly, did not happen. He got to be in Kevin's life for almost 2 years, and he was proving to be a much better grandfather than he had been a father. Kevin called him "Papa Joe." Joey is named after my dad. My dad lived hard and abused his body to the extreme. When he died, it was a shock, but not really surprising I guess. I felt like I had been waiting for him to die for years, just because of the way he lived.

He got sick on Thanksgiving, 1998. I remember talking to him on the phone that day and he said he wasn't feeling well. I got a call from my brother later saying that Dad was in the hospital. Apparently he had collapsed in his kitchen (his wife was out of town at the time, so he was alone), but managed to call a friend who came over and called 911. He was rushed to the hospital and found to be hemhorraging internally. After several transfusions and tests, he was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease and he spent about a week in the hospital. When he was released, he was weak and exhausted, but his doctor expected him to make a full recovery. It was only a few days later that he died.

I still miss my dad deeply. There will always be an emptiness in my heart. If I concentrate, I can still hear his voice. I wish he could know my kids, and they him.

I no longer believe in God, or heaven or hell. I believe that the afterlife is remaining in people's memories. That's where we go when we die . . . we live on in people's hearts and memories. And that's where my dad is. He lives on in me and in my kids too. I see glimpses of him in my kids - a facial expression here, a mannerism there.


Here's his senior picture from high school. He was so handsome!
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This is me and my dad in 1995. He was 48 and I was 28.


This was the last picture taken of Kevin and his Papa Joe.

It was October, 1998, just a couple months before my dad died.


I've noticed a strong resemblance lately between Lilah and my dad.

She's got his eyes and the Hammers nose.

Friday, December 5, 2008

How do you deal with someone who breaks a kid's heart?

How do you deal with a so-called grownup who breaks a little kid's heart? Who has probably caused a permanent emotional scar to this child who is too young and too trusting to understand how selfish and callous adults can be? Someone who refuses to take any responsibility for their choices and behavior? How do you find forgiveness for somebody who's not even sorry? How do you avoid letting your heart be consumed with bitterness against such a person? How do you face this person and look them in the eye, because they must remain at least on the fringes of your life through no choice of your own?

I don't mean to be cryptic. Some of you know the whole back story here and probably get whom I'm talking about. I'm not going to bother laying it out for everyone else, because this person isn't worth the time and effort.

It continues to eat at me, though, and is brought to the surface every time that Joey, like today, asks a question about this person, showing that his little heart still wants to believe in the goodness of people, even people who hurt him.

Me, the putz

I'll start this with a confession: I have a phobia of getting lost while driving. This phobia manifests itself as anxiety and sometimes avoidance of driving by myself to places I've never been to - especially at night. This includes addresses that are just across town. For some reason, I lose my sense of direction pretty easily, I get disoriented, and I've been known to go into panic mode and start crying if I miss a turn. And missing a turn is not all that unusual for me since my night vision pretty much sucks. It blows me away how some people can fly to a different state, rent a car, and just start driving around with confidence. I would be a nervous wreck.

Anyhow, this story isn't all that dramatic, but now that you have the back-story, it'll make more sense.

So last night I was supposed to meet some girlfriends at Super Suppers across town. I've never been there before, so I got directions from the internet and carefully examined the map that popped up as well as the text driving directions. It looked pretty straightforward, although it called for freeway driving (freeway driving at night, another source of anxiety for me). Sometimes I will actually do a trial run during the day to a new address just to make sure I can find the place without a hitch. But this time I didn't. So I rush the kids through dinner last night, put Finn to bed early, and head out the door. I get in my truck, get on the freeway, exit where I'm supposed to, and . . . somewhere I miss a turn. By the time I realize I've way overshot where I was supposed to turn, I've already made a loop and am more than halfway back home. I wasn't about to turn around and try and look for the mysterious street I had missed (my big fear, ridiculous as it might be, when I miss a turn is that I'll somehow end up in a different county and be forever lost). Meanwhile, the girls I was supposed to meet are wondering where I am. I get home, feeling like a complete idiot, and the phone rings. It's one of my friends calling to check on me, so I had to explain to her what had happened. Very embarassing.

Check out my friend's new blog

My friend, Tracy, has started her own blog: Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. Check her out!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What a scene

While Finn was having physical therapy this morning, the three girls were playing out in the backyard. Suddenly Annabelle comes in, crying and just generally freaking out. I could tell by the way she was walking that she had had an accident in her pants. So I get up from the living room floor, leaving Finn with the PT and take Annabelle into the bathroom to clean her up. Now she starts crying "No Mommy! It hurts! No!" (I wasn't doing anything to her except trying to get her wet pants off.) And on and on. Great. How must this look to the therapist who, I'm sure, can hear every word? I finally get her undressed from the waist down and tell her to lean over the tub so I can clean her bottom. Bending down, she smacks her nose on the edge of the tub and starts really screaming bloody murder! And there was a little blood coming from her nose. Holy crap. Now it not only sounds like I'm beating the daylights out of her, it looks like it too.

It's days like this that confirm for me that motherhood was the perfect career choice for me :/

I slept!

I slept, all night long! I went to bed at 10, got up once to pee and slept till my alarm went off this morning. Lilah apparently woke up screaming a couple times (night terrors??), but Michael got up with her. I feel like a new person today :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Conspiracy Theory

I have a theory that my family is involved in a conspiracy to deprive me of sleep. I don't know what their motive is - maybe it's just a mode of torture to pay me back for . . . I don't know what. I'll spare you all another play-by-play, but in a nutshell, I've been up since 1:00 a.m., due to a snoring husband and crying children. And this is the second night in a row that I barely got any sleep. It's enough to drive a person over the edge.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mommy Bod

There is this picture of me sitting on a shelf in our house:





This picture has been mocking me lately. Look at me! I weighed about 115 pounds here, and look how flat my stomach was. And this was after having a kid!

This was taken 8 years ago. Obviously time and a few ensuing pregnancies (including a full-term twin pregnancy and a pregnancy that included polyhydramnios which resulted in my getting just about as big as I did with with the twins) have taken their toll. Realistically, I know I don't look all that bad now, all things considered. Yeah, I'm quite a few pounds over that weight, but for my height I'm still within the range considered healthy. Still, what I wouldn't give to look like that again! But I know I'll never get down to that weight again without starving myself, and even if I did, I still wouldn't look like that without surgery.

I'm having serious body image issues lately. Kind of a love hate-hate thing. I'm trying to love myself and feel good about the fact that this body has grown 6 amazing, beautiful little humans. All the flab and mush, they're my battle scars. I've earned it. Still, I'm tired of wearing baggy shirts to hide the leftover belly. I'm tired of feeling so crappy about myself. I want to fit into my old jeans again, and not my new ones that are 2 sizes bigger than my old ones. I want to stop cringing every time Michael puts his hand on my belly. I don't want to look so "Mommish."

I don't know what my point is. Just not feeling real good about myself these days.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oh yeah?

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Okay, she's not really doing what it looks like she's doing. I mean, she is, but actually, she hurt her finger and was showing it to her daddy who, of course, grabbed the camera. You have to admit it's funny . . . in a disturbing sort of way.

I'm sorry, I've just never outgrown that adolescent brand of humor :D

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving


It was a really nice holiday . . . pretty much perfect, in fact. Thanksgiving dinner delicious and low-stress thanks to Marie Callender's, and we had the opportunity to catch up with some old friends, Oskar and Michelle, whom we haven't spent time with in far too long.
Today has been a lazy day. Black Friday? Bah. No thanks. I'll do most of my Christmas shopping online, thank you very much. Kevin is at his cousin's today, and the littles have spent a good part of the day playing out in the backyard. I got a jump start on our family holiday card today, which is usually a project unto itself every year. Maybe we'll get some Christmas decorating done this weekend (yayy, still two more days left in the weekend!). This year we are caving in and buying a fake tree. I've always been a die-hard fan of live Christmas trees, but it's hard to justify it anymore - they cost too much, die too quickly, make too much of a mess, and yeah, I feel bad being part of the masses that kill a beautiful living thing for something so superficial. So a fake tree it will be from here on out.
And that's all for now!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankfulness and a confession

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(The raspy voice in the background is moi . . . day 3 of laryngitis.) Lilah, I'm guessing, is thankful for the nap she is taking right now (I'm thankful for it too!) . . . oh, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner . . . and snacks (the girl likes her food). Finn is thankful for boobs.

Confession: I don't cook Thanksgiving dinner. Two years ago I went out on a limb and ordered the whole shebang from a local restaurant, and I've never looked back. I don't enjoy cooking and I'm not all that good at it anyway. This way is better for everyone involved. It tastes better, it minimizes my stress level, and it probably costs less than it would if we bought everything individually and cooked it all ourselves. Some friends are coming over in a little while to share in the festivities with us. We are a house and family of plenty, and for that I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Buggin'

We received a notice a while back from Annabelle and Daisy's preschool teacher that she was going to be performing an "assessment" on each of the kids. I'm still not exactly sure what the purpose of the assessment was - to assess kindergarten readiness? I'm thinking not, not so early in the preschool year anyway. So probably just to guage where they're at with general social and acacemic skills to see what their strengths and weaknesses are.

So we got the girls' assessment reports back today. Both were okay and contained some nice comments from the teacher about how well they play with other kids, follow directions (Annabelle?!), sit and listen when appropriate (again, Annabelle?!), etc.

I was actually a little nervous about opening the envelope containing Daisy's assessment. Who knows what I was going to find in light of her "issues" (phobias and speech). But all in all, it was very similar to Annabelle's and very positive . . . except . . . EXCEPT, the teacher wrote that Daisy can only count to 5 (!!) and she did not check the box on "I recognize my name." What?!? Now, I have to assume that her failure to check that box was an oversight - there's just no other explanation for it. Daisy most certainly knows her name, and often corrects me when I call her by one of her siblings' names (which happens about 48 times a day - I figure at this point, all their names are pretty interchangeable). Also, I asked Daisy to count for me after I looked at this assessment report and she counted all the way to 29 with no problem. So, what the hell?

It just has me thinking: firstly, an assessment is only as good as the person performing it. Also, what does an assessment really say about any person? Really? It only says what that person can do at that exact moment. It says nothing about who they are or what they're capable of outside of an "assessment" environment and out in the real world. And why does this bother me so much? Well, because it's my kid, first of all. And second of all, I know that we're going to be faced with countless assessments like this concerning Finn over the years to come, and it just hurts me somewhere inside that a child can supposedly be reduced to a written assessment like this that really gives a very one-dimensional portrayal of them - and yet, so much weight is given to these reports.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Writing as punishment

Joey got in trouble yesterday. He and the girls were fighting . . . err, playing, out in the backyard and I heard Joey yell at one of them, "I HATE YOU!!" What?!? That kind of talk doesn't fly around here. So I went down and marched him upstairs and told him he needed to write a whole page for me about why it's wrong to say something like that. Here's what he wrote:

1. It's really mean to say that.
2. It hearts people feelings a lot.
3. You should never say I hate you.
4. You will get in big troble.
5. It's really mean.
6. It's a mean sentance.
7. It will make you cry.
8. You sould say your really really sorry.
9. You will get a punishment.
10. You'll get a spanking.
11. You'll get hot soss on your tung and it will heart.
12. It's mean.
13. You'll have to hug and say sorry.
14. You will get yelled at.
15. You will be sorry.
16. They'll say something mean back.
17. It's not nice at all.
18. They won't like it.
19. You should never say something mean like that.
20. You'll have to write something nice.
21. You'll get something taken away.
22. It's bad.
23. You'll get a timeout.
24. And say that's in troble.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Blah

That's how I'm feeling. Blah. Run down. I think I'm on the verge of getting sick. I feel it settling in my chest and my voice is going hoarse. I'm about due - it's been nearly a year since I've had anything.

Today was a busy day: stripping beds, laundry (which is endless around here), Target, book store, grocery shopping, baths. Thank goodness Michael cooked. I'm glad it's a short week this week.

A fly on the wall

"Finally, in reply to Jen's comment - YES Lisa is AMAZING - the house is always clean, the kids great, etc. I know I always feel like I must be doing something wrong when I can't keep my 2 kids under control and my house clean!"

My good friend, Lisa B., left this comment on my other blog.


Sigh.


It's just not true. I know this is said from love, but it makes me feel like a fraud. Why do people think this about me? It's a rare day that I truly feel like Super Mom. Most days I feel like I'm failing in more ways than one, and every single day I start the day off vowing to be a better mom than I usually end up being.

My house is not always clean. I am fortunate enough to have a housekeeper who comes once a week and does all the heavy cleaning: mopping, vaccuuming, cleaning the bathrooms, dusting, etc. (okay, she breaks things and lies about it too, but let's not go there right now). Aside from that, the kids trash the house every day. There are usually toys and books and games littered across the floor from the playroom to the bedrooms to the living room. I am an anal retentive control freak, that is true. So I do make sure that things mostly get picked up by the end of the day (so they can start the whole mess over the next day of course). But it's just not true that my house is always clean, and for some reason a lot of my friends have this misconception. Also, my kids are not always great. They're at heart all good kids (well, except for Annabelle who I am convinced is the spawn of the Devil), but they fight and bicker and whine and talk back and do all the bratty things that everyone else's kids do. And I yell. You could reasonably call me Old Yeller. I yell and I use ridiculous threats ("If you don't stop that right now, I'm never going to feed you again!" . . . and then I have to remind myself that by law I must feed them . . .). And I spank. Which I was never ever going to do. (And by spank I mean giving a good solid swat to the butt, not beating the crap out of them with a belt or kitchen utensil like my own parents did . . . but I digress.) There are days that I become so overwhelmed and frustrated by this whole mom thing that I close myself in the bathroom and cry (I don't know why I bother with the bathroom - the kids just barge right in usually). When I see Michael's car pull into the driveway every evening, I swear I come close to crying actual tears of relief.

Anyway, my house is like everyone else's house pretty much. It might be true that I put my best foot forward when other people are here, and maybe that's where the impression of Super Mom comes from. But if you could be a fly on the wall in my house for a day, you would quickly see the truth of the matter.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Seeds

Ever since I started documenting our family's life since Finn's birth in Finnian's Journey, people have told me that I ought to write something for real, like a book based on my blog. Actually, I've been told even before this that I should look into getting published, like when I used to write essays on motherhood for my MOMS Club newsletter.

I'm not blogging about this here to brag. The truth is, I have a lot of doubt about my writing abilities. Have you seen some of the other stuff out there? Seriously. The stuff I write pales in comparison to even some of the other blogs I follow. I think I have a pretty good handle on sentence structure, and proper grammar and stuff like that. But do I have the ability to move people with my writing? To hold someone's interest through maybe a few hundred pages? I don't know. I'm told that I do, but the doubty voice in my head usually says "Oh, they're just being nice." Jennifer Graf Groneberg, the author of Road Map to Holland, even commented on my blog today that she thinks I should write. But gosh, really? Does she mean it?

But.

I've actually (secretly) fantasized about being a published writer for many years. I used to fantasize about writing a novel. I could come up with these (I thought) great story lines in my head, but I could never get past the outline stage. I don't think I have the imagination to perform real character development, plot, and all that.

Essays, though. I can write about things that are in my head, things that are in my heart, things in my life. True things. Maybe that's my niche.

I would love to have my own experience with Finn and his dianosis published. Imagine thousands of other people reading it and benefitting from it in some way. Wow. But I don't know if I really do have the talent necessary for anyone to actually be interested in publishing what I have to write. I even asked Michael today what he thinks. And that was hard, to bring myself to ask him, "Do you think I can write?" because (a) I think he's a brilliant writer, although a completely different sort of writer, (b) I value his opinion too much to not be hurt if he said "no," and (c) asking him is akin to presuming that I do have some talent, which feels weird. Anyway, he said, yes, he thinks I can write, and even that it's worth at least looking into getting published.

I don't know, though. Where would I even start? I haven't a clue. But the seeds are there.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Pregnant Man"

I just read that "he" is pregnant again. You know, that "guy," Thomas Beattie I think his name is. Okay, here's the deal: a woman who has her breasts removed and takes male hormones to achieve a deeper voice and facial hair does NOT a man make. She's still got a uterus and all her outer girlie parts. She gets pregnant and gives birth. That is a woman, not a man. Men have penises and testicles and . . . well, and no uteruses or vaginas.

I have no problem with the moral aspect of her/him (?) raising kids. Whatever. If the kids are getting love and all the other stuff kids need, I think that's just dandy. It just rubs me the wrong way - as a woman - to hear and read this person called the "Pregnant Man" and to be touted as some medical marvel, the first "man" to ever get pregnant and give birth. She's not a man for crap's sake!

Thank you.

I'm It

Since the kids are all still napping, I'm indulging in the moment by stuffing my face with brownie bites left over from my book club meeting last night and participating in one of these silly, fun questionnaires:

1. Who was your 1st love? His name was David C. We were both 11, and he was the first boy I went steady with, which basically involved holding hands and calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend. He stole a necklace from his mom and gave it to me. He also bought me a goldfish which I ended up having for a couple of years until it died. He wanted to french kiss me and I was absolutely appalled at the thought of someone putting their tongue in my mouth, or vice versa. He broke up with me (perhaps over the tongue thing?), and we moved away shortly thereafter. He was the first person I was truly heartbroken over. I remember crying my eyes out and honestly feeling like I was never ever going to get over him. It all seems so quaint now.

2. Do you still talk to your first love? Nahh. I never laid eyes on him again after we moved, and that was 30 years ago.

3. What was your 1st alcoholic drink? Unless my dad gave me beer when I was a tot (which wouldn't surprise me, but which I also wouldn't have any memory of), my first alcoholic drink was something my friends and I called "Jungle Juice" which basically was whatever hard liquor could be found in a parent's liquor cabinet all mixed together. It tasted something like gasoline. I was 13 years old, and I got drunk - the first time I ever drank. Sad.

4. What was your 1st job? Aside from babysitting, my first real job was at Barro's Pizza. Which made me feel very cool. Way cooler than my friends who were wearing polyester uniforms and working at McDonald's.

5. What was your 1st car? A 1972 Dodge Dart, given to me by my great aunt. Turd brown with a white vinyl top. I named it Spanky.

6. Whose the last person you text today? I haven't texted anyone today. The last person I texted was Michael, yesterday.

7. Who is the person you first thought of this morning? Gosh. I don't know. My first thought was not about anyone. My first thought was "Shit, it's 5:30 already?" My second thought was "I gotta pee!" When I eventually got around to thinking about a person, I'm sure it was Finn.

8. Who was your 1st grade teacher? I honestly can't remember. We moved pretty much every year when I was a kid, so every year it was a new school, sometimes two different schools in one school year. I can't remember many of the teachers I had.

9. Where did you go on your 1st airplane ride? Nevada, and it wasn't until I was about 25 years old.

10. Who was your 1st best friend & are you still friends with them? Gosh, hard to remember. I remember a blond girl named Robin in very early grade school.

11. What was your 1st sport played? I didn't participate in organized league sports growing up, but I played a lot of baseball out in the street with my brothers and the neighborhood gang. I can still throw a ball and hit a ball pretty well.

12. Where was your 1st sleep over? Not counting relatives, the first sleep over I remember was at a school friend, Heidi's house. I remember she was this little thing with red hair and she was allergic to dairy.

13. Who was the 1st person you talked to today? Kevin and Joey. As in, "Time to get up for school!"

14. Whose wedding were you in for the 1st time? My mother's second wedding. I remember she put all this hideous blue eyeshadow on me. But it was the '80s so . . .

15. What was the 1st thing you did in the morning? Went pee.

16. What was the 1st concert you went to? Ratt.

17. What was your 1st tattoo or piercing? I believe it was for my 6th birthday. My mother sent me down the street to a neighbor's house (by myself) to get a home ear-piercing job. The woman put clothespins on my earlobes to numb them (didn't work) and then stuck big sewing needles through my earlobes. I later added additional ear piercings myself. My first tattoo was of a butterfly on my hip to symbolize the changes my life was undergoing after my first marriage ended and my first husband died. It was sort of my statement of independence since I had long wanted a tattoo and my husband had always told me that he would divorce me if I got one. It was also in memory of my dad who had passed away; he had a butterfly tattoo on his back. I added a smaller butterfly not long after to represent Kevin, since he and I were going through a lot of transformation together at the time. After Lilah was born 2 years ago, I got a tattoo on my arm of two intertwined hearts representing me and Michael, and 5 flowers underneath, one for each of our children. After Finn was born, I had a flower added for him.

18. What's the 1st foreign country that you went to? Mexico.

19. What was your 1st run in with the law? Well, I got caught shoplifting at Mervyn's when I was 14. Security grabbed us right outside the store (my girlfriends and I were stealing bathing suits) and hauled us upstairs to the business office and called our parents. But no police were involved. Does that count? I've never been arrested, and the only ticket I've ever gotten was for tossing a lit cigarette out my window when I was driving on the freeway.

20. When was your 1st detention? I really don't remember ever getting detention. I was a pretty good kid in school.

21. Who was the 1st person the break your heart? Definitely my parents.

22. Who was your 1st roommate? Living away from home roommate? Kelly.

23. Where did you go for your 1st limo ride? To the church for my step-sister's mother's wedding (convoluted, eh?)

I tag you!

Ssssshhhh . . . do you hear that?

It's the sounds of quiet. Of four children napping while their two older brothers are at school (Daisy and Annabelle actually asked to take a nap when I got them home from preschool!). It's the sound of Mommy eating her lunch in peace without having to give half of it away to little mooches. Do you hear that tapping? It's the sound of Mommy typing on her laptop. And it's the only sound in the house!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Yee Haw!

Joey's first grade class had a Hoe Down this morning, complete with square dancing and chili and corn bread afterwards.

I cannot, to this day, go to any school function for my kids - whether it be a performance like this, a parent/teacher conference, or Open House - without crying. It's something I've always been rather embarassed about. Sometimes it feels like there must be something wrong with me, that seeing this part of my children's lives, that is somehow separate from me, always brings me to tears. Another mom who was there today, though, explained it in one word to me: pride. And it's true. I just feel so proud of my kids, of who they have become, who they are on their way to becoming, and seeing their life at school is such a bold illustration of that.


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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Happily Ever After

I've been thinking lately about my life, as it is right now. Actually, I think about it a lot. Having been through some really hard times in the past, I try to make a point of taking a moment every day to reflect on all that is good in my life. But being that it's the season to acknowledge what we are grateful for, I wanted to put it into written words.

Happily ever after. That's what I'm living. That's not to say that everything in my life is perfect. Far from it.

My dad died almost 10 years ago, and I still miss him terribly. My kids will never know him, and that is something that makes me very sad. I don't have a relationship with my mother . . . it's just an impossibility that I accepted a long time ago. I am also estranged from a younger brother whom I grew up being extremely close to. Michael and I had a baby this past summer who was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Those are the big minuses at this point.

But.

My dad still lives in my heart, and in my children. I see little glimpses of him in a gesture here, a facial expression there. I have wonderful, loving friends who have become like family to me. Finn's diagnosis hasn't turned out to be the tragedy I anticipated. I love him with all my heart and can't imagine him not being a part of our family. I have a houseful of kids - something I longed for for so many years (even if they do drive me to the brink of insanity pretty regularly).

I have a husband who I just can't say enough good things about. He's my best friend. As cliche and contrived as that sounds, it's the truth. He's loving, devoted, honest, and loyal. He's the first person I want to talk to when something happens, big or trivial. He makes me laugh until I cry. This is not blissful newlywed ignorance talking. We've been married for almost 7 1/2 years. We've had our ups and downs. We've worked very hard to have a good, strong marriage. There are still - and always will be - hot button issues between us, emotionally charged things that we do not see eye to eye on. But we know how to weather the down times and come back together even stronger.

I don't know what the future holds for me, for us. I know very well that things can change in the blink of an eye. We still have the teenage years to look forward to with our kids (and Kevin is fast approaching that stage). I have three daughters who will be hitting puberty just as I'm probably going to be hitting menopause - fun times! My biggest fear is losing Michael. He doesn't take the best care of himself, and is a prime candidate for a heart attack at some point. I worry a lot about that.

So, no, life is not perfect . . . but it is perfect, with all of its imperfections. This is my happily ever after. I'm living it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kid Stuff

On Daisy:

I sent this email to Daisy's speech therapist this evening:

Hi Tara - I meant to get this note to you all day, and the day just got away from me. I wanted to let you know that Daisy won't be at school tomorrow (Wednesday). The preschool class is having live animals in the class, and Daisy would never be able to deal with that. (Has any progress been made with the school psychologist, by the way?)

I wanted to tell you, too, that it already seems as though Daisy is making some progress with some of her sounds! She is able to say the F sound and the L sound when I work with her on those. When she's not conscious of it, she still defaults to her substituted sounds, but when made conscious of it, she can do it. I'm so pleased.

See you on Friday!

Lisa M.

Her response:

Lisa - Thank you for letting me know. I too see a difference right away. During speech on Friday I did initial benchmark testing with Daisy while we waited for the other students to arrive and she was able to produce the/f/ sound in all positions of a word with 85% accuracy. /L/ was the sound we targeted on Friday. At first she was struggling to find the correct place for her tongue but by the end of our session she was doing it correctly without any cues from me.

I have told the psychologist (several times) the problem is that he is only here on Tuesdays. He did get to meet her on Friday for a short few minutes during our speech session since he was here for an IEP meeting. He is planning to give you a call to get some more information, however it won't be until he is back here on Tuesday (next week).

Daisy is very smart. She takes to new strategies so easily. I am confident that this early intervention will result in great gains and she most likely won't need speech for very long. Her language (comprehension and expression) skills are very strong. There is no concern in that area.

I am glad to hear that you are seeing progress already. See you on Friday.

Tara

I really am so pleased. The note back from the speech teacher was very reassuring.

As far as the issue with the live animals . . . well, Daisy is an extremely phobic little girl. She's afraid of a lot of things - any kind of animal, insect, or creature that's not human, plus a whole host of other things. She started manifesting these fears when she was around 2 and all this time (as with her speech issues), we waited for her to outgrow them. Her phobias have gotten to the point of interfering with normal activities (for instance, walking to school to pick up Joey inevitably involves watching Daisy get hysterical because we almost always encounter somebody walking their dog; she can't attend birthday parties or playdates at someone's house if they have pets; she refuses to use the bathroom at school because she's afraid of the loud flushing the public toilets make; and the list goes on). I don't know why she's afraid of so many things. (A friend of mine actually asked me once, "Do you think Daisy is like that because you're such a clean freak?" Seriously. I'm still not over that one.) She's never been harmed in any way by any of the things she's afraid of, so it's a mystery as to where these fears come from. It's only been recently that we've realized she's not going to outgrow these issues - not without some help. It's hard to accept that as a parent, but of course we want (and are willing) to do whatever needs to be done to get her over these hurdles. So we're trying to get the school psychologist to step in and if he can't help, at least point us in the right direction. Because the truth is, she's never going to be able to go to kindergarten next year if we can't get a handle on some of this stuff.

On Kevin:

I had to explain rape to Kevin today. Why? Because he really wants to read To Kill a Mockingbird. And I want him to, and I believe he's mature enough. He's a lover of literature like his mom, and I want to nurture that love. And To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic and one of the best books ever written, and it will likely be required reading for him in a couple more years anyway.

But yeah, it was a little uncomfortable explaining that term to him. My explanation was short and sweet and I've left it up to him as to whether to go ahead with the book now, knowing that there is some adult subject matter contained in it. He still wants to read it. And you know what? I think he's really going to like it.

My boy is growing up.

I wonder how many 2-year-olds Susan has raised . . .

I realize that the fact that I am currently working on my fifth 2-year-old probably conveys that I am very new to this ;)

Look how cute!!!


Bottom row, third from the right. That's my hubby in second grade :)

Reminds me so much of Joey now.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ever feel like you've taken it up the wazoo??

In addition to my adventure at the Social Security office this morning, I discovered today that the person who somehow got ahold of my debit card number last week actually made a bunch of charges that went through before my card was cancelled. Over $500 in unauthorized charges. All made at different gas stations in NEW YORK!! I'm guessing they were just withdrawing cash. I made a fraud claim with my bank and, fortunately, they will credit the money back to my account and investigate. I hope they catch the F-er!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fire Season

As I posted here yesterday, fire season is in full swing here in our neck of the woods.

When I got up yesterday morning, it was so beautiful outside . . . the sky was this pristine blue, and I was inspired to get outside and take a few pictures:



When I took the above pics, I didn't even realize that the fires had already started in some neighboring towns. By late morning, though, this was the scene:

Michael was across town, much closer to where some of the actual fires were, and took these from thr truck:




This is in front of our house:



By early afternoon, everything had a yellow/orange cast to it.

This is the middle of the afternoon -


Michael and I actually went out to dinner last night. I felt weird about it. It was nice to get out, but I felt a little guilty going out for dinner when people not too far away from us were losing their homes. The air quality was (and still is) just terrible. There were ashes visibly floating around in the air and everything smelled like heavy smoke. The downtown area where we went for dinner was virtually deserted.
This morning there were ashes everywhere. You can see it all over Michael's car and my truck: