Wednesday, December 31, 2008
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 :)
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
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
Friday, December 26, 2008
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
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:
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
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.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
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
~ 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.
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
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
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
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.
. . . 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 :)
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.
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
Where did my baby go?
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
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!
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
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.
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.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
It's days like this that confirm for me that motherhood was the perfect career choice for me :/
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
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.