Thursday, April 30, 2009

I can't even think of a title for this one.

Joey was home sick today for the second day in a row. He's had a cold and woke up yesterday with an obvious case of pink-eye, so I've kept him home due to contagiousness more than how sick he's feeling, because really, he seems to be feeling pretty fine.


So anyway. This afternoon while Finn and Lilah were napping and I was blogging reading highly acclaimed parenting books, the twins and Joey were playing quietly in Joey's room. Or so I thought. The quiet, however, turned out to be just part of their diabolical plan to push me over the edge.


After they had been in there for quite a while, Daisy innocently came out to see what I was doing. I noticed that she had a purple clown smile painted on her face, and her hands were lime green. There were also various shades on the rest of her person, including arms, legs, and clothes. "What the hell?" I said to myself. Markers. Well, if she looked like that, what must the other two look like? I bolted into Joey's room to assess the damage.


Before I go further, let me just say that ever since The Flood of 2009, which resulted in over $7,000 in property damage (which, fortunately our homeowner's insurance covered), we have lived in fear of having a repeat incident. We have stressed over and over to the kids that nothing - nothing - goes down the toilet except toilet paper (in frugal amounts) and anything that started out as a food. So all the kids are very well-versed about this rule.

So I go into Joey's room and find him and Annabelle coloring with markers on paper. Innocent enough, no? However, Annabelle is also covered in marker. Joey, not so much. He and Kevin have a bathroom attached to their bedroom (I know, lucky kids), and I see that the floor is all wet in the bathroom, and the toilet lid is up, and furthermore, there is marker all over the toilet seat. "What the fuck?" I say to myself. "What the hell?!?!?" I say to them.

To make a long story short (long, because it took a couple of hours to get the story out of them), in addition to doing artwork all over each other and themselves, Joey decided that it would be great fun to put markers down the toilet! I shit you not. "How could you flush markers down the toilet?!?!" I shouted at him. "I didn't flush all of them, I shoved some of them down . . ." he replied. Some of them? Meaning more than one?

I was beside myself, to say the least. And the thing is, this is so not like Joey. He's not the type of kid who pulls crap like this - this is way more up Annabelle's alley.

I made him call Michael at work and tell him what he had done. Dad is his hero, so I thought this would really hurt him. His chin quivered a bit, and his eyes were all big with anxiety, but it didn't hurt him nearly as much as I would have liked. I took his computer privileges away for two weeks. He loves playing on the computer, but he took that like a man. I called a plumber to come out and snake our main line to ward off a possible flood, and I made Joey give me all of his money (which amounted to about $6) to help pay for it, and told him that he's not getting any allowance for a looooong time.

When I was a kid, there were occasions when my brothers and I would commit some transgression, and the worst punishment that we were frequently given was that we would "get the belt" from my dad. He would make us take our pants down and beat us with a leather belt the length of our backsides, from shoulders to ankles, leaving raised, sometimes bleeding, welts. But often before this punishment was delivered, we were told beforehand - hours beforehand - that it was coming. So we had to sit there and anticipate it, and I still can remember the knots in my stomach waiting for Dad to get home from work to give me the belt. And that anticipation, in its own way, was almost worse than the actual beating.

I can't even think of a punishment severe enough for Joey right now - severe enough to make him understand the gravity of what he's done. I feel like none of the consequences I've doled out so far are enough. There won't be any beatings here, because we just don't do things that way, but there is a part of me that wants Joey to feel that fear, that anxiety.

I Have a Dream

I have a dream . . .

~ That one day I will get my children up for school in the morning, and they will greet me cheerfully and bound out of bed with smiles on their little faces.

~ That my children will actually say "please" instead of just announcing, "I'm hungry!" or "I want __________!"

~ That they will either (a) choose something practical for themselves to wear to school, or, alternatively (b) say "Excellent choice!" when I pick something for them to wear.

~ That they will thank me with sincerity for the fare I place before them.

~ That we will enjoy a solid hour without somebody wailing over some injustice, such as "He won't stop looking at me!"

~ That my kids will actually play with one toy or game at a time, putting each item away neatly before moving on to the next activity, instead of carpeting the entire house from one end to the other with every single piece of every single toy and game they own, and then refusing to clean up after themselves.

~ That they will not act as if I am committing the worst kind of torture against them by telling them to go outside and play.

~ That they will know patience and not demand that I drop whatever I'm doing because they want something RIGHT NOW.

~ That my four-and-a-half year old twins will know better than to color on the freshly painted walls downstairs with crayons (seriously!)

~ That I will be able to sit down and eat lunch without hearing "Mommy, I pooped!" from the other room, which translates to "Mommy, stop eating and come and wipe my butt RIGHT NOW!" (Never fails; it is a given that within 45 seconds of my sitting down to eat, someone needs their butt cleaned.)

~ That I will only have to tell them once, instead of 19 times and by the eighth time I'm shrieking like a banshee because I'm tired of having to tell them repeatedly.

~ That I will serve dinner, and each of my children will gaze upon their plates and say, "Mmmmmm, this looks delicious! I can't wait to dig into this!" and then later, "More vegetables, please! Yes, those green leafy ones!"

~ That bedtime will involve neither whining nor various stalling techniques.

A mom can dream, right?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'm so over this whole God thing

Disclaimer: read at your own risk. These are my thoughts and beliefs, and while it is not my intention to offend anyone, I realize my views may, nonetheless, offend. I can't make everyone happy, and hey, I don't generally write here to make anyone happy anyway - I write here to make ME happy. So if you don't want to read the ramblings and rantings of a professed atheist, you may want to skip this one.


I'm kind of struggling with this lately. Not my beliefs - I don't believe in God, period. What I'm struggling with, I think, is more a feeling of . . . anger? frustration . . . that lurks just below the surface of my consciousness.

We are surrounded by so many people who are praying for us - for Finn, for Michael, for our whole family in the face of everything we're dealing with. And really, that's fine. I mean, all the positive energy we can get is great. The caring and support behind it means a lot, regardless of anyone's theology. What I get frustrated about is when I hear stuff like "Praise God," whenever there is a positive turn of events. (Of course, the bad stuff, well, you know, God works in mysterious ways, and God's not responsible for all the bad shit in this world, that's all squarely on the shoulders of us lowly people . . . how is it that God comes out smelling like a rose no matter what?)

"Praise God" that Michael is responding well to treatment. (Really? I don't know . . . how about "Praise Science and the particular concoction of drugs that were developed to kill off the cancer?" And by the "Praise God" logic, wasn't it God who gave him cancer in the first place?)

Apparently, God gave us Finnian to teach us some lessons we were missing out on, and also because he's an "angel," closer to God than "regular" babies, and we've been deemed "special" parents ("special babies go to special parents") deserving of this extra-wonderful gift. Ummm, I think that when the sperm fertilized the egg, something funky happened with the dividing of chromosomes. Shit happens. That's it.

People have prayed for God to heal the hole in Finnian's heart. But don't they believe that God put the hole there in the first place?

People have asked me, when told that Finn has Down syndrome, if I have the Lord in my life. Huh? I truly don't understand what this has to do with anything. If I have the Lord, do they think that will make Finn's Ds go away? Or do they just think that it would be impossible to deal with such awful tragedy without the help of the Lord? (It does seem that people vascillate between considering it a great gift we've been given, or an awful tragedy.)

I've been told flat out that it takes more than doctors to make Michael/Finn well (I've been told this with regard to each of them), that it also takes prayer. Hmmm.

I don't mean to ridicule anyone's religious beliefs, although it all baffles me. It baffles me how intelligent adults, who otherwise reside in a place of logic and reason, believe that there is some benevolent, magic, invisible person who lives in the sky and grants or denies wishes at will. I don't get it, at all.

And here's the thing: I believed my whole life - or at least I tried to. I suspect that there are people who know me who think that I've become an atheist - turned my back on God! - because of all the bad shit that's happened in my life. Terrible childhood. Abusive first marriage. Deaths of loved ones. Etcetera, etcetera. But folks, if that's what you think, you've got it all wrong. Through all that stuff, through most of my life, I did believe (or tried to) in God, in some higher power. And I admit that it's comforting to believe that there is something out there that's bigger than we are, something watching out for us. But in the last few years I just started realizing that my heart never was in those beliefs I thought I was supposed to have, and I finally just got to a point - actually when I was pregnant with Finn, I think - when I was ready to admit that I really didn't believe in any of that stuff. I don't believe there's a God. I don't believe there's an afterlife. I think it's all just sort of like folk tales that started thousands of years ago and have been passed down, and people embrace these notions because it makes them feel better about life and death and everything else.

But hey, whatever floats your boat and gets you through the day. I'm not trying to convert anyone (wouldn't that be offensive?!) I respect that my (non-)beliefs are really in the minority. And I'm cool with that. I do wish, however, that I felt as free as the "believers" do to openly discuss my view of these things without fear of offending or alienating. It doesn't seem to me that "believers" usually have any qualms about openly sharing their beliefs, and they often appear to assume that anyone they may be talking to must, of course, share the same views. I wish I had the cajones, when someone says to me, "Praise God!" to say with equal absence of reservation, "There is no God!" But instead, I usually just smile and don't say anything, because I don't want to offend or drive away.

I suspect that there are some misconceptions about me. Being an atheist does not mean that I am without morals. I have very high morals, actually. I have a very strong sense of right and wrong, and I try to live my life as a good example of how a human being should behave. Not out of some sense of fear of divine punishment, and not out of some hope for any divine reward. Just because. Just because being a good person is the right thing to do, that's all. Also, being atheist does not mean I am an empty, hollow person floundering and looking (or needing) something to fill the void and give me a sense of direction. In fact, when I finally admitted to myself that I don't believe in God, I was in a very good place in my life, and now, despite the challenges I and my family are facing, I am in a better place than I've ever been. I'm happy - truly happy. I have a wonderfully strong marriage and six great kids (even if they do drive me to the brink of insanity daily). I'm not bitter about the things that have happened in my life, or the challenges and tough times we are dealing with now (that is not to say that I don't rant and fall to pieces over it all once in a while). I love my life, flaws and all.

I don't think one's beliefs are so much a choice. You either feel it or you don't. And I just don't.

Book Review: Sleep is for the Weak


Sleep Is for the Weak - The Best of the Mommybloggers by Rita Arens: Cute. Entertaining. Sometimes tear-inducing, sometimes guffaw-inducing. It's basically a compilation of entries from some uber-popular mommyblogs, so really, if you're already reading some good mommyblogs, you're already reading a lot of this stuff. What I want to know is how these women get their blogs noticed and create such huge followings.


In other news, I convinced Michael to read Hands of My Father! He started it last night and read a chapter :) I can't wait to hear what he thinks of it.
I expect it's going to be a while before I post another book review, as I'm launching into a 500+ page book for my book club, and unless it's a real page-turner, it's going to take me a while to get through it.
Happy reading!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mirror, mirror

Over the weekend, the boys and I witnessed a scene at Old Navy that has been disturbing me ever since. We were in the checkout lane paying for our stuff, and at the checkout next to us were a woman, her husband (I assume) and three young girls. Here was the gist of their conversation:

Girl: "Mom?"
Mom: "Shut up, okay?!"
Girl: "But I wanted to ask you something about Mother's Day-"
Mom: "You know what I want for Mother's Day? Three kids who shut the hell up."
Girl: "But-"
Mom: "I said shut your mouth! Just shut up, okay?!" [Flicks the girl in the head; everyone is casting uncomfortable looks in their direction now; Kevin and Joey are staring gape-mouthed.]
Mom [noticing that people are looking but pretending she doesn't care]: "And you know what I want to know? When did 'shut up' become a bad word? It's not a bad word. It depends on the context." [And I'm standing there thinking, "umm, and what's the proper, non-offensive context for 'shut up'?]

It was very uncomfortable to witness. Even Kevin said afterwards (and I thought this was very astute), "It seemed like she probably always talks to her kids that way. Even her kids didn't act like it was anything unusual."

Part of me wanted to tell her to keep her vileness to herself, and part of me was thinking "I'm glad I'm not that kind of mom . . . Am I? No, of course not. I mean, I've never flicked my kid in the head. But I do yell at them a lot . . . But I certainly don't belittle them, and I'm dead-set against saying 'shut-up' . . ."

Okay, far be it from me to judge (although of course I was/am judging). I'm no saint of a parent, and I do my share of yelling at my kids and saying things that I feel ashamed of later. I realized, too, that nobody who witnessed that scene has any idea what made that mom so bitter and nasty. Who knows what stresses she's dealing with (her husband was in a wheelchair, which might or might not be a factor).

Still, I just felt sad, really sad, for the three little girls. (And I totally didn't appreciate my kids being exposed to an adult so freely saying "shut-up" all over the place and then insisting that there's nothing wrong with saying "shut-up" when Michael and I have made it very clear to our kids that "shut-up" is, in fact, a bad word and unacceptable.) Because the bottom line is: no matter what kind of stress or rotten deal we're dealt as a parent, it's our job - our sacred responsibility - to do our best to ensure the happiness and emotional well-being of our kids. One day, when they are adults, it will be up to them to make their own happiness, but right now, when they are mere children, it's all on our shoulders - as it should be.

I realize I sound all pious and self-righteous, and I don't mean to. This is really kind of a reminder to myself. It's an interesting exercise to wonder how it would feel if some of my less-than-stellar parenting moments were witnessed by a crowd of people in Old Navy. Kind of makes me want to be a kinder, gentler mom. Imagining that you're being observed, while a little creepy, can certainly be a great motivator to behave better.

I tried to picture that woman holding her little girl as a newborn, gazing into her little face for the first time, and I wondered if she ever fathomed back then that one day she would be flicking that little girl in the head - in public! - and sniping at her to "shut the hell up." She probably didn't fathom that. None of us do.

Some day, our kids will be parents themselves, and more often than not, they will repeat and mimic a lot of the behavior their own parents exhibited, good and bad. Sometimes when I imagine my kids all grown up and snapping at their own kids impatiently - because that's what they learned from me - well, I just know I'm not doing the best job I could be doing.

So instead of expending a lot of energy judging that woman, in the end it's made me feel a little more motivated to behave better as a parent myself. The question that needs to be addressed every day is: "Am I building them up, or tearing them down?"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Date

Last night Michael and I went out on a "date" for the first time since early February. The occasion: his band recently did the music (some of it, anyway) for a short film directed by a film student. If you're attending film school, making a film is the senior thesis, and this was hers. So last night was the screening of the film. It was held at the theater of the film school, a very nice venue. The film itself was okay. It was disappointing that she didn't end up using more of the music Michael and the guys composed, recorded and performed for her, but she did use some, and it was really cool to see when the credits rolled "Original Theme by Sideshow Jefe."

Afterwards we went to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, a steak joint up on a hill. And really, it was perfect - my lemon drop martini was perfect, the food was perfect, the view was perfect, and the company was perfect. There were a few somber moments when we were waiting to be seated when we contemplated Finn's future, as we do sometimes (brought on this time because we saw a little boy with Ds at the film screening), and when we contemplated the upcoming continuation of M's treatment (he has an MRI scheduled for this Tuesday and then starts the next round of chemo next week). I am finding myself feeling especially emotional about both of those topics lately. However, we still managed to have a few laughs and a very nice evening in all.



Also a first last night: we had to leave so early in the evening for the film screening that it was way before Finn's bed time, which meant Alycia (our super awesome most wonderful babysitter in the universe) had to put him to bed for the first time. I was nervous, as nobody but me has ever put him to bed, and he's never been put to bed without being nursed down. I don't know why I worried - we've eventually taken this very leap with each of our babies since Joey (she's been babysitting for us for that long!), and she's always had the magic touch with all of them, and last night was no different. He was fine, she was fine, everything was fine, and she was kind enough to text updates to me so I wouldn't worry overly much. When we got home around 11, he was still sound asleep cozy in his crib and didn't wake up for a couple more hours.

And that's it. On with the day and the week.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Crock Pot Breakfasts, revisited

I tweaked the oatmeal recipe just a bit last night. Here's what I did:

3 cups old fashioned oats
5 cups water
2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
a couple handfuls of golden raisins

Cook in crock pot on low all night. There was more texture to this batch, which I liked, and the granny smith apples and raisins definitely added more flavor. I also put maple syrup (real maple syrup, not that Log Cabin crap) on mine . . . mmmmm!

Also, the other morning, I made a breakfast "scramble" in the crock pot:

8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 lb. Li'l Smokies
2 - 3 cups diced potatoes
2 cups chopped fresh spinach

Beat eggs and milk and place all ingredients in crock pot; cook on low for 4 - 6 hours; top with shredded cheddar cheese at the end. This was pretty good; however, the problem is that you can't leave it cooking all night, so I made it in the afternoon/evening, refrigerated it and then reheated it in a glass baking dish in the morning. So I don't know if it really cut down on the work, but it was pretty tasty. Probably could have done just as well making the whole thing in a skillet though.

Don't Wanna Homeschool

Most of my friends' kids attend public schools. My school-aged kids attend public school (I'm actually a fan of private school, which Kevin used to attend, but who can afford it?). I am acquainted with several moms, however, who homeschool their children, or who plan to. And honestly? I just don't get it. I have no desire to homeschool my kids. I'm not sure what the benefits of homeschooling are, but I can think of plenty of arguments against it - or at least questions the practice raises in my mind. That said, I fully admit that my views about homeschooling come from a complete ignorance of the practice. I've never researched it, so I really know next to nothing about it.

Having no desire to homeschool is almost incongruous with my basic parenting philosophy, at least for early childhood, and that is attachment parenting. In my circle of friends, I'm actually viewed as quite "crunchy": I homebirth, I practice extended and exclusive breast feeding, I cloth diaper, I "wear" my babies, I co-sleep (to a degree), and with Finn, we opted not to circumcise and not to vaccinate. I really only see myself as "crispy" though: I don't buy organic very much of the time, by the time the baby is a few months old I want him/her out of my bed, I use disposable diapers at night, and hell, I drive a big gas-guzzling SUV (in my defense, they don't make a Prius that seats 8).

Still, homeschooling - or at least the visiting of the option of homeschooling - is typically, it seems, a natural progression for moms with the (semi-)granola, attachment parenting philosophy. And I want no part of homeschooling.

This isn't really a post arguing against homeschooling. What I'm trying to get at is that I feel bad that I have no desire to homeschool. When I overhear conversations between moms who homeschool, or read blogs by homeschooling moms, I always feel a little . . . jealous? Shitty, certainly. I mean, they must love and enjoy their kids wayyyyy more than I do mine to want to spend all that time with them when they could be handing them off to someone else for a few hours every day. I'm not cut out for it. I absolutely don't have the patience I imagine it must require. For all my anal-retentiveness that my friends tease me about, I don't think I have the discipline to structure my and the kids' time in a way that would be conducive to school-learning. And really? I need the time away from them. They make me crazy. I love them with all of my heart, and I would die for any or all of them, but they drive me freaking nuts a lot of the time. Sending them to school every day might be the only thing standing between me and a straight-jacket. And I feel guilty knowing that I feel that way. I mean, shouldn't I want to spend every possible moment with them? And shouldn't our time together be ever joyful? Because it's not. I mean, sometimes it is. But not always. Not usually. And I think there must be something wrong with me that it's not. There must be something wrong with me as a mother to feel the relief I feel when I drop them at school every morning.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Addiction . . . or, The Great Book Giveaway

I have a problem. I am a book addict. Well, actually a book buying addict. I mean, I do love to read - reading is right up there with eating, sleeping and breathing to me. But I have this problem with buying books. A lot of books. I have a library card, but I never, ever check out books from the library. I've started acquiring books - necessary books (that is, books assigned via my book club, which I'm not doing too hot a job keeping up with lately . . .) via paperbackswap.com, which is a brilliant concept. But it's not nearly as satisfying as going into Barnes & Noble and wandering around the aisles, thumbing through New Releases, smelling the new-book smell of New in Paperback. I get more pleasure from buying books than clothes, makeup, or whatever else it is that we women supposedly enjoy buying. I can never seem to exit B & N without having bought at least two or three new books. And look what's happened:



See that top shelf? That is my to-read shelf. As in books I have not yet read. With the selection I have to choose from, why do I keep buying more? I have no idea.
Anyway, this obviously needs to stop. The problem becomes apparent when I occasionally (like today) sort through my to-read shelf and come across several books that leave me scratching my head and asking myself, "Why the hell did I buy this?" And I eventually have to admit to myself that there are just some books I've bought that I'm never actually going to read.
So, I'm giving some books away! If you are interested in any of the books listed below, please send me an email (link in my sidebar) with your mailing address (don't leave your address in the comment section here - you don't want it to be public knowledge, do you?) and I will mail your book(s) of choice to you via media mail/parcel post/whatever-is-cheapest, at no charge to you. That's right, folks, books for FREE, and most of them brand spankin' new.
The River King by Alice Hoffman
The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke
The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan (See my review here; I have two copies of this book, and I'm saving one for my friend Sheryl)
Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (yes, that's right, The Da Vinci Code. I know everybody has read this and everybody loves it, and I bought it with good intentions, but I'm just really not interested.)
All Families are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland (I think I bought this thinking it was about my family . . .)
The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
My Antonia by Willa Cather (hardcover)

Book Review: Hands of My Father



Hands of My Father by Myron Uhlberg: What a beautiful book. This is a memoir of the author's childhood, growing up as the hearing son of two deaf parents during mid-twentieth century in Brooklyn, NY. The author honestly recounts his confusing feelings of intense loyalty and protectiveness of his parents, as well as shame and embarassment and his resentment at the burden he carried being his father's interpreter out in the world from a very young age. I found this to be perfectly written - incredibly tender, moving, hilarious, and thought-provoking. I'm not even quite sure why I picked this book up in the bookstore initially, except that I lItalicove memoirs and lately am drawn to anything dealing with disabilities. I was so drawn into the characters and was very sad when the book came to an end. I really loved this book.

I am hoping to get Michael, who does not enjoy reading, to read it. It has so many elements in it that he would relate to and enjoy: growing up in NY, being Jewish, and the deaf culture (Michael worked in the deaf community for several years and is fluent in sign language).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A post in which I wax sentimental

I haven't been keeping up with my walking, mostly because the friend I was walking with and I have had trouble coordinating our schedules lately, and it's just not as much fun to walk alone without someone (and adult) to gossip with. So really it's been a question of motivation on my part. I hate the shape I'm in, but apparently not quite enough to do something about it and stick with it.

Anyhow. This morning was one of the three days each week that all but the two youngest kids are in school. Usually on those days I have errands to run, chores to do, and at least (it seems) one doctor appointment each week. Today we had nothing on the agenda. It would have been easy to stay holed up in the house, but on a whim, I decided to get my act together and take Finn and Lilah out in the jogger for a walk. And I'm so glad I did.

It was just that time during mid-morning when there is something pure and crystaline about the quality of the light and air. The neighborhood was mostly quiet, except for the sound of birds chirping and a lawnmower way off in the distance (there is something about that sound . . . hard to put into words, but it always gives me a certain pleasant feeling; it just sounds optimistic, like spring). The sun was on my face, and a soft breeze was on my skin. I walked briskly, working up a sweat, as Lilah chattered away in the stroller and Finn dozed. And I just felt like, "This is perfect. It's good to be alive."

Ode to Sheryl and Pepper

I am fortunate enough to have a circle of friends who have been there to laugh with me in good times and rally around me and my family during some of our most difficult trials. There are two people in particular who, although not exactly intimate friends, have offered up parts of themselves to me that have given me such strength and encouragement over the last few months in ways they probably don't even realize. And right now, at this moment, I want so much to let them - and everyone! - know how wonderful they are.

I met Sheryl through my MOMS Club. Subsequently, her son and my twins were in the same preschool class last year. Sheryl and I are also members of the same book club. Long before Finn was born - before he was ever conceived - and long, long before Michael was diagnosed with cancer, Sheryl fought her own battle with breast cancer. It's not my place to give details of her experience, but I will say that when she was diagnosed, her two kids were very young - in fact, her son was only a baby. She underwent extensive surgery and horrendous treatment, and by the time I met her, that part of her battle was behind her, but she still had further surgeries to contend with.

When Finn was born, hospitalized and diagnosed with Down syndrome, and we (especially I) were in the throes of grieving and railing against fate, nature, etc., Sheryl was the first person to bring us dinner. I'll never forget the army-sized meal of pasta and homemade spaghetti sauce and meatballs she brought us. And I'll never forget her hugging me when she brought the food over and saying to me, "You're going to hear from all kinds of people how special kids are given to special parents, and God never gives anyone more than they can handle. You'll learn to smile at them through gritted teeth and tell them to screw off behind their backs." You see, in addition to fighting breast cancer, Sheryl's son was diagnosed with Apraxia. When she said that to me, it did more to comfort me than anything anyone else had said to me to that point. She understood, I totally got that, and it meant everything to me.

Through it all, I've never sensed an ounce of self-pity in her (although I would hope to hell she's had some because who wouldn't be entitled to a healthy dose of self-pity on occasion under those circumstances? Or maybe I'm just trying to make myself feel better about my own frequent bouts of self-pity . . .). She tells me now that she never allowed herself to consider any possibility that didn't include her beating the cancer. She would get better - there just was no option, no other way to look at it. And as soon as Michael was diagnosed and I put the word out, Sheryl was right there, and has continued to be there, with empathy and encouraging words from the trenches.

I know Pepper through mutual friends and through preschool - her daughter was in the same preschool class with Joey two years ago. Last summer, right around the time Finn was born, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has just recently finished up her treatment. We are not close friends, more casual acquaintances . . . and yet, there is a kinship there. She's one of those people who just puts a smile on your face and makes you feel good. She's been only an email away for moral support through Michael's diagnosis and treatment, and advice about how to deal with both the pesky and the horrible side effects of chemo and radiation. She's not full of talk about God. She says that she thinks cancer is harder on the spouse than it is on the actual afflicted. Interestingly, Michael has said the same thing. I don't know if I agree with that, as I have to imagine that being the one whose body is stricken and whose very life is in jeopardy must be far worse than anything I'm experiencing. But I digress. I've run into Pepper purely by chance twice since Michael was diagnosed. The first time was a month or two ago and she happened to be driving up my street just as I was getting out of my truck in front of our house. She stopped and got out - I had not seen her since she started her cancer treatment, and by then she had just finished it up. She had a lovely scarf on her head and honestly, I thought she looked beautiful. Michael was just starting his treatment then, and I was a wreck. She wrapped her arms around me and I know I blubbered like a fool, "I can't believe this is my life!" She gets it, that it sucks. She gets what it's like to wish a year of your life away and just have all this shit behind you already. I ran into her at school this morning after dropping the twins off and voila! No scarf. Her hair is coming back in and she's got the cutest little pixie-do. We chatted for a few minutes and I left smiling and I think I smiled the whole way home. She's just one of those people.

So, thank you, Sheryl and Pepper, for being a part of my life. I think you are both amazing women and I am so glad to know you.

~~~

When someone has cancer, it's like the entire immediate family has cancer. We all feel the effects to different degrees - the stress, the fear, the anxiety, and the hope. I see it in the kids: the twins playing doctor and pretending that the "patient" has cancer. Kevin answering a question posed to him at school by one of his teachers, "Describe a moment when you were most afraid." "When I found out my dad has cancer," he replied. Joey casually tells his friends, "My dad is getting chemo." This morning he asked me if Finn had cancer, and is that why he had to have surgery. He also wanted to know if kids ever get cancer. (How do you answer that? I'd like to lie to him and tell him no, so that he can sleep at night, but I can't lie. "Yes, sometimes kids get cancer," I told him. "Have you ever known a kid who got cancer?" he asked me. "No," I told him truthfully. Fortunately, that seemed enough for him.) And then, of course, there is my own personal roller coaster that I ride. Up and down, up and down, whipping around sharp corners in my mind, climbing hills of hopefulness, and shooting down hills of despair. Yes, I want this year to be over.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Random Cell Phone Pics

Lilah @ Target


Starbucks drive-thru menu



Dropping Kevin off for his week-long stay at outdoor science school


Making lunches


Lilah in front of the giant aquarium at the car wash


Joey at the dentist


Dropping Joey off at school


Kevin


Breakfast


Finn at Target


Breakfast


Imprisoned at Costco


Finn sleeping


Annabelle pissed off because I won't let her wear something she wants to wear to school


Impossibly blue Southern California sky


Getting the boys up for school


What's on your cell phone?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Grab Bag

~ This morning we (well, Michael, Lilah, and I) had crock pot oatmeal for breakfast. I got the recipe here. It was quite yummy - very creamy. I added fresh sliced and peeled Gala apples last night to cook along with the oatmeal, but I they were pretty flavorless. It think next time I will use Granny Smith apples, and maybe some raisins . . . -mmmm. I'm all over this breakfast-in-th-crock-pot concept and am going to try a breakfast scramble next with eggs, sausage, potatoes and cheese.


~ Daisy went into the restroom at school today and washed her hands! You may remember that on her extensive list of phobias, public restrooms is an item. So this was a huge step for her. Somehow a teacher's assistant bribed her into doing it, and the teacher took pictures, which she showed me after school today, featuring a laughing Daisy in the restroom with her hands under the air dryer. Maybe she'll actually go potty in the restroom at school yet.


~ Daisy and Annabelle are suddenly slightly obsessed with boobs - or as they call them, "boobies" or "breasts." I guess it's no wonder since breast feeding has been a featured attraction in our house their whole lives. But lately, they are forever copping a feel on me and examining their own little boobies. It's a little unnerving.


~ Last week Kevin brought home a permission slip for a film the 6th graders are supposed to watch this week about AIDS/HIV. Which I think is great. However, the permission slip stated that they will be teaching the message of abstinence. I signed the permission slip because I think he should see the film, but I told him flat out that I don't think teaching abstinence is realistic and that, as his parent, I am not going to tell him "Don't have sex." (Picture horrified facial expressions from Kevin.) I told him that, believe it or not, within the next couple of years, he's going to start looking at girls quite a bit differently than he does now, and there will come a time when he is going to want to have sex and not be all grossed out by the mere thought of it. (I don't think he believes me.) I told him that the important things are: (a) to wait until it's someone you care about and who cares about you, and (b) to make responsible choices, because the choices he makes can impact the rest of his life. He hates these discussions - anything having to do with sex or puberty. And it's awkward for me, although I try very hard to play it cool.


~ The girls were playing doctor over the weekend. They were taking turns being the patient. They said that the patient had cancer. Sigh.


~ We are in the midst of a spring heat wave and I am realizing that the older I get, the less I like such intense heat. I think 70 - 75 degrees is about my limit for pleasantness at this point. It's in the 90's for the second day in a row.


~ Daisy is full of questions. Way more so than the other kids. I know I should welcome and encourage her curiosity about everything, but it's exhausting.

~ Last night our main water line backed up again, I shit you not. It's only been two months since the nightmare that flooded our downstairs with sewer water. It wasn't anything like that this time - it only backed up into the shower, but not beyond - but it still required an emergency, after-hours call to a plumber which cost emergency, after-hours rates.

~ I can't get this song out of my head that the girls brought home from preschool:

I like to ate, ate, ate
Ape-les and baynaynays
I like to eat, eat, eat
Eaples and beeneenees
I like to ite, ite, ite
Iples and bi-ni-nis
I like to oat, oat, oat,
Oples and bononos
I like to ute, ute, ute
Ooples and boonoonoos

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Things about me that probably nobody gives a crap about

I came across this on someone else's blog, and since I don't have anything more pressing to do at the moment, I figured why not talk about myself some more?

1. First thing you wash in the shower? hair
2. What color is your favorite hoodie? pink
3. Would you kiss the last person you kissed again? Of course!
4. Do you plan outfits? only if I actually care how I look, which is becoming quite the rarity these days.
5. How are you feeling RIGHT now? a little bored
6. What’s the closest thing to you that’s red? my hair
7. What was the last dream you remember having? I had a dream about Kristin of The Way It Is the other night! I kid you not! And we've never even met.
8. Did you meet anybody new today? no
9. What are you craving right now? Company
10. Do you floss? yes . . . sometimes
11. What comes to mind when I say cabbage? fish tacos
12. Are you emotional? a big fat yes on that one
13. Have you ever counted to 1,000? Ummm, I don't know. But I know I can.
14. Do you bite into your ice cream or just lick it? both
15. Do you like your hair? sometimes
16. Do you like yourself? sometimes. more than I used to.
17. Would you go out to eat with George W. Bush? yes! come on, be honest. even if you can't stand him and think he was the worst pres in the history of the U.S., if you had an opportunity to go out to eat with him? you'd do it too.
18. What are you listening to right now? silence. the house is utterly quiet.
19. Are your parents strict? They were!
20. Would you go sky diving? not for a million dollars. well, maybe for a million dollars. but you'd have to drug me.
21. Do you like cottage cheese? yes
22. Have you ever met a celebrity? Yes
23. Do you rent movies often? No, I've had the same Netflix movie sitting here, unwatched, for close to a year. I'm not kidding.
24. Is there anything sparkly in the room in which you are? Yes! There is some fuscia glitter around a picture Daisy made in preschool hanging on the bulletin board.
25. What countries have you visited? Mexico
26. Have you made a prank phone call? of course, when I was a kid
27. Ever been on a train? no. unless you count the one at knott's berry farm.
28. Brown or white eggs? whatever, i'm not picky. about eggs, anyway.
29. Do you have a cell-phone? Yes, an iphone which I love!
31. Do you use chapstick? I'm addicted. Must have lip balm on at all times.
32. Do you own a gun? nope
33. Can you use chopsticks? for what?
34. Who are you going to be with tonight? Well, it is tonight, and the kids are all asleep and hubby is out jamming and probably won't be home until after I'm asleep. So I'm on my own tonight.
35. Are you too forgiving? Hmmm. I can go either way. I can be very forgiving, or I can hold a hell of a grudge.
36. Ever been in love? definitely. am now.
37. What is your best friend doing tomorrow? Well, hopefully he'll make the kids breakdfast so I can sleep in. (haaaa! Like that's going to happen.)
38. Ever have cream puffs? Yes
39. Last time you cried? I got teary this morning watching the twins do their little dance routine in dance class. I always do. I don't know why.
40. What was the last question you asked? "What the . . .??" No, I don't know. I don't ask questions since I have all the answers.
41. Favorite time of the year? Spring and Summer
42. Do you have any tattoos? Yes, three
43. Are you sarcastic? Umm, I don't know, what do you think?
44. Have you ever seen The Butterfly Effect? No
45. Ever walked into a wall? Yes, too many times to count
46. Favorite color? red
47. Have you ever slapped someone? yes
48. Is your hair curly? no
49. What was the last CD you bought? Can't remember
50. Do looks matter? unfortunately, yes.
51. Could you ever forgive a cheater? I don't think so. If there's no trust, what is there?
52. Is your phone bill sky high? Well, if you add up the landline bill, which is combined with the DSL bill, plus our cell phone bills . . . yeah, it's pretty hefty.
53. Do you like your life right now? Yes
54. Do you sleep with the TV on? No…I like it to be quiet.
55. Can you handle the truth? I'm sure there are things that would hurt too much.
56. Do you have good vision? No. Terrible, terrible vision.
57. Do you hate or dislike more than 3 people? I hate to use the word hate. Dislike? Strongly dislike? Yes.
58. How often do you talk on the phone? I talk to Michael every day on the phone, but very rarely anybody else. It's too hard to talk on the phone with 6 kids
59. The last person you held hands with? Daisy and Annabelle, crossing the parking lot to go to dance class this morning.
60. What are you wearing? jammies
61. What is your favorite animal? Don't have a favorite animal. I'm kind of over animals with all these kids.
62. Where was your profile picture taken? In my kitchen
63. Can you hula hoop? I used to be pretty good when I was a kid, but I found out recently that I don't still got it thanks to hula hoops Michael brought home for the girls.
64. Do you have a job? Yeah, it just doesn't bring in a paycheck.
65. What was the most recent thing you bought? Fresh strawberries
66. Have you ever crawled through a window? yes

Wasn't that exciting? Don't you feel like you know me a whole lot better now? Your turn.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Michael

It's been a while since I updated about Michael, and people are asking me how he's doing, so here's the current installment of Cancer Saga.

Right now, he is finishing up his second week of a 4-week break from chemo, and he finished radiation 2 weeks ago as well. It has taken him this long to (mostly) recover from the side effects of chemo and radiation. There are still some lingering things, but for the most part he's feeling much better than he was 2 weeks, or even a week ago.

That said, there is a whole other aspect to having cancer and being treated for cancer other than the obvious physical aspect, and that is the mental/emotional aspect. When you're faced with something like this (either directly, as the person with the cancer, or as the spouse of someone with cancer), there is a huge emotional impact. You tend to examine your priorities, look at your life, and wonder if this is how you want to be spending what you now know is your one shot at this thing called life, this thing that can be taken away in the blink of an eye. You ask yourself if you're happy, if you're really doing what you want to be doing, and is it worth it?

Don't misunderstand me. We're happy . . . happy with our marriage, happy with our kids . . . but you just start to think about and question things.

Michael is, unfortunately, under a tremendous amount of pressure. Imagine being sick with cancer - cancer for god's sake! - undergoing the trying and sometimes debilitating processes of chemo and radiation, and all the while still having to be the breadwinner, the provider for 8 people. Still having to get up and go to work to a career that you're less than passionate about - a job that requires concentration and intellectual discipline, and your mind is on a thousand other things. That's what he's dealing with right now, and all I can do is sit by and watch.

So, two more weeks of this break (and it's been so nice to have him "back"), and then he starts another round of chemo. Different meds, different process; rather than a round-the-clock infusion, he'll go in once every other week and sit with an IV drip for 4 hours, and then follow that up with an infusion for 48 hours.

I think we are both afraid that the worst is still ahead. We're scared, but dealing. We'll get through it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Book Review: The Year My Son and I Were Born



The Year My Son and I Were Born by Kathryn Lynard Soper is a memoir (yes, another memoir . . . have I mentioned how much I love a good memoir? much to my friend Julia's chagrin . . .) by a mother covering the first year of her son's life - her son who has Down syndrome. There are some other dominating themes in the story as well: the struggles of caring for a large family (I can relate; she has seven kids, I'm one shy of that); her Mormon faith; and postpartum depression. Honestly, I thought the first half+ of the book was dominated more by her struggle with PPD than by Down syndrome. She's extremely honest and forthright about her struggles to come to terms with her son's diagnosis, and I related to a lot of it, but other things, not so much. But it goes without saying that everyone's experience is unique. The book certainly had me turning pages past my bedtime every night (which is how I got it read in a week). Definitely worth reading.

Finished


The girls' room and playroom that is. First there was that dresser to contend with:



Remember the part that was missing? Well, I called the company and ordered a replacement part, and for a week had all these dresser guts littering my living room. The part arrived a couple days ago, so I went back to work on it and lo and behold, I discovered that the part had never been missing in the first place. Isn't that the way things go? Anyway, it took me nearly all day yesterday to get this thing assembled, but I did it with the help of my handy electric screwdriver. Not bad, huh?






Here's the girls' room, finished. I ended up NOT putting a new wallpaper border up or a new rug. Really, the room is mostly the same except that I moved some things around on the walls and added the new dresser.






This door opens into the playroom; when the house was built it was an open balcony across the back of the house, but at some point somebody enclosed it. It's really a perfect playroom for the girls.






Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Are you (wo)man enough?

Tricia tagged all her readers with a challenge, and since I'm a loyal reader of hers, I'm game. The challenge is to take a photo of yourself right now - no primping, no touching up - just take a photo of yourself as you are right this second, and post it.


Here's me right now:


Blah. This is how I look pretty much every evening. I showered (I'm a before-bed showerer) but did not wash my hair (I do that every other day), so my hair is funky from having been clipped up in the shower. No makeup, as you can see, nice blotchy complextion, and dang, how 'bout those specs? Yes, I am blind as a bat. During the day I wear contacts, so you won't typically see many pics of me in my glasses.
And there you have it.
Now it's YOUR turn. I challenge you - all of you who read this - to do the same. Leave me a comment to let me know. Are you (wo)man enough??

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ukelele

video

Seriously, what is wrong with people?

For the first time in months, I took the girls to the park this morning. There we were, enjoying the nice weather and the playground, when along come a woman with a couple of young children and a man with two very large dogs.

If you've been a follower of my blog for any length of time, you probably see where this might be going. And I could make this yet another rant about people with dogs who seem to think their dogs have the same rights as people. But really, it's not about that so much as how some people seem to be unable to cop to something, be humble, and be accountable.

So I'm sitting on one of the benches with Finn while the three girls are happily playing on the playground. I see the people approaching with the dogs and I steel myself for Daisy's hysteria to ensue the moment she spies the dogs. The people arrive at the playground, and the man takes the dogs - two German Shepherd mixes - BIG dogs - onto the playground. And sure enough, Daisy sees the dogs from the other side of the playground and starts screaming and crying. The dogs are straining against their leashes (which is beside the point, I'm just trying to set the scene; I would be saying the same thing, however, even if they were two well-behaved small dogs). I say to the man, "My daughter is afraid of dogs. Would you mind taking them away from the playground?" And he does. He didn't say a word, just took the dogs away from the playground.

That should have been the end of it, right? But no. The woman who was with him, who turns out to be the guy's daughter, walks over to me and starts ranting at me. "We're not hurting anyone! Our dogs are on leashes! We have every right to be here!" She's shouting and screeching at me. Blah blah blah. My blood is boiling now. Does it really require explanation that the playground was built for kids and not for dogs, and that while I understand she has a right to be at the park with her dogs, common sense and courtesy would dictate that you keep your dogs off the actual playground? Apparently it does warrant explanation. Which I delivered, shouting right back at her. I was very proud of myself, however, for not using a single swear word.

So this goes back and forth for several minutes. I am completely incredulous that she refuses to concede anything. Finally, she storms off to go attend to her kids.

But even that wasn't the end of it. A few minutes later, she comes back over to where I'm sitting, this time very aggressively getting right into my space, and starts shouting at me some more! Honestly, it was just crazy. It took another mom who was there to step in and convince the woman to walk away. And even then, she gets on her cell phone and I can hear her across the playground ranting to somebody about me. That part was funny. I took a few pictures of her bitching on her phone about me. Can you see her way over there?



Anyway, Michael says it's people's insecurity that's at the bottom of this kind of crap. It's like when someone cuts you off in traffic and you honk at them and they flip you off instead of waving in apology. I'll never forget the time I was walking through the parking lot at Target, carrying a toddler, and this guy starts backing out of his parking space without even looking. He came very close to runnng us down, and I threw my arms up to say "Hey, watch it!" Know what he did? He yelled out his window at me, "FUCK YOU!" Seriously.
I guess it's true what Michael says. I guess a person who was confident about their place in the world would just say, "Oh, sorry about that."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Q and A, Take 9

Anna (whom I can't find a blog for) asked me:

~ How did you decide to blog? What does it give you? How do you find the time?


This can mostly be answered by this post I made not too long ago: http://motherhoodandotherriskyendeavors.blogspot.com/2009/02/why-do-i-blog.html

What does it give me? That's tough. I think for anyone who blogs, and therefore makes their thoughts public, there is some weird but satisfying exhibition going on. I'm not sure how to articulate what I get out of sharing my thoughts with the world (or at least with anyone who might be interested in reading about what I think and experience on a day-to-day basis). I've often said that any psychologist worth his salt would probably have a field day with the whole concept of personal blogging. I guess I like the feedback, I like the sense of "community," even if it's from a distance. It often makes me feel validated. It's sort of a way too, of leaving my mark - you know, like saying "Hey, I was here, and this is what I did and what I thought. I mattered."

When do I find the time? I do a lot of my writing in the evening when the kids are asleep. Also, one of the upsides of having so many kids is that they are often engaged with each other with no help from me, so I'm able to find time during the day to blog as well.

Great questions!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter

Our Easter pictures look pretty much the same every year, except that the kids get bigger, and we add a kid about every other year ;)

It looks like the Easter bunny conferred with Santa this year and decided that the best way to break and enter was down the chimney.



The Easter bunny leaves a trail of jelly beans as well as pawprints. By the time the kids got us out of bed this morning, the pawprints were annihilated and the kids were on a sugar high from eating up all the jelly beans.

Finding the loot


The Easter egg hunt (Michael hid the eggs out in the yard at 1:00 a.m. when he got home last night) -
Annabelle

Daisy

Lilah getting some help from big brother Kevin
Joey
Lilah

Finn


Mom and the gang